Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fall '77 Flashback: Birth of the Jock Rock Champion

STOMP! STOMP! CLAP! Stomp! Stomp! Clap! That unmistakable bleacher-quaking rhythm.
News of the World had a vertical gatefold featuring
 dying or dead band members -- from the top -- Brian May,
Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor

Forty years ago this week, "We Will Rock You" by the British glam rockers Queen perched at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100, at the edge of certifiable hit status and on it way to immortality. Ahead of it: Foreigner's "Cold As Ice" at 39, Meco's disco Star Wars theme at 35, Barry Manilow's "Daybreak" at 23 and "Just Remember I Love You" by Firefall at 11. The number one hit in the USA? "You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone.

Heard any of those tunes recently?

Stomp! Stomp! Clap! 

Stomp! Stomp! Clap!

"We Will Rock You," was the first track for Queen's News of the World, released Oct. 28, 1977. The song spent 41 weeks on the chart, peaking at number 4 the week of Feb. 18, 1978. Today, it's the undisputed champion of that crowd-revving, opponent-intimidating music known as the arena anthem, aka Jock rock.

It didn't arrive alone. It wasn't even the A-side of it's own single. That honor went to "We Are the Champions."  Played in their logical order, they packed a one-two wallop virtually unseen in the post-Beatles pop era, a combination of bravura and braggadocio.

We 
will kick your ass. We did kick your ass. 

The News of the World LP went multi-platinum, selling more than 4 million copies. It also achieved a less well-documented status: the first album I ever bought with my own money.

"Buddy you're a boy make a big noise, playin' in the street, gonna be a big man some day. You got mud on your face, you big disgrace, kickin' your can all over the place..."


The Paperboy


In spring 1977, the broadsheet daily Long Island Press went out of business, leaving behind untended routes, log books, canvas bags and customers up for grabs. Newsday had become the island's dominant paper. In the demise of the Press, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post saw an opening.

Me and my best buddy across the street were recruited as freshly-minted paperboys for the sensational and sensationally inky NYC tabloid. Each of us would have dominion over roughly equal territories about a mile square.

LI Press bag, NY Post route, UK News of the World
And what a summer to deliver the Post.

Serial killer David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, was still at large, until he wasn't. "Caught!" blared the Post front page. A lightening strike at a Hudson River power station caused a regional blackout and in that darkness a horrific night of arson and looting across the city: "24 Hours of Terror" the paper exclaimed. Elvis Presley died. Two months later, Reggie Jackson closed out the World Series with three straight homers as the New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games to two.

Folding and stuffing all those papers into my bag was a newsprint baptism.

The rest of the neighborhood didn't feel that way. Our so-called subscribers (who'd never actually subscribed, we just started delivering) gradually dropped the Post in favor of Newsday. "It's not you," they said. They just didn't like the Post or what it did to their hands and their clothes.

My pal quit first and his turf became mine. Small consolation as my customers were quitting too. Every week I had less and less. Soon I too realized it no longer made sense to soldier on.

The Purchase


But I'd made and saved some tip money and took some of it to Sam Goody (or maybe it was TSS) to buy my first piece of 12-inch vinyl.

We Will Rock You and more, on Electra Records
... "Singin' we will, we will rock you! We will! We will! Rock you!'

I already had a collection of 45s and a two-speaker Voice of Music stereo on which to play them. But this was a whole album, my only one, and I kept it in heavy rotation. Ask my sister. Ask my parents. Ask the neighbors. 

Ask them about the Brian May guitar solo. 

On the whole, News of the World was, well, spotty. After those first two tracks, there was a notable drop in quality. The most memorable deep cuts were the down-beat "All Dead," the encouraging "Spread Your Wings" and the embarrassingly trashy "Get Down, Make Love." Not that I had anything to compare it to.

Four decades on, its those two opening tracks that still endure. WWRY topping list after list of the best of the jock rock genre, WAtC becoming a kind of gay anthem and then, incongruously, a Donald Trump campaign song. Finally, for your listening pleasure, here they are.

-- Follow me on Twitter @paperboyarchive

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