The name of this band is Talking Heads.
In 1980, the Art Rock grouping of frontman David Byrne, Bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz and guitarist Jerry Harrison released what would become their defining album. The four-piece, which played its first gig as Talking Heads in 1975 at New York’s CBGB venue had forged a reputation, first in the post-punk new-wave scene, but after they began to work alongside producer, non-musician and sonic pioneer, Brian Eno from 1978, their reach, as indeed their entire approach to music shifted.
A major breakthrough album for the band, Remain in Light is remarkable for a number of reasons, but especially insofar as it made so few concessions to commercial considerations, radio friendliness, or catchy melodies. With its circular polyrhythms, multi-layered electronic effects and overt Afrobeat musical inflections, fusing with the nervy, highly mannered and mostly oblique vocals of Byrne, the resultant sound was quite unlike anything from the alternative music scene at the time.
Probably best remembered for the single, Once in a Lifetime, which saw the band enter the upper reaches of music charts for the first time, peaking at number 14 in the UK in 1981. Here, Byrne channelled the fevered style of evangelical preachers, employing vocal call and response, repetitions, and exhortations with a spiritual sense of existential yearning which 40 years later, still sounds extraordinary. It remains the defining Talking Heads track.
In the auto-universe, 1980 witnessed new beginnings, fresh starts and a good deal of last legs, with models receiving a late life reinvention in the hope of holding back time. Also introduced to the world that year was future F1 World Champion, Britain’s Jenson Button, who was born that year. Bowing out for good meanwhile, certainly in a form anyone might have recognised, was Triumph and MG – both of whom lost their industrial bases, their workforce and their identity amid BL’s end of decade schisms.
In 1978, Audi had introduced the B2-series 80 saloon, its entry level model. This second series was schemed under the engineering leadership of Ferdinand Piëch with an exterior designed by Ital Design in Turin, finessed by a team under Martin Smith in Ingolstadt. Following the cessation of the C1 Audi 100 Coupé in 1976, there had been no sporting fastback Ingolstadt offering, but in 1980, this was remedied, firstly by the groundbreaking four-wheel drive quattro, but later that year by the more restrained looking Audi Coupé GT (from which the quattro had been derived).
Based on the B2 platform and virtually identical from A-pillars forward, the fastback body would not win many beauty prizes, but was entirely in keeping with Giugiaro’s mid-70s design thinking. Mechanically identical to the 80 saloons as well, the GT, while still comfortably seating four, came with the option of four or five cylinder power, offering fine handling, excellent finish and build quality, not to mention the reflected glow of Audi’s Vorsprung Durch Supercar.
The 1970s were a pretty torrid decade for all US automakers, as they attempted to navigate a seemingly endless barrage of safety and emissions legislation, several fuel crises, the steady loss of market share to the Japanese carmakers and the whirlwind of their own boardroom cynicism and contempt for the customer. The Chrysler corporation’s mid-decade answer to the imports, the plague-riddled Aspen/ Volare twins might not have been as notorious as GM or Ford’s rival offerings, but went a long way to hastening Chrysler’s descent into the near-bankruptcy in 1979.
The K-platform was the US number three’s fightback car, a shared platform design, employing tried and true front-wheel drive hardware derived from the Omni family, but honed for a more US-centric big-car feel. Mated to a highly conservative, if tidy enough looking saloon bodyshell, the so-called K-Car, introduced in 1980 as the Dodge Aires and Plymouth Reliant, arrived alongside US government loan guarantees which kept Chrysler afloat and allowed the company, headed since 1978 by former Ford VP Lee Iacocca to get the new car onto the market.
The K-car series, which came to encompass a truly bewildering array of models, bodystyles and related platforms, while hardly faultless, can be said without irony to have been a sound product which turned around the fortunes of the business and made a superstar of Chrysler’s flamboyant CEO, who received the plaudits for a programme which predated him. Certainly, by comparison to GM’s disastrous 1979 X-Car, the K was a paragon.
1975 car of the year, Simca’s 1307/8 cum Chrysler Alpine quickly established itself in the domestic market, but remained something of an outlier in the UK, despite production taking place in Coventry from 1976. Hampered by a lack of engine choice and the innate conservatism of the UK customer, there was a sense by decade’s end that something more overtly fleet-friendly was necessary to make a dent in the market.
There had been a gradual shift towards three volume shapes by then anyway, so when Chrysler UK’s design team under Roy Axe began work on a facelifted car, a saloon was also envisaged; work on the redesign believed to have been carried out by junior designer’s, Fergus Pollock and Gerry McGovern. Introduced in the Spring of 1980, the Solara, (badged a Talbot from day one) came on a slightly lengthened platform to that of the Alpine hatch, which enabled not only a cavernous boot, but improved rear legroom.
One of the better executed hatch to three volume conversions, if something akin to a Tagora in miniature, the Solara, while a moderate success, remained something of a minor player and would soon become outclassed by more modern opposition, dying out well past its use-by-date in 1986.
Serbia’s Zastava had been making Fiats under licence since the 1950s, which by the early 1970s, although still not entirely of their own design, were at least somewhat unique to them. Most notably, the Fiat 128-derived 101 hatchback, which was produced in Kragujevac until 2008 with over a million built. In 1980, Zastava Automobili introduced the Koral, marketed elsewhere under a number of names, but best known as the Yugo 45.
This small, B-segment supermini employed the drivetrain and suspensions from Fiat’s popular 127 model, with a body (which lent the impression of a passed over centro stile design), being very much how one might envisage a mid-70s 127 replacement. In 1983, it was introduced into the UK market with 903 (45), 1116 (55) and 1301 (65) cc engines to compete at the lower end of the supermini market.
US exports began in 1985, with the car initially gaining some market traction. However, by 1990, with the political situation deteriorating and the former Yugoslavia soon to disintegrate into a bloody and brutal civil war, the venture petered out with Serbia under UN sanctions and Zastava forced to withdraw from all export markets. However the Koral, like its larger brother lived on in its home market until 2008 and remains one the region’s best remembered cars.
Talking Heads made a good many fine albums during their career, but Remain in Light was undoubtedly their greatest. Sadly, it was also one mired, both in artistic differences (the rest of the band felt shut out of the post-recording process by Byrne and Eno) and that perennial creative bugbear – attribution and royalties. The faultlines of the band’s ultimate demise were forged in 1980.
For the automotive class of 1980, and especially the examples presented here, there may be little common ground, but perhaps one aspect they do share (with one or two exceptions) is the fact that they were all, in a manner of speaking, born under punches.
Continue reading about the class of 1980 here.
The AC 3000 ME will be covered in more detail in a forthcoming series which details the history of the marque. The Talbot Matra Murena will also be covered in a separate article.
A typo in the original text which mentioned the Simca 1306 has been corrected to read 1307.