30 Years of Albums in My Wheelhouse: 1980

Finally, the Eighties have arrived. Or, have they? Dare I open this version of Pandora’s Box? You know the dilemma, does a new decade begin when the year ends in zero? Or, is the old decade ending? In all honesty, I understand that 1980 is actually the last year of the Seventies, but who doesn’t love making all years with an 8 in the tens place as part of the decade called “The Eighties”? Therefore, using that illogic, let’s include 1980 in the Eighties.

Dead Kennedys

While many of us alive at the time were excited to begin a new decade, the music of 1980 did not seem as exciting as the music from the previous year was. To be perfectly honest, 1980 was a better year from the Yacht Rock sounds rather than the post-punk music we were listening to the previous year.

Peter Gabriel

Many of the artists who were in the underground a scant five years early were now reaching new commercial heights. So, in that respect, 1980 was a cool year during which to be a fan of artists such as AC/DC, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, The Police, The J. Geils Band and Hall & Oates all beginning to reach their commercial zenith. Unfortunately, radio did not reflect much of this change.

While radio was making the average listener think that music of 1980 was nothing but soft rock artists, there was some interesting sounds popping up all over the world. Yet, radio did not reflect that, bucking the cutting edge tradition radio had nurtured just a decade earlier.

Popping up in the UK, the New Romantics were bridging the pop R&B strains of Motown with a liberal sprinkling of David Bowie to create a haunting pop sound. Yet, in the scroungy inner city of Los Angeles, and young people, influenced by the original punk sounds of the New York City and London, were gathering to make their own annoying noise which came to be called hardcore. That music was never intended for the faint of heart. Perhaps, most significantly, 1980 was significant for one band in particular. U2 released its debut album.

Of all the debuts in 1980, U2 was probably one of the last artists that critics would have chosen to become one of the defining voices of the Eighties. However, this little garage band from Ireland did work hard for all of the success they achieved during that decade and well beyond. Yet, somehow, U2 was the band that filled the vacuum left behind after The Clash imploded. U2 actually became “the only band that matters.”


Unfortunately, the singular moment of 1980 happened in New York City near the end of the year. The incident was the assassination of John Lennon, and it occurred outside of Lennon’s and wife Yoko Ono’s apartment, The Dakota. Mark David Chapman, a trouble young man with huge mental health issues who had asked the couple for autographs earlier in the day, popped out of the crowd and fired several shots into John’s body. A short time later, announcer Howard Cosell of Monday Night Football told a shocked nation that the former Beatle had been killed, which set off mourning throughout the world.

Lennon’s assassination affected my peers in a strange manner. All of a sudden, our youth and innocence had been ripped from us, leaving us a little more cynical. I wrote a research paper about Lennon’s assassination in college, and I ended the paper that Lennon’s death represented two things. First, his death signaled that the Sixties were over. And, since the Sixties were now done, by the transitive property, the Baby Boomer’s time as the arbiter of taste was waning. That meant that those of us born in the Sixties, the first of Generation X were all about to exert their muscles.

Indy’s very own The Late Show

The second thing that Lennon’s death represented was that if a Beatle was not immortal, then none of us were. Even though my grandfather had died in early 1975, I guess I never really looked at my mortality until Lennon’s death. Now, I was certain that I would not live forever.

So, in the meantime, while I am still alive, let’s take a look at yet another year of music. Time to begin the countdown for 1980.

50. Steve Winwood – Arc of a Diver

49. Adam & the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

48. Pete Townshend – Empty Glass

47. REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity

46. The Romantics – The Romantics

45. Blondie – Autoamerican

44. Split Enz – True Colours

43. Pat Benatar – Crimes of Passion

42. The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue

41. U2 – Boy

40. Genesis – Duke

39. Billy Idol – Glass Houses

38. Ramones – End of the Century

37. Various Artists – Times Square OST

36. Donna Summer – The Wanderer

35. John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy

34. Journey – Departure

33. X – Los Angeles

32. The Clash – Sandinista!

31. The Jacksons – Triumph

30. The Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight

29. The B-52’s – Wild Planet

28. Jim Carrol Band – Catholic Boy

27. Kurtis Blow – Kurtis Blow

26. Queen – The Game

25. Motörhead – Ace of Spades

24. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Get Happy!!

23. Judas Priest – British Steel

22. Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz

21. The Late Show – Portable Pop

20. Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

19. Devo – Freedom of Choice

18. Dire Straits – Making Movies

17. Dexys Midnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

16. Diana Ross – Diana

15. Echo & the Bunnymen – Crocodiles

14. Squeeze – Argybargy

13. Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

12. The J. Geils Band – Love Stinks

11. The Jam – Sound Affects

10. Rush – Permanent Waves

9. Joy Division – Closer

8. The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

7. Bruce Springsteen – The River

6. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Voices

5. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

4. AC/DC – Back in Black

3. Prince – Dirty Mind

2. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III)

1. Talking Heads – Remain in Light

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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