The Day The Music Had A Heart Attack

Rumors about the health of Rock N. Roll were rampant and varied, and they traveled fast on the streets and in the homes of America. It was the early eighties, and the musical landscape was in the midst of major shifts and rifts. When you look at the record charts of November 30, 1982, the signals of the impending death of rock and roll are somewhat visible.

  • The single “Heart Attack” from Olivia Newton-John was at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • The song at number four was “Up Where We Belong” – a premonition?

Symptoms of a heart attack include pain in the chest or other areas of the body. The Top Ten has it covered:

  • “Heartlight” #5
  • “Muscles” #10

The trend continues with Numbers 16 – 20:

  • “Shadows of the Night”
  • “American Heartbeat”
  • Southern Cross
  • “Heartbreaker”
  • “Pressure”

Other symptoms of coronary events:Death Of Rock N Roll EP Front on BoomerSwag!

  • shortness of breath (Air Supply #54)
  • speech difficulty (“Psychobabble” #82)
  • sudden numbness (“I Know There’s Something Going On” #68)
  • confusion or trouble understanding (“I Keep Forgettin'” #46, “Who Can It Be Now?” #21, and “Does It Make You Remember”, #52).

Victims may also experience:

  • trouble walking, dizziness, and loss of balance or coordination (“Stand or Fall” #90, “Hand To Hold On To” #36, “Shakin'” #95)
  • vision trouble in one or both eyes (“Eye In The Sky” #55, “Right Before Your Eyes” #78, and “The Look of Love” #25)

Possible contributing factors:

  • “Shock The Monkey” #41 
  • “Goodbye to You” #71
  • “Destination Unknown” #42
  • “Missing You” #27
  • “Heart of the Night” #73
  • “Heart to Heart” #59
  • “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” #67

Just two months before that, on September 25, Steve Miller topped the Billboard Hot 100 with his song, a musical spell titled “Abracadabra”. Did he utter the magic word that brought on the demise of Rock N. Roll?

Probably not. Just a quick glance at the charts for late November indicate the changes in music popularity. Truly the Number One song that week was not a rock and roll tune. “Truly”. From Lionel Ritchie. The first real ‘rock’ song on the list is outside of the Top Ten, with the Don Henley solo track “Dirty Laundry” sitting at position 11.

Of the 100 singles on the list, perhaps seven or eight are rock songs, with “Twilight Zone”, “New World Man”, and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” standing out as true rock and roll jams. The majority of the songs are mellow, middle-of-the-road or just plain old pop music singles, with six of the titles containing some form of the word “heart”.

At the end of 1982, the top-selling album of the year was the debut album from Asia. Prior to that, the top releases were The Wall (1980) and Hi Infidelity (1981). Five years later the best-selling record was Slippery When Wet (1987). This was the last time a rock music release went on to become the best-selling album of the year. Rock N. Roll was in a coma until an unknown point of time in 1987, then it gasped and whimpered for a brief time before vanishing in a final ‘blaze of glory’.

The cause of death has been proposed, discussed, suggested, and hypothesized over time, yet no concrete event (or non-event) has been attributed to the eventual decline in the popularity of rock music. Our quest for answers led us to the opening sentence of an article on Wikipedia:

Thriller is the sixth studio album by American singer Michael Jackson, released on November 30, 1982, by Epic Records.”

The massive and permanent shift in the changing place of rock may have begun when “Billie Jean” debuted at number 47 on Jan. 22, 1983. 

In just over a year, Thriller became—and currently remains—the world’s best-selling album, with estimated sales of 65 million copies. It is the best-selling album in the United States and is certified 33x multi-platinum, having shipped 33 million album equivalent units. The album won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. Seven singles were released, all of which reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The album went on to win Album of the Year again in 1984, followed by Born In The USA in 1985, and the Whitney Houston self-titled record took the honors for 1986. After the Bon Jovi release topped sales charts for 1987, the prominence and presence of rock music has been sporadic and uninspiring, essentially gone by the wayside.

“The funk and disco-inspired album “Off the Wall” sold 1.5 million units by the end of 1979. In 1982 followed “Thriller”, which was awarded 20x platinum in the U.S. by 1984. If we consider that in the years 1982-1984 approximately 1.4 billion long-play formats (LP, cassette, and CD) were sold in the U.S., “Thriller” alone achieved a market share of at least 1.4% (!). Nothing else, indeed, can demonstrate better the impressive economic role the superstar effect played for the music industry in the 1980s.”

Music Business Research Business Model – “Michael Jackson” – Mar. 26, 2010

The submarine USS Thomas Edison, named after the inventor of the phonograph, is run over by a destroyer in the Western Pacific and later that day Michael Jackson unrocks the world. Rock music as a whole began floundering. Bring on the “Big Hair” era as the top of the charts were beginning to favor “Pop Music”. No more Diamond Dogs as “Mickey” teamed up with “Jack and Diane” and “Bille Jean” to knock rock music to its knees. Shortly after the mid-eighties, rock and roll became mere background noise in the soundtrack of time.



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