When it comes to 1984, I’m less Orwellian than I am David Lee Rothian.
While George preached about the horrors of Big Brother, Diamond Dave sang hosannas in honor of the time-honored tradition of s-e-x. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant when, following Eddie Van Halen’s blistering solo, he said he would “reach down between my legs n’ ease the seat back.” I could be wrong, though; perhaps the car lacked ample leg space for a comfortable ride. Dammit, that sounds dirty, too. Thanks a lot, David Lee Roth.
1984 (the year, not the book or the album) had many great things going for it:
Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale: It was the first election I remember, and it was the one that got me interested in politics. I didn’t know much (or anything) about either candidate, but I thought Reagan looked like a grandfather and Mondale looked kind of like Mikhail Gorbachev. The rest of the country eventually agreed.
The Summer Olympics in Los Angeles: The country found itself riveted to these games, watching as Carl Lewis looked to get four gold medals while the Soviet team stayed home in a boycott, paying us back for sitting out the 1980 Olympics. This was the Cold War at its finest; two countries, particularly the big, faceless entity of the U.S.S.R. teetering on the possible bring of nuclear annihilation, yet choosing to get into pissing contests concerning sporting events. If the 1980s were about forgetting the big picture and focusing on glitz and glamour, the 1984 games personify it.
Along those lines, we also have the Soviet Union: Kids today cannot grasp how totally terrifying Russia was, from the threat of Siberia to that red flag with a yellow hammer and sickle. As a kid of that time, we told adults were scared of the Soviets because of their nuclear power, but in reality, we were scared of Nikolai Volkoff taking over the World Wrestling Federation.
Fortunately, we had the Birth of Hulkamania: Hulk Hogan wouldn’t reach his shirt-tearin’, vitamin-endorsin’, prayer-sayin’ ways for another year or two, but the seeds were sown in 1984, as little Hulkamaniacs became enamored with the 6’8” giant with the mammoth biceps (or pythons as he called them), particularly as he battled with the aforementioned Russians. I cannot stress enough how much the Soviets factored into almost everything that year.
Except for, maybe, hit movies, four of which spring to mind right off the bat: The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins and Ghostbusters. I can still remember watching each of these for the first time, and in the case of the first two, replaying them over and over in my head and neighborhood yards. We crane-kicked, we pretended to pull hearts out of chests, we mastered the fine art of a bullwhip (actually a jump rope). It was, as Cory Graham recently put it, one of the last summers when movies were true events without being computer-generated sequels or remakes. As kids, we looked at these movies as near-holy pieces of work, learning many important rules, mainly not to feed mogwais after midnight.
The key to 1984, though, especially as a Rothian, comes in the form of music. Pop radio was still home to mainstream artists who were both mainstream AND artistic. In 1984, you couldn’t escape the brilliant, era-defining music of Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, and for good reason. “When Doves Cry” still sounds futuristic, 26 years after its release, “Billie Jean” has one of the best rhythm lines of all time and “Born in the USA” has a message that rings as true about Iraq/Afghanistan as it did Vietnam.
In Powell County, the summer of 1984 came down to one image that seemed to repeat itself day after day after day: splashing around in the Stanton City Pool while the lifeguards blasted the radio. One song ruled them all: “Cum on Feel the Noize” by Quiet Riot. It might have been a big hit in other places, but in the heart of Powell County, it was perhaps the biggest song ever, like Elvis and the Beatles rolled into one. Every time I eat Doritos (the snack of choice at the pool), I think of that song.
The music of that year is simply amazing. Take a look at Billboard’s Top 100 songs from 1984:
1. When Doves Cry , Prince
2. What’s Love Got to Do With It , Tina Turner
3. Say Say Say , Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson
4. Footloose , Kenny Loggins
5. Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now) , Phil Collins
6. Jump , Van Halen
7. Hello , Lionel Richie
8. Owner of a Lonely Heart , Yes
9. Ghostbusters , Ray Parker Jr.
10. Karma Chameleon , Culture Club
11. Missing You , John Waite
12. All Night Long (All Night) , Lionel Richie
13. Let’s Hear It for the Boy , Deniece Williams
14. Dancing In the Dark , Bruce Springsteen
15. Girls Just Want to Have Fun , Cyndi Lauper
16. The Reflex , Duran Duran
17. Time After Time , Cyndi Lauper
18. Jump (For My Love) , Pointer Sisters
19. Talking In Your Sleep , Romantics
20. Self Control , Laura Branigan
21. Let’s Go Crazy , Prince and The Revolution
22. Say It Isn’t So , Daryl Hall and John Oates
23. Hold Me Now , Thompson Twins
24. Joanna , Kool and The Gang
25. I Just Called to Say I Love You , Stevie Wonder
26. Somebody’s Watching Me, Rockwell
27. Break My Stride , Matthew Wilder
28. 99 Luftballons , Nena
29. I Can Dream About You , Dan Hartman
30. The Glamorous Life , Sheila E.
31. Oh Sherrie , Steve Perry
32. Stuck On You , Lionel Richie
33. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues , Elton John
34. She Bop , Cyndi Lauper
35. Borderline , Madonna
36. Sunglasses At Night , Corey Hart
37. Eyes Without a Face , Billy Idol
38. Here Comes the Rain Again , Eurythmics
39. Uptown Girl , Billy Joel
40. Sister Christian , Night Ranger
41. Drive , Cars
42. Twist of Fate , Olivia Newton-John
43. Union of the Snake , Duran Duran
44. The Heart Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Huey Lewis and The News
45. Hard Habit to Break , Chicago
46. The Warrior , Scandal
47. If Ever You’re In My Arms Again , Peabo Bryson
48. Automatic , Pointer Sisters
49. Let the Music Play, Shannon
50. To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson
51. Caribbean Queen, Billy Ocean
52. That’s All , Genesis
53. Running With the Night , Lionel Richie
54. Sad Songs (Say So Much) , Elton John
55. I Want a New Drug , Huey Lewis and The News
56. Islands in the Stream , Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton
57. Love Is a Battlefield , Pat Benatar
58. Infatuation , Rod Stewart
59. Almost Paradise, Mike Reno and Ann Wilson
60. Legs , ZZ Top
61. State of Shock , Jacksons
62. Love Somebody , Rick Springfield
63. Miss Me Blind , Culture Club
64. If This Is It , Huey Lewis and The News
65. You Might Think , Cars
66. Lucky Star , Madonna
67. Cover Me , Bruce Springsteen
68. Cum On Feel the Noize , Quiet Riot
69. Breakdance , Irene Cara
70. Adult Education , Daryl Hall and John Oates
71. They Don’t Know , Tracy Ullman
72. An Innocent Man , Billy Joel
73. Cruel Summer , Bananarama
74. Dance Hall Days , Wang Chung
75. Give It Up , K.C.
76. I’m So Excited , Pointer Sisters
77. I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You , Ray Parker Jr.
78. Thriller , Michael Jackson
79. Holiday , Madonna
80. Breakin’…There’s No Stopping Us , Ollie And Jerry
81. Nobody Told Me , John Lennon
82. Church of the Poison Mind , Culture Club
83. Think of Laura , Christopher Cross
84. Time Will Reveal , Debarge
85. Wrapped Around Your Finger , Police
86. Pink Houses , John Cougar Mellencamp
87. Round and Round , Ratt
88. Head Over Heels , Go-Go’s
89. The Longest Time , Billy Joel
90. Tonight , Kool and The Gang
91. Got a Hold on Me , Christine McVie
92. Dancing In the Sheets , Shalamar
93. Undercover (Of the Night) , Rolling Stones
94. On the Dark Side , John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band
95. New Moon On Monday , Duran Duran
96. Major Tom (Coming Home), Peter Schilling
97. Magic , Cars
98. When You Close Your Eyes , Night Ranger
99. Rock Me Tonite , Billy Squier
100. Yah Mo B There, James Ingram and Michael McDonald
When “I’m So Excited” sits at number 76 on your list (“Thriller” is at 78!), you know you have an amazing list.
Great music, classic movies, Russians and wrestling — yeah, 1984 might very well be the greatest year of all time. I really feel like I wasted it by being 8 years old.