July 11 – Ultravox release their fourth studio album, Vienna. Their first album with new lead singer Midge Ure following the departures of frontman John Foxx and guitarist Robin Simon, Vienna marks a radical shift in Ultravox’s direction and image, transforming the former post-punk band into a more sophisticatedly-oriented new wave/synthpop group. Despite this stylistic shift alienating fans and critics who were more favorable towards the Foxx-led incarnation of the band, Vienna would go on to become Ultravox’s most successful studio album to date.
July 18 – The documentary and concert film No Nukes opens in New York.
July 25 – Over five months after the death of lead singer Bon Scott, AC/DC release Back in Black, their first album with replacement singer Brian Johnson, who would remain with the band until 2016. The album’s success would lead it to become the second-highest-selling album of all time and the highest-selling studio album by any band to date.
July 29 – Over two months after the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis, the surviving members of Joy Division regroup as a new band and debut anonymously live at Manchester’s Beach Club; the group would adopt the moniker “New Order” the following year.
July 31 – The Eagles end their tour with a contentious show in Long Beach, California. They would not play together again until 1994.
August 4 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono begin the recording of the Double Fantasy album.
The first Monsters of Rock heavy metal festival is held at Donington Park in England. Rainbow headlines, and Judas Priest, Scorpions, April Wine, Saxon, Riot and Touch also perform.
Several bands lose members in one day; bass player Jah Wobble leaves Public Image, Ltd.; drummer Cozy Powell leaves Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow; keyboard player Jools Holland leaves Squeeze; and drummer Bill Ward leaves Black Sabbath.
August 19 – Fans at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto stage a riot after Alice Cooper cancels because of illness.
August 23 – The Heatwave festival near Toronto features The B-52’s, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello and many others.
August 26 – Pete Comita replaces Tom Petersson in Cheap Trick.
August 31 – Karen Carpenter marries Thomas Burris. “Because We Are in Love” is played at their wedding.
Solid Gold, a new music television series, premieres in syndication.
Elton John plays a free concert for 400,000 people in New York’s Central Park. He performs the encore in a Donald Duck costume.
September 25 – John Bonham, drummer of Led Zeppelin, is found dead by bandmate John Paul Jones.
October 9 – A riot breaks out at a Black Sabbath concert in Milwaukee after bassist Geezer Butler is hit in the head by a bottle and the band quits the stage.
October 26 – Paul Kantner of Jefferson Starship is rushed to hospital following a cerebral hemorrhage. He soon recovers without surgery, defying medical odds.
October – Iron Maiden replaces guitarist Dennis Stratton with Urchin guitarist Adrian Smith.
The Eagles’ Don Henley is arrested when cocaine, Quaaludes, and marijuana are found in his hotel room after a 16-year-old prostitute has drug-related seizures. Henley is also subsequently charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. After pleading no contest, he was fined $2,500 and put on two years’ probation.
Iron Maiden play their first gig with new guitarist Adrian Smith in Uxbridge, London, England.
Duran Duran signs with EMI after finalizing its lineup and touring as a support act for Hazel O’Connor.
Led Zeppelin disbands following the death of drummer John Bonham.
December 7 – Darby Crash, leader of seminal L.A. punk band the Germs, dies of a heroin overdose in a suicide pact.
December 8 – John Lennon was shot to death outside his apartment building in New York City at 10:50 pm. Lennon’s single, “(Just Like) Starting Over”, subsequently becomes a number one hit in many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
December 14 – Over 100,000 mourners attend a public vigil for John Lennon in Central Park. 10 minutes of silence are observed at 2pm.
December 31 – The ninth annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special airs on ABC, with appearances by The Charlie Daniels Band, Billy Preston, Syreeta, Chuck Berry and Barry Manilow.
Also in 1980
The Roland Corporation releases the Roland TR-808 drum machine, which became a cornerstone of the emerging electronic, dance, and hip hop genres. The machine went on to become one of the most influential instruments in popular music, comparable to the Fender Stratocaster’s influence on rock.
Record labels established in 1980
Record labels disestablished in 1980
The single “Groovy Ghost Show” by Casper is one of the first recorded hip hop songs from Chicago.
British comedy group The Hee Bee Gee Bees release “Meaningless Songs (in Very High Voices)”, a parody of a Bee Gees’ disco-style single. Though not a hit in the UK, it is a huge success elsewhere, especially in South Africa, and helps to encourage the Gibb brothers to diversify stylistically.
Phil Collins signs a contract with Atlantic Records to distribute his solo records in the US and in Europe outside the UK (on WEA label).