Back in 1984, a group of British musicians got together to make a Christmas song which also served as a means to bring attention to a terrible famine in Africa, and to collect aid to relieve that famine. The collected musicians called themselves Band Aid, and the song was called "Do They Know It's Christmas?" It turned into one of the most important and monumental singles ever to hit the charts, eventually inspiring other similar efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere, and culminating in the incredible Live Aid concert in 1985. It was one of the most memorable musical moments of the '80s.. and serves as a positive example even today.
To all my readers: Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy Holidays!!!
As Christmas approaches and the Holiday Season continues, here's two possible gift ideas for your friend who loves '80s culture. One is a book called Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists And Songs That Defined The 1980s. Its a book that takes you on a memory trip back to the new wave era of the '80s. Each chapter of the book discusses a single well-known '80s song and the group that did it. Songs dealt with include "I Melt With You" by Modern English, "The Metro" by Berlin, "Girls On Film," by Duran Duran, and other similar beloved songs from the '80s.
This book just came out and it's really a wonderful trip back in time for the fan of '80s music, the groups that made the songs, and the times when it all occurred.
Here's a great companion book that came out about a year or two ago, called Talking To Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield. In the book, Sheffield gives a great account of growing up as a teen in the '80s decade. Ironically, this book is set up in a similar fashion to Mad World, in that each chapter is named after a specific '80s song which in some way connects with the youthful topic or incident that the chapter deals with. The real stories brought up in this book will bring up instant memories for those of us who grew in that era.
I think it says a lot about the '80s that both of these '80s related books are structured around specific songs . . . the '80s indeed were an era where memories seem most closely tied to specific songs, perhaps more so than other decades. It was indeed, the last great era of pop.
After a few '70s related Christmas posts... now back to our regularly scheduled decade. Wham's "Last Christmas" has always seemed to me to be one of the most '80s Christmas songs, both in its style and in its very '80s video. Here's the original from 1986.
And here's Taylor Swift with a more recent version of the same song. Still great.
Here's one more Christmas song from the age of glam, and from yet another group not as popular in the U.S. as across the big pond. It's amazing how much into Christmas all these British glam bands got, although with all the pomp and circumstance of Christmas, it's actually a good match.
This is from 1974, and it's Mud with "Lonely This Christmas."
A continued Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Hannukah to all!!!!
The year 1973 in the U.K. was one in which glam rock dominated the airwaves and economic difficulties dominated the news. It was also a year in which glam bands contributed an unusual number of lively Christmas songs to the U.K. charts, bringing hope and optimism to what may have been a grim time, and adding some rock songs to the yearly Christmas song canon.
America likewise experienced the grim economy, but the experience of glam in the U.S. was often different than that in Britain, with different bands being popular, and different songs becoming hits. Alas, the U.S. seemed to have missed the treats that were provided by these glam rock yuletide songs (which would have been helpful to cheer America up in a year that included Watergate as well as gas lines).
In myprevious post, early '70s glam superstars Slade played their 1973 holiday hit "Merry Christmas Everybody." Here, we have one of their competitors, the very, very glam UK group Wizzard, with their 1973 U.K. hit "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday."
And here's a British glam rocker well known in the U.S.: Elton John doing his 1973 contribution to the holiday spirit, "Step Into Christmas."
Maybe, indeed, we all do need a little holiday joy, even when times seem grim.
Its the holiday season, and this year, instead of just focusing on the '80s, I've decided to broaden my focus. Although Americans are more familiar with the rock group Slade from their '80s breakthrough hits "Run Runaway," and "My Oh My", the group was greatly popular in the UK throughout the '70s. Here's a oddball gem of a Christmas song from the glam era of the early '70s from that group, "Merry Christmas Everybody." Its a song released in 1973, in the midst of some dismal economic problems, which was nevertheless hopeful and optimistic about the future. Its apparently become an often played Christmas hit in Britain, although its much less familiar in the U.S.. I kinda like it, and the hopeful spirit it conveys.
But, of course, I have to include the '80s too! And here's Billy Squire at the beginning the MTV era in 1981, with "Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You." Ain't that the truth, though?
I do wish all of my readers a cheerful and optimistic holiday season.
Here's a re-post from November 10, 2013, about one of the major events of 1989: the fall of the Berlin Wall.
November of 1989 was one of the great turning points in history. For most of the mid to late 20th century, the Cold War divided Europe and the world. By the end of the '80s, however, Communism started to crumble, and the long suppressed people of Eastern Europe started to stir with the desire of freedom. Berlin was a central point in the Cold War, with the Communist-built Berlin Wall separating free West Berlin from the oppressed East. But in the midst of the changes then engulfing Eastern Europe, the people of East Germany began to agitate for change, culminating around November 9, when the desires of so many in East Germany resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Crowds gathered at the wall, the beleaguered East German guards gave way, and the iron curtain fell. People began to tear down the wall in a mass act of liberation. Here's the account of a reporter from Time of his experiences.
And here are the heroes of November 1989: the freedom seeking people of East and West Berlin.
Her popularity spread beyond the program to include commercials and other appearances. Here she is doing a commercial for Coors Lite beer.
And here is a gratuitous, completely unrelated song from the early '80s by the Oak Ridge Boys, which I just put on here for the heck of it. I dunno, but I'm scared already.
Sing along now: Elvira, Elvira, my heart is on fire for Elvira. Eyes that look like heaven, lips like sherry wine That girl can sure enough make my little light shine I get a funny feelin' up and down my spine 'Cause I know that my Elvira's mine
In the course of his career, Robin Williams stepped into many roles, both serious and comedic. One of my favorite is his part-funny, part-serious part in the 1984 movie Moscow on the Hudson, where Williams played a Russian defector, Vladimir Ivanoff, grappling with his new life in the freedom of America.
The movie does a good job of dramatizing the contrast between the grayness and limitation of life in the former Soviet Union, and the bustling, but imperfect freedom of New York, USA in the '80s. The movie's message was very relevant in the mid-80s as the cold war continued, and with Williams as the main character, it becomes a veritable time capsule for that era.
There are some very funny moments, as Williams' character discovers all the strange and contradictory components about life in a free society, such as the abundance of products at a local grocery store, which contrasted strongly with the rationing and limited supply under Communism.
And there are indeed some serious moments, as the ups and downs of freedom and capitalism causes Vladimir to question the good and bad in this society. But, ultimately, the movie is a dramatic account of what is positive in western society, even amidst the imperfections and issues still to be dealt with.
On September 19, 1981, Simon and Garfunkel reunited in a fantastic mega concert in New York's Central Park. They went on to tour heavily.
As an '80s kid who also loved '60s music and culture, this concert was of great interest to me. The concert film was often played on our local PBS station, and I taped it on our VHS player. I'd often play back the concert, and enjoy seeing the multi-generation crowd digging the reunion of these two "old friends."
Music was often a multi-generation thing in the '80s, with people of many ages often together enjoying great musical artists. Time was not a boundary.
My memories of Robin Williams begin with his wonderful work as Mork from Ork, and carried on through his memorable role in Good Morning Vietnam (1987), his inspirational Dead Poets Society (1989), and many others. I grew up with Williams' frantic good nature serving as a light of hope. How could somebody so optimistic and alive no longer be with us?
The Red Rockers were a unique American group that came out of the punk/new wave scene, and became a voice for young '80s-era idealists, of which there were many. Probably their most well-known song was the dreamy, atmospheric "China," a 1983 song whose colorful video got quite a bit of airplay.
But the Red Rockers were probably more well known for its songs of protest, such as their 1984 version of the 1965 Barry McGuire call to warning, "Eve of Destruction." This song was just as relevant in the '80s as in the '60s, as the long Cold War continued, along with fears of nuclear conflict. In a sad way, this song appears strangely applicable to today, as the world seems all the more confused and chaotic.
This past week, Weird Al Yankovic has been blitzing the internet with a comic video per day, together with the release of his new album, Mandatory Fun.
Here is his new tribute to aluminum foil played to the tune of "Royal." In conjunction with this week of Weird Al-ish goodness, I thought it would be an opportune time to give another look at Weird Al's 80s work
Although Al first became a comic celebrity with his version of The Knack's "My Sherona," (titled "My Bologna"), I first became aware of his quirky act in the midst of 1983's Michael Jackson mania, with Al's spin on Jackson's "Beat It." (That's "Eat It.")
He followed it up with his skewering of another '80s classic, Madonna's "Like A Virgin."
Here's another, the very '80s take on both the game show Jeopardy and the J. Geils Band song of the same name.
Here's a real flashback, Weird Al's very first TV appearance on the Tomorrow show in 1981. This is so early '80s, note the reference to the first space shuttle mission at the very end of the clip.
On July 13, 1985, one of the most remarkable concerts ever took place, Live Aid, the two stadium extravaganza which was put together to draw attention to hunger in Africa. As a young teen back then, I vividly remember the events of that day, and I followed it all day by radio and then, at night, by TV. I did a previous post on it, which you can see here.
Here's the first part of a fascinating documentary about how Live Aid came together, focusing particularly of the work of Bob Geldolf. It brings you back to the '80s, and shows just how much effort and concern went into this project. Frankly, my favorite part is where Geldolf tells off the murderous dictator of Ethiopia to his face... you go Bob!!
Unfortunately, I could not locate the other part of that documentary. How about instead Queen's remarkable performance at that event.
How could the '80s have been the '80s without the great Casey Kasem. I remember vividly spending a weekend afternoon in my room (being a nerdy "inside kid" to a great degree), and listening to the countdown of top 40 hits. And it was Kasem's velvet radio voice that announced them. In light of Kasem's recent passing... here's a tribute.
Of course, Kasem was on TV as well, doing what he did best... counting down the hits, and doing music dedications. This clip from "America's Top 10" should bring back lots of memories. It comes from May of 1983, as Michael Jackson mania was picking up, and as the Second British Invasion was sweeping the U.S.
Kasem was also known as the voice of "Shaggy" on the Scoobie Doo cartoon series, so you know he had a sense of humor. Here he is appearing on the David Letterman show (another '80s flashback), doing another type of countdown.
This past week commemorates the 25 anniversary of the 1989 protests for freedom which took place in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China, and the subsequent crackdown by the Chinese government which put an end to the youthful demonstrations for freedom and a better life in China. This post is a tribute to that protest.
The protests began in April 1989 after reformers in the ruling Communist party lost a power struggle with hard liners. Students launched hunger strikes in support of reform, and protests erupted across China, most notably in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where an enormous crowd of students gathered.
The military was called, and for a while, there was a stand-off, best represented by the remarkable picture at the top of this post, where a single protester held off an entire column of tanks.
The protest continued amidst a celebratory and liberating atmosphere. The protesters set up a makeshift statue symbolizing freedom, one of the more memorable images that came from the event.
Sadly, the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, and the hope that came with it, was suddenly put down by the Chinese military, who cleared the square in a brutal operation that resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands wounded.
The ideals of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrators live on, and symbolize the global desire for freedom that people have. An ideal symbolized yet again later that same year of 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, and the Iron Curtain collapsed.
A-ha were an '80s Norwegian synth pop band, who are probably most well known for their 1985 song "Take On Me." Here's their video for it. I always thought the sentiments expressed in both song and video were quite sentimental and touching. The video, in particular, showed a very '80s love of the imagination and an accompanying sensitivity that showed why this was the decade of Spielberg.
Here's the follow up, "The Sun Always Shines on TV." This is so very '80s, with its atmospheric synth pop, dreamy lyrics, and a weirdly touching video.
In the '70s, ZZTop were a blues based rock band led by three bearded rebel guys. In the '80s, they revved up the guitar, added some synth, and put out some high octane rock, such as "Legs," off of their 1983 album, Eliminator.
Here's another: "Rough Boy" off of 1984's Afterburner album. Check out the space age car wash, and the very '80s shuttle.
I've had some '80s fast food memories coming to mind, and the commercials that came with them.
Here's one of the most memorable commercials from the early '80s. McDonald's "Little Sister" commercial appealed to me because, as an '80s teen, I always had a love of nostalgia from the past eras. This commercial seems to recall past eras, from perhaps the early '60s, to what looks like the '70s, finally concluding in the early '80s when it came out. I couldn't help but feel sentimental when I saw this.
I remember this Long John Silvers commercial too, also from the early '80s. Back then, people were not so self conscious, and eating fried foods was not viewed so negatively. There was a while, around the time this commercial came out, when Friday night out with my family always meant going out to Long John Silvers for some fried seafood goodies.
Again, getting past the health-consciousness of the present day, that stuff was pretty yummy. At least I thought it was. This commercial captures how I remember it: the coleslaw in particular was tasty, and the fried fish and fries.
Here's another '80s fast food flashback. You don't see Rax roast beef too many places anymore, but in the '80s, it was a frequent target for a family night out. There was a sandwich there called the "BBC" I used to love, with the initials standing for beef, bacon and cheddar. I'm getting a hankering for one now, as I sit here writing.
I must admit that I'm not the greatest follower of sports, but I feel compelled to have a look back at some of the more memorable '80s Olympic moments, both sports and non-sports related. Just in time before the 2014 Winter Olympics draws to a close!! This is not comprehensive by any means, but here goes.
For many, the most memorable '80s Olympic moment occurred early on, during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, with the much acclaimed "miracle on ice": the last minute victory of the U.S. Hockey team over their very formidable Soviet opponents. I remember the moment vividly, even as a not-very-sports-oriented individual. At a time when the morale of the United States was quite low, with hostages being held in Iran, the economy not doing very well, and foreign policy setbacks, the hockey team's miracle raised spirits and created optimism. The U.S. Hockey team would go on to beat Finland, to grab the gold.
The '80s was an era when politics intruded upon the Olympics. In 1980, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter organized a worldwide boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The boycott was only partially followed, and many nations went to Moscow anyway, but the boycott marred the event.
In response, the U.S.S.R. boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, bringing with them most of the Eastern Bloc countries, who also refused to attend.
One of the most memorable moments of the 1984 Summer Games was the "perfect 10" achieved by Mary Lou Retton in the gymnastic competition.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band created the song "Runner" in tribute to the Summer Olympics, becoming a hit and being played often in the course of those games.
Other '80s Olympics were held in Sarajevo (Winter, 1984), Seoul (Summer, 1988), and Calgary (Winter, 1988).
I heard this 1985 song being played at a public place a few days ago. It brought me back. The present time has sometimes been difficult for many people, with the economy and other problems. It sometimes causes you to look back at more positive times.
This song is for anyone going through tough times now, of any type. As Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up!"
Here's a memory from my '80s childhood. I remember when I was growing up, Chuck E. Cheese's was all the rage. It was combination pizza place and video arcade which featured an auto-animatronic show aimed primarily at kids. Commercials such as this one were frequent, beckoning kids to Chuck E's world of games, fun and kid-centered entertainment.
Finally, after seeing all the commercials, my family took me to the place. I remember enjoying the arcade, because as a typical '80s kid I was obsessed with video games. The auto-animatronic show was OK, and amusing for small kids, but paled in comparison with what you would find at Disney. I don't even remember the pizza, so I'll defer judgment.
Recently, I read that Chuck E. Cheese's is having financial difficulties, the product of changing tastes. It really was a product of its time, I guess.
Although my fave John Hughes movies growing up have always been the ones that dealt directly with teen issues, like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986), lately I've been enjoying a Hughes classic with a bit of a lighter style: 1986's Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The title character was a jack of all trades who could get away with everything, and his day off involved sneaking his girlfriend and best friend out of school for a day of playing hookie while enjoying the sites and sounds of '80s Chicago.
Their trip includes visits to a such Chicago landmarks as Wrigley Field, the Mercatile Exchange and Sears Tower.
My favorite scene in the whole movie involved the trio's visit to a Chicago museum, a smooth and contemplative foray into the world of art amidst an otherwise hectic day. I love this scene.
But probably the most memorable scene came near the end of the visit, as Bueller crashes the Von Steuben Day parade, with a musical sequence containing tunes from Wayne Newton and the Beatles. Altogether, a pleasant and light reminder of what I love about the '80s.
I wasn't sure what to put on the blog to start 2014. Here's something that isn't from too long ago, but just from this past year: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield singing the 1969 David Bowie classic "Space Oddity" from the International Space Station.
I figured its hopeful, positive, and optimistic. And it involves space, which is always cool for me.