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12 Days of Christmas Past

Classic Rock Holiday History


12 Days of Christmas Past

Talking Heads' debut album is a 1977 holiday season release. (Sire Records)

12th Day of Christmas Past

1977 was something of a year of oddities. Snow fell in Miami for the first time in recorded history. A mountain climber succeeded in scaling the South Tower of the World Trade Center. A forest ranger in Virginia was hit by lightning … for the seventh time.

No less odd was the holiday pairing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby for a duet performance of "Little Drummer Boy" on Crosby’s network TV Christmas special.


Just before Christmas 1977 Cat Stevens legally changed his name to Yusef Islam and dropped out of the music business until 1995.

Elton John announced at a November concert that he was retiring from live performing forever. Forever lasted for 15 months.

Season Of Success

Billy Joel’s The Stranger is certified platinum a few weeks after its release, throws off four hit singles, and establishes Joel as a superstar.

Meat Loaf establishes his place in rockdom with the release of Bat Out of Hell, which spends 474 weeks on the UK album chart and becomes one of the top five all time best selling albums.

Aja was released during the 1977 holiday season and became Steely Dan’s best-selling album. It hits #3 in the U.S. and wins a Grammy.

Talking Heads: 77 was that group’s debut album. It was not a commercial success, but it firmly established the band as a pioneer of punk.

Fatal Finishes

Just before Halloween, the small plane carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed into a Louisiana swamp. Three band members (Ronnie Van Zandt, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines) were killed the rest were critically injured. The group disbanded until re-forming in 1986.

Marc Bolan, founder of T. Rex died in a car accident, just two weeks shy of his 30th birthday.

Holiday On the Charts

In early December 1977 Wings begins nine weeks at the top spot on the UK singles chart with “Mull of Kintyre” becoming the first single to sell more than 2-million and overtaking the Beatles’ "She Loves You" as the best-selling UK single of all time.

On the U.S. album chart, Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams goes to #1 and stays there for five weeks.

Another Season of Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols managed to remain at the center of controversy for the second consecutive holiday season.

The band was booked on Saturday Night Live on the 17th of December, but they were denied entry into the U.S. based on various band members’ criminal records and "moral turpitude." Elvis Costello is booked to take their place, performing “Radio Radio” after being told not to by the show's producers.

The band’s debut album went to #1, and a record store owner in Nottingham was arrested when he displayed a poster promoting the album. Police cited an 1898 law against indecent advertising.

On Christmas Eve 1977, Sex Pistols perform at a charity benefit before an audience made up mostly of children. It is their last performance in the UK before the breakup of the band two weeks later. They subsequently reunited for three tours between 1996 and 2003.

Survey Sounds

Queen’s "We Are the Champions" is #1 on the 56 WHYN Hit Music Survey in Springfield, Massachusetts for the week of December 30, 1977.

1977 Holiday Season Releases

David BowieHeroes
Jackson Browne – Running On Empty
Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of the Blue
Eric ClaptonSlowhand
GenesisSeconds Out
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
KISS – Alive II
Lynyrd SkynyrdStreet Survivors
RamonesRocket To Russia
UFO – Lights Out
Neil YoungDecade

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