1980 Revisited

If the music of 1980 had a theme, perhaps it was the expansion of punk as the decade turned.

The Talking Heads looked beyond CBGB, incorporating Afropop influences on Remain in Light (No. 4 album). Gang of Four’s Entertainment! (No. 3 album) weaved Sex Pistols energy into jagged Marxist funk. The (English) Beat’s I Just Can’t Stop It (No. 13 album) was as good as British ska got. And on London Calling (No. 1 album, natch) the Clash invoked Elvis Presley on the cover and laid claim to everything in earshot in the grooves. 

In the U.S., the Manhattan-centric punk scene began giving way to a post-punk/indie scene blooming throughout the country, whether across the state lines to Jersey (The Feelies’ No. 7 Crazy Rhythms) or to the opposite coast (X’s No. 16 Los Angeles), both hints at the eruption of more localized indie scenes on the immediate horizon.

In the U.K., a similar broadening was happening in the form of the Raincoats (No. 22 album), Slits (No. 7 single), LiLiPUT (No. 10 single), Psychedelic Furs (No. 23 album), the extant Elvis Costello (No. 25 album), and Joy Division (No. 23 single), three of whom appear on the classic scene compilation Wanna Buy a Bridge? (No. 5 album).  

It was also the year that the greatest R&B artist of the 1970s, Stevie Wonder, made arguably his last major album, Hotter Than July (No. 17), and the greatest R&B (for starters) artist of the 1980s, Prince, made his first major album (and third overall), Dirty Mind (No. 2). The latter showed more than a little punk/post-punk influence, showing that these exchanges could work both ways. 

It was a year when two giants of blues-based music, pre-recording Memphis/Chicago blues singer Alberta Hunter (No. 15) and New Orleans piano master Professor Longhair (No. 6) made their greatest studio-album testaments, the former made well into her 80s, the latter months before his death.

In was a year that saw one rock institution of the Seventies (Bruce Springsteen, No. 10 album) transitioning his sound into what would be an (at least) equally great decade, and a couple of others (No. 20 Neil Young, No. 24 Rolling Stones), holding on, for a moment, with merely good albums. And it was when another, John Lennon, left us for good but with a wise, warming, unintended final testament (No. 8 album).

The lists …


  1. London Calling – The Clash
  2. Dirty Mind – Prince
  3. Entertainment! – Gang of Four
  4. Remain in Light – Talking Heads
  5. Wanna Buy a Bridge? — Various Artists
  6. Crawfish Fiesta – Professor Longhair
  7. Crazy Rhythms – The Feelies
  8. Double Fantasy – John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  9. Storm Windows – John Prine
  10. The River – Bruce Springsteen
  11. Snockgrass – Michael Hurley
  12. Happy Woman Blues – Lucinda Williams
  13. I Just Can’t Stop It — The English Beat
  14. Real People – Chic
  15. Amtrak Blues – Alberta Hunter
  16. Los Angeles – X
  17. Hotter Than July – Stevie Wonder
  18. Black Market Clash — The Clash
  19. Seconds of Pleasure – Rockpile
  20. Hawks and Doves – Neil Young
  21. Doc at the Radar Station – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
  22. The Raincoats — The Raincoats
  23. Psychedelic Furs – Psychedelic Furs
  24. Emotional Rescue – Rolling Stones
  25. Get Happy!! – Elvis Costello & the Attractions


  1. “You Shook Me All Night Long” – AC/DC
  2. “Zulu Nation Throwdown” – Afrika Bambaataa/Zulu Nation/Cosmic Force
  3. “London Calling” — The Clash
  4. “Bon Bon Vie” — T.S. Monk
  5. “Upside Down” – Diana Ross
  6. “The Breaks” – Kurtis Blow
  7. “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” — Stevie Wonder
  8. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” — The Slits
  9. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – George Jones
  10. “How We Gonna Make the Black Nation Rise?” — Brother D. & Collective Effort
  11. “Precious” — The Pretenders
  12. “Die Matrosen”/“Split” – LiLiPUT
  13. “Refugee” — Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  14. “Call Me” — Blondie
  15. “Brass in Pocket” — The Pretenders
  16. “9 to 5” – Dolly Parton
  17. “She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs” – John Anderson
  18. “Train in Vain” – The Clash
  19. “(Just Like) Starting Over” – John Lennon & Yoko Ono
  20. “He’s So Shy” — The Pointer Sisters
  21. “People Who Died” – Jim Carroll Band
  22. “I’m Coming Out” – Dianna Ross
  23. “Hungry Heart” – Bruce Springsteen
  24. “Celebration” – Kool & the Gang
  25. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – Joy Division
  26. “Freedom” – Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
  27. “The Tide is High” – Blondie
  28. “Mirror in the Bathroom” – The English Beat
  29. “Going Underground” — The Jam
  30. “Shining Star” – The Manhattans
  31. “Twist and Crawl” – The English Beat
  32. “Hey Nineteen” – Steely Dan
  33. “She’s So Cold” — The Rolling Stone
  34. “Private Idaho” — The B-52s
  35. “Whip It” – Devo
  36. “Bankrobber” – The Clash
  37. “Take Your Time” – SOS Band
  38. “Vicious Rap” – Tanya Winley
  39. “Too Many Creeps” – Bush Tetras
  40. “Love Sensation” – Loletta Holloway


Per usual, these movie lists are more of a guess because I don’t have time to rewatch, an attempt to filter older memories through a current sensibility. I do think that Raging Bull and The Shining are “classic” films that are probably each a little overrated relative to their respective directors’ other best work. I remember being smitten by Sayle’s low-budget college-radicals-reunite film as a teenager, but I haven’t seen it since. (It’s pretty hard to come by.)

  • Atlantic City (Louis Malle)
  • The Big Red One (Sam Fuller)
  • The Return of the Secaucus Seven (John Sayle)
  • Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)
  • The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)
  • Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis)
  • Out of the Blue (Dennis Hopper)
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter (Michael Apted)

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