The Biggest Musical Moments of the 80s

Life back in the 80s was very simple – no internet, no blogs, social media wasn’t there, and cell phones were as big as bricks (and only a few people had them). The 1980s is also known as the era of pop culture when fashion and music started to evolve. From key developments including the MTV coming on air for the first time to the decline of vinyl and the rise of electronic music and rap, here are some the biggest musical moments of the 80s:

R.E.M released their first single (1981)

R.E.M, an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, released its first single “Radio Free Europe” in collaboration with the Independent Record label. The band was formed by drummer Bill Berry, lead vocalist Michael Stipe, bassist/ backing vocalist Mike Mills, and guitarist Peter Buck in 1980. 

John Lennon is assassinated (1980)

John Lennon was a legend who co-founded the Beatles, which is commercially the most popular and successful band in the history of popular music. He was also an English singer, songwriter, and a peace activist. He was shot four times in the back at close range on 8th December 1980 by his fan Mark David Chapman after John Lennon autographed a copy of Double Fantasy. According to the killer, Mark, he was a total failure both professionally and personally, so all he wanted was fame, and he believed that killing famous people would give him fame and power. 

John was pronounced dead on Monday Night Football at 11:07 PM. 

After John Bonham’s Unexpected Death, Led Zeppelin breaks up (1980)

Led Zeppelin, an English rock band formed in London in 1968, called it quits when the drummer and songwriter of the band, John Bonham, died. The reason for his death was alcohol poisoning as he consumed 50 shots of vodka that day. When John died, the band’s singer Robert Plant said that he lost a very dear friend and he doesn’t even think about the future of the band or music anymore. 

Zeppelin is one of those legendary bands that are still ushered in the big stadium’s concerts today. 

MTV begins broadcasting (1981)

According to MTV Networks CEO, Tom Freston, when MTV started broadcasting in 1981, none of them had cable and their friends believe that they are jobless. When they broadcasted for the first time, a superimposed logo of MTV over the flag appeared which an astronaut sticks into the moon. Then after the logo, the debut clip, the Buggles’ video appeared on the channel which was one of the most visionary three and a half minutes in pop history. The video killed Radio Star! 

Since then, MTV’s effect on the film industry and music can clearly be seen today. The channel did many amazing things, including boosting film-editing techniques. Many channels have tried to reach the level of MTV but ended up getting failed. 

‘The Breaks’ Becomes the First Certified Gold Record Rap Song (1980)

The emergence of rap started in the 80s. People began to understand it better than before, and this is what made “The Breaks” become the first ever certified gold record rap song in 1980. It was sung by a pioneer rapper, Kurtis Walker, also known as Kurtis Blow. He was the first rap artist to sign with a big label company like Mercury Label in 1979. His single “The Breaks” was such a hit that it sold more than half a million copies. 

Grandmaster Flash & ”The Message” Rocks America (1982)

Joseph Sadler aka Grandmaster flash who invented the crossfader – a device that allowed DJs to fade in one beat while letting them fade out another beat using two different audio sources. This means that there is no break in the music. Not only Grandmaster Flash invented crossfader but also helped introduce many other DJ techniques that spur the development of rap. 

Besides his contribution to the world of rap, the single “The Message” was a massive hit for the group and was considered as the first hip hop song to have made social commentary. The song excellently describes the struggle and inequality of living in poverty in the city. It was also ranked #51 on the list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. 

Madonna’s ”Like a Virgin” Aired at the MTV Video Music Awards (1984)

The MTV Video Music Awards aired Madonna’s video and live performance on her song “Like a Virgin”. She emerged out of a giant wedding cake, and her performance on the song caused quite a stir in 1984. She flashed her underwear and garters during a live performance that grabbed the audience’s attention. 

Upon being asked why she did such a thing on live TV, she said that she lost her white stiletto while walking down the steps from the top of the wedding cake. So, she just pretended to dove on the floor and rolled around in order to reach her shoe. As she reached for the shoe, her dress went up. 

Madonna’s performance and the song had such a huge social impact that it portrayed her as a sexually independent, confident, and unashamed woman. This also influenced a new generation of female artists. 

“Born in the USA” was used by Ronal Regan for his re-election campaign (1984)

Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. President, used the song “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen during his campaign for re-election in New Jersey in 1984. However, the song wasn’t a nationalistic or patriotic anthem; it was actually about how the war with Vietnam affected America and how the country was going to the pot. 

Band-Aid Records “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (1984)

The song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure was an effort to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief back in 1984. It was the first song that laid the foundation of charity songs. Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought along 30 artists including Bono, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Sting, Roger Daltry, and many others to sing this song.

U2 Releases “The Joshua Tree” (1987)

“The Joshua Tree” by U2 was top of the charts in 20 countries and featured many times in U2 songs like “Where the streets have no name” and “with or without you”. According to the Slant Magazine, the U2’s album “The Joshua Tree” helped them become the lords and emperors of anthemic 1980’s rock. 

N.W.A. Releases “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)  

If you are a fan of gangsta rap, then you must be familiar with “Straight Outta Compton” – a rap song that took the rap industry by a storm. It had a significant influence on the youngsters but had violent lyrics that were not liked by most people (except rap lovers). N.W.A’s another song “Fuck the Police” also got a lot of attention including the FBI’s and the U.S. Secret Service’s because of the song’s lyrics and they prompted a complaint to N.W.A’s record label. 

Public Enemy Releases “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” (1988)

This hip hop album by the Public Enemy was ranked best of the year by a lot of rock critics in 1988. The band was known for promoting self-empowerment of African Americans through their politically charged lyrics. Their album ranked #43 on the list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003. 

The 80s was undoubtedly the best era of pop music and heavy metals. Top artists and bands of the 80s made their way to people’s heart through their amazing songs and lyrics; the songs that are enjoyed even today.