It all started with “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles. This may not seem like much, but back in the early 1980s, MTV was an earth shattering shift in the music and pop culture landscape. We had never, ever seen anything like this before. And over the years from its debut through to the mid-late 1990s, MTV set the trends and made or broke music/pop culture stars. For me, the show 120 Minutes was a must watch. For others, Yo! MTV Raps was the vanguard. And all of that started with these few hours. What an amazing time!
Live Aid, which took place on July 13, 1985 for a global audience of 1.9 billion people, was a massive, bi-continental pop concert created to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. It was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, leader of the Irish new wave band The Boomtown Rats. Geldof was spurred to philanthropic action after seeing a BBC report in October 1984 that featured footage of starving children. His first thought was to make a charity single.
Of course, Live Aid wasn’t just about fundraising. It also had to be a great show—or else why would people bother to watch it in the first place? As it happened, the day was filled with memorable performances on both sides of the Atlantic. The consensus pick for Live Aid MVP is Queen, whose 21-minute Wembley set included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We are the Champions.” Mercury “strutted and preened, carrying his microphone on a metal pole that he treated as a vaudevillian’s cane, an air guitar, and, of course, a phallus,” The New York Timeswrote of Mercury’s performance. “He was a rock star playing a rock star, leather-lunged and imperious but also grinning to let everyone share the joke … For 21 minutes, Freddie Mercury undeniably made the world his stadium.” In 2005, Queen’s Live Aid set was voted the greatest rock gig in history by a panel of music industry experts.
The diversity of the acts that performed during the Live Aid concerts in Philly and London was a downfall of the event, but it was not for a lack of trying. While it was an important day for artists like Run-DMC, other larger black artists such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Prince declined to participate. Hindsight is 20/20 and I am sure there were things that could have been done to get a more diverse palette of artists to perform. The impact that the event had on Run-DMC was real and was an important opportunity to expose a worldwide audience to the emerging ‘hip hop’ genre of music.
As a teenager in the middle of high school when this event took place, I will never forget spending that Saturday watching the concert unfold. It was an amazing thing to witness live and I only wish I could have been there in person in Philadelphia.
Max was really an actor wearing prosthetics, and that illusion epitomizes the television-mad future in the show. The series, to be released on DVD by Shout! Factory, follows Network 23’s star reporter, Edison Carter (Matt Frewer, who also played Max), through a corporate-ruled wasteland where new technology beget new forms of abuse. The show, datelined “20 minutes into the future” stirs together future-shock speculation with contemporary influences: roving live broadcasts, cyberpunk, MTV, camera-ready Reagan-like artifice, television evangelism, video art and the thousand-channel universe.
Those are a few of the characters that John Hughes created through the numerous films that he wrote and/or directed during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sadly, John Hughes died today at age 59. So I thought I would take a second to acknowledge him. The movies that he was responsible for, and the influence his movies had on those who grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, is beyond compare. Dare I say that Hughes was the most prolific and influential director of this era? It’s not that far fetched. Let’s take a look. They may not have been Oscar winners, but their influence and cult like status is unmatched. Between 1984 and 1986 here are just a few of the movies he directed, produced, or wrote: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink, Mr. Mom, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Some Kind of Wonderful, and National Lampoon’s Vacation/European Vacation. To this day, these movies still make me laugh. The characters he created were funny, quirky, unique, and more than anything, real. We lost a little bit of our youth today.
MTV has released an online video site that houses all the videos that have ever run on the network (we won’t talk about its name – MTV Music or Music Television Music – or the fact that these days MTV is anything but Music Television).
The Most Popular area, which as of today looks like a retro 1980’s top video list with video “classics” like Dire Straits Money for Nothing, aHa’s Take on Me, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or – wait for it – Toto’s Africa.
OK, so I am genuinely sad to hear of the passing of Ronald Reagan. In many ways, he was the great figurehead of the 1980’s, a time that was definitely an interesting period in my life. Don’t get me wrong, he was a very important figure in the history of the US and at the time, he was probably the best choice the country had as we were emerging out of the Vietnam and Watergate eras. But he was really not that great of a President IMHO and, similar to a certain current President, it was brutally obvious that there were people pulling the strings and he was the puppet. His tenure was marked by the Iran-Contra scandal, a scandal that for some reason did not nearly get the type attention and fallout on his Presidency that it deserved. And to say that Reagan ended the Cold War is just silly. All this talk about putting his bust on Mount Rushmore, or renaming something in every state for him, is just loony. Go ahead and name some streets, a river, and some place out in California that was important to him, but lets not get carried away here folks.
I was driving around yesterday and the seminal 1980’s one-hit-wonder song “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls came on the radio, and in seconds it sent me hurtling back to the teen angst of high school. Listening to this song and being exposed to all the recent retro stories about the 1980’s makes me realize what a unique period that was in the history of music.