The Hits of 1983: Looking Up

MTV and CDs


1983 was a year of incredible and history-making technological advances. The Motorola Company introduced the first mobile phones, distant ancestors of today's cell phones.  Challenger, the space shuttle, took its maiden voyage. ARPANET switched over to the internet protocol, which in one fell swoop created the foundation for the modern Internet. In the computer world, the IBM PC XT uppped the ante for power in home computers, and Microsoft introduced their typing (word processing) program called simply Word. Lotus 1-2-3 pioneered the spreadsheet, a very practical use for personal computers along with Word. On March 2, 1983, compact disc  players and compact discs (16 CBS Records titles) were made available in the US and in other markets. This historical release is usually seen as the "Big Bang" of the nascent digital audio revolution.
What happened in 1983's music?
MTV continued its growth and became the salvation of the music business with its promotional model. Other networks soon saw the wisdom of their approach and cloned MTV - like Friday Night Videos on a major network. Besides the compact disc and MTV, 1983 saw the growth of alternative rock, witnessed New Wave splintering into a multitude of sub-genres, and Bob Dylan emerging from his born-again chrysalis with Infidels. David Crosby was sentenced to 5 years in jail for drugs and weapons, a sad state of affairs for a hero of the peace and love generation of the 60s. Joe Strummer and Paul Simenon of the Clash took it upon themselves to fire Mick Jones, essentially ending the only band that ever mattered. U2 finally had a worldwide smash with their 3rd album War. And the long-form video was born with Michael Jackson's 14 minute long film for his song Thriller - MTV was already morphing into something else again.

Top 5 Hits Worldwide
The hits of 1983 once again showed the progress that rock had made since the terrible disco years of the late 70s. Well, there was one exception of sorts, but it looked pretty good overall. Micael Jackson's Billie Jean, Karma Chameleon by Culture Club, Bowie's Let's Dance, Every Breath You Take by the Police, and Flashdance theme by Irene Cara. Some dance tunes to be sure, but nothing like the reign of disco. And that guitar player on Let's Dance would soon become familiar to all - Stevie Ray Vaughan's first album was released later in the year.
Debuts galore
First albums in 1983 were some of the greats. Also, some of the first alternative rock classics were issued - REM's Murmur, the Violent Femmes, The Waterboys, and many others. Artists who would make MTV the worldwide smash that it became released their debuts - Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Wham!, Big Country, and the Smiths (a single) were all released into the ocean of the music business and MTV this year, and most of them survived.
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The Compact Disc
At first, we didn't know what to make of this new shiny thing. Was it all a clever ruse by the music biz to make us all buy the same music again in a different format? While manufacturers were calling the cd "perfect sound, forever," critics were saying that digital sound had a glare and coldness that we didn't have with our old standbys, LPs and analog sound. The first CDs were hastily made from second-generation masters with incorrect equalization, compounding the problems. But like it or not, the compact disc was the new way to listen to music, and the digital revolution was in full swing. We would soon learn to love it.


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