Each time I hear a song from the ‘80s, I remember being young, carefree and ready to take on the world. “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger still makes my palms sweat and my heart thump, remembering my first slow dance in junior high. From Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” to Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” I love ‘80s music. Some of my favorite albums (and, yes, we bought the whole album then) include “Slippery When Wet” by Bon Jovi; “Syncronicity” by The Police; “Like a Virgin” by Madonna; “Hysteria” by Def Leppard; “She’s So Unusual” by Cyndi Lauper; and billboard record hits like “Walk Like an Egyptian,” the Bangles; “Come Go With Me,” Expose; “We Are the World,” USA for Africa; “Come on Feel the Noise,” Quiet Riot; “Sweet Child of Mine,” Guns ‘n Roses; and “Fight For Your Right,” Beastie Boys.
The ‘80s also saw musicians come out of the stadiums and into our living rooms. “Video Killed the Radio Star” launched the 1980s into the era of the music video. Teenagers flocked around the console to watch Music Television (aka MTV) and programs like “Friday Night Videos” for the cable-TV challenged like me. Everyone has their favorite video. For me, it’s A-ha’s “Take on Me,” followed closely by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” of course.
I can’t remember music without thinking about the movies and the soundtracks they spawned. My favorite soundtracks came from movies like Fame, Footloose and Top Gun. At the same time, The Brat Pack racked up an impressive list of movie hits such as “St Elmo’s Fire,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Pretty in Pink,” and “The Breakfast Club,” which, coincidentally, happened to feature great songs.
Also in the 1980s, E.T. went home, Kirk searched for Spock, Ferris took the day off, and Harry met Sally. Patrick Swayze stated, “No one puts Baby in a corner,” Arnold Schwarzenegger warned “I’ll be back,” and Pat Morita instructed “Wax on, Wax off.” And, in 1984, dreaming took on a whole new meaning as – cue the eerie music – “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…” so “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep!”
The TV Shows:
On the small screen the Facts of Life were all about you, everybody knew your name, the Dukes ruled Hazard, the A-Team loved it when a plan came together, the Next Generation of Star Trek fans were born, and who the heck shot JR anyway? It was a decade of prime-time soap operas, action adventure, sitcoms and not a reality show in sight. My favorites were shows like Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., Scarecrow and Mrs. King; Family Ties, The Cosby Show, MacGyver, Air Wolf, The Fall Guy, Private Benjamin, and who can forget ALF? OK, I watched Dallas, too. Then Fox Broadcasting Company jumped into the TV biz and added to my favorites with 21 Jump Street, Married…With Children, and the Simpsons, originally featured on the Tracey Ullman Show.
Technology expanded as cassette tapes replaced the 8 track and enormous boom boxes were replaced by the compact Sony Walkman cassette player. Videocassette recorders (the VCR) went mainstream, allowing families to buy or rent movies on VHS. I remember, at first, VCRs were so expensive (originally more than $2,000) that my family would actually rent both the VCR and the movie from the local library. We did finally buy one, thus allowing me to never miss an episode of my favorite shows again.
IBM introduced the Personal Computer, although in the early days the Commodore 64 computer dominated more than a quarter of the fledgling home-computer market. And game systems like the Atari 2600 allowed me to play my favorite arcade games like Pac Man, Asteroids and Frogger on our TV – once my father figured out how to hook it up and not disconnect the VCR. If you ever want to see what computers and gaming were like in the 1980s, I highly recommend the movie “War Games.”
And in a nod to banking history, although they were invented earlier, the ‘80s saw the widespread popularity of the automated teller machine (ATM). It’s hard to remember a time when people actually had to go to a bank during business hours to get cash or be forced to write a check. Today I couldn’t manage without my debit card, and I even remember getting one was so important to me that I opened my first checking account at the only bank in town that offered one.
TV wasn’t all fun and games. Back when 6 o’clock was still news time, I watched Ronald Reagan, an actor, become President of the United States and survive an assassination attempt just months after taking office. I followed the political intrigue surrounding Oliver North and the Iran Contra Affair. We watched video clips of the Berlin Wall falling, signaling an end to the cold war. Sally Ride became the first woman in space in 1983 and, in 1986, my classroom sat in shock as the Challenger space shuttle exploded, killing seven people including teacher Christa McAuliffe during the Teachers in Space project.
On a much lighter note, I also remember the Cola Wars, a little old lady asking “Where’s the Beef?” and I could not get the words “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese…” out of my head. I think I’m getting hungry.
I thought I’d end my reminiscing with fashions I thought I would never see again. But, hey, what’s old is sometimes new again or at least “vintage.”. Fingerless lace gloves, denim miniskirts, spandex mini-dresses, stirrup pants, off the shoulder shirts, fluorescent colors everywhere ; bangle bracelets, big earrings, bigger eyeglasses, and the biggest shoulder pads ever; acid washed jeans tucked into slouch socks; leotards, leg warmers, china flats, KEDs, jelly shoes; Aqua Net, spiral perms, banana clips; and lest the men in the crowd forget, Ray-Bans – sometimes worn in the dark, pastel jackets over t-shirts (cue the Miami Vice theme song), boat shoes no socks, bomber jackets, Calvin Klein underwear, and last but certainly not least, parachute pants and the mullet.
Well, here we are, back in the present. What do you remember from the 1980s?