new wave When the 1980s began, a handful of new musical styles were gaining a foothold in popular culture. The most notable of these was new wave. This style combined elements of punk, electronica and 1960s pop to create a sound that was pure 1980s. Before new wave faded from the scene in 1985, it helped to revitalize the sluggish music industry and gave the 1980s its unique sound.
Early in the decade, artists like Gary Numan, Blondie, Devo and the Talking Heads were popular in new wave circles. Later groups included Soft Cell, the Human League, Modern English and A Flock Of Seagulls. Many British bands adopted the new romantic look in response to the harshness of punk rock fashion. The exposure they received from music videos and MTV made these artists just as famous for their looks as they were for their music.
rap & hip-hop Rap music was born in the late 1970s as part of an emerging black subculture known as hip-hop. In 1979, the Sugarhill Gang released the first rap recording, Rapper's Delight. Blondie's 1981 hit Rapture was the first mainstream pop song to contain a rap segment, and it was instrumental in promoting the style to listeners outside the genre. Hip-hop music is a broader category encompassing the DJ techniques of rapping, scratching and sampling.
medleys Medleys are extended singles consisting of various song clips strung together to the accompaniment of a continuous drum track. The Stars On 45 and Hooked On Classics records are two popular examples.
country In 1980, the success of the movie Urban Cowboy finally gave country music the boost it needed to compete with pop music. If it was good enough for John Travolta, it was good enough for us, and suddenly it was cool to be a country music fan. In the 1980s, modern country music was heavily influenced by pop music, resulting in a hybrid style known as country pop. Many country stars had crossover hits during this decade.
metal Among other things, the heavy metal bands of the late 1980s introduced us to the concept of the power ballad. Metal bands like Britny Fox and Cinderella took glam rock to a whole new level by sporting makeup, outrageous fashions and the biggest hair this side of Marge Simpson. Because of this, metal bands from the 1980s will forever be known as hair bands.
see ya... Disco music and punk rock both experienced their last big year in 1980. The soft rock style of the 1970s was also in decline, to be replaced by a much broader category known as adult contemporary.
Breakdancing, or b-boying, was invented in the 1970s to give urban street gangs a way to express themselves and compete in a non-violent manner. Rock Steady Crew was the first b-boy group to become famous, and they helped introduce the dance to mainstream society.
Music sales fell for two consecutive years before reaching a low point in 1980. Disco was dead, punk rock was dying, and rap and alternative music were just beginning. Pop music in general was stale and uninteresting. The industry needed something new and fresh to revitalize it.
1981: Popular culture changed forever when MTV went on the air.
1981 was a great year for the ladies, with outstanding music from Olivia Newton-John, Kim Carnes and Stevie Nicks, plus debut singles from the Go Go's and Sheena Easton.
In 1982, the music industry began to notice the effect that music videos were having on popular culture. Suburban teens took their cue from MTV and embraced alternative fashions, wild hairstyles and the music of British new wave bands. TV commercials and other programs began to feature a quirky, fast-paced editing style reminiscent of music videos. Most importantly, sales were rising from their low point in 1980, proving that music videos were just what the ailing industry needed.
1983: Michael Jackson's Thriller dominated the airwaves, and the movie Flashdance spawned several great singles and a fashion trend.
1984: Madonna made an entrance and Tina Turner made a comeback.
1985: Live Aid raised funds for African famine relief, and Farm Aid raised funds for America's struggling farmers.
musicians "band together" for Africa In 1984, British musicians gathered under the name Band Aid to record Do They Know It's Christmas? All proceeds were donated to famine relief in Africa. In 1985, American musicians did the same, calling their group USA For Africa and recording We Are The World.
music for charity The success of the African famine relief recordings made the charity single popular. There were a handful of charity records released in the 1970s, but it was during the 1980s that they became a common occurence. In the 1980s, charity records raised funds for AIDS research, Britain's Children In Need campaign, Comic Relief, Special Olympics and many other worthy causes.
top 40 radio There was a time when the Top 40 radio format was found exclusively on the AM dial. The FM band was reserved for classical music, jazz and progressive rock. Everything changed in the late 1970s, when mainstream stations began to move their operations to the FM band. 1978 was the turning point, when FM listenership surpassed AM for the first time. By the mid 1980s, most music stations had found a new home in the land of FM stereo.
talk radio After the great FM migration of the late 1970s, many stations experimented with new ideas and adopted new formats. On the AM dial, former music stations attracted new listeners by converting to news, talk and sports formats. On the FM dial, audiences enjoyed the wacky antics of shock jocks and morning drive zoo crews.
Popular talk radio hosts in the 1980s included Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Steve & Garry and Jonathon Brandmeier. Loveline was a syndicated call-in show based in Los Angeles.
other radio shows For fans of comedy and parody songs, the Dr. Demento Show was available on stations all across the country. Casey Kasem's American Top 40 was the home of the weekly countdown and long distance dedication.
1985: Following the success of Band Aid and USA For Africa, musicians on both sides of the Atlantic staged a mega-concert known as Live Aid. This star-studded event raised additional funds for African famine relief.
Inspired by Live Aid, country musicians organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise funds for America's struggling farmers.
The first Monsters Of Rock tour took place in England in 1980. This yearly gathering of hard rock and heavy metal bands lasted well into the 1990s.
Popular touring acts in the 1980s included the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Journey and Bon Jovi. Vintage performers like Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffett and the Grateful Dead also continued to tour, much to the delight of deadheads and parrotheads everywhere.
videocassettes The home video industry was born in 1975 when the first successful VCRs went on the market. The following year, prerecorded movies on videocassette were offered for sale to the general public. They came in two formats: Betamax and VHS. In the early 1980s, a movie on videocassette sold for $40 to $80.
videodiscs There were two videodisc formats available in the 1980s: optical laserdiscs and vinyl CED videodiscs. Each disc was 12 inches wide and contained up to an hour of material per side. Both formats featured superior video quality and digital sound.
Videodiscs appealed to a niche audience of movie collectors, but failed to find a market beyond this. Film buffs enjoyed the format's extra features, which included multiple audio tracks, chapter selection, bonus footage and enhanced artwork. In 1984, these extra features made the first special editions possible. That year, Citizen Kane was the first special edition home video release.
In 1980, a typical laserdisc title sold for $25. Most videodiscs were available for purchase only, since rental shops didn't find it economical to stock them.
more than movies In 1979, rock musicians and video producers joined forces to create the first video albums. In its simplest form, a video album consisted of a collection of music videos packaged for home viewing. Some video albums also contained live performances, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and conceptual storylines. Many titles were released in conjunction with studio albums. Pioneering video albums included Discovery (ELO, 1979), Eat To The Beat (Blondie, 1980), The Touring Principle (Gary Numan, 1980), The Completion Backward Principle (The Tubes, 1981), The Men Who Make The Music (Devo, 1981) and Elephant Parts (Mike Nesmith, 1981).
In 1980, Star Trek was the first TV series to release selected episodes on videocassette.
sales The first movies on videocassette were sold by mail. By 1978, prerecorded movies on videocassette and videodisc were also available for purchase in specialty stores. Mail order options increased in 1981 when Columbia House introduced the CBS Video Library and CBS Video Club. The Suncoast Motion Picture Company began in 1986 as the Paramount Video Store before being renamed two years later. Target and Walmart began selling movies in 1988.
rentals The first video rental shop opened in 1977. For most people, the high cost of movie ownership made renting a very popular option. Even with hefty membership fees and deposits, most customers chose to rent.
getting started The industry was still finding its way in the early 1980s. Hundreds of rental shops opened, but success was elusive for most of them. Many record stores, video arcades, bookstores and pizza parlors also tried their hand at video rental. The results were mixed at best, and it quickly became evident that video rental was not for everyone. Record stores, for example, often failed as video stores because their young customers couldn't afford VCRs. For other businesses, video rental was a perfect fit.
studio opposition During the early years, matters were complicated by the fact that most movie studios were strongly opposed to video rentals. They licensed their films for purchase while doing everything in their power to shut down the rental industry. In 1985, a series of court rulings and the realization that rentals were generating a majority of the profits ended this opposition for good.
groceries & a movie Larger retail chains also experimented with video rental. Companies like Showtime Video and Super Video operated small rental departments in supermarkets and discount stores. In 1986, 7-Eleven added the MovieQuik service to their convenience stores. U-Haul jumped on the video bandwagon in 1984 when they launched Haullywood Video Rentals.
consistency & convenience The industry entered a period of rapid growth in the late 1980s. VCRs were more affordable, titles were plentiful, and large rental chains like Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Video entered the market. This resulted in consistency, convenience and lower prices for customers. Unfortunately, it also meant increased competition for independent video stores.