Home > Uncategorized > 309. Ping Pong Over the Abyss – The 77’s

309. Ping Pong Over the Abyss – The 77’s

PING PONG OVER THE ABYSS (1983)

The 77’s

While working at a small christian bookstore in the early 80’s I would eagerly anticipate a monthly release from a “New Release” sampling company called Sonlight. they would send out demo sample of upcoming releases for customers to preview before purchasing the latest music. One tape was labeled “Scratch Band.” I listened to it over and over and over. It took forever for the album to be released and when is finally did hit the shelves the band had changed its name.

The 77’s

Immediately labeled as some new “punk” band the truth couldn’t have been any further from the truth. With songs having more in common with post punk new wave and Americana, blues rock and roll, The 77’s were really a rock band. Just a rock band!

The first track was closer to Tom Petty and the Cars musically and lyrically was much more bold than they were ever given credit for. Mike Roe’s penchant for dealing with world philosophies started earlier and remained a common theme for the following years. Though here it is a Steve Scott song that displays that worldview.

It should be noted here that this is truly the most “band” oriented release with all members taking songwriting credits and Roe only composing four of the numbers. The first Roe song is “How Can You Love,” a straight rocker followed by “It’s Sad,” a unique keyboard driven “new wave” song that became a controversial and amazing live song.

The original version of “Someone New” appears here and will be remade on their follow up, “All Fall Down.” The title track is the heaviest rocker on the album and hints at future Roe guitar work. Progressive, loud and driving, this song remained a concert favorite for years and the highlight from the album.

the album closes with a cover of “Denomination Blues,” a classic song covered countless times. This version is mellower than one might expect but also shows Roe’s vocal prowess. It also hints at a Byrds-like style that would show up again throughout the years, marking the diversity of the band.

This will by no means be the last of the 77’s on this list and Roe’s name, which has been mentioned several times in the past, will be mentioned even more often as the list continues.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. paul
    November 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    This is a great album. My personal favorite song is “It’s sad”. Like you said in the review, they did an amazing job with that song at concerts although I had heard that their performance of that particular song kept promoters from havibg them back. If anyone hasn’t seen it check it out on youtube. A great album from a great band.

    • low5point
      November 5, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      Yep…they were never allowed back at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. They did the same performance at Knotts and the place went nuts. Mike was amazing. I still don’t know what the big deal was. Dude crawled around on the floor…whatever!

      • November 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

        I love the Lost Dogs version on Mutt. Great diversity.

  2. aarjayaitch
    November 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    What a revelation this album was! After the first listen I was determined to head back to the store and grab their second album ASAP.

  3. Shawn McLaughlin
    November 6, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    It is amazing how much context affects perception. Coming to Christian music a bit later, in “85, I heard the exit/Island album before any of the others. Then All Fall Down THEN Ping Pong. Therefore, it didn’t instill the same thrill of discovery for me that it did for you three. In retrospect, it is a good record but not fully realized from an artistic standpoint. But I totally get that the sentiment associated with hearing this group for the first time can affect ones fondness for a record.

  4. Shawn McLaughlin
    November 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    That should have read “hearing A group for the first time”.

  5. Ted Patterson
    November 8, 2010 at 5:50 am

    also Shawn, you have to consider the music from a timeline standpoint. When you came around, they had already done the first 2 albums, so your expectations were different from ours.

  6. TMc
    November 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Loved the first album and it was different. Retro and ahead of its time. I had been listening to christian music about 10 years before this came out and it is still a favorite. Even loved the title and the imagery that produced. Owned the cassettes and now have the box set of the first three cd’s.

  7. November 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Mike is on tour now promoting the re-release of the first three with his acoustic prowess. Go see this.

  8. Brian
    November 18, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Ping Pong Over The Abyss was (in Orlando) something new (pun intended)when I picked it up off of the shelf. The title alone was worth me picking the album up and putting it on my record player. But what treat I had when I listened to it.
    Renaissance Man is still my favorite.
    \What a wonderful band.

  9. newelectricmuse
    November 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Still like this album – I think this was the first one by them that I heard.

  10. Don
    April 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    When I think of this album I have to stop and get emotional and sigh. I liked it so much, maybe as much as any other album, ever.

    • low5point
      April 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      Don – I’m with you. This is one of those albums that I “liked” more than it deserved, if that makes sense. I have tried to separate personal attachment from critical reviews as this album ranks amongst my favorite of all times, even with some serious flaws.

  11. Kit
    November 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    This isn’t bad, but it is the one 77s album that doesn’t do a great deal for me. In fact, I think I have seen Roe comment that this album should have never been released under The 77s moniker.

  12. John Rodermond
    March 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    This is the one that started it all for me. Up to this point I was content with my Keith Green. From time to time I used to borrow my older sister’s David Meece or Amy Grant but when her boyfriend came over with Ping Pong, that was it. I was hooked. I stole his copy and made it my own. He was forever asking me if he could “borrow” it.

    From the opener “A Different Kind of Light” through to the closing cover of “Denomination Blues” I played it over and over. And over again.

    Being just a teen at the time my mother would have to “remind” me to turn it down whenever “Renaissance Man” came on. Now its my wife who carries on the tradition.

    I can’t put my finger on why I gravitated to the music of the 77’s but they’ve been my favourite group throughout all the changes in their lineup. But it all started with Ping Pong. Perhaps it was my limited exposure to music performed by Christians that wasn’t derivative of something popular in the secular market. Who really knows sometimes why we like what we like but I’ve been listening ever since.

    Back in the day, I even painted the 77’s logo from Aaron’s kick drum (seen on the 77’s LP cover and live album 88) on the back of my jean jacket. Remember when that was cool? (It was, wasn’t it?)

    Incidentally, once upon a time I had arrived at a 77’s concert extremely early and found myself “helping” the guys set up their product table. Afterwards, Aaron Smith gave me a box of LP cover sleeves that he was tired of carting around from concert to concert. I still have the Ping Ping, All Fall Down and the 77’s LP sleeves.

    Thank you, 77’s, for the music. Keep on rockin’

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