Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1980

Ah, the Eighties. Like EVERY decade, this one has its good and its bad. Frankly, I find the bad truly truly annoying — but then, I suppose people who lived through the ’70s felt the same about disco.

Blondie – CALL ME (a single, originally from the soundtrack to American Gigalo)

This one goes out to Katie Sullivan, who was born this day in 1980 — Happy Birthday, Katie. This was a single, back from the days when bands would release singles that weren’t on their LP release.

The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry

Okay, so technically, this was just the studio’s attempt to gain exposure outside of the UK by re-packaging their debut Three Imaginary Boys with a slightly different track list, to include the massive singles Killing an Arab and Boys Don’t Cry, arguably their most recognizable track, second, perhaps only to Friday I’m In Love.  But the truth is, this was the release that I discovered first, not even knowing about Three Imaginary Boys until many years later.

Elvis Costello – Get Happy

This album has a ridiculous number of tracks on it. Twenty songs, all squished onto one record, and they are pure Motown-inspired genius. Not a moment wasted, just quick 2-3 minute pop perfection, full of tongue-in cheek wordplay like nobody’s business. “You won’t take my love for tender…”

“Boys everywhere, fumbling with the catches
I struck lucky with motel matches
Falling for you without a second look
Falling out of your open pocketbook
Giving you away like motel matches”

My favourite, and one I used to perform, is the nearly sinister “Riot Act”

Genesis – Duke

First of all, I think this is a great album. I can get on board with the two different Genesises (?) Genesii(?) Genii(?) Djinn(?) Dunno. But this album, I feel, is the band really finding their sound post-Gabriel and Hackett. A vast departure, there’s even a horn section. But still great sounds, great songwriting.

Peter Gabriel III

I can’t decide which album is darker — this one or his follow up, Security. But this is the Peter Gabriel that I’m the biggest fan of. The twisted, stark, creepy sound of Intruder, or No Self Control — and then this one — Games Without Frontiers. If looks could kill, they probably will.

Joy Division – Closer/Love Will Tear Us Apart single

Ian Curtis committed suicide in May of 1980, right before they were about to begin their first North American tour. They could have been huge. Instead they became New Order. Not that that is a bad thing, I just miss Ian’s melancholy voice. Well, at least there’s the first two Interpol albums, am I right?

Echo & The Bunnymen – Crocodiles

I sometimes forget how good this first Echo album is. Here’s the first single (technically a 1979 release)

AC/DC – Back in Black

Would you believe this is the second best-selling album of all time?

Would you believe it was produced by the now Mr. Shania Twain? Would you believe he’s the same guy responsible for all of Bryan Adams’ bullshit pap of the ’90s?

Who knew.

Here’s one you can all sing along with.

Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

In high school, the DK symbol for the Dead Kennedys was almost like the Ichthus symbol (the fish, darlings, the Christian fish) for first century Christians. If you saw someone with it scratched onto their binder or elsewhere, you knew you’d found a fellow outcast.

David Bowie – Scary Monsters

The last great Bowie album for a while, and what a fucking album. Robert Fripp joined him again in the studio for many of the tracks, providing that otherworldly screaming guitar. I can never pick a favourite Bowie album — there are far too many great ones, so it all depends on the day, and my mood. Today, this is my favourite Bowie record.

Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine

If you’ve every wondered where the phrase “Don’t you know there ain’t no devil, that’s just God when he’s drunk” came from, wonder no more, or hyperborean one!

The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

By this time, Sting et al were huge. I’d have to say this is probably my favourite of their albums.

Talking Heads – Remain in Light

This is the third Eno/Byrne collaboration, and really the strongest. Eno gets equal billing for songwriting on most of the songs, and Once in a Lifetime could easily have belonged on his own album “Before and After Science” which contained the song King’s Lead Hat (a clever anagram of Talking Heads).

U2 – Boy

Think about them what you will — and I’ve never minced words about their tragic downfall — U2 started out as a post-punk band with a pretty clever sound and a lot of heart and energy. Here’s a favourite of mine off their debut.


I found this record in my dad’s record collection — just an oddity. A Hungarian immigrant to Canada, he played his own brand of New Wave rock, and I hope I’m not the only one who remembers him. He only had two albums, and actually won a Juno Award (think Canadian Grammy) for best male vocalist. He kind of disappeared then… tried to make a comeback with some recording sessions with the legendary Todd Rundgren, but never finished. He committed suicide in 1990.

I love his first album. Have never been able to find his second one, but I’ve got this one on LP. He does a cover of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi (a song I generally despise) that you’ve just got to hear to believe.

Because I love this album so much, and you’ve probably never heard it, I’m delighted to say that I’ve found the entire album on YouTube.

I will say that you’re going to find the album dated, both musically and lyrically. But it’s like a slice of 1980.

For those of you who can’t or won’t take the time to listen to the entire album, I’ve included its first and last tracks “Metropolitan Life” and “Big Yellow Taxi.”

Happy Birthday again to Katie and to Quirky Chrissy.


5 responses to “Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1980

  1. It strange, this and your last retrospective didn’t show up in my reader and yesterday I could find the 1979 when I went to your site. I found them by using the auto-generated e-mail when you posted. Anyway, another great retrospective. I was in high school at this time so remember when a lot of these were released. I need to go back and listen to the original Talking Head albums again – I usually just listen to Stop Making Sense. I do,of course, listen to Before and After Science all of the time.

      • I think I heard that album a long time ago. One reason I like Stop Making Sense is I saw one of the first shows of that tour in Portland Maine. It was by far the longest concert I’ve ever seen – they were even repeating songs multiple times – they played Burning Down the House 3 times. Great concert.

  2. I love the eighties! It’s the best. I’m going to go download that Police song. I don’t have it on my iPod. I like “Canary in a Coalmine” too. Great list!

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