Six years after the debut of the first Rocky movie, Rocky III was released during Memorial Day weekend in 1982. The film was hugely successful earning nearly 270 million at the box office. It was the fourth highest grossing movie of 1982.
Even more impressive than the financial success was the several ways that the film contributed to the pop culture of the eighties and to the Gen X era.
Before Rocky III, Mr. T was a bodyguard and bouncer in Chicago. He appeared on NBC’s Games People Play as a contestant for the “America’s Toughest Bouncer” competition. He won that event and this is also where he was first noticed by Sylvester Stallone. This lead to him being cast as “Clubber Lang”, Stallone’s opponent in the film. Mr. T.’s famous catchphrase “I pity the fool” also came from Rocky III. The following year, he was part of the cast of The A Team on NBC and he went on to become a true 80s icon.
Before Hulk Hogan became the biggest fan favorite during the pro wrestling boom of the mid-eighties, he was a bad guy in the World Wrestling Federation. The WWF then was only a northeastern regional territory and not yet the national brand that it was soon to become. This is also where Stallone first saw him perform and this lead him to be cast as Thuderlips, the grappler Rocky fought in a charity wrestler vs boxer match. After the movie was completed, Hogan left the WWF and started wrestling for The American Wrestling Association, which covered the upper midwest and parts of the west coast. Thanks in part to the success of the film, this is where he became a good guy, and Hulkamania started to run wild! In December of 1983, he went back to the WWF, and a month later beats the Iron Shiek to become WWF champion. Also in 84, the WWF went nationwide and Pro Wrestling becomes a true 80s cultural phenomenon with Hogan as its biggest star.
Eye of the Tiger
Stallone had originally wanted to use Another One Bites the Dust by Queen as the theme song for the movie. When Queen said no, Stallone requested the band Survivor create a theme song. That song, Eye of the Tiger became one of the most iconic songs ever made for a movie, and one of the signature songs of the eighties and the Gen X era. It hit number 1 on the singles charts and stayed there for six weeks. When you combine the sales for the original vinyl and the later digital downloads, nine million copies have been sold. Eye of the Tiger was also the title of an action movie from 1986 starring Gary Busey. The song was used in that film as well.
The #1 song during the week of May 15, 1980, was Call Me by Blondie. The song stayed at the #1 spot for six weeks starting on April 19. It was also the #1 song of 1980 and the eight biggest single of the decade.
Call Me was Blondie’s second #1 song. Heart of Glass hit the top spot in 1979. The song was produced by legendary producer Giorgio Moroder and appeared on the soundtrack to the movie American Gigolo.
The #1 Country song this week back in 1982 was Willie Nelson’s classic version of Always on My Mind. The single also hit #5 on the Pop chart and #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Willie’s other big Pop hit of the eighties was a duet with Julio Iglesias, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, which also hit #5 on the top 40 charts.
Always on My Mind was the biggest Country single in 1982. It was the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year for 82 and 83. Nelson won a Best Male Country Performance Grammy Award and the single won Song of the Year and Best Country Song
Nelson’s version in 82 wasn’t the only time the song was a hit. Elvis Presley had a top 20 Country and Pop hit with Always on My Mind in 1972. John Wesley Ryles also had a top 20 Country hit with the song in 1979. The Pet Shop Boys had a #4 Pop hit with their version in 1987. Their version also hit #1 in the UK.
Always on My Mind was originally recorded back in 1970 by B.J. Thomas, but was not released as a single. There are over 300 versions recorded according to AllMusic.
When the first wave of Gen X kids were coming of age, Disco was riding high on the charts. It was the last Baby Boomer-driven musical movement before the new wave and the pop rock of the early MTV days dominated the airwaves.
Disco had been around for a good part of the seventies but it went into overdrive in December of 1977 when Saturday Night Fever was released into movie theaters all over the world. The 16x platinum soundtrack has sold 45 million copies. It’s the second best selling soundtrack of all time behind The Bodyguard. The soundtrack featured disco classics from The Bee Gees, Yvonne Elliman, and K.C. and the Sunshine Band.
Disco made household names out of Donna Summer and The Village People. Some other artists associated with disco are Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, Anita Ward, and Alicia Bridges. As big as it got, and it got big, disco was pretty much over by 1980. Rock and New Wave was in and Generation X took over from the Boomers. While the National disco party didn’t last too long, It was and is a party that will always be talked about.
Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer was the #1 song the week of May 3rd, 1986. It was the second single from Palmer’s double platinum album, Riptide. The song was #10 on the year-end charts.
Bernard Edwards, former bassist of Chic produced the single. Andy Taylor of Duran Duran played lead guitar. Taylor and Palmer were bandmates in The Power Station, which had a big hit album the year before. The song was originally intended to be a duet between Palmer and Chaka Khan, but her record company would not let her appear on an album that was on Island Records.
The music video for the song is one of the most iconic of the early MTV era. The video featured Palmer with a band made up of mannequin looking models with pale skin, dark hair, and bright red lips. The video is ranked #3 on VH1’s Top 20 Videos of the 1980s. Several music videos by other artist paid homage to Addicted to Love, most notably, Man, I Feel like a Woman by Shania Twain.
We are the Word, the Charity single from USA for Africa was the number one song in America this week in 1985. The song was released on March 8, 1985, and spent four weeks on top of the Billboard singles chart.
The song also hit the top of the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts. We Are the World was the first single to ever be certified multi-platinum. It was the biggest selling single of 1985 as well as the entire decade.
We are the World was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian. The blockbuster hit received three Grammys, one American Music Award and one People’s choice award.
Jackson, Richie and nineteen of the biggest artist of the day contributed vocals to the song. Some of the stars include Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Cyndi Lauper, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles. Another twenty stars contributed to the chorus of the song.
After the song was released, 63 million dollars was raised for Humanitarian causes. That equals out to about 144 million dollars today.
Hard to believe it’s been this long ago, but today, April 24, 2019, is the 30th anniversary of the debut solo album, Full Moon Fever, from the late great Tom Petty. The album was produced by Jeff Lynn, who also played along Petty in The Traveling Wilburys. Fellow Wilburys George Hamilton and Roy Orbison also contributed to the album. Lynn also doubled as the bass player for the record.
Although this was a solo album, Heartbreaker’s guitarist Mike Campbell was the lead picker on the record. Fellow Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Howie Epstein also appeared on the album.
Full Moon Fever went to #3 on the album charts and sold over five million copies. The album contains such Petty classics as Free Fallin‘, RunningDown a Dream, and I Won’t Back Down.
Buy or Stream Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty by clicking on the Amazon image below.
On April 22, 1985, Prince and The Revolution released Around the World in a Day. This record was the follow up to the massively successful album, Purple Rain, which was released in 1984. While not selling as many copies as Purple Rain, the album did reach #1 and went on to sell seven million copies.
Two top ten singles did come out of the record. Raspberry Beret went to #2 and Pop Life landed at #7. In the video for Raspberry Beret, the young blond lady who hands Prince his guitar was actress Jackie Swanson, who went on to play the girlfriend and later wife of Woody Harrelson’s character on Cheers.
Click image to stream Around the World in a Day via Amazon.
The #1 Country album this week in 1979 was The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. The album went on to sell more than 35 million copies. The title track and She Believes in Me also went to number one on the country singles charts.
The Gambler was a huge cross over singles hit that made it to #16 on the pop chart and #3 on the easy listening chat. In 1980, A made for TV movie based on the song aired on CBS. The film was so successful that four sequels were also produced.
In our last post, we talked about the various music genres of the Gen X era. We left out Funk because it clearly is a product of the Boomer generation, but we could have included a subgenre of funk called Electro-Funk. In this style, the horn sections got replaced with synthesizers and the beat often came courtesy of a drum machine. Some of the top acts associated with 80’s electro-funk include, the Dazz Band, Midnight Star, Zapp and The Gap Band.
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