The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
The Year in Music - 1983

Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, George Strait

By 1983 the "New Music" of the Eighties -- a blend of rock, soul, disco and reggae wrapped in synth -- had become well-established, and record sales were up after a long slump that had started in the late 1970s.  According to TIME Magazine, a "diverse but irresistible mix of sounds has brought the kids back not only to the record racks but to the clubs and concerts as well."  A plethora of new acts had injected life into the music industry, with a lot of help from MTV, which by September of this year was reaching over 15 million households.  Many of the new acts came from overseas -- in fact, it could be said that a second "British Invasion" occurred in the early Eighties, with groups like The Human League, Soft Cell, Culture Club, Duran Duran, A Flock of Seagulls and the Thompson Twins setting the electropop parameters.  Australian groups like Men at Work and INXS were also beginning to fare quite well in America.  On the dance floor, David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" defined the post-disco beat.  Last year, rock radio had been playing 75% rock classics; this year they played 75% new music.  
MTV's five "vee-jays" -- Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson and Martha Quinn -- were airing 300 videos a day, none of which MTV paid for.  Record companies realized that rock videos were highly effective sales devices.  In 1981, only 23 of Billboard's Top 100 singles were supported by videos; in 1983, over 50% of them were -- as were 17 of the Top 20 albums.  MTV sold more music in a single year than radio had in the past five.  Research by MTV's parent company, Warner/Amex, revealed that MTV viewers bought an average of nine albums a year, well above the national average.  And the average MTV viewer was 25 and made over $30,000 a year -- a statistic that did not escape the 125 advertisers who paid $1,500 for 30 seconds of airtime.  In 1982 Les Garland, Vice President of Programming for MTV, said, "The record companies were in serious trouble in 1980 and 1981.  They didn't know if [MTV] would help.  But they're just now starting to . . . have visions of coming back."  No band was more effective than Duran Duran in riding the video wave to success; in 1983 MTV was giving plenty of air play to four of their videos -- "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Rio," "Save A Prayer" and "Girls on Film."  However, in spite of the second British Invasion, the most requested act on MTV was the duo of Hall & Oates, which had enjoyed a string of big hits in the early Eighties, including "Maneater," "Private Eyes" and "Your Kiss Is On My List."
This was the year that MTV conquered the New York City and Los Angeles markets, and network television as well as local outfits were packaging their own video programs.  Ted Turner's WTBS superstation debuted Night Tracks and in July NBC introduced its Friday Night Videos.  Video jukeboxes began showing up in clubs and restaurants all across the country.
Record companies were having no luck convincing Congress that home taping should be made illegal (as it was in other countries, including Britain.)  CBS had created a "spoiler" -- a device in the recording system that when activated by an electronic signal on the pre-recorded cassette or LP prevented duplication -- but didn't dare use it unless legislation required other companies to do likewise.  Compact discs were a new idea that many experts in the field doubted would ever really catch on; although no one disputed that CD sound quality was superior to that of cassettes or LPs, the cost of a CD player was prohibitively high at $800-$1,500, while the CD itself cost $20.  To recoup expenses for videos airing on MTV for free, record companies began marketing video singles, 10-15 minute video cassettes.  Meanwhile, independent label Arista signed a distribution deal with RCA, while Chrysalis did the same with CBS and Motown linked up with MCA.  
In 1983 a profound change in country music began to take root in Nashville.   Texas-born George Strait had two Number One hits -- "Amarillo By Morning" and "You Look So Good In Love" -- and paved the way for the neo-traditionalist movement that would put an end to the "Nashville Sound," as well as to country music's post-Urban Cowboy sales slump.  Many felt that country music had lost its way, and neo-traditionalists like Strait and those who followed -- Randy Travis, Clint Black, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson -- would show it how to get back to basics with a sound that stemmed from honky tonk and western swing traditions.  A mother-daughter team of musicians calling themselves The Judds hit the country music scene in 1983, and would play a significant role in the transformation; this year they released their first single "Had a Dream (For the Heart)."  The neo-traditionalist movement would conquer Nashville in a few short years, its ascendancy marked by the release of the 1986 Randy Travis album Storms of Life, which would sell three million copies and make Travis the first country artist ever to go multi-platinum.
The Bee Gees lost a plagiarism suit filed by Ronald H. Selle, a church choir director who claimed the band's 1977 Grammy Award winning hit "How Deep Is Your Love" was derived from his song "Let It End."  Interior Secretary James Watt banned The Beach Boys from performing at the Fourth of July bash in Washington DC's Mall because, he said, the band would attract "an undesirable element."  In November, Michael Jackson's 14-minute (and $1.1 million) video for "Thriller" debuted at the Metro Theater in Westwood, California, and showed up on MTV two weeks later.  The reaction was astonishing.  MTV's Nielsen rating soared.  Jackson's Thriller album was selling 600,000 copies a week.  In December, TIME magazine declared that a "musical revolution" was taking place, one in which "video will be the way to keep time with the future."

Hall & Oates concert poster; Toto concert poster; Pat Benatar concert pass

Top Ten Singles
1. "The Girl Is Mine" - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
2. "Down Under" - Men At Work
3. "Dirty Laundry" - Don Henley
4."Maneater" - Hall and Oates
5. "Sexual Healing" - Marvin Gaye
6. "Mickey" - Toni Basil
7. "Africa" - Toto
8. "Baby Come To Me" - Patti Austin w/ James Ingram
9. "Rock The Casbah" - The Clash
10. "Gloria" - Laura Branigan

1. "Baby Come To Me" - Patti Austin w/ James Ingram
2. "Down Under" - Men At Work
3. "Shame On The Moon" - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
4. "Stray Cat Strut" - Stray Cats
5. "Africa" - Toto
6. "You And I" - Eddie Rabbitt
7. "Sexual Healing" - Marvin Gaye
8. "Goody Two Shoes" Adam Ant
9. "Pass The Dutchie" - Musical Youth
10. "You Can't Hurry Love" - Phil Collins

1. "Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson
"Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" - Culture Club
3. "Hungry Like The Wolf" - Duran Duran
4. "Shame On The Moon" - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
5. "Back On The Chain Gang" - Pretenders
6. "You Are" - Lionel Richie
7. "We've Got Tonight" - Kenny Rogers & Sheena Easton
8. "Stray Cat Strut" - Stray Cats
9. "Separate Ways" - Journey
10. "One On One" - Hall and Oates

1."Billie Jean" - Michael Jackson
2. "Come On Eileen" - Dexy's Midnight Runners
3. "Mr. Roboto" - Styx
4. "Beat It" - Michael Jackson
5. "Jeopardy" - Greg Kihn Band
6. "Hungry Like The Wolf" - Duran Duran
7. "Separate Ways" - Journey
8. "One On One" - Hall and Oates
9. "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" - Culture Club
10. "Der Kommissar" - After The Fire

1. "Beat It" - Michael Jackson
2. "Let's Dance" - David Bowie
3. "Overkill" - Men At Work
4. "She Blinded Me With Science" - Thomas Dolby
5. "Flashdance-What A Feeling" - Irene Cara
6. "Jeopardy" - Greg Kihn Band
7. "Little Red Corvette" - Prince & The Revolution
8. "Solitaire" - Laura Branigan
9. "Der Kommissar" - After The Fire
10. "My Love" - Lionel Richie

1. "Flashdance-What A Feeling" - Irene Cara
2. "Time (Clock of the Heart)" - Culture Club
3. "Let's Dance" - David Bowie
4. "Overkill" - Men At Work
5. "Electric Avenue" - Eddy Grant
6. "Beat It" - Michael Jackson
7."Don't Let It End" - Styx
8. "My Love" - Lionel Richie
9. "Affair Of The Heart" - Rick Springfield
10. "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" - Naked Eyes

1."Every Breath You Take" - Police
2. "Electric Avenue" - Eddy Grant
3. "Flashdance-What A Feeling" - Irene Cara
4. "Never Gonna Let You Go" - Sergio Mendes
5. "Wanna Be Startin' Something" - Michael Jackson
6. "Come Dancing" - Kinks
7. "Our House" - Madness
8. "Is There Something I Should Know" - Duran Duran
9. "Too Shy" - Kajagoogoo
10. "Stand Back" - Stevie Nicks

1. "Every Breath You Take" - Police
2. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" - Eurythmics
3. "She Works Hard For The Money" - Donna Summer
4. "Maniac" - Michael Sembello
5. "Stand Back" - Stevie Nicks
6. "Is There Something I Should Know" - Duran Duran
7. "It's A  Mistake" - Men At Work
8. "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" - Human League
9. "Flashdance-What A Feeling" - Irene Cara
10. "Puttin' On The Ritz" - Taco

1. "Maniac" - Michael Sembello
2. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" - Eurythmics
3. "Tell Her About It" - Billy Joel
4. "The Safety Dance" - Men Without Hats
5. "Puttin' On The Ritz" - Taco
6. "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" - Bonnie Tyler
7. "Every Breath You Take" - Police
8. "Human Nature" - Michael Jackson
9. "Don't Cry" - Asia
10. "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" - Air Supply

1. "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" - Bonnie Tyler
2. "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All" - Air Supply
3. "True" - Spandau Ballet
4. "Islands In The Stream" - Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
5. "King Of Pain" - Police
6. "One Thing Leads To Another" - The Fixx
7. "The Safety Dance" - Men Without Hats
8. "All Night Long" - Lionel Richie
9. "Tell Her About It" - Billy Joel
10. "(She's) Sexy + 17" - Stray Cats

1. "All Night Long" - Lionel Richie
2. "Islands In The Stream" - Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
3. "Say Say Say" - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
4. "Uptown Girl" - Billy Joel
5. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" - Bonnie Tyler
6. "Cum On Feel The Noize" - Quiet Riot
7. "One Thing Leads To Another" - The Fixx
8. "Love Is A Battlefield" - Pat Benatar
9. "Suddenly Last Summer" - Motels
10. "Delirious" - Prince & The Revolution

1. "Say Say Say" - Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
2. "Say It Isn't So" - Hall and Oates
3. "All Night Long" - Lionel Richie
4. "Uptown Girl" - Billy Joel
5. "Union Of The Snake" - Duran Duran
6. "Love Is A Battlefield" - Pat benatar
7."Owner Of A Lonely Heart" - Yes
8. "Twist Of Fate" - Olivia Newton-John
9. "Islands In The Stream" - Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
10. "Church Of The Poison Mind" - Culture Club

New Order's Powder, Corruption & Lies; Synchronicity by The Police;
Marvin Gaye's Midnight Love

Let's Dance, David Bowie (EMI)
Bowie's most commercially successful album, and one that marked a turning point in the singer's career as he ended his self-imposed exile from mainstream music.  This album produced three Top Twenty singles for Bowie: "China Girl," "Modern Love" and the title track.  Bowie co-produced Let's Dance with Niles Rodger, of the dance band Chic, and the album also featured Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Bowie accompanied this album with a new look.  Gone was the androgynous punk rocker as he traded in his spiked hair for a schoolboy cut and wrapped his lanky frame in tailored suits.

Colour By Numbers, Culture Club (Virgin)
Vocalist Boy George with guitarist/keyboard player Roy Hay, bass player Mikey Craig and drummer Jon Moss reached the apex of their careers as the band Culture Club with this, their second album following Kissing To Be Clever (1982).  The single "Kharma Chameleon" topped the charts in both the US and UK, and Colour By Numbers, a consistently fine "new pop" album, reached Number One in Britain and would have done the same in the US but for the chart-topping longevity of Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Midnight Love, Marvin Gaye (Columbia)
Though released in late 1982, this album ushered soul singer Gaye back to the top of the charts in 1983 and was his best work save for the classic What's Going On.  The single "Sexual Healing" reached the Number Three spot on the charts, while the album itself made it to Number Seven, and Gaye had the big comeback he was hoping for. Midnight Love, with its glossy, seductive dance-floor tracks, sold nearly three million copies worldwide.  Sadly, it was Gaye's last album; he was shot to death by his father in April, 1984.

Thriller, Michael Jackson ((Epic)
Jackson and his producer, Quincy Jones, were concerned about living up to the artist's previous release, Off the Wall, which had sold 8 million copies.  With seven Top Ten singles, Thriller became the biggest selling album in history, -- 40 million copies (so far) -- and garnered seven Grammy Awards.  The biggest singles were "Beat It" and "Billie Jean."  Other grooves: "The Girl Is Mine," "Wanna Be Startin' Something" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)."  A pop classic.

She's So Unusual, Cyndi Lauper (Portrait/CBS)
A huge debut album with four Top Five singles -- including "She Bop," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time" -- this album went multiplatinum and made Lauper a star virtually overnight.  Her exotic image -- red-orange hair and tacky attire -- could not obscure playfully seductive vocal talents.  Studio musicians on this album included Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, who would soon hit it big themselves in the band The Hooters.

Power, Corruption & Lies, New Order (Factory)
This band was formed by the members of the British punk rock group Joy Division after lead singer Ian Curtis killed himself in 1980, and with this, their second album, New Order (singer/guitarist Bernard Albrecht, bass player Peter Hook, drummer Stephen Moore and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert) shook off the last vestiges of their previous incarnation and produced one of the best post-punk dance albums of the decade.  The single "Blue Monday" was a huge hit in Britain.  The album was not issued in the U.S. until 1985.

Synchronicity, The Police (A&M)
Released in the summer of 1983, this was not only the best of the band's albums, but also its last.  Singer/bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland produced a dark but mesmerizing musical exploration of emotional pain and vulnerability with songs like "Every Breath You Take," "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "King of Pain" -- songs written by recently divorced Sting at the Jamaican estate of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.  The album reached the Number One spot, as did the hit single "Every Breath You Take."

1999, Prince (Warner Bros.)
Though released in October 1982, this album kept Prince on the charts throughout much of 1983, with it's three funk-rock hit singles "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious" and the title track.  Most of the tracks were recorded in the basement studio of the artist's purple house in Minneapolis, and utilized the talents of his band, The Revolution, including keyboardist Lisa Coleman, drummer Bobby Z and guitarist Dez Dickerson.  1999 demonstrated Prince's innovative genius and set the stage for his best work, Purple Rain, in the summer of 1984.

War, U2 (Island)
Vocalist Bono (Paul Hewson), guitarist The Edge (David Evans), bass player Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen established U2 on the cutting edge of progressive rock with this, their third album, a stark and militant counterpoint to the "new romanticism" of early Eighties synth rock.  "New Year's Day" reached Britain's Top 10, and another single off this album, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" became a U2 concert favorite.  Later in the year the band would release a live album, Under A Blood Red Sky.

Eliminator, ZZ Top (Warner Bros.)
In the 1970s, Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard had a string of successful albums, but this one outperformed all the band's previous releases put together, eventually selling 10 million copies.  ZZ Top managed to fuse elements of the new synth pop sound with their rollicking R&B style and ended up with what Rolling Stone described as "the party album of the decade."  Hit singles included "Legs," "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Gimme All Your Lovin'."  The chic, glossy videos accompanying this album garnered the band millions of new fans.