Looking Through Time: 1979

posted February 15, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff.

With the anniversaries of culturally important albums sprouting up each and every year, the CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Department will be diving into albums from select years and breaking down their impact. Here are the albums from 1979.

The B-52’s – “The B-52’s”

The fantastically flashy self-titled debut record of what would go on to become one of the most iconic party bands of all time, “The B-52’s” is a classic record that still holds up its promise of providing a carefree, let loose dance jams experience. Urging its listeners to give into the group’s undeniably catchy lyricism and funky beats, this record is an unapologetically quirky exhibition of a group of friend’s attempt to break into the music industry.

Formed in 1976, The group entertained the concept of forming a band while sharing a drink called The Flaming Volcano at a Chinese restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Named after the oversized and kitschy beehive hairdo of the 1960’s, The B-52’s infused sixties girl group aesthetics, B-movie science fiction themes, surf music, and garage punk rock influences to create their distinctively unique sound.

Opening with the other worldly “Planet Claire,” Fred Schneider, the group’s lead vocalist, lays down a beat using a walkie-talkie, of all things, while singing about a distant planet of strange and odd inhabitants. The next track, the chantable and infectious, “52 Girls” gives the group’s back up vocalists, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, a chance to shine with a predominantly girl focused track. Other memorable songs such as the wildly enthusiastic, “There’s a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)” and the blisteringly effervescent, “Lava” solidify the group’s eccentric and bubbly style.

Whether it’s the undeniably iconic guitar riff, Fred Schneider’s zany talk-singing lyrics, or the absurd Yoko Ono inspired animal noises, the album’s most recognizable track and arguably the band’s biggest hit, “Rock Lobster” effectively launched the band into the mainstream. Having a fairly respectable ranking on the charts across multiple countries, “Rock Lobster” kept The B-52’s in people’s minds and on radio station turn tables everywhere.

Unconventional and extraordinary, The B-52’s first record deviated from the norm and provided its listeners with a chance to let loose and enjoy themselves with a collection of odd and outlandish party tracks. Certified platinum in both the United States and Australia, The B-52’s treasured debut record cemented the band’s pop culture influence and effectively rocketed the group to the forefront of the alternative new wave music landscape. – Scott Perdue


Supertramp – “Breakfast In America”

Having a rocky and uneven climb in their popularity, Supertramp’s sixth studio album, “Breakfast In America” finally brought the group the critical reception and admiration that they rightfully deserved. Transitioning from their seemingly ineffective progressive rock approach, Supertramp adopted an airwave accommodating pop sound which thrust the group to the top of the charts.

Containing a majority of the band’s most recognizable hits, “Breakfast In America” provides a generous set of fun and enjoyable infectious pop tracks. Highlights of the album include the curious and perplexing “The Logical Song,” the guilt driven “Take The Long Way Home” and the optimistic and reflective “Goodbye Stranger,” which blended somber themes with bright and catchy grooves to create iconic sing-along tracks that broke the band into the mainstream.

The album’s self-titled track also charted reasonably well and aided in cementing the group’s fresh and distinctive sound. With arguably no low points on the record, even less recognizable tracks such as the contemplative “Lord Is It Mine” and the tensely vibrant “Child Of Vision” were able to effectively lift the band’s song writing to an even more elevated level.

Reaching impressive chart performances across multiple countries, “Breakfast In America” proved to be the band’s best selling album and coincidently the group’s commercial peak. Although the band would soon again lose its significant gain in traction, this quirky and unforgettable record, solidified Supertramp’s impact on pop culture and music history for forever. – Scott Perdue


Talking Heads – “Fear Of Music”

Under extreme pressure, Talking Heads were collaborating once again with their good friend and mentor Brian Eno. Proving to be another successful collaboration, Talking Heads’ third studio album was a critically groundbreaking and innovative masterpiece.

Opening with the afro-beat infused “I Zimbra,” Talking Heads effectively created a surprisingly danceable industrial-themed track with exceptional grooves. Dipping even further into darker influences than ever before, tracks such as the freakish “Mind” and the exceptionally paranoid and anxious “Memories Can’t Wait” proved to provide some of the group’s most pessimistic and morbid tracks to date.

Resistant to brightening up their sound, David Byrne and company continued to set out to create an album which felt as if it was a hopeless and continuous downward spiral.

“We're in a funny position. It wouldn't please us to make music that's impossible to listen to, but we don't want to compromise for the sake of popularity," Byrne said in a 1979 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine.

Effectively proving their decision to stick to their guns was the right choice, the album’s exceptionally dark thematic approach proved to be a commercial breakthrough. Providing the band with some of their most iconic hits, the dystopian “Life During Wartime” and the high-strung “Cities,” gave the group a fresh and distinct sound.

Providing a generous wealth of interesting and oddly pleasant tracks, songs such as the strained yet blissful “Heaven” and the cautioning “Air” solidified the album’s revisiting potential and strange enjoyability.

Receiving admiration and critical praise from all angles, Talking Heads proved once again that they had an influential and innovative style unlike any other. Closing the decade with one of the most tense and foreboding records of all time, as the title suggests, “Fear Of Music” fulfills its promise and proves to be a dark listening experience for any and every type of listener. – Scott Perdue


Motörhead - “Overkill”

Motörhead’s second album, “Overkill,” is a landmark achievement in the world of heavy metal. While most contemporary hard rock acts lived off of the genre’s roots in blues music, Motörhead combined this element with the biting edge of British punk rock. On this record, the late trio of Lemmy Kilmister, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor laid the foundation for the nascent thrash metal revolution of the 1980s.

Every track on this album is killer. With its rugged bass and intense guitar solos, there is not a dull moment to be had. However, the standout has to be Philthy Animal’s pounding double-bass drums. With tracks like “Overkill” and “Tear Ya Down,” he raised the bar for the aggression and depth of sound possible on a metal song. Lemmy’s bass is also omnipresent, earning him his reputation among the most influential rock bassists, and Fast Eddie’s guitar solos are the bow that ties it all together.

With the aforementioned songs leading as all-time classics, the meat of the album is earned on tracks like “I’ll Be your Sister” and “Damage Case.” The groovy closer, “Limb from Limb,” is the best work on the album. Its guitar and bass riffs are legendary, and it features two of the best solos in their catalogue. The band’s ferocity ripples all throughout this record, and any fan of hard rock music will be enraptured by this feat of genius. - Billy Jackson


Joy Division - “Unknown Pleasures”

If ever a band made the most of its miniscule time in the limelight, it was Joy Division. Recorded during singer Ian Curtis’s fatal bout with depression, this was the group’s only album released before he took his own life in 1980. While the remaining members reformed with great success as New Order, Joy Division left a tremendous impact as the face of Britain’s post-punk movement.

As would be expected given its background, “Unknown Pleasures” is notoriously bleak. If the new wave movement was a celebration of hope and optimism, this record is its direct antithesis. Contributing to the gloom is Curtis’s deep, despondent vocal performance and tortured lyrics. Backing him are the hard, punchy percussion of Stephen Morris and Robert Hook’s bass licks.

Much of the album has a false sense of happiness, mocking the upbeat pop music that flooded the charts in the late disco era. Great songs like “Disorder” and “She’s Lost Control Again” make no bones about their downer attitude, but some, like “Interzone,” feign the possibility of a brighter future. Without a doubt, this album’s masterpiece is the incredible “New Dawn Fades.” It’s the most ruthlessly depressing track on a record full of them, and it is not a song listeners will soon forget.

Though it may not always be the most pleasant album to listen to, it is incomparably evocative and remarkably executed. “Unknown Pleasures” is an admirable accomplishment and one which has influenced generations of rock musicians. -Billy Jackson


Pink Floyd – “The Wall”

Although released late in the year, “The Wall” by Pink Floyd is one of the most defining albums of 1979, and the entire decade as a whole. The album took about a year to complete as the band chose to release it as a double album, which happens very rarely in music. Though it worked in their fans’ favors.

“The Wall” has the ability to stand out on its own despite coming after some of Pink Floyd’s most popular albums like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here.” It is one of the most poignant concept albums to date. The band uses the metaphor of a wall to represent isolation through a character named Pink after a former member, Syd Barrett, who was struggling with many personal issues.

Chronologically, the album follows the story of Pink through the early abandonments in his life that lead to him creating a “wall” around himself. The most recognizable songs on the albums “Another Brick in the Wall” (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) are meant to symbolize the different things that led to Pink’s isolation. Each factor is “just another brick in the wall.”

Overall, “The Wall” features some of Pink Floyd’s greatest works. “Another Brick in the Wall” (Part 2) and “Comfortably Numb” are some of the best known songs in classic rock history. Each song offers the best flavor of the album to listeners. With soulful lyrics and ghostly, rich sounds, “The Wall” acts as a cumulation of everything Pink Floyd had created up until that point and, truthfully, everything after that. It is probably the peak of their career. - Jade Campos


The Clash - “London Calling”

Punk rock was full fledged during the 1970s, and the Clash were at the forefront of the movement. They had already gained success two years prior with their self-titled debut album, but with the release of their double album “London Calling” in 1979, they made themselves a staple in music history.

While it is often described as one of the greatest punk albums of all time, the group had actually chose to deviate from their usual sound. “London Calling” does not stick to the brash sound of a normal punk album, but intertwines the sounds of R&B and jazz. The fact that it is described as an incredible punk album just shows the influence that The Clash had in their genre.

Yet, “London Calling” is proof that going outside of the box can result in incredible things. Just from a description, the genre of this album can seem interesting at best though a rather strange blend. The Clash proves that, when done correctly, almost all genres can come together to create a beautiful album. It has left a lasting imprint on not only their influence in music history, but their impact on the 1970s as an entire decade.

They had been a dominating force in the punk rock era and “London Calling” is a firm goodbye to that point in music history. By moving away from their roots, The Clash was able to cement the end of punk while creating an album that would inspire new music for years to come. - Jade Campos


Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.

Billy Jackson is a junior majoring in film/video production. To contact him, email wjj5064@psu.edu.

Jade Campos is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.