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The 20 best rock albums of 1977

The 20 Greatest Rock Albums of 1977
(Image credit: Future)

In 1977 the first Star Wars movie premiered, Elvis died, and Jimmy Carter became US President.  

Elsewhere, the The Atari 2600 was launched in North America, football superstar Pele played his final professional game, and the Soviet Union launched the Soyuz 24 space mission.  

In music, Patti Smith fell offstage while supporting Bob Seger in Tampa, Florida, legendary New York disco Studio 54 opened, Michael Schenker disappeared after a UFO show at The Roundhouse in London, Marc Bolan was killed in a car accident in North London, and a Gallup poll declared America's favourite band to be Kiss

These are the 20 best albums of 1977.

AC/DC: Let There Be Rock

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock 

Building upon their ferocious debut, AC/DC proved that their riff-tastic, swaggeringly sexy (sexist?) songs weren’t a fluke. 

The title track, Bad Boy Boogie and Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be show off Angus and Malcolm Young’s way with a bluesy riff, but it’s the closing song that is quintessential ’DC. Yes, this is the album that gave us the hilarious tale of Whole Lotta Rosie

David Bowie: Low

David Bowie - Low 

Teaming up with Brian Eno, David Bowie released two albums in 1977 (the other was Heroes), and Low was the moody, atmospheric meisterwork that showed how far the chameleonic songwriter had moved on from his Ziggy Stardust days. 

Sound And Vision is the most accessible song of a challenging, but brilliant set.

Eric Clapton: Slowhand

Eric Clapton - Slowhand 

Despite his prowess as a songwriter, Eric Clapton has always managed to turn around a good cover version. And that’s the case on Slowhand as he makes JJ Cale’s Cocaine his own. 

His compositions impress too – this is the place where Wonderful Tonight and Lay Down Sally first saw daylight. This is Eric Clapton’s most accomplished (and varied) solo record. 

The Clash: The Clash

The Clash - The Clash 

Of the debut albums from the big punk three (Sex Pistols, Clash and Damned), the Pistols brought fierce nihilism, the Damned were the most fun, while The Clash spoke to you about your life. 

Joe Strummer snarls with intelligent indignation on Career Opportunities and Janie Jones while Mick Jones provides some surprisingly melodic guitar. An album in love with the rock’n’roll woah.

Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True 

Marrying a punk simplicity with a dash of pop rock, Declan MacManus announced Elvis Costello’s arrival with his snarky debut. 

The brittle but brilliant (and enduring) ballad Alison is in direct contrast to the garage rock’n’roll of the first three tracks, highlighting Costello’s versatile way with a tune. Trivia fans should also note that Huey Lewis’s early band Clover provided some of the instrumentation.

The Damned: Damned Damned Damned

The Damned - Damned Damned Damned 

UK punk’s first album, The Damned’s raw debut helped set the blueprint for punk rock, and featured guitarist Brian James firmly to the fore in songwriting terms. 

Assaulting your ears with Neat Neat Neat’s pulsating bassline (courtesy of Captain Sensible), it never lets up for a second, while seventh track New Rose is an undisputed classic, irrespective of genre.

Ian Dury: New Boots And Panties!

Ian Dury - New Boots And Panties!! 

After having spent time honing his chops in the London pubs, New Boots And Panties!! saw the larger than life Ian Dury step out on his own. 

Distinctly British, and distinctly brilliant – check out the lyrics of Billericay Dickie and Wake Up And Make Love With Me for conclusive proof – it’s also the album that included Blockheads, the song that gave his new backing band their name.

Electric Light Orchestra: Out Of The Blue

Electric Light Orchestra - Out Of The Blue 

Jeff Lynne’s ELO had come along way since it formed from the ashes of The Move. By the time of this double-album, Electric Light Orchestra’s massive sound incorporated orchestral arrangements and multi-layered harmonies with perfect pop melodies, the antithesis of the punk uprising of the time. 

Wild West Hero, Mr Blue Sky and Turn To Stone became three of the biggest hits they ever had.

Fleetwood Mac: Rumours

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours 

If ever proof was needed that friction, heartbreak, drug use and chaos can produce great art, then Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours has to be Exhibit A. 

Somehow the likes of The Chain, Don’t Stop, Never Going Back Again and Go Your Own Way still sound as great today as they did the first time around.

Foreigner: Foreigner

Foreigner - Foreigner 

First blasting into our consciousness via the slick Feels Like The First Time, Foreigner stamped their intelligent, massive-sounding radio rock all over their debut album. 

Cold As Ice is an exercise in brilliant melodic rock, while Long, Long Way From Home characterises where guitarist Mick Jones and vocalist Lou Gramm would take their band in the years that followed.

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel  - Peter Gabriel 

Stepping out of the shadows of a hugely successful band to go it alone is a brave step. And it’s one that former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel made with ease and panache. 

His first album free from Phil Collins et al saw him lose the long-winded complexity of his prog roots in favour of shorter, sharper, more knowing songs, such as Solsbury Hill.

Heart: Little Queen

Heart - Little Queen 

Casting off their ‘little Led Zeppelin’ tag, sisters Ann (vocals) and Nancy Wilson (guitar) built upon the promise of Heart’s debut album Dreamboat Annie with their second release. 

Fusing bludgeoning rock (the relentless rifferama of Barracuda) with gentle mandolin-led folk (Dream Of The Archer, Love Alive) to great effect, the band proved that they had one of rock’s finest vocalists in their line-up.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Street Survivors

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Street Survivors 

Despite being an album that will always be coloured by the fact that it was the last one Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded before the fateful plane crash that killed half their line-up, there can be no denying that Street Survivors is a work of southern boogie genius. 

The guitars of Steve Gaines, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins clash and collide against each other on the likes of That Smell and What’s Your Name? underscoring Ronnie Van Zant’s soaring vocals.

Pink Floyd: Animals

Pink Floyd - Animals 

Yup. It’s the one with the pig. Pink Floyd’s follow-up to the seminal Wish You Were Here was a very different beast to its predecessor. It’s a meagre five tracks long, but Roger Water’s songwriting is reaching its most complex, experimental and demanding. 

Despite only sharing one composer credit (on the whopping 17-minute long Dogs), David Gilmour’s stylish guitar sets the tone of this nihilistic, disturbing work.

Iggy Pop: Lust For Life

Iggy Pop - Lust For Life 

Rejuvenated for the masses thanks to the use of its title track in Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of Trainspotting, Iggy Pop's second release of 1977 cemented his reputation as a founding father of US punk. 

Teaming up with David Bowie (who produced and cowrote), Pop proved through the likes of Lust For Life, Success and The Passenger that he was now a bona fide solo star who could survive without his Stooges.

Rush: A Farewell To Kings

Rush - A Farewell To Kings 

A Farewell To Kings gave Rush one of the biggest hits of their career in the shape of Closer To The Heart – a song that is one of only a scant handful of Rush tracks which clock in below the three-minute mark. 

But such brevity is not indicative of the album as a whole with the heavily synth-led Xanadu and closer Cygnus X-1 (which also serves as a conceptual prelude to 1978’s Hemispheres album) taking centre stage.

The Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks… Here’s The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks… Here’s The Sex Pistols

12 tracks that changed the world, this was the album that turned rock’n’roll on its head. Anarchic, chaotic and rebellious in both musical and lyrical terms, the world had never heard anything like Johnny Rotten’s sarky, disparaging sneer underscored by Steve Jones’ and Paul Cook’s ramshackle, breakneck cacophony before. 

God Save The Queen, Anarchy In The UK, Pretty Vacant, Bodies – it’s a hard rock classic.

The Stranglers: No More Heroes

The Stranglers - No More Heroes 

Following up their well-received Rattus Norvegicus released earlier in the year, Hugh Cornwell and his Stranglers perfected their surreal art punk take on the world. 

Lyrically there’s some near-the-knuckle material lurking on this album (I Feel Like A Wog), but some great tunes too: Dagenham Dave, Something Better Change and the title track.

Television: Marquee Moon

Television - Marquee Moon 

Art rock’s finest hour – Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd’s guitar interaction is at the heart of this beautiful LP. 

Marquee Moon (the song) with its extraordinary instrumental passages shows that there was a lot more to 70s New York new wave than Blondie’s pop rock excursions

Thin Lizzy: Bad Reputation

Thin Lizzy - Bad Reputation 

Bad Reputation by name, maybe, but this sealed Thin Lizzy’s rep as hard rockers. Recorded essentially as a trio of Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham and Brian Downey (Brian Robertson had mashed up his hand), Thin Lizzy teamed up with producer Tony Visconti for their eighth album. 

Standout tracks include the narrative-driven Soldier Of Fortune and the decidedly feelgood Dancing In The Moonlight.