Weird that in three posts, I'll have talked music twice. That's not my main gig here. But The 77s (a.k.a., The Seventy Sevens) and their wired front man Mike Roe have always been dear to my heart; their new 2-DVD set of vintage MTV singles and concert footage (including a complete set from Cornerstone Festival) is a expertly-guided trip to a very pleasant place indeed. And since I'd just riffed* on Daniel Amos, another band rooted in the "new wave" era, why not talk about a second unknown 80s band that really deserved more notoriety than they got? So let's go.
How much better (as in campy?) can it get when you start off with Pat Boone introducing their inaugaural single on a TV show called "Gospel Gold"? The video, "A Different Kind of Light," is fairly wretched, really, the mix of Christian subculture and 80s new wave a sort of double-dose of things we'd like to forget. Well, not really... I still think Flock of Seagulls--never mind. But the song hints at the great things to come with its simultaneous pop sensibility and edgy rock feel.
The rest of the MTV stuff is fun -- and of varying quality video-wise. But musically it is easy to see a steady movement forward as well as outward, embracing a larger set of influences (as in the still new wave, but musically stellar "Ba Ba Ba Ba" and the "more Alice than Alice Cooper" blues/metal scorcher, "Snake" to name two examples). In fact, the 77s left new wave and big hair far behind as they embraced everything from fifties rockabilly to blues, fusion, folk, and metal in a journey which seems far from finished even now.
"The 77s will take you on a journey through the past, present, and future of rock & roll."
-- Rolling Stone
I must confess, though, that the 1997 Cornerstone Festival footage from disk one, where we get an entire concert, is probably my favorite portion of the set. The video (see above still) is ill-defined and grainy, true. But the sound quality (which must have been mixed direct from the board) is quite good to excellent, capturing the raw energy that is Roe & Company. The 77s are, above all, a band that has to be experienced live to be truly appreciated. And the Cstone '97 concert was a good night for Mike and the boys. What's really sad is that I think I was there for this concert, but after attending so many Cornerstones, and not a few 77s gigs at Cstone as well as elsewhere, it all tends to bleed together in my head. Ah, well. Play it loud.
Disk two nets various live concerts from festivals, including six or seven more cuts from Cornerstone '84 and '92, and from Warehouse Ministries of Sacramento where the band's original "Exit Records" label was based. As you might guess, I'm pretty high on this DVD set, which like the 77s themselves, defies easy categorization.
[*] A friend informs me I need to "put a moratorium on the use of the word 'riff'." Sigh... okay...