ROCK 80 [1980]

Not to sound too cocky but I fully expect today's feature on K-Tel's Rock 80 to be one of the most wildly popular posts ever on the K-Tel Kollection.  I'd been buying K-Tel albums for four years by 1980 and Rock 80 quickly became my favorite of the bunch.  If you search for Rock 80 on the interwebs, you will come across dozens of similar stories - more so than any previously featured album here on the Kollection, Rock 80 holds the Number One spot in people's hearts.  If this is your first time hearing about Rock 80, you are in luck as I have rounded up three different ways for you to listen to the album in addition to my Spotify streaming re-creation playlist which was one of the first three playlists I ever made on Spotify after I first logged on.
Ten of the album's fourteen songs are copyrighted 1979 while the remaining four bear a 1980 copyright date.  Dates do not matter here as this a solid album top to bottom with only two iffy songs on side two for me: the offerings from Ramones and Cheap Trick.  (The version of "I Want You To Want Me" is not the beloved live At Budokan one but rather the lame studio version from In Color.) Still, Rock 80 got hundreds of plays and I now own three copies of it on vinyl and I am always looking for more.  Rock 80 was also a main inspiration for one of my most played mixtapes.  
For me personally, Rock 80 dovetails with the end of 8th grade and the spectacular Summer after, followed by the start of freshman year of high school in the fall.  I went from being a proud Bulldog to an even prouder and certainly hornier Golden Eagle.  More than half of the acts on Rock 80 appeared on American Bandstand or The Midnight Special in 1979 and 1980 performing songs found on the album.  When I bought Rock 80, I already had 45s of six songs on the album which was a pretty good indicator of how much I liked the music on the album.  Despite all the nostalgic love and the familiar songs on the album, I do not expect Rock 80 to fare well on the K-Tel Scale as it lacks crossover appeal and I think a few of the songs missed the Top 40.

ROCK 80 [1980]
K-tel Scale:
Billboard Top 40s
CarsGary Numan9(56)45
Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)Pretenders14134
Driver's SeatSniff n the Tears151521
Cruel To Be KindNick Lowe12361215
Is She Really Going Out With HimJoe Jackson21218
HeartbreakerPat Benatar23196
Call MeBlondie111
Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?Ramones
My SharonaThe Knack111
I Want You To Want MeCheap Trick
Hold OnIan Gomm181025
One Way Or AnotherBlondie242231
We Live For LovePat Benatar2728
Pop MuzikM1443
Wouldn't you just know it?  The two songs I like the least on Rock 80 were the two that missed the Top 40 altogether.  Eight Top 20s, four Top 10s and three #1s yet only three Top 40 crossovers.  Rock 80 is another one of those albums where the K-Tel Scale, built primarily to measure Top 40 hits and multi-chart crossovers, fails to do the album justice.
As was SOP for K-Tel releases of 1980, Rock 80 was also available on cassette and 8-track, the latter of which of course had a tweaked playing order as seen above.  The artwork is pretty cool, fiber optic looking.  Wonder how much it would cost to get a neon recreation of that logo?  Collectors note that this album fetches slightly higher prices than it's K-tel brethren because of it's popularity.  On average, you can expect to pay more than $3 for a very good copy which are plentiful and upwards of $10 for a Near Mint specimen which are becoming increasingly scarce.

The Canadian edition of Rock 80 (above) features slightly different cover art with the artists names listed in bigger, horizontal fonts.  Track wise, it only has two songs in common with it's cousin from down south and instead of a measly seven songs per side, the Canadians packed eight songs a side.  As for the K-Tel Scale, let's just say this version of Rock 80 scored less than 7.00 on the scale and leave it at that.
The Great White Northern branch of K-Tel International carried on with the Rock '(insert last two digits of year here) banner for three more years (1981-1983 or '81-'83) though no such albums were ever released down in the States.  All three are superior to the Canadian Rock 80 and highly recommended though as you might have guessed, I am partial to Rock '82 with Rock '83 right behind it.

Join us next week for Expressions, "the Soft Sounds of Today's Rock":


  1. Today's ranking:

    14) Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio
    13) I Want You to Want Me
    12) We Live For Love
    11) Hold On
    10) Call Me
    9) Heartbreaker
    8) Drivers Seat
    7) Pop Muzik
    6) Brass in Pocket
    5) One Way or Another
    4) Is She Really Going Out With Him
    3) Cruel to be Kind
    2) My Sharona
    1) Cars

  2. My sister bought me the cassette as a Christmas present back in the day. Wore that out. In 2005 for the 25th anniversary, I made my own much-expanded (2 full CDs = almost 2.5 hrs!) variant of this that I still listen to often. "Music from or inspired by the new wave" from '79/80 was my guidepost. I took a big tent approach and included a lot of what I might call "new wave-adjacent" stuff. The only deletion from the original was that I substituted Cheap Trick's "Surrender" (the Budokan version, of course), as it is just a superior song. Among the songs added that might be a surprise are ones by AC/DC, Judas Priest, Rush, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. :-) I've got another playlist now that may someday morph into disc 3 of this collection, to catch great songs I omitted or dodnt think of at the time, the opener being "She's So Cold" by a little group called The Rolling Stones.

  3. "Hold On" is the dog on this album. "We Live for Love" is minor Pat Benatar. But other than that, solid gold. So great that The Ramones got some KTEL love. Stellar track.