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The Beginnings of 80’s Music

Rick Beato recently released a video talking about some of the landmark albums that were released in 1978. He admits that the list is incomplete, but it features albums with songs that would come define a new era in music, what generally call “80’s music”.

Releases vs. Calendars

Music styles and genres don’t generally stick to formal calendar boundaries. Music is released when the artists and/or labels figure it’s ready. As such, there isn’t a clear delineation on a calendar when some “era” of music begins. But being who we are as humans, we will often describe something based on the decade we associate it with.

What we think of as “50’s music” didn’t really get started until 1954/1955, and lasted until around 1963/1964. There is “60’s music”, which didn’t get going until 1964 and transformed into “70’s music” closer to 1974. The disco era sort-of started in the mid-to-late 1970’s and by the early 1980’s it was pretty much gone. But in both these cases, there was overlap, there was a transition. There wasn’t a hard bright line that delineated these eras, and certainly not any that line up conveniently on decade boundaries.

A Defining Decade Personally

I turned 16 in 1980, so the 1980’s defined a lot for me personally. I finished high school, then university, and had my first full-time job. It was the decade that I moved out on my own. It was when I bought my first new car. We had the Winter Olympics in Calgary, and the Flames made two trips to the Stanley Cup final, winning in 1989. My brother and I attended Game 1 of the 1986 Cup finals, which was the only game the Flames won in that series.

Music has always been a big part of my life, if only as the ‘soundtrack’ to it. I spent 4 years at the University of Calgary with headphones on or nearby. My knock-off of a Walkman was eventually replaced by a real Sony Walkman for my last year of university, and it or a small boombox were ever-present from 1986 onward. I was always playing music somewhere: around the apartment, in the car, when coding. During university, most of that music was typical 80’s music: Billy Joel, Genesis, The Police, and a host of others. I also listened to a lot of ELO, and they became one of my favourite bands, along with The Moody Blues.

1978 Was A Watershed Year

When you listen to Rick’s list, you get the first or new albums from some quintessential 80’s music acts: Dire Straits, Billy Joel, The Police, Kate Bush, AC/DC, Van Halen, Bob Seger, Devo, Rush, Peter Gabriel. More would come in 1979 with acts that had debut or new albums such as Pat Benetar and Genesis. These groups and others began to transform the sound of popular music, and genres like New Wave would find their footing.

1978 was definitely a watershed year. It is, I would argue, the beginning of what we think of as “80’s music” in western culture.