1980 - Your complete When It Was Cool Guide to the year 1980 in pop-culture, music, and more.

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@whenitwascool.com)

I turned nine years old in 1980.  These extensive "Year in Review" articles are meant to be guides to the greatest years of When It Was Cool retro pop-culture.  But please remember, we need your help to keep our website going so consider helping us out on Patreon.

Major Events that Happened in 1980:

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January 20, 1980: The Pittsburgh Steelers lead by head coach Chuck Noll defeat the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 31-19 to win the NFL Super Bowl 14 held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The game set a Super Bowl attendance record for the time at 103,985 fans. The Los Angeles Rams regular season record was an unimpressive 9-7 and they became the NFL team with the worst record ever to make the Super Bowl up to that point. Despite winning the Super Bowl in 1980, the Pittsburgh Steelers would fail to make the NFL playoffs the following year.

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January 29, 1980: The Rubik’s Cube makes it’s debut at the the British Toy and Hobby Fair. The puzzle game becomes a pop culture hit in the early 1980s and millions are sold.

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February 13, 1980: The 1980 Winter Olympics begin with the United States hosting in Lake Placid, NY. The Soviets dominate the Olympics winning the final medal count.

February 19, 1980: AC/DC frontman Bon Scott dies at the age of 33 following a night of heavy drinking in London.

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March 21, 1980: United States President Jimmy Carter announces that the U.S. will boycott the 1980 Summer Olympic games which will be held in Moscow, USSR due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

April 14, 1980: Iron Maiden release their first album, the self titled Iron Maiden. The group goes on to become one of the most important hard rock and heavy metal bands in history.

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April 24-25, 1980: Operation Eagle Claw is executed in an effort to rescue the Americans held hostage in Iran. The operation is a massive failure when there is a mid-air collision between two of the helicopters which kills eight American troops. The failed mission is a huge black eye for United States President Jimmy Carter.

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May 18, 1980: Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington erupts killing 57 people and doing billions of dollars in damage. It was the most significant volcanic eruption in the United States in recorded history.

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May 21, 1980: The sequel to Star Wars is released titled Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back. It is both a commercial and critical success. Many people still maintain that it is the best overall film in the entire Star Wars saga.

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May 22, 1980: Pac-Man, one of the most popular and successful video games of all time, makes it’s debut.

June 1, 1980: The first 24 hour cable news network CNN is launched.

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July 16, 1980: Ronald Reagan becomes the Republican nominee for U.S. President to face Jimmy Carter (who will win the Democratic nomination over Edward Kennedy) in the general election.

October 18, 1980: Ron Fuller’s Southeastern Championship Wrestling (SECW) television show debuts all over the state of Alabama and becomes a popular pro wrestling show for the next decade (in 1985 changing it’s name to Continental Wrestling).


October 21, 1980: The Philadelphia Phillies defeat the Kansas City Royals to win the 1980 World Series in game six.


November 4, 1980: Ronald Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter in the general election to become the next President of the United States.

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November 21, 1980: Millions of people tune into the new season of the prime-time TV drama Dallas in hopes of finding out who shot J.R. Ewing, one of the main stars of the show. During that summer the “Who Shot J.R.?” phrase had become a part of pop culture with t-shirts and talk shows asking the question.

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December 8, 1980: Beloved singer and song writer and former member of The Beatles, John Lennon, is murdered in New York City by Mark David Chapman.


The Billboard Top 100 Songs of 1980

1Call Me” - Blondie

2 "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" - Pink Floyd

3 "Magic" - Olivia Newton-John

4 "Rock with You" - Michael Jackson

5 "Do That to Me One More Time" - Captain & Tennille

6 "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" - Queen

7 "Coming Up" - Paul McCartney

8 "Funkytown" - Lipps Inc

9 "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" - Billy Joel

10 "The Rose" - Bette Midler

11 "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" - Rupert Holmes

12 "Cars" - Gary Numan

13 "Cruisin" - Smokey Robinson

14 "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me, Girl" - The Spinners

15 "Lost in Love" - Air Supply

16 "Little Jeannie" - Elton John

17 "Ride Like the Wind" - Christopher Cross

18 "Upside Down" - Diana Ross

19 "Please Don't Go" - KC and the Sunshine Band

20 "Babe" - Styx

21 "With You I'm Born Again" - Billy Preston and Syreeta

22 "Shining Star" - The Manhattans

23 "Still" - Commodores

24 "Yes, I'm Ready" - Teri DeSario & KC

25 "Sexy Eyes" - Dr. Hook

26 "Steal Away" - Robbie Dupree

27 "Biggest Part of Me" - Ambrosia

28 "This Is It" - Kenny Loggins

29 "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" - The Spinners

30 "Let's Get Serious" - Jermaine Jackson

31 "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" - Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes

32 "Sailing" - Christopher Cross

33 "Longer" - Dan Fogelberg

34 "Coward of the County" - Kenny Rogers

35 "Ladies' Night" - Kool & the Gang

36 "Too Hot" - Kool & the Gang

37 "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" - The SOS Band

38 "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer

39 "More Love" - Kim Carnes

40 "Pop Muzik" - M

41 "Brass in Pocket" - The Pretenders

42 "Special Lady" - Ray, Goodman & Brown

43 "Send One Your Love" - Stevie Wonder

44 "The Second Time Around" - Shalamar

45 "We Don't Talk Anymore" - Cliff Richard

46 "Stomp!" - The Brothers Johnson

47 "Heartache Tonight" - Eagles

48 "Tired of Toein' the Line" - Rocky Burnette

49 "Better Love Next Time" - Dr. Hook

50 "Him" - Rupert Holmes

51 "Against the Wind" - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

52 "On the Radio" - Donna Summer

53 "Emotional Rescue" - The Rolling Stones

54 "Rise" - Herb Alpert

55 "All Out of Love" - Air Supply

56 "Cool Change" - Little River Band

57 "You're Only Lonely" - J.D. Souther

58 "Desire" - Andy Gibb

59 "Let My Love Open the Door" - Pete Townshend

60 "Romeo's Tune" - Steve Forbert

61 "Daydream Believer" - Anne Murray

62 "I Can't Tell You Why" - Eagles

63 "Don't Let Go" - Isaac Hayes

64 "Don't Do Me Like That" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

65 "She's Out of My Life" - Michael Jackson

66 "Fame" - Irene Cara

67 "Fire Lake" - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

68 "How Do I Make You" - Linda Ronstadt

69 "Into the Night" - Benny Mardones

70 "Let Me Love You Tonight" - Pure Prairie League

71 "Misunderstanding" - Genesis

72 "An American Dream" - The Dirt Band

73 "One Fine Day" - Carole King

74 "Dim All the Lights" - Donna Summer

75 "You May Be Right" - Billy Joel

76 "Should've Never Let You Go" - Neil & Dara Sedaka

77 "Pilot of the Airwaves" - Charlie Dore

78 "Hurt So Bad" - Linda Ronstadt

79 "Off the Wall" - Michael Jackson

80 "I Pledge My Love" - Peaches & Herb

81 "The Long Run" - Eagles

82 "Stand by Me" - Mickey Gilley

83 "Heartbreaker" - Pat Benatar

84 "Déjà Vu" - Dionne Warwick

85 "Drivin' My Life Away" - Eddie Rabbitt

86 "Take the Long Way Home" - Supertramp

87 "Sara" - Fleetwood Mac

88 "Wait for Me" - Hall & Oates

89 "Jojo" - Boz Scaggs

90 "September Morn" - Neil Diamond

91 "Give Me the Night" - George Benson

92 "Broken Hearted Me" - Anne Murray

93 "You Decorated My Life" - Kenny Rogers

94 "Tusk" - Fleetwood Mac

95 "I Wanna Be Your Lover" - Prince

96 "In America" - Charlie Daniels Band

97 "Breakdown Dead Ahead" - Boz Scaggs

98 "Ships" - Barry Manilow

99 "All Night Long" - Joe Walsh

100 "Refugee" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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The great country music legend Kenny Rogers charted several hits in 1980 with the release of his popular Greatest Hits album. Besides dominating the country music charts in 1980, Kenny Rogers also had several cross-over hits to the pop music charts.

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Cool Things of 1980

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Slot Car racing tracks were all the rage in 1980. The hobby had been very popular with adults over the previous twenty years with larger scale cars. Over the previous few years, smaller scale slot cars had become popular with kids and adults on a nostalgia kick. 1980 through 1983 would pretty much be the popularity peak of youth slot car racing tracks.

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Handheld electronic sports games like Team Play Football were very popular in 1980. These small handheld video games were a precursor of the larger video game revolution that was coming just around the corner. Other popular handheld sports games included Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball.


Top Movies of 1980:

These are the top 10 movies of 1980 as ranked by IMDB.com. This is their rankings not ours so don’t be mad at us that Gates of Heaven outranked The Blues Brothers. I can’t explain it either.

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1. The Shining
A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future. Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers. Gross: 44.02M

2. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
After the rebels are brutally overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader. Director: Irvin Kershner | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams. Gross: 290.48M

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3. Raging Bull

The life of boxer Jake LaMotta, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring destroys his life outside of it. Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent. Gross: 23.38M

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4. Airplane
A man afraid to fly must ensure that a plane lands safely after the pilots become sick. Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker | Stars: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Gross: 83.43M

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5. The Elephant Man
A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity. Director: David Lynch | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud

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6. Gates of Heaven
A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there. Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Lucille Billingsley, Zella Graham, Cal Harberts, Dan Harberts

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7. The Blues Brothers
Jake Blues, just out from prison, puts together his old band to save the Catholic home where he and brother Elwood were raised. Director: John Landis | Stars: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway, John Candy. Gross: 57.23M

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8. Coal Miner’s Daughter
Biographical story of Loretta Lynn, a legendary country singer that came from poverty to worldwide fame. She rose from humble beginnings in Kentucky to superstardom and changing the sound and style of country music forever. Director: Michael Apted | Stars: Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Levon Helm, Phyllis Boyens-Liptak. Gross: 67.18M

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9. The Fog
An unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in its waters. Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman. Gross: 21.38M


10. Caddyshack
An exclusive golf course has to deal with a brash new member and a destructive dancing gopher. Director: Harold Ramis | Stars: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight. Gross: 39.85M

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