January 1 – Bill Graham closes San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom following a New Year’s Eve performance by the Blues Brothers and the Grateful Dead. During a New Year’s Eve concert in Cleveland, Ohio, Bruce Springsteen is injured when a fire-cracker is thrown onstage from the audience.
January 4 – The Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, best known for its connections to the early days of the Beatles, reopens.
January 6 – ABC’s American Bandstand featured the debut of the “Y.M.C.A. dance” using the hand gestures forming the letters YMCA during a broadcast with the Village People.
January 9 – The Music for UNICEF Concert in held in New York City at the United Nations, starring The Bee Gees. Highlights are aired the following evening on NBC.
January 13 – Singer Donny Hathaway dies after falling 15 stories from his hotel room in New York City. According to Hathaway’s record company, Atlantic, the singer had been having some psychological problems.
January 15 – MCA Records purchases ABC Records for a reported $20 million.
February 2 – Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious is found dead from an overdose, a day after being released on bail from Rikers Island prison.
February 7 – The Clash kick off their first concert on their first American tour at the Berkeley Community Theatre outside San Francisco, California. Bo Diddley opens the show and the Clash open their set with the song “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.”. Stephen Stills becomes the first major rock artist to record digitally, laying down four songs at The Record Plant in Los Angeles.
February 10 – Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” hits #1 on the Billboard magazine charts, and stays there for 4 weeks.
February 11 – 43 million viewers watch “Elvis!” on ABC, a made for TV movie starring Kurt Russell as Elvis.
February 15 – Minnie Riperton appears on the Grammys as a presenter with Stephen Bishop. The Bee Gees collect 4 Grammys for Saturday Night Fever.
February 23 – Dire Straits begin their first U.S. tour in Boston.
February 24 – Friedrich Cerha’s completion of Alban Berg’s opera Lulu is premiered at the Opera Garnier in Paris. Singer Johnnie Wilder, Jr. of Heatwave is paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
February 26 – B.B. King becomes the first blues artist to tour the Soviet Union, kicking off a one-month tour there.
March 2 (to March 4) – Weather Report, The CBS Jazz All-Stars, the Trio of Doom, Fania All-Stars, Stephen Stills, Billy Swan, Bonnie Bramlett, Mike Finnegan, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and Billy Joel, plus Cuban acts Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Elena Burke, Los Papines, Tata Güines and Orquesta Aragón play at the historic three-day Havana Jam festival at the Karl Marx Theater, in Havana, Cuba.
March 5 – MCA Records dissolves ABC Records.
March 10 – James Brown performs at the Grand Ole Opry.
March 15 – Elvis Costello gets into a heated argument with members of Stephen Stills’ touring entourage at a Holiday Inn in Columbus, Ohio. After Costello makes disparaging remarks about America, he is punched by Bonnie Bramlett. Costello suffers a wave of negative press coverage after the incident is made public.
March 21 – The Pretenders sign a contract with Sire Records.
March 23 – Van Halen releases their second album, Van Halen II.
March 27 – Eric Clapton marries Patti Boyd, ex-wife of Clapton’s friend George Harrison.
March 31 – The Eurovision Song Contest, the biggest music festival in the world, takes place for the first time in a country outside Europe – Israel. The show is broadcast live from Jerusalem to Europe and a few countries in Asia. The big winner of this night is Israel for the second time in a row. The winning song is “Hallelujah” sung by Gali Atari and the backing group Milk and Honey. A few months after winning the song had been translated into more than 82 languages, and broke a new record by entering the Guinness Book of Records as the most translated song in the world.
April 2 – Kate Bush begins her first, and to date, only tour. She becomes the first artist to use a wireless microphone, enabling her to sing and dance at the same time.
April 6 – Rod Stewart marries Alana Hamilton.
April 7 – 110,000 people attend the California Music Festival at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Performers include Aerosmith, The Boomtown Rats, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent and Van Halen.
April 12 – Mickey Thomas replaces Marty Balin as the lead singer of Jefferson Starship.
April 13 – During a concert by Van Halen in Spokane, Washington, David Lee Roth collapses from exhaustion. A local doctor treats him for a stomach virus and advises him to “calm down”.
April 22 – The New Barbarians and The Rolling Stones perform two concerts in Oshawa, Ontario to benefit the CNIB, as part of Keith Richards’ 1978 sentence for heroin possession.
April 24 – The New Barbarians open their US tour at Ann Arbor, Michigan.
April 27 – Ozzy Osbourne is fired as lead singer of Black Sabbath. He is replaced in May by Ronnie James Dio.
May 2 – The Who play their first concert following the death of drummer Keith Moon. The band performs with new drummer Kenney Jones at London’s Rainbow Theatre.
May 8 – Iron Maiden, Samson, and Angel Witch share a bill at the Music Machine in Camden, London. Critic Geoff Barton coins the term “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” in a review of the show for Sounds magazine.
May 19 – Three of the four ex-Beatles perform on the same stage, as Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr jam with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Mick Jagger and others at a wedding reception for Clapton at his Surrey home.
May 21 – Elton John plays the first of eight concerts in the Soviet Union.
June 1 – Alternative Tentacles record label established by Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra, and Joy Division release their album Unknown Pleasures.
June 8 – Marianne Faithfull marries Ben Brierly of The Vibrators.
June 9 – The Bee Gees tie The Beatles with a record six consecutive number one singles in the U.S. with “Love You Inside Out”.
June 28 – Bill Haley makes his final studio recordings at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. (He dies in 1981.)
July 1 – The Sony Walkman goes on sale in Japan.
July 7 – The Bee Gees play to a sold-out crowd at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium as part of their Spirits Having Flown tour.
July 10 – Chuck Berry is sentenced to four months in prison for tax evasion by a Los Angeles judge.
July 12 – “Disco Demolition Night“, an anti-disco promotional event for a Chicago rock station involving exploding disco records with a bomb, causes a near-riot between games during a baseball major league doubleheader, forcing the cancellation of the second game.
July 28 – Aerosmith and Ted Nugent headline the World Series of Rock at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Also on the bill are Journey, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and the Scorpions. Following the concert, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry quits the group after an argument with bandmates.
July 31 – 250,000 turn out in Central Park for a free concert by James Taylor in a campaign to restore Sheep Meadow.
August 4–11 – British rock band Led Zeppelin play what are to be their last British concerts (until 2007) at Knebworth in Hertfordshire. Total attendances for the two concerts approached 400,000.
August 18 – Nick Lowe and Carlene Carter are married at Carter’s Los Angeles home.
August 25 – “My Sharona” by The Knack hits #1 on the Billboard charts. This is the first time in over a year that a song hits #1 that is not either a disco song or a ballad, signalling the potential resurgence of rock.
September 1 – INXS perform in public for the first time, at the Oceanview Hotel in Umina, New South Wales.
September 2 – U2 enters the studio for the first time to record a locally released single.
September 13 – ABBA begins ABBA: The Tour in Edmonton, Alberta, leading off a month of dates in North America.
September 16 – The single “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang is released. Its success marks the commercial emergence of hip hop music.
September 17 – Ontario Court of Appeals rejects a government appeal against the previous year’s sentencing of Keith Richards, which allowed him to avoid jail time for his 1977 arrest in Toronto for heroin possession.
September 19-23 – Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) stages a series of five No Nukes concerts at Madison Square Garden. Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, James Taylor and Carly Simon are among the participants.
September 22 – The NewMusic, a Canadian weekly music and culture program, makes its début on Citytv.
September 27 – Elton John collapses on stage at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles County, California while performing “Better Off Dead”. He refuses to stop the show and resumes playing fifteen minutes later.
October 10 – Joe Perry officially leaves Aerosmith.
November 16 – Infinity Records is shut down and absorbed into parent company MCA.
November 26 – Bill Haley & His Comets perform at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. This was Haley’s final recorded performance of “Rock Around the Clock”.
December 3 – In Cincinnati, Ohio, a stampede for seats at Riverfront Coliseum during a Who concert kills 11 fans (band members were not made aware of the deaths until after the show).
December 26-29 – The Concerts for the People of Kampuchea are held over four nights at the Hammersmith Odeon in London to raise funds for victims of war in Cambodia. Queen, The Who, The Clash, Wings, Elvis Costello and members of Led Zeppelin all take part.
December 31 – The eighth annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special airs on ABC, with appearances by The Oak Ridge Boys, Village People, Chic, Blondie and Barry Manilow.
Also in 1979
The Welsh Philharmonia becomes the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera.
Michael Schenker leaves Scorpions during their tour in France and was replaced by Matthias Jabs.
Stevie Wonder uses digital audio recording technology in recording his album Journey through the Secret Life of Plants.
Ry Cooder releases the first pop/rock record made entirely using digital recording technology, “Bop Til You Drop”.
EMI’s first digital recording – at Abbey Road Studios – of a non-classical music track is released – UK jazz-funk duo Morrissey–Mullen covered the Rose Royce hit Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. Released as a limited edition vinyl EP.
Disco reigns supreme in 1979, with several #1 hits from The Bee Gees and Donna Summer that year. Several artists who were not regarded as dance/disco acts, scored major successes by releasing disco singles, including New Wave band Blondie with their first US number one single “Heart of Glass”, Rod Stewart with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and rock band Electric Light Orchestra go disco this year with their UK #1 LP Discovery. Country star Kenny Rogers also issues a disco influenced album, entitled Kenny. Hard rock band Kiss also has a disco hit this year with “I Was Made For Lovin You”.
Elton John reunites with lyricist Bernie Taupin after a three-year break. The duos recent songs are recorded in August 1979, to be released a year later on “21 at 33”.
November 30, Pink Floyd released “The Wall” rising to top spot on the US charts for fifteen weeks.