We are now on the fourth year in this series. I have already covered the following years:
My theory is simple…Every 4 years you have one of the greatest years in music. I agree with the three I have already done. Will I agree with it for the next year 1979? We will have to first examine the evidence. What were the top albums of the year?, What were the debut albums from some of the great rock bands? and What was going on in the world of music that year?
The Sony Walkman:
On July 1, 1979, The Sony Walkman goes on Sale in Japan and the way you listen to music is changed forever!! (at least until the CD and then the MP3). Who didn’t have one of these if you were a kid in 1979 or the 80’s. I definitely did. It helped spur my love for music as it now was more portable It was better than just the radio, I could listen to what I wanted to wherever and whenever I wanted. I used mine while I mowed the lawn (and every now and again I would snag to cord and pull my headphones off). I had a boombox, but that wasn’t the same as the Walkman. Nothing better (until my iPod).
The Top Albums:
Disco was still ruling the charts in 1979 and Donna Summers was their Queen. There were some good songs, but to me Rock is really where it is at during this time…with minor exceptions like Michael Jackson. Here are some of the best.
Pink Floyd – The Wall (November 30th): This album was huge back in 1979. It topped the US Charts for 15 weeks and gave us one of the greatest concept albums of all time. The biggest hits from the album were “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”, “Comfortably Num” and “Hey You” to name a few. In 1982 it was turned into a movie and was big all over again. It was so big, our middle school yearbook cover did a slight take on the album cover.
Michael Jackson – Off the Wall (August 10th): Before ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ there was “Off the Wall”. It was the start of the great things to come. This brought child singer into adulthood and was the start of something very special. The album had such great tracks as “Rock With You”, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, “She’s Out of My Life” and “Off the Wall”. It gave us a glimpse of his greatness.
Led Zeppelin – In Through the Out Door (August 15th): Led Zeppelin was still together and releasing albums. Even though this wasn’t one of their best, any Zep album is a great Zep album. With “Fool in the Rain”, “Hot Dog” and “All My Love” you can’t go wrong with Zeppelin. If they release an album, that year is going to be great year in music. What also makes this special is it is the last release with John Bonham before his passing in 1980. This was #1 for 7 weeks in 1979.
Van Halen – Van Halen II (March 23rd): The second album by the David Lee Roth led band was more of what you loved on the debut. The band was picking up steam and although it was a great album. It wasn’t as good as the debut because how could they ever top that one. This one still had some great songs such as “Dance the Night Away”, “Beautiful Girls”, “DOA” and “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”. Eddie Van Halen was proving he was untouchable and there was no one like him or will there ever be.
Supertramp – Breakfast in America (March 29th): #1 for 6 weeks on the Billboard charts, this album was amazing. It went on to win 2 Grammy’s in 1980. I also love the album cover of a waitress outside of the airplane window overlooking New York. The song brought us 4 big hits including “The Logical Song”, “Breakfast in America”, “Goodbye Stranger” and “Take the Long Way Home”. There was no escaping this album in 1979.
AC/DC – Highway to Hell (July 27th): This is a classic Rock & Roll album. So many iconic rock songs and sadly, the very last with lead singer Bon Scott before his death in 1980. It might have hit only #17 on the charts, but it is a #1 album in my heart. The biggest songs were “Highway to Hell”, “Girls Got Rhythm”, ‘Touch Too Much” and “If You Want Blood (You Got It)”. With each release, AC/DC was getting better and better and this was the tops for this era of the band.
The Eagles – The Long Run (September 24th): The album that knocked Led Zeppelin off the Top of the Charts and then stayed there for the last 9 weeks of the year. The Eagles were still going strong and added Timothy Schmidt to the lineup which gave them a new dynamic. The biggest songs were “Heartache Tonight”, “The Long Run” and “I Can’t Tell You Why” sung by Timothy. I also liked “In The City” and “The Sad Cafe”.
Foreigner – Head Games (September 10th): The bands third album built on what the band had already done. They were one album shy of breaking it huge with the album ‘4’. This one had the classic singles for “Head Games” and “Dirty White Boy” as well as other favorites such as “Love on the Telephone” and “Women”. And what a great album cover with the chick in the boys bathroom!
Cheap Trick – Dream Police (September 21st): The band was having a stellar year with the live release of Budakon (mentioned below) and now the release another classic in the Cheap Trick library. You get the title song, “Dream Police” as well as “Voices” and “Way of the World”. The album reached as high as #6 on the Billboard charts. The album sees the band write longer and more creative songs and showing a new maturity.
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (October 12th): Tusk is one of Fleetwood Mac’s most experimental albums to date. It was released as a double album and had a staggering 6 singles released including “Tusk”, “Sara”, “Not That Funny”, “Think About Me”, “Sisters of the Moon” and “Angel”. The album cost a whopping $1m to produce and back in that day was one of the most expensive albums ever made. It is a classic Mac album.
Donna Summers – Bad Girl (April 25th): Donna Summer ruled 1979. She was the first female to have 3 #1 hits in the same year; the first to have 5 Top 10 songs in the same year and the first to have 2 songs in the Top 3. Wow!! Disco wasn’t dead yet thanks to Donna. Her two #1 songs from this album were “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Boy”, but the album actually had 6 singles between 1979 & 1980. Pretty impressive year for the young singer.
The Bee Gees – Spirits Having Flown (February 5th): More proof disco wasn’t dead yet was from the Bee Gees. With 3 #1 songs from the album including “Too Much Heaven”, “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out” gave them a run of 6 #1 consecutive singles which tied the Beatles. This ended up being their last big album as Disco did fade away quickly after 1979/80. At the time, I wasn’t a huge Bee Gees fan, but that has since changed and I now get their appeal. I still like rock better though.
The Live Albums:
Thanks to Kiss and Peter Frampton, Live album were still very big. 1979 was no different bringing some very memorable live album.s Two I will highlight, but all are worth listening.
UFO – Strangers in the Night (January): Regarded as one of the best Live album of all time. This double LP only reached #42 on the US charts which doesn’t mean it isn’t loved. It has been named as the #47 album of 100 of the Top Heavy Metal Albums of all time and it is a LIVE album. That says something right there. If you don’t have it or haven’t heard it, what are you waiting for? The album is also the last recording they had with guitarist Michael Schenker (until 1993).
Cheap Trick – Live at Budakon: Another great live album was this one. It was released in 1978…in Japan! In 1979, it was released in the U.S. so it counts. This is another that has been labeled one of the greatest albums of all time. It was way down at #426 out of 500, but that still counts as one of the greatest. The version of “I Want You To Want Me” is even better than the original studio version. The whole album is pure gold!
The remaining great live albums were as follows:
Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan at Budakon – April 23rd (Budakon was a very popular place to record live)
Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East
Queen – Live Killers
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live Rust
There were so many debut releases this year from bands that would go on to some tremendous stardom. The three highlighted have a theme relating to the #3, They say things always happen in threes so maybe this is where that saying comes from (it doesn’t by the way).
Def Leppard – Def Leppard E.P. (January): For this E.P. alone it is the greatest year in music. Why? Because for me, Def Leppard is King! My favorite band of all time. This was the start of it all. I don’t have this album yet, but someday I will be able to afford it. I have the 2017 Record Store Day re-release of the E.P, but not the original. There are only 3 songs, but they are incredible and a pre-curser to what was to come. And the rest is history as they say.
Iron Maiden – The Soundhouse Tapes (November 9th): Damn! Iron Maiden’s maiden voyage as well. These guys are still going strong today and seem to get better with age. This was the start for them and another E.P. with only three songs. I guess that is the trick to have a long career, start with a 3 song E.P. The original version of Maiden had Paul Di’Anno on vocals and by the end of the year, Iron Maiden would sign with EMI and boom…the metal would soon rain down.
U2 – Three E.P. (September 22nd): The 3 song E.P. rules again with another band that would go on to worldwide domination. U2 releases their 3 song E.P. The following year would come their debut album ‘Boy’ and boy did the world change for these guys throughout the 80’s and beyond. They played these songs regularly early on and “Out of Control” was written on Bono’s 18th birthday. Who knew how big they would go on to get? I didn’t.
The Remaining debut albums for the year worth noting are as follows:
The B-52’s – The B-52’s – July 6th
The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys – May 8th
The Knack – The Knack – June 11th – Was #1 for 5 Weeks!!
The Human League – Reproduction – October
Saxon – Saxon- May 21st
Accept – Accept – January 16th
Helix – Breaking Loose
Gamma – Gamma 1 – July
Other Notable Releases (at least to Me):
There are so many releases that I can’t list them all. So, I will capture the ones that impact me in some way. These are the albums that I love that are from time period some I didn’t listen to until many, many years later.
Elvis Costello & the Attraction – Armed Forces – Jan 5th
Joe Jackson – Look Sharp – Jan 5th
Scorpions – Love Drive – Jan 15th
Generation X – Valley of the Dolls (Billy Idol) – Jan 26th
Motorhead – Overkill – March 24th
Triumph – Just a Game – March 30th
Various Artists – Hair – March
Journey – Evolution – April 5th
David Bowie – Lodger – May 18th
Kiss – Dynasty – May 23rd
The Ramones/Various Artists – Rock & Roll High School – May
The Who – The Kids Are Alright – June 8th
Earth, Wind & Fire – I Am – June 9th
The Cars – Candy-O – June 13th
Robert Palmer – Secrets – June
John Cougar – John Cougar – July 27th
Bette Midler – The Rose – August 22nd
Pat Benatar – In the Heat of the Night – Aug 27th
Jimmy Buffett – Volcano – August
Kool & the Gang – Ladies Night – Sept 6th
Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle – Sept 7th
Sammy Hagar – Street Machine – September
The Police – Reggatta de Blanc – Oct 2nd
Styx – Cornerstone – Oct 19th
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedos – Oct 19th
Prince – Prince – Oct 19th
Motorhead – Bomber – Oct 27th
Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ with Disaster – October
Whitesnake – Lovehunter – October
Aerosmith – Night in the Ruts – Nov 1st
Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage – November
ZZ Top – Deguello – November
The Clash – London Calling – Dec 14th
Other Important notable dates:
- January 6th – American Bandstand has on the Village People and the YMCA craze is started
- February 1st – Jason Isbell is born (Drive by Truckers)
- February 2nd – Sid Vicious is found dead of an overdose
- March 11th – Benji & Joel Madden are born (Good Charlotte)
- March 21st – The Pretenders sign with Sire Records
- March 30th – Norah Jones is born
- April 27th – Ozzy is fired from Black Sabbath and replaced by Ronnie James Dio
- June 5th – Pete Wentz is born (Fall Out Boy)
- September 8th – P!nk is born
- September 16th – The Sugarhill Gang release the classic song “Rapper’s Delight” and the world starts to take notice on a little thing called Rap Music!!
- October 10th – Joe Perry leaves Aerosmith (later to return)
- December 26th – Chris Daughtry is born (Daughtry)
There you have all the contenders that will be used to make the argument that 1979 was the greatest year in music. I have to say my theory doesn’t really work for me on this year. Although it is a great year, it is not the greatest year. Disco was still ruling the airwaves and although there are some great albums by some great bands, they aren’t all the band’s best albums. The release of the Sony Walkman was a very important musical event, but overall I say the year is lacking vs. the other 3 years I have covered.
I won’t stop with my theory that every 4 years is a the greatest year in music. I will venture forward next time to do 1995 and see how that year holds up. Until then, have a great day!