The Number One Albums of 1980: Brick by Brick

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This ad for Pink Floyd’s The Wall appeared in the March 22, 1980 issue of Record World

It was the first year of a new decade. Some of the things that were competing for our free time and entertainment dollars in 1980… The year’s biggest movies: Airplane! (#4), Stir Crazy, with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor (#3), 9 to 5, with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton (#2), and The Empire Strikes Back (far, far away at #1).

The top-rated TV series: M*A*S*H and Alice (tied for 4th), That’s Incredible! (#3), Three’s Company (#2) and 60 Minutes (#1).

Our recap of 1980’s chart topping albums in the U.S., included many classic rock favorites, as determined each week by Record World. Ten different albums claimed the top spot this year, each had a story to tell.

Listings are in reverse order, saving the longest-running title for the end.

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue (1 week)

The June 20 release continued the band’s streak of hitting the top spot in the U.S., which began in 1971, though it only stayed there one week, on Aug. 9, as it was blocked by several other bigger titles. The culprit was likely its lack of hit singles: only the title track was a success, and even that song’s U.S. peak was modest by their standards, reaching #9.

Xanadu (From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1)

If the film, which starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, had been even remotely successful, its soundtrack would have stayed at #1 far longer. In his review, Roger Ebert called it “a mushy and limp musical fantasy.” Despite the #1 hit, “Magic,” by ON-J, the title track performed by her and ELO (#8), and ELO’s “All Over the World” (#13), the album was #1 for just the one week on Sept. 27, exactly three months after the its release.

Queen – The Game (2)

Want to win a bar bet? Ask your friends which is the only Queen album to reach #1 in the U.S. Chances are they’ll overlook this one. The Game includes the band’s only two singles to reach #1: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” written by Freddie Mercury, and “Another One Bites the Dust,” written by John Deacon, whose bass line drives the song. (Can you hear it? Good, now you can’t get it out of your head, can you?) Though the LP was released on June 30, it didn’t hit #1 until Oct. 4, when “AOBTD” did the same on the singles chart.

Related: The #1 albums of 1975

Bob Seger – Against the Wind (2)

By the late Seventies, the Detroit rocker had become an ubiquitous presence on Top 40 radio, leading to significant album sales. It all came together on this Feb. 25 release, with three more big singles: “Fire Lake” (#6), the title track (#5) and “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” (#14). The LP reached #1 on May 17 for two consecutive weeks (and knocking the year’s biggest from the top).

Barbra Streisand – Guilty (3)

One of the entertainment world’s biggest stars teamed with Barry Gibb and his production team on this Sept. 23 release. The album reached the top for three consecutive weeks on Oct. 18 and included her last solo #1 single, “Woman in Love,” plus two hit duets with Gibb, including “Guilty.”

Incidentally, you won’t find Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 release, The River, in this article. The album debuted at #2 on Nov. 1, and surprisingly never reached the summit.

Eagles – The Long Run (5)

The enormous success of the 1979 release carried over into 1980, where it was #1 for the first five weeks of the year (and a two-year total of 12). The album was their first without founding member, Randy Meisner. “Heartache Tonight” became the group’s fifth (and final) #1 single and “I Can’t Tell You Why,” with lead vocals by Timothy B. Schmit, marked his recording debut with the band.

Related: The inside story on the making-of The Long Run

Urban Cowboy (Original Soundtrack) (5)

The film, starring John Travolta, Debra Winger, and a mechanical bull, was set in Texas and became an enormous success, thanks in no small part to its soundtrack that yielded a boatload of country-pop crossover hits. Mickey Gilley had a #1 country single with his cover of “Stand By Me,” as did Johnny Lee with “Lookin’ For Love.” The summer movie was a popular destination on date night and its two-record set reached the top on Aug. 16 for the first of its five consecutive weeks.

Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits (8)

“Those who live in glass houses…” This ad appeared in the Dec. 27, 1980 issue of Record World

“The Gambler” was dominating the country and pop charts, with no less than five Top 10 hits on Top 40 radio in a span of 18 months when this collection was released on Sept. 23. And this well-timed release thoroughly dominated the sales charts: When it reached #1 on Nov. 8, it ran the table for the remainder of the year. It’s sold an astounding 12 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Related: When Rogers scored a psychedelic hit with The First Edition

Billy Joel – Glass Houses (11)

The Piano Man was on some kind of roll and this March 12 release cemented him as one of the biggest stars of his generation. He has called it “probably the most fun album that I ever made. The band loved playing it.” The LP ran the table for most of the summer, hitting the top on May 31, and staying there through Aug. 2, when it finally relinquished the #1 spot to the Stones. And just for good measure, it returned to #1 for one week in September. It also delivered Joel his first #1 pop hit, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”

Pink Floyd – The Wall (14)

Floyd had only two singles reach the Top 50 of U.S. pop radio. (That obviously wasn’t what they were about.) One of them was this album’s unlikely Top 40 smash, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” which reached #1. Though follow-up singles, “Run Like Hell” and “Comfortably Numb,” flopped, it didn’t stop the phenomenal success of The Wall which topped the Record World sales chart for 14 weeks. The 2-LP set was released on Nov. 30, 1979 and ascended to the top on the RW chart on Feb. 9 (Jan. 19 in Billboard), where it stayed through May 10. It’s sold an astounding 23 million copies in U.S. alone.

Related: A different way of looking at things – 1980’s top-selling albums

Greg Brodsky

3 Comments so far

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  1. Mark
    #1 Mark 23 March, 2020, 20:20

    “Comfortably Numb” was the third single from “The Wall”. The second was “Run Like Hell,” which did chart and peaked in the 50s on the Billboard Hot 100.

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  2. 122intheshade
    #2 122intheshade 23 March, 2021, 13:14

    I was a DJ at the time. One of the more curious aspects of Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses”, is the single “Sometimes a Fantasy”. The LP version is faded out, the way singles with cold closes on an album (AWB’s Pick Up The Pieces or Bad Co’s Can’t Get Enough, for example) used to be. But the single runs longer, to the close with the Ringo homage “I got blisters on me blisters!” Billy did love the Beatles.

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