If you are new to the site, I started this series with the year 1987 and then noticed that 1991 and 1983 were also a couple of the greatest years in music. I got to thinking, was there a pattern that every 4 years we have another great year in music. Well theory didn’t last long as I don’t think the next two years I researched were “great” years in music. Those years were 1979 and 1995. If you want to explore all the years I have examined so far, click on the link below…
Now that my theory is busted, I am now on the hunt for the “Greatest” year in music. I reviewed 1971 first and it was pretty fantastic and I am now on 1980. I know, I know. I am not going in any kind of order. I am going with what I am in the mood to explore and this time 1980 has me jazzed as so many great albums are now 40 years old!!
Will 1980 be another great year or will it be the greatest year. Let us explore and see and then decide at the end. But first we have to ask 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: I wrote about the advent of the Sony Walkman in the 1979 post as that was when it went on sale in Japan. In the U.S., it went on sale on June 25, 1980 almost a year later. The way you listen to music was changed forever!! (at least until the CD and then the MP3 and now streaming). Who didn’t have one of these if you were a kid in the 80’s. I definitely did. It helped spur my love for music as it now was more portable and more personal. 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 the cord on the mower and pull my headphones off). I had a boombox, but that wasn’t the same as the Walkman. There was nothing better (until my iPod).
John Lennon shot and killed on December 8th outside his New York City apartment. The first Beatle to pass away and the final answer to the question if the Beatles will ever get back together. The music world was shook to its core when Mark David Chapman shot the singer in cold blood. The outpouring of love was amazing as over 100,000 mourners attended a public vigil for John Lennon in Central Park. 10 minutes of silence were observed at 2pm on December 14th.
THE TOP ALBUMS:
AC/DC – “Back in Black”: 1980 was a life changing year for AC/DC in more ways than one. First, the band lost lead singer Bon Scott and that would normally kill a band and all would be over. AC/DC didn’t stop. Instead they bring in Brian Johnson and release this masterpiece with the help of super producer, Robert John “Mutt” Lange. The band exploded on to the scene and the album would go on to sell over 30 million copies thank to songs like “Back in Black”, “Hells Bells”, “Shoot to Thrill”, “Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”. The Young Boys, Malcolm and Angus, done good.
Queen – “The Game”: Now in 1980, I was in middle school and when I heard “Another One Bites the Dust”, I think I became a fan instantly. What a powerful song. Oh, and Freddie Mercury’s voice for songs like “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Play the Game” and “Save Me” had me hooked. Worldwide the album easily sold well over 4 million copies and easily a #1 in the U.S. Charts. An interesting fact is that this was their first album for Queen to include synthesizers and they used it effectively.
Black Sabbath – “Heaven and Hell”: Black Sabbath was at a crossroads. Ozzy was gone and they had to move on. They brought in a singer by the name of Ronnie James Dio and the Sabbath train kept on chugging. The singles were great, I mean who doesn’t love “Die Young” and “Neon Knights”, but you can’t do without “Heaven & Hell” or “Children of the Sea” either. No Ozzy, no problem. And thanks to Sharon Osbourne for introducing Ronnie to Toni Iommi
Judas Priest – “British Steel”: The band’s sixth album saw them go in to the 80’s with a little more commercial sound and not quite as dark lyrically. The album would go to only #34 but it would sell over 1 million copies. Songs like “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” found me liking this heavy metal music. Now, I didn’t see them until a year or so later when MTV came around to see all the leather. I also really like “United” and “Metal God”.
Motorhead – “Ace of Spades”: That title track was so raw and so fast and Lemmy’s rough sounding vocals were perfection. This was dangerous rock for me as these guys looked like the were going to go to the Pub and beat the crap out of everyone. From beginning to end, this album just slams it home all the way through. It has some of their most popular songs including “The Chase Is Better Than the Catch” and “(We Are) The Road Crew,” Now, I didn’t hear this back in the 80’s, but I’m glad I have since as it is a beast. It went Gold and #4 in the UK.
REO Speedwagon – “Hi Infidelity”: On November 21, 1980, REO Speedwagon delivered their biggest album then and even now. The album went to #1 in the U.S. and went on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide making it a Diamond seller. There were only 4 official singles but 6 songs charted with “Keep On Loving You” going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kevin Cronin’s voice connected with everyone and songs like “Take it On the Run”, “Don’t Let Him Go” and “In Your Letter” became apart of the scene and took the band to the top.
Rush – “Permanent Waves”: 1980 kicked off with this gem from Rush as it was released on January 14. The album saw the band change direction a little as the songs became a little more streamlined and more radio friendly. It was the start of an ever growing popularity the 80’s would bring the band. The big songs were “The Spirit of Radio”, “Entre Nous” and the incredible, unforgettable song “Freewill”. The album was their biggest up to the point and hit #4 in the U.S.
Van Halen – “Women And Children First”: The Van Halen train was chugging along and then came their third album on March 26 and the band got even bigger and better. The band’s first album to be soley written by the band and it totally kicked ass. Eddie’s playing kept getting better and David’s magic stylings went up another notch. Songs like “Everybody Wants Some”, “And The Cradle Will Rock…” along with “Romeo Delight” and “Loss of Control” the band was laying down perfection. And you had to have a little Eddie solo piece and he delivers with “Tora! Tora!”. They ask the question, “Could This Be Magic?” and they answered with a resounding YES!!
Bruce Springsteen – “The River”: Bruce brought his A game and a double LP with ‘The River’. An ambitious undertaking and that exceeded all expectations and went to #1 on the Billboard Charts. It is a hodge podge of leftover tracks from other albums as well as new stuff. Originally set for a single LP, he felt it was lacking so he beefed it up and that he did. You get “Hungry Heart”, “Fade Away”, “The River”, “Cadillac Ranch” and “Point Blank” as well as two more singles. It was a beast and proved he was America’s voice.
Billy Joel – “Glass Houses”: In March of 1980, Billy released his 7th album and one that finally saw one of his songs go to #1 on the Billboard Charts, “It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me”. The first 5 songs on the album were all Singles…all of them!! And the back half is no slouch either with “Sleeping With The TV On”. There are some classic Joel songs such as “You May Be Right”, “Don’t Ask Me Why” and “All for Leyna” and Billy was busting out at the perfect time. This album shot him up in to the public eye and then he went to the stratosphere.
Now, those are some great albums above, but these bands had their debut album in 1980 and some might not have had the best debut, but the importance of what to come is the driving force to why these are worth highlighting.
Iron Maiden – “Iron Maiden”: April 14, 1980, Iron Maiden come on to the scene and the NWOBHM is on. Paul Di’Anno, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Dennis Stratton and Clive Burr bring Eddie and their music to the masses for the first time and the onslaught that was to come was unlike anything we have seen. The first album didn’t chart here in the States, but songs like “Running Free” and “Sanctuary” were to be heard. A pretty fantastic beginning.
Def Leppard – “On Through the Night”: My brother had this on vinyl. He saw them in concert that year and he introduced me to what would become one of my all time favorite bands ever (next to Kiss). I remember that cover with the big truck carrying the guitar and heck I even drew it in art classed and used “Wasted” for an English paper. “Hello America”, “Rock Brigade” and “Rocks Off” still resonate with me today. This wasn’t their best, but it was the first! And for me the start of my obsession.
Ozzy Osbourne – “Blizzard of Oz”: After he left Black Sabbath, could he do it on his own or was he too far gone. Well, he answered the question rather loudly. What is great is that both Black Sabbath and Ozzy continued and released albums in the same year. Who would come out on top, I would say they both did. Ozzy delivered with songs like “Crazy Train”, “Mr. Crowley” and “Goodbye to Romance” and he brought is Randy Rhoads. Enough said!!
U2 – “Boy”: This might not be my favorite album by them but being their first, it is a critical album. Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. would go on and change the world…or at least Bono literally tried to change it. They would become one of the biggest bands and most important bands to define a decade, but they even defined the 90’s as well. They were unstoppable. Hits off this were “I Will Follow” and “A Day Without Me”, but this album was so much more.
Loverboy – “Loverboy”: These Canadian rockers went south of the border and were read to take over America with those tight, red leather pants. This was a good start but they went on to so much more and made the 80’s their own. They helped create a sound and a style that was all 80’s. The weren’t the best band of the 80’s, but they were so much fun and that is all that matters some times. Songs like “The Kid Is Hot Tonite”, “Turn Me Loose” and “Lady of the 80’s” made the girls go crazy and the guys take notice.
Bryan Adams – “Bryan Adams”: I bought this recently for the first time and this was not one I knew back then, but Bryan is another artist that would take over the 80’s with his pop rock and he won over so many people. Another Canadian export (and there are a lot on this list) that went on to become larger than life and he is still going strong today. I saw him concert in 2019 and he’s still got it. I don’t know anything off this one yet, but still cool that it was another artist debuting in 1980.
Huey Lewis & the News – “Huey Lewis & the News”: Another artist like Bryan Adams that debuted an album to little fanfare, but would go on to do great things and you can’t get more 80’s than Huey Lewis & the News. Thanks to Back to the Future and the album ‘Sports’, these guys would go huge and it all started with the debut. I loved their style and the gave us an older style of pop rock that no one else was doing and they did it well.
INXS – “INXS”: Wow!! Another band that would completely destroy the 80’s and another debut with little fanfare or notice, but the band was so big, it has to be pointed out. Michael Hutchence was one of the best frontmen ever for any band and he is certainly missed. These guys were pop at its absolute finest. Along with the Farris brothers, these guys would go on to do wonderful things.
The Pretenders – “The Pretenders”: Chrissie Hynde and company attached the world with their debut and had massive success from the get go. Their cover of The Kink’s “Stop Your Sobbing” saw great success as well as “Kid”, but for me it was “Brass in Pocket” that made me take notice. Chrissie’s vocals were so powerful and really captured your attention. They were punk and new wave and incredible!
Survivor – “Survivor”: And still another band that debuted in 1980 to go on and take over radio for the decade. Survivor would go on to do the classic “Eye of the Tiger” and give us a song to motivate every sports team in the world. The debut did give us “Somewhere in America” and is a great song, but it was with Jimi Jamison as the lead singer where I really went nuts over them. So many great songs and ballads and I still pull those albums out today. And yes, that is Kim Bassinger on the cover!!
Some other debut albums included the following:
The Romantics – “The Romantics”
Billy Squier – “The Tale of the Tapes”
The Psychedelic Furs – “The Psychedelic Furs”
Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation”
Michael Schenker Group – “The Michael Schenker Group”
Girlschool – “Demolition”
Girl “Sheer Greed” (future Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collens band)
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 the time period.
Kiss – “Unmasked” – May 20th (Kiss has to get the top spot here)
J. Geils Band – “Love Stinks” – January 28th
Heart – “Bebe Le Strange” – February 14th
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Against the Wind” – February 25th
Journey – “Departure” – February 29th
Genesis – “Duke” – March 28th
Scorpions – “Animal Magnetism” – March 31st
Air Supply – “Lost in Love” – March 1980 (My mom loved this album so in turn, I do to)
Pete Townsend – “Empty Glass” – April 21st
Devo – “Freedom of Choice” – May 16th
Peter Gabriel – “Peter Gabriel” – May 30th
The Rolling Stones – “Emotional Rescue” – June 20th
Blackfoot – “Tomcattin'” – June 1980
Hall & Oates – “Voices” – July 29th
Pat Benatar – “Crimes of Passion” – August 5th
The Cars – “Panorama” – August 15th
B-52’s – Wild Planet – August 27th
John Cougar – “Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did?” – September 15th
David Bowie – “Scary Monsters” – September 12th
Robert Palmer – “Clues” – September 1980
Peter Criss – “Out of Control” – September 9th
The Police – “Zenyatta Mondatta” – October 3rd
Dire Straits – “Making Movies” – October 17th
Cheap Trick – “All Shook Up” – October 24th
Aerosmith – “The Greatest Hits” – November 11th
Neil Diamond – “The Jazz Singer” – November 10th
John Lennon & Yoko Ono – “Double Fantasy” – November 17th
Adam & the Ants – “King of the Wild Frontier” – November 3rd
Queen – “Flash Gordon (soundtrack)” – December 8th
Pat Travers Band – “Crash and Burn” – 1980
And let’s take a look at all the bands that were formed in the 80’s that went on to shape our musical future. Some didn’t necessarily do a lot, but maybe it led to bigger and better things. If you love the 80’s, you’ll love this list of bands.
- Agnostic Front
- Bad Religion
- Blackjack (Michael Bolton and Kiss’ own Bruce Kulick)
- The Call
- The Del Fuegos
- Depeche Mode
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood (Relax)
- Gene Loves Jezebel
- The Georgia Satellites
- Haircut 100
- The Hooters
- Level 42
- Meat Puppets
- Metal Church
- New Order
- The Smithereens
- Suicidal Tendencies
- Take 6
- Violent Femmes
- Wang Chung
Other Important notable dates (well some aren’t too important):
- January 16th – Paul McCartney is arrested in Japan for possession of a little Mary Jane!!
- January 17th – Zooey Deschanel was born
- January 25th – Paul McCartney is released from jail
- January 28th – Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys was born
- February 19th – Bon Scott of AC/DC dies
- April 1st – Brian Johnson named new lead singer of AC/DC
- May 18th – Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division, dies by suicide.
- May 21st – Gotye was born
- July 10th – Jessica Simpson was born
- July 28th – Stephen Christian of the band, Anberlin, was born
- July 31st – The Eagles end their tour in Long Beach, CA and all isn’t rosie. The band is done and won’t play again until 1994.
- August 16th – The first Monsters of Rock concert is held in Donington Park in England
- August 16th – Vanessa Carlton was born
- September 13th – Elton John plays a free concert in Central Park to over 400,000 people
- September 25th – Rapper, T.I., was born
- September 25th – John Bonham, drummer of Led Zeppelin, dies
- October 8th – TV personality and somewhat singer, Nick Cannon was born
- October 13th – Ashanti was born
- December 4th – Led Zeppelin calls it quits.
- December 8th – John Lennon is shot to death outside his apartment in New York City
- December 18th – Christina Aguilera was born
There you have all the contenders that will be used to make the argument that 1980 was the greatest year in music. I have to say, this is a solid contender for the greatest year in music because all this music has held up so well over the years and it is the most impressive list of debut albums / bands. I still don’t know if it is the best. Let me know your thoughts. Am I off base or is this really a contender? What other year would you like for me to explore?
Thanks for staying around on such a long post. I hope you enjoyed. Have a great day.