As published by The Footy Almanac, 10 March 2015
Sure, wearing your sunglasses at night was advised to protect peepers from pastel polos and assorted fashion crimes. And swallowing the ’84 vintage mush served by Phil Collins, Lionel Richie, George Michael and Stevie Wonder would make for a hell of a tucker trial. If you’re too young to remember, or if as a reflex action you’ve locked away your ‘Eighties memories in a vault marked ‘do not disturb’, then I feel for you.
Because despite all that I’m bullish the following 946 words will have one refiling 1984 in a figurative time capsule triumphantly marked ‘cripes, that was a bloody good year after all, now that you mention it’.
At a time when MTV and newfangled space-age CD’s were revolutionizing music consumption, life seemed less complex and worries comparatively few. Although the rise of AIDS and fear of nuclear Armageddon played party pooper with young minds, global warming, the internet, 9/11 and George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 prophecies weren’t yet on the radar.
The era may have been afflicted by overworked synths and sax solos but I prefer to focus on the plethora of distinctive riffs, hooks and melodies across a range of genres; new wave, R&B, hard rock and hip-hop to name a few.
Critical to any stellar season, most of the elite players – the undead of which are still going round by popular demand – were in top form.
Mounting a challenge to the King of Pop was a Prince that would become a symbol by name and definition. After his monumental Purple Rain album (and movie) he could do or be anything he damn well wanted (except play in the ruck or a key position).
Other music royalty, Queen, gave ’84 The Works – a welcome return to form having been written off by themselves as much as their critics. Meanwhile another queen, Boy George, produced another megahit (though the less said about ill-fated fellow gender bender Divine the better).
As the voice of the common man Springsteen would spurn any title however Born in the USA confirmed for all time who was boss. Bruce had the Midas touch – in the memorable Dancing in the Dark video he plucked an oh-so-shocked Courtney Cox out of the crowd and obscurity. Such an Eighties moment.
Whilst evergreen piano men Elton John and Billy Joel kept their new women* and record labels happy, Cyndi Lauper’s year would sustain a career. Conversely Madonna, a wily manipulator of music, fashion and image (acting not so), began with a bang and continued to deliver many more. Other rock chicks to make 1984 their own included Pat Benatar and Tina Turner in an unlikely and lucrative comeback.
In the rock world the year would mark the rise of the hair band. Bon Jovi entered the scene (without being a runaway success) and Van Halen released the imaginatively titled 1984. Despite great commercial returns David Lee Roth would jump off the bands wagon before the year was out, oddly citing their output was ‘morose’. At least the original Karate Kid might have cheered up the high kicking lead singer (mic on, mic off). Def Leppard’s one armed drummer Rick Allan probably had more reason to feel bitter.
Speaking of cinema, Footloose wasn’t my cuppa but I must admit to harbouring a secret fondness for Deniece Williams’ Let’s Hear It for the Boy. Then there was the cult classic This is Spinal Tap as the antidote to Neverending Story (Kajagoogoo’s Limahl) and Electric Dreams (Human League’s Phil Oakey). Other tracks synonymous with film blockbusters included The Heat is On and Neutron Dance (Beverley Hills Cop) and Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jnr).
Across the Atlantic so many iconic Eighties artists dominated the airwaves. The Smiths were as prolific as they were terrific, despite their label’s haphazard mode of release. Depeche Mode would emerge with a harder edge, U2 began their stratospheric ascent and New Order, The Cure, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, Bananarama, The Style Council, Spandau Ballet, Eurythmics and Duran Duran were all enjoying their heyday.
In what was a groundbreaking venture, a number of the aforementioned stars aligned before the year was done to record Do They Know its Christmas? as part of Bob Geldof’s crusade against famine in Africa. Take it or leave it, the track sold over a million in its first week and reinforced 1984’s enduring historical significance.
The year may have ended on a serious note but generally speaking music was upbeat. Frankie said Relax, though I was too young and innocent to know where Holly Johnson was coming from (see what I did there). That said, there was plenty of Thatcher/Reagan inspired angst and other dark matter if you knew where to look.
On the local scene there were conflicting emotions over Split Enz and Cold Chisel calling it quits, albeit on high notes. Hoodoo Gurus, Models and Kids in the Kitchen found their groove. Dragon finally cast aside serious personal issues to reform and relaunch what was a seriously fine band. For good reason, the Oils and INXS were on the brink of international stardom, the latter’s The Swing album arguably their best. Though not making waves in the charts this particular year, Divinyls, The Church and Men at Work also deserve a sneaky mention.
It must be said back in the day it was easier for home grown acts to gain solid radio play and access to a wide array of live venues (pre Pokieville). TV also offered opportunities no longer available to be seen and heard; Sounds, Countdown, Rock Arena, Wavelength, Rock Around the World – even Hey Hey it’s Saturday. Nowadays there’s Rage, talent unreality shows and bugger all else. Stuff eking out a living from web downloads, wouldn’t it be good to drive a Delorean back to 1984? And at the other end of the exchange, how much more was music valued when it required a degree of effort and consideration when making a tangible purchase?
So in closing, and as the final irrefutable piece of evidence, I hereby submit two sides to play in the 1984 Hemisphere of Origin Music Jamboree.
- Message to My Girl – Split Enz
- Original Sin – INXS
- Flame Trees – Cold Chisel
- Burn for You – INXS
- Bitter Desire – Kids in the Kitchen
- Saturday Night – Cold Chisel
- Come Said the Boy – Mondo Rock
- I Hear Motion – Models
- When the Generals Talk – Midnight Oil
- Rain – Dragon
- Soul Kind of Feeling – Dynamic Hepnotics
- Kosciusko – Midnight Oil
- I Send a Message – INXS
- Listening – Pseudo Echo
- Playing to Win – Little River Band
- No Say in It – Machinations
- Heaven (Must Be There) – Eurogliders
- Change in Mood – Kids in the Kitchen
- Don’t Believe Anymore – Icehouse
- I Want You Back – Hoodoo Gurus
- Catch Me I’m Falling – Real Life
- In a Minor Key – Tim Finn
- How Soon is Now – The Smiths
- Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
- Radio Gaga – Queen
- Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2
- I Want to Break Free – Queen
- Hold Me Now – Thompson Twins
- When Doves Cry – Prince
- Shout to the Top – The Style Council
- We Belong – Pat Benatar
- Cover Me – Bruce Springsteen
- This Charming Man – The Smiths
- Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
- People Are People – Depeche Mode
- Thieves Like Us – New Order
- Take on Me – A-ha
- Oh Sherrie – Steve Perry
- Blue Jean – David Bowie
- Smooth Operator – Sade
- Eyes Without a Face – Billy Idol
- Strut – Sheena Easton
- Drive – The Cars
- Big Country – Big Country
* Elton John changed teams to marry Renate Blauel in February 1984 while Billy Joel played out of his division snagging the delectable Christie Brinkley