The Hits of 1982: Rock Lives!
And interbreeds with lots of other types of music
In 1982 Americans were hit by a deep recession, as energy costs rose along with the unemployment rate. The war between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands was news for a while. International protests over whaling finally acheieved results as commercial whaling was outlawed and whales became offically endangered. Advances in genetic engineering resulted in the first insulin made by bacteria appearing on the market. Along with the newly-hatched phenomenon of MTV, the Weather Channel hit the nation's cable networks and became a huge success. The Commodore 64 home computer became available and sold millions eventually, after the cost fell quickly and dramatically. The popularity of Atari, Commodore, Apple, and IBM computers led Time Magazine to declare that the Man of the Year for 1982 was - the Computer. And in Japan, the first home compact disc player made by Sony was released, and the first CD the Japanese music lover could buy for his player was 52nd Street by Billy Joel.
What happened in 1982's music?
Aside from the clear strength of MTV, 1982 was notable for hosting a return to rock, pop, and new genres of the same from the hell of disco and dance music. It was a sad year for Saturday Night Live fans, as John Belushi met his untimely death. Randi Rhoades, lead guitarist for the immensely popular Ozzie Osbourne and his bands, died in a bizarre plane accident.David Crosby began his descent into his own version of hell with 2 drug and gun busts in one year. Joe Strummer of the Clash did his famous disappearing act, later revealed to have been cooked up as a publicity stunt, but the band was falling apart anyway. And what would become the biggest selling album in history was released at the end of the year - Thriller by Michael Jackson.
The influence of MTV began to have a real effect in the hits of 1982. A look at the top 5 worldwide singles tells the tale: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor, Down Under by Men at Work, I Love R &R by Joan Jett, Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners, and Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Not a disco tune in the bunch, and some genuinely tasty music for the most part occupied the top 100 singles charts as well. Actual rock and roll was represented by the Clash, the Cars, John Cougar (Mellencamp), Tom Petty, J. Geils, Quarterflash, Tommy Tutone, and many others. Not coincidentally, all of these songs had accompanying popular videos to get them airplay on MTV, making them the first hit videos in addition to being hit songs. Give MTV credit in a big way for killing off disco, because there was much better music to be heard - and seen.
Credit also goes to the fledgling music TV network for expanding the horizons of music lovers everywhere. Just look at some of the hybrids that creative musicians were coming up with. Reggae and ska were everywhere, in the music of Elvis Costello, the Specials, the Clash, Men at Work, and even Culture Club. Dexy's group brought traditional Irish music to tv screens and made it safe for others to follow, mixed in with R&b and soul. Metal and hard rock became even more popular, paving the way for many infamous hair bands just around the time corner. Heartland rock was the forte of the Blasters, John Cougar, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen. New Wave was splintering into synth groups, guitar groups, and all kinds of other variations. And then there was that old whipping horse punk rock.
Alternative to what?
Punk rock's aesthetic of DIY was becoming something new also, as independent bands all over the US and Great Britain saw that they could do it themselves - with a little help from MTV later on, of course. The beginnings of what would soon be called alternative rock can be seen in bands that started out being called punk rock - the Minutemen, the Replacements, the Damned, and countless others. These groups wrote and played their own songs, recorded cheaply, made records cheaply and sold them at shows they traveled to in beat-up vans all over the country. The biggest milestones of the year for the still-embryonic genre of alternative were Stink by the Replacements, and Chronic Town, by a Georgia band named REM. Both were EPs, just hints of what was to come, but good enough to know that something great was brewing.