The History of Pop Music – 1979

Featured song: 

Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall – Live

This is a series of articles looking at pop music from 1955 when in my opinion proper pop music began up to 1999 when they stopped making it. One article for each year.

I am only going to select one featured song for each article, which makes it hard. I am going to try and select a different artist for each year.

For many people, and I include myself, you tend to still like the tunes you heard during childhood, which your parents often played. So rather than just pick the top 10 hits of each year, I shall let you know what they were, but also the tunes of that year not necessarily in the top 10 or so, what were in my view classics.  I also add a couple of events in history for that year, it helps bring back memories, and hopefully happy ones.

Not everyone will like my choices of course, and you may remember some from each particular year that you feel should have been included, so do please post a link to the song.

So, on we go with memories from 1979: (Thank you Wiki)

This year was about:  Strikes, the “Winter of Discontent”. More IRA bombings, more strikes and more IRA bombings.  Margaret Thatcher though, determined to MBGA starting off by slashing taxes and a bit of austerity.

What was I doing in this year?  – I was 23. With my “to be” wife. I grew up a bit and stopped drinking excessively.  1st baby was on the way and born in September. I found I was good at some things in the Army after all, and I went on a Cadre and was promoted shortly after to Lance Corporal, the hardest course I had ever been on. Happy days.

TV programmes included:

Worzel Gummidge started (I liked that), Tales of the Unexpected, an Anglia Television series based on the short stories of Roald Dahl, makes its debut on ITV.  Robin Day presents the first edition of the long-running political debate programme Question Time on BBC1.  The final episode of the comedy series Fawlty Towers is broadcast on BBC2, still one of the funniest shows around.  Minder starring George Cole and Dennis Waterman started, I really enjoyed that.  An unmissable programme also started, Paul Daniels Magic Show.  The last episode of the first series of the sitcom To the Manor Born is broadcast on BBC1. It is watched by 23.95 million viewers, the all-time highest figure for a recorded programme in the UK.


Prime Minister – James Callaghan (Labour) (until 4 May), Margaret Thatcher (Conservative) (starting 4 May)

5 January – Lorry drivers go on strike, causing new shortages of heating oil and fresh food.

10 January – Prime Minister James Callaghan returns from an international summit to a Britain in a state of industrial unrest. The Sun newspaper reports his comments with a famous headline: “Crisis? What Crisis?”

15 January – Rail workers begin a 24-hour strike.

22 January – Tens of thousands of public-workers strike in the beginning of what becomes known as the “Winter of Discontent”.

1 February – Grave-diggers call off a strike in Liverpool which has delayed dozens of burials.

2 February – Sid Vicious, the former Sex Pistols guitarist, is found dead in New York after apparently suffocating on his own vomit as a result of a heroin overdose. 21-year-old London-born Vicious (real name John Simon Ritchie) is on bail for the second-degree murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who was found stabbed to death in a hotel room on 12 October last year.

12 February – Over 1,000 schools close due to the heating oil shortage caused by the lorry drivers’ strike

28 March – James Callaghan’s government loses a motion of confidence by one vote, forcing a General Election.

29 March – James Callaghan announces that the General Election will be held on 3 May. All of the major opinion polls point towards a Conservative win which would make Margaret Thatcher the first female Prime Minister of Britain.

30 March – Airey Neave, World War Two veteran and Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman, is killed by an Irish National Liberation Army bomb in the House of Commons car park.

4 May – The Conservatives win the General Election by a 43-seat majority and Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe is the most notable MP to lose his seat in the election, not to worry though, he was on trial for attempted murder on the 8th May.  Among the new members of parliament is John Major, 36-year-old MP for Huntingdon.

25 May – Price of milk increases more than 10% to 15 pence a pint.

7 June – European Parliament election, the first direct election to the European Parliament; the turnout in Britain is low at 32%. The Conservatives have the most MEPs at 60, while Labour only have 17. The Liberals gain a 12.6% share of the vote but not a single MEP, while the Scottish National Party, Democratic Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party and Official Ulster Unionist Party all gain a MEP each.

12 June – The new Conservative government’s first budget sees chancellor Geoffrey Howe cut the standard tax rate by 3p and slashing the top rate from 83% to 60%.

22 June – Former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe is cleared in court of the allegations of attempted murder which ruined his career.

23 July – The government announces £4 billion worth of public spending cuts.

10 August – 23 October – The entire ITV network in the UK is shut down by a technicians’ strike (Channel Television remains unaffected).

14 August – Disgraced ex-MP John Stonehouse is released from jail after serving four years of his seven-year sentence for faking his own death.

27 August – Lord Mountbatten of Burma and two 15-year-olds, his nephew and a boat-boy, are assassinated by a Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb while holidaying in the Republic of Ireland, the Dowager Lady Brabourne dying the following day in hospital of injuries received. Lord Mountbatten was a retired admiral, statesman, cousin to the Queen and an uncle of The Duke of Edinburgh.

27 August – Warrenpoint ambush: eighteen British soldiers killed in Northern Ireland by IRA bombs.

2 September – Police discover a woman’s body in an alleyway near Bradford city centre. The woman, 20-year-old student Barbara Leach, is believed to be the 12th victim of the mysterious Yorkshire Ripper mass murderer.

5 September – The Queen leads the mourning at the funeral of Lord Mountbatten of Burma.

23 October – All remaining foreign exchange controls abolished.

1 November – The government announces £3.5 billion in public spending cuts and an increase in prescription charges.

5 November – The two men accused of murdering Lord Mountbatten and three others go on trial in Dublin.

13 November – The Times is published for the first time in nearly a year after a dispute between management and unions over staffing levels and new technology.

13 November – Miners reject a 20% pay increase and threaten to go on strike until they get their desired pay rise of 65%.

4 December – The Clash release post-punk album London Calling.

20 December – The government publishes the Housing Bill which will give council house tenants the right to buy their homes from the following year. More than 5 million households in the United Kingdom currently occupy council houses.

The year saw the largest number of working days lost through strike action since 1926.  The first J D Wetherspoon pub is established by Tim Martin in the London Borough of Haringey – All Hail Tim.  Good man.

The Top 10 Singles with a You Tube hyperlink on the title:

Top Hits of 1979
   1 Art Garfunkel Bright Eyes
   2 Blondie Heart Of Glass
   3 Cliff Richard We Don’t Talk Anymore
   4 Boomtown Rats I Don’t Like Mondays
   5 Dr Hook When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman
   6 Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive
   7 Tubeway Army Are Friends Electric
   8 Blondie Sunday Girl
   9 Roxy Music Dance Away
   10 Lena Martell One Day At A Time

Great year for Blondie, 3 big hits, Squeeze, the return of Roxy Music, The Police, ELO.  I also note that some punk groups who had been delivering utter shite, grew up a bit, learned to play their instruments and started producing some quite good tunes. Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Sham 69 and the Clash.  I believe Blondie was heavily criticised by her punk fans, but I think she got it right.

YMCA by The Village People was a huge hit this year, I suppose as it is #FF that should be the featured song but come on, I could not inflict that on you.

The song: – “Another Brick in the Wall” is a three-part composition on Pink Floyd’s 1979 rock opera The Wall, written by bassist Roger Waters. “Part 2”, a protest song against rigid schooling, features a children’s choir. At the suggestion of producer Bob Ezrin, Pink Floyd added elements of disco.

The three parts of “Another Brick in the Wall” appear on Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, a rock opera that explores abandonment and isolation, symbolised by a wall. During “Part 1”, the protagonist, Pink, begins building a metaphorical wall around himself following the death of his father. In “Part 2”, traumas including his overprotective mother and abusive schoolteachers become metaphorical bricks in the wall. Following a violent breakdown in “Part 3”, Pink dismisses everyone he knows as “just bricks in the wall”.

I had not bee a big fan of Pink Floyd, but after hearing this, I was totally converted.

More writings on this song here:  Another Brick in the Wall

In my view the best songs of the year, after the featured track and most of the above top ten are (best to right click and open in a new window):

The Village People –YMCA

Village People– In The Navy

Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Would have been the featured song but I have already had them.

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now

Electric light orchestra – Don’t bring me down – Another contender but had them already.

Electric Light Orchestra – Shine a Little Love – Bit disco-esque, but ELO do not have any bad tunes.

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk – Love this song from one of the greatest bands ever.

Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing – If you have not got “Brothers in Arms” the album, you are probably dead to me.

Darts – Duke of Earl – Love this band.

Racey – Some Girls – Love this

Racey – Lay Your Love On Me – Is it wrong that I can still the dance to this?

Blondie – Dreaming

Roxy Music – Angel Eyes

The Tourists – I Only Want To Be With You – Welcome Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads – Hit Me With Your Rythm Stick

Ian Dury – Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3

Eruption – One Way Ticket – Hands up those that think it is “One way ticket to the moon”?  Wrong, not “Moon” but “Blues”

Dave Edmunds – Girls Talk – Much under-rated in my view, terrific artist.

The Police – Message In The Bottle – First live performance

Status Quo –  Whatever You Want

Abba – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! – Love it

M – Pop Muzik

Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood – Proper disco this

Gerry Rafferty – Night Owl – In my book as good as Baker Street, terrific voice and tunesmith.

Cool For Cats – Squeeze

Squeeze – Up the Junction

Gary Numan – Cars

Supertramp – The Logical Song – Classic

Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways – Awesome guitarism

The Specials – Gangsters – Bit of Ska for you

Buggles – Video killed the radio star

Madness – One Step Beyond – I am doing the dance.  I really must stop this!

The Jam – The Eton Rifles

Sham 69 – Hersham Boys – It’s a bit angry, shouty man, but fun

B A Robertson Bang bang – Great song, good album too, then he stopped and became a writer and producer.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Boogie Wonderland

The Police – Walking On The Moon

Boney M. – Hooray! Hooray! It’s a Holi-Holiday – Hi Di Hi De Ho.

The Dooleys – Wanted – I thought a possible British Abba but was not to be.

The Dooleys – The Chosen Few – another pleasant little ditty.

Sad Cafe – Everyday Hurts – pleasant tune, borderline dirge, but I liked it

Patrick Hernandez – Born To Be Alive – Classic

Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida – Not heard this for ages, just played it and had to include it.

The Gibson Brothers – Ooh What A Life

Randy Vanwarmer – Just When I Needed You Most – Great last tune on the dance floor

Sex Pistols – Sid Vicious- C’mon everybody – Only because it is a damn good song, ruined by shouty angry man, but listenable.

The Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight – I could not remember this until I played it writing this, then I remembered it well.  The start of (c)rap music.  This is quite good though.

Fun song:  Quantum Jump – The Lone Ranger

Fun Song: The Ramblers – The Sparrow – Not sure but it was probably the Winnifred choir again.

49 songs for 1979 in my favourite lists. Even more than for previous years. Such a wonderful era for proper music.

Hat tips to:  these give the top 100 selling charts for each year   these give the top 10 songs for each year  you know them.

Next Time 1980.

Featured Image: Sam Howzit [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

© Phil the test manager 2019

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