Vintage Virgin Vinyl

In the fall of 1979, two of the biggest bands in the world released long-awaited new albums within three weeks of one another: the Eagles with The Long Run and Fleetwood Mac with Tusk.

Although record buyers loved the Eagles that fall, sending the album and its lead single, “Heartache Tonight,” to #1, one prominent critic definitely did not. In a Rolling Stone review that appeared in newspapers around the country in November, Dave Marsh wrote: “[W]hat can you say about a band which spends three years working on an album whose best song is one the inimitable Joe Walsh wrote for a movie soundtrack (‘In the City’ from ‘The Warriors’), and which contains such inanities as ‘We thought we could change this world—with words like love and freedom.’  The fact that this pack of cliche-mongers is one of the biggest ‘rock’ bands today is perhaps the most pathetic commentary I know about the current state of the musical world.”

Ooh, snap.

The reviewer for a local paper in Ohio was kinder: “The Eagles, consummate musicians that they are, have honed a finely-produced and excellently-executed album into what should prove to be another tour de force.” Contrast “excellently executed” with Marsh’s assessment of Don Henley—”a fine singer, but he’s a lame drummer.”

The Eagles could simply let negative reviews roll off because of all the money rolling in, although the amounts seem tiny by standards of our time. A department store in Madison, Wisconsin, was selling The Long Run on vinyl for $5.67 and on tape for $5.97. Eagles fans in the Philadelphia area could get into the band’s November 18 show at the Spectrum for $7.50 or $10, although the top tickets, priced at $12.50, were sold out.

If it had been up to Fleetwood Mac and its record label, Tusk would not have been out until later in the year. The intent was to release it just in time for it to find its way into Christmas stockings by the millions. But then an advance copy on cassette was leaked to a radio station in Cleveland. The station’s program director told a reporter, “To ensure its delivery, I had to buy a seat for [the tape] on a commercial flight.” He picked it up at the airport, drove it to the station, and put it on the air immediately. In succeeding days, other stations obtained copies of the album. As a result, Warner Brothers decided to release it officially in mid-October. (The title song had come out as a single in mid-September, also probably sped to release by the leak.)

When Tusk was released, I was doing a show on the campus radio station called Virgin Vinyl, on which I would play the week’s new releases. I tracked Tusk in its entirety the very night it came in, just as I was had played the lead track from The Long Run on the day it came in the mail.

Early in 1980, “Tusk” was featured on the TV music show Solid Gold. No way they were getting Fleetwood Mac to appear, but they could get the USC Marching Band to show up in the studio, and their performance was then intercut with the official “Tusk” video.

YouTube commenters are notoriously dim, but not the one who observed, “Stevie Nicks twirling a baton . . . there are probably sexier things on this planet, but none come to mind at the moment.”

(From a pair of posts written for the now-defunct WNEW.com.)

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6 responses

  1. for me in the fall of ’79 it was Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police.” I was Cheap Trick crazy then, saw them that summer when Budokan fever was in high gear. I was working in radio and remember removing the shrink wrap and cranking it on the station’s studio monitors (much better than what I had at home) like it was yesterday.

    And, remember, it was radio stations tracking entire albums that was killing the record industry. Or so the industry said.

  2. Soon after in late 1979 came “In Through the Out Door” by Led Zeppelin, “Head Games” by Foreigner, “Dream Police” from Cheap Trick, and a little something called “The Wall” by Pink Floyd. Man!….it sure was great to be a jock on the radio back then!!!

    1. I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it, but Wiki tells me another great album was released just a week after “Tusk”: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Damn The Torpedoes.”

      Meanwhile, Elton John’s notorious “Victim of Love” came out the day after “Tusk.”
      Time was when an Elton John album release would rank with any other artist’s new album as a blockbuster … but not in the fall of 1979.

  3. I like a whole lot the song Tusk. The album is kinda meh to me.

    1. the album was kind of meh to a lot of people. I would say it was more Lindsay Buckingham’s art project than a hit record. Wiki sez:

      “Though the album sold four million copies worldwide, in comparison to the huge sales of Rumours and the unprecedented recording expense, the band’s record label deemed the project a failure, laying the blame squarely with Buckingham himself.”

      And my point above about tracking whole LP’s: (again Wiki)

      “Mick Fleetwood, however, blames the album’s relative failure on the RKO radio chain playing the album in its entirety prior to release, thus allowing mass home taping. In addition, Tusk was a double album, with a high list price of $15.98.”

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