Ready for Day 2 of this fantastic year for music? I have some more classics in the pipeline to trigger memories for the older crowd and maybe give suggestions for some pleasurable listening to the younger crowd. What time is it? Game time, huh!
Joy Division – Closer (1980). After the iconic blast for the band’s debut, you have to wonder how this band would grow. Well, this album is like a bomb going off, throwing sound and debris in all directions. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how the band’s sound would further develop since lead singer Ian Curtis decided to take his own life right before the band’s American tour. But, what we are left with is another terrific album with a sound that is equally challenging and melodic. Oh, what could have been, and yet, Joy Division’s demise led to the rise of New Order.
Judas Priest – British Steel (1980). This hardworking British band, something of a UK-version of a metal REO Speedwagon, finally stumbled upon the right ingredients for superstardom. And, in the process, developed both the sound and look that would influence metal for the next decade. This album is on par with AC/DC’s Back in Black in its across the board appeal. And, everyone loves “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight,” but those are just the hits.
Motörhead – Ace of Spades (1980). 1980 might just be best remembered for the number of power trios who released outstanding albums. When Motörhead arrived with this album, they changed the course of metal and rock in general. Now, there was a sound that was both acceptable to punks and metalheads alike, since the band brought punk’s amphetamine-driven speed to metal, that will give birth to thrash metal gods like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and the rest, as well as influencing the punk-metal hybrid popularized by the Misfits.
Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III or “Melting”) (1980). After releasing two terrific and influential studio albums after leaving Genesis, Peter Gabriel released this dark art rock masterpiece that is full of Cold War-era paranoia and personal demons being battled simultaneously. It was an anxious era, and this was the album that bravely addressed them upfront. Former bandmate Phil Collins played drums on the album and stole the drum sound which he exploited for his financial gain for both his solo and Genesis careers throughout the Eighties.
Prince – Dirty Mind (1980). The Stones only sang in “Shattered” about “sex and sex and sex,” but Prince actually gave us details of his prowess in the bedroom. Nothing was taboo, as Prince described oral sex, threesomes and, gulp, incest. And, the music was a tour de force as he displayed his talent full on by covering all bases, from new wave on “When You Were Mine” to all forms of funk in the Eighties (“Dirty Mind,” “Head,” “Partyup” and “Uptown”) to rock (“Sister”). In hindsight, we should have known that the Eighties would be Prince’s decade.
Queen – The Game (1980). Hey, it’s a new decade, so the greatest band in the world felt it was time to put aside their “no synthesizers used on this album” mantra and integrate the latest sounds into their brand of rock. And, it paid off in a very big way as this album became their biggest seller to date. Unfortunately, it also marks the end of Queen’s American reign, mainly because singer Freddie Mercury was publicly embracing his homosexuality and that was not cool with a majority of middle America’s record-buying public. And, that’s a shame because the band continued to create some innovative sounds up to the moment Freddie died. What we are left with is a terrific album that showed the band could embrace the eclectic nature of music in the Eighties, going from the funk of “Another One Bites the Dust” to rockabilly on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” to the standard Queen-styled rock with all the modern touches of a new decade.
Rockpile – Sounds of Pleasure (1980). This band was something of enigma as leaders Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds had used the band on their late-Seventies run of solo albums, so the media was ready for this group to release a self-contained album. Unfortunately, this is their only album, but it does show what a great roll the two leaders were on with their brand of punky pub rock. It is the third album, along with Nick Lowe’s two solo albums, that makes a fine trilogy. And when you throw in a couple of Edmunds’ solo LPs, you have a pretty solid catalog of music. Rockpile fits comfortably with the best of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker and Squeeze of the same era.
Rush – Permanent Waves (1980). As arguably rock’s most talented musicians, the band took the prog rock sound to new innovative heights during the Seventies. But, as Dylan once sang, “The times they are a-changing.” And, Rush knew it from just listening to current music. So, in response, the band tightened up their song’s arrangements, added aspects of new wave and integrated new rhythmic sounds from The Police and Talking Heads, which took prog into a whole new direction without ever sacrificing Rush’s musical integrity. Now, this trio was on the precipice of becoming one of the biggest bands in history. And, they even had a Top 40 hit in the States with their ode to rock radio “The Spirit of Radio.”
Squeeze – Argybargy (1980). Squeeze had been quietly building a big reputation over in England for the past couple of years with their songwriting talents. But, they quickly grew up on Argybargy, giving rise to critics to begin equating the songwriting talents of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook with those of Lennon and McCartney. Of course that was hype, but they were definitely equal to that of Costello and Lowe, which is plenty of shoe to fill. And, you have to realize that these guys were only going to get better.
Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July (1980). You know, this album tends to get overlooked in Stevie’s outstanding catalog, but he did kick off the Eighties with yet another masterpiece. His ode to reggae master Bob Marley “Master Blaster” was the big hit, but Wonder’s Lionel Richie-like countryish “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” remains my favorite. Most importantly, the album contains Stevie’s protest song for the establishment of a national holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday called “Happy Birthday.” Unfortunately, Stevie Wonder will never be this great on an album again, as he will make a slow slide into schlocky pop.
Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980). This still remains one of the greatest albums ever released. Unfortunately, it was released during a year which had a glut of landmark albums. The Heads were all in on the development of the African-based funk sounds found on the previous album’s “I Zimbra” on this album and knocked it out of the park. Along with Peter Gabriel, the Talking Heads opened the door for the World Music sounds that would be heard throughout the Eighties from the likes of Bow Wow Wow and Adam Ant to Paul Simon’s Graceland. And, finally, “Once in a Lifetime” is considered a classic song. I have found that this song is best listen to when sitting outside at night as it fits the ambiance.
Stay tuned for more albums from 1980 coming soon. Peace.