Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Back in 2017 I wrote a weekly series highlighting my favorite albums from 1977 called Forty Year Friday. It was a lot of fun covering so many classics throughout the year. After following up with a few random posts I took an extended blogging break, and returned in 2019 with the Satur-debut series which took me through the middle of 2020. I had hoped to return to Forty Year Friday in 2020 since 1980 is one of my favorite years of music, but the aforementioned Satur-debut posts and life in general got in the way. However, I knew all along that somehow I had to feature 1980 before the end of 2020, so now I will condense everything I would have covered over the course of 12 months in a single post. I turned 14, started high school and attended my first concert that year, so I have lots of emotional connections to the music of 1980, which covered pop, rock, heavy metal, new wave, southern rock, synth-pop, jazz-fusion, hard rock and so much more.
At the end of 1980, my favorite radio station (New York’s WPLJ, 95.5 FM) created a foldout poster with the Top 95 albums of the year, which I’ve kept for the past four decades. Of those 95 albums, 69 were released in 1980 while the other 26 hit store shelves the previous year. At the time I owned 35 of the records on their list (27 from 1980) and now that total has grown to 80 (57 from 1980). I also own compilations from 9 other artists so I’ve been a fan of these albums & artists for a long time. There are also another 21 albums from 1980 in my collection that weren’t included on their list. Below I will highlight all of my favorites that were released between January and December 1980, limiting my comments to one or two sentences to keep things as concise as possible. I’ll break them down in three clearly-marked sections, each listed alphabetically. Wherever I’ve previously written about a particular album I will include a link to that post. Here’s the WPLJ poster for reference, which will expand & open in a new window or tab when you click it.
AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK
Hard rock perfection that was a classic the day it was released, featuring “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Hells Bells,” the title track, “Shoot To Thrill” and so much more. It’s one of the biggest selling albums of all time, and rightfully so.
JEFF BECK – THERE AND BACK
His third consecutive instrumental fusion album, and the first Jeff Beck album I ever bought. Maybe not a classic like Blow By Blow and Wired but not far behind either, with killer musicianship throughout.
PAT BENATAR – CRIMES OF PASSION
Her sophomore album is even stronger than her debut, with great songs like “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Treat Me Right,” “Hell Is For Children” and her cover of The Young Rascals’ “You Better Run.” Amazing guitar & drums from Neil Giraldo & Myron Grombacher, respectively. I remember buying this on the day of release.
A great movie deserves an equally impressive soundtrack, and that’s what we get here. John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and their band of legendary soul/blues musicians crank out classics like “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Shake A Tail Feather” (with Ray Charles), “Think” (with Aretha Franklin), “She Caught The Katy” (a personal favorite) and a lot more.
THE CARS – PANORAMA
I bought their third album on the day it was released and immediately fell in love with it. It’s darker then the first two with no big hits, so it gets overlooked in their discography, but it might just be my favorite Cars album. “Touch And Go” (with Elliot Easton’s amazing guitar solo), “Gimme Some Slack,” “Down Boys,” “Misfit Kid” and “Don’t Tell Me No” should all be as revered as their more well-known songs.
ERIC CLAPTON – JUST ONE NIGHT (LIVE)
Clapton’s first double live album got a lot of exposure on FM radio at the time, especially his covers of J.J. Cale’s “Cocaine” and “After Midnight.” His voice & guitar playing are in top form throughout.
ROGER DALTREY – MCVICAR SOUNDTRACK
Although technically the soundtrack album to a film starring The Who’s Roger Daltrey, it’s really a solo album with three particularly excellent songs: “Bitter And Twisted,” “Free Me” and “Without Your Love.” I played it recently for the first time in decades and still enjoyed it.
THE CHARLIE DANIELS BAND – FULL MOON
Their follow-up to the previous year’s breakthrough Million Mile Reflections (which included “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”), this record is just as strong, with Top 40 singles “In America” and “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp.” I love their jazzy southern rock, and “El Toreador” is a particular favorite of mine.
DIRE STRAITS – MAKING MOVIES
After two similar sounding albums that started their recording career, the now 3-piece Dire Straits and producer Jimmy Iovine, along with guest keyboardist Roy Bittan (from The E Street Band) delivered a punchy set of tunes that are among their best, including “Expresso Love,” “Solid Rock,” “Skateaway” and “Romeo And Juliet.”
EAGLES – LIVE
A great double live album from a band that was in the process of breaking up. Most recordings are from earlier that year, with a few from 1976. Their instrumental chops and vocal harmonies are as strong in concert as they are on the original records.
THE J. GEILS BAND – LOVE STINKS
By 1980 The J. Geils Band had been releasing albums for a decade, but this was my first exposure to them, via the fun-as-hell title track, minor hit “Come Back,” and should-have-been hits “Just Can’t Wait” and “Till The Walls Come Tumblin’ Down.” It also includes the funny/bizarre film-noir-in-song “No Anchovies, Please,” which always makes me smile
HEART – GREATEST HITS/LIVE
A double album that features most of their early hits and FM radio tracks on the first disc and some great live performances on the second disc. Their version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll” got a lot of airplay at the end of the year, in tribute to drummer John Bonham who had died in September
JOE JACKSON – BEAT CRAZY
The original Joe Jackson Band’s third album isn’t far removed from the reggae-inspired new wave of their previous releases, but it didn’t have any hit singles so it’s largely been forgotten. I’ve always loved it, especially the title track (with bassist Graham Maby on lead vocals), “Mad At You,” “Pretty Boys” and the lovely ballad “One To One.”
I already wrote about my love of this record in the post you can read by clicking the album title above, where I even recreated the front cover pose at the back of my house. He wrote this album to be played in arenas, since that’s where his career had taken him by this time, so it’s full of punchy songs like “You May Be Right,” “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me,” “Sleeping With The Television On,” “All For Leyna” and “Sometimes A Fantasy.” But pretty tunes like “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “C’était Toi (You Were the One)” and “Through The Long Night” offer a nice balance.
Another double live album released in 1980 and it’s a great one. As I wrote about it in the 7th part of my Kinks series, “I’ve never seen One For The Road on lists of all-time best live albums, but it deserves to be in the mix. It certainly sent me on my way to becoming a bigger Kinks fan over 30 years ago.”
THE POLICE – ZENYATTA MONDATTA
The Police never released an album that was anything less than awesome, at least to my ears. Their third record was actually the first one I bought even though I liked every song I had heard from them on the radio. The opening trio of songs (“Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” “Driven To Tears” and “When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around”) gets things off to a rousing start, and along with the Top 10 single “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” “Canary In A Coalmine” and “Man In A Suitcase” there is much to love here.
Although their debut was released in the UK in 1979 it didn’t show up in the U.S. until the beginning of 1980. I’ve written about it a couple of times, as you can see via the link you can click on the album title above, where I wrote “I often cite Chrissie Hynde as my all-time favorite female singer, but that almost sounds like a backhanded compliment for someone whose gender is significantly less important than the quality of the songwriting, and it rarely got better than on their self-titled debut.”
QUEEN – THE GAME
The majestic & flamboyant Queen entered the new decade with a bang and a new image for frontman Freddie Mercury. I think the front cover might be the only photo I’ve seen of him with short hair and no mustache. But what really matters is the music, like the two #1 singles, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites The Dust,” but album tracks like “Save Me,” “Play The Game” and “Dragon Attack” all made this an immediate favorite that still sounds awesome 40 years later.
As I wrote when I featured this album in my first One And Done post, “any group combining the rock & roll classicism of Dave Edmunds with the pub rock/new wave sensibilities of Nick Lowe had to be great, and the only album released under this band name lived up to expectations.” There are so many fantastic songs here, including “When I Write The Book,” “Play That Fast Thing One More Time,” “If Sugar Was As Sweet As You Honey” and “Heart.”
ROLLING STONES – EMOTIONAL RESCUE
Some fans were turned off by the “disco” sounds of the title track, which was released as a single, but I’ve always liked it, as well as the funky opening track, “Dance (Pt. 1).” However, there’s plenty of the Stones’ patented straight-up rock & roll on “Send It To Me,” “She’s So Cold” and “Where The Boys Go.” It’s not a perfect album but there’s still plenty to like.
LINDA RONSTADT – MAD LOVE
Linda’s voice is, as always, perfection on this collection of mostly rockin’ new wave songs, including three written by Elvis Costello (“Girls Talk,” “Party Girl” and “Talking In The Dark”). Top 10 hit “How Do I Make You,” the title track and the exquisite “Hurts So Bad” (another Top 10 hit) are three more winners.
RUSH – PERMANENT WAVES
For some reason I had never heard of Rush before FM radio started playing their song “Entre Nous” and I loved it immediately. This was my first Rush album and very soon I owned all of their prior releases. Along with follow-up Moving Pictures, this is a perfect introduction to their early years for the uninitiated. Seven tracks that bridge the gap between their ’70s sci-fi inspired progressive rock and the more streamlined approach they would take throughout the ’80s. Best known for “The Spirit Of Radio” and “Freewill.”
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – THE RIVER
Here’s the rare double studio album that doesn’t feel like an overstuffed single album, alternating between rockers like “Cadillac Ranch,” “Ramrod,” “Out In The Street,” “The Ties That Bind” and “Jackson Cage” and more introspective songs like “Point Blank,” “Drive All Night,” “Independence Day” & the stunning title track, with a Top 10 single (“Hungry Heart”) anchoring the whole thing.
SQUEEZE – ARGYBARGY
This was a blast of fun from the first listen and still makes me smile every time I play it. Features three amazing singles, “If I Didn’t Love You,” “Pulling Mussels From The Shell” and “Another Nail In My Heart,” plus instantly catchy album tracks like “I Think I’m Go Go,” “Separate Beds” and “Farfisa Beat.” This is the album where songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford started receiving comparisons to Lennon & McCartney from the music press.
STEELY DAN – GAUCHO
Gaucho was Steely Dan’s 7th studio album, and the last one they made until reuniting more than a decade later. It’s more groove-oriented & has an icier sound than its brilliant predecessor (Aja), but the songs are wonderful and the production & musicianship are impeccable. “Hey Nineteen” and “Time Out Of Mind” were both successful singles, and the album tracks like “Babylon Sisters” and “Glamour Profession” should have received significant radio play too.
PETE TOWNSHEND – EMPTY GLASS
Townshend’s second solo album arrived two years after his bandmate in The Who, Keith Moon, died, and during a time when he was dealing with alcohol, drug & marital problems. All bad things for him but it led to an amazing collection of songs, including “Let My Love Open The Door,” “Rough Boys,” “A Little Is Enough” and “Gonna Get You,” all of which received significant airplay on FM radio.
VAN HALEN – WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST
I had been reading about Van Halen in Creem and Circus magazines but had no idea what they sounded like, so I took the plunge when this record was released and I was not disappointed. Needless to say I quickly became a huge fan and bought their first two albums. Although it lacks some of the pop sheen that adorned those records, everything that made them special (notably Eddie Van Halen’s jaw-dropping guitar technique, David Lee Roth’s inimitable vocals and Michael Anthony’s distinctive harmonies) is on display throughout songs like “Everybody Wants Some,” “And The Cradle Will Rock…,” “Take Your Whiskey Home” and “Romeo Delight.”
YES – DRAMA
After 10 years and several lineup changes, Yes surprised fans with the biggest changes to date by replacing recently departed vocalist Jon Anderson & keyboardist Rick Wakeman with synth-pop duo Buggles (Trevor Horn & Geoff Downes). Some fans weren’t happy but I love this short-lived lineup and consider this one of my top 5 Yes albums. At times heavier & more metallic (but not “metal”) than anything they had previously done, rock radio featured “Does It Really Happen?” and “Tempus Fugit,” while fans of their extended pieces were treated to “Machine Messiah” and “Into The Lens.”
THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – REACH FOR THE SKY
The first of two albums recorded for Arista Records is not among their best, but even a subpar Allman Brothers record is bound to include some worthwhile songs, which is the case here. My favorites are “Angeline,” “Hell & High Water,” the Dickey Betts-written instrumental “From The Madness Of The West” and album closing ballad “So Long.”
THE B-52’S – WILD PLANET
There has never been another band that sounds even close to The B-52’s, somehow retro & futuristic at the same time. Their sophomore album is a continuation of the unique sound introduced on its predecessor, with highlights including “Private Idaho,” “Quiche Lorraine,” “Give Me Back My Man” and “Strobe Light.”
When I wrote about this album in 2012 as part of my 9-part Bowie series I described it as “a culmination of the music that came before it, especially the four albums that preceded it” and “a nearly perfect Bowie album, and a great way for him to enter the new decade.” It’s best known for “Fashion,” “Ashes To Ashes” and “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps),” but it’s filled with gems from top to bottom
JACKSON BROWNE – HOLD OUT
One of the original “sensitive singer-songwriters” followed up his 1977 multi-platinum classic, Running On Empty, with this chart-topping album that includes three radio staples (“Hold On, Hold Out,” “Boulevard” and “That Girl Could Sing”) along with two wonderful ballads (“Of Missing Persons” and the title track).
ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS – GET HAPPY!
His fourth album (and third with The Attractions) packs 20 songs in less than 50 minutes, with many highlights including their cover of Sam & Dave’s “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” “High Fidelity,” “Motel Matches,” “Riot Act,” “New Amsterdam” and so much more.
DEVO – FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Devo’s unmistakable syth-pop/rock sound reached its commercial peak on their third album, which includes their best known song “Whip It” along with great tracks like “Ton O’ Luv,” “Girl U Want” and the title track.
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS – ONE STEP CLOSER
The Doobies’ final album with lead vocalist Michael McDonald is a slick affair that at times borders on smooth jazz, or the softer side of Steely Dan. It only features one hit single, “Real Love,” but it includes other fine songs like the title track, “Dedicate This Heart” and “Keep This Train A-Rollin’.”
BOB DYLAN – SAVED
The middle part of his controversial “born-again Christian” trilogy is a solid collection of songs with Dylan’s strong vocals accompanied by ace studio musicians. Highlights include the title track, “Pressing On,” “Solid Rock” and “Are You Ready.”
PETER GABRIEL – PETER GABRIEL (3 aka MELT)
His third solo album isn’t a departure from the first two but it’s more focused and features a number of now-classic Gabriel songs: “Biko,” “Games Without Frontiers,” “I Don’t Remember,” “Not One Of Us,” “And Through The Wire,” “No Self Control,” “Intruder.” I guess what I’m saying is that the whole thing is great.
GENESIS – DUKE
For some reason I didn’t become a Genesis fan until their next album, Abacab, but I quickly went back and fell in love with the rest of their catalog. Duke’s calling cards were the hit singles “Turn It On Again” and “Misunderstanding” as well as opening track “Behind The Lines.” It points the way to the mega-success that was about to happen without abandoning their progressive rock past.
THE GRATEFUL DEAD – GO TO HEAVEN
I didn’t grow up with any friends who were Deadheads so my knowledge of their music was just the handful of songs I heard on FM radio in the late-’70s. Then two songs from this record (“Don’t Ease Me In” and “Alabama Getaway”) got a lot of airplay and I became more interested in them, although I didn’t hear the whole album until years later. It’s not quite a classic but enjoyable nonetheless.
IAN HUNTER – WELCOME TO THE CLUB (LIVE)
Former Mott The Hoople frontman Ian Hunter followed up the previous year’s successful solo studio release, You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic, with this double live album that includes many Mott classics as well as recent Hunter songs like “Just Another Night,” “Bastard” and “Cleveland Rocks.”
JETHRO TULL – A
This was recorded as an Ian Anderson solo album, with only longtime Tull guitarist Martin Barre returning, but it works as a Jethro Tull album for the new decade. It doesn’t include any all-time great Tull songs but there are many very good ones, i.e. “Working John – Working Joe,” “Black Sunday,” “Crossfire,” “Protect And Survive” and “Uniform.”
JOURNEY – DEPARTURE
Led by opening track “Any Way You Want It,” which was a hit single that memorably appeared in the movie Caddyshack, there are no other true classics here but a lot of excellent songs with Steve Perry’s instantly identifiable vocals. Some of my favorites are the bluesy “Walks Like A Lady,” the rockin’ shuffle of “Line Of Fire,” power ballad “Stay Awhile” and straight-up rocker “Where Were You.”
THE KNACK – …BUT THE LITTLE GIRLS UNDERSTAND
After the multi-platinum success of their 1979 debut album and its monster single “My Sharona,” there was a huge backlash against The Knack in the music press, so even though the follow-up was a Top 20 Gold record it was considered a huge disappointment. Ignore at your own risk as it’s a power-pop gem with highlights including “Can’t Put A Price On Love,” “Baby Talks Dirty,” their cover of The Kinks’ “The Hard Way” and my personal favorite, “Mr. Handleman.”
JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO – DOUBLE FANTASY
Released less than a month before Lennon was murdered and five years after his last record, this album…evenly split between recordings from him and Yoko…went from being reasonably successful to a smash hit immediately after his death. Some fans didn’t like that he went “soft” with ballads “Woman” and “Watching The Wheels” but they’re beautiful songs, and he also rocked out on “I’m Losing You,” delivered a fantastic pop shuffle with “(Just Like) Starting Over” and sang a lovely ode to his young son Sean on “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy).” Yoko’s songs are a mixed bag depending on your tolerance for her vocals, but I’ve grown to appreciate them over the years.
PAUL McCARTNEY – McCARTNEY II
The multi-talented Mr. McCartney played all instruments on this album, with only his wife Linda adding some backing vocals. It’s mostly experimental with several atmospheric instrumental tracks, but the quirky “Temporary Secretary,” hit single “Coming Up” and lovely ballad “Waterfalls” are all immensely enjoyable.
GRAHAM PARKER AND THE RUMOUR – THE UP ESCALATOR
Few songs evoke the sound of 1980 for me than Graham Parker’s “Stupefaction,” which is the highlight of this wonderful album, his last with The Rumour until their reunion decades later. “No Holding Back” and “The Endless Night” (the latter featuring backing vocals from Bruce Springsteen) are two other killer songs from an album that’s among my two or three favorites in the Graham Parker discography.
THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT – THE TURN OF A FRIENDLY CARD
Another impeccably produced album from the APP, featuring two hit singles (the peppy “Games People Play” and the stunning ballad “Time”) and the 5-part album-closing epic title title track. It’s quite possibly my favorite record in their discography.
THE RAMONES – END OF THE CENTURY
Produced by the legendary (and now notorious) producer Phil Spector, the New York punk rockers deliver another collection of songs that are uniquely The Ramones. It’s not as immediate as any of their earlier records but there are many catchy songs, like “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School,” “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio,” “Danny Says,” their cover of The Ronettes’ “Baby, I Love You” and “Chinese Rock.”
THE ROSSINGTON COLLINS BAND – ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYWHERE
Three years after three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd died in a plane crash, four surviving members (including guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins) formed a new band with singer (and Rossington’s future wife) Dale Krantz. Their debut album includes radio hit “Don’t Misunderstand Me” and a number of solid bluesy southern rock songs like “Getaway,” “Sometimes You Can Put It Out” and “One Good Man.”
BOB SEGER & THE SILVER BULLET BAND – AGAINST THE WIND
Seger’s 11th album, and 4th with The Silver Bullet Band, was also his 4th consecutive multi-platinum release and his only chart-topper. Seger was in his mid-30s at the time, an old man by rock & roll standards, and that maturity shows in beautiful ballads like “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” “Fire Lake” and the title track, but he & the band still kick ass on rockers like “Her Strut,” “The Horizontal Bop” and “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight.”
SOUTHSIDE JOHNNY & THE ASBURY JUKES – LOVE IS A SACRIFICE
The last in an impressive string of horn-drenched rock ‘n’ soul records this New Jersey band began in the mid-’70s before an extended hiatus. It’s not as consistently great as most of its predecessors but songs like “On The Beach,” “Why Is Love Such A Sacrifice,” “Restless Heart” and “Why” still show Southside Johnny and his bandmates in top form.
SPLIT ENZ – TRUE COLOURS
New Zealand’s favorite sons had their first worldwide smash with their 5th album and its hugely successful single, “I Got You.” It introduced the world to the songwriting talents of Neil Finn, who also delivered two other great songs (“Poor Boy” and “What’s The Matter With You”). His older brother and founding member, Tim Finn, also brought his A-game with the gorgeous piano ballad “I Hope I Never” and new wave rockers “How Can I Resist Her” & “Nobody Takes Me Seriously.”
SUPERTRAMP – PARIS (LIVE)
Supertramp capitalized on the mega-success of 1979’s Breakfast In America with this double live album, which includes highlights from their four preceding studio albums. Most of these performances match or exceed their studio counterparts, and both lead vocalists (Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies) are in fine voice. Highlights include…the whole thing.
I learned a lot about Talking Heads’ discography when I wrote about it in the early days of this blog, including the fact that they never released a bad album and their first four studio records are all outstanding. This one (their fourth) includes some of their best songs like “Crosseyed And Painless,” “Once In A Lifetime,” “Houses In Motion” and “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On).”
PAT TRAVERS BAND – CRASH & BURN
The Canadian guitarist/singer released one of the most rock & roll sounding song titles in 1980, “Snortin’ Whiskey” (and drinking cocaine), which was a massive FM radio hit. That made this his most commercially successful album, which includes other notable tunes like the bluesy title track, a cover of Albert King’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” and “Can’t Be Right.”
UTOPIA – ADVENTURES IN UTOPIA
What started as a Todd Rundgren progressive rock side project was by now a full band with four equally strong performers & songwriters. Rundgren does the bulk of the singing (with “The Road To Utopia” being a personal favorite) but some of the best songs feature the others: Willie Wilcox on “You Make Me Crazy,” Kasim Sulton on “Set Me Free” and Roger Powell on “Caravan.” Quite possibly their most accessible album.
I described this as a “relatively low-key but still highly listenable album” during my 10-part series on Neil Young’s discography in 2013. There’s nothing groundbreaking or essential here but it grows on the listener after a few listens. I especially enjoy “Comin’ Apart At Every Nail,” “Stayin’ Power” and “Coastline.”
WARREN ZEVON – BAD LUCK STREAK IN DANCING SCHOOL
Wry singer-songwriter Warren Zevon followed up his breakthrough Excitable Boy album with another collection of songs that only Zevon could have written & sung. Highlights are the title track, “Jeannie Needs A Shooter” (co-written with Bruce Springsteen), “A Certain Girl” and ballads “Bed Of Coals” & “Empty-Handed Heart.”
When I revisited the Black Sabbath catalog for my multi-part series in 1980 I was excited to spend more time with the post-Ozzy years since I didn’t know them as well as the earlier albums. I summarized their debut with Ronnie James Dio with, “It’s not a perfect album by any means, but it’s got five incredibly memorable songs that stand proudly among their best, and sonically it’s the finest thing they’ve done so far.” Those songs are “Neon Knights,” “Children Of The Sea,” “Lady Evil,” “Die Young” and the epic title track.
BUGGLES – THE AGE OF PLASTIC
Electronic/new wave/synth-pop duo Buggles (Trevor Horn & Geoff Downes) released their timeless single “Video Killed The Radio Star” (which appears on this album) in 1979. They never quite match the sonic perfection of that single but there’s a lot of catchy material here, especially “Clean, Clean,” “Elstree,” “The Plastic Age” and “Johnny On The Monorail.
KATE BUSH – NEVER FOR EVER
Kate Bush was only 22 when she released her third studio album, but she sounded like a veteran artist who created her own sonic landscape. Her sound is not for everyone but once you enter her world you never want to leave. There’s lots of atmospheric & jazzy music here to enjoy, but also a couple of peppy tunes with “Babooshka” and “The Wedding List.”
CHEAP TRICK – ALL SHOOK UP
Cheap Trick hired legendary producer George Martin for this unsurprisingly Beatle-y album that wasn’t as successful as the handful of albums that preceded it, but I think it’s every bit as essential. Highlights include “Stop This Game,” “Baby Loves To Rock,” “World’s Greatest Lover” and “High Priest Of Rhythmic Noise.”
When I got to this part of the Alice Cooper discography in my 8-part series, I summarized this album as “an enjoyably brief record that I will revisit a lot more in the future.” I have played it a few times since then and, although it’s far from his/their best work, there’s a lot to enjoy, including “Clones (We’re All),” “Talk Talk,” “Aspirin Damage,” “Pain” and “Model Citizen.”
STEVE HACKETT – DEFECTOR
Guitarist Steve Hackett’s fourth solo album (and third since departing Genesis in 1977) is an excellent blend of instrumental & vocal tracks that rewards listeners especially after hearing it several times. My favorite vocal songs are “Time To Get Out,” “Jacuzzi” and the pretty, pastoral “The Toast,” and two instrumentals (“The Steppes” and “Slogans”) might be the best things on this record.
Hall & Oates already had several hits under their belts but no one expected them to become so huge in the ’80s starting with this, their 9th album. When I discussed it in my 5-part series on their discography I noted five “essential” tracks (“United State,” “Kiss On My List,” “You Make My Dreams,” “Everytime You Go Away” and “Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear The Voices)”) along with a few other notable tracks (including their cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”).
IRON MAIDEN – IRON MAIDEN
Although several of my high school friends loved Iron Maiden I never listened to them until I picked up used copies of four LPs in the late-’90s and they quickly became an all-time favorite band. The raw production of their eponymous debut has it straddling the line between heavy metal and punk rock. Later albums would sound better but the songs speak for themselves as they continue to play many of them decades later: “Phantom Of The Opera,” “Charlotte The Harlot,” “Running Free” and the title track.
JUDAS PRIEST – BRITISH STEEL
They had already released five albums but this is where they hit the big time, with three great singles (“Living After Midnight,” “Breaking The Law” and “United”) and some kick-ass album tracks like “Metal Gods” and “Rapid Fire.”
KISS – UNMASKED
With their star (and not just the one painted on Paul Stanley’s face) starting to fade and the unannounced departure of drummer Peter Criss (even though he’s credited in the packaging), this record came & went very quickly. It’s not necessarily a great Kiss album but there are excellent songs here that may have been successful if they had another artist’s name on the label. That especially applies to the catchy pop of “Shandi,” Ace Frehley’s “Talk To Me” and some cool album tracks like “Is That You?” and “She’s So European.”
I’ve never been shy about professing my love of Huey Lewis And The News, and that love starts with their under-appreciated debut. As I previously wrote, “I know I won’t convince skeptics or haters to give Huey & the boys a chance, but if you like their later material and never heard anything prior to Sports consider this a hearty recommendation for their debut and its follow up, Picture This.” There are highlights aplenty here: “Trouble In Paradise,” “Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later),” “Don’t Ever Tell Me That You Love Me,” “Don’t Make Me Do It,” “Stop Trying” and “If You Really Love Me You’ll Let Me.”
BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS – UPRISING
After the previous year’s defiant & almost militant Survival (one of my favorite Marley albums), Uprising presents a somewhat softer sound for Marley & The Wailers, but that doesn’t take away from the power of songs like “Forever Loving Jah,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Coming In From The Cold” and the stark & haunting “Redemption Song.”
OZZY OSBOURNE – BLIZZARD OF OZZ
After departing Black Sabbath in 1979, singer Ozzy Osbourne surprised critics and thrilled fans with a solo album that was technically recorded by a band called “Blizzard Of Ozz” featuring brilliant guitarist Randy Rhoads. Singles “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley” are its best known songs but this is a near-perfect hard rock/metal album with other highlights including “Suicide Solution,” “I Don’t Know” and even a beautiful ballad, “Goodbye To Romance.”
I covered Roxy Music’s discography in a 4-part series back in 2011, and I wrote the following about their seventh studio album after giving it several spins: “I don’t consider this a great album since it has a little too much filler, but it’s a lot stronger than I originally thought.” Highlights for me are their covers of Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” and The Byrd’s “Eight Miles High” as well as the title track, “Same Old Scene” and especially “Oh Yeah.”
SKIDS – THE ABSOLUTE GAME
I discovered Skids in the mid-’80s, several years after they disbanded, because of my love for the Scottish/English band Big Country. Their singer/guitarist Stuart Adamson was the guitarist and co-songwriter for this Scottish punk band. Their lead singer, Richard Jobson, has a voice that divides opinion, but even if you don’t like it their music is incredible and you can clearly hear Adamson’s unique guitar style already developed. Some of my favorite Skids songs are here: “Circus Games,” “Goodbye Civilian,” “Hurry On Boys,” “One Degree” and “Out Of Town.”
TRIUMPH – PROGRESSIONS OF POWER
I knew about Triumph but never heard them because they didn’t receive airplay on New York radio stations, but then department store E.J. Korvette, which had an incredible record department, went out of business and I found this album for about $1.00. I would go on to become a huge fan. I do prefer its predecessor and the few albums that followed, but there are some absolute killer tracks here: “I Can Survive,” “Nature’s Child,” “Woman In Love,” “Tear The Roof Off” and “I Live For The Weekend.”
U2 – BOY
An amazing debut album from a special group that went on to become the biggest band in the world. Best known for “I Will Follow” but it’s packed with great tunes like “The Electric Co.,” “Stories For Boys,” “Out Of Control,” “An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart” and “A Day Without Me.”
Spending time with the Tom Waits discography for my 7-part series was a highlight of 2012 for me. His final album for Asylum Records indicated a big shift in the sound of his music & vocal style which continues to this day. My three favorite tracks are “Heartattack And Vine,” “Jersey Girl” and “Downtown.”
STEVE WINWOOD – ARC OF A DIVER
The amazing voice that fronted The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith released his second solo album in 1980 and started his ascent to superstardom. The immensely talented Winwood plays every instrument and delivers a set of instantly memorable songs like “Spanish Dancer,” “Night Train,” “While You See A Chance” and the title track.
STEVIE WONDER – HOTTER THAN JULY
Some fans consider this the tail end of his incredible run of all-time classic albums that started in the early ’70s. For me it’s not quite on that level due to the slicker production and slightly inconsistent songwriting. But even a lesser Stevie Wonder album is going to have can’t-miss songs. For me they include “Rocket Love,” “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” “Lately” and the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Happy Birthday.”
In my series on XTC’s discography I described their fourth album as “the perfect entry point to their early years,” and I consider it their first top-to-bottom great record. Every song is a keeper, but special mention goes to “Generals And Majors,” “Respectable Street,” “Towers Of London,” “Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me,” “Living Through Another Cuba” and “Burning With Optimism’s Flame.”
So 1980 was a pretty good year for music, right? How many of these albums do you own? Which ones did I overlook?
Here’s a 79-song, 5+ hour Spotify playlist with one track from each album featured in this post. I think it’s a pretty enjoyable listen and I hope you agree.
I encourage you to visit John’s 2Loud2OldMusic site where he recently featured 1980 in his “The Greatest Year In Music?” series.