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.
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.
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.
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