Time flies. It seems like it was just 1983. We were in our first term with Ronald Reagan as President. More often than not, I was standing in line at Tower Records to get a new cassette that had been released so I could play it on my tape player. It was a time when I was really getting into music and MTV was playing often at my home television. Now it's 30 years later and I have a home, a wife, a child and a mortgage. I still listen to a lot of this music though. Here's five of the best from that year:
To use some computer terms, this was Madonna Version 1.0. Now she's on Version 20.0, she's changed her image that often. People forget just what an influential force she was then. If you walked the streets of New York in 1983, you would have thought she had cloned herself about a million times over - nearly EVERY girl was imitating her style, particularly from her "Borderline" video. Forget the Rachel-hair style in the '90s, everyone was wearing the Madonna. Thank goodness people in the '90s didn't wear cone-shaped bras.
I wrote more at length about this one, but I still think it merits a place on here. Earlier Genesis fans may decry the more poppy sound (sorry, guys, that happened more around Duke). The first song, "Mama," was SUCH a dark one, with Phil Collins singing, screaming and maniacally laughing about a prostitute. Everybody remembers "That's All" and both parts of the "Home By The Sea" suite. This is where Genesis became HUGE, because they also embraced MTV. Collins , never afraid to do anything silly in front of the camera, used both his voice and charisma in videos of those first two songs as well as a not-so-p.c. video for "Illegal Alien."
The Police: Synchronicity
When I first played this album and heard "Sychronicity I"'s frantic keyboard opening and then Stewart Copeland's frenzied drumming, I knew I was going to love this album. It's one that I can listen to in its entirety today. Yes, I still like "Mother" and "Miss Grandenko," the singing and songwriting efforts of guitarist Andy Summers and Copeland. While "Every Breath You Take" is the song that everyone remembers, I'd have to say "Synchronicity II", with its video set in an apocalyptic wasteland, is my own favorite. It's a pity that Sting, Copeland and Summers really almost actively hated each other after touring with this album and subsequently split: I remember thinking around 1984 or '85: Whaddya mean there's not going to be another Police album?
Def Leppard: Pyromania
Yes, you just heard that opening twang of "Photograph" when you read this, didn't you? Another band that rode the wave on MTV's widespread reach with their cool if not somewhat cheesy video (in one song, Joe Elliot is carrying a sword even bigger than he is) Elliot's raspy voice is what sold it for many fans. While not as much of a total masterpiece like their follow-up, Hysteria, Pyromania had memorable songs like "Foolin"' and "Rock of Ages" And remember...Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen.
Talking Heads: Speaking In Tongues
This was David Byrne in the big white suit, shimmying and swaying to songs like "Burning Down The House" and continuing the band's penchant for making REALLY weird videos. The first time I saw the end of "Burning Down The House," where the projection of Byrne's face rolls down the street, it weirded me out. Then I got past that and realized what a great album it was. Songs like "Making Flippy Floppy" and "Slippery People" kept me hooked. When coupled with the Stop Making Sense concert movie that was made the following year and it's just fantastic. It's a pity that they broke up eight short years later.
It was hard to constrain myself to five here - I could probably choose 50 of them if I had the time or space. There were plenty of bands that I left out, like Metallica and Eurythmics, just to name a couple. It was that good of a year. Your list may be different, so let us know below!
Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.