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What Happened in 1980: The Music

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The Hits of 1980: Changes

Musical trends down and up

The year of 1980 was of course the beginning of a new decade, and curiously enough, the calendar seemed to know what was going on. Advances in technology not only brought more personal computers into homes, but made possible such new-fangled machnes as faxes and video camcorders. The same progress also brought us the video game called Pac Man, which would help to fuel the arcade business and create a new subculture - the mall arcade rat. President Jimmy Carter announced the American boycott of the Olympics, and Iran and Iraq started a war with each other. Mt. St. Helens erupted in the spring, and the summer brought a massive southern heat wave. In the fall, Ronald Reagan was elected President as the Iran hostage crisis dragged on.


What happened in 1980's Music?

Ian Curtis of Joy Division committed suicide by hanging the night before the band was set to leave on a tour of the US. John Bonham of Led Zeppelin died of acute alcohol poisoning and asphyxiation, joining a long list of rock royalty who didn't know when to stop drinking. It was also the end of the band, and Led Zeppelin became a real dinosaur, dead to the world except for sales. Steely Dan's Gaucho was their swan song until getting back together in the late 90s. The biggest tragedy of the year was the assassination of John Lennon, who was mourned by fans all over the world. The music of the year showed a marked improvement over the 70s, with Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Blondie and Queen all making strong showings on the charts. Of course, so did Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand and Diana Ross, but at least the Bee Gees were nowhere to be seen.

Decline of Disco
The best news for rock and rollers everywhere was the decline of the disco monster that ruled the latter half of the decade of the 70s. There were still hits from KC and the Sunshine Band, and Funkytown was a worldwide smash, but the craze seemed to have subsided. The Bee Gees counted their millions and took long vacations, and those who had jumped on the disco bandwagon tried to figure out how to get off with a smidgin of pride and integrity left. Not all were successful.

Pre-MTV Bands
Many New Wave and new rock bands were making their way to the top this year, and even though they didn't know it yet, were getting ready for the birth of MTV the following year. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Michael Jackson, Gary Numan and many others recorded music and released albums that would be boosted into the sales stratosphere in just a few short months by the relatively new phenomenon of music videos. For now though, the old model of radio play and word of mouth still ruled the music business.
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More Big Albums
Meanwhile, more classic records were released for posterity's enjoyment. By this time, many of the next wave of rock bands were hitting their strides and even peaks. Lennon's posthumous Double Fantasy was near the top of the list, as were AC/DC's Back in Black, their first with the new vocalist. Bruce Springsteen did the double album thing with The River, an instant massive classic recording. An Irish band named U2 debuted with Boy and started on the road to world domination, while the Pretenders, the Cure, John Cougar, and Talking Heads made records that are still played today on satellite radio. And the Clash, never shy or reticent about their immense talent, produced one of the few triple albums in rock history that critics really liked, even though they said it would have made a better double record - Sandinista!


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