Monday, September 29, 1980

Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July released

Hotter Than July

Stevie Wonder

Released: September 29, 1980

Peak: 3 US, 113 RB, 2 UK, 18 CN, 3 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.3 UK, 9.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Did I Hear You Say You Love Me (8/29/81, 74 RB)
  2. All I Do (Wonder, Clarence Paul, Morris Broadnax) [5:16]
  3. Rocket Love [4:39]
  4. I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It [4:39] (12/13/80, 11 US, 13 CB, 18 HR, 15 RR, 20 AC, 4 RB, 10 UK, 9 CN)
  5. As if You Read My Mind [3:37]
  6. Master Blaster (Jammin’) [5:08] (9/13/80, 5 US, 1 CB, 15 HR, 1 RB, 12 CL, 2 UK, 22 CN)
  7. Do Like You [4:25]
  8. Cash in Your Face [3:59]
  9. Lately [4:04] (3/7/81, 64 US, 88 CB, 33 AC, 29 RB, 3 UK)
  10. Happy Birthday [5:58] (7/25/81, 70 RB, 2 UK)

Songs by Wonder unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 45:52


3.946 out of 5.00 (average of 12 ratings)

Quotable: --

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

1979’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants had been a strange album which was considered a commercial and critical failure, despite the top-5 success of single “Send One Your Love.” Wonder thought Motown hadn’t promoted the album well, WK but it would have been an uphill battle because of the album’s largely experimental instrumentals.

By contrast, Hotter Than July,, Wonder’s first platinum album, WK is full of huge hooks and gorgeous melodies (Did I Hear You Say You Love Me, the ballad Lately, As If You Read My Mind with Syreeta). Hotter Than July returned to the street-dancing spirit of earlier periods (updated in contemporary idioms such as reggae and rap).” WK

Regarding the latter genre, Wonder was “inspired by the growing popularity of Bob Marley’s music and its clear message against war.” WK Wonder was also “inspired by his love for reggae music from meeting Bob Marley.” WK He integrated that in the first track he wrote for the album, the irresistible reggae number Master Blaster (Jammin’).

Hotter Than July also showed how popular Wonder had become in the UK where “Master Blaster,” I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It, “Lately,” and Happy Birthday were all top 10 hits. The latter was the standout track from the album and the theme song for the campaign to make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. In 1984, his efforts culminated in success when President Ronald Reagan announced that the third Monday of each January was to be officially known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The song All I Do had an interesting history. As a teenager, Wonder co-wrote the song in 1966. That year, another Motown artist, Tammi Terrell, recorded the song, but it wasn’t released in her lifetime. For Wonder’s version, he brought in Michael Jackson, Eddie Levert and Walter Williams of the O’Jays, and Betty Wright to sing backing vocals. WK

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First posted 6/20/2008; last updated 8/3/2021.

Monday, September 22, 1980

Sept. 22, 1980: Les Misérables opened in France

First posted August 11, 2008. Last updated September 4, 2018.

Les Misérables (cast/soundtrack)

Claude-Michel Schönberg/ Alain Boublil / Herbert Kretzmer (composers)

Opened in France: Sept. 22, 1980

Opened in London: October 8, 1985

Opened on Broadway: March 12, 1987

London Cast Album Charted: April 11, 1987

Broadway Cast Album Charted: June 20, 1987

Highlights Soundtrack Released: Dec. 21, 2012

Deluxe Soundtrack Released: January 25, 2013

Sales (in millions):
US: 4.0 B, 1.0 L, 0.53 S
UK: 0.45 B
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 7.2 B+L+S

US: 117 B, 106 L, 11-S
UK: 14-S
Canada: 2 S
Australia: 3 S

L London cast recording
B Broadway cast recording
B soundtrack

Quotable: “One of the premiere theater events of the 1980s” – Sarah Erlewine, All Music Guide

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks – London Cast Album:

Disc 1:

  1. Overture/ Work Song
  2. Valjean Arrested/ Valjean Forgiven
  3. What Have I Done?
  4. At the End of the Day
  5. I Dreamed a Dream
  6. Lovely Ladies
  7. Who Am I?
  8. Come to Me
  9. Confrontation
  10. Castle on a Cloud
  11. Master of the House
  12. Thénardier Waltz
  13. Stars
  14. Look Down
  15. Little People
  16. Red and Black
  17. Do You Hear the People Sing?

Disc 1:

  1. I Saw Him Once
  2. In My Life
  3. A Heart Full of Love
  4. Plumet Attack
  5. One Day More!
  6. On My Own
  7. The Attack
  8. A Little Fall of Rain
  9. Drink with Me
  10. Bring Him Home
  11. Dog Eats Dog
  12. Javert’s Suicide: Solilquy
  13. Turning
  14. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
  15. Wedding Chorale
  16. Beggars at the Feast
  17. Finale

Notes: “Upon These Stones (Building the Barricade)” was added to the Broadway version (both before and after “On My Own”) and the order of songs was slightly different. “Javert at the Barricade” was also added – in between “The Attack” and “A Little Fall of Rain.”

Album Tracks – Soundtrack:

  1. Look Down (Convicts, Javert, Valjean) H,D
  2. The Bishop (Bishop of Digne) H,D
  3. Valjean's Soliloquy (Valjean) H,D
  4. At the End of the Day (Poor, Foreman, Workers, Factory Women, Fantine, Valjean) H,D
  5. The Runaway Cart (Valjean, Javert)
  6. The Docks (Lovely Ladies) (Sailors, Old Woman, Fantine, Crone, Whores, Pimp, Toothman) D
  7. I Dreamed a Dream (Fantine) H,D
  8. Fantine's Arrest (Bamatabois, Fantine, Javert, Valjean) D
  9. Who Am I? (Valjean) D
  10. Fantine's Death (Fantine, Valjean) D
  11. The Confrontation (Javert, Valjean) H,D
  12. Castle on a Cloud (Young Cosette, Mme. Thénardier) H,D
  13. Master of the House (Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier, Inn Patrons) H,D
  14. The Well Scene (Valjean, Young Cosette) D
  15. The Bargain (Valjean, Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier) D
  16. The Thénardier Waltz of Treachery (Thénardier, Valjean, Mme. Thénardier, Young Cosette) D
  17. Suddenly (Valjean) H,D
  18. The Convent (Valjean) D
  19. Stars (Javert) D
  20. Paris/Look Down (Gavroche, Beggars, Enjolras, Marius, Students) D
  21. The Robbery (Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier, Éponine, Valjean) D
  22. Javert's Intervention (Javert, Thénardier) D
  23. Éponine's Errand (Éponine, Marius)
  24. ABC Café/Red and Black (Students, Enjolras, Marius, Grantaire, Gavroche) H,D
  25. In My Life (Cosette, Valjean, Marius, Éponine) D
  26. A Heart Full of Love (Marius, Cosette, Éponine) H,D
  27. The Attack on Rue Plumet (Thénardier, Thieves, Éponine, Valjean)
  28. On My Own (Éponine) H,D
  29. One Day More (Valjean, Marius, Cosette, Éponine, Enjolras, Javert, Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier, Cast) H,D
  30. Do You Hear the People Sing? (Enjolras, Marius, Students, Beggars) D
  31. Building the Barricade (Upon These Stones) (Enjolras, Javert, Gavroche, Students) D
  32. Javert's Arrival (Javert, Enjolras) D
  33. Little People (Gavroche, Students, Enjolras, Javert) D
  34. A Little Fall of Rain (Éponine, Marius) D
  35. Night of Anguish (Enjolras, Marius, Valjean, Javert, Students)
  36. Drink With Me (Grantaire, Marius, Gavroche, Students) H,D
  37. Bring Him Home (Valjean) H,D
  38. Dawn of Anguish (Enjolras, Marius, Gavroche, Students) D
  39. The Second Attack (Death of Gavroche) (Gavroche, Enjolras, Students, Army Officer) D
  40. The Sewers (Valjean, Javert) D
  41. Javert's Suicide (Javert) H,D
  42. Turning (Parisian women) D
  43. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Marius) H,D
  44. A Heart Full of Love [Reprise] (Marius, Cosette, Valjean, Gillenormand) D
  45. Valjean's Confession (Valjean, Marius) D
  46. Suddenly [Reprise] (Marius, Cosette) D
  47. Wedding Chorale (Chorus, Marius, Thérnardier, Mme. Thérnardier) D
  48. Beggars at the Feast (Thénardier, Mme. Thénardier) D
  49. Valjean's Death (Valjean, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Bishop of Digne) H,D
  50. Do You Hear the People Sing? [Reprise] / Epilogue (cast) H,D
H on the highlights edition soundtrack
D on the deluxe edition soundtrack

Notes: The film contains every song from the original stage musical with the exception of "I Saw Him Once" and "Dog Eats Dog", although many songs have been partially or extensively cut. "The Attack on Rue Plumet" and "Little People" were especially shortened. In addition, the Bishop sings with Fantine during "Valjean's Death" instead of Eponine, as was in the stage musical. "Stars" was also moved to before "Look Down", which echoes the original 1985 London production. The lyrics of some songs were also changed to suit the changes in setting or narrative to the stage musical. In addition to the cuts, a new song, "Suddenly" was added, new music was composed for the battle scenes, and the order of several songs changed from the stage musical. Several major pieces, primarily as "Who Am I?", "Stars", and the two "Soliloquy" pieces are performed in a different key than most recordings. WK-S


Les Misérables first opened in France, but really became a sensation after its debuts in London (Barbican Theatre, October 8, 1985) and on Broadway (Broadway Theatre, March 12, 1987). CM It went on to win eight Tony awards, including Best Musical.

The story drew on “Victor Hugo’s classic novel of a student uprising in early-19th-century France provides a compelling story line that continues to thrill audiences all over the world.” DH “The story chronicles the life of Jean Valjean, a simple Frenchman arrested as a youth for stealing a loaf of bread. After serving five years for that crime, as well as an additional 14 for attempted escape, Valjean is released on parole. Upon changing his name and eluding his parole officer, he becomes the surrogate father of a young girl and a Mayor as the French Revolution sets in. As the war rages, he finds that he cannot change the man he is.” SE-B

Les Miserables is typical of theater in the ‘80s, with extravagant effects and large, full-cast numbers. The beautiful score is full of emotion and humor, including” SE-B “beautiful ballads (Bring Him Home, I Dreamed a Dream) and rousing anthems (One Day More, Do You Hear the People Sing?),” DH as well as “such memorable and noteworthy songs as Look Down, …Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and the ubiquitous On My Own.” SE-B

“The original London cast recording is considered by many to be superior to various other releases of Les Miz.” SE-L They were “joined by Patti LuPone and Michael Ball.” SE-L Wilkinson and Ruffelle took their roles to Broadway. “The original Broadway cast recording contains some very fine performances, particularly by… [Colm] Wilkinson…and… [Frances] Ruffelle,” SE-B who worked on the London and Broadway productions as “the heroic Valjean and…the despondent Eponine” SE-B respectively.

The effort to turn the production into a movie musical “was mired in ‘development hell’ for over ten years, as the rights were passed on to several major studios, and various directors and actors considered.” WK-S In 2012, it was finally turned into a film starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Russel Crowe. It won Golden Globes for Best Musical or Comedy, Best Actor (Jackman), and Best Supporting Actress (Hathaway). It received eight Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor, and won Best Supporting Actress for Hathaway. WK-S

Review Sources:


Saturday, September 20, 1980

Queen’s The Game hit #1 in the U.S.

The Game


Released: June 30, 1980

Peak: 15 US, 12 UK, 15 CN, 11 AU

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.1 UK, 8.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Play the Game (Mercury) [3:33] (6/14/80, 42 US, 38 CB, 44 HR, 15 CL, 14 UK, 22 CN, 85 AU) UK1,US1
  2. Dragon Attack (May) [4:18]
  3. Another One Bites the Dust (Deacon) [3:36] (8/16/80, 1 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 2 RR, 1 CL, 7 UK, 1 CN, 5 AU, sales: 7 million) UK1,US1
  4. Need Your Loving Tonight (Deacon) [2:50] (11/29/80, 44 US)
  5. Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Mercury) [2:42] (10/20/79, 1 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 1 RR, 17 AC, 1 CL, 2 UK, 1 CN, 1 AU, sales: 1.4 million)
  6. Rock It (Prime Jive) (Taylor) [4:33]
  7. Don’t Try Suicide (Mercury) [3:52]
  8. Sail Away Sweet Sister (May) [3:33]
  9. Coming Soon (Taylor) [2:51]
  10. Save Me (May) [3:48] (2/2/80, 41 CL, 11 UK, 76 AU) UK1

Total Running Time: 35:42

The Players:

  • Freddie Mercury (vocals)
  • Brian May (guitar)
  • John Deacon (bass)
  • Roger Taylor (drums)


3.978 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“Queen had long been one of the biggest bands in the world by 1980’s The Game, but this album was the first time they made a glossy, unabashed pop album, one that was designed to sound exactly like its time. They might be posed in leather jackets on the cover, but they hardly sound tough or menacing; they rarely rock, at least not in the gonzo fashion that’s long been their trademark. Gone are the bombastic orchestras of guitars and with them the charging, relentless rhythms that kept Queen grounded even at their grandest moments. Now, when they rock, they’ll haul out a clever rockabilly pastiche, as they do on the tremendous Crazy Little Thing Called Love, a sly revival of old-time rock & roll that never sounds moldy, thanks in large part to Freddie Mercury.” AMG

“But even that is an exception to the rule on The Game. Usually, when they want to rock here, they wind up sounding like Boston, as they do on John Deacon’s Need Your Loving Tonight, or they sound a bit like a new wave-conscious rocker like Billy Squier, as they do on the propulsive Coming Soon.” AMG

“Most of the album is devoted to disco-rock blends; best heard on the globe-conquering Another One Bites the Dust, but also present in the unintentionally kitschy positivity anthem Don’t Try Suicide and the majestic power ballads that became their calling card in the ‘80s, as they reworked the surging Save Me and the elegant Play the Game numerous times, often with lesser results.” AMG

“So, The Game winds up as a mixed bag, as many Queen albums often do, but again the striking difference with this album is that it finds Queen turning decidedly, decisively pop, and it’s a grand, state-of-the-art circa 1980 pop album that still stands as one of the band’s most enjoyable records. But the very fact that it does showcase a band that’s turned away from rock and toward pop means that for some Queen fans, it marks the end of the road, and despite the album’s charms, it’s easy to see why.” AMG

Notes: A 1991 reissue added a remix of “Dragon Attack.” In 2011, the album was reissued again with a bonus EP which included live versions of “Save Me” and “Dragon Attack,” an alternate take of “Sail Away Sweet Sister,” the song “A Human Body” (which was the B-side for “Play the Game”), and the song “It’s a Beautiful Day,” recorded April 1980.

Resources and Related Links:

First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 8/5/2021.

Friday, September 19, 1980

The Police “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” released

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

The Police

Writer(s): Sting (see lyrics here)

Released: September 19, 1980

First Charted: September 27, 1980

Peak: 10 US, 9 CB, 12 HR, 9 RR, 2 CL, 11 AR, 1 CO, 14 UK, 2 CN, 5 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.81 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 38.8 video, 102.58 streaming

Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86

The Police

First Charted: October 11, 1986

Peak: 46 US, 56 CB, 10 AR, 7 CO, 24 UK, 27 CN, 32 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.04 video, -- streaming

Awards (1980 version):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (1986 version):

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Police’s third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, gave the band their first top-ten album (#5) in the United States, but all three albums had reached the top-10 in the UK. Zenyatta Mondatta and the previous album, Reggatta de Blanc, both reached the #1 slot. As far as singles go, the Police achieved their third #1 in the UK with “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and it gave the band their first taste of the top-10 in the America.

In the UK, it wasn’t just a #1 hit, but the best selling single of 1980. WK The song would also land the Police a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The song unfolds a tale of a teacher who lusts after and has a relationship with a student. He then has to deal with the guilt of his actions and the fallout when the affair is discovered. The lyrics even reference the infamous novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, which tells a similar story.

Sting had been an English teacher before he was in the Police and admitted that he’d had feelings for students and they for him, but he’d never acted on them. WK He said the Police found themselves in similar circumstances when they gained popularity and developed a fan base amongst teenage girls. WK

Sting sang the “I want my MTV” line in Dire Straits’ 1985 #1 hit “Money for Nothing.” It was determined later that he had unknowingly used the melody from “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and lawyers pushed for Sting’s name to be added as a co-credit to the song WK even though Sting did not want a songwriting credit. SF

After the Police’s 1983 blockbuster album Synchronicity, they never recorded an album together again, but they reconvened in 1986 for a greatest-hits collection. They re-recorded a slowed down version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” for the set.


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First posted 7/12/2022; last updated 7/27/2022.

Monday, September 15, 1980

Pat Benatar “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” released

Hit Me with Your Best Shot

Pat Benatar

Writer(s): Eddie Schwartz (see lyrics here)

Released: September 15, 1980

First Charted: October 4, 1980

Peak: 9 BB, 7 CB, 5 GR, 5 HR, 9 RR, 2 CL, 15 MR, 10 CN, 33 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 14.30 video, 233.18 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Pat Benatar was born Patricia Mae Andrzejewski in New York City on January 10, 1953. Her debut album, 1979’s In the Heart of the Night, was a platinum seller propelled by top-30 hits “Heartbreaker” and “We Live for Love.” Her sophomore effort, Crimes of Passion, was released in 1980 and became the biggest album of her career, reaching #2 on the Billboard album chart and going four times platinum.

Surprisingly, the lead single – “You Better Run” – just missed the top 40, but it became a staple on album rock, as did the follow-up singles “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” (#9 BB) and “Treat Me Right” (#18 BB). Benatar had three more top-10 hits in her career, but “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” arguably was the one which became her signature song.

The song was written by Eddie Schwartz who said he came up with the title after going to a “pillow punching” therapy session. The song has been misinterpreted as being sexist and encouraging violence against women, but Schwartz explained that the title was “meant metaphorically – no punches are actually thrown in the song.” SF He said, “The song is laden with sexual innuendo, but at the core is a song about self confidence. It’s a song saying, ‘no matter what you throw at me I can handle it.” SF

In 2022, Benatar announced she would no longer play the song in concert in protest of mass shootings in the United States. She said the title “is tongue-in-cheek, but you have to draw the line. I can’t say those words out loud with a smile on my face I just can’t. I’m not going to go on stage and soapbox – I go to my legislators – but that’s my small contribution to protesting. I’m not going to sing it.” UT


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First posted 9/15/2023.

Saturday, September 13, 1980

Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train” charted

Crazy Train

Ozzy Osbourne

Writer(s): Bob Daisley, Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads (see lyrics here)

First Charted: September 13, 1980

Peak: 1 CL, 9 AR, 49 UK, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 62.3 video, 458.63 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Ozzy Osbourne established himself as one of the premiere heavy-metal frontmen in the 1970s with Black Sabbath. After the band fired him for his problems with alcohol and drugs, he was “adrift and searching for a lifeline as he sought to form his own solo band. When that savior arrived in the form of guitarist Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was reportedly almost too messed up to see the light. Luckily, the determination of a friend and the sheer talent of Rhoads were able to cut through the haze and launch one of hard rock’s brightest (and sadly, briefest) collaborations.” UCR

Dan Strum, a bassist who was originally slated to be a member of Ozzy’s solo band, convinced Rhoads to audition. The guitarist wasn’t a fan of Black Sabbath and was content in his role with Quiet Riot. Strum had to wake up the passed-out singer. Ozzy passed out on the controls and Strum said, “I was so frustrated that I cranked the volume of Randy’s amp really loud. He started playing power chords to warm up, and suddenly Ozzy’s face looked up.” UCR Ozzy said, “Tell the kid he’s got the job.” UCR

They went into the studio to record Blizzard of Ozz. “No song on that fantastic album shines brighter than ‘Crazy Train,’” UCR the album’s lead single which lyrically dealt with the Cold War and the fear of annihilation. WK The title grew out of the chugging sound of the music and Rhoads’ hobby of collecting model trains. SF It “features Rhoads’ anthemic main guitar riff and soloing that merged his heavy metal and classical music influences to wonderful effect. Suddenly, Eddie Van Halen had a serious rival for the title of world’s favorite guitar hero.” UCR

“The record soon helped establish Osbourne as a solo star perhaps even more popular than Black Sabbath itself, and though Rhoads’ life was cut short in 1982, ‘Crazy Train’ and other songs from the two albums he recorded with Ozzy remained the foundation of Osbourne’s concert setlists.” Now “we have the mighty ‘Crazy Train’ blasting out of every football stadium in the nation.” UCR


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First posted 8/3/2022; last updated 3/14/2023.

Friday, September 12, 1980

David Bowie Scary Monsters album released

Scary Monsters

David Bowie

Released: September 12, 1980

Peak: 12 US, 12 UK, 9 CN, 15 AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 4.5 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. It’s No Game, Pt. 1 [4:20]
  2. Up the Hill Backwards [3:15] (3/28/81, 39 CL, 13 CO, 32 UK)
  3. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) [5:12] (1/2/81, 34 CL, 9 CO, 20 UK)
  4. Ashes to Ashes [4:25] (8/1/80, 79 CB, 4 CL, 2 CO, 1 UK, 3 AU)
  5. Fashion [4:49] (10/24/80, 70 US, 79 CB, 79 HR, 12 CL, 5 CO, 5 UK, 27 AU)
  6. Teenage Wildlife [6:56]
  7. Scream Like a Baby [3:35]
  8. Kingdome Come (Verlaine) [3:45]
  9. Because You’re Young [4:54]
  10. It’s No Game, Pt. 2 [4:22]

Songs written by David Bowie unless indicated otherwise.

The Players:

  • David Bowie (vocals, multiple instruments)
  • Tony Visconti (producer, guitar, backing vocals)
  • Carlos Alomar, Robert Fripp (guitar)
  • George Murray (bass)
  • Dennis Davis (drums)
  • Chuck Hammer (guitar synthesizer)
  • Roy Bittan (piano)
  • Andy Clark (synthesizer)
  • Pete Townshend (guitar on “Because You’re Young”)
  • Lynn Maitland, Chris Porter (backing vocals)

Total Running Time: 45:37


4.081 out of 5.00 (average of 26 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

After David Bowie’s artistic, but less commercially-driven Berlin Trilogy (1977’s Low and Heroes and 1979’s Lodger), he “returned to relatively conventional rock & roll with Scary Monsters, an album that effectively acts as an encapsulation of all his ‘70s experiments.” AMG

Despite the conscious move toward creating more accessible music, Bowie employed many of the same musicians he’d worked with over the last few years. That included his core group of guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray, and drummer Dennis Davis who’d been with him since 1976’s Station to Station. Collaborator Brian Eno, who’d had a heavy influence on the ambient sound of the Berlin Trilogy, was out, but Bowie brought back Robert Fripp, the King Crimson guitarist who’d worked on Heroes. Pianist Roy Bittan, who’d played on Station to Station came back into the fold since he was recording Bruce Springsteen’s The River at the same time in the same studio.

“Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters. Though it doesn’t have the vision of his other classic records, it wasn’t designed to break new ground…While the music isn't far removed from the post-punk of the early '80s, it does sound fresh, hip, and contemporary, which is something Bowie lost over the course of the ‘80s.” AMG

The album opens with the sinister guitar loops of It’s No Game (No. 1), which also featured screaming vocals reminiscent of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. WK It features lyrics read by Japanese actress Michi Horita in a “macho samurai voice” which Bowie insisted on to “break down a particular type of sexist attitude about women.” WK The album ends with It’s No Game (No. 2). It has different lyrics than the album opener and is generally more mellow and meditative.

Up the Hill Backwards focuses on the struggle one endures facing crisis. It includes a misquote of the self-help book I’m OK – You’re OK, which has been interpreted as a reference to Bowie’s divorce from his wife Angie. WK “Musically, it features unusual time signatures and a Bo Diddley-inspired beat.” WK

The title cut grew out of a 1975 song “Running Scared” which Bowie had played for his friend Iggy Pop. The rhythm section was inspired by Joy Division; Davis’ drumming has been compared to their “She’s Lost Control” song. WK Scream Like a Baby also grew out of an earlier song – “I Am a Laser” from the early to mid-‘70s. The lyrics focused on the instability of political imprisonment while the music was of a contemporary new wave sound. WK

The lead single, Ashes to Ashes, revisited the character of Major Tom who Bowie created in his breakthrough single, 1969’s “Space Oddity.” Now ten years older, Tom is described as a junkie – a parallel to Bowie’s struggles with addiction in the 1970s. As Bowie said, “You have to accommodate your pasts within your persona. You have to understand why you went through them. You cannot just ignore them.” WK The song, which hit #1 in the UK, was promoted with what was then the most expensive video ever made. WK Author Nicholas Pegg says the song kickstarted the New Romantic movement. WK

Fashion was reminiscent of Bowie’s own “Golden Years” from 1975 because of its mix of reggae and funk. It grew out of Clark spoofing reggae on his synthesizers. Lyrics such as “we are the goon squad” and “turn to the left, turn to the right” provoked elements of fascism. It was the album’s second single and was supported by another well-received video.

The refrain-free Teenage Wildlife was the longest song on Scary Monsters. It is structurally similar to “Heroes<” and has backing vocals reminiscent of the Ronettes. The lyrics have been interpreted as an attack on Bowie imitators such as Gary Numan or even a reflection on his younger self. WK Similarly, Bowie reflects on the younger generation and offers them advice in Because You’re Young, a song he dedicated to his son Duncan, then nine years old. The Who’s Pete Townshend served as a guest guitarist on the track.

Kingdom Come was a cover of a Tom Verlaine song. He was invited to play with Bowie, but his part wasn’t used. There’s no certainty he was even recorded. Instead, Robert Fripp played the guitar parts. Music journalist Peter Doggett described the song’s arrangement as “an unhappy cross between Motown sound and the sterility of American AOR.” WK From a lyrical standpoint, the song expresses similar themes of “frustration, boredom and repetition” as found on other tracks of the album. WK

Pegg described the album as “the triumphant culmination of Bowie’s steely art-rock phase and a crucial doorway into early 1980s British pop.” WK Bowie himself consider the album to be “the epitome of the new wave sound at the time.” WK All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said it “was created as the culmination of Bowie’s experimental genre-shifting of the ‘70s. As a result, Scary Monsters is Bowie’s last great album.” AMG

Notes: The 1992 Rykodisc reissue adds the 1979 recordings of “Space Oddity” and “Panic in Detroit” as well as the singles “Crystal Japan” and “Alabama Song.”

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First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 8/1/2021.