1981: The Dawn of MTV and the Reign of New Wave

Midway through 1981 brought the launch of MTV as new wave continued to flourish.

While not an immediate critical success, The Go-Go’s debut Beauty and the Beat was an immediate commercial success and sat at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart for six weeks.

Black Flag and The dB’s released influential records in their respective genres of hardcore punk and power pop, while Kraftwerk drew inspiration from an increasingly digitized way of life on Computer World.

Other debuts include Stevie Nicks, The Replacements, Tom Tom Club and Phil Collins’s first solo outing.

Meanwhile, Rosanne Cash reached number 1 on the Billboard Country Charts with Seven Year Ache, Rick James released his instant funk / soul hit Street Songs, Miles Davis returns to music after a six-year retirement with The Man with the Horn, The Rolling Stones release a record of outtakes that includes “Start Me Up,” and Hall & Oates find success with Private Eyes.

Did a lasting crop of new wave albums make 1981 the greatest year in music? Let us know in the comments below and across social media with #XPNGreatestYear.


Stands for Decibels – The dB’s
Face Value – Phil Collins
Seven Year Ache – Rosanne Cash
The Dude – Quincy Jones
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts – David Byrne and Brian Eno
Street Songs – Rick James
East Side Story – Squeeze
It Must Be Magic – Teena Marie
Tonight I’m Yours – Rod Stewart
Computer World – Kraftwerk
Wild Gift – X
Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash – The Replacements
Beauty and the Beat – The Go-Go’s
High ‘n’ Dry – Def Leppard
Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
Bella Donna – Stevie Nicks
The Time – The Time
Pirates – Rickie Lee Jones
The Man with the Horn – Miles Davis
Pretenders II – Pretenders
Tattoo You – The Rolling Stones
Give the People What They Want – The Kinks
Abacab – Genesis
Songs In the Attic – Billy Joel
Private Eyes – Hall & Oates
Ghost In the Machine – The Police
Dare – Human League
Freeze Frame – J Geils
Physical – Oliva Newton John
For Those About to Rock We Salute You– AC/DC
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club
Sandinista! – The Clash
Red – Black Uruhu
Fiyo on the Bayou – The Neville Brothers
The Blasters – The Blasters
Black President – Fela
Controversy – Prince
Damaged – Black Flag
Who’s Landing In My Hangar – Human Switchboard

Category: 80s


Article by: Julie Miller