Bruce Springsteen, Motley Crue
1985 was the year that the Second British Invasion reached its pinnacle -- and then began a precipitous decline, as New Wave/New Romantic music suddenly lost much of its glitter. The revolution in music caused by video now created a backlash; it became apparent to many consumers that in some cases bands that looked great on film didn't sound very good on the turntable. There was entirely too much style and not enough substance. Too many albums contained one or two good songs and then eight tracks of fluff. It's no coincidence that Frankie Goes To Hollywood did better marketing five different 12" versions of "Relax" than they did with Welcome to the Pleasuredome. No matter how many extras and special effects that acts employed in their road shows, discerning audiences began to get the sense that hearing, not seeing, was believing. Anyone who could press a single key on a synthesizer or program a drum machine could manufacture a hit, and it seemed that nearly everyone had done so. It was time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
This was the year of the charity hit as rock 'n' roll reacquired a conscience. A galaxy of stars joining together as USA For Africa to sing "We Are The World," penned by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. The song made it to #1 in four weeks and sold four million copies, making it the biggest selling single of the decade. Proceeds were used to fight famine in Africa. The dual Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia were watched by 1.6 billion people in 170 countries and raised $80 million for famine relief. Dionne Warwick gathered musical friends to help her record "That's What Friends Are For," proceeds from which were used to raise awareness about AIDS. Artists United Against Apartheid recorded Sun City to protest South Africa's racist policies; the 36 artists involved included Hall and Oates, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel. And Farm Aid, featuring Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson and John Cougar Mellencamp, raised $10 million to help distressed American farmers. Bruce Springsteen wore himself and the E Street Band out with a year-long tour that netted millions and millions of dollars; he made massive donations to food banks and homeless shelters. In the Seventies, many were the dolefully sincere artists who with their music lamented the state of the world, and yet few had the wherewithal to do anything about it as the music industry declined. In the Eighties, on the other hand, artists produced hits that critics scoffed at but which made money hand over fist -- money that made a real difference in alleviating poverty, famine and disease the world over.
This was the decade when musical boundaries came tumbling down, when pop and rock and soul were artfully blended. Traditionalists complained -- none louder than those at black radio stations who wondered what Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Prince had done to their music. In 1985, Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind & Fire cut an album with Phil Collins that included the white-pop hit "Easy Lover." Aretha Franklin, the first lady of soul, also crossed over the line with Who's Zoomin' Who. Chaka Khan mixed pop and soul and disco and hip hop in "I Feel For You." But what many didn't realize at the time that this crossover contagion left the door open for the rise of hip hop -- genuine, basic, hot-off-the-streets rap that celebrated rather than denied the roots of its artisans. Even so, a musical genre based on sound sampling could not escape stylistic miscegenation; Run DMC rocked with their rap, and the Beastie Boys introduced us to what might be called heavy metal hip hop. An East-Ender named Paul Hardcastle had a #1 hip hop hit in the UK with #19." Some wondered if, in years to come, it would be anachronistic to talk about "white" music as something entirely separate and distinct from "black" music.
Speaking of heavy metal, all those who had previously proclaimed that heavy metal was dead had egg on their face; in fact, 1985 marked the beginning of a renaissance in hard rock that would thrive through the end of the decade. Ratt's Out of the Cellar and Motley Crue's Shout at the Devil both went double platinum; Kiss resurrected their career; W.A.S.P., The Scorpions and Grim Reaper made themselves known. Their success had two basic elements: melody-driven tunes and sex-soaked videos. This equalled commercial success. Def Leppard had paved the way with 1983's Pyromania; Foreigner, Billy Idol and Night Ranger showed how you could enjoy commercial success without entirely abandoning the powerchord. Van Halen (revitalized with the recruitment of the Red Rocker, Sammy Hagar), Bon Jovi, Poison and Guns 'n' Roses were all about to invade the mainstream.
In the U.S. and the UK, record and cassette sales were up 14% from the previous year, with cassettes outselling albums in Britain for the first time ever. The number of albums certified platinum in the U.S. increased by 46% over 1984. Compact discs accounted for 21 million of the 643 million total units sold, an increase of 250%. Michael Jackson paid $40 million for the rights to the ATC Music catalog, which included 5,000 songs, including many of the tunes written by the team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A group of influential Washington wives, including Tipper Gore, formed the Parents' Music Resource Center; the PMRC pressured the music industry to establish a rating system that would warn record buyers of violent and sexually explicit lyrics. Harlem's famous Apollo Theater, for many years a showplace for black entertainers when most doors were closed to them, reopened in May.
On the legal front, blues performer Willie Dixon filed a complaint alleging that Led Zeppelin's big hit "Whole Lotta Love" was plagiarized from his song "You Need Love," recorded in 1962 by Muddy Waters. Spandau Ballet alleged that Chrysalis Records had mismanaged their affairs and requested termination of their contract. Jefferson Starship lost its court battle to retain the "Jefferson" prefix. Elton John and Bernie Taupin lost a six-month court battle to recover the copyright to 169 songs published by DJM Music; however, the court ordered Dick James to cough up millions in unpaid royalties he owed the pair.
Notable Events of the Year
The U.S. Postal Service issues an Elvis Presley stamp commemorating what would have been the artist's 50th birthday. A record-breaking 500 million Elvis stamps would be sold.
Madonna becomes only the second female artist (the first was The Singing Nun) to have the top single ("Like A Virgin") and top album (Like A Virgin) simultaneously. The album outsells all others this year, and Madonna sells more singles than any other act in 1985. She also becomes the first artist to simultaneously hold the top two slots on the UK singles chart with "Into The Groove" and "Holiday."
Wham! becomes the first western pop group to perform in the People's Republic of China and to release records there.
John Lennon's psychedelic Rolls Royce goes for over $2 million at a New York auction.
The Second British Invasion reaches its high water mark in 1985; as summer begins, Madonna is the only all-American act in the US Top Ten, the rest being British (except for The Power Station, which is Anglo-American.) Non-Americans have a record eight consecutive US chart-toppers and seven of these are British. (The eighth is the Norwegian group A-Ha.)
Queen, Yes, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Rod Stewart are among the performers at the Rock in Rio festival, touted as the biggest rock concert of all time.
Ian Stewart, co-founder of the Rolling Stones, dies of a heart attack at 47. Rick Nelson, his fiancee and his band die when their private plane crashes in Texas.
Poster for the 1985 Willie Nelson Picnic
Top Ten Singles
1. "Like A Virgin," Madonna
2. "All I Need," Jack Wagner
3. "You're The Inspiration," Chicago
4. "The Wild Boys," Duran Duran
5. "Run To You," Bryan Adams
6. "I Want To Know What Love Is," Foreigner
7. "We Belong," Pat Benatar
8. "Easy Lover," Philip Bailey & Phil Collins
9. "Sea Of Love," Honeydrippers
10. "Born In The U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen
1. "Careless Whisper," Wham!
2. "I Want To Know What Love Is," Foreigner
3. "Easy Lover," Philip Bailey & Phil Collins
4. "Loverboy," Billy Ocean
5. "Method Of Modern Love," Hall & Oates
6. "Neutron Dance," Pointer Sisters
7. "The Boys Of Summer," Don Henley
8. "The Heat Is On," Glenn Frey
9. "You're The Inspiration," Chicago
10. "Can't Fight This Feeling," REO Speedwagon
1. "Can't Fight This Feeling," REO Speedwagon
2. "The Heat Is On," Glenn Frey
3. "Material Girl," Madonna
4. "Too Late For Goodbyes," Julian Lennon
5. "Careless Whisper," Wham!
6. "California Girls," David Lee Roth
7. "One More Night," Phil Collins
8. "Lovergirl," Teena Marie
9. "Private Dancer," Tina Turner
10. "Neutron Dance," Pointer Sisters
1. "We Are The World," USA For Africa
2. "Crazy For You," Madonna
3. "One More Night," Phil Collins
4. "Nightshift," Commodores
5. "Rhythm Of The Night," DeBarge
6. "I'm On Fire," Bruce Springsteen
7. "Obsession," Animotion
8. "Material Girl," Madonna
9. "Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds
10. "One Night In Bangkok," Murray Head
1. "Don't You (Forget About Me)," Simple Minds
2. "Crazy For You," Madonna
3. "One Night In Bangkok," Murray Head
4. "Everything She Wants," Wham!
5. "We Are The World," USA For Africa
6. "Smooth Operator," Sade
7. "Some Like It Hot," Power Station
8. "Rhythm Of The Night," DeBarge
9. "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," Tears For Fears
10. "Axel F," Harold Faltermeyer
1. "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," Tears For Fears
2. "Heaven," Bryan Adams
3. "Things Can Only Get Better," Howard Jones
4. "Sussudio," Phil Collins
5. "In My House," Mary Jane Girls
6. "Suddenly," Billy Ocean
7. "Everything She Wants," Wham!
8. "Axel F," Harold Faltermeyer
9. "Angel," Madonna
10. "Walking On Sunshine," Katrina & The Waves
1. "A View To A Kill," Duran Duran
2. "Raspberry Beret," Prince & The Revolution
3. "Everytime You Go Away," Paul Young
4. "Sussudio," Phil Collins
5. "You Give Good Love," Whitney Houston
6. "The Search Is Over," Survivor
7. "Glory Days," Bruce Springsteen
8. "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," Sting
9. "Would I Lie To You?," Eurhythmics
10. "Voices Carry," Til Tuesday
1. "Shout," Tears For Fears
2. "The Power Of Love," Huey Lewis & The News
3. "Never Surrender," Corey Hart
4. "Freeway Of Love," Aretha Franklin
5. "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," Sting
6. "Everytime You Go Away," Paul Young
7. "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)," John Parr
8. "Summer of '69," Bryan Adams
9. "We Don't Need Another Hero," Tina Turner
10. "Who's Holding Donna Now," DeBarge
1. "Money For Nothing," Dire Straits
2. "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)," John Parr
3. "Cherish," Kool & The Gang
4. "We Don't Need Another Hero," Tina Turner
5. "Don't Lose My Number," Phil Collins
6. "Freedom," Wham!
7. "The Power Of Love," Huey Lewis & The News
8. "Pop Life," Prince & The Revolution
9. "Oh Sheila," Ready For The World
10. "Dress You Up," Madonna
1. "Take On Me," A-Ha
2. "Saving All My Love For You," Whitney Houston
3. "Oh Sheila," Ready For The World
4. "Part Time Lover," Stevie Wonder
5. "Money For Nothing," Dire Straits
6. "Lonely Ol' Night," John Cougar Mellencamp
7. "Miami Vice Theme," Jan Hammer
8. "Fortress Around Your Heart," Sting
9. "Cherish," Kool & The Gang
10. "I'm Goin' Down," Bruce Springsteen
1. "We Built This City," Starship
2. "You Belong To The City," Glenn Frey
3. "Miami Vice Theme," Jan Hammer
4. "Separate Lives," Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin
5. "Head Over Heels," Tears For Fears
6. "Part Time Lover," Stevie Wonder
7. "Broken Wings," Mr. MIster
8. "Never," Heart
9. "Lay Your Hands On Me," Thompson Twins
10. "Be Near Me," ABC
1. "Say You, Say Me," Lionel Richie
2. "Broken Wings," Mr. Mister
3. "Separate Lives," Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin
4. "Party All The Time," Eddie Murphy
5. "Alive & Kicking," Simple Minds
6. "Election Day," Arcadia
7. "I Miss You," Klymaxx
8. "Sleeping Bag," ZZ Top
9. "Small Town," John Cougar Mellencamp
10. "That's What Friends Are For," Dionne Warwick & Friends
Albums of the Year
Who's Zoomin' Who, Aretha Franklin; Brothers In Arms, Dire Straits;
Songs From the Big Chair, Tears For Fears
Reckless, Bryan Adams (A&M)
The Canadian rocker's fourth album hit US#1 in the summer of 1985 and featured six singles charted in Canada as well as a #1 -- "Heaven" -- in the States. "Heaven," which had actually been written for the soundtrack of a movie entitled A Night in Heaven two years earlier, became Adams' first million-selling single. Reckless became the most frequently played LP on album radio in 1985, due more for its production excellence and gritty, infectious drum-and-guitar sound than to lyrics that were occasionally sophomoric. With tunes like "One Night Love Affair," "Run To You" and "Summer Of '69," Adams established himself as one of the best purveyors of mainstream rock, and earned him a well-deserved star status he has not yet relinquished.
Sun City, Artists Against Apartheid (EMI)
While it did not achieve the commercial success of records like We Are the World, organizer and co-producer Steven Van Zandt proclaimed Sun City accomplished its goal of bringing the apartheid policies of South Africa to the attention of the public. After the album's release, no major act performed at the Sun City resort established by South Africa to legitimize the "homeland" to which blacks were relocated. Contributers included Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Brown, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr and Pete Townshend; it also included, at the last minute, a track, "Silver and Gold," by U2's Bono, which was not credited on the original cover. Though it peaked at #31 on the U.S. album chart, Sun City was undoubtedly the most important political statement to come out of Eighties pop music.
No Jacket Required, Phil Collins (Virgin)
Between 1984 and 1990, Phil Collins would have a string of thirteen straight Top 10 hits. When this album was released it went immediately to UK#1 and stayed there for five weeks, remaining on the chart for 175 weeks. Collins had already established his solo career with Face Value (1981) and Hello, I Must Be Going (1983). Music lovers knew what to expect -- inherently commercial songs that blended bouncy R&B rhythms with New Romantic sentiments. Collins' best songs explored the ins and outs of modern relationships, tunes the brokenhearted could not only cry to but dance to, as well. Including #1's "One More Night" and "Sussudio," No Jacket Required was Collins at the top of his MOR game, and gave proof if any was needed that in 1985 he was one of pop music's most talented artists.
Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits (Vertigo)
This Grammy-winning album went to #1 in 25 countries, including the US and UK, and sold over 20 million units worldwide. The single "Money For Nothing," backed by a popular, groundbreaking video and featuring backup vocals by Sting, became the band's first million-selling single. (Because of the use of the word "faggot" it also became the most controversial #1 in 1985.) Enhanced by Mark Knopfler's literate lyrics and distinctive guitar work, the album was the British rock band's finest hour; after a 200-date tour to promote Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits would go on a hiatus that lasted the rest of the decade, and when they resumed work they failed to recapture the magic .
Centerfield, John Fogerty (Warner Bros.)
The comeback album of the year, Centerfield resurrected the career of John Fogerty, of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame. It produced two Top 20 hits -- "Old Man Down The Road" and "Rock and Roll Girls" -- and would reach the top of the album chart, quickly selling over one million units. An autobiographical album, it celebrated not only the resilience of one of America's most talented songwriters -- the author of classics like Proud Mary -- but also the durability of rock 'n' roll itself. Centerfield proved that some things, like good rock music, never change, they just improve with age. In 1988, Fogerty would successfully defend himself in court against the charge that "Old Man Down The Road" infringed on the copyright of a CCR hit entitled "Run Through The Jungle."
Who's Zoomin' Who?, Aretha Franklin (Arista)
The reclusive first lady of soul had released several albums in the early Eighties, two produced by Luther Vandross, but this time she teamed up with Narada Michael Walden and crossed over into the mainstream with a bang. Who's Zoomin' Who -- the title is derived from street slang that refers to flirtation -- became Franklin's first platinum album. It produced two Top 10 hits: "Freeway Of Love" (US#3), and the title track (US#7); the duet with Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics, "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves," made it to UK#9. It also included a duet with Peter Wolf, formerly of the J. Geils Band, entitled "Push." Since this was the first album since 1972's Young, Gifted and Black to give Franklin a Top 10 single, Who's Zoomin' Who qualifies as a comeback, and introduced one of America's greatest vocalists to a whole new generation of music lovers.
Miami Vice Original Soundtrack, Jan Hammer (MCA)
Making its debut in September 1984, the NBC series Miami Vice was an instant hit, and no small part of that success was due to the music, which was an integral part of the show. Not only were works by the likes of Glenn Frey, Phil Collins and Kate Bush incorporated to add atmosphere to the storyline, but the racy, high-tech original music scored by Czech composer Jam Hammer perfectly reflected the stylishly innovative storytelling techniques that made Miami Vice so cutting edge. The soundtrack stayed on the top of the US album chart for eleven weeks, making it the most successful TV soundtrack of all time. Hammer's theme song also went to #1. The album produced a #2 song with Glenn Frey's "You Belong To The City" and also included Chaka Khan's "Own The Night," Tina Turner's "Better Be Good To Me," Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" and Grandmaster Melle Mel's "Vice" rap; in other words, this album represents what mainstream pop music in 1985 was all about.
Radio, L.L. Cool J (Def Jam/Columbia)
James Todd Smith, aka L.L. Cool J, was only 17 when he recorded this rap classic.Radio was groundbreaking in several respects. L.L. and producer Rick Rubin imposed a traditional song format -- verse, chorus, bridge -- onto the rap compositions. They also broke rap down to its basics, putting the focus where it needed to be, on L.L.'s lyrics and superior rapping skills. "I Can't Live Without My Radio" was featured in the first rap movie, Krush Groove and reached the #15 spot on the US R&B chart. L.L. became rap's first sex symbol with ballads like "I Can Give You More" and was heralded as a cutting-edge innovator of a new musical style that came into its own in the Eighties.
Scarecrow, John Cougar Mellencamp (Riva/Polygram)
The maturation of Mellencamp as an artist was one of the great success stories in Eighties rock music, and with this album he reached the pinnacle of his career. Songs like "Small Town," "The Face Of The Nation" and "Rain On The Scarecrow," reflected a searing social conscience that deplored the lost innocence and shattered dreams of an idealized American heartland in a decade marred by a severe farm crisis. To prepare for this album, Mellencamp and his first-rate band learned hundreds of Sixties songs, and then applied what they'd learned to his new compositions. Scarecrow would peak at US#2 and sell three million copies; more importantly, it was indisputable proof that Mellencamp was a very relevant artist who had important things to say about America in the '80s.
Songs From the Big Chair, Tears For Fears (Mercury)
In following up their debut album, The Hurting, which many critics found too morose, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal made a conscience effort to go commercial. "The reason we did it was to get an American hit," Smith freely confessed about the single "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." And what a hit it was. The album spent five weeks at the top of the US chart, produced two #1's -- "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and "Shout" -- and sold over five million units. Brilliantly produced by Chris Hughes, Songs From the Big Chair remains one of the finest synth pop albums ever made; every track is endowed with a richly textured sound and unforgettable hook. No Eighties music collection would be complete without this one.