The Westing Game (1978) by Ellen Raskin

Categories: 1978, Books, and Fiction.

This is the kind of novel all kids should read. I am far too old for this type of book now but, as a child or tween, this would have been great. It feels like a legitimate game (it’s basically a far more complicated version of Clue with character development) and its humour is rooted in character and well-known stereotypes (in the sense of debunking them). It’s a crime this book wasn’t turned into a kid’s adventure film in the 80s, ala Goonies. Read More

From the House of the Dead (1980) by Leos Janacek, performed by the Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Staatsopernchor conducted by Charles Mackerras featuring Jiri Zahradnicek, Ivo Zidek, Vaclav Zitek

Categories: 1924, 1928, 1978, 1980, and 1992.

This disc pairs Janacek’s last (and shortest?) opera with two unrelated chamber pieces performed by an entirely different orchestra, grumble. Read More

All The Mod Cons (1978) by The Jam

Categories: 1978 and Music.

This is, by all accounts, The Jam’s masterpiece. It’s clear the songwriting has improved by leaps and bounds, especially from their second record. The music has also developed: most of the raggedness is gone and the musical ideas are more complicated, and this is quite clearly the missing link between The Kinks (and The Who) and Blur. But this is still not my thing. I like Townshend and Davis (hey, a cover!) better than Weller as songwriters. I think Blur’s take on the tradition was far more original. To me this is revivalism. It’s good revivalism, but it’s still revivalism. Read More

Grupo Irakere (1978)

Categories: 1976, 1978, and Music.

So much of what I’ve read about this band focuses on their Grammy-winning North American breakthrough, as if the first time North Americans heard this music was the first time it was really vital and worth listening to. And I do understand that distribution was a different beast in the ’70s, but still, it’s a little rich to tell everyone that the first album Columbia released by this band is their “best.” Anyway, I bring this up because, in searching for their North American debut, I found, instead, this gem, their second release. (Their North American debut was either their Read More

Autumn Sonata (1978, Ingmar Bergman)

Categories: 1978 and Movies.

I feel like this is typical late ’70s Bergman (not that I would know): a devastatingly frank examination of emotional trauma with few characters, few frills (there is music but no soundtrack, as it were) and literally nowhere for the audience to hide. This was also Ingrid Bergman’s final feature film and, I believe, her first Swedish film in decades. I didn’t recognize her in the role which both speaks to her ability here and the fact that I’ve never seen her in anything where she was this old. As with so many other (Ingmar) Bergman films, this mostly rests Read More

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978, John De Bello)

Categories: 1978 and Movies.

I watched this movie multiple times in my tweens and teens but didn’t really remember it (except, maybe, the final charge). Then, a number of years I watched the sequel – I don’t remember whether or not I had seen it before. I loved the sequel. I don’t know that I would today, but for whatever reason, I loved it that particular day. Without re-watching the sequel, I do feel like it’s probably the better movie. But that being said: this is an unbelievably stupid and great movie, that is just such a mess but so happy that it is. Read More

More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978) by Talking Heads

Categories: 1978 and Music.

I came to the Heads through Remain in Light – an album I would put right near the top of my short list of the best pop rock of the eighties – and the albums of that era and, a little later, Stop Making Sense. And so the band I know as the Heads is the band they became not the band they were originally. (With the possible exception of their cover of “Take Me to the River”, which has been played often enough on classic rock radio that I probably heard it before I even knew there was a Read More

Franck: String Quartet; Violin Sonata (1978, 1995, 2006) by Fitzwilliam Quartet; Pierre Amoyal, Pascal Roge

Categories: 1886, 1890, 1978, 1980, 1995, 2006, and Music.

I am a sucker for a good string quartet and I like to think that this is a very good string quartet. It’s certainly interesting for its era and, though not as ballsy as so many of the great quartets of the early 20th century, I think it would probably bear comparison with other notable quartets of the late 19th century, especially those by composers more established in chamber music. (It seems Franck did not compose a lot of it.) I am, as always, perplexed by the selection – the piano quintet would make more sense next to the quartet, Read More

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

Categories: 1978 and Movies.

Though they were perhaps a little late to the party (at least in terms of a major label release) this still seems to be to be a pretty foundational document of new wave. And, moreover, it’s somehow way nerdier than the rest of new wave, which is not something I thought possible. Though there are traces here and there of traditional rock and roll, most of this is so herky jerky “new wave” it feels like a sampler of the origins of the genre. The “Satisfaction” cover is far more out there than even the Raincoats’ “Lola” cover (never thought Read More

Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Categories: 1978 and TV.

I watched the pilot of the original Battlestar Galatica the other night, and I removed it from our Netflix queue immediately. Even the completist in me doesn’t care that I haven’t watched the original before I properly watch the reboot. This stuff has not aged well. It just goes to show you how much American TV standards for fictional programs have changed in the interim. Just awful. Here are some of the major problems: Because the show was well before the golden age of television, there are some really terrible but traditional American TV faults such as: no back story on Read More