Rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t quite dead in 1978. It just seemed that way as it fended off the onslaught of punk, disco and the ever-annoying pop music. That best albums of the year faced some of these changes by adapting to them. Similarly, Top 10 songs from 1978 incorporated some new sounds to stay relevant, enhancing their classic rock sway with some disco bounce and punk fury. It wasn’t always an easy mix, but they kept rock ‘n’ roll alive.

  • 10

    ‘Werewolves of London’

    Warren Zevon

    From: ‘Excitable Boy’

    Zevon’s only Top 40 hit, and a centerpiece of his best album, boasts a lineup of ’70s Los Angeles stars including Mick Fleetwood and John McVie and producer Jackson Browne. The song aptly satirizes the late ’70s, but emphasizes that frivolity is one of the tightest performances on Exciting boy.

  • 9

    ‘Just what I needed’

    The cars

    From: ‘The Cars’

    The Cars’ debut album isn’t quite New Wave, but it’s not quite mainstream rock either. It falls somewhere in the middle, with its clucking synths and riffing guitars playing nicely on almost every song. “Just What I Needed,” the band’s debut single, works better than almost any other song on the terrific first LP.

  • 8

    “Do you think I’m sexy?”

    Rod Stewart

    From: ‘Blondes have more fun’

    Rod Stewart was always pretty good at rolling with the changing tide, so the No. 1 hit “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” wasn’t too much of a surprise. He still gets a lot of hate for this disco hit, but it’s better than most anything he released immediately before and long after. Plus, that rhythm section is super-tight.

  • 7

    ‘Runnin’ With the Devil’

    Van Halen

    From: ‘Van Halen’

    Although rock ‘n’ roll was struggling in 1978, there’s no shortage of great album openers that year (four of the songs on our Top 10 Songs of 1978 list kicked off their respective LPs). “Runnin’ With the Devil,” in addition to being the explosive first song on Van Halen’s self-titled debut, has the privilege of introducing the world to Eddie Van Halenrock’s best guitarist since Jimi Hendrix.

  • 6

    ‘Who are you’


    From: ‘Who are you’

    The original quartet’s final album (Keith Moon died less than a month after release), Who are you is a sometimes spotty work. Pete Townshend seemed more preoccupied with solo projects than the band at the time. But he managed to write a handful of good songs for the album, including the title track – the Who’s last great song.

  • 5

    ‘Prove It All Night’

    Bruce Springsteen

    From: ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’

    Although not billed as a rock opera, Springsteen’s 1978 opus certainly unfolds as one, as a running list of characters repeatedly pops up and the album consistently points in the same desolate direction. “Prove It All Night” charted as a single and reached the Top 40, but its penultimate position on Darkness on the edge of the city serves as the album’s final sigh of hope.

  • 4

    ‘Beast of Burden’

    The rolling stones

    From: ‘Some Girls’

    After 1972’s landmark Exile on Main St., The Stones spent the next few years catching up with a handful of good songs, but mostly boring albums. Some girls is their monster comeback (see No. 1 on our Top 10 Songs of 1978 list), and “Beast of Burden” is one of their best singles of all time.

  • 3


    The police

    From: ‘Outlandos d’Amour’

    The Police’s debut album, like the Cars’ (see No. 9 on our list of the 10 best songs of 1978), doesn’t fall squarely into one category. It’s a little bit of rock, it’s a little bit of pop, a little bit of punk – and there’s definitely a splash of reggae in there. But most of all, it is an excellent showcase for three amazing musicians trained in jazz and prog. Outlandos d’Amour is one of the best debuts of the year; “Roxanne” is its highlight.

  • 2


    Cheap trick

    From: ‘Heaven Tonight’

    Cheap Trick’s lead songwriter and guitarist Rick Nielsen could play both sides, writing Beatles-esque songs with power-pop flash that weren’t above Camaro-cruising, mullet-waving guitar riffs. “Surrender” is his best song, a hooky, witty look at the generation gap that erupts into one of the biggest choruses of all time. Turn up.

  • 1

    ‘Miss you’

    The rolling stones

    From: ‘Some Girls’

    By the end of the decade, the Rolling Stones were in desperate need of a shot of relevance (see No. 4 on our list of the 10 best songs of 1978). Finding solace in punk and disco grooves, they turn Some girls for their best album in six long years. “Miss You” is as much about its dance floor shuffling as it is about the band’s tendency to pull it together under pressure. It may swing in the disco direction, but “Miss You” is pure Stones at its core.

Related Posts