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Friday, November 21, 1980

REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity was released: November 21, 1980

Originally posted November 21, 2011.



“If you need proof why arena rock was giant, this is it.” STE REO Speedwagon could arguably be credited with bringing arena rock to its pinnacle. They “had been slogging it out in the arenas of the U.S.” STE for nearly a decade, “building up a sizeable audience because they could deliver live.” STE This was much the same story for the band’s peers like Styx, Journey, and Foreigner. The difference is that all those bands had landed a couple top ten albums. The highest REO ever previously reached was #29.

Then, in 1981, all four bands topped the album charts. However, REO got their first “with this incredibly mainstream collection of power ballads and economic hard rock.” RO They did it with a fifteen-week chart-topper which sold more than 9 million copies in the U.S. This was “a record that not just summarized their strengths, but captured everything that was good about arena rock. This is the sound of the stadiums in that netherworld between giants like Zeppelin and MTV’s slick, video-ready anthems.” STE

“The band’s strongest attribute is its inconspicuous nature. You never see it coming. Kevin Cronin has a serviceable voice and Gary Richrath is a solid if unspectacular lead player” RO “but there’s a real urgency to the songs and the performances.” STE Keep on Loving You set “the pattern for the power ballads that would take many a hard rock band to the top of the charts throughout the ‘80s.” RO That song “and the surging Take It on the Run…define their era.” STE There’s also “the Bo Diddley-inspired opener, Don’t Let Him GoSTE and other radio-friendly songs like “the sun-kissed ‘60s homage In Your Letter, and Tough Guys.” STE

“What’s really great about these songs is not just the sheen of professionalism that makes them addictive to listen to, but there’s a real strain of pathos that runs through these songs – the album’s title isn't just a clever pun, but a description of the tortured romantic relationships that populate this record’s songs. This is really arena rock’s Blood on the Tracks, albeit by a group of guys instead of a singular vision, but that makes it more affecting, as well as a killer slice of ear candy.” STE




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Saturday, November 15, 1980

Kenny Rogers topped the pop charts with “Lady”: November 15, 1980

Originally posted November 15, 2011.



In 1980, Kenny Rogers was the biggest draw in country music. To capitalize on his status – and a year which had already seen three top five hits on the country charts – his record label wanted a Greatest Hits package to ring in the Christmas season. Rogers had just ended his five-year relationship with producer Larry Butler and was seeking new blood to spark his creativity.

He turned to Lionel Richie, who wasn’t yet the solo superstar he was to become within a few years. At the time, he still fronted the Motown group The Commodores. Like Rogers, Richie had experienced major crossover success. The 1978 hit “Three Times a Lady” had topped the pop, R&B, adult contemporary, and UK charts. The country-tinged “Easy” (1977) was a hit on all four formats as well.

The pair of songs caught Rogers’ attention. Rogers contacted Motown founder Berry Gordy about working with the Commodores. Because of a motorcycle accident to drummer Walter Orange, the group had delayed a concert tour and Richie and Co. had time on their hands. Lionel flew to Las Vegas to meet with Rogers. Richie played demos of “Lady” and “Goin’ Back to Alabama”, songs he’d written two years earlier. BR1 Rogers cut both in an 8 ½ hour session; the former included some lyrical tweaking to reference Rogers’ relationship with his wife. TR As Rogers said, “The idea was that Lionel would come from R&B and I’d come from country, and we’d meet somewhere in the middle.” BR1

The song became Rogers’ fourth million-selling single and his first #1 on the pop charts. BB100 It was also the biggest pop song of 1980 WHC and the first song of the decade to hit all four of the major Billboard charts (pop, country, adult contemporary, R&B). BR1 It hit #1 on the first three of those.




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Wednesday, October 8, 1980

Talking Heads released Remain in Light: October 8, 1980

Originally posted October 8, 2012.

image from musicchartheaven.com


Release date: 8 October 1980
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) / Crosseyed and Painless / The Great Curve / Once in a Lifetime / Houses in Motion / Seen and Not Seen / Listening Wind / The Overload

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world

Peak: 19 US, 21 UK

Rating:


Review: In 1980, “Talking Heads fans were pleasantly stunned to hear Remain in Light,” AZ “a fuller, funkier sound nobody imagined they had in them.” AZ “Who knew that geeky former art student had this much soul?” BL David Byrne and “Talking Heads were always bursting with nervous energy and interesting ideas,” BL but by “adding horns and guest performers to their intellectually based muse” CL they “married their new-wave idiosyncrasies to Afro-funk beats and grooves that drew on everything from James Brown to Fela Kuti to disco.” BL Suddenly “the avant-punk avatars became polyrhythmic pop magicians.” RS500

The “animated David Byrne” CL “chanted and sang his typically disconnected lyrics” AMG “suggesting just enough to create a definite image and occasionally even an interesting sociological point, but never annoying or heavy-handed.” JA Meanwhile the group was “held together musically by a mathematically precise rhythm section of Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums).” CL Thanks to “the studied adventurousness” RS500 of Brian Eno as both producer and a composer, the Talking Heads “compositions and styles are deconstructed then reassembled afresh.” CL “Eno’s formula includes choppy funk bass, weird synth noises, dense layers of polyrhythmic percussion, and repetitive song structures that after a while lull the listener into a near trance.” JA

Crosseyed and Painless

“The dreamy, energetic Crosseyed and Painless is a great example. Better yet, he recruits whiz kid Adrian Belew to contribute some completely wacky guitar solos (The Great Curve)” JA Those two and Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) “are long, layered, full-body dance parties, with incessantly repeated phrases (musical and lyrical), and increasingly catchy melodic hooks that won’t let go for days.” AZ

Then there are “the bizarre horn arrangment on Houses in MotionJA and the “Eno-like droner The Overload.” AZ Eno had worked earlier on some of David Bowie’s records, but the Talking Heads “are an even better foil for him” JA as they go for “full-blown sound collages.” JA

That’s never more apparent “than on the exquisite Once in a Lifetime,” CL “the greatest song Byrne will ever write.” RC The song “suggests a pan-international sound without expressing it aurally. Post-modern alienation was never so danceable.” CL The single flopped initially, but “a striking video, its inclusion in the band’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, and its second single release (in the live version) because of its use in the 1986 movie Down and Out in Beverly HillsAMG finally led to it scraping the bottom of the American charts.

Once in a Lifetime

The album was a “New Wave watershed” RS500 offering evidence that “Talking Heads were connecting with an audience ready to follow their musical evolution” AMG which was “clear-eyed, detached, almost mystically optimistic.” RC


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Friday, July 25, 1980

AC/DC released Back in Black: July 25, 1980

Originally posted 7/25/12. Updated 7/25/13.

image from concertposters.biz


Release date: 25 July 1980
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Hell’s Bells (3/28/81, #50 AR) / Shoot to Thrill (4/11/81, #60 AR) / What Do You Do for Money Honey / Givin’ the Dog a Bone / Let Me Put My Love into You / Back in Black (12/20/80, #37 US, #51 AR) / You Shook Me All Night Long (9/6/80, #35 US, #38 UK) / Have a Drink on Me / Shake a Leg / Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (11/29/80, #15 UK)

Sales (in millions): 22.0 US, -- UK, 49.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 4 US, 12 UK

Rating:


Review: With 1979’s Highway to Hell, AC/DC achieved its first gold album in the U.S. AMG and was “poised for worldwide breakthrough success.” AMG “In the middle of album rehearsals, singer Bon Scott went on a drinking spree; he choked on his own vomit and was found dead in the back seat of a car.” RS After two days of mourning, guitarist Malcolm Young called his brother Angus and they went back to work. Five months later, the result was “this smoking album with the most prophetic title ever.” ZS

Back in Black

New vocalist Brian Johnson “was as willing to shred the upper end of his voice as Scott had been” TM and “had the same bluesy edge as Scott” AMG but “sang with more power and conviction.” AMG He stamped “his own personality, not to mention distinctive rasp, on the record.” VH1 He “sings as if he’s being tortured – and thoroughly enjoying it.” TL

Critics knocked the band for its “testosterone-laden paeans to sex, booze, and more sex and more booze,” RV but “AC/DC was never a band to bother with any niceties in their music.” CRS They charged forward with “completely straight-ahead guitar power chords, brutal beats pounded out in 4/4 time, and blistering vocals on top.” CRS “The rhythm section gets right near the boiling point and then hangs there, waiting for the schoolboy-uniform–wearing Angus Young to deliver demonically twisted lead guitar that pushes things over the edge.” TM Meanwhile, producer Mutt Lange “made sure that every walloping rhythm guitar supporting Johnson’s tales of lasciviousness…weighed in at industrial strength – and was executed with surgical precision.” TM “It doesn’t get any simpler than this meat-and-potatoes rock and roll.” CRS

You Shook Me All Night Long

The “primo dance-metal banger You Shook Me All Night LongRS and the “eerie Hells Bells,” AMG “are arena anthems of uncorrupted hookiness and sonic quality,” TL not to mention “strutting blues-based guitar heat.” RS Also included are “such perennial rock anthems as the stomping title trackAMG with its “proud peacock strut,” TM “the melodic Shoot to Thrill, [and] the album-closing battle cry Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution.” AMG

Hell’s Bells (live)

“Coming after years of synthesized disco and overproduced AOR, Back in Black proved once again the resilience of live, loud, and melodic rock, and listeners immediately responded.” TB It was one of “the greatest hard-rock album of the decade” RV and “one of rock’s all-time classics.” AMG “For many, [it is] the essential hard-rock record of the modern era.” TB It “is a ten-song feast of tightly wound, enormously disciplined stomp rock” TM infused with “the relentless logic of a sledgehammer.” RS


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Friday, July 18, 1980

Joy Division released Closer: July 18, 1980

Originally posted July 18, 2013.

image from last.fm


Release date: 18 July 1980
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Atrocity Exhibition / Isolation / Passover / Colony / A Means to an End / Heart and Soul / Twenty Four Hours / The Eternal / Decades

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world

Peak: -- US, 6 UK

Rating:


Review: “Joy Division was at the height of their powers on Closer, equaling and arguably bettering the astonishing Unknown Pleasures.” AMG If their debut “was Joy Division at their most obsessively, carefully focused…Closer was the sprawl, the chaotic explosion that went every direction at once.” AMG “Rock, however defined, rarely seems and sounds so important, so vital, and so impossible to resist or ignore as here.” AMG Closer is a “masterpiece” RV known for “its impact on the subsequent goth movement – a paradigm shift for punk music.” ZS

The album “journeys through a bleak songscape of hopelessness and loss,” RV a fact which caused the album to be more scrutinized the wake of lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide. As such, the album “is pervaded by a sense of eerie beauty, like the still before the storm.” PR Curtis’ vocals “haunt the stark, minimalist backdrop like a troubled earth-bound spirit, pleading for release.” PR “The tracks would be in danger of grinding to a complete standstill, enthralled by their own spectral grandeur” PR if not for “the momentum secured by [Peter] Hook’s melodic” PR and “icy bass lines” RS500 alongside the “occasional flashes of overdriven” PR and “droning guitars.” RS500

What also lifts the album is that it is “dark, depressed and innovative.” ZS “Differing mixes, differing atmospheres, new twists and turns define the entirety of Closer, songs suddenly returned in chopped-up, crumpled form, ending on hiss and random notes.” AMG The end result is a “harrowing and emotionally raw testament” ZS and “one of the most chilling albums ever made.” RS500

Lead song Atrocity Exhibition “sets the tone for the album's sound: metallic rhythms, damaged synthesizers and jagged guitars are laid bare against brutal and sparse lyrics.” RV It “was arguably the most fractured thing the band had yet recorded, Sumner’s teethgrinding guitar and Morris’ Can-on-speed drumming making for one heck of a strange start.” AMG

Isolation

“Keyboards also took the fore more so than ever – the drowned pianos underpinning Curtis’ shadowy moan on The Eternal, the squirrelly lead synth on the energetic but scared-out-of-its-wits Isolation, and above all else Decades, the album ender of album enders.” AMG

Twenty Four Hours (audio)

“A long, slow crawl down and out, Curtis’ portrait of lost youth inevitably applied to himself soon after, its sepulchral string-synths are practically a requiem.” AMG On “the jaw-dropping, wrenching” AMG Twenty Four Hours “Curtis embodies despair and pleas for an escape from loneliness. It’s a declaration of frustrated rage that remains subtle with unrelenting eerieness.” RV That song and Heart and Soul are “as perfect a demonstration of the tension/release or soft/loud approach as will ever be heard, simply intensify the experience.” AMG

Heart and Soul (audio)


Resources and Related Links:

  • Joy Division’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • album page on DMDB website (even more in-depth look at album)
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Ned Raggett
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 136.

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Monday, July 7, 1980

The Beginning and End of Led Zeppelin: July 7

Originally posted July 7, 2011.


Led Zeppelin


In an interesting twist, the birth of Led Zeppelin and its demise can both be tied to July 7. The first time around was in 1968. The Yardbirds broke up after playing a gig at Luton College of Technology in Bedfordshire, England. Although the band was only five years old, they had undergone significant changes. Jimmy Page was the band’s third lead guitarist, following Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. By 1968, manager Peter Grant pushed the band to be heavier and more experimental. Page embrace the direction, as he was intrigued with the psychedelic blues-rock of groups like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

However, singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty, who’d been with the band throughout, wanted a more folk-influenced sound. By March 1968, they’d decided to leave the group, but Page and bassist Chris Dreja persuaded them to stick it out for another tour.


The Yardbirds, the Jimmy Page era


After the breakup, Page and Dreja reassembled a new lineup, originally called “The New Yardbirds”. Page wanted a singer named Terry Reid, but he was committed as an opening act for Cream’s 1968 U.S. tour and recommended Robert Plant, a then-unknown singer who Reid had seen perform. Plant brought along his childhood friend John Bonham for drums. After Dreja opted to pursue a career as a rock photographer, Page recruited bassist John Paul Jones, with whom he’d worked as a session musician. With Dreja holding the legal rights to the name “Yardbirds”, the new lineup was christened Led Zeppelin.

The name is credited to Keith Moon, drummer for The Who. He did not, however, make his famous “it’ll go over like a lead balloon (or zeppelin)” comment about the “New Yardbirds”. His was actually referring to a supergroup including Page, Moon, and Jones which gathered in 1966 to record “Beck’s Bolero” with Jeff Beck (with whom Page worked briefly in the Yardbirds) and pianist Nicky Hopkins.

Led Zeppelin released eight studio albums from 1969 to 1979. Three of them rank in the Dave’s Music Database list of the Top 100 Albums of All Time and four others the Top 1000 list. Seven of the albums topped the UK charts; six hit #1 stateside.

Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Click to see the DMDB page for ‘Led Zeppelin IV’


The group became a staple of classic rock by pushing albums over singles. They still had some very successful songs; “Whole Lotta Love” was a top five U.S. hit and “Stairway to Heaven” is a mainstay at the top of most classic rock station playlists. The latter song is featured in the DMDB book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

Sadly, it came to an end in 1980. A concert on July 7 in Berlin was the last appearance of the four original members. On September 25, 1980, John “Bonzo” Bonham died of asphyxiation after drinking excessively and choking on his own vomit. The group officially disbanded by the end of the year.



Like their predecessor, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As influential as the Yardbirds were considered, however, Led Zeppelin took things even further. They rank in the Dave’s Music Database list of the Top 100 Acts of All Time and also received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. With 111.5 million certified album sales in the U.S., they are the country’s second best-selling band of all time. W-L Rolling Stone magazine called them “the heaviest band of all time” and “unquestionably one of the most enduring rock bands in history.” W-L




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Saturday, June 28, 1980

Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Charts: June 28, 1980

Originally posted June 28, 2011.



Joy Division formed in 1976 in Manchester, England. The band consisted of Ian Curtis (vocals), Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Peter Hook (bass), and Stephen Morris (drums). They become one of the most important post-punk bands for creating the template for goth music.

Ian Curtis, however, had problems. Epilepsy, a failing marriage, and depression led him to commit suicide in May 1980, on the eve of the band’s first American tour. In the wake of Curtis’ death, Joy Division hit the UK charts for the first time on June 28, 1980, with “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.



It was “definitely a pop single, albeit a rather dark, forlorn” TB one which was “clearly the work of a troubled soul.” BBC In Telegraph, Neil McCormack described it as “romantic fear and self-loathing wrapped up in a post-punk torch song.” MC “The song’s already fragile and desperate tone took on even greater poignancy” AL in light of the circumstances under which it charted.

The song climbed to #13 in the UK charts. It recharted twice more – in 1983 and in 1995 – both times reaching #19. It has achieved classic status, making the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the Top 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. It is also featured in the book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.

Meanwhile, the band continued forth without Curtis under the moniker New Order, becoming one of the most important bands in shaping the sound of college rock in the 1980s.


Click here for official video.



Resources:
  • DMDB page for “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
  • Joy Division’s DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry
  • BBC BBC Music’s “Sold on Song” Top 100 (2005)
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh. (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 33.
  • AL Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 150.
  • MC Neil McCormack (3/13/09). Telegraph.co.uk “100 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • RS500 Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” (12/04).
  • TB Thunder Bay Press. (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 180.

  • Saturday, March 22, 1980

    Pink Floyd hit #1 with “Another Brick in the Wall”: March 22, 1980

    Originally posted 1/12/2015.

    image from 991.com


    Pink Floyd “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”


    Writer(s): Roger Waters (see lyrics here)

    Released: 11/23/1979, First charted: 12/1/1979

    Peak: 14 US, #42 AR, 15 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 1.08 UK, 3.08 world (includes US and UK)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): 1.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 61.17


    Review: In Pink Floyd’s early years, they released some successful singles in the UK, but gradually became much better known as an album act by their blockbuster 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. This helped establish the progressive and psychedelic group “as a credible group keen to distance themselves from the fads and fashions of the singles market.” HL-143

    With their 1979 album, The Wall, Pink Floyd undertook their most ambitious endeavor yet, crafting a double album built around the concept of alienation as shaped by the album protaganist’s construction of an imaginary wall to shield him from the outside world.

    To everyone’s surprise, the band opted to promote the album with their first single in eleven years. TB-185 The song, “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II,” was singer/songwriter and bassist Roger Waters’ “vicious attack on teachers…inspired by the cruelty of his own schoolmasters.” RS500

    The unexpected US and UK chart-topper owed its success to guitarist David Gilmour’s last-minute suggestion to have the chorus sung by school children. HL-143 While initially intended only for the background, the strong results led to the choir being featured up front in the vocals instead. TB-185

    The apartheid regime of South Africa ironically fed right into Waters’ message when they banned the song because the black school children were adopting it as a protest against the country’s repressive educational system. TB-185


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    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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