The 80´s: The decade, the music, the playlist!

The 80´s!!!! Our take on the decade is finally here! Now we’re talking!

Culture, fashion and film

This post could actually be 10 posts just on culture, fashion and film…I think we could do soundtrack playlist from movies of the eighties, then another playlist for seventies sitcoms and TV series, and another one on eighties fashion. It is a never ending source of amusement and fun!

The eighties are seen as a decade of excess and extremes. From Boy George to Madonna, artists, especially musicians, set out to push boundaries of what was conventional. Disco was on its way out, the cold war was still pumping fear of atomic annihilation and the AIDS epidemic scared everyone and was claimed by religious zealots as some kind of ‘punishment’. The ‘Me generation’ (the rise of a culture of narcissism among the young) established itself, self-realization and self-fulfillment were becoming cultural aspirations far more important than social responsibility. Mall culture and the glorification of shopping are a product of that era.

In fashion…MY GOD WHAT WERE PEOPLE THINKING???? Instead of “writing” about it, let us show you some pictures.

Shoulder Pads??

Shoulder Pads

Workout clothes and hair bands:

Work Out Clothes
Work Out Clothes

With an emphasis on expensive dressing and fashion accessories. Bright, vivid colors: NEON! were in.:

Hair in the 80´s was also a self expression mode:

80´s Hair

Basically big and messy and did I say Big? All about you and calling attention to yourself.

80´s Movies. We could start a website called “80´s Movies Deconstructed”. There´s so much  that we regularly do soundtracks on movies from this decade. Blockbusters rose to the sky. Nudity and special effects became a regular element of movies from the time and teen comedies ruled the box-office. In the US rating PG-13 was introduced, to fill a hole between movies rated PG and R.

The highest grossing movie of the decade was one of my favorite movies of all time: E.T. The Extra – Terrestrial ((1982), $435 million)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Then we have another classic, Indiana Jones, and I still can’t get my head around the fact that Harrison Ford is Han Solo in Star Wars, Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games and Doctor Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. He is clearly THE MAN.

Harrison Ford as everyone’s favourite action-archeologist Indiana Jones

Oh, it is really so difficult for me to just pick a few films, fortunately here at MVD we have done post on Dirty Dancing, Cocktail, Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller, and Purple Rain.  However, I chose Back To the Future because…well because I felt like it. And also because I love Michael J. Fox, because I love Dr. Emmett Brown and because I constantly feel the need to prove that I am not a chicken!

Back to the Future
Christopher Lloyd and Michael J Fox looking aghast in Back To the Future

Teen Comedies were the thing, many of which were directed by John Hughes. Films like Class, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Porky´s, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo´s Fire, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and of course The Breakfast Club

Maybe the greatest teen movie ever, The Breakfast Club

Out of that, careers of major celebrities (and the famous ‘Brat Pack’) spurred. Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage and Molly Ringwald, Demi Moore, Joe Pesci, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze.

Horror films we popular in the 80´s, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Hellraiser and Poltergeist. And it also saw the beginning of famous franchises like Beverly Hills Cop, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Rambo, The Terminator and Predator.

The cast of The Cosby Show
The cast of The Cosby Show

In TV sitcoms were what America and the world was watching. No reality tv back then, just good or bad scripts. Shows like The Cosby Show and Different Strokes were watched across the United States bucking against racism and opening doors for black actors, and shows like The Golden Girls and Murder, She Wrote were fighting ageism and the idea that women had to be beauty queens to star in a TV Show. (Unfortunately that tendency is over and TV has since regressed). Shows like Dynasty and Dallas centered on social status and money, a luxury world one could only see every Sunday on TV. There were actions shows like The A-Team, Manimal, McGyver, the sci fi shows…the cartoons! MY GOD..I have to stop. Really, otherwise I won´t get anything else in this post done…

Science and Technology


The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System was the first hugely popular cartridge games system, claiming some 90% of the American market by 1989 and bringing video games out of the arcade and in to teenagers bedrooms everywhere.


 And as we all know…

Nintendo Meme

Also, personal computers were introduced. IBM and Commodore were leaders here although there was also the much loved ZX Spectrum. Loading games on these was done in a precarious and fallible fashion via cassette tapes or floppy disks.

Cassettes were still the most popular musical format of the day. In our last decade post (the 70´s) we talked about the walkman, but since the 80´s were all about being big and grand and drawing attention, it was the age of the boombox…

"It sounds better with the Dolby on" - One man and his boombox
“It sounds better with the Dolby on” – One man and his boombox

However, in 1983 Sony launched the Compact Disc bringing higher quality digital sounds in to our lives. We were assured that the CD was not only better but was also virtually indestructable and TV demonstrations of people spreading jam on them and other such things were suddenly everywhere. Whilst this was clearly a complete lie, we did rush out and buy CD’s and the then very expensive players in our droves as people everywhere started to replace their cassettes and whole record collections were slowly boxed up and moved in to the attic. Dire Straits album Brothers In Arms became the first CD million seller in 1985.

Global Politics and events

The US president for most of this decade was the ultra-conservative Ronald Reagan, a former b-movie actor, who decided to heat up the cold war a few notches by posting nuclear weapons all over Europe and pointing them at the USSR, which was led from 1985 onwards by Mikhael Gorbachev, a man famous for two things: being the last leader of the Soviet Union (in 1991 the union dissolved), and for having the world’s most famous birth-mark on his forehead which has since been discovered to look uncannily like an archipeligo near Siberia which has now become a popular tourist destination as a result. Reagan and Gorbachev would eventually sign a treaty to reduce nuclear weapons thus cooling the cold war down a little.

Gorbachev and 'Gorbachev birthmark island'
Gorbachev and ‘Gorbachev birthmark island’

Reagan’s closest ally was Britain’s Margeret Thatcher, who governed for the entire decade and beyond as the first female leader of a Western democracy. She fought a victorious military war with Argentina when they invaded the Falklands (or Malvinas) in 1982, and earned herself the nickname ‘The Iron Lady’ for her generally hard-nosed approach to everything and everyone with the exception of big businesses whom she basically sold the country to piece-by-piece. She is unfondly remembered by many.

Both Reagan and Thatcher survived assasination attempts, as did Pope John Paul III who from then on travelled around in a specially designed vehicle famously dubbed the ‘Popemobile’, which was kind of a white Catholic version of the Batmobile without the gadgets and with 3-inches of bulletproof glass.



Two musical icons ruled the decade: Michael Jackson and Madonna. Jackson bought us a series of amazing videos full of equally amazing dance moves and was the undisputed King of Pop; whereas Madonna was sassy, strong, sexy and stylish and the undisputed Queen of Pop!

Michael Jackson and Madonna - pop royalty
Michael Jackson and Madonna – pop royalty

Completing this musical royal family was the decade’s other megastar Prince who was pint-sized, purple, and pornographic. He wasn’t the Prince of Pop however. He was just Prince. And he was funky.

Prince, who might possibly be in the mood for ice-cream
Prince, who might possibly be in the mood for ice-cream

In Britain the New Romantic movement channeled David Bowie and Kraftwerk throwing up acts like Spandeau Ballet, Visage, Japan and Duran Duran. These acts made synth-pop popular and loved big hair, tight leather trousers and gallons of make-up, something that strangely enough they had in common with Heavy Metal or ‘Hair Metal’ bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Hanoi Rocks, all of whom pedalled a tinny, watered down version of the genre.

Hair Metallers Motley Crue
Motley Crue with their hair

Without doubt the biggest musical event of the decade was Live Aid, a dual-event fundraising concert held in London and Philadelphia and aimed at raising aid money for and awareness of a rampant Ethiopian famine. Organised by Boomtown Rats singer Bob Geldof and Ulravox lead singer Midge Ure, they had also organised the Band Aid charity single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ which spurned American artists in to making ‘We Are The World’ under the name USA For Africa. Live Aid featured just about every big artist and band of the time including David Bowie, Phil Collins, Hall & Oates, Dire Straits, U2 and Elton John amongst many others. Maybe the most memorable performance was from Queen with flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury showing everyone else just how a stadium gig should be done.

Freddie Mercury owning Live Aid
Freddie Mercury owning Live Aid

And finally…. The Playlist!!!


Plus our top 5 tracks, which are….

Michael Jackson – The Way You Make Me Feel

Although he had hits across four decades the eighties was when Jackson was at his luminescent best. Undoubtedly the biggest star of the time, he only actually released two studio albums during the decade but what a pair of albums they were. Thriller and Bad spawned 16 singles between them with every one being a bonafide smash hit.

Alongside this he played a major part in revolutionsing the pop video, turning each release in to an event. It wasn’t just about the music it was the dance moves too, most famously the ‘moonwalk’, and he pretty much invented a whole style of dancing which would be imitated by fans all over the world.

If the sixties belonged to The Beatles, the eighties belonged to MJ just as much and if you were lucky enough to be young at this time you will be able to remember him in the days before his fall from grace. A highly eccentric personality, a supremely gifted performer, the writer of some of the greatest pop songs ever recorded – whether you liked him or not you simply couldn’t ignore him.

“The Way You Make Me Feel” was the third single to be released from the Bad album and was a top 10 hit worldwide. Written by Jackson, it is included here because it represents the kind of flawless pop music he was making at the time and because it’s one of our favourites.

Madonna – Borderline

She’s been around for so long now and assumed so many different guises it’s kind of hard to remember just how big an impact the first incarnation of Madonna actually made. The biggest female pop star of this and probably any other era she obtained iconic status pretty much from the start of her career.

Born to be a star, Madonna Louise Ciccone was never the most talented singer or dancer but she had drive and ambition in abundance, which combined with her enormous charisma, sound musical judgement, and a magpie’s eye for style and aesthetics gave her all she needed to become the star she was destined to be. Her third single ‘Holiday’ was a global smash hit and from there she never looked back, going on to constantly reinvent herself both musically and stylistically in a way that is probably only matched in the world of pop music by David Bowie. Controversial, outspoken, intelligent, irrepressible, and never boring, Madonna is pretty much the dictionary definition of a STAR and the Eighties was when she told the world her name.

“Borderline” is taken from her first abum Madonna and is the best song from that record, a perfect slice of danceable pop music which sounds as fresh today as it did then.

George Michael – Faith

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou is a british singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. Michael has sold more than 100 million records worldwide as of 2010. We already wrote about his infamous “Outside” video. Michael has a unique voice and marches to his own beat. Say what you say, he is a figure that has earned his place in music, having had 7 number one singles in the UK and in the Billboard Hot 100.  Michael had expressed his desire to go into music since he was in high school, and as a teenager he would often busk in London´s underground. He later began working as a DJ, before breifly forming a ska group. He would make his big breakthrough with the succesful duo Wham! (with Andrew Ridgeley). We have also covered one of their videos.

Faith was his debut solo album. It was released in October 1987 and won Album of the year in 1989. You could say 1988 was George Michael´s year. He had 5 number one singles that year. SIngles like “Faith”, “One More Try”, “I Want Your Sex”, “Father Figure” and “Kissing a Fool” are forever embedded in pop culture. “Faith” the single, was the top selling single in 1988. The song was written, arranged and produced by Michael himself. The video is also embedded in the minds of MTV viewers of the time. We see Michael shaking his ass in Levi´s jeans, a leather jacket, sunglasses and cowboy boots.

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?

Often cited by journalists, musicians and fans alike as one of the most important and influential bands of all time, The Smiths were resolute outsiders, an ‘indie’ band in every sense of the word. Although their career lasted barely more than five years in that time they released some of the most intelligent and searingly relevant music of the decade. In Morrissey they had a true original, a poetic, highly articulate and fiercely opinionated frontman who wore his lonely heart on his sleeve and became a hero to outsiders everywhere. In Johnny Marr they had a guitar hero who didn’t play outrageous solos but instead crafted an often imitated ‘jangly’ sound full of deft chord changes and subtle invention.

Between them they formed maybe the greatest songwriting partnership of the decade, penning gorgeously melodic tunes full of dark humour, stark self-revelation, and acidic attacks on everything from the royal family and the education system to the meat industry (Morrissey is perhaps pop music’s most famous vegetarian) and even the music industry itself. The Smiths simply didn’t sound like anything else going on at the time, rejecting not only the keyboard-driven pop sound that coloured so much of the decade, but also the dense post-punk sound sound being peddled by so many of their indie contemporaries. By the time they split in 1987 they had one of the most devoted fan bases ever accumulated and although they were, and maybe even still are sorely missed it’s unlikely they will ever be forgotten.

“How Soon Is Now” is maybe their defining song, although it is also atypical of much of the band’s output. Truth be told it doesn’t really sound like anyone or anything else before or since. Consisting of a multi-layered shimmering orchestra of guitars and a loping dance rhythm, it also contains some of Morrissey’s most effective and memorable lyrics particularly the line “I am human and I need to be loved just like anybody else does”, a cry for the lonely that only he could deliver with such compelling conviction.

Prince – Kiss

Prince is an American musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor. He has produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles plus fantastic videos and is basically possesed by the God of funk music. He is a prodigy and we will be hearing about him and his legacy for centuries to come. As a songwriter he has written over 100 songs and artists such as Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles and Sinead O’Connor have recorded his songs. The man is an artist, a visionary and only a few can stand by his side. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide.

‘Kiss’ is a 1986 single by Prince and the Revolution (he used to call his back up band the Revolution, but they dismantled in 1986) from the album Parade. The song became Prince’s third number-one U.S. hit following “When Doves Cry” and “Let´s Go Crazy” and it was also No. 6 in the U.K. chart. The song gave Prince another Grammy. “Kiss” is one of our favorite songs by Prince, a lascivious funk track with an immediately recognizable guitar part.

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