The 1980s: John Lennon, Classic Rock Radio stations and MTV

The 1980s started on a sad note with the tragic assassination of John Lennon by a deranged fan, Mark Chapman, right after he launched a new solo album Double Fantasy. The biggest influence on music in the 80s was the introduction of MTV which became part of the telecast of over 300 cable TV networks in America, expanding up to 2,000 by 1983. VH1 was introduced in 1984 and was more closely aligned to the classic rock-loving audience.

Classic rock music became very expressive and music videos became the “in” thing. More bands evolved and were able to break through with their own music styles by shooting music videos which gained critical acclaim. Also, new genres like hip-hop and rap became more popular with acts like Run DMC, LL Cool J and Queen Latifah. Heavy metal was also became prevalent with bands like Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne coming at the forefront of its proliferation.

By now, even some classic rock legends like The Rolling Stones became even bigger than ever and went on to amass over $50 million from tours in a single year (particularly their hugely successful American Tour in 1981). Technological developments also come to light, with vinyl records giving way to compact discs (CDs).

By the mid-1980s, “classic rock” had become widespread as a radio format, having been tailored to a demographic that covered adult males, particularly those in the age ranges of 25 to 34. As this format’s listening audience aged, however, the demographic shifted to cater older age groups.

The 80s also marked an important period for AC/DC, one of the classic rock groups who released their first song with Brian Johnson after the death of their former lead singer Bon Scott. This song, entitled “You Shook Me All Night Long” marked the beginning of future successes for the grief-stricken band.