Crank it up! 1980 remains the standard when it comes to hard rock music

From the Press Box: Opinion and Insight

Speakers were blown, teeth rattled and ears were caused to bleed 40 years ago, as 1980 is still considered a banner year in hard rock music by devotees of high-energy, high-decibel tuneage.

Sometimes to stars align in just the right configuration. Sometimes all the pieces just somehow seem to fit. Sometimes the unexpected ends up being for the good, not the worse, and sometimes you just have one of those years (2020 anyone?) that remains in your memory.

For myself and many fans of hard rock/heavy metal music that year was 1980.

Australian rockers AC/DC were forced to replace already-legendary front man Bon Scott for their seventh studio album after Scott was found dead of what was likely acute alcohol poisoning in Feb. of 1980. The band carried on, and released their seventh studio album “Back in Black” in the U.S. on July 25, 1980, with Brian Johnson on lead vocals.

The LP, considered a tribute to Scott, is now the seventh-highest selling album of all-time and top hard rock seller with over 50 million units worldwide. The LP, and later cassette and then CD, have all been a treasured part of my collection.

The year was stuffed with incredible releases, and not just in hard rock/heavy metal. In my personal collection I would be remiss to overlook U2’s introduction to the world “Boy” and the third release from The Police “Zenyatta Mendatta.”

Any cursory list of the year will reveal dozens of albums, in a variety of genres, that are still considered hallmark moments to this day.

But I turned 14 the summer of 1980. My parents had dragged the my brother, sister and I through a bitter, year-long divorce war and I was (and remained for years) the spear each used to attack the other.

It goes without saying I was experiencing what every male goes through: waves of testosterone and no clue how to deal with it.

Enter hard rock.

The release was incredible. Here was a way to spew energy, direct rage and emotions and plain ol’ vent. I did not then, and do not now, see it as “angry” music. Instead, it was a pressure valve I could open at will, and so I see it as “feel good” music. A cacophony of noise and rhythm serving as a tonic.

Ronnie James Dio stepped in for Black Sabbath and more than held his own, with “Heaven and Hell” a tremendous accomplishment.

Former front man extraordinaire Ozzy Osbourne hit stores with his first solo effort “Blizzard of Ozz” and guitar maestro Randy Rhoads was unleashed on the world.

Toss in “Women and Children First” from Van Halen along with “British Steel” from Judas Priest, and “On Through the Night” from Def Leppard (long before they sold their souls to hair metal) and it was one stellar event after another.

Screaming guitars, a thudding bass and pounding drums might not be everyone’s preferred style of music, and I am fine with that. But if you appreciate the particular kind of energy at work, it is hard to argue with 1980 as perhaps the seminal year in hard rock albums.


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