Like it or not, but 80s music is still a huge part of pop culture in the 21st Century. There are still plenty of nostalgic “kids” who grew up in the 1980s listening to it on streaming platforms like Spotify or watching 80s music videos on YouTube.
The fact is, 1980s was a great decade for music. It was the decade that gave us an abdundance of mostly radio-friendly and fresh pop and rock music. It was also a great decade for hip-hop, rap and dance music. Some of it was cheesy as hell and crap, but the majority of 80s music was actually not half bad. Strap yourselves in folks! I’m turning back the clock, so brace yourselves for some nostalgia!
Here are 101 Interesting 80s music facts you may not have known…
1. The list of bands / groups that were formed in 1980 includes British Pop act ABC, American Punk Rock band Bad Religion, Dead or Alive, Depeche Mode, Divinyls, A Flock of Seagulls, Die Krupps, Manowar, Meat Puppets, Suicidal Tendencies, Underworld, Violent Femmes and Wang Chung.
2. Paul McCartney was arrested in Tokyo for possession of a half pound of marijuana, released from a Japanese jail and ejected from the country by Japanese authorities in January 1980.
3. Bon Scott (the lead singer of AC/DC died in London in February 1980. The official cause of death was “Acute alcohol poisoning” and “Death by Misadventure”. Brian Johnson was named as the new lead singer in April of the same year.
4. Tbilisi Rock Festival (the first state-sanctioned rock music festival in the Soviet Union) was held in March 1980.
5. Iron Maiden released their self-titled debut album in April 1980. It made its debut at number 4 in the UK Albums Chart.
6. Rock and Roll pioneer Bill Haley performed for the last time during a tour of South Africa in June 1980. He died in February 1981.
7. Ian Curtis (from Joy Division) hanged himself on the 18th of May 1980 (a day before the band was scheduled to start their US tour). The remaining members of Joy Division formed New Order in 1981.
8. AC/DC released Back in Black (their 7th studio album) in June 1980. This ground-breaking album has sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
9. Led Zeppelin drummer Jon Bonham died in September 1980. The official finding was “accidental death”. Bonham was only 32 when he died. Led Zeppelin officially disbanded in December 1980.
10. John Lennon was shot to death by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment in New York City on the 8th of December 1980.
Congratulations! You’ve just read ten 80s music facts, are you ready for 91 more?
11. The list of bands / groups formed in 1981 includes Anthrax, Bananarama, Big Country, Butthole Surfers, Dead Can Dance, Gigolo Aunts, Green Jelly, Metallica, Ministry, Mötley Crüe, Napalm Death, Pantera, Pet Shop Boys, Run-DMC, Scream, Slayer, Sonic Youth, Tears for Fears, Throwing Muses, Wham! and Yazoo.
12. Phil Collins released his first solo album, Face Value in February 1981.
13. Billy Idol left Generation X to start his solo career in February 1981. He released his self-titled debut album in 1982.
14. Ozzy Osbourne bit the heads of two doves off at record label gathering in Los Angeles in March 1981. Rumour has it that he did it “to shut a PR woman up”.
15. U2 made their first US television appearance on the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder in June 1981.
16. The first edition of Kerrang! magazine was published in June 1981. Angus Young from AC/DC was on the first cover.
17. MTV started broadcasting in the USA on the 1st of August 1981. They played music videos 24 hours a day.
18. The Buggles song “Video Killed The Radio Star” was the first music video that was played on MTV.
19. In August 1981 Violent Femmes were discovered by members of The Pretenders while they were busking outside a Milwaukee venue. They were invited to play a 10-minute acoustic set as a second opening act for The Pretenders on the same night.
20. In September 1981 Simon & Garfunkel played a free reunion show in Central Park in New York City. More than 500,000 people attended the show.
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21. Iron Maiden fired their lead singer Paul Di’Anno in 1981. They replaced him with Bruce Dickinson.
22. Reggae musician Bob Marley died on the 11th of May 2018 in Miami, Florida in the USA. The cause of death was cancer. Marley was only 36 years old when he died.
23. Depeche Mode released their debut album, Speak & Spell in October 1981. “Just Can’t Get Enough” was the second single that was released off the album.
24. In January 1982 Ozzy Osbourne bit off a bat’s head on stage in Iowa in the USA – he thought that it was a rubber bat. He was also arrested in the same year after urinating on The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.
25. Frank Zappa’s son (Dweezil) and his daughter (Moon Unit) formed the band Fred Zeppelin in 1982.
26. Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist, Randy Rhoads was killed in a freak accident in Leesburg, Florida in 1982. The plan he was riding buzzed Ozzy’s tour bus and crashed into a house.
27. Iron Maiden’s album The Number of the Beast was released in 1982. It reached number 1 on the UK album charts. Christians bought and burned the album in America (claiming that it contained Satanic lyrics).
28. Four streets in Liverpool were named after each member of The Beatles in 1982.
29. Madonna released her debut single “Everybody” on the 1st of November 1982. She only had her first Top 10 hit in 1984 with “Borderline.”
30. Michael Jackson’s Thriller album was released in November 1982. To date the album has sold more than 110 million copies (making it greatest selling album of all time). The album reached number 1 on the US charts in 1983. It spent thirty-seven (non-consecutive) weeks at number 1 in the 1980s.
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31. Nicko McBrain joined Iron Maiden in 1982 (after the previous drummer was fired from the band).
32. Michael Jackson took the line “Mama Say Mama Sa Mama Coosa” from Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango’s 1972 afro-funk classic Soul Makossa and used for his song Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. Rihanna also used it with Don’t Stop The Music in 2007.
33. The first commercially available audio CD player, the Sony CDP-101, was released October 1982 in Japan. CD’s only became available in the USA one year later.
34. U2′s third studio album (“War”) was released in January 1983. It made it’s debut at number 1 in the UK.
35. Dave Mustaine was fired from Metallica in April 1983. He formed Megadeth with David Ellefson shortly after that happened. Their debut album (Killing Is My Business… and Business Is Good!) was released in 1985.
36. The members of Kiss showed their faces without their makeup for the first time on MTV in September 1983.
37. Tapper Headon left The Clash in 1982 and Mick Jones was fired from the band in 1983. This punk rock band eventually disbanded in 1986.
38. The British rock band, The Cult, was formed in 1983. They were originally known as “Death Cult”.
39. The Melvins were formed in Montesano, Washington in 1983. They released their debut EP (containing 6 songs) in 1986.
40. German Pop Duo Modern Talking was formed in 1983. Their 1985 single “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul” occupied top ten positions on charts in thirty-five countries. They split up in 1987, but re-united in 1997.
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41. Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s single “Relax” was banned by the BBC. Despite this, the song reached number 1 on the UK singles chart and ended spending 41 weeks in the chart.
42. Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father on the 1st of April 1984 in Los Angeles. He was only 44 years old.
43. Michael Jackson won 8 Grammy Awards in 1984 (7 for “Thriller” and 1 for an audio book he did for E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. He broke the record for the most Grammys won in a single year.
44. Judas Priest were banned for life from Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1984. Their fans ripped up seat cushions and threw them on stage during one of their shows. They were banned despite the fact that their insurance covered the damages.
45. Red Hot Chili Peppers released their debut album (The Red Hot Chili Peppers) in August 1984. The band was formed in 1983 in Los Angeles.
46. The first edition of the MTV Music Video Awards was held in New York City in 1984.
47. Cyndi Lauper became the first woman in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have four singles from one album in the top five in 1984.
48. Def Leppard‘s drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car accident on the 31st of December 1984. He still plays drums for the band today. He realized that he could use his legs to do some of the drumming work previously done with his arms.
49. Band-Aid was founded in 1984 by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for anti-famine efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. This supergroup featured members of bands / groups like U2, Bananarama, Ultravox, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Wham!, The Boomtown Rats, Status Quo, Duran Duran and other musicians.
50. Tipper Gore formed the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) in response to the “filth” she heard on her daughter’s copy of Prince’s Purple Rain album in 1984.
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51. Bruce Springsteen released “Dancing In The Dark” in May 1984. This single sold more than 1 million copies in the USA alone. His “Born In The USA” album was released a month later – by 2012 this album had sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
52. South African Afripop group Brenda and The Big Dudes released their debut album (“Weekend Special”) in 1983. Vocalist Brenda Fassie released her first solo album (“Ag Shame Lovey”) in 1987.
53. The Afrikaans protest rock group, Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band, released their debut album (“Eet Kreef”) in 1989.
54. Johnny Clegg and Savuka was formed in 1986 (after Juluka disbanded). The explicit dedication of their 1987 song “Asimbonanga” to Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko and other anti-apartheid activists led to their concerts being raided and band members being arrested in South Africa.
55. South African Afropop band Mango Groove released their self-titled debut album in 1989.
56. South African reggae musician and Rastafarian Lucky Dube released 6 Mbaqanga albums, 2 Afrikaans albums and 5 Reggae albums in the 1980s.
57. Koos Kombuis released his debut album (“Ver van die Ou Kalahari”) via Shifty records in 1987.
58. Paul Simon ignored a cultural boycott and collaborated with Ray Phiri and other South African artists like Ladysmith Black Mambaso and recorded his Graceland album in 1986. The album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1987.
59. Stevie Wonder’s music was banned by the South African Apartheid government in 1985. This happened after he dedicated the Oscar he won (for “I just called to say I love you”) to Nelson Mandela.
60. VH-1 started broadcasting on cable in the USA on the 1st of January 1985.
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61. Willie Dixon sued Led Zeppelin over the song “Whole Lotta Love” on the grounds that it contains too many similarities to his own song “You Need Love” in January 1985. The case was settled out of court.
62. 1985’s “We Are The World” by USA for Africa (a supergroup consisting of Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Huey Lewis, Tina Turner, Sheila E., Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Dionne Warwick, Waylon Jennings, Bob Geldof and Stevie Wonder) was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and produced by Quincy Jones.
63. Wham! became the first Western pop group to perform in China in April 1985. They played a concert in Beijing’s Workers Stadium during an historic 10-day visit.
64. Dire Straits – “Brothers in Arms” was the first album to sell more copies on CD than on vinyl. It was released in 1985 – to date the album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
65. Live-Aid (a dual-venue benefit concert held on 13 July 1985 and music-based fundraising initiative) was held in London at Wembley stadium and in Philadelphia at John F. Kennedy stadium. More than 70,000 people attended the London concert and 100,000 people attended the Philadelphia concert – 1.9 billion people in over 150 countries watched the live broadcast of the concert on television (an estimated 40% of the world’s population at that time).
66. In September 1985 Michael Jackson bought the publishing rights for most of The Beatles‘ music for $47 million. He outbid Paul McCartney to buy the rights.
67. In September 1985 a United States Senate hearing on rock censorship began in Washington, D.C. Heavy metal singer Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), rock star Frank Zappa and country singer John Denver testified against the Parents Music Resource Center.
68. Roger Waters announced his intention to leave Pink Floyd in 1985. He described the band as a “spent force”.
69. Guns N’ Roses was formed in March 1985 in Los Angeles, California. Their 1987 debut album “Appetite For Destruction” has sold +/- 30 million copies worldwide to date. It was re-issued in 2018.
70. Bon Jovi was formed in Sayreville, New Jersey in the USA in 1983. They released their self-titled debut album in 1984. Their 1986 album Slippery, When Wet is their best-selling album to date.
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71. Madonna released her “True Blue” album in 1986. It topped the charts in 28+ countries.
72. Cliff Burton (Metallica‘s influential bassist) died in a bush crash in Sweden in 1986. He was only 24 years old. Burton was replaced by Jason Newsted a month later.
73. The Smiths played their last gig at Brixton Academy in December 1986.
74. The Afghan Whigs, Cypress Hill, Green Day, N.W.A., No Doubt and The Vaselines were all formed in 1986.
75. Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Electric Light Orchestra, Men at Work, Prince & The Revolution and Wham! all disbanded in 1986.
76. Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1987.
77. Beastie Boys became the first act to be censored by American Bandstand in January 1987.
78. U2 released The Joshua Tree in 1987. The album sold 14 million copies in that year alone. The album won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1988.
79. MTV Europe was launched in August 1987. The first video played was “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits.
80. Reggae musician Peter Tosh was murdered during a robbery at his home in Kingston, Jamaica in September 1987.
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81. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Drifters, Bob Dylan and The Supremes in 1988.
82. Alice Cooper almost died on stage in April 1988 – one of the props he was using malfunctioned.
83. Elton John auctioned off many items from his personal collection (including memorabilia and stage-worn clothing) at Sotheby’s in London for a total of $8.5 million in September 1988.
84. Roy Orbison co-founded Travelling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne in 1988. He died of a heart-attack on the 6th of December in the same year. He was only 52 years old.
85. James Brown was sentenced to six years in jail in Georgia in the USA in 1989. It was in connection with a police chase through two different states.
86. The Bee Gees performed in the USA for the first time in 10 years in 1989.
87. Nirvana was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in the USA in 1987 by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. The band released their debut album (“Bleach”) in the same year.
88. Soundgarden was formed in Seattle, Washington in 1984 by Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil and Hiro Yamamoto. The band released their debut album (“Ultramega OK”) in 1988.
89. Alice in Chains was formed in Seattle, Washington in 1987 by Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney. The band only released their debut album (“Facelift”) in 1990.
90. British rock band Blur was formed in 1988 in London, England. The band only released their debut album in 1991.
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91. A-ha was formed in 1982 in Oslo, Norway by Morten Harket, Magne Furuholmen and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy.
92. Diane Keaton directed the music video for Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place On Earth”.
93. The teenager Bruce Springsteen pulled up on-stage in his “Dancing in the Dark” music video was the not-yet-famous Courtney Cox (Monica from Friends).
94. Crowded House was formed in 1985 in Melbourne, Australia. They were originally called The Mullanes.
95. Eric Clapton is credited on the Dire Straits ‘Brothers In Arms’ album due to the fact that he loaned Mark Knopfler one of his guitars for the album.
96. Sting sings the “I want my MTV” line on Dire Straits‘s “Money For Nothing”. He originally said that line for a commercial on MTV.
97. The opening guitar riff for the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was originally a warm up scale that Slash used to play before shows. Izzy Stradlin started playing chords along to it and the rest is history.
98. Robert Palmer’s song “Addicted to Love” was originally recorded as a duet with Chaka Kahn.
99. During the making of the video “Jump”, Van Halen spent more money on beer than they did on the production of the video.
100. Jethro Tull was selected over Metallica for Best Hard Rock Performance at the Grammy Awards in 1989.
101. The 1982 Men Without Hats song “Safety Dance” is a protest against bouncers who were stopping dancers pogo-ing to 1980s new wave music in clubs when disco was dying and new wave was up and coming.
Well, there you have it, 101 Interesting 80s music facts you may not have known. I trust that you’ve learned something today. If you have, feel free to share this knowledge with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Sharing is caring after all.
If you have an 80s music fact that you can add to this list, feel free to comment below.
Alternatively, check out our list featuring 101 interesting facts about 80s cartoons.
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Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf’s Rant