On 4 January of this year it was thirty years since Phil Lynott, leader of Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy, passed away. Today marks thirty-three years since I saw the band on their farewell tour of the UK, at the Bristol Colston Hall.
Support on the tour came from fellow Irishmen Mama’s Boys. A three-piece featuring brothers John McManus (vocals / bass), Pat “The Professor” McManus (guitar / fiddle) and Tommy McManus (drums), their second album “Turn It Up” was released in 1983, following the previous year’s debut “Plug It In”.
I recall very little of the band’s performance after so long, and haven’t got a clue what their setlist was, but I am positive that they left a favourable impression on me and that they played their single “Needle In The Groove”, which is still a great track to listen to, and likely “Crazy Daisy’s House Of Dreams”.
The main event, however, was of course Thin Lizzy. Promoting their heaviest ever album “Thunder And Lightning”, the lineup saw Lynott joined by longtime members guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey, alongside keyboardist Darren Wharton (who’d joined in 1981) and the new boy, hotshot guitarist John Sykes.
With the “Thunder And Lightning” album not released until the day after the gig, and no fewer than six of the new album’s nine tracks in the set, there was a lot of unfamiliar material performed. The exception being the single “Cold Sweat”, which had hit the charts in February.
The remainder of the set was heavy on classic material, including “Jailbreak”, “Cowboy Song”, “Emerald” and “The Boys Are Back In Town”.
Lynott and his boys were on top form, giving no clue (at least to an innocent teenager like myself) of the substance abuse issues that were plaguing various band members. My personal highlights on the show were the atmospheric “Angel Of Death”, Brian Downey’s drum solo at the end of “Sha La La” and the ever beautiful “Still In Love With You” with its timeless guitar solo. Magical stuff and a great night…
Setlist: (probable – I haven’t been able to track the info down for certain but this seems to have been the set at a number of shows on the tour)
1. Thunder And Lightning / 2. Waiting For An Alibi / 3. Jailbreak / 4. Baby Please Don’t Go / 5. This Is The One / 6. Angel Of Death / 7. Are You Ready / 8. The Holy War / 9. The Sun Goes Down / 10. Cold Sweat / 11. Cowboy Song / 12. The Boys Are Back In Town / 13. Suicide / 14. Sha La La / 15. Drum Solo / 16. Emerald / 17. Baby Drives Me Crazy / 18. Still In Love With You / 19. Rosalie / 20. Whiskey In The Jar / 21. Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight)
1, 4 , 5, 8, 9 and 10 originally from “Thunder And Lightning” (1983) / 2 originally from “Black Rose : A Rock Legend” (1979) / 3, 11, 12 and 16 originally from “Jailbreak” (1976) / 6 originally from “Renegade” (1981) / 7 and 17 originally from “Live And Dangerous” (1978) / 13 and 19 originally from “Fighting” (1975) / 14 and 18 originally from “Nightlife” (1974) / 20 originally a single (1972) / 21 originally from “Bad Reputation” (1977)
Continuing my countdown backwards through the Seventies today, with my personal favourite ten album releases of 1976…
1. Billy Joel “Turnstiles”
The singer’s fourth album, Joel actually recorded “Turnstiles” twice. Firstly with producer William James Guercio, known for his work with Chicago, and session musicians. Unhappy with the results, Joel fired the producer, relocated to New York and produced the final version himself, using his regular touring band to back him on the record.
Although not nearly as commercially successful as his subsequent album “The Stranger”, there are nonetheless some fantastic songs present here including the singles “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” and “James”.
Also included are the classic “New York State Of Mind” and live favourite “Prelude / Angry Young Man” as well as a trio of songs that I first discovered on the singer’s live album “Songs From The Attic” – “Summer, Highland Falls”, “I’ve Loved These Days” and the epic “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)”.
2. Eagles “Hotel California”
A slightly odd one, this. The band’s fifth record, it was to become their best-selling studio album is undoubtedly a very good one, but does feel arguably somewhat front-loaded. By that I mean that the best-known tracks all come first and surely anyone would find it hard to maintain the momentum after having the stone-cold classic “Hotel California” itself, with the famous guitar solos, as the very first track.
Then again, if you can follow that one up with the sublime “New Kid In Town” and then “Life In The Fast Lane” things can’t be that hard! Even the less well-known songs, though, such as “Victim Of Love”, “The Last Resort” and “Pretty Maids All In A Row” are top-quality Eagles songs.
As usual with Eagles, superb vocals and excellent instrumentation abound throughout this record. A fabulous album from start to finish.
3. Kansas “Leftoverture”
Another record best known for its first track, “Leftoverture” was the fourth album from American band Kansas. In this case that first track was the classic “Carry On Wayward Son”, a song that I first discovered in 1984 on a compilation album titled “American Heartbeat” that also contained tracks from the likes of Survivor, Toto and REO Speedwagon. From that moment the song has held a special place in my affections with its complex yet brilliantly catchy and music.
The inclusion of other superb tracks like “Miracles Out Of Nowhere”, second single “What’s On My Mind” and the six-part epic “Magnum Opus” makes this a fantastic hard / progressive rock album.
4. KISS “Destroyer” / “Rock And Roll Over”
As I Noted with 1977’s “Love Gun”, KISS music isn’t designed to be a cerebral experience – it’s all about having a good time, and for KISS it doesn’t get much better than “Destroyer”, their fourth studio album.
Kicking off with the timeless “Detroit Rock City”, one of four singles issued from the record. The others were “Flaming Youth”, the anthem “Shout It Out Loud” and the unexpected hit ballad “Beth” that featured a lead vocal from drummer Peter Criss.
Also on “Destroyer” can be found “God Of Thunder” and “Do You Love Me?” In fact, with the exception of “Great Expectations” which lets the side down somewhat, there isn’t a duff track to be heard. A great remixed version of the record was issued in 2012 as “Destroyer : Resurrected”, remixed by original producer Bob Ezrin and adding some previously missing vocal and guitar parts.
The group’s second album of the year was “Rock ‘N’ Roll Over”, just eight months later. Again the album kicks off with a classic, this time “I Want You” which has always been one of my favourite early KISS songs. Two singles were released from this record – “Hard Luck Woman” and “Calling Dr. Love” – both of which would also be up there on a list of my all-time favourite KISS tracks.
Although not as strong overall as “Destroyer”, there were other decent tracks on “Rock ‘N’ Roll Over” like “Ladies Room” and “Makin’ Love”.
5. Led Zeppelin “Presence”
“Presence” was Led Zeppelin’s seventh studio album and came into being during a difficult time for the band as singer Robert Plant recovered from serious injuries suffered during a car accident in the summer of 1975 on the island of Rhodes, meaning that the group had to cancel a world tour due to start a matter of weeks later.
Nonetheless, it was he who, together with guitarist Jimmy Page, was responsible for six out of the album’s seven tracks, with only “Royal Orleans” being credited to the whole band.
This is very much a guitar-driven album, pointing to the dominant influence that Page had over proceedings, with little or nothing of keyboards or acoustic guitars in evidence.
The ten-minute “Achilles Last Stand” starts off the record is fine fashion. “For Your Life”, the psychedelic-tinged “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” (adapted from a song recorded in 1927 by Blind Willie Johnson) and the bluesy “Tea For One” are the other standout tracks on this, as usual, excellent Led Zeppelin album.
6. Rainbow “Rising”
The second album from Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Deep Purple band Rainbow saw the first of many line-up changes as he jettisoned everyone that had appeared on the previous year’s debut record except singer Ronnie James Dio, the most notable new member – in my eyes – being drummer extraordinaire Cozy Powell.
A haunting synthesizer intro ushers in opening track “Tarot Woman”, one of the highlights of the album. Also present is the single “Starstruck” which is a fine example of Blackmore’s fusion of classical influences with hard rock. Without a doubt, however, the highpoint of this record is the majestic eight-minute “Stargazer” which begins with a perfect example of Powell’s formidable drumming skills and features the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, one of Dio’s best ever vocal performances and some of Blackmore’s most inspired soloing.
The album cover, too, is a classic. A perfect visual representation of the music contained within, the painting by fantasy artist Ken Kelly (who also produced the cover for “Destroyer” by KISS) evokes the epic scale of the band’s music and is possible one of the best-loved hard rock album covers ever. I even have a framed copy hanging on the wall of my study.
7. Rush “2112”
“2112” was Canadian trio Rush’s fourth studio record and, in common with other albums on this list, begins with one of the group’s most celebrated compositions – in this case the twenty-minute seven-part title track. The track was a concept piece set in the year 2112 when the priests of the temples of Syrinx have complete control over everyday life. It was apparently influenced to some degree by the novella “Anthem” by Russian author Ayn Rand.
“2112” took up the entire first side of the original vinyl release, and side two presented a further five tracks, not connected to the concept found in the title track. The first two, “A Passage To Bangkok” (a light-hearted look at drug use in the Seventies) and “The Twilight Zone” (inspired by the TV show), were issued as singles. In truth the remainder of the album is less essential but those three tracks are worth the price of admission alone. Oh, and another classic album cover – courtesy of long-time Rush collaborator Hugh Syme.
8. Slade “Nobody’s Fools”
The sixth album from UK band Slade, this one was not as well received as those released during their initial early Seventies heyday. This was in part because the band had spent the previous year in the USA trying to break through there, leading to some UK fans to feel that Slade had sold out, which was reinforced by the change of sound on this album which showed the influence of American music with female backing singers and touches of soul, funk and country music evident.
For what it’s worth I reckon this is actually a very good, strong Slade album with some very good songs and a better sound than on some of their other albums.
Singles-wise (which is what the band were known for to many) the album produced “In For A Penny”, “Let’s Call It Quits” and the (almost) title track. The first two both reached number eleven in the UK but “Nobody’s Fool” itself failed to chart.
Of the non-single tracks, the highlights for me are “Get On Up”, the reggae-influenced “Did Ya Mama Ever Tell Ya” and “I’m A Talker” – and the CD reissue added the 1975 standalone single “Thanks For The Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam)”.
9. Status Quo “Blue For You”
Status Quo’s ninth studio album (and third UK number one) “Blue For You” begins in thunderous fashion with the heavy boogie of “Is There A Better Way” but, as with most of the band’s albums and contrary to the general public perception of the group, there was an element of light and shade on display on the record, with the slow gentle blues of “Blue For You” and the country-influenced “Ease Your Mind” a contrast to the uptempo shuffle of “Rolling Home” and the groovy “That’s A Fact”, one of the album’s highpoints.
Best of all, however, are the two singles. “Rain”, written solely by guitarist Parfitt will forever be one of my favourite of the band’s tracks, whilst “Mystery Song” – especially in its full six-plus-minutes version – is also up there with their best.
10. Thin Lizzy “Jailbreak” / “Johnny The Fox”
As with the KISS records above, and as I sometimes do, I’m bending the criteria slightly by including two albums by one artist under one entry. Irish rockers Thin Lizzy issued two studio records during 1976 – “Jailbreak” in March and “Johnny The Fox” in October.
I would say that it is “Jailbreak” that is the best-known of the two by virtue of the material contained on it. Two of the band’s most famous songs (both released in the UK as singles) are present in “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Jailbreak” but also here are “Warriors”, “Cowboy Song” and “Emerald” which would all become Thin Lizzy classics – and all five of those tracks would appear on 1978’s classic live record “Live And Dangerous”.
The line-up of Lynott, Gorham, Downey and Robertson remained stable for long enough to record the follow-up “Johnny The Fox”, though the latter would be replaced more than once by Gary Moore in subsequent years. This second album of the year only had one track issued as a single in the UK – the number twelve hit “Don’t Believe A Word”.
Another couple of tracks destined to appear on “Live And Dangerous” also featured – the funky “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed” and “Massacre” which echoes the earlier record’s “Emerald”. Further highlights here were “Fools Gold” and the drum-heavy “Boogie Woogie Dance”. One could argue that the two albums could have been distilled into one single killer record, but that would have meant losing some excellent, though lesser-known, material.
Elsewhere in 1976 Harold Wilson gave way to James Callaghan as British Prime Minister whilst over in the USA Gerald Ford held the office of President. In football Liverpool replaced Derby County as champions of the old first division into which Manchester United had been promoted following a season in the second division (1974-75). United lost to Southampton in the FA Cup final. The biggest film releases of the year included “Rocky”, “A Star Is Born” and the classic that is “The Omen”. Oh, and last but in no way least, 1976 was the year in which my lovely wife was born!
OK, so when I recently finished my look back at my favourite albums from the Eighties with my top ten from 1989 I wasn’t sure whether to next tackle the Nineties (having already looked at 1995 some time ago) or the Seventies (again, 1975 has already been covered).
Well, decision made – it’s the Seventies, but this time I’m going to start at the end of the decade and work my way back from 1979 to 1970. As I have mentioned previously we are now in territory where I have come to appreciate these records in retrospect, not having been exposed to the majority of them when they first appeared.
Without further ado, therefore, here are (in alphabetical order) my personal favourite ten albums released during 1979…
1. AC/DC “Highway To Hell”
The band’s fifth studio album to be released outside of Australia, and what was to prove to be lead singer Bon Scott’s last, as he died in 1980 during early sessions for what would become “Back In Black”.
I can remember having the vinyl copy of this record and playing it a lot back in the early 80s when I was beginning my love of / obsession with (delete as appropriate!) music, having been turned onto the band through my regular Friday night engagements with BBC Radio 1 and Tommy Vance’s fabulous Friday Rock Show.
Aside from the classic title track which was a number 56 single in the UK, “Girls Got Rhythm” would also be a hit reaching number 29.
There were plenty of songs on the record that were about girls and sex, including the aforementioned “Girls Got Rhythm”, “Beating Around The Bush”, “Love Hungry Man” and “Touch Too Much”, for this then-teenage boy to envisage, whilst the band attracted controversy subsequently with the final track “Night Prowler” as it became associated with the case of Los Angeles serial killer Richard Ramirez – a fan of the band – who had been nicknamed the Night Stalker.
Regardless, this album – produced by legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange – is a classic hard rock record and one of AC/DC’s very best.
2. The Clash “London Calling”
It would be nice to bolster my street cred by claiming to have been into bands like The Clash, Joy Division, Stiff Little Fingers or the Specials in the late 70s, but the truth is I was never that cool! Even when I started to get into music in secondary school (where I started in September ’79) it was mainly rock, metal and pop music that I listened to. In retrospect, however, I have investigated and come to appreciate many acts that passed me by at the time, including The Clash.
Released just a couple of weeks before the year’s end, “London Calling” was the band’s third album and saw them moving further away from their punk rock roots and embracing a variety of styles including reggae, ska and rockabilly, and it was the fusing of reggae and punk that initially drew me to the record.
Whilst single “Train In Vain” didn’t chart in the UK, “London Calling” itself just missed the top ten, reaching number 11. With nineteen tracks spread across four sides of vinyl in its original double album format, there is a lot of value for money to be had here, with some of the best tracks being “The Guns Of Brixton”, “Lover’s Rock”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, “Spanish Bombs” and, of course, “London Calling”.
3. Cozy Powell “Over The Top”
An instrumental album, this one was one of my favourites for attempting to play along to on the drums – sounding I suspect nothing like the great man himself.
Hailing from Cirencester, Powell became one of rock’s most well-known and loved drummers for his work with bands such as Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath. “Over The Top” was his first – and best – solo album and featured contributions from Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden, Don Airey, Clem Clempson and Jack Bruce.
Kicking off with a version of “Theme One”, originally a single for Van Der Graaf Generator in 1972 and used weekly as link music on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show, the album is full of actually memorable instrumental numbers, with some great performances from all concerned.
Naturally the drums are the focus and nowhere is this more the case than on the closing track “Over The Top” which incorporates Tchaikovsky melodies with original themes written by Airey and Powell and some simply thunderous drum soloing. Undoubtedly this is a record for drummers, or at least fans of drumming, but it is still strong enough in my opinion to hold its own in this list.
4. Led Zeppelin “In Through The Out Door”
Released in August of ’79, this would prove to be the final studio album from Led Zeppelin (leaving aside the outtakes collection “Coda”) as drummer John Bonham died in September of the following year.
Less guitar-heavy than the preceding album 1976’s “Presence”, there was more influence on the sound and material from singer Robert Plant and bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones as the pair experimented with a new synthesizer that Jones had obtained and guitarist Jimmy Page and Bonham allegedly battled their addictions to heroin and alcohol respectively.
Whilst admittedly different in sound to the rest of Zeppelin’s work I still love this record. Favourite tracks include the opening “In The Evening”, the keyboard-heavy “Carouselambra” and “Fool In The Rain” (with some fantastic syncopated drumming). The closing two tracks “All My Love” and “I’m Gonna Crawl” are slow burn numbers, with the latter having a definite blues edge and the former perhaps pointing towards Plant’s early solo material.
Not as essential as “Physical Graffiti” or “Led Zeppelin IV” but any Led Zeppelin album is worthwhile and better than anything that many bands could ever produce.
5. Motörhead “Overkill” / “Bomber”
As I did with Saxon’s two releases of 1980 I’m cheating slightly by including two albums by Lemmy and his crew – “Overkill” came out in March ’79 and “Bomber” followed in October.
For may folk the band’s golden era was when the line-up saw Lemmy joined by guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clark and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor – the version of the band responsible for 1977’s self-titled album as well as “Overkill”, “Bomber”, “Ace Of Spades” and “Iron Fist”.
“Overkill” contained two singles “No Class” (number 61) and the title track (number 39), whilst the title track from “Bomber” (number 34) was the sole single from that record. I can remember seeing the band on BBC’s “Top Of The Pops” numerous times in the late 70s / early 80s.
The group’s classic live album “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” contains six tracks from this pair of records in its ten tracks and many of the cuts here remain in the band’s live repertoire to this day including “Bomber”, “Stay Clean”, “Metropolis”, “No Class” and “Overkill”. Simply essential heavy metal.
6. Rainbow “Down To Earth”
July 1979 saw the release of “Down To Earth”, the fourth studio album from Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Deep Purple band Rainbow.
Following original singer Ronnie James Dio’s departure at the end of 1978 the album had been recorded by Blackmore, drummer Cozy Powell, keyboardist Don Airey and bassist Roger Glover. Glover wrote lyrics for all the songs and then singer Graham Bonnet was hired and recorded the vocal parts on top of the already near-complete record.
Two singles were released from the album, which saw Blackmore pursuing a more commercial sound. “Since You Been Gone” reached number 6 in the UK and “All Night Long” got to number 5.
Although more poppy than the Dio-fronted albums, there is still plenty of hard rock to be found here, particularly on “Eyes Of The World”, “Love’s No Friend” and “Lost In Hollywood” whilst “Bad Girl” and “Makin’ Love” also have their moments. Blackmore’s playing is sublime in places and his riffs as instant as ever and with brilliant rhythm work from Powell and Glover and Bonnet’s distinctive voice on top this is a great hard rock album.
7. Sky “Sky”
I have my parents to thank for this entry, the second all-instrumental one to make this list. They had this record in their collection, and I think one of two others from Sky, and I can remember listening to this at home quite often.
A so-called supergroup, Sky were formed by classical guitarist John Williams, bassist Herbie Flowers, drummer / percussionist Tristan Fry, guitarist Kevin Peek and keyboardist Francis Monkman – all of whom had extensive experience in session work as well as having been members of various bands.
A progressive rock band in nature, the group’s debut album “Sky” features a mixture of styles featuring electric and acoustic instrumentation. The first side of the record contained five short numbers (all under four minutes) including two classical adaptations, but it is side two where the magic is to be found.
Written by Monkman, “Where Opposites Meet” is a five-part suite that I never get tired of hearing and love just as much today as when I first heard it. Absolutely superb!
8. Status Quo “Whatever You Want”
Another album that hit the shelves in the latter part of 1979, in this case October, “Whatever You Want” was Status Quo’s twelfth studio album and produced two top twenty singles in the UK. The title track “Whatever You Want” made number 4 and “Living On An Island” got to number 16.
One of my favourite Status Quo albums, this has some truly great songs alongside the hits. These include “Shady Lady”, “Your Smiling Face”, “Breaking Away” and the brilliant one-two of “Come Rock With Me” which segues beautifully into “Rockin’ On”. It was such a thrill for me when “Come Rock With Me” appeared in the band’s live set for a while!
The album was retitled “Now Hear This” in 1980 for the American market in an attempt to achieve some success there with a remixed and differently sequenced record. That version is very good but the UK original, with its classic album cover, is hard to beat.
Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt’s guitars mesh perfectly on their trademark boogie crunch, Rossi pulls off some great solos, the rhythm section of Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan are right on the money and keyboardist Andy Bown’s contributions are important too. Most importantly, though, there is not one duff track here – ten superb Status Quo tracks.
9. Thin Lizzy “Black Rose : A Rock Legend”
Coming the year after the release of the band’s seminal live album “Live And Dangerous”, this was Thin Lizzy’s ninth studio album.
With guitarist Gary Moore staying with the band long enough to make a full album – having had stints in the band in 1974 and 1977, the line-up was completed by vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott, guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey.
The record produced three hit singles in the UK – “Waiting For An Alibi” (number 9), “Do Anything You Want To” (number 14) and “Sarah” (number 24). Of the rest of the album, the best tracks are “Got To Give It Up”, “S & M” and the four-part celtic epic “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose) : A Rock Legend” which is one of the highlights of the band’s entire catalogue.
10. Whitesnake “Lovehunter”
“Lovehunter”, another October ’79 release, was the second album from former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale’s band Whitesnake.
Recorded at Clearwell Castle here in the Forest of Dean, the album spawned one single, the lead track “Long Way From Home”, the video for which featured drummer Ian Paice, who had joined the band after the album was recorded, along with Coverdale, Jon Lord, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray. This incarnation of the band would only last until late 1981 but produced a further three excellent studio records.
The album cover, designed by Cyprus-born fantasy artist Chris Achilleos, attracted some controversy for obvious reasons, but is really a fairly accurate representation of Coverdale’s lyrical direction in tracks such as “Lovehunter”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Women”, “Mean Business” and “Medicine Man”.
Musically, this album is very much in the bluesy hard rock era of the band, with some wonderful guitar interplay between Moody and Marsden adding colour to the muscular rhythm section, all topped off by Coverdale’s fantastic voice.
That, then, is my favourite ten albums from 1979. Some of the albums that narrowly missed out on making it onto this list include southern rock band Blackfoot’s “Strikes”, the Police’s “Regatta De Blanc”, Scorpions’ “Lovedrive” and Cliff Richard’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Juvenile”.
In the wider world in 1979 Margaret Thatcher replaced Labour leader James Callaghan as British Prime Minister whilst President of the USA was Jimmy Carter. Football-wise, Liverpool won the old First Division with Arsenal beating Manchester United for the FA Cup. In cinemas top film releases of the year included “The Amityville Horror”, “Rocky II” and the fantastic “Apocalypse Now”.
Recently I looked back at my favourite albums from 1981. Having previously also looked at 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987, I guess it’s time to start filling in the missing years from that decade in music.
So, back to the beginning today with 1980. As with any other year previous to 1981, which is when my love of music really began, the majority of the music here was discovered in retrospect…
AC/DC “Back In Black”
The Australian band’s seventh studio album, released in the summer of 1980, this was the first record with Brian Johnson on vocals following the death of his predecessor Bon Scott in 1979.
Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the record was to be a massive success and is one of the highest selling albums in history. Two tracks were released as singles in the UK and US – “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back In Black” itself – both of which were top 40 hits, whilst the album featured very strong material in the shape of “Hells Bells”, “Shoot To Thrill”, “Given The Dog A Bone” and “Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.
One of the best albums in the AC/DC catalogue, and an excellent hard rock record in anyone’s book.
2. Adam And The Ants “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”
Although “Kings Of The Wild Frontier” was the second album from Adam And The Ants, following 1979’s “Dirk Wears White Sox”, this was the record that saw the band gaining huge chart success.
The band’s manager Malcolm McLaren recruited Ant’s band members to a new band, Bow Wow Wow, at the start of 1980 leading to a completely new line-up being recruited including guitarist Marco Pirroni who co-wrote all the tracks on the new album with Ant.
The record, released towards the end of the year, showcased the band’s new tribal sound, heavily influenced by the presence of two drummers in the line-up, and spawned three singles that all made it into the UK top three – “Dog Eat Dog”, “Antmusic” and the title track.
Other great tracks on this unique and brilliant record are “Ants Invasion”, “Physical (You’re So)” and “The Human Beings”. An 80s classic.
3. Black Sabbath “Heaven And Hell”
Just like AC/DC, Black Sabbath in 1980 were effectively looking to re-launch themselves with a new singer, in this case following the dismissal of Ozzy Osbourne after eleven months of fruitless recording sessions. New singer Ronnie James Dio, who had previously been in the band Rainbow, brought a powerful and commanding vocal presence to the proceedings and was responsible for all the lyrics on the resulting “Heaven And Hell” album.
The record, which would become the band’s highest charting platter (making the top ten in the UK) was followed by two single releases in “Neon Knights” and “Die Young”, but it’s the album’s title track that is the real highlight here, and was usually extended beyond it’s initial seven minute duration when performed live in concert. Another classic heavy metal record.
4. Dire Straits “Making Movies”
Although vaguely aware of the single “Romeo And Juliet”, which was a hit in early 1981, I don’t think that Dire Straits really came across my radar until sometime around the release of their live 1984 album “Alchemy”.
Nonetheless, “Making Movies” now ranks at number three on my personal Dire Straits chart, behind “Brothers In Arms” and “Love Over Gold”.
A quite cinematic sounding record, “Making Movies” contains the excellent “Tunnel Of Love” and “Skateaway” (both also released as singles) as well as the delicate “Hand In Hand” and uptempo numbers “Expresso Love” and “Solid Rock”. Less vital, for me, is the closing “Les Boys”, a song about gay men performing cabaret in a German disco bar complete with “…leather straps… SS caps… a little S&M…”. That misstep aside, though, great album.
5. Gillan “Glory Road”
Former (and now-current) Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan’s band Gillan (which followed the more jazz rock flavoured Ian Gillan Band) released their third album “Glory Road” in October 1980.
The group had frequent appearances on BBC TV’s “Top Of The Pops” during the early 80s and this record featured two of their singles in “Sleeping On The Job” and “No Easy Way”.
The original vinyl release came with a free second record, titled “For Gillan Fans Only” which contained outtakes and specially recorded material and showcased the band’s humorous side.
On the album proper, my favourite tracks are “Time And Again”, “Nervous”, “On The Rocks”, “No Easy Way” and the brilliant “If You Believe Me”. With the free record this was superb value for money.
6. Iron Maiden “Iron Maiden”
The debut album from the Paul Di’Anno fronted Iron Maiden, this self-titled record contained a number of future classics.
Two top forty hit singles were present, “Sanctuary” and “Running Free”, whilst the title track would become a concert favourite.
“Phantom Of The Opera” – the band’s first long and complex number – was used for a time in advertisements for Duracell batteries and “Charlotte The Harlot” spawned a sequel on 1982’s breakthrough album “The Number Of The Beast”. Although only really hinting at the potential of this now legendary band, and not as good as follow-up “Killers”, this is still a very good debut album.
7. The Police “Zenyatta Mondatta”
Released a year and a day after previous album “Regatta De Blanc”, “Zenyatta Mondatta” was the third album by Sting’s former band The Police. The band, completed by guitarist Andy Summers and drummer extraordinaire Stewart Copeland, played a mixture of rock and reggae with some punk and jazz influences.
This particular album was recorded in Holland within four weeks, a period that also saw the band play concerts in Milton Keynes and Dublin, and they left for the next part of their 1980/1981 world tour on the same day that recording sessions finished!
Despite this, two of the band’s biggest hits came from this record, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and the teaching experience / Lolita-inspired “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”. Other great tracks on this album included “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around”, “Canary In A Coalmine” and “Shadows In The Rain”. One of The Police’s best albums.
8. Saxon “Wheels Of Steel” / “Strong Arm Of The Law”
Cheating slightly here, I suppose, by including two albums as one, but Yorkshire heavy metal band Saxon released their second album “Wheels Of Steel” in May 1980 and follow-up “Strong Arm Of The Law” at the beginning of September 1980. Both albums now form part of the band’s “holy trinity” of albums (together with 1981’s “Denim And Leather”).
“Wheels Of Steel” contained singles “747 (Strangers In The Night)”, “Suzie Hold On” and “Wheels Of Steel” as well as classic “Motorcycle Man” and “See The Light Shining”.
Of the two, however, “Strong Arm Of The Law” is the stronger. Although it only contains one single, the title track, amongst the album tracks there are numerous classics including “Heavy Metal Thunder”, “20,000 Ft.”, “Hungry Years”, “Sixth Form Girls” and the ever excellent “Dallas 1 PM”. A golden era for the band, that’s for sure.
9. Status Quo “Just Supposin’…”
The thirteenth studio album from British rock band Status Quo, “Just Supposin’…” was actually recorded at the same sessions that produced the follow-up, 1981’s “Never Too Late” album.
It was this record, though, that contained the stronger songs. UK top twenty hit singles “Lies”, “Don’t Drive My Car” (those two as a double A side), “What You’re Proposing” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll” (which was released after the “Never Too Late” album) are all present and correct.
In addition there are the quite brilliant album tracks “Run To Mummy”, “Over The Edge” and my personal favourite “The Wild Ones”. Taken together with the subsequent album and those recording sessions were seriously productive, and this is one of my favourite Status Quo albums to this day.
10. Thin Lizzy “Chinatown”
Following 1979’s classic “Black Rose (A Rock Legend)” album, which finally harnessed the excellent Gary Moore in the studio for the band, was never going to be an easy task for Thin Lizzy.
For many the band’s tenth studio outing “Chinatown” is something of a disappointment. Moore had left the band (again) and been replaced by former Pink Floyd touring guitarist Snowy White, whilst keyboards had also been added to the band’s sound.
Having got into the group via 1981’s compilation album “The Adventures Of…” I was already familiar with this album’s two hit singles “Chinatown” and “Killer On The Loose” before obtaining a copy of the album itself.
Although the latter stages of the record is pretty good, it’s probably fair to say that the record’s best material is on side one (as it was in those days) as that contained both singles, the anthemic “We Will Be Strong”, the catchy “Sweetheart” and “Sugar Blues” which featured some brilliant drum work from Brian Downey. So, not the band’s best work, but a Thin Lizzy album is always welcome on the turntable.
That’s my top ten albums of 1980 then. Margaret Thatcher was in her first full calendar year as the Prime Minister in the UK whilst Jimmy Carter was in his final year as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division with the FA Cup going to West Ham. Cinema-wise, top films released included “The Empire Strikes Back”, “9 To 5” and “Airplane!”.
For this instalment of my top ten albums of the year I’m going back forty years to 1975. I was only 7 years old at the time, so the majority of this list has been discovered retrospectively once I started with my musical obsession at the start of the 80s…
1. Bruce Springsteen “Born To Run”
I first discovered Springsteen’s music through his mega-hit 1984 album “Born In The U.S.A.” and subsequent live box set “Live 1975-85”, and it on the latter that I first heard a good portion of his breakthrough third album “Born To Run”.
Whilst my favourite Springsteen albums are from his late 80s / early 90s period, this is still an undisputed classic album, and the indispensable tracks here include “Thunder Road”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Backstreets”, “Born To Run” and the epic “Jungleland”.
2. Eagles “One Of These Nights”
In the case of the Eagles it was through their greatest hits album that I was introduced to their music, with three of them coming from this, their fourth studio album.
“One Of These Nights” and “Take It To The Limit” are classic hits and “After The Thrill Is Gone” and the instrumental “Journey Of The Sorcerer” other high points, but the absolute highlight of this album is without doubt the near perfect hit song “Lyin’ Eyes” – great lyrics, perfect harmonies and always brilliant to sing along to.
3. Fleetwood Mac “Fleetwood Mac”
This album saw the band enter its third era following the initial Peter Green blues years and subsequent less revered period.
The first record to feature the now-classic line-up of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie and new recruits Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, this one was hugely successful and featured three hit singles in “Over My Head”, “Say You Love Me” and Nicks’ mystical “Rhiannon” as well as the beautiful and delicate “Landslide”.
4. Geoff Love & His Orchestra “Big Bond Movie Themes”
Now this is one that I did discover back in the 70s, though likely not for a few years after it first came out. Being a big fan of James Bond films for as long as I can remember I loved everything about this album – the music, the great arrangements and, of course, the brilliant 70s cover art.
I think it was the version of “Live And Let Die” that first struck a chord, but there really isn’t a duff track here. There are likely far more critically acclaimed and commercial successful album released in 1975, but this one will always have a place in my top ten of the year.
5. Led Zeppelin “Physical Graffiti”
Led Zeppelin’s sixth studio album, “Physical Graffiti” was originally intended to contain just 8 songs. However, once it became clear that they would not fit onto one vinyl record the band decided to add some tracks recorded during sessions for their previous three albums and make this a double record set containing 15 songs.
A mammoth album in every sense this is constantly jostling for position as number one Zeppelin album in my mind – fighting with “III” and “IV” for that honour. Musically all bases are covered from the epic “Kashmir” to the delicate “Bron-Yr-Aur” but every track here is essential!
6. Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”
Following up the much celebrated classic “Dark Side Of The Moon” can’t have been an easy task, but despite what they described as tortuous and difficult time Pink Floyd rose to the challenge with “Wish You Were Here”.
Bookended by a brilliant 25 minute epic split into two sections, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V” and “…Parts VI-IX”, were three other tracks – “Welcome To The Machine”, “Have A Cigar” and the superb title track. Classics all, making this one of the very best Floyd records.
7. Queen “A Night At The Opera”
Released at the tail end of the year, Queen’s fourth album was reputedly the most expensive album ever recorded at that point.
A critical and commercial success, the record contained two hit singles in “You’re My Best Friend” and the band’s most famous song “Bohemian Rhapsody”, together with the beautiful “Love Of My Life”, Roger Taylor’s “I’m In Love With My Car” and the vitriolic “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To…)”.
8. Rainbow “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”
In late 1974 Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore started work on a planned solo album. Once the album “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” was finished he soon quit Purple and launched his new band which featured vocalist Ronnie James Dio.
Although not the best Rainbow album (surely that has to be the following year’s “Rising”?) this is still a great rock record and contains two stone cold classics amongst its 9 tracks – “Man On The Silver Mountain” and the longest and best track “Catch The Rainbow”.
9. Status Quo “On The Level”
The band’s eighth studio album, and featuring the classic frantic four line-up of Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan, this is just one of a series of brilliant albums that contain no filler whatsoever.
Four of the ten tracks have featured fairly regularly in the group’s live set over the decades since – “Down Down”, “Bye Bye Johnny”, “Most Of The Time” and “Little Lady” – and of the rest the pick of the bunch for me would be “I Saw The Light”, “Nightride” and Parfitt’s ballad “Where I Am”.
10. Thin Lizzy “Fighting”
Although it would subsequently be overshadowed by the following album “Jailbreak”, Thin Lizzy’s fifth album “Fighting” nonetheless qualifies as one of the band’s best studio outings.
The second record to feature what many would call the classic line-up of Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson and Brian Downey, this was a definite step forward and highlights included “Wild One”, “King’s Vengeance” alongside bona-fide classics “Suicide” and Lizzy’s cover of Bob Seger’s song “Rosalie”.
So OK, I can’t claim to remember much of this music at the time, but have certainly grown to appreciate it over the subsequent years. But what of the events of 1975? Well, 7 year old me wouldn’t have been aware, I suspect, but the Prime Minister was Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, Derby County won the old First Division, and top film releases included “Jaws”, “The Return Of The Pink Panther” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.
Following on from yesterday’s post about the film “This Is England”, which was set in 1983, I reckon it’s time for another in my series of posts about my top ten albums of the year, having already covered 1982, 1987, 1995 and 2010…
1. Big Country “The Crossing”
The debut album from the Scottish rock band Big Country, put together by the late Stuart Adamson after his departure from Skids. Through use of the e-bow and effects which made Adamson and fellow guitarist Bruce Watson’s guitars sound reminiscent of bagpipes, the album boasted a sound strongly evocative of Scotland.
Four singles were released from the record, “Harvest Home”, “Fields Of Fire”, “In A Big Country” and the brilliant “Chance”. Even better, in my view, are the fantastic and atmospheric album tracks “The Storm” and “Porrohman”.
The original line-up which also featured bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki continued to make great music until their split in 2000. Adamson’s tragic death in 2001 looked to have put a full stop to the Big Country story but have since reconvened and released new music in 2013. None of it, however, has matched the breadth of vision found on their classic debut.
2. Cliff Richard “Silver”
To mark his then 25th anniversary in music Cliff Richard released the album “Silver”. Originally available in a box set that included both “Silver” and a bonus album entitled “Rock ‘N’ Roll Silver” (which contained newly recorded versions of classic rock ‘n’ roll tracks, including his own first hit from 1958, “Move It”).
A brilliant pop album, there were three hit singles present – “Never Say Die (Give A Little Bit More)”, “Baby You’re Dynamite” and “Please Don’t Fall In Love”. Other great tracks are “Love Stealer” and “Ocean Deep”. A cover of “The Golden Days Are Over” was released by Bucks Fizz and became a hit the following year.
3. Def Leppard “Pyromania”
Sheffield rock band Def Leppard’s third album, and the first to feature the line-up of singer Joe Elliott, drummer Rick Allen, bassist Rick Savage, and guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen.
Three singles were unleashed from this album in the UK – “Rock Of Ages”, “Too Late For Love” and the classic “Photograph” which received a great deal of airplay on MTV. Elsewhere the epic “Die Hard The Hunter” and “Billy’s Got A Gun” showed a different side to the band.
A number two hit in the USA, it’s fair to say that already the band’s sound had been polished from that found on the previous records and hints of the production sheen that would follow with 1987’s “Hysteria” can clearly be heard throughout. A very good hard rock album.
4. Dio “Holy Diver”
Following his acrimonious departure from Black Sabbath (there were arguments over the mixing of their “Live Evil” album) vocalist Ronnie James Dio formed a new band, under the name Dio, with drummer Vinny Appice (also ex-Black Sabbath) together with guitarist Vivian Campbell and bassist Jimmy Bain. “Holy Diver” was the new band’s debut album.
Possibly the highlight of Dio’s solo career, the record is certainly a classic ’80s heavy metal album. “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow In The Dark” were both released as singles, and the album’s other highlights include opening track “Stand Up And Shout” and my own favourite track, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”. Awesome vocals, solid bass, thunderous drums and pyrotechnic guitar – classic stuff!
5. Duran Duran “Seven And The Ragged Tiger”
Duran Duran’s third album, and their last by the original line-up until 2004, “Seven And The Ragged Tiger” continued the success of the previous year’s “Rio”, certainly in commercial terms if not with the critics.
Although the record produced three hit singles – “Union Of The Snake” (which reached number three), “New Moon On Monday” (number nine) and “The Reflex” (number one) the band had struggled to write new material, and overall the album doesn’t feel quite as consistently strong as their first two. Nonetheless, it is a very good pop album with some great material outside of the singles, including “The Seventh Stranger” and “Of Crime And Passion” – even the instrumental “Tiger Tiger” is worth it’s place.
A bit of trivia here – I can vividly recall (though don’t ask me why!) purchasing the 7″ vinyl single of “New Moon On Monday” from a local record shop at the same time as Led Zeppelin’s “Led Zeppelin III” album (with the unusual gatefold sleeve with rotating disc).
6. Genesis “Genesis”
Following the August release of the menacing single “Mama”, Genesis’s twelfth studio album arrived in October. Composed more collaboratively than previously, “Genesis” was a polished combination of pop sensibility and progressive rock overtones.
Alongside further hits in the form of “That’s All” and “Illegal Alien” can be found the ballad “Throwing It All Away” and the two-part progressive epic “Home By The Sea” / “Second Home By The Sea”. A mixed bag for sure, but a very good album and a pointer to the commercial heights the band (not to mention outside projects by band members Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford) would reach later in the decade.
7. Marillion “Script For A Jester’s Tear”
The debut album from Aylesbury band Marillion, “Script For A Jester’s Tear” was a superb progressive rock album with echoes of the classic progressive rock bands of the 1970s.
Preceded by the non-album single “Market Square Heroes” (which itself featured the classic seventeen minute non-album track “Grendel” as the b-side of the 12″ single release), the album boasted two further singles in “He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party”.
The entire album is essential, but special mention must go to “Chelsea Monday, “Forgotten Sons” and, of course, the brilliant “Script For A Jester’s Tear”.
8. Status Quo “Back To Back”
“Back To Back” was the band’s sixteenth studio album – and last to feature founding member, bassist Alan Lancaster. Continuing with the more pop/rock sound found on the previous album, this one featured four hit singles. “Ol’ Rag Blues” reached number nine, “A Mess Of Blues” number fifteen, a re-recorded version of “Going Down Town Tonight” hit number twenty, and the controversial “Marguerita Time” hit number three.
Few would argue that this is a classic Status Quo album, but it has it’s moments, and if listened to simply in terms of the songs it’s actually very good. “Can’t Be Done” and “Win Or Lose” are both really catchy, “Too Close To The Ground” a great bluesy ballad and “No Contract” a decent heavier rock number.
9. Thin Lizzy “Thunder And Lightning”
The final studio album to be released under the Thin Lizzy banner, “Thunder And Lightning” was also the band’s heaviest record.
After guitarist Snowy White left the band, vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott recruited John Sykes from NWOBHM band Tygers Of Pan Tang as his replacement – joining drummer Brian Downey, guitarist Scott Gorham and keyboardist Darren Wharton. ALthough the majority of the material for this album was written before his arrival, Sykes’ guitar sound, together with his heavier approach, helped shape the sound of the album.
He also co-wrote the single “Cold Sweat” and produced a dazzling guitar solo to go with it. Other excellent tracks on this record include “The Holy War”, “Bad Habits”, “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “The Sun Goes Down”. Not just the heaviest, but also one of the best Thin Lizzy albums.
10. ZZ Top “Eliminator”
Ah, the little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top. The band – guitarist / vocalist Billy Gibbons, bassist / vocalist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard – were practically unknown in the UK prior to their eighth album “Eliminator”.
At heart a blues rock band, the trio had experimented with synthesizers on their previous album, but their use, together with sequencers and a drum machine came into their own with this record.
This, combined with clever marketing involving a trilogy of music videos, starring their Eliminator car (a souped up 1933 Ford coupe) and several leggy models, helped bring the band to a much wider audience. The videos, for the singles “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” received a huge amount of exposure on MTV.
Aside from those singles, the album featured two further singles in “Got Me Under Pressure” and “TV Dinners” alongside my own favourites – a slow burning blues number “Need You Tonight”, the up-tempo “Bad Girl” and the unusual, percussion-heavy “Thug”.
1983, then. Margaret Thatcher wins a second term as British Prime Minister with a landslide victory, Liverpool won the First Division and Manchester United the F.A. Cup, and top film releases included “Return Of The Jedi”, “Flashdance” and “Octopussy”…