Mike Roe, the 77’s lead singer and guitar player, says that he views the band as a workshop more than a rock band. I had never thought of my favorite band this way, but it makes a lot of sense. Throughout these 40 years of music, the band has journeyed from one style to another. At times it seems like they were trying to find a stylistic home, but I now realize that this meandering journey was the whole point. Sometimes they are blues, sometimes new wave, sometimes pop, sometimes modern rock, and always these styles are blended and placed in dichotomy.
As a teenager feeding on a steady musical diet of mid-nineties alternative and modern rock, I could understand a song like “Snake,” but I was confused about how a pop song like “Alone Together” could be on the same album. While I thought I was listening to an album by a rock band, I was really listening to musicians challenging themselves to explore and learn new styles.
Since I am a teacher, I’ll take it upon myself to assess how well this workshop accomplished its goals. I am not uncritical of the 77’s. Some songs, style choices, and even albums have fallen flat to me. There are a few Cs and Ds in their catalog. Yet with every effort, the 77’s have produced something different than the one before. And what they have produced in their workshop are many of the most brilliant songs I’ve ever heard.
My brothers and I have evaluated, compiled, ranked, and synthesized our lists of the top 40 songs from the 77’s. The result is this top 40 list with commentary on the songs. There are songs from every era of the band’s history. These are the product from the workshop that we are putting on display. They have received an A+ and a gold star and that stamp with the thumbs up that says “great work.” Now they are on our refrigerators for all our guests to see.
The Top 40
2022 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the first album of The 77’s, hence the Top 40. Usual disclaimer: We realize no one will agree with all of our selections but we hope that in spite of that, you will appreciate the time and effort we put into creating this list.
Pro Tip: We’ve included a Spotify playlist with the Top 40 which you can find at the end of the article. You should listen to that playlist while you read this article. It makes for quite an enjoyable experience.
40. You’re Gonna Be Sorry (2008)
Holy Ghost Building is more of an experimental project than a normal album. The band journeyed back to the roots of rock ‘n roll and reimagined what it could have been. They take classic blues, black gospel, country, and southern gospel songs and synthesize these styles in brand-new ways. It is rock ‘n roll reinvented. It’s the Carter family meeting Robert Johnson all over again. These efforts created a fantastic and cohesive album, one of the more complete albums the 77’s have released. None of the songs, however, made it very high on our list. “You’re Gonna be Sorry” bats lead off and certainly doesn’t strike out. It’s a classic blues rock tune that makes me love this band even more. (David Lytle)
39. Caught in an Unguarded Moment (1984)
“When I saw a young girl fly
Over a rocky mountain brink
She had had too much to drink
She did not have time to think
But it was far more than just her car
That flew out of control
She had gone over the edge
Long before she'd lost her soul
She was Caught in an unguarded moment”
38. I’m Working on a Building (2008)
This song is the title track on an album of cover songs. Gospel, blues, and bluegrass covers aren’t exactly in my wheelhouse. I appreciate the artistry and execution, but I lack the historical knowledge to truly appreciate it fully. That said, the album is fantastic, and the band breathes life into every single one of these old timey numbers. (Phill Lytle)
37. Self Made Trap (1992)
Most 77’s songs are distinguished by the guitar. This one is all about the drums. I’ve always loved when drums are loud and in your face. Not only does this song give some more musical intensity to a poppy album, but it also reflects on the self-inflicted wounds of human depravity. This message resonates with anyone who has ever deeply thought about who they really are.
36. I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge (2008)
Remember all that stuff I said about Holy Ghost Building? We’ll it all applies to this track as well. From my google search, I learned that this blues/black gospel song was first recorded by Blind Willy Johnson in 1928. It’s been recorded many times since. What sets this song apart from any other version is that the band rocks the house! The instrumental jam sections are the 77’s at their best.
35. Mercy Mercy (1984)
After their 1982 debut it was hard to tell what kind of band The 77’s would become. There were some signs they could turn in to something special, but they were far from fully formed as songwriters or players. Two years later All Fall Down hit on a whole other level. Songs like “Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba” showed off the pop songwriting chops, and “Mercy Mercy” gave us a peek into the old school rock ‘n roll side of the band which they would perfect on later records. It’s fast, it’s fun, and nearly 40 years later it’s a song worth revisiting.
34. Cold Cold Night (1994)
“A man has his pride
I could swallow it right up
For a moment of your tender touch
Or a lifetime of your love
A man has his principles, baby
And his honor to defend
I'll honor you more than in principle now
On that you can depend”
33. Happy Roy (1992)
Mike Roe is a versatile songwriter who excels in multiple genres of music. I have always been drawn more to the pop side of his songwriting. This tribute song to the great Roy Orbison is one example (among many) of what a great pop songwriter Mike Roe truly is. (Michael Lytle)
32. Years Go Down (1999)
“Time was on my side for so long
'Til it said so long to me
Then it fled and left for dead this dying body on some
Dead man's property
Did I fall down on the first round?
Will I get up for the last?
Too many choices wrong and oh, so long forgotten, buried deep inside
My little shallow past”
31. There Forever (2001)
This may be my favorite band, but their eclectic approach sometimes makes for some duds. I honestly don’t like the album Golden Field of Radioactive Crows. It came after the EP record that was perfect in every way, except for being too short. My fandom was at its height, and I was gravely disappointed by this album. Despite my disappointment, the album has a few gems. More specifically, it has this 5-carat diamond. In this song, the band returned to what works best for them. It’s a blues sound that seems like it belongs on the EP album. The way the sad blues guitar interacts with the percussion is magical. Doc Love and company, I’m sorry I rejected the album, but I’m very thankful for this song. (David Lytle)
30. Pearls Before Swine (1987)
This song scandalized my teenage self. I couldn’t handle a “Christian band” performing a song about sex and regret in a way that was this dark and impassioned. The music puts you in the moment. The moment is as intense as they come. (David Lytle)
29. Sevens (1999)
Dripping with melancholy, “Sevens” eschews the band’s modus operandi for something darker, moodier, and far more subdued. And it works.
28. Honesty (1995)
I got in trouble for playing this song too loud in my dorm room at college. I REGRET NOTHING! (Michael Lytle)
27. Kites Without Strings (1992)
“I was high
Like a kite you pulled me through
When you ran
I followed you
Clipped at the wings
You held all my strings
I was taught
But never learned a thing”
26. Deep End (1992)
Another great mid-tempo song for the band. Pray Naked is a great record, but the track sequencing has always confused me. It opens with a rocker and follows that up with a string of pop songs and ballads. Then the album closes with a few bluesy, rock numbers. While I think the album would have been improved by balancing the softer and heavier songs a bit more, that is not a reflection on the quality of the songs themselves. They are excellent and “Deep End” is one of the best. Love the guitar work toward the end. (Michael Lytle)
25. The Late Greats (2014)
This is a Wilco cover song that seems like it was written for and about The 77’s. Musically they crush it and the lyrics about an amazing band that didn’t quite “make it” feel all too real. It also holds the distinction of being the newest song on our top 40 list.
24. Dave’s Blues (1994)
Between fantasy and the cold hard truth
Between the cool and the uncouth, huh
But I resonate
To the piercing eyes of God I saw in my youth”
23. Alone Together (1994)
Want to listen to a really sad song about a marriage falling apart but the music sounds fun and upbeat? Look no further. The only music-related giveaway about the heartbreak involved is Mike Roe’s voice.
22. God Sends Quails (1988)1
I appreciate that the 77’s experiment with several genres. One song could be pop and another a grungy-rock song. As great as all that is, the band is at its best when it is a blues-rock band. While they have several outstanding bluesy numbers, “God Sends Quails” is the best guitar-driven blues song in their catalog. I was about 15 when I first heard the song, and I didn’t quite know what to do with a song that was perfectly content being instrumental for the first two-and-a-half minutes. Honestly, during those minutes, the listener feels that they could have just as easily jammed for another ten minutes. In addition to the magnificent bluesiness of this song, it is haunting. There are times that the words “you failed” continue to haunt me. (David Lytle)
21. Blue Sky (1999)
The 77’s EP, simply titled EP, released in 1999 is some of the band’s best work. Each of the five songs explores new territory and all are great. “Blue Sky” is the most straightforward rocker of the bunch. It gets in and gets out in under four minutes and takes care of business. No frills, no fluff, no wasting time, just great rock ‘n roll.
20. Woody (1992)
“Woody” used to be my favorite song by The 77’s. I probably listened to this song well over 500 times during the mid-90s while I was in college. Most “Christian” bands are/were too polite and upstanding to write and record a song with this much musical swagger and, dare I say it, cockiness. Yet in some genius-level twisted dichotomy, the lyrics are consumed with depravity, sin, and failure. It’s very confusing!
If you want to feel cool, put “Woody” on repeat and let the overwhelming confidence of the song flow through you. If you want to feel a bit convicted, pay attention to the words. (Phill Lytle)
19. Snake (1994)
This was probably my favorite track on Drowning with Land in Sight the first time I listened to it. At that point in my life, it was more in my wheelhouse than any other song on the album. Since that time, my musical tastes have grown and evolved. I still love “Snake” for all its edge and punch, though a good number or tracks from Drowning have outpaced it which is a huge testament to the greatness of the album. (Phill Lytle)
18. Tattoo (1989)
Many of my deep 77’s memories go back to seeing them twice at Cornerstone 2000. They played on the main stage, and they played in one of the tents. Despite my love for the band, I had never heard “Tattoo.” I had been trying to buy the All Fall Down CD but was unsuccessful. The first time, at the main stage, I was hooked. The drums were big and loud, and the guitar had the coolness that only Mike Roe could pull off. When I heard it a second time a day or two later in the tent, I already felt like I knew it. It’s been twenty-two years so I may be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure it’s the tent version that made it on the album Live at Cornerstone 2000: Greatest Hits. I’m also pretty sure that when the music comes to a brief stop after the bridge, you can hear me shouting. For those that are interested, it’s the 3:05 mark on this YouTube link: (David Lytle)
17. For Crying Out Loud (1994)
“When you can't stand up
And you can't sit still
And you can't get through the night
Without a sleeping pill
And the days drag out
And the nights never end
And you're tired of talking it out
On the phone with all your friends
And cry out
Don't be afraid to rage
Don't be afraid to shout
For crying out loud
You've both been waiting for this day
For a long time now
Long time now”
16. I Can’t Get Over It (1987)
Most of the time, I gravitate to The 77’s because of their music. They bring an energy and musicianship that is nearly unparalleled in any music I’ve encountered. But their lyrics rarely take a back seat to their incredible sound. “I Can’t Get Over It” is one of the best examples of this. A song about how forgiveness doesn’t always heal all wounds. It’s real and raw and something that is mostly absent from popular Christian music. (Phill Lytle)
15. Nobody’s Fault but Mine (1994)
It was a bold choice for the band to cover Led Zeppelin’s version of this Blind Willie Johnson’s classic. Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and John Bonham are two of the best to ever play their respective instruments. The 77’s more than hold their own though. Mike Roe’s guitars and Aaron Smith’s drumming take a back seat to no one. Listen to the two versions back-to-back if you don’t believe me.
14. MT (1988)
This song should have been on every soundtrack for every action movie made in the early 90s. Those drums are just so freaking loud and epic!
13. Ba Ba Ba Ba (1984)
What a perfect mid 80s new wave, synth pop song! We will revisit this theme a lot but this is another song that should have been a HUGE hit.
12. The Jig is Up (1994)
All of our voters loved this song. Even so, it took us some time to find the right angle to approach this write-up. If our good friend and Rambling Ever On founder, Ben Plunkett, was still with us, he would have plenty to say about this song. He loved it. For us, the song just works. The layer upon layer of guitar. The gradual build of the song. The soaring vocals on the chorus. It just works.
11. Perfect Blues (1988)
You’ve heard this sort of song a thousand times, yet I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard it this good. What sets The 77’s apart from so many other bands, Christian or secular, is the perfect fusion of technical expertise and passion they bring to the table. “Perfect Blues” is one of the best examples of that defining trait.
10. Don’t This Way (1988)
“Don’t, This Way” might be the saddest song I’ve ever heard. Seriously, it’s heartbreaking stuff. If those opening minutes of Michael Roe laying his soul bare on the guitar don’t move you, friend, you have no soul. (Phill Lytle)
9. This is the Way Love Is (1988)
I don’t have anything profound to offer about this song. (Not that any of my comments are that profound, but you know what I mean.) I will say this: This song has just about everything I love about The 77’s. Energy, emotion, and bravado. Plus, it just rocks. (Phill Lytle)
8. Rocks in Your Head (1995)
This song has given me a core memory. The setting: Cornerstone 2000 on the main stage. I was 18. The 77’s had been my favorite band for a few years, but I’d never seen them live. They led off with “Woody”, followed by “Tattoo.” I was already in heaven. Then came “Rocks in Your Head”—a song that highlights what I love best about the band. It is dripping with attitude. It is riddled with moxie. It is bursting with mojo. Should I keep going? This is the kind of song my wife calls “boy music,” and I see her point. It makes me feel like a man, a real man! Maybe on that stinky, sweaty Thursday in July as I experienced Roe, Harmon, and Spencer rocking my world, this boy became a man. Maybe, it was my bar-mitzvah. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I’m pretty sure anything worth stating is worth overstating. It’s exactly that ethos that makes this song (lyrically and musically) my favorite song from my favorite band. (David Lytle)
7. Nowhere Else (1988)
This was my number 1 pick. That might not be a terribly popular pick for fans of the band. I really don’t know. What I do know is this song is the perfect 80s pop-rock love song. I mean that. It’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. As we’ve stated before, this is another of the band’s songs that should have been a huge mainstream hit. Like, “standing outside the home of the woman you love holding a boombox over your head in a movie” kind of huge. As perfect as this song is, once it hits the 3-minute mark, it gets a little more perfect. (Phill Lytle)
6. Unbalanced (1999)
I have a playlist I created of songs that help me keep a good pace when I’m walking. There are some classic bangers on there – as the kids would say. “Unbalanced” is easily one of my favorites on that playlist. It has everything I need to keep moving. Not only that, but the song is also funny, entertaining, and all too relatable. (Phill Lytle)
5. Phony Eyes (1992)
Even though it didn’t quite make it to the top of our collective list, this song was number one on my personal list. Released at a time when bands like R.E.M., Gin Blossoms, Soul Asylum, and Counting Crows were scoring huge hits with smart, guitar driven anthems this song should have been received tons of radio play. The lyric – “too many phony eyes, too little shame” is a favorite of mine, and those jangly guitars are next level. (Michael Lytle)
4. Do it for Love (1987)
I heard an interview with Chris White the writer and director of the film Electric Jesus. He was discussing “needle drop” moments when the perfect song is played at just the right moment of a movie. He said he knew he had finally written the right ending for his film when he could do a needle drop of “Do it for Love.” It’s that kind of song. It demands your attention and does not let go. (Michael Lytle)
3. Film at 11 (1994)
Drowning With Land in Sight was the first 77’s album I heard. I remember popping the cd into my disc man on a long road trip with my family and listening to the whole thing for the first time. The first four songs had me intrigued, but track 5, “Film at 11” made me a fan for life. The crisp, clean production, the soaring guitars, the falsetto vocals at the end, it all works and is a favorite to this day. (Michael Lytle)
2. The Rain Kept Falling in Love (1992)
The 77’s often come across as pretty irreverent and sarcastic – to their great credit. I’m not sure if most people would describe them as overly earnest, though I believe to not view them that way is a massive disservice to their musical legacy. Case in point: “The Rain Kept Falling in Love”. Everything about this song screams heart-on-the-sleeve earnestness. Plus, it might be the most beautiful melody the band ever produced.
1. The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life (1987)
This is THE song. This track may not be at the very top of every 77’s fan personal list, but I think of all their songs this one has the highest approval rating across the board. It has been covered by other bands, quoted as part of other songs and is probably the song you would start with if you were introducing the band to someone for the first time. The melody is catchy, the lyrics are profound and playful at the same time which is a difficult balance to strike. It’s so good we included the original version from their 1987 self-titled album as well as the slightly “rockier” version from Sticks and Stones on our playlist.
There you have it. The 77’s Top 40 as determined by the Rambling Ever On staff. Agree, disagree, discuss, and debate in the comment section or on our social media pages. Thanks for reading!
- Most of the songs that ended up on Sticks and Stones were recorded in 1988 as the band recorded several demos to send to record labels. These demos were later compiled and released in 1990. When these songs appeared on our list we felt it was more accurate to list 1988 as the year. ↩