Throwback Thursday: 1982

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I was thinking to myself the other day, you know what might be a fun thing to do for the blog?  Pick a year, do some research on it, write down my thoughts on the major events, and dig around on YouTube for corresponding videos.  And you know what?  It was absolutely as fun as I thought it would be, mostly because of the videos.  Old videos on YouTube are unbelievably great.  God bless the people that not only hold on to their old VHS tapes, but also willingly spend their time putting them online.  Or however it is these things find their way to my computer.

It seemed like 1982 would be an appropriate place to start; after all, that’s when I got my start.  If I do muster up the energy to keep this going, though, I don’t plan to go sequentially, because that seems like it would be really, really boring.

I came up with the idea of beginning this entry with the first video that showed up for me when I searched for “1982.”  I was pretty convinced that this would end up being a terrible idea, as I assumed that the first result would be something terribly dull.  Boy, was I wrong.  I think if I looked up “how to start a blog entry about 1982” in the dictionary, this video would start playing:

I was hoping to work things into a seamless narrative, but that would be too much work, so let’s just take things a category at a time.

Movies

ET: The Extraterrestrial came out in June and made tons of money and sold a lot of Reese’s Pieces and secured entry into all of Los Angeles’ hottest clubs for seven-year-old Drew Barrymore, etc., etc.  I never really liked E.T., though. I suspect that was at least partially based on the fact (I think?) that it knocked Star Wars off of the all-time gross list.  Now that Shrek and the Transformers and the like have breezed past Star Wars (at least worldwide) I should probably chill out a little bit.  And I have grown to like E.T. more as the years have gone by.  But it is such a slow movie, and it’s so sappy.  I guess it’s more of a girls’ movie posing as a sci-fi movie, and that’s fine.  I just wish people would stop trying to make me feel bad for not liking it.

I don’t know what it says about me that, even as a child, I preferred the musical Annie to E.T.  Or maybe I just don’t want to know what it says about me.  I blame my father for convincing me that Carol Burnett was hilarious.  I don’t even care, though, because this music is outstanding.

Annie is better than E.T. if only because it made possible my ninth favorite song of the Nineties.

As I scan through the list of the movies released in 1982, though, the one that jumps out as my favorite of the year is definitely Gandhi.  I don’t have a joke to make about it; it’s just a really great movie with an amazing performance by Ben Kingsley.  This is a classic from the era when high school Jared would go to Blockbuster and randomly rent three or four movies and sit around by himself in the dark watching them.  I was probably trying to watch every Best Picture Oscar winner or something.  That obviously didn’t work out very well, considering I just looked at the list and I’ve only seen 31 out of 82 of them.

I’ve never seen Tron, and I’m guessing I never will, and I frankly doubt that I’m missing out on anything.  I mention it here, though, for two reasons: 1) It gives me an excuse to post the trailer, which seems so completely 1982, and 2) It gives me an excuse to post a trailer for the upcoming sequel that looks kind of great and features music from Daft Punk.

Remember everybody, in Tron “love and escape do not compute.”

Music

OK, so it would be incorrect to say that music was bad in 1982.  There was actually some great stuff going on, both in mainstream pop and in the lesser-known scenes.  But there is seriously something wrong in the world when “Ebony and Ivory” stays at number one on the Billboard charts for seven weeks.  Boy, is this song terrible.

Ugh.  Seriously, play that video.  What a disaster from two musicians that I really love.  Let’s move on.

So that’s an example of bad 1982 pop music, but I just mentioned that there was also great pop music back then.  Like what, you ask?  Oh just the best-selling album of all time, Thriller.  I actually didn’t realize it was this old, I think I would have guessed 1984.

Man, no wonder Michael Jackson went crazy.  Can you imagine the pressure he must have felt after releasing an album that contained “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” AND “P.Y.T.”?  Also, there’s the fact that his father was abusive and he had no childhood.  That probably didn’t help.

If I’m talking about the pop music of 1982, I suppose I have to mention the Prince album 1999.  I like some Prince songs, but I’ve never been a huge fan.  The title track from this album gave us a great soundtrack to dance to as we awaited Y2K and the inevitable new Stone Age that it would spawn.

I’m not the only one that was sort of disappointed when none of that Y2K stuff happened, right?

The year also gave us Combat Rock, which is only my third favorite album by The Clash, but resulted in the video for “Rock the Casbah,” which is an extremely rare example of an old music video that manages to be both intentionally and unintentionally funny at the same time.

The musical Cats opened on Broadway in 1982 and stuck around until 2000.  That’s remarkable for a show that, at least according to my quick perusal of its Wikipedia page, is really stupid and bizarre.  I’ve never seen Cats, but I’ve laughed at countless jokes people have made about it.

I bet you thought the year in music peaked with Thriller, right?  Wrong.  The sneakily most important music-related event of 1982 was actually the introduction of the CD and the commercially available CD player.

The first album to be released on CD was 52nd Street by Billy Joel, which seems weird considering it had already been out for four years at the time.

Television

I’ve been perusing the networks’ primetime lineups for the 1982 season, and let me be the first to tell you that television was really bad back in the day.  A notable non-primetime standout, though, is the premiere of Late Night with David Letterman, the show that led not only to the Late Show with David Letterman, but also to Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

I don’t recall having ever seen this show; by the time I was consciously aware of Letterman he had already made the move to CBS.  It was supposedly hilarious, though, and being a big fan of his more recent work, I don’t doubt it.

We saw the launch of another seminal show in 1982, Cheers.  I don’t like Cheers.  I’m relatively sure that the only two sitcoms from before 1990 that I actually enjoy are The Cosby Show and The Andy Griffith Show.  Everything else is pretty terrible and does not hold up at all, in my opinion.  And I’m sure a lot of people would be happy to make an argument that The Cosby Show and The Andy Griffith show don’t hold up, either.  A lot of people love Cheers, though; near the end of this Bill Simmons column, there is an enjoyable, if ultimately laughable, breakdown of which is better, Cheers or Seinfeld.

The most tragic event of the television year, at least according to my grandmother Dolores, would have to be the ending of The Lawrence Welk Show after an epic 27-year run.

The Saturday Night Live clone Fridays also saw its run end in 1982.  This show was pretty forgettable.  Even with Michael Richards in the cast, it wouldn’t warrant a mention here if not for the fact that as an adolescent I was oddly obsessed with the comedian Andy Kaufman and loved his practical joke “sabotage” of the live show (starts at about the 2:50 mark in this clip).

Sports

I consider myself to be a soccer fan, but I’m a soccer fan in America, so I can’t really claim to know much about the 1982 FIFA World Cup.  The only thing I knew about it off the top of my head was that Italy won, and I only know that because Italy also won in 2006 and it got mentioned a bunch then.  Wikipedia also tells me that the tournament was held in Spain, and that the West German team was the runner up (West Germany!  So Eighties).

In baseball news, Montreal hosted the first ever MLB All-Star game to be held outside of the United States.  This isn’t a big deal, historically, but it provides me with an opportunity to mention that I really miss the Expos.  They were such a cool team. (The All-Star game stuff in this clip doesn’t start until about 45 seconds in).

In much more important baseball news, not even a week after I was born, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series.

Which do you think is more likely, the possibility that I became a Cardinals fan because I subconsciously absorbed the fact that they were winning the World Series while I was being born, or the possibility that the Cardinals were inspired by my birth to win the World Series in 1982?  Both seem sort of likely to me.

I doubt many of these “Throwback” entries will include college basketball.  I love March Madness, but in general I find it to be sort of an “of the moment” thing.  But considering that the 1982 NCAA basketball championship game involved both Michael Jordan and the town in which I currently live, it would have been weird to leave it out.  Jordan and UNC defeated Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in a game that the people down here are still talking about.  Or at least I have to assume that they do; I don’t actually spend much time talking to the residents of Chapel Hill.

Cal Ripken, Jr. began his famous games played streak in 1982.  By the end of it he had played 2,632 games over seventeen seasons, broken Lou Gehrig’s record, and thoroughly annoyed me.  I always claim I don’t like Ripken because by the end of his streak he was being selfish and playing through minor injuries, hurting his team in the process, and that the whole streak was driven by his ego.  If I were being honest, though, I would admit that the reason I don’t like him is the same reason I instinctively dislike Lance Armstrong.  Both of them are such easy “heroes” for annoying, blowhard middle-aged white men that I just instinctively root against them.  And I guess that’s a bit petty.  I did like Ripken when he started his second career as a talk show host under the pseudonym “Steve Wilkos,” though.

I usually don’t even pretend to care about college football, but I can’t finish my recap of sports in 1982 without mentioning “The Play,” the ending to the Stanford vs. Cal game that year.  One of my favorite sports highlights of all time.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is the famous “the band is on the field!” game.  Just watch the clip.

Technology

Technological developments from 1982 are not, for the most part, all that interesting to me, but we did have some funny firsts, such as the first computer virus and the first use of emoticons.

Also notable is the fact that Time magazine in 1982 named the computer the “Person of the Year” the first time that they had awarded “Person of the Year” to a non-person.  Judging by these awesome old computer commercials, it deserved it.

This did, unfortunately, open the door to the choice of “You” as the 2006 “Person of the Year.”  So, pretty much anyone who contributes to user-generated content on the internet.  I know I opened this post by praising people for uploading old videos to YouTube, and I wish everyone I knew had a blog, but as “Person of the Year” that’s just a waste of my time, Time.

As we all know, by far the biggest event of the year was the opening of EPCOT Center.  That’s right, folks, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.  It may sound egotistical coming from me, but the 21st Century truly did begin October 1982.

Well, that was a fun trip to the past.  For me, at least.  Let’s end things the only appropriate way I can think of: watching the ball drop and ringing in 1983.

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