21 Major Albums That Turn 40 This Month
The list of albums released in November 1980 serves as a microcosm for the state of rock at the time.
Several of the biggest acts of the '70s were about to say goodbye, a result of the drug-fueled burnout of the previous decade, while others found themselves looking for a new sound as their dalliances with disco ended to varying degrees of success. And then there were a few that stepped up and delivered the biggest records of their careers.
Underneath the upper reaches of the albums chart were the post-punk and new wave artists who were infusing new blood into the mix that would pay off years later, either for themselves or those they influenced. Check it all out below.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 'Double Fantasy'
John Lennon returned to music after spending five years on the sidelines as he raised his young son Sean. Alternating with partner Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy showed Lennon finally finding domestic happiness on songs like "(Just Like) Starting Over" "Watching the Wheels," "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" and "Woman." For her part, Ono's contributions were edgier and more in line with the post-punk and new wave of the day. The sense of contentment that permeates the record, however, only adds to the tragedy of Lennon's death just three weeks after Double Fantasy's release.
Steely Dan, 'Gaucho'
Few albums reflected post-'70s burnout better than Steely Dan's Gaucho. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker stripped back their usual complex arrangements in favor of sparse grooves on tracks like "Hey Nineteen" and "Time Out of Mind," although their knack for jazz harmonies was evident on "Babylon Sisters" and the title track. In short, it sounded like a comedown, and they broke up shortly thereafter.
Read More: How Steely Dan Came Unglued With ‘Gaucho’
Eagles, 'Eagles Live'
Tensions caused the Eagles to implode in July 1980, but the band still owed their label another record. So they took 15 highlights from the previous two tours, made a bunch of overdubs and put out Eagles Live. The lone track that had never been released in a studio version was a cover of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road" that peaked at No. 21.
REO Speedwagon, 'Hi Infidelity'
REO Speedwagon broke out big in the '80s after steadily raising their profile throughout the previous decade. Led by the No. 1 ballad "Keep on Loving You," Hi Infidelity topped the Billboard albums chart and spawned three more Top 40 hits, including "Take It on the Run," which reached No. 5.
Recorded between 1976 and 1978, Yesshows documented how Yes transformed the songs found on the four albums between Tales From Topographic Oceans and Tormato in concert. It lacked the hits from their seminal early '70s records, but Yesshows nonetheless breathed new life into material from an oft-maligned period.
Motorhead, 'Ace of Spades'
Motorhead's aggressive, sped-up mixture of metal and punk reached its zenith on Ace of Spades. But the album is more than just its classic title track, still the band's best-known song. "Love Me Like a Reptile," "Bite the Bullet" and "The Hammer" are among the other standouts.
Neil Young, 'Hawks & Doves'
Neil Young seemed bereft of ideas after closing out the '70s with the definitive statements Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust. The first half of the 30-minute Hawks & Doves consisted of songs he wrote in the mid-'70s, and the second featured of country songs that could be interpreted as an endorsement of Ronald Reagan, who was elected president of the U.S. the day after the album's release. In keeping, Hawks & Doves was seen by some as a betrayal from a guy whose music helped soundtrack the counterculture of the previous decade.
Rod Stewart, 'Foolish Behaviour'
Rod Stewart toned down the dance-floor grooves after facing the backlash for going disco on Blondes Have More Fun. They were still there, but he balanced them out on Foolish Behaviour with a bit more rock (notably "She Won't Dance With Me" and "Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight"). The moody, synth-driven "Passion" was a smash, but nothing else made an impact commercially.
Blondie left their New York home to record the band's fifth record in Los Angeles. The result, Autoamerican, was a typically diverse collection of songs, from new wave ("Angels on the Balcony") and girl-group pop ("T-Birds") to disco ("Live It Up") and even Broadway ("Follow Me" from the musical Camelot). An unwillingness to stay in one place is summed up by the LP's two No. 1 singles: "The Tide Is High" was a cover of the Paragons' reggae single, while "Rapture" helped introduce much of mainstream America to hip-hop.
Motorhead, 'Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers'
Motorhead's label took advantage of their commercial breakthrough in the U.K. by issuing four tracks from sessions for their rejected 1977 debut album as an EP. The title track was a remake of a 1973 ZZ Top song; they also covered John Mayall's "I'm Your Witchdoctor." Beer Drinkers and Hellraisers was eventually expanded to a full-length release.
Whitesnake, 'Live ... In the Heart of the City'
Whitesnake were a few years away from multiplatinum success in the U.S., but they were big enough in their native U.K. by 1980 to partake in a time-honored rock tradition: the double live album. Compiled from three shows at London's Hammersmith Odeon in in 1978 and 1980, Live ... In the Heart of the City focused mostly on their first four records – although they made room for a pair of songs David Coverdale wrote while in Deep Purple, "Might Just Take Your Life" and "Mistreated," as well as a cover of Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City."
Elvis Costello, 'Taking Liberties'
Taking Liberties was a bit of a catch-up for Elvis Costello fans, compiling numerous non-LP tracks the prolific songwriter had recently released and adding three previously unheard songs. Highlights include "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," which had been left off the U.S. version of This Year's Model, and "Girls Talk," which had been a hit for Dave Edmunds a few years earlier.
ABBA, 'Super Trouper'
Super Trouper wasn't ABBA's swan song – that would come a year later with The Visitors – but the two relationships within the group were disintegrating. Bjorn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Faltskog had already divorced, and Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad would split in early 1981. That pain was reflected in their last U.S. Top 10, the soaring "The Winner Takes It All," but they proved they could still fill a dance floor with "Lay All Your Love on Me."
Jon Anderson, 'Song of Seven'
Singer Jon Anderson quickly resumed his solo career after splitting with Yes earlier in the year. Song of Seven featured contributions from bassist Jack Bruce, Clem Clempson of Humble Pie and drummer Simon Phillips. This was actually the second studio album featuring Anderson to come out in 1980, following a collaboration with Vangelis called Short Stories.
Neil Diamond, 'The Jazz Singer'
Already one of the biggest pop stars in the '70s, Neil Diamond looked to move to the big screen with a remake of The Jazz Singer. The movie was critically panned, but its soundtrack was easily the biggest of his career, selling 5 million copies. Diamond scored three Top 10 hits with "Love on the Rocks," "Hello Again" and "America."
Alan Parsons Project, 'Turn of a Friendly Card'
The Alan Parsons Project kept up a penchant for concept albums on Turn of a Friendly Card, focusing on gambling. Much of its second side was comprised of the title track, a five-movement, 16-minute suite, but the public's attention was grabbed by two Top 20 hits on Side One: "Games People Play" and the ballad "Time."
Adam and the Ants, 'Kings of the Wild Frontier'
When the backing musicians who made 1979's Dirk Wears White Sox left to form Bow Wow Wow, Adam Ant recruited a new bunch of Ants, including guitarist/co-writer Marco Pirroni. Kings of the Wild Frontier turned them into major pop stars in the U.K. on the strength of the singles "Dog Eat Dog" and "Ant Music." The group released one more album before Ant, with Pirroni in tow, went solo and found U.S. fame with "Goody Two-Shoes."
The Jam, 'Sound Affects'
Paul Weller solidified his reputation as the sharpest musical observer into British life since Ray Davies on the Jam's fourth release. Propelled by the "Taxman"-esque "Start" and the impressionistic "That's Entertainment," Sound Affects also offered more of their aggressive power pop ("But I'm Different Now," "Boy About Town"), art-funk ("Music for the Last Couple") and possibly Weller's finest moment, "Man in the Corner Shop."
Rory Gallagher, 'Stage Struck'
Captured on Rory Gallagher's tour in support of the previous year's Top Priority, Stage Struck was the last record by the Irish blues guitar hero to reach the Top 40 in the U.K. It was also the final live album released before his 1995 death.
Midnight Oil, 'Bird Noises'
After two full-length albums, Midnight Oil put out a four-song EP that marked the debut of new bassist Peter Gifford. Bird Noises, which wasn't issued in the U.S. until 1990, showed off a few new directions for the Australian band – including the acoustic-driven, surf-inspired instrumental "Wedding Cake Island."
Boys Next Door, 'The Birthday Party'
The Birthday Party began life as the second album by the Boys Next Door, an Australian band led by Nick Cave. But upon moving to London, they changed their name to the Birthday Party. The record marked a shift to the darker sounds for which Cave would soon become known. He later formed the Bad Seeds after the dissolution of the group.