A “New Wave” of Music Owns Much of the Decade
The rock scene of the 1980s
was an appealing blend of the old and the new. Fading stars cut fresh tracks
and revived their careers, while brash new-comers recombined familiar musical
elements to produce original statements. Among the decade’s early hits was an
album that marked the passing of an era, Double
Fantasy, by Yoko Ono and the late John Lennon.
Meanwhile, a rising generation
of rockers were reacting against the 1970s punk scene, which survived in
modified form among groups like Devo—by evolving a new-wave sound. The Police,
a British group with the charismatic Sting as lead singer, disarmed listeners
in 1980 by applying a catchy reggae beat to their break-through hit,
“Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” a tale of erotic tension that set the
stage for the group’s 1983 blockbuster, “Every Breath You Take.” Also topping the charts were Dire Straits and
the Pretenders, groups made up of fine musicians who owed their success more to
their distinctive sound and telling lyrics than to performance antics.
Few who rode the new wave
to stardom, however, did so without offering something flashy to catch the eye.
Deborah Harry, the former beautician and Playboy Club bunny whose bleached
tresses distinguished the group Blondie, paved the way for Madonna by
glamorizing rock. Cyndi Lauper sported orange hair as she un-leashed her
blissful classic of 1984, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Towering
beehive hairdos gave the B-52s a retro look; their post-punk party music soared
in 1980 with “Rock Lobster” and again in 1989 with the album Cosmic Thing and the hot single
“Love Shack.” Culture Club’s driving force, Boy George, tried to go
the girls one better with his cross-dressing getups, complimenting his fans on
one occasion for recognizing “a good drag queen when you see one.”
Although MTV carried Boy
George, the station banned a video of “Who’s That Girl” by the
Eurythmics in which Annie Lennox removed a long-haired wig to reveal
mannish-looking close-cropped tresses. Few rock stars of the 1980s were more
provocative than Prince, who blended an overtly sexual, new-wave persona with a
rhythm-and-blues sense that earned him comparison with Stevie Wonder and Jimi
The Berlin Wall
At the stroke of midnight on November 9, 1989, the crowds of East Berliners let out a roar of
triumph and started pouring through and up and over the grim barrier. Equally
jubilant West Berliners greeted them with handshakes, hugs, and kisses; the
whoops and popping of champagne corks lasted through the night.
By dawn, the Berlin Wall,
that detestable symbol of Communist tyranny and a divided Germany, had passed into history. The speed of the
collapse stunned the world. Only nine months before, East Germany’s party chieftain, Erich Honecker, had been
talking about the 28-year-old wall remaining in place for another century. But
with reform sweeping the U.S.S.R., citizens of the countries long oppressed by
the Soviets demanded freedom—now. Tides of change had already engulfed Hungary and Poland, and the rest of the Eastern Bloc showed signs of
rapidly giving way.
East Germany’s rulers figured their only hope was to open the
jailhouse doors a crack by reining in their murderous border guards. In a
twinkling, the trickle of East Germans crossing over became a flood. Within 48
hours, nearly two million people had visited the West, and many did not return.
Now a new cry rose in German throats, a cry for reunification. And while that
might worry those with memories of the Germany of Adolf Hitler, it was simply a
matter of time until it happened.