A Chronology of Rock Music - The 1980s

Excerpted from my book "A History of Rock and Dance Music"

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These, of course, are my personal opinions on when genres where invented, who invented them, and which were the most significant events. To understand how I justify these opinions you have to read my book "A History of Rock Music".

1980
  • Beggars Banquet employee Ivo Watts-Russell founds 4AD
  • The Cramps' Songs The Lord Taught Us invents "voodoobilly"
  • The Bad Brain's Pay To Cum fuses punk-rock and reggae in Washington
  • Ian MacKaye forms the Minor Threat in Washington
  • A psychedelic revival spreads from the UK to the US
  • The Minutemen play dissonant, funky, jazzy, punk-rock in Los Angeles
  • The Sugar Hill Gang cuts the first "hip hop" record in New York
  • Pioneering rap label Tommy Boy is founded
  • Glenn Branca composes music for dissonant and percussive guitars
  • David Geffen founds Geffen Records
  • John Bonham of the Led Zeppelin dies at 33
  • Bon Scott of the AC/DC dies at 25
  • John Lennon of the Beatles is murdered at 40
  • Ian Curtis of the Joy Division commits suicide at 23
  • Derby Crash dies at 22
  • Polygram buys the British recording company Decca
  • Warner acquires Sire
  • Independent labels founded in 1980 include: Wax Trax, On-U-Sound
  • Other significant albums of the year: Bruce Springsteen's River, Feelies's Crazy Rhythms, Soft Boys's Underwater Moonlight, Colin Newman's A-Z, Pere Ubu's Art Of Walking, Pop Group's For How Much Longer
1981
  • Juan Atkins begins making "techno" records in Detroit (pounding and fast rhythm from a Roland sequencer MSK-100, stripped-down funk)
  • Venom's Welcome To Hell invents "black metal"
  • Billy Idol weds hard-rock and disco-music
  • New Zealand bands such as Tall Dwarfs and Clean invent "lo-fi pop"
  • New York rapper Afrika Bambaataa pays tribute to Kraftwerk with Planet Rock and thus invent "electro"
  • Boom of synth-pop in England
  • Husker Du and Replacements wed hardcore and pop in Minneapolis
  • Michael Jackson films a 15-minute, highly cinematic video for Thriller, directed by John Landis
  • MTV debuts on cable tv with the Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star"
  • Simon and Garfunkel reunite for a live concert in Central Park for a crowd of 500,000
  • Mike Bloomfield dies at 37
  • Bob Marley dies at 34
  • Independent labels founded in 1981 include: Touch & Go, Epitaph, Dischord, Flying Nun
  • A four-day "CMJ Music Marathon", promoting dozens of indie acts, is held for the first time
  • Other significant albums of the year: Rip Rig Panic's God, Gun Club's Fire Of Love, Public Image Ltd's Flowers Of Romance, Deuter's Silence Is The Answer
1982
  • The Sonic Youth invent "noise-rock"
  • The R.E.M. resurrect folk-rock and launch Georgia's neo-pop school
  • The club "Batcave" opens in London, cathering to the gothic (dark-punk) crowd
  • The Cocteau Twins invent dream-pop
  • The Violent Femmes weds the aesthetics of punk-rock and the format of roots-rock
  • A pacifist concert is held in Central Park attended by 800,000 people
  • Sequential Circuits introduces the "Prophet 600", the first keyboard enabled with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), a system to connect music instruments to computers
  • Sony and Philips introduce the "compact disc"
  • Mike Gunderloy begins mailing "Factsheet Five", a fanzine of fanzine reviews
  • 800,000 people attend a concert in New York's Central Park with Springsteen and others (for nuclear disarmement)
  • The magazine "Maximum Rock and Roll" is founded and becomes the reference point for punk-rock
  • The magazine "Puncture" is founded and becomes the reference point for alternative rock
  • Peter Gabriel organizes the WOMAD festival, dedicated to world music, art and dance
  • Rock critic Lester Bangs dies at 34
  • Other significant albums of the year: David Thomas's The Sound Of The Sand, Dream Syndicate's Days Of Wine And Roses, Richard Thompson's Shoot Out The Lights, Waitresses's Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful, Fear's The Record, Misfits's Walk Among Us, Mission Of Burma's VS, Flipper's Generic Album
1983
  • Metallica's Kill 'Em All invents speed-metal
  • Turntablist DST (DXT) plays a solo of "sktratch" on Herbie Hancock's Rockit
  • The Frightwig's Cat Faboo Farm is the first hardcore album by a female punk band
  • Madonna becomes the folk icon of the punkettes
  • The Suicidal Tendencies fuse hardcore and heavy-metal
  • The psychedelic revival leads to Los Angeles' "Paisley Underground"
  • Big Black's Lungs coins a claustrophobic form of hardcore
  • Run DMC fuse hip hop and heavy metal
  • Trouser Press magazine dies and the first "Trouser Press Guide", edited by Ira Robbins, is published
  • Yamaha introduces the DX-7, the first synthesizer to be sold by the hundreds of thousands
  • Muddy Waters dies at 68
  • A Sequential Circuits's "Prophet 600" and a Roland's "JX-3P" are connected together, the first time that two MIDI instruments are connected
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller spends 37 weeks at number one and becomes the best-selling album of all times
  • Tower Records lunches its own magaine, "Pulse"
  • Felix Pappalardi of Mountain is murdered
  • Independent labels founded in 1983 include: Creation, Projekt
  • Robert Ashley composes the video opera Perfect Lives for John Sanborn
  • Other significant albums of the year: Swans's Filth, Cocteau Twins's Head Over Heels, REM's Murmur, Mark Stewart's Learning To Cope With Cowardice, Jane Siberry's No Borders Here, Butthole Surfers's Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth's Confusion Is Sex, Einsturzende Neubaten's Zeichnungen Das Patienten
1984
  • The Chicago record store "Imports Etc" sells "house" records (as a contraction of "Warehouse", the disco where DJs play electronic dance music built around drum-machines and soul vocals), first ones being Frankie Knuckles' Your Love and Walter Gibbons' Set It Off
  • A new British invasion (of dance-rock bands) sweeps America
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers invent funk-metal
  • The Pogues' Red Roses For Me weds punk-rock and folk-rock ("rogue-folk")
  • Van Halen's Jump is the first heavy-metal song to top the Billboard charts
  • Schoolly D's Gangster Boogie coins "gangsta-rap"
  • Boom of new-age music
  • John Chowning founds the CCRMA (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics) at Stanford University
  • Ensoniq introduces the synthesizer Mirage, that includes a built-in sampler, making it cheap to create samples-based music
  • Marvin Gaye dies at 45
  • Youstol Dispage tops the charts
  • Independent labels founded in 1984 include: Cuneiform, Homestead
  • Other significant albums of the year: Husker Du's Zen Arcade, Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime, Nick Cave's From Her To Eternity, Replacement's Let It Be, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic's Magnetic Flip, Julian Cope's World Shut Your Mouth, Foetus's Hole
1985
  • A Chicago disc-jockey, DJ Pierre (later Phuture), invents "acid-house", built around the Roland TB-303 bassline machine
  • Youth Of Today invent "straight-edge" hardcore
  • Green River invent "grunge" in Seattle
  • Operation Ivy fuse ska and hardcore in Berkeley
  • Merzbow begins releasing cassettes of noise music in Japan
  • Rites Of Spring invent "emo-core" in Washington
  • Phranc's Folksinger starts the acoustic folk revival
  • The Jesus And Mary Chain's Psychocandy fuses noise and pop
  • "Live Aid", a multi-national benefit concert
  • The magazine "Spin" is founded in New York
  • German media giant Bertelsmann buys RCA and founds BMG
  • MCA buys Chess
  • the first concert by a foreign rock band is held in China (Wham)
  • Alternative Press is founded to cover the scene of independent rock
  • Digidesign releases recording and editing software for the Macintosh, that allows anyone to compose music and store it on a computer disk
  • Independent labels founded in 1985 include: Amphetamine Reptile, Def Jam, C/Z, Chemikal Underground, Ambiances Magnetiques
  • D. Boon of the Minutemen dies at 28
  • Joe Turner dies at 74
  • Other significant albums of the year: Butthole Surfers's Psychic Powerless, Foetus's Nail, Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising, Swans's Cop, Nick Cave's The Firstborn Is Dead, David Thomas's More Places Forever, Husker Du's New Day Rising, Fetchin Bones's Cabin Flounder
1986
  • Bristol disc-jockeys form the Wild Bunch, whose sound mixes soul, dub and hip hop
  • Ministry's Twitch fuses industrial music and hardcore
  • The Melvins perform long, droning, super-heavy dirges
  • Mr T Experience and Green Day with their punk-pop style are protagonists of the "Gilman St scene" in Berkeley
  • Paul Simon's Graceland incorporates African music into folk and rock music
  • Richard Manuel of the Band dies at 43
  • Larry Harvey burns a wooden man at a San Francisco beach in front of a small crowd of friends, the first Burning Man event
  • Robbie Basho dies at 45
  • Independent labels founded in 1986 include: Silent
  • Subpop is founded in Seattle
  • Other significant albums of the year: Big Black's Atomizer, Stan Ridgway's Big Heat, Death Of Samantha's Strungout On Jargon, Flaming Lips's Hear It Is, UT's Conviction, David Thomas's Monster Walks The Winter Lake, Swans's Holy Money
1987
  • The My Bloody Valentine invent "shoegazing" psychedelia
  • Zeni Geva's How To Kill is the first album of Japanese "noise"
  • Coldcut's Say Kids What Time Is It is the first dance hit made of samples
  • Napalm Death invents grindcore
  • Beastie Boys' Licensed To Ill is the first hip-hop album to reach the top of the Billboard charts
  • Paul Butterfield dies at 45
  • Detroit disc-jockey Derrick May cuts Nude Photo and Strings Of Life, which are broadcast on Alan Oldham's "Fast Forward" radio show and start the techno revolution
  • Guns'N'Roses' Appetite For Destruction and Jane's Addiction's first album vent the anger of Los Angeles' "street scene"
  • Enya fuses celtic music, electronic keyboards, and avantgarde vocals
  • Public Enemy play highly politicized hip-hop
  • The drug "ecstasy", banned in Britain and the USA, becomes popular at all-night parties at the open-air dance club "Amnesia" of Ibiza (Spain) that attracts people from all over Europe
  • After spending a summer in Ibiza, British disc-jockey Paul Oakenfold organizes "Spectrum", the first ecstasy-based party in London
  • Philips acquires the whole of Polygram
  • The Roland D50 ushers in the age of digital keyboards for the masses
  • M/A/R/S/S' Pump Up The Volume is the first hit built as a collage of samples
  • Death's Scream Bloody Gore invents death-metal
  • Dave Datta at the University of Wisconsin creates an on-line archive of musical information on the Internet
  • Independent labels founded in 1987 include: Invisible, Estrus
  • The first Bang On A Can festival is held in New York
  • Other significant albums of the year: Swans's Children Of God, Henry Rollins's Hot Animal Machine, Unrest's Tink Of Southeast, Blind Idiot God's I, Pussy Galore's Right Now, Guns And Roses's Appetite For Destruction, American Music Club's Engine, Bel Canto's White-Out Conditions, Jane Siberry's The Walking, Flaming Lips's Oh My Gawd
1988
  • The Pixies' Surfer Rosa signals the apex of "college-rock"
  • Fugazi play a tortured, existential form of hardcore in Washington
  • Soundgarden's Ultramega OK is the first hit album of Seattle's grunge sound
  • Roy Orbison dies
  • Nico dies at 49
  • Acid-house spreads from Ibiza to Manchester's club "Hacienda" (the "second summer of love", "Madchester") via secretive, all-night house and techno parties called "raves"
  • Sony buys CBS
  • "Creem" ceases publication
  • "The Source", a magazine for hip-hop music, is founded by two Harvard students
  • Independent labels founded in 1988 include: Wiiija, Lookout
  • The first KLEM ("Kontakt Liefhebbers Elektronische Muziek") festival for electronic music is held in Holland
  • Other significant albums of the year: Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, Pixies's Surfer Rosa, Death Of Samantha's Where The Women Wear The Glory, Red Temple Spirits's Dancing To Restore An Eclipsed Moon, Rollins Band's Life Time, Ministry's The Land Of Rape And Honey, Foetus's Thaw, Peter Frohmader's Through Time And Mistery, My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything, Band Of Susans's Hope Against Hope, Godflesh's I, Mary Margaret O'Hara's Miss America
1989
  • Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine is an electronic album of brutal hardcore
  • Slint's Tweez inaugurates the age of post-rock
  • 808 State's Pacific State invents "ambient house"
  • The Ptolemaic Terrascope magazine is founded by Bevis Frond and Phil McMullen
  • 150 people attend a "rave" called "Love Parade" in Berlin organized by Dr Motte as a political event
  • Polygram acquires Island
  • The Stone Roses debut, leading the Madchester scene
  • Independent labels founded in 1989 include: Matador, Merge, Sympathy for the Record Industry
  • Other significant albums of the year: Peter Gabriel's Passion, Pandora's Box's Original Sin, Flaming Lips's Telepathic Surgery, Bitch Magnet's Umber, Dogbowl's Tit, Godflesh's Streetcleaner

Origins 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

Legend: Avantgarde | Music industry | Instruments | Media | Necrology | Exotic