The Hits of 1984: Pop Over Rock

Springsteen, Prince and MJ rule the album charts


1984 was not the year that Geroge Orwlell envisioned in his famouse dystopian novel - or was it? A French immunologist identified a new virus that would become known as AIDS. The government declared that AT&T was a monopoly and ordered it to break up into smaller companies. Ronald Reagan was re-elected president in a landslide victory, and the ongoing recession caused over 70 US banks to fail during the year. The year marked the maiden voyage of Discovery, another famous space shuttle. Sony and Philips introduced low-cost consumer compact disc players, and the first compact disc pressing plant in America went to work in Terre Haute, Indiana. Sony also debuted the replacement for the floppy disc, a 3.5 inch square plastic disc that was not floppy at all. The practice of DNA profiling revolutionized forensic science. And a little personal computer from the Apple company revolutionized the computer industry - The Macintosh.
What happened in 1984's music?
This was the year of Spinal Tap, an amazing feat considering that the bands that the merry troupe were satirizing were just getting off the ground. Elton John married a woman, Michael Jackson's hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial, and David Lee Roth decided he could make it on his own, as did Sting of the Police. The top 5 worldwide songs were I Just Called to Say I love You by Stevie Wonder, Careless Whisper by George Michael, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham!, Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, and Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Clearly nor a real rock song among them, but the top 100 and the album charts fared a little better.
Debuts and Dance-Pop
First albums were released by the Smiths, initiating a several-year run of hits, Bon Jovi, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead Can Dance, and Robert Earl Keen. The number of sub-genres represented in this list is truly amazing, with goth-rock, alt country, lite metal, metal funk rock, and alternative guitar rock all getting good reviews and MTV-play. But the growth in one particular sub-genre was disturbing to true music lovers - dance-pop. What would have been called disco a few years ago was called something else now, even as the songs filled the nation's dance floors. But disco by any other name sucks just as bad...


Bruce Makes It Big, and Later Regrets It
Springsteen released his album Born in the USA, and it became a number one seller in an election year and the year of the compact disc, as well as a time when MTV, synth- and dance-pop, and other disquieting things were happening. It was the first CD produced in the US, in the new plant in Indiana. It was the first recording by him to use synthesizers and have an actual dance tune (Dancing in the Dark). It was the first time he allowed an outside producer (Arthur Baker) to do remixes of songs for dj use. It was the first time that a song of his was co-opted for a political campaign, but Bruce quickly put a stop to Ronald Reagan's use of Born in the USA. The record was a great illustration of the problem with irony - a lot of people just don't get it. Of course, it didn't help that Springsteen put an American flag on the cover, and toured stadiums wearing a bandana and showing off tanned, muscular biceps. All of his fans wondered what had happened to the skinny kid from Jersey, and apparently he did too - years later he admitted going into a deep depression after the tour and the success of the album.
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MTV Spawns Metal Lite and Hair Bands
The problem with videos is that the band has to look flashy, sexy, and have big hair. At least that seems to be how the whole thing happened. All of a sudden, MTV was showing videos in heavy rotation by such groups as Ratt, Great White, Whitesnake, Hanoi Rocks, Quiet Riot, Queensryche, Dokken, Triumph, the Scorpions, Judas Priest and Metallica. Some of these bands were actually talented and made some great rock and roll, but many of them thought it more important to look good on TV. And Poison hadn't even shown up yet!


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