Liner Notes

The Year That Was: 1980

by Benjamin Ray

Ah, 1980, the arrival of new wave, the taming of mainstream rock and the rise of post-punk, although punk was still flourishing in some quarters (Los Angeles, mostly). Much of this was coming from Britain, leading to what would eventually be dubbed the second British Invasion, but we here stateside weren't doing too badly either.

The post-punk movement was in full swing, creating a new sort of sound that was an alternative to the more popular rock and dance tunes of the day. Leading lights of this included the Cure (Seventeen Seconds, Boys Don't Cry), Talking Heads (Remain In Light), Peter Gabriel (Peter Gabriel [3]) and a new band from Ireland, U2, whose Boy debuted this year. David Bowie offered his entry in this field, Scary Monsters, the Police dropped Zenyatta Mondatta and Blondie offered its final good album, Autoamerican (they also had the more pop-oriented hit "Call Me").

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Other alternative/punk albums leading the scene were Echo & the Bunnymen's Crocodiles, Joy Division's Closer, Killing Joke, XTC's Black Sea, Magazine's prog-oriented Correct Use Of Soap, the Pretenders' debut, the Feelies' Crazy Rhythms, The Psychdelic Furs, X's Los Angeles and Siouxsie & the Banshees' "Christine." The Clash had moved on from punk at this point, releasing the sprawling, incoherent triple album Sandinista! and the dance-punk single "Radio Clash."

New Wave would clog up the radio shortly, with only a few nascent entries in 1980 giving hints as to what would come: Devo's "Whip It," the Romantics' "What I Like About You," Gary Numan's "Cars" and, of course, the Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star," the first video to be played on an up-and-coming TV station called MTV.  

Frankly, those songs were far more exciting that what mainstream pop was offering at the time, which included Air Supply's "All Out Of Love," Christopher Cross' "Sailing," Lipps Inc.'s "Funkytown," Kenny Loggins' "I'm Alright," Olivia Newton-John's "Xanadu," Donna Summer's "On The Radio," Genesis' Duke ("Misunderstanding"), Steve Winwood's "Arc Of A Diver," Kool & The Gang's "Celebration," Prince's Dirty Mind and a lot of other songs that have aged about as well as week-old bread.

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In mainstream rock, AC/DC resurfaced with Back In Black, a tribute to fallen singer Bon Scott that was a huge seller. Billy Joel offered Glass Houses, Pete Townshend took a Who break to record "Let My Love Open The Door," Judas Priest offered the solid British Steel, Loverboy recorded "Turn Me Loose" and the Scorpions offered Animal Magnetism ("The Zoo"). John Lennon, after a five year break, came back with the double album Double Fantasy, released shortly before his death, while Queen offered The Game and the dance hits "Another One Bites The Dust" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."

Elsewhere, the Rolling Stones offered Emotional Rescue, Jefferson Starship had "Jane," Tom Petty had "Don't Do Me Like That," Bob Seger released Against the Wind, Bruce Springsteen had a hit with "Hungry Heart" and The River, Journey had Departure, Rush released the good Permanent Waves and Steely Dan called it a day with the jazzy Gaucho. Van Halen also turned a corner with Women And Children First, the Kings were briefly popular with "Switching To Glide" and the Alan Parsons Project put out the gambling-themed Turn Of A Friendly Card, featuring "Games People Play."

And that, friends, was the Year That Was in music.




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