Year In Review: 1980
To me, 1980 is most memorable as the year that John Lennon was murdered by a despicable lunatic, just as Lennon was coming out of a five-year, self-imposed retirement. And although there are plenty of other reasons to think that 1980 was a pretty lousy year, several albums did sow the seeds for future successes. New Wave was really picking up steam: in Britain, the Jam and the Police continued to lead the pack commercially, but U2 put out a great debut album.
The Jam, XTC, and the Talking Heads all had productive years, expanding rapidly out of their punk-based formulas; but punk itself was transmuting into the hardcore sound of the 80s, spearheaded by newer acts like the Dead Kennedys.
Of the older generation, Pete Townshend struck paydirt with his best solo album ever after paying careful attention to the new developments; and Stevie Wonder reassured his fan following with a solid outing. ACDC released their definitive heavy metal masterpiece. A few relatively unheralded R & B artists like Ashford & Simpson and Patrice Rushen still were making classy records.
But apart from that, there wasn't too much to cheer about. Blondie was starting to lose its edge despite huge sales this year, Utopia made another first-rate and completely ignored album, Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the only 70s funk bands that was still in good shape, Prince's solid third record didn't earn him much notice, and bona fide 60s stars were almost completely stalled - Steve Winwood was an exception, reinventing himself with a layered synth-pop sound.
There was also a pile of outright stinkers. Soft rock icons like Kenny Rogers and Billy Joel, and even pure pop veterans like Barbra Streisand, were hot sellers. Abba was still ruling the charts in Europe. Humble Pie unwisely reformed. Seventies pop monsters like Elton John and even Joni Mitchell seemed to be spent. James Brown was washed up. And a lot of third-rate stuff slipped out of the fading P-Funk camp, including albums by Sweat Band, Phillipe Wynne, and Parliament itself. It's not a lot to brag about. (JA)
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