Like I said in part one: there are too many choices when it comes to 1980. It must've been a longer year than most. These days you can trek through the new releases in a few hours. Back then, it could take days. You need a vacation just to keep up.
The basic idea here is to take a sampling of the albums released in a given year and see what brilliant insights I can add to their existence. You, of course, should buy all the music listed below, if only to have a better "understanding" of the era. But don't come back yelling at me if that Linda Ronstadt record doesn't change your life. It barely changed hers.
Pearl Harbor And The Explosions--Pearl Harbor And The Explosions: What is that saying, Tragedy + Time = a new wave rock band that would get a ton of press and then sink into oblivion?
24) Kiss--Unmasked: Actually, this is still several albums before they would take off their make-up and ruin the illusion. But it contains a handful of handy co-writes from professional song doctors. Aerosmith would have better luck with this strategy.
22) The Birthday Party--The Birthday Party: Credited to both the Boys Next Door and the Birthday Party, this album, no matter what you call it, could be partly to blame for the ruination of modern society. Nick Cave and Rowland S. Howard were out to dismantle everything you ever knew was good and right about music. Billy Joel fans have been slow to embrace this band. But, really, every Birthday Party song is exactly like a rewrite of "Big Shot" with completely different results.
Iron Maiden--Iron Maiden: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal sounds kind of funny these days. But that's how these young men were once marketed. Now, of course, it sounds like the standard measure for a heavy metal band. Gone are the bluesy riffs and in their place are those galloping rhythms and guitar riffs that are impossible to play without hurting your hand. Paul Di'Anno has the misfortune of being the first lead singer, while Bruce Dickinson, who shows up for their album number three, gets to be the guy who made all the real money. Denim jackets would never look the same after these guys!
20) Iron City Houserockers--Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive): Bruce Springsteen inspired his share of street toughs with tender hearts. But this is a real life Pittsburgh bar band who could easily be imagined to be huddled around that universal sign of human misery: a fire burning inside a metal drum to help the unemployed blue collar workers keep warm as they wait all winter for something to happen. (Parenthetical Rock Lives!)
Loverboy--Loverboy: My buddy Kenny bought this album when we were kids and I think we liked it.
18) Public Image Limited--Second Edition: Once called Metal Box and featuring three 12-inch records inside a metal film can, Second Edition is a two-LP set that later became one CD of sounds that could easily be considered Krautrock. Not sure if this is still considered "difficult listening," considering they now teach the works of Can to grade school children. Except in Texas.
The Rolling Stones--Emotional Rescue: At one time, this was considered to be second rate Stones. Now, it sounds like genius. Mick calls the band to hang out at Gray's Papaya on the corner of West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue and the band agree to play along with a funky authority that would elude just about every indie-rock band of the coming decade. I've heard this referred to as their "Mall-Rat" period. Did they tour the Food Courts of America without telling me?
16) Black Sabbath--Heaven And Hell: This is where the fistfights start. This is the first Black Sabbath album without Ozzy Osbourne and with his replacement Ronnie James Dio. Many Ozzy fans took a long time to warm up to his replacement, while others felt the addition of Dio re-focused a band who were sounding a bit distracted. Me? I just like the fact that they included Heaven and Hell, so you don't have to choose just one.
Paul McCartney--McCartney II: Known the world over as the guy who used to be in Wings! McCartney's second home-recorded album is a pretty brilliant sounding record considering the circumstances. His housecleaner keeps quiet while he sings some songs that sound like they took some time to write and others that sound like he made them up while he was waiting for her to clean up the john.
14) Talking Heads--Remain In Light: Talking Heads were always tense and nervous. Brian Eno was arguably the best thing to ever happen to them. With this album, Heads are the whitest guys and a gal to ever expand on African rhythms. You think in David Byrne's yearbook it said: To follow Fela?
Captain Beefheart--Doc At The Radar Station: All the kids like to dance to the Captain Beefheart. Before he decided to stop recording, the good Captain recorded stuff like this.
12) Bauhaus--In The Flat Field: So many bands could be credited with being among the creators of the Goth movement and surely Bauhaus deserve to be among them. And don't forget all the great deals you can get on their furniture! Check your local circulars today!
The Knack--...But The Little Girls Understand: This is perhaps the greatest second album ever recorded. Mostly because it sounds like the first one, except for the tune that sounds exactly like "Beast of Burden."
10) Elvis Costello And The Attractions--Get Happy!!!: Back when this album was first released it came with only 20 tracks. Now I've got a version that has 50. In another ten years, I'm hoping it will come with 100. This album is indexed with inflation.
8) Bruce Springsteen--The River: The Boss brings us a two-record set where he has his first real hit single with "Hungry Heart" and offers to drive all night for a pair of shoes. You think he'd take a week off to pick up some furniture from his aunt?
Judas Priest--British Steel: Judas Priest were around for years before they too signed up for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It was a better idea than signing up with a bunch of old, dead hippies. This led to this album, which features the Beavis and Butthead favorite "Breaking The Law."
6) Echo And The Bunnymen--Crocodiles: U.S audiences decided to hate everything that was British (well, not the metal bands), leaving it to college radio and alternative publications to promote this music. Why would you--when you could be pumping up the music of Molly Hatchet and Styx!
Blondie--Autoamerican: This is the album where Blondie invent reggae with their cover of "The Tide Is High" and also rap with "Rapture." Sadly, they weren't around to invent Nu-Metal or Grindcore. But it would've been awesome.
4) Linda Ronstadt--Mad Love: You know it's over when Linda Ronstadt turns punk.
Van Halen--Women And Children First: Nothing like the blues turned into an air-raid siren. And who's going to argue with "And the Cradle Will Rock." Have you seen junior's grades? Well, Mr. Roth, they're probably not much worse than the ones you got in school.
2) John Lennon & Yoko Ono--Double Fantasy: John Lennon finally makes a comeback after five years of silence and some nutjob decides to lose his mind and take it out on his favorite ex-Beatle. The album got better reviews once it was figured to be the last one Lennon would be around to finalize. Who works death into a marketing plan?
Joy Division--Closer: Who works death into a marketing plan, for sure. Ian Curtis proves Hank Williams' theorem that he'll never get out of this world alive. By the sound of this album, we won't either.
- Linda Ronstadt