One of my most popular posts was on The Nostalgic Nineties, so why not follow it up with The Excellent Eighties? At first, it was to be a rant on how annoying 90’s kids could be when being all nostalgic for the decade of their teen years. But, as it turns out, the 90’s saw a lot of pure awesomeness. Well this one is starting out a little differently. I was a teen in the 80’s, so starting from my perspective, the 80’s were “Excellent Dude” (Thank you Bill and Ted).
Welcome to The Excellent Eighties
The 1980’s were, in my opinion, one of the greatest decades of all time. Not only because it was the decade of my teen years, but also because of many of the things that happened during that time. The world changed with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the Berlin wall. Bill Gates wrote DOS and the first PC was developed. Pop Culture took on a more modern tone as we moved into a more electronic age. And, much like the 90’s though, music was a mixed bag.
Let’s just start there, with 80’s Music. There was some real ground breaking stuff happening int eh music world of the 80’s. A lot of bands were doing things never done before. Unfortunately for some, there was a reason it hadn’t been done, and should have never been done.
The music scene in the 80’s is best known for big hair and over synthesized production. That hair… Blow drying, hours of teasing, gallons of hairspray, tons of makeup, and the women were even worse. It was often difficult to tell the gender of an artists, sometimes even after they started singing. 80’s hair bands weren’t complete without an effeminate front man.
Then there was the pop music of the 80’s. Madonna and Michael Jackson pretty much dominated the genre while several others filled in the gaps. You could not watch a 30 minute segment of MTV without seeing at least one of those two artists. And to be honest, I would group a lot of what was considered rock in the day as pop too.
Then, there were some serious musicians. Some bands that fell into either pop or rock of the day were a bit more about the actual music than just partying and being wild and crazy. Band like U2, The Cure and several others came to rise in this decade. Then there was my favorite genre back then, trash. Again, these were bands who wrote all their own stuff and were completely into the music, not the lifestyle. Well, I’m sure the rock star lifestyle didn’t hurt anything, but that wasn’t the main focus for bands like Metallica and Megadeth. These two bands pretty much launched the entire sub-genre of thrash, then tons more followed. Few saw much commercial success, and many were downright awful, but there were a few that did well.
The 80’s saw a major shift in television viewing. While the idea of cable TV was devised in the late 60’s, it wasn’t until the early 80’s that it became common in many homes. The decade saw a transition from a TV with a dial on the front that only went up to channel 13 before having to click over and use a second dial, to a cable box that would pull in many more channels that most of us had never heard of.
Then came satellite television, the old school method. my grandparents lived in Colorado, way up in the mountains, where there was no television signal available. Who knew those TV signal wouldn’t go through a mountain? So, thy were the first people I knew who had satellite TV. The thing was 10 feet across, and to change to a different satellite you had to walk out to the dish and turn the crank by hand while someone inside watched the signal on the TV. That seems archaic by today’s standards, but it was top of the line for the time.
TV programming started to morph in the 80’s too. only a few short years before, if the kids wanted to watch cartoons, they had Saturday morning and maybe an hour or so after school. That was it. Now, suddenly, there is a new channel dedicated to nothing but kids’ programming called Nickelodeon, and then the Disney channel came along shortly. Add to that the movie channels like HBO and Cinemax, and a brand new channel playing nothing but sports and sports news all the time called ESPN, and television would never be the same again.
The “Brat Pack”. Need I say more? It seemed they dominated the scene. While others came and went, the “core” members are considered to be Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy. Movies like “Prettyin Pink” and “The Breakfast Club” were their trademark. Awkward teenagers everywhere flocked to these movies, myself included.
Action movies also became huge in the 80’s. Dirty Harry continued his rampage into the decade, and Schwarzenegger and Stallone had many of their greatest hits in the 80’s. Rambo, The Terminator and others were huge hits of the day. Throw in some Chuck Norris and Steven Segal and you’ve got quite a line-up of action packed films. These larger than life action stars made the genre what it is today. Nobody would know who Jason Statham or Jet Li were today had these guys not paved the way.
Horror films were drastically revamped, and the slasher movies became giant money makers. “Friday the 13th”, “Halloween” and of course the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises all ran through the 80’s and well beyond. These serialized movies brought the horror genre into the mainstream and saw a success that horror movies could have only dreamed of previously.
And of course Science Fiction really started to come into it’s own. While CGI made a lot more possible later on, what the movie creators could do with physical models and makeup work was nothing short of astounding. Alien alone was so ground breaking that who knows where the genre would be today without that influx of creativity.
Any account of sports in the 80’s must pay homage to “The Miracle on Ice”.At a time when hockey was not one of the mainstream sports in the US, for Team USA to beat Team USSR was huge. The Soviet team was heavily favored, and the world was stunned when they lost to a much less experienced American team.
A couple last minute passes were some of the most memorable moments in Football for the decade. Joe Montana completing a pass to John Taylor, with only 34 seconds left on the clock in Super Bowl XXIII will forever be one of the great Super Bowl finishes. But, the real kicker was the “Hail Mary” pass from Doug Flutie to win as the clock expired was one of the most memorable moments in all of sports. I remember watching it live at my grandparents’ house the day after Thanksgiving. Many have tried this last ditch effort, before and since, but nobody has gotten nearly as lucky. The ball was batted in the air several times before one of his receivers eventually came down with it in the end zone to score the win. The clock ran out while the play was underway.
Lakers vs. Celtics. That’s how the NBA finals looked pretty much every year during the 80’s. While Michael Jordan was really establishing himself as the top player of all time, these other two teams dominated the finals for most of the decade. Kareem Abdul Jabbar broke the league’s all time scoring record previously held by Wilt Chamberlain, but Wilt’s single game scoring record still stands, and likely always will. He once scored 100 points in a single game, a staggering statistic nobody has come close to since.
And then there’s baseball. Who cares about baseball? NEXT!
Technology took a quantum leap in the 80’s, even though what we have today makes all that look prehistoric. Most of what drives our tech heavy world today has its roots in tech from the 80’s.
Almost everyone has an iPod or some sort of mobile music device. You wouldn’t if Sony had not developed the Walkman. Most homes in America today have at least one computer. You wouldn’t if Bill Gates had not written DOS for IBM so they could release their first personal computer in 1981. of course none of this would be possible if it were not for the invention of the silicon wafer, which was perfected in the 80’s.
I can still recall, when I was in high school computer class, that we toured a mainframe computer station at our local farmer’s Co-op (yes, I was raised in a small town where these were common). They were still using large tape drives with spools of magnetic tape that looked like old school movie film reals. They were in the process of transferring all that data onto smaller hard drives, a process that was expected to take a couple of years to complete.
Know that cell phone you have in your pocket? the first ones were introduced in the 80’s. They were much larger and required an external power source like your car’s electrical system, but it had to start somewhere. Most of the tech we are so fond of today got its start in the 80’s.
80’s Pop Culture
Ooh, how colorful? Pastel colors, rolled up, ripped, acid washed jeans, and high top sneakers were all the rage. Psychedelics were out and the more “sophisticated” cocaine took their place. This actual is a good metaphor for the transition that took place as a result of technology from that era. We moved toward a more fast paced world where information is literally thrust at us from all sides. We absorb what we can and try not to overdose.
I’ve already covered a lot of pop culture talking about movies and music of the 80’s. It was a fast and furious, and somewhat reckless era in American history. our economy grew at the fastest pace in history, or since for that matter. Watching the Berlin wall being demolished was an epic moment. On the flip side, so was watching the footage of the space shuttle Challenger as it erupted in a ball of flame only seconds after liftoff.
In short, the 80’s was a time of excess. Everything was BIG!
Big food – “Super Size it!”
Big threat of Nuclear holocaust
Big Blockbuster movies (the birth of that phenomenon)
The movie “BIG” solidifying Tom Hanks as a force to be reckoned with for decades to come.
If there is a single over arching theme to the 80’s as a whole, I would say it would have to be “Big”.
Are you a child of the Excellent Eighties? What was your experience like? What do you remember most? Leave a comment below to let us know.