Any Way You Want It

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Photo credit: Olivia Newton-John: Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Whatever your tastes, the musical plate in 1980 was stacked high with choice cuts, jukebox heroes and saucy moves.

By David Cohea, ReMIND Magazine

The Hits You Know All The Lyrics To
Across the radio dial on contemporary hits stations, there was a heady mix of great singles. Go light and you had “Do That to Me One More Time” by Captain & Tennille, “Sailing” by Christopher Cross, Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love,” and “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John. For more rocking temperaments, there was “Any Way You Want It” by Journey, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.” For California rock, there was “The Long Run” by the Eagles and “Boulevard” by Jackson Browne, and dance hits included “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. and Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” offering a hint of the blockbuster Michael soon to come.

AC/DC Returned With “Back In Black”
The heavy metal stage was owned by AC/DC and their seventh studio album, Back in Black. It was the first to feature vocalist Brian Johnson after former lead vocalist Bon Scott died of alcohol poisoning. Released in July, Back in Black reached No. 4 on the U.S. album chart — surprisingly good for a headbanger band. Cuts like “Hells Bells,” “Shoot to Thrill” and the title track became anthems. Over the years, the album has topped an estimated 50 million sales – possibly the best in heavy metal history!

The Best Concept Album Ever
In rock, Pink Floyd’s double album The Wall, released in November of the previous year, spent most of 1980 climbing the charts. The rock opera tells the story of a jaded rock star named Pink in “walled” isolation from the world. Reviews were mixed, but that only seemed to add to The Wall‘s strange appeal. (One proclaimed, “I’m not sure whether it’s brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling.”) One single from the album — “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2″— reached No. 1 on the pop charts. The band toured with a performance of the album that year, featuring a 40-foot wall of cardboard bricks that gradually built up between band and audience. The album ended up selling 24 million copies and is considered one of the best concept albums ever.

New Wave And Punk Rock
New wave bands were showing up across the radio dial with a pop distillation of punk rock and European techno. 1980 saw albums from the Romantics, the Pretenders, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, the Psychedelic Furs, the Cure, XTC, Joe Jackson, and Adam and the Ants. Devo taught us how to “Whip It,””Call Me” by Blondie and “Brass in Pocket” by the Pretenders were smash singles, and the Romantics’ “What I Like About You” was hard-edged enough to hammer the sound systems of rock ‘n’ roll clubs. John Lennon cited “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s as an inspiration for his comeback with his last album Double Fantasy. Still, the movement was slow to catch on in the United States, and it wasn’t until MTV’s arrival in 1981 that dance-oriented bands like Depeche Mode, Culture Club and Duran Duran roused suburbia into spiky hair and herky-jerky dance moves.

The Year Female Country Greats Reigned The Chart
1980 was also a good year for country music. In April (for the first and, so far, only time), the top five spots on the Hot Country Singles chart were all occupied by female singers: Crystal Gayle, Dottie West, Debby Boone, Emmylou Harris and Tammy Wynette (in a duet with George Jones). It was also the year that Hollywood fell in love with country music. Coal Miner’s Daughter was a biography of Loretta Lynn starring Sissy Spacek, who turned in an Academy Award-winning performance. There was Urban Cowboy, with John Travolta and Debra Winger; Honeysuckle Rose, starring Willie Nelson; and Bronco Billy, starring Clint Eastwood. A song from that movie’s soundtrack, “Bar Room Buddies,” by Merle Haggard and Eastwood, went to No. 1 on the country charts. Dolly Parton launched her movie career with one of the leading roles in the hit movie 9 to 5, and the movie’s theme song, written and performed by Parton, hit No. 1 on both country and pop music charts.

The Year Music Fans Mourned
John Lennon’s album Double Fantasy was released in November, led by the single “(Just Like) Starting Over.” It was the first release by the former Beatle in five years, and the songs reflected a very different artist — now a settled family man. (He and wife Yoko Ono had reunited in 1975 and soon after produced a son, Sean.) Double Fantasy received so-so reviews and sales were light until Dec. 8, 1980, when Lennon was shot and killed by a fan named Mark David Chapman, who had asked Lennon to autograph a copy of the album just hours before. Speaking to stunned fans the next day, Ono said, “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.” His ashes were scattered in Central Park, and later the spot was transformed into a memorial garden called Strawberry Fields.

In the weeks after Lennon’s murder, “(Just Like) Starting Over” went to No. 1 on the charts as the music world grieved. It was such a punch in the gut to popular music culture, losing, so tragically and early (Lennon was 40), the co-creator of all those timeless Beatles’ songs, a lover, family man and earnest peace activist. The true wonder son of the ’60s was gone just 10 years later, leaving us to wonder how the new decade would unfold, shadowed by such loss.

Other musicians we lost in 1980 included Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham on Sept. 25 and Joy Division singer Ian Curtis on May 18.

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