01 July 2020
MMH Radio are looking at the album releases of 1980 that rocked our world on a retrospective month by month basis which include contributions from our team members .
This month we look at JULY 1980.
AC/DC – Back in Black
What is the difference between a great and a classic record? Its personal taste of course but when one album has sold in excess of 50 million units globally , making it the 2nd bestselling long player in the history of music (beaten only by Michael Jackson’s Thriller) and is the bestselling rock record of all time and is still the template for all subsequent hard rock albums to be compared I think the initial question is answered.
The history of BIB’s making is well documented , the short catch up version is the death of Bon Scott in February 1980 , the band with Scott’s parents blessing auditioned many replacement singers but Brian Johnson who had been in a wide but visible orbit of the band for some time came along , did his bit and was in. The album was recorded in the Bahamas between April and May and released 6 weeks later on 25th July. Robert “Mutt” Lange who produced the bands 7th and seminal Highway to Hell the year previous continued behind the desk. New songs, some including previous Scott era demos were used, throw in tropical storms and the need to honour the bands much loved deceased frontman with fresh blood and different lyrical style, it seems the stars were aligned for something special, and it was. Yes, there was some testosterone chest beating male bonding sexist tinged songs, but they were testosterone chest beating male bonding sexist tinged songs with anthemic singalong chorus and riffs that any band would have been pleased to have penned. The whole two sides lasted a total of 42 minutes, the longest just over 5 ¼ minutes, the shortest 3 ½. It was a blitzkrieg of wall to wall quality rock’n’roll. It was all killers and no fillers, even the lesser of the 10 tracks would have been the jewel in the crown of most rock bands albums of that era and from it 4 singles were released all entering the UK top 30 and the album went to #1.
In 1980 I entered my first teenage year and I cannot state how influential the rock albums released in that year were in my upbringing and musical education. My inability to make enough pocket money to buy albums became near paranoia which has never really left me , luckily my best friends older brother had a proper job and many an hour we sat in a primitive powwow like semi-circle around his turntable listening to the likes of Heaven and Hell, British Steel and Strong Arm of the Law . However, from the first tolls of that purpose-built bronze bell leading into an enormous riff of the opening track Hells Bells, followed by the now mind etched line I’m a rolling thunder, a pouring rain I’m comin’ on like a hurricane I was hooked. It was hypnotic, dangerous and just outrageously magnificent. It still sends shivers up my now middle-aged spine today. The riffs kept coming across all ten tracks, and to me showed, if proof was needed that it was Malcolm Young who was the true genius to this band. The coolness and even audacity of Johnson was magnified on the albums closing track, Rock’ n Roll ain’t noise pollution when it starts with Johnson, above the blues riff underneath taking a drag from his cigarette and blowing out the smoke saying all right. It was a cool way to start the final song to the album , the chorus finishes Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t gonna die,Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t noise pollution, Rock ‘n’ roll it will survive (yes it will) and never was a true word said as this album became the high water mark to which ever other band in the 1980 and subsequently tried to match. The only downside to making an album this colossal is that if you follow it up, everything else will be compared to it, and that was a problem AC/DC never fixed. The band has allegedly sold 200 + millions albums over a 16 studio album career , ¼ of those sales were just this record yet Back in Black is such an important record that it still sells in the thousands 40 years on and is without doubt (to me) not only the most important rock album of 1980, it is the most important rock album for the following decade and possibly of all time.
The Vapors – ‘New Clear Day’
The Vapors were formed in 1978 in leafy Surrey. They started gigging in the Surrey and London areas then at in April ’79 at one such gig in Surrey – Woking boy and Jam bassist Bruce Foxton saw them and was mightily impressed. Foxton agreed to co-manage the band with Paul Weller’s dad John. Foxton secured the band a support slot for two gigs early in ’79 then a full support slot during November and December – 28 dates on ‘The Setting Sons’ tour. Prior to the tour the band signed with United Artists. Somewhere in between all this the band managed to record their debut album ‘New Clear Day’. Their single and most well known song ‘Turning Japanese’ was released in January 1980 and got to No.3 in the UK and No 36 in the Billboard Charts in America as well as No.1 in Australia, No.7 in Canada, No.9 in New Zealand and No.10 in Japan. So, what about the rest of the album?
Kicking off with probably the ultimate pop rocker – ‘Turning Japanese’ – a common misconception is that the song is about masturbation. Lead singer and guitarist Dave Fenton thanked whoever came up with the story. A perfect slice of new wave power pop it’s driven along by Fenton and Steve Smith’s bass line. Catchier than the common cold it had melody and you could dance to it too. Smith and Fenton are at it again with a steady rhythm on ‘Sixty Second Interval’ where Fenton displays quite a soulful edge to his voice. We get some punkier rock n roll on ‘Waiting For The Weekend’ then things go up a pace on ‘Spring Collection’. ‘Letter From Hiro’ is a heartfelt almost ballad where Fenton’s voice is understated whilst drummer Howard Smith pulls triples and doubles at will. ‘News At Ten’ brings more punk rock then ‘Somehow’ sits somewhere in between punk and rock. ‘Prisoners’ was released as a single in ’79 but it failed to chart. It’s basic pop rock and in my view not really suitable for a single. ‘Trains’ should have been the first. Fenton and guitarist Ed Bazalgette chug away with Steve Smith weaving lines around their steady riff. Final track ‘Bunkers’ has a reggae rhythm ala The Ruts with Fenton getting angsty.
I vividly remember first hearing The Vapors on the radio – they always seemed to be on. I bought the album with my paper round money and it’s been like an old friend ever since. I didn’t fully understand the socially conscious lyrics at the time– probably still don’t but, to me, it’s a fantastic slice of New Wave power pop much like The Knack and The Jags. The Vapors took the energy of punk the melody of pop and created healthy mix all produced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven. Check out The Vapor’s recently released new album ‘Together’.
Joy Division – Closer
Formed in 1976 in Salford, under the name Warsaw (after the David Bowie song Warszawa), Joy Division are one of the pioneers of post-punk and are regularly noted as an influence for many post punk / gothic rock bands to this day, Thirteen months after their debut album Unknown Pleasures, on July 18th 1980, Joy Division released their second and final studio album, Closer. This was also exactly two months after the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis. Leaving remaining members Peter Hook, Bernard Summer and Stephen Morris to from New Order. In comparison to Unknown Pleasures, Closer has a more gothic or darker sound and with tracks such as Isolation, Heart and Soul and Twenty Four Hours, you can see why Closer is regarded by many, myself included, as Joy Division’s best work and cemented their place ace as post-punk legends.
Reviewer – Adam Thomas
The Robert Cray Band – WHO’S BEEN TALKING
When I think back to the 80s and the albums that I was listening to then I well remember the impact that the album Strong Persuader had on me when I first played and then went on to play it so much that I eventually needed to replace it. I first came across Robert Cray when he appeared on Jools Holland promoting said album and he was such a breath of fresh air as far as I was concerned. In fact it was on the basis of his performance that night that I went out the next day to purchase the album.
That album was of course released in 1986. What I was unaware of was that he had been a busy having already released 5 albums previously. One of those albums was ‘Who’s Been Talkin”. By default I am not so much a purist but uncomplicated in my appreciation of Blues music in the sense that I Iike things generally kept simple trying to get that ‘just plug ‘n’ play’ kind of feel to things. I am not a particular fan of over-processed recordings (I admit that is according to my own personal obsession) and I recall thinking that although I Ioved ‘Strong Persuader’ I wished it sound as raw as how he played on Jools’ show.
Well, WHO’S BEEN TALKIN’ is just such an album. Robert Cray is an accomplished guitarist, of that there is no doubt, but he also has a voice to die for. He can attack or caress any vocal seamlessly and when that is placed in front of a fine rhythm section it is just a treat for the listener. All of the songs on this album are a genuine treat. The majority are not penned by Robert Cray but he executes each song with aplomb and passion. That has to be good for the listener and oh boy it is.
The album kicks off with an old Willie Dixon number ‘Too Many Cooks’ which gets you in a good mood right from the start. Robert Cray’s arrangement does justice to the original but also takes it to another level. ‘The Score’ and ‘The Welfare (Turns Its Back On You)’ give you a glimpse of the depth of his understanding of how to do justice to a song but for me, the jewel in the crown is without doubt ‘If You’re Tinkin’ What I’m Thinkin’ which is prime Robert Cray territory and the reason while he is still going strong in 2020.
If you are a bit of a dinosaur like me and like your Blues served up with no unnecessary accessories or side dishes, then this is an album that should be in your collection. I still enjoy playing it now as much as when I first heard it . . . and if it were vinyl it would almost certainly have needed replacing!
A great album.
Reviewer Keith Baldin
Deep Purple ‘Deepest Purple – The Best Of’
Deep Purple split after a disastrous final gig at The Liverpool Empire Theatre in 1976. Up to that point they had released 10 studio albums. They’re now up to 21 studio release’s if you include their latest ‘Whoosh’- hopefully out now. The reason I mention this is because the amount of Deep Purple compilation albums out there is immense and this one was just the start.
Nine tracks and as you would expect it runs like a set list – songs that Deep Purple would have to play. ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Fireball’, ‘Highway Star’, the single edit of ‘Black Night’ and ‘Speed King’ PLUS ‘Woman From Tokyo’ and a left field ‘Demon’s Eye’. There’s also two from the Coverdale/Hughes period in ‘Burn’ and ‘Stormbringer’. Every one a classic. What else can you say? Richie Blackmore at his peak, Ian Gillan, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes singing. Jon Lord’s mighty Hammond and of course Ian Paice laying it down.
I suppose in that pre-CD generation they took what they could get and space was at a premium on a vinyl album but look what they have could have included – ‘Child In Time’, ‘Hush’, ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’, ‘Woman From Tokyo’, ‘Space Truckin’’,’Mistreated’, ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ … the list goes on.
My view is – if you’ve never really got into Deep Purple or you don’t actually have any of their albums then this is a great place to start.
Black Sabbath – Live at Last
July 1980 saw the release of Black Sabbath’s first live album ‘Live At Last’ but not with the band’s permission. Their former manager Patrick Meehan, who had ripped off the band without their knowledge, had the rights to the recording that consisted of two gigs from 1973, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and the Rainbow in London. Sabbath themselves had put back the idea of releasing it because of their dislike of the sound quality. However, the album sold remarkably well, hitting No.5 in the UK album charts. It features most of their greatest songs at that time, namely Snowblind, War Pigs, Sweet Leaf and Paranoid but songs like Iron Man and Black Sabbath itself were conspicuous by their absence from the nine tracks on show. For the band to have shelved ideas to release it themselves says a lot and Meehan continued to make money out of Sabbath some 5 years after they fired him. Indeed, they spent those years fighting to get their money back from Meehan and ironically it was when Ronnie James Dio joined them that the band’s light suddenly burned bright again and they brought out two quality albums. ‘Live At Last’ is painful listening because of the choice of tracks (a 19 minute Wicked World anyone?) and it certainly wouldn’t be in my Top 20 Sabbath albums, but hey, it made No.5 in the UK, so someone liked it (especially Meehan)!
Reviewer Tony Heare
CHICAGO – XIV
As I was only 7 at the time, this album like many Chicago albums passed me by. But since then I have been a fan. Since 25 Or 6 To 4 reached by cochlea I have diligently purchased and listened to every Chicago album, every incarnation of the band members and genres. Here is a band in which fought up to the highest levels with a combination of rock and roll and jazz and blues with exceptional song writing and then slowly throughout time faded into an average band whose misdirection and dare I say it mediocrity took over. If you are a stranger to Chicago, well don’t start with Chicago XIV. Please. Manipulation is a great tune to kick things off and Overnight Café and Thunder and Lightning aren’t bad. However, with Peter Cetera co-writing many of the ballads, which there are many -they are mediocre at best. Lamm reportedly was in and out of the process too which wouldn’t have helped. The album’s confused and perhaps lazy sound in this album was reflected in not only poor sales and no even-near successful single releases but the record company Columbia paying them to go. Was this Chicago’s worst release? Perhaps yes. However, it is a great example of how a bunch of tight musicians, great songwriters and a good producer can still get things wrong when there is no clear focus or direction. It’s an album I will re-visit regularly however then just to ignite my hope in human creativity I will follow it by listening to Chicago V, 2 and 17.
Reviewer Pete K Malley
Hall and Oates – Voices
People mention the term guilty pleasures, and immediately my eyes roll to the back of my head. Why on earth would anyone feel guilty about pleasure when it comes to music? Growing up around music, we listened to everything. Dad spun loads of Dr. John, and my mom had The Beatles in constant rotation. My brothers introduced me to punk rock via the Dead Kennedys, MDC, and DOA in the early 1980s. Once I wriggled away from the clutches of familial influence, I began to situate myself in my own taste, which was pretty well all over the place. I wasn’t rebelling (I’d have had to become a bible-thumping religious nutjob for that), I just wanted to craft my own taste. On my own, I discovered AC/DC, Black Sabbath, The Scorpions, Motorhead, and Judas Priest. This happened around 1980/81. But I was also mildly obsessed with Prince, I loved 1950s pop music (then called oldies), and Hall & Oates was the absolute best. What they did in the 1970s was incredible (Abandoned Luncheonette is still my favorite album of theirs), but like so many bands at the cusp of the 80s (ZZ Top comes to mind), the duo from Philadelphia carved out a commercial niche with Voices
This album had mega-hits on it, including “Every Time You Go Away” and “Kiss Is On My List,” both of which elicits a familiar toe-tap straight into belting the lyrics out loud for a good lot of us. The songs on this album shaped their status as pop icons as well as paying proper homage where it was due with their flawless rendition of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” What keeps Hall & Oates on top for me, however, is something they always do in their work, which is to remain brave and self-effacing. If you don’t know what I mean, listen to “Africa” (written by John Oates) and then try to tell me it’s not the goofiest cut on the record. They know how to play with genres, they know their own sound, and they understand how to be ridiculous.
Don’t believe me? Catch them next time they come around for a show. Well worth it, I promise. In fact, I pride myself on turning people into Hall & Oates fans! Thus far, I’ve brought my husband into the fold, my pal’s husband, and several friends. So sit back, have a wine cooler, and enjoy Voices with me, why don’t you!
Reviewer – Sara Whizbanger
Hawkwind – Live ’79
First band I ever saw live back in December 1972 (tickets were 75p !!), Hawkwind released their first self-titled album back in 1970. During the 70s I think I went to see the band around 10 times and wow, did they put on a show (ok, a naked, large breasted lady MAY have had something to do with it LOL).
In fact, I would happily go on record to say that “Space Ritual” is their best live album and in fact, one of THE best live albums ever to be released. In my opinion, their United Artists years were their most creative and 80s onward, I lost interest, but still kept an eye on what they were up to, having seen them a number of times in the past decade alone, even though Dave Brock is the only original member. Like many bands who found their feet 1970 – 75, they still feature a healthy selection of songs from that era in their current live set – “Born To Go”, “Assault And Battery”, “The Golden Void”, “Masters Of The Universe” and the inevitable “Silver Machine” (their biggest and most well known hit that hangs around like the well-intentioned Aunt).
So here we are, back in 1980 for “Live ’79”, one of only two releases on the Bronze label, having flaunted with Charisma previously. A follow up live album to the aforementioned Space Ritual with only Simon King on drums (and the ubiquitous Brock) remaining. Recorded in December 1979, but not released until July 1980, the set was recorded at St Albans City Hall, there’s an excited crowd adding to the live feel, but overall, for me anyway, it never reaches the spaced out, sci-fi excesses of Space Ritual, sounding more like a punk gig( which at the time, was enjoying its moment in the Sun).
I do like “Lighthouse” which is a Tim Blake solo piece, heavy on the synths and sequencers complete with spoken word – right up my street and a return to form, a welcome interlude. The remainder of the set is “typical Hawkwind” with an abridged version of “Brainstorm”, “Spirit Of The Age”, “Motorway City”, a high energy set-closing version of “Masters Of The Universe” with some impressive guitar work from Huw Lloyd-Langton (who sadly passed away in 2012). After some raucous applause and chanting, the band return for the encore – an EXTREMELY truncated version of “Silver Machine” – (1 min 23 secs to be precise). An attempt to exorcise it from their set it was listed as “Silver Machine (Requiem)” but roll on the years and it still features in the band’s current set-list – it ain’t going anywhere soon….. How many other bands out there are forever cursed to play the one hit single EVERYONE knows (Toto – Africa, Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’, Boston – More Than A Feeling, Kansas – Carry On My Wayward Son and so on….)
Overall, a nice snapshot of the band’s live set at that time, but it pales in comparison to its predecessor, worth a listen….
Reviewer Steve Gould
Next month – Siousie and the Banshees, Pat Benatar , The Cars , Yes , Tygers of Pan Tang , Jethro Tull , MSG and more!