So, I begin putting together this list of albums from 1980. Except the list then sprawls out of control. I thought 1985 was tough? 1980 ended up with over 140 possible candidates, forcing me to break this blog into two parts. It could've been three, but I don't wish to wear out my welcome. I see you opening the front door and gesturing. I'll just grab your mail and be on my way. Hopefully, you have an aunt that sends you cash.
Anyhow, 1980 was an odd year. It being a new decade, it was ready to take on its own identity. The punk assault of the 1970s was starting to feel a little old, so its best practitioners did what all good practitioners do, they diversified. Radio wasn't nearly as bad as people thought it was--or as bad as it would get and the best albums on this list are among the finest of any era. You should be proud to have either lived through or read about these times!The Clash--Sandinista!: After a two-record set, the Clash return with a THREE album set. Somehow, the Clash were able to negotiate with their record company to agree to fewer royalties in order to put out the album with a lower list price. Probably a smart move in the end, since the Clash are now legendary and many of the people on this list merely exist.
24) The Damned--The Black Album: A two album set in the U.K. and just one in the U.S.A., The Black Album proved the Damned didn't have the same pull with their record company as the Clash, or weren't willing to make the same financial sacrifices. In reality, they did make those sacrifices since the Damned are nowhere near as popular as the Clash in the US.The Blasters--American Music: Had the Blasters come around in the early 1990s, they might've become a hugely popular "alt.country" band. However, they started this roots-rock thing at least a half-decade, if not a full decade too soon. So they got to be "seminal" instead of hugely successful.
22) REO Speedwagon--Hi Infidelity: With such albums as This Time We Mean It (as opposed to last time when they didn't) and You Can Tune a Piano But You Can't Tuna Fish, R.E.O. Speedwagon seemed almost determined to be unsuccessful. Their heartland hardrock gave them a cult following but they didn't have the hits they'd need if they were ever going to comfortably retire to playing amusement parks and county fairs. This album changed all that.The Jam--Sound Affects: Unlike so many other bands from the New Wave and Punk scene of the late 1970s, the Jam were a little slower out of the gate and made increasingly great albums instead of increasingly worse ones. Arguably, they peaked with album number five (though three and four were impressive as well). Two wasn't bad. One had energy and six didn't interest me much. Don't you love numbers?
20) GG Allin And The Jabbers--Always Was, Is & Always Shall Be: This dashing troubadour offers up this wonderful album of fireside ballads and heartworn lullabies. Not as overtly-romantic like his later work, Always Was still serves as the finest rose you could offer your significant other. Consider it next Valentine's Day.
Graham Parker--The Up Escalator: This is where the singer-songwriters of the 1970s heartaches begin. Squeezing Out Sparks was such a critical rave that anything less than perfection was a letdown. In retrospect, this album is extremely good, easily better than, I dunno, 86 ½ percent of records released today? Parker would have a big hit with his next album's single "Temporary Beauty," but the real momentum was lost.
18) The J.Geils Band--Love Stinks: These guys were so hugely popular for a short period of time that it's easy to forget that they had a long, decent career. This album was so popular that us kids were still buying it (in my case, the single) several years after its release.Heart--Bebe Le Strange: All I know is I saw ads for this album everywhere.
16) ABBA--Super Trouper: Again another album that used to be everywhere. ABBA were already a huge success, so, of course, the record companies convinced the record stores to line their walls with posters promoting this album. Is it a good one? I don't know. But it sure looks familiar.The Cars--Panorama: The difficult third album where the band lose the easy accessibility of their first two albums and have yet to re-emerge as the hit-making machine that sends the band out at the top of the game. The Cars decided to have their sophomore slump with their third album.
14) The Joe Perry Project--Let the Music Do The Talking: I had to throw this album in here. I bought it. Why wouldn't I? I had been turned onto Aerosmith by my best friend and when Joe Perry left the band, I followed him to his solo career. It's not a bad album. At least it wasn't when I listened to it about 15 years ago. But I do remember the singer, Ralph Morman, was kinda annoying.X--Los Angeles: Not many people would've guessed that in a few short years, X would NOT be one of the most successful bands of the era. They received rave reviews and recorded at least four to six decent studio albums that simply never had that "crossover" mainstream appeal necessary to make them lots of money. This debut album still sounds very good for an album where half the songs are about heroin.
12) U2-Boy: Not many people would've guessed that in a few short years. U2 would be the biggest band of the era. They started out pleasant enough and young! The album's leadoff cut "I Will Follow" became a classic rock staple and the band remain one of the few active bands who can still sell out arenas everywhere and whose singer affects political policy in countries where he is the entire GNP.Def Leppard--On Through The Night: Not many people would've guessed that in a few short years, Def Leppard would be the biggest band of the era. They started off pleasant enough and young! Maybe that's why the band say they don't like this album. It's like their high school photo. At the time, they thought they looked cool.
10) The Cramps--Songs The Lord Taught Us: They're now practically considered an institution but there was a time when the Cramps were one weird bunch of folks. You could get beat up for being on the wrong side of the classic rock divide. (There really was such a thing.) Kind of like the way we have this talk of "red" and "blue" state stuff. Both sides think the other side is crazy, except only one side knows it is, or something like that. Bonus points for being produced by Alex Chilton (R.I.P.).The Ramones--End Of The Century: While not as underrated as Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies' Man, End of the Century is a much better Phil Spector production than it isn't. The weak point is where some of the songs don't quite make the cut, but that ain't Phil's fault. The band was bound to fall flat here and there and they do. But not on "Danny Says," "I'm Affected" or "Rock n' Roll High School," for starters. It was their fifth album after all. Who bats 1000?
8) Pretenders-Pretenders: A great debut album from a gal from Ohio who had to move to England to find the right band members, Pretenders covers all the different facets of rock 'n' roll from rock to roll with a voice that can curl hair and toes to rock 'n' roll that can curl hair and other parts of the body. Some mystery achievement, huh? (Don't you hate those kind of endings? Me, too.)Billy Joel--Glass Houses: Let's say you really like Billy Joel. If you do, then this album is like his Armed Forces, his Astral Weeks, his Village Green Preservation Society, his Songs of Love and Hate... let's say you don't like Billy Joel, then this album is there.
6) Jim Carroll--Catholic Boy: The punk poet who died in the age of Facebook, so we all knew within seconds. "People Who Died" was a classic where the singer was bound to eventually join the list. Does this mean Billie Joe Armstrong sings it at the tribute? Just askin'.Circle Jerks--Group Sex: This record lasts just under 16 minutes. I know, because I was with a friend who paid full price for this "album" and we counted. Ah, the days of hardcore.
4) Devo--Freedom Of Choice: It if hadn't been for the massive hit single "Whip It," Devo might always be thought of as art-punks too weird for the mainstream. As it stands, the group never did convince people to wear flowerpots on their heads.AC/DC--Back In Black: With their lead singer dead and gone, AC/DC sign up Brian Johnson to record the follow-up, an in memoriam produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who would figure in the careers of Def Leppard (see # 11) and Shania Twain, among the many. Back in 1980, you couldn't get away from this album if you tried. Come to think of it, it's still pretty much everywhere.
2) Motorhead--Ace Of Spades: Even people who know nothing about heavy metal know the title track. And Motorhead did it with a track that actually sounds like them and not like the "single" from the album.Dead Kennedys--Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables: Once upon a time they made fun of Jerry Brown and were afraid that his Moonbeam cosmology would turn the U.S into a fascist state. Wrong spaceman, guys! But elsewhere, they made a band that forecasted the hardcore punk movement that would take hold of the 1980s and slamdance its audience into the E.R.