When I think back to 1979, I literally smile at the memories. Musically, for me, 1979 was a terrific year. In my little world, 1979 is as important to my musical tastes as 1977 is to rock history. We are talking about a seismic year. The music that got me the most excited, punk, had completed its metamorphosis into the more pop-oriented new wave, thus beginning a five-year pop music run that was a thing of beauty. Of course, 1979 being the final chapter of the Seventies, I figured 1979 would be a predictor of what the Eighties would sound like.
1979 also saw the unraveling of disco. As with most things that reach a saturation point, people will be awaiting its demise. And like most other musical revolutions, this one was buckling under its own weight caused by all of those who jumped on the bandwagon in the aftermath of the Saturday Night Fever explosion. By the middle of the Summer of 1979, when Chicago DJ Steve Dahl sponsored a “Disco Demolition Night” between games of a Chicago White Sox doubleheader. As patrons entered old Comiskey Park that night, they would drop off their disco records for Dahl’s stunt. Between games, with Dahl in centerfield, next to a large pile of hundreds of disco records. Upon Dahl’s signal, someone pushed a button which caused the pile to explode. In the aftermath, a melee began, which, along with the destroyed area of the outfield, caused the cancellation of the night cap game in the form of a forfeiture by the Sox. And, although disco never really died, it simply went underground, while also being absorbed by rap and new wave. Shortly afterwards, disco re-emerged under the banner of dance music, as it was known throughout the Eighties. Then, the Gen X-ers of the Nineties headed a small disco revival scene that lasted for a short period of time. Yet, of all the genres of popular music that exist, the most powerful remain to be disco and punk, along with metal, hip hop and bubblegum.
Ultimately, 1979 stands as a transition year. Some of the biggest artists of the Seventies released albums during the year, such as Led Zeppelin, Eagles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac, while some hard-working second tier bands such as AC/DC and Supertramp were finally getting their time in the sun as they struck platinum with their mega-hit albums Highway to Hell and Breakfast in America. respectively. 1979 was also the year when some fresh young talent began to hit their stride, as Cheap Trick, The Knack and The Cars all had albums in the Top 10. 1979 was so crazy that even Frank Zappa had a hit album. Finally, one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of all-time was released in 1979 by The Clash, and that album is known as London Calling.
To me, all of this pointed to the fact that music was healthy and every bit as vital as it was in the Sixties. So, let’s take a look at my countdown.
- The Clash – London Calling
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes
- Cheap Trick – At Budokan
- Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Armed Forces
- Talking Heads – Fear of Music
- Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
- The Knack – Get the Knack
- Pink Floyd – The Wall
- Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
- The Police – Regatta de Blanc
- Daryl Hall & John Oates – X-Static
- Chic – Risqué
- Led Zeppelin – In Through the Out Door
- Supertramp – Breakfast in America
- AC/DC – Highway to Hell
- The B-52’s – The B-52’s
- Ramones – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School OST
- The Jam – Setting Sons
- David Bowie – Lodger
- Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps
- Cheap Trick – Dream Police
- Blondie – Eat to the Beat
- The Cars – Candy-O
- Earth, Wind & Fire – I Am
- Gary Numan – The Principle Pleasure
- Utopia – Adventures in Utopia
- Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
- Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones
- Marianne Faithfull – Broken English
- Prince – Prince
- Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!
- Bram Tchaikovsky – Strange Man, Changed Man
- The Kinks – Low Budget
- Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust
- Van Halen – Van Halen II
- Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti
- Donna Summer – Bad Girls
- Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ with Disaster
- Bob Dylan – Slow Train Coming
And, there you go! That is the best I can do with 1979. Unfortunately, I have tens of more albums that could have been in this list. I left off albums by The Boomtown Rats, The Records, 20/20, Paul Collins’ The Beat, Queen, Blackfoot, Journey, Pat Benatar, among so many others. Oh well! That’s what happens when everyone releases great albums in a single year.
That’s a wrap on the Seventies. Next week, I will get back to album reviews before I jump into the Delorean for a trip through the Eighties in a week.