The year was 1984. MTV’s bad girl had the church ladies’ panties in a wad. But teen girls across the nation couldn’t get enough of her. And everyone awaited the much-anticipated release of her Like a Virgin album.
It was a disgrace to virgins and good girls everywhere! She was a hussy! A slut! A star! Madonna seduced the spotlight and cameras everywhere. She was (and is) an entertainer. She totally knew how to work a song, a video, and a stage.
And she knew how to put out hit after hit. Her Like a Virgin album was jam-packed with 80s music singles, and Madonna dominated the charts.
Anticipating Like a Virgin, Foremost Among 80s Albums
Leveraging off shock value and controversy, Madonna released her sophomore album in 1984, and the public was soaking it up before they heard her sing a single note. Chatter about the cutting-edge title, “Like a Virgin,” was mixed. Some said it was blasphemy. Others said it was brilliant.
Critics mostly dismissed the album, calling the title track a one-hit wonder, but once it became available, the public ate it up and Like a Virgin became a commercial success, an album so important to 80s music that it was celebrated twenty years later at the MTV Video Music Awards (and sealed with a sexy pair of kisses between Madonna and modern pop princesses Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera).
The album was dedicated to “all the virgins of the world,” and was a cacophony of disco and pop inspired hits like “Material Girl,” “Angel,” and “Dress You Up,” not to mention the title track, “Like a Virgin.”
80s Music and the MTV Generation
Madonna debuted the album’s first single by performing “Like a Virgin” at the first annual MTV Video Music Awards. Swathed in a white bustier (which would become one of her wardrobe staples) and a full skirt cinched with her signature “Boy Toy” belt, Madonna rolled around onstage, crooning the lyrics to her shocking new song.
The crowd went wild and MTV put the video for “Like a Virgin” into heavy rotation and so began a long, beneficial, and reciprocal relationship between Madonna and Music Television.
The Virgin Tour
If Like a Virgin was one of the most popular 80s albums, then the Virgin Tour was certainly one of the biggest concerts of the decade. 80s music had reached new heights thanks to MTV and the concerts exploded with the added television coverage.
A performance from her Virgin Tour of the song “Dress You Up” was captured on film and turned into a music video, which like all other Madonna videos, enjoyed heavy play. Concert goers flocked to big stadiums to see the Boy Toy live and in action.
With a full band, backup dancers, and a show that was completely choreographed, the concert was a hit, and eventually made its way to video.
Your 80s Music Collection
Your 80s music collection isn’t complete without the Virgin essentials:
Order the CD from Amazon or download this totally awesome album (or any of its singles) from:
It’s been said before and it will totally be said again – the music of the 80s was pure awesomeness. There was something for everyone – metal and hard rock, rap and R&B, pop, country, and plenty of brand new sounds too. Hip-hop officially hit mainstream and became a force to be reckoned with. Dancing was a running theme throughout the decade and obviously, it relied heavily on 80s music, though it also infiltrated film, fashion, and television. MTV practically kicked off the decade, launching in 1981 and changing the face of the music industry forever.
No More Disco
Toward the end of the seventies, disco music was being mass-produced by record labels that were trying to cash in on the popular sound, making it generic and irrelevant. Plus, legions of rock fans and hardcore musicians protested the disco sound, bashing it as effeminate and fake due to its use of electronic drum beats and synthesizers rather than real musicians.
80s Music and the Synthesizer
Disco may have died but the synthesizer survived well into the 80s. Every band had to have its token keyboard player, even rock masters like Van Halen embraced the new instrument. The synthesizer and keyboards were so heavily used in 80s music that these instruments came to define the the sound of the decade. Plus, they were accessible and mass-produced in a variety of sizes, so lots of smaller versions ended up under millions of Christmas trees throughout the 80s. Almost every household had one.
A New Wave of Sound
With synthesizers and keyboards permeating 80s music, new styles started to pop up, most notably new wave and synthpop. Defined as much by its post-disco dance sound as its style, which melded ultra-mainstream pop fashion with punk stylings, new wave music found a home in the dance clubs that were formerly discotheques.
Other genres emerged as well. Most notably, hip-hop entered mainstream thanks to a groundbreaking duet featuring Run-DMC and Aerosmith in the 1986 single “Walk This Way.”
Alternative music has its roots in 80s modern rock. The techno and electronica genres also have roots in the 80s music that featured synthesizers and other electronic instruments.
Video Killed the Radio Star
On August 1, 1981, MTV (Music Television) launched and almost overnight changed the way musicians performed and marketed themselves. MTV also permanently altered the way the public viewed and listened to music. The format was simple and straightforward – music videos 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The channel featured commentaries and introductions by its veejays (video jockeys) and camera-friendly stars started to rise, a phenomenon foreshadowed by the title of the first video that played on the channel: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.
The 80s Music Genre Craze
In the 80s, music started to split into smaller niches, which appealed to more targeted audiences. Genres become more defined in part because of the greater visibility that MTV’s platform provided. The sound of each genre became tied to a particular style. Big hair and glam metal bands appealed to rockers. The goth predecessors, sometimes known as “mods,” were drawn to the alternative modern rock and new wave. Pop music was associated with “preppies” and “fluffs.”
The 80s is one of the most outstanding decades in history, revered for the bulk, diversity, and originality of the music that was produced from 1980 to 1989. Cultural fads and icons like the walkman, boom box, and cassette (as well as the beloved mix tape) and the cultural phenomenon that was MTV helped increase the popularity of 80s music, which was so totally awesome that we still listen to it and totally love it almost 30 years later.
When it comes to movies, there was no decade like the 80s for putting out totally awesome blockbuster hits. From hilarious teen comedies like Sixteen Candles to cutting edge sci-fi flicks like E.T., the 80s movies had us laughing, crying, and begging for more.
The film industry tried to bring back 3-D. Adventure films like Goonies and Raiders of the Lost Ark were all the rage, and special effects became standard fare thanks to the innovations of George Lucas. A nifty new invention called a VCR meant that we could finally watch just about any movie at home, which was totally rad, and we could even pop our our own popcorn in minutes thanks to the microwave.
There were dance scenes, unforgettable Oscar moments (“you like me, you really like me”), movies about dancing, belly-busting parodies (Spaceballs, anyone?), and did I mention the dancing? Dance totally ruled movies and like seeped into the culture – thanks to MTV and new style of music called hip hop, which sparked the breakdancing craze that helped define the decade.
80s Movies Made Stars
It was during the 80s that stars like Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Demi Moore, and Drew Barrymore made their marks in the world of cinema. 80s movies saw the rise and fall of the Brat Pack and failed crossover attempts by artists like Madonna and Eddie Murphy.
It was the decade of the Coreys and Keven Bacon. Molly Ringwald totally charmed us. Horror villains like Freddy Krueger made us wet our pants while heartthrobs like Rob Lowe (or Tawny Kitaen for you fellas) made us want to take our pants off. Chevy Chase had us in stitches and Steven Spielberg made sure our jaws were always on the floor.
They showed up on posters, in magazines, at the Academy Awards, and on the beloved big screen. The 80s movie stars dazzled, entertained, and wowed a culture that was on the brink of a technological boom.
Characters from Beyond
80s movies saw the rise of characters from like, you know, outer space and beyond. We totally fell in love with E.T. We wished for our own Gizmo (but not his Gremlin cousins), and we came to understand that Yoda was totally awesome and all-knowing.
Star Wars alone gave us a crowd of rad characters from space. Who wouldn’t want Chewbacca at their back or C-3PO as a traveling translator? R2-D2 was as loyal a friend as any human, and every kid on planet Earth totally wanted to meet an ewok. There were, like, bad guys too – Jabba the Hutt had us all gagging with spoons.
Fantasy films like The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal introduced us to truly fantastical new creatures while Beetlejuice and Ghostbusters brought weird beings from the other side to life in living color on the big screen. Incredible puppeteering and breakthroughs in special effects made all these and a lot more characters from 80s movies possible, and we just loved them all.
Not Just for Teens
You could say that 80s movies totally catered to the teen crowd. During the early 80s, some big movie studio executive or marketing manager realized that the people who go to movie theaters the most are teenagers. Young, rowdy, rebellious, dating, curious, allowance-receiving teens who were mostly there to neck in the back row, but still, they were there. Paying customers. So that’s who they made movies for.
The quintessential 80s movies starred the Brat Pack, a group of young actors that kids totally loved and idolized. They starred in films like The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink.
Films like Weird Science tripped us out. Footloose made us want to dance. And Adventures in Babysitting made us see the possibilities in – well… babysitting. Karate class registrations reached an all-time high when The Karate Kid hit the theaters, and after Breakin’ was released, every teen and tween in the world had to have a boom box. These films launched trends and started fads, created fashion icons and celebrities, and even though the actors in those teen 80s movies are all grown up now, we still remember them with braces, headgear, and hard-ons.
80s Movies at Home
Back in the 70s, if you wanted to watch a movie at home, you were screwed. The best you could hope for was a rerun on your local cable network. That was before on-demand movies or rentals and downloads. No Netflix, no iTunes, and no DVDs.
But in the 80s, movies and access to them changed radically. It all started with the invention of the video cassette and its partner, the VHS player. Video stores popped up in every city and town, and everyone waited to see if those little beta movies would catch on. They didn’t (even though they were built with better technology).
VHS tapes carried us through the 80s but like all good things, they came to an end when the masters of technology handed us the DVD just at the end of the decade. Luckily, all our favorite 80s movies are on DVD! We’ll totally thank the movie gods for that!
And Then There Were Soundtracks
Did any other decade put out rad movie soundtracks like the 80s? The 80s soundtracks gave us theme songs that got stuck in our heads and so we hummed along. These were bitchen tunes that DJs actually played on the radio and at weddings. People literally went to the store and bought a movie soundtrack (on cassette tape of course – maybe even on vinyl — oh my god, remember vinyl?).
Who could forget the thundering cadence of the Indiana Jones Theme or the glorious championing of Chariots of Fire? We bopped along to Footloose, worked out to Eye of the Tiger, and made out to Take My Breath Away.
80s movies songs were so rad, in fact, that they still use them in movies today. And 80s movies are so rad that we’re still watching them over and over. And over.
80s fashion is hailed for being big, bold, and bright. Big hair, bold shoulder pads, and a collection of brightly colored accessories to tie it all together were totally essential during the 80s. Fashion closely followed music, breaking into niches and cliques that were diverse and catered to various sub-cultures.
Black was back, prints were on everything including pants and shoes, and hair and makeup were thick, radical, and wild. The fashionable silhouette was top-heavy – big, baggy shirts with tapered jeans. Leather and lace came together and colors took on a strangely bright, luminescent hue when neon accessories became a raging fad.
80s fashion was wild and over the top but it was accessible. It could be trendy or alternative, subtle or outrageous, and it was a lot of fun for anyone with a penchant for style. It’s like the fashion gods woke up when 1980 kicked off and said, “This decade, anything goes.”
80s Fashion Subcultures
Dance Wear & Breakdancing - If the 80s had a single theme, it would probably be dance. Traditional dancewear made its way into popular 80s fashion and street wear when girls started wearing legwarmers, leotards, and thanks to the movie Flashdance, ripped sweatshirts that hung off one shoulder, which was totally sexy. This look, heavily accessorized, was super trendy among Valley Girls. When breakdancing became popular, it came with its own fashion items including windbreakers, parachute pants, bandana accessories and wrist- or head-bands and the ever-present hip-hop sneaker (preferably ADIDAS).
Preppy - The preppy look borrowed heavily from TV show Miami Vice. That’s where it got light-colored suits with bright tees underneath and ultra-skinny ties. Other prep 80s fashion items included Alligator (golf) shirts, Bermuda shorts, and upper crust loafers. If you ask me, the look was pretty lame compared to…
New Romantic - It was punk gone soft and sweet. The New Romantic style, which eventually gave rise to new wave style and gothic fashion, featured lots of black and dark clothing with loose, flowing fabrics. Puffy sleeves and designs that echoed pirates eventually became New Romantic staples. For the ladies, cinched waists, corsets, and bustiers gave a romantic, old-fashioned flair. Think Marie Antoinette meets Sid Vicious. It was totally rad.
Designers and Name Brands
Fashion designers got lucky in the 80s when name brand designers became a symbol of wealth and posterity. Yeah right. They were just a symbol that meant you had a clue. Guess, Calvin Klein, and Esprit were popular with the middle class. Suddenly, the name on your sneakers said something about your identity as a member of society. ADIDAS or Rebok? Converse or Keds? Boots or barefoot?
80s Fashion Accessories
During the 80s, accessories were a staple of any fashionable ensemble. Jewelry was bulky and chunky and the more the better. Both guys and girls sported pierced earrings. They were huge, they dangled, and you wore lots of them at once — as many as you could. Layers of necklaces, faux pearls and big cross pendants were made popular by pop star Madonna, who quickly became an 80s fashion icon in her own right. Hats and gloves also popped back in mainstream fashion. Fedora hats were wildly popular thanks to Michael Jackson who also made wearing one glove seem like a cool idea. Madonna made fingerless lace gloves hip, sexy, and stylish (and let’s face it, those fingerless gloves were totally awesome!). Belts were as big as everything else, and the girls wore them hung loosely around their hips to cinch huge, baggy tees and blouses. It was pretty insane.
80s fashion will forever be remembered as the decade of decadence. More! Bigger! Brighter! It was bold and bodacious, loud and lacy. In the 80s, fashion became an integral part of each celebrity’s image and celebrities themselves became major trendsetters. Those trends made their way into the suburbs and became standard fare. 80s fashion was a bitchen way to express your identity. And it still is.
The Mother of All 80s Movies
The Breakfast Club is like THE quintessential 80s movie. Ask anyone what is the mother of all 80s movies and they’ll totally tell you it’s The Breakfast Club.
In fact, this movie is such a huge 80s icon that it almost always tops any list of 80s movies, and it usually ranks at number one.
It’s packed with 80s attitudes, style, and jargon but it reigns as a classic despite its status as the be-all-end-all of 80s movies.
Fortunately, The Breakfast Club hit video after VHS was widely available. Oh sure, it was a big hit at the box office, but on video, you could watch it over and over.
Back then, watching movies at home was still kind of a big deal. We played our 80s movies day in and day out, and The Breakfast Club was no exception. It wasn’t uncommon for teens to know every line of the movie.
Probably what made this movie such a huge hit, besides the killer screenplay, was its amazing cast of up-and-coming teen actors.
The film itself had only a small handful of actors who played the five main characters (the kids who comprised The Breakfast Club), plus two supporting roles (the principal and janitor), and a couple of the kids’ parents, plus one sibling.
The five primary actors and the characters they played were:
- Emilio Estevez – Andrew Clark (The Athlete)
- Anthony Michael Hall – Brian Johnson (The Brain)
- Judd Nelson – John Bender (The Criminal)
- Molly Ringwald – Claire Standish (The Princess)
- Ally Sheedy – Allison Reynolds (The Basket Case)
This film launched all of their careers, and while most of them didn’t enjoy high visibility into the 90s, they made up almost the entire group of 80s movies actors known as The Brat Pack.
The Breakfast Club
Interesting to note is that John Hughes, guru of all the greatest 80s movies, wrote the entire screenplay for The Breakfast Club over the course of two days – July 4-5 in 1982. That’s a lot of writing in a very little amount of time, especially when you consider what a totally huge hit the movie turned out to be.
Hughes also acted in the film, appearing in a cameo performance as Brian’s father at the end of the film when Brian is picked up from detention.
The film is about five high school students, who are all totally different from one another. They have to attend a Saturday detention for the various infractions they’ve committed against school rules. When the day starts, they see each other as strangers, in some cases, enemies. But by the time detention’s over, they’ve learned a valuable lesson about what it means to be human. We’re all not so different after all.
According to IMDB:
The film’s title comes from the nickname invented by students and staff for detention at New Trier High School, the school attended by the son of one of John Hughes’ friends. Thus, those who were sent to detention were designated members of “The Breakfast Club.” “The Breakfast Club” at that school probably took its name in turn from the title of American radio’s longest running network entertainment show, broadcast from Chicago, 1933 to 1968.
Lots of 80s movies had soundtracks that we loved and played over and over. The Breakfast Club Soundtrack made good sales, but mostly that was because it had one big hit on it – The Simple Minds’ single “Don’t You Forget About Me.”
The song was a little bit haunting and had the driving beat, desperate lyrics, and new wave flavor that was synonymous with 80s music.
The video for the song featured the Simple Minds in a big, abandoned space with iconic checkerboard floors, very old-fashioned, interspersed with clips from the movie.
Grow Your Collection of 80s Movies
Even though the 80s are well behind us, you can still get a copy of The Breakfast Club. If you don’t have it, then your 80s movies collection is totally abysmal. Better hurry up and get your fix:
Stay tuned to Total 80s Remix for more of your favorite 80s movies.