In many ways, country music in the eighties is the mirror image of country music in the nineties.
In the nineties, the Billboard charts had longer runs at No. 1 while labels worked to manipulate the Radio & Records chart. In the eighties, longer runs were the norm on the Radio & Records chart while the Billboard chart had as many as 50 No. 1 singles in a calendar year.
In the nineties, new traditionalists dominated the early part of the decade, with crossover pop country becoming more prevalent in the second half of the decade. The eighties begins with the height of the Urban Cowboy crossover era, with a pivot back to more traditional sounds later in the decade. New artists overwhelmed the charts in the early nineties, a trend that began in the latter half of the eighties.
Much like the nineties feature did, I expect that a full review of the No. 1 singles of the eighties will bring the historical record into sharper relief, with forgotten artists rediscovered and neat and tidy narratives disrupted, key among them being that the early eighties produced a lot of classic records that are just as essential as the signature hits of the Class of 1986 and beyond.
Since this feature has now been expanded to include other decades, one change from the previous decade covered is the discontinuation of “The Road to No. 1” and “The Road From No. 1.” Eventually, all decades will be covered, so expect brief biographies incorporated into the review text of artists that are earning their first or final No. 1 singles with that particular record. Beyond that, the format will be the same as a standard single review, accompanied by the relevant chart information.
These reviews will be covered sequentially. Generally speaking, songs peaked on Radio & Records earlier than on Billboard. To make the dates easier to follow this time around, the chart with the earlier No. 1 peak will be listed first. We start with the first single to peak at No. 1 for the first time in 1980, so some spillover songs from the end of 1979 will be covered when we do a seventies retrospective.