I was 7 years old when 1980 began. It must have been a big deal——the end of such a distinctive decade and the start of a new one——but I don’t remember it. A few years into the decade, I do remember thinking of myself as a chid of it. It felt like our (my?) decade. And of course, a big part of that was the distinctive sound of pop and rock and dance music.
I’m not sure you would see much of what was to come later in the decade in the top hits of June 1980. But maybe if you listen hard…
5. “Let’s Get Serious” by Jermaine Jackson
Michael Jackson began 1980 at the top of the R&B charts for a six-week stretch with his hit “Rock With You.” He would not be the only Jackson brother to achieve that success. Jermaine did the same for six weeks, from May to June. Whereas brother Michael reached the top spot on the Hot 100 too, Jermaine only made the top 10. Brother Michael would soon rise to be the biggest recording star in history; this was Jermaine’s biggest hit. Everything I’ve just written——talking about Jermaine Jackson entirely in comparison to his brother Michael——is completely unfair to Jermaine Jackson as an artist. It’s also reflective of his entire career. The song was written by Stevie Wonder, who also offers some vocal support.
4. “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” by The S.O.S. Band
Let me apologize now for what I’m sure is going to be a frequently written statement for the next few weeks, as I write about early 80s music. This song was a big hit, one we loved to hear played at the roller skating venue we frequented. And that’s saying a lot for a kid like me back then. You see, “the disco” was a big part of the 70s. And, for all intents and purposes, roller skating joints were the discos for kids who could not yet go to a proper disco. They were windowless warehouses lit with bright color lights flashing on and off——with a big disco ball hanging in the middle of the rink——where kids went to meet other kids and have a good time dancing/skating together. We even had drinks——sodas and cherry or blue raspberry Slush Puppies (kind of like Icees). To say this about this song, then, is a form of high praise.
3. “Funkytown” by Lipps, Inc.
It spent four weeks at the top of the Hot 100, from the last week of May into June. Sometime in summer 1980 my mom took me and my sister to the local record store, a chain called Licorice Pizza (do you get it kids?). She let each of us buy a 45 record (a single for you youngins), which was the first for each of us. My sister bought this. We listened to it a lot. A LOT.
2. “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” by Billy Joel
This was the 45 record I bought. It made it to #4 in June 1980, before climbing to the top of the charts for two weeks the following month. “New Wave” was big stuff and this song——seemingly a reaction to the changing trends——ironically blends some of them in to what is a punchy, swinging rock tune. We played this a little less that “Funkytown,” but not by much.
1. “Call Me” by Blondie
Debbie Harry was asked to write a song for a movie about a male prostitute. This is what she created. The new wave hit was the band’s second #1 single (after 1979’s “Heart of Glass”) and it helped make the movie American Giglo into some kind of hit (one that my 7-year-old eyes would not see for another decade. The song was in the top spot for six weeks from April into May, remaining at the #5 position until the first week of June. It came in at number one for the year end charts, too. Along with Devo’s “Whip It” and the B-52’s “Rock Lobster” this song heralded a new kind of musical sound to my young ears, accentuated by the fact that groups of teenagers I saw (usually at roller skating rinks or water slide parks or other kinds of public places all seemed to like them at almost religious levels.