Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Best Albums of 1979


We are back with another Best Albums feature from a year gone by - if you missed 1989, check that out after you're done here. Let's go back 39 years... In the Year 1979, Jimmy Carter was President of the United States, and minimum wage was $2.90. In Japan, Sony launched its portable cassette player, the Walkman. Atari released Asteroids, which became one of the best selling video arcade games of all time. The Muppet Movie, Rocky II, The Amityville Horror, Ten, The Jerk and Apocalypse Now were topping the box office chart. The Dukes of Hazzard, Knots Landing and The Facts of Life made their television debuts while Welcome Back Kotter, All in the Family, Wonder Woman, Starsky & Hutch and Good Times turned off the cameras. Norah Jones, Pink, Heath Ledger, Claire Danes and Robyn entered the world, while we said goodbye to Sid Vicious, jazz legend Charles Mingus, original Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise and bluegrass musician Lester Flatt.

As always, Sarah and I enlisted the help of our regular contributors & friends to select Top 10 albums. In addition, everyone handpicked a track from each album for you to enjoy in our Best Albums of 1979 Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page (unfortunately there are a few albums not available on Spotify - we encourage you to locate those elsewhere). If you'd like to share your own 1979 favorites, please comment below. Stay tuned to see which year is coming next!

Bret Helm
Life on this Planet | Audra

10. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes
09. Japan - Quiet Life
08. Wire - 154
07. Magazine - Secondhand Daylight
06. Simple Minds - Life in a Day
05. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
04. Tubeway Army - Replicas
03. David Bowie - Lodger
02. Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle
01. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

About My #1: Growing up in the 80s, finding new cool bands was a job that required great detail in research. It wasn't clicking on related artists on Spotify or seeing what's in your side feed on Youtube, it was analyzing liner notes, watching (and recording) MTV's 120 Minutes, dubbing friends' cassette tapes and probably most importantly for me - going to the library and scouring back issues of music magazines for interviews with bands that i liked, hoping they would drop a tidbit of knowledge of their favorites. 'So who are your influences?' may seem like a cliche question for a band these days, but it led to some of the greatest musical discoveries that I experienced as a teenager in the late 80s: Virgin Prunes via U2, The Velvet Underground via Bowie and Joy Division via Jane's Addiction. It was Eric Avery, wearing an old Unknown Pleasures t-shirt, discussing one of his favorite bass players, Peter Hook of Joy Division. I was intrigued. Finding albums from Joy Division back then was a bit of a difficult task, but Zia Records had an excellent selection of used cassettes priced $1.99 (least desirable), $2.99 (moderately desirable) and $3.99 (a recent hot release that someone got rid of) - Unknown Pleasures was in the lowest category - lucky me! I remember poppping it into my little tape recorder and hitting play. To make a long story short, this was the most unusual music I had ever heard at the time. The music was empty and icy, the vocals were deep, detached and for lack of a better term - robotic. I was instantly mesmerized. The most vivid memory that I have of my early days with this album is every day before I left for my final years in high school. The opening track 'Disorder' was 3:29 - the exact time it would take me to make my bed. It's strange the things you remember. 

Sarah Quarrie
Life on this Planet

10. The Specials - s/t
09. The Clash - London Calling
08. Gang of Four - Entertainment!
07. Wire - 154
06. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
05. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
04. Tubeway Army - Replicas
03. Roxy Music - Manifesto
02. ABBA - Voulez-Vous
01. Blondie - Eat to the Beat

About My #1: I was a wee lass at this time with a tan plastic portable Fisher-Price phonograph. If I had to pick my most listened to album IN 1979, that would be The Muppet Movie Soundtrack. A proper listen for a 6 year old moppet. Fortunately my musical tastes were honed early thanks to various family members, and I somehow acquired The Best of Blondie record 2 years later. This is when my affinity for Deborah Ann Harry began. From Blondie's self-titled debut to Pollinator 41 years later with some solo work in between, I've always felt inclined to keep up with Debbie with all her attitude, wit, bleach and cheekbones. I was lucky enough to live in NYC for 6 years and constantly pictured what the East Village & LES was like during the 70s/80s music scene when the charm of CBGB's was worth the stank. Eat to the Beat is a soundtrack of living in Manhattan, the exhilarating oppression of NYC on a hot & humid day, hair of the dog in the form of raw pop.

Sean Benham
Chicago, Illinois

10. Electric Light Orchestra - Discovery
09. The Cars - Candy-O
08. Supertramp - Breakfast in America
07. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
06. The Police - Reggatta de Blanc
05. Tubeway Army - Replicas
04. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
03. The B-52's - s/t
02. Japan - Quiet Life
01. The Clash - London Calling

About My #1: Everybody has their favorite punk band and mine has always been The Clash. They were able to survive the collapse of punk and become more than just that. I embraced it in such a way that it was THE crossover album that took me from my classic rock upbringing to the new sounds of post-Punk and New Wave. I used to crank ‘Clampdown’ as loud as possible in my bedroom and grab my tennis racquet and act like I was Joe Strummer. It fueled my desire to play in a band and look for obscure and alternative music. London Calling, Spanish Bombs, Lost in the Supermarket, Clampdown, Guns of Brixton, Train and Vain, all of it! And their military style mish-mosh look was a great change up to the bell bottoms and long hair of the 1970s.

Rob Clark
Rockford, Illinois

10. Japan - Quiet Life
09. Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps
08. The Clash - London Calling
07. Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Armed Forces
06. Gang of Four - Entertainment!
05. Tubeway Army - Replicas
04. Marianne Faithfull - Broken English
03. Tom Waits - Blue Valentine
02. Talking Heads - Fear of Music
01. XTC - Drums & Wires

About My #1: I’m not sure there has ever been a decade more transitional for me, at least in terms of music, than the 70s. The ball started rolling when I discovered The Beatles (I was 7 in 1970 although they had just split up!) and then absolutely blossomed with all the great music that came out in the years that followed. By 1979, I was an impressionable 16-year-old high schooler, yet firmly entrenched in rock and prog, figuring my musical diet had been established for the foreseeable future. Then 1978/9 came along and I’m introduced to the bands that make up about 75% of my list. Honestly, it felt like I had traveled to some other planet to find they had their own great but completely different music! The ‘new wave' had just begun, and I was ready to ride it! XTC in particular was an incredibly exciting find, and ‘Drums & Wires’ was my introduction to their strange, wonderful world. I’ve been a lifelong fan ever since. Even just looking at the cover of this record makes me happy.

Tim Brown
London, England

10. Led Zeppelin - In Through the Out Door
09. Electric Light Orchestra - Discovery
08. Blondie - Eat to the Beat
07. The Jam - Setting Sons
06. AC/DC - Highway to Hell
05. The Specials - s/t
04. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
03. Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming
02. Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
01. The Clash - London Calling

About My #1: To pick a top ten from this year was terribly difficult and this list has changed dramatically over the last few weeks. Choosing the number one however was easy. The Clash were the first band that I saw as belonging to me and my mates and not my parents or the older siblings of friends. They were vibrant, full of energy, opinionated and angry. Can’t think why that appealed to my 17 year old self! A few of us hired a mini bus to go and see them on this tour and my fate was sealed. Whenever I hear any track off this album I’m instantly 17 again, down the front, hot, sweaty and dancing my ass off. Other albums have come along and moved me, but none will ever hold the special place in my heart that this one does. What makes this copy even more special is I bought it off one of those mates at that gig nearly 40 years ago. A certain Mr. Magness who I suspect may hold this album in the same affection as me!

Mike Keddy
Western Massachusetts

10. The Clash - London Calling
09. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box
08. Terry Allen - Lubbock (on everything)
07. Talking Heads - Fear of Music
06. Wire - 154
05. David Bowie - Lodger
04. Richard Pinhas - Iceland
03. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
02. Pink Floyd - The Wall
01. Bob Marley & The Wailers - Survival

About My #1: I was first exposed to Bob Marley when a fellow classmate used to play the Legend compilation on the bus on the way home from school. We'd play that CD over and over and that's where my love of Bob's music began. It wasn't until a little while later that I heard more of his music, specifically the album Survival. While Survival might not be as well known or commercial as that of Legend it contains my absolute favorite songs in Bob's catalog. Hearing these songs brings me back to summer vacations spent on the beaches of Cape Cod. There was this beach that you could drive onto, as long as you had a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Survival was the soundtrack to those summers and to those drives on the beach.

Ron Marrs
New Orleans, Louisiana

10. Magazine - Secondhand Daylight
09. Japan - Quiet Life
08. Pink Floyd - The Wall
07. Talking Heads - Fear of Music
06. Patti Smith Group - Wave
05. Sparks - No. 1 in Heaven
04. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
03. Wire - 154
02. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
01. Tubeway Army - Replicas

About My #1: In a world where Punks hate Stoners and both must intermingle among the Preps and Mods at a middle school without windows; where moving from class to class is done outside because the hallways were relegated to teachers and administrators only; there’s much that one witnesses that builds the narrative of a segregated and cruel world. I, in my infinite, pre-teen wisdom, sought to thread my ignorance through all the aforementioned social classes and leech from them the knowledge that would affirm my existence. Instead, my efforts were transparent and rebuffed in a way that 12 year olds find appropriate. Logic dictated that cigarettes would unlock one of these social classes, and in my “purchased today and worn off the rack” Agent Orange shirt – I walked to the 7-11 and asked the first Punk I saw to buy me some cigarettes and I immediately realized I was the smartest person I’d ever known. This Punk, Edgar, didn’t care about middle school social classes, he was however interested in the allowance I did nothing to earn. He asked me, after buying a Slurpee, a box of Zebra Cakes, and some Ruffles (no cigarettes…. or change) if I wanted to listen to music. That happened, and happened again… a lot. Edgar had a secret, and I’ve told you this whole bit of nonsense to get to this point, and why I’ve chosen this record. Edgar, The world’s devoted punk, shared with me after many Sundays and Slurpees, that he had a “guilty pleasure” – a phrase coined for the first time in my ears, and lurking in a pile that did not share space with Fear or Descendents, sat a copy of “Replicas”. Edgar was careful to explain the path by which he was lead to Tubeway Army, dismissing any idea that he was disloyal to anarchy. The sounds I heard were inexplicable, as if an electric wizard had transcribed some prophetic wisdom of the future of music. He didn’t look like anyone I knew, didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard, and I begged Edgar to borrow his forbidden treasure. Then came the next revelation, Edgar had so coveted this black platter of majesty, that he had bought a new copy, and offered me the one that skipped two-thirds of the way thru Side 2, and whose jacket was held together with duct tape. I crossed this country for many years thinking… I learned “guilty pleasure and synthpop” from Edgar; this was his legacy in my mind. In reality, what Edgar gave me was the understanding that music is ours to enjoy, and limiting what we like solely by the confines of another’s acceptance means so much never crosses our paths. Edgar sought to teach me shame of one’s choices, but because he chose to do so in a generous nature, he gave me the courage to pick up my first Christian Death record, and later wear a Nine Inch Nails shirt in a toxic environment. Besides being an incredible, infectious and mysterious album, this was the catalyst to something that transformed my life. So many of the artists I would come to love over the years share an affinity for what Gary Numan and Tubeway Army created. Reminds me, I kept good company then and now. Edgar also taught me that cigarettes are the gateway to acceptance and stealing from 12 year olds is cool – so f*ck all that…

John Magness
Uttoxeter, England

10. Gillan - Mr. Universe
09. Roxy Music - Manifesto
08. The Jam - Setting Sons
07. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box
06. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
05. Supertramp - Breakfast in America
04. The Tubes - Remote Control
03. Blondie - Eat to the Beat
02. Pink Floyd - The Wall
01. The Clash - London Calling

About My #1: At the start of 1979 I was 15 and by the end I was almost 17! I've come to know since then that if you’re lucky this is one of the “times” of your life and one of the best times to be 16 musically was 1979. I got my first record player midway through the year so I didn’t have to use my parents' Sharp music centre anymore. I also started the year listening to out and out rock music but as the year wore on I started noticing a lot of different types of music and to be honest since then I've never “identified” with one genre or another. If I like it I like it and that’s that! So if you spot some odd inclusions you will understand hopefully where they come from. Choosing my number one album from this year was easy in fact as soon as the banner 1979 came up I knew what it was. I also knew what Tim’s would be. If ever Bret and Sarah do the “Best of Your Life” I know with certainty it will be on that list and could well be Number 1. London Calling by the Clash represents for me the level of eclecticism that makes listening to music a constant and changing pleasure. It certainly isn’t a “punk” album as we’d come to know it, it starts out as pure rock and introduces different genres as it unfolds. I was fortunate…. I had a wide group of friends and acquaintances who liked different things that I got to hear and I think my top 10 indicates that. London Calling came out in December 1979 in the UK and most of my initial listening occurred throughout the following year. For me it was the soundtrack to a changing life, from being a school kid to being…. well uhhmm…. a bigger kid and to what was to come… to me it is one of the most important albums ever released!

Jaymz Todd
Phoenix, Arizona

10. Tubeway Army - Replicas
09. Cabaret Voltaire - Mix-Up
08. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Damn the Torpedoes
07. XTC - Drums and Wires
06. Wire - 154
05. Talking Heads - Fear of Music
04. Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats
03. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
02. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
01. Prince - s/t

About My #1: Yes Prince I know at the end you say it’s gonna be lonely, but I know when playing this record it will never be, because, Prince, with you when we’re dancing close and slow this sexy dancer only has one feel and that feel is to feel for you.

Jesse Deitermann
Phoenix, Arizona

10. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Join Hands
09. The Specials - s/t
08. The Clash - London Calling
07. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
06. Tubeway Army - Replicas
05. David Bowie - Lodger
04. Blondie - Eat to the Beat
03. Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle
02. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
01. The Jam - Setting Sons

About My #1: I like The Jam. Thank you.

Jason Jones
Okinawa, Japan

05. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
04. Wire - 154
03. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures
02. David Bowie - Lodger
01. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box

About My #1: Uncompromising almost to a fault, Metal Box continued John Lydon’s musical trajectory away from the Sex Pistols and into the avant-garde (and into my heart).

Sierra Anna Jones
Okinawa, Japan

10. Nurse With Wound - Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table...
09. Cabaret Voltaire - Mix-Up
08. The Pop Group - Y
07. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Join Hands
06. The Cure - Three Imaginary Boys
05.Wire - 154
04. David Bowie - Lodger
03. Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats
02. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box
01. Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

About My #1: Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures was my quintessential introduction to the “Post-Punk” genre. The bleak, distant atmosphere of the production along with the nihilistic lyrics and hauntingly desperate vocals naturally appealed to my darkly-inclined taste. I was immediately mesmerized by the moody sounds that this album had acquainted me with. I distinctly remember being blown away by “Disorder” and “New Dawn Fades,” which still remain my favorite tracks today. Despite my discovery of other Post-Punk bands in this vein (both the originals and newcomers), Joy Division’s debut will always be a staple on heavy rotation.

STATS
47 different albums appeared in this feature
Which ones made it onto the most lists?
Joy Division (11), The Cure (8), The Clash (7), Tubeway Army (7), Wire (7), David Bowie (5)



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