So. It's early 1977 all over again. You're trying to cop a feel off your flat-chested girlfriend on her parents sofa while "Frampton Comes Alive" blares from the 8-track tape player. You're getting nothing, as usual. Nothing for the hands, and nothing for the ears either.
It was really hard to have a rooting interest in music back then. Everything was radio, and in our Rust Belt town radio was top 40 only. Turn that sucker on and what did you get? "Billy Don't Be A Hero" and "Afternoon Delight" and shit like that.
Now you're at someone's party and it's not your usual crowd. Perhaps a seedier and cooler group than you normally hang out with; that guy over there even knows how to ride a motorcycle. Someone puts on a record and you're reflexively grimacing at the thought of all those horns and strings and pre-packaged schlock. Then what happens? Those two simple descending piano chords, E-D E-D E-D. It's like someone suddenly turned off a loud noise - your attention has been grabbed. Then that voice: "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine".
Man, I was hooked from then on - a sound I got into and words worth listening to.
What I learned from this album pretty much applied to all of her early discography. Every release was uneven. Some of it was brilliant, some of it was very good, and there would always be at least one unlistenable track. Gloria, Birdland, Free Money, and Land were the brilliant bits for me. And on those rare occasions when the current girlfriend was willing to listen along, I wasn't visualizing the current girlfriend when the music was playing.
This record wasn't metal - none of hers were - it was merely what metal should have sounded like. Big-time riffs, smart words, and some real feeling. I'm pretty sure that this was the first time, at age 17, that I realized music was as much for the brain as for the ears. A week after I bought the record, my girlfriend declared her preference for disco and derided my taste in music as "deranged". So I dumped her before the sun went down and never looked back. Somehow, I had never heard of the Velvet Underground at that time, and indeed didn't discover them until a year later. It was an interesting experience to hear one of the artist's influences only after hearing the artist.
Now you're talking! The revelation here was that this woman could really sing when she wanted to, and she wanted to most of the time. I practically wore out the vinyl on Till Victory before getting around to the rest of the album. By now it's 1978, and I'm a lowly enlisted man on some military installation a thousand miles away from any civilization and twice as far from any attractive woman. Privilege (Set Me Free) was everything your basic 18-year old Catholic boy needed to hear. Because The Night actually made airplay, and it was a great track, but 25th Floor/High on Rebellion is still on my MP3 playlist today.
I liked Wave a lot better than did my friend and most music critics. What sticks with me even today is how well the first three tracks have aged. It's 35 years later and those tracks still sound fresh. I'm pretty sure that the 19-year old me toyed with changing his name to Frederick, just so he could imagine Patti singing it to him directly. Dancing Barefoot is, for my money, the finest single she has ever done. And her rendition of So You Want To Be (a Rock 'n' Roll Star) made and still makes the Byrds sound like organ grinders, with David Crosby in the role of the chimp attached to a leash.