It Was The Summer Of ’85
10 things that are turning 35 this year.
As I approach age 50, I — like many others whose childhood was mostly spent in the 1970s and early ’80s — seem to be stuck in some type of quasi time warp in my mind. It’s as if the last 20 years haven’t actually happened, because when people say “30 years ago,” I immediately think 1970, not 1990.
But instead of actually coming to grips with the fact the 1980s were more than THREE decades ago, I’m still living in a frame of mind where the ’80s were, like, totally, like, at most 15 years ago. (And also, Madonna is maybe in her early 40s now, not four years shy of 65, right?!)
That being said, when the calendar flipped over to 2020 this year, the stark realization that 1985 was literally 35 years ago brought to mind some pretty epic events that took place that year. From a worldwide charitable concert event to an infamous soda release, here are a few hard-to-forget events and debuts that took place during that totally tubular year. I promise they won’t gag you with a spoon.
1. VH1 debuted
Touted as “that other video music channel,” VH1 debuted in 1985, and was known for showcasing the softer, lighter side of popular music of the ’80s. It was where we went to watch hits sung by Kenny Loggins, Kool and the Gang, Hall and Oates, and Fleetwood Mac to name a few.
2. Live Aid, Farm Aid, and ‘We Are the World’ entertained us
On the heels of the success of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” in December of 1984, “We Are the World” was released the following spring. It was followed in the summer by the worldwide concert Live Aid, and both raised money for African famine relief efforts. Just a few months later in the fall of ’85, Willie Nelson spearheaded the Farm Aid concert to raise funds to assist struggling American farmers.
3. Windows 1.0 released
The very first version of Microsoft Windows hit personal computers in ’85, but ironically wasn’t received well by critics because they felt it relied too much on the use of something unfamiliar called a “mouse.” Flash forward to today, and several Windows versions later, where we can simply speak demands to our Windows machines — no double clicking required.
4. Blockbuster Video stores hit the block
If you weren’t cruising the fluorescent lit aisles of the local Blockbuster on Friday nights in the fall of ’85 with your BFFs, were you even a teenager? That first neighborhood video rental location opened in Houston in October, stocking an average of 8,000 VHS tapes, and would expand to 4,500 stores across the U.S. It was instantly a blockbuster business idea, and then it was instantly gone. Thanks, streaming.
5. ‘Golden Girls’ moved in, Maddie met David on ‘Moonlighting’, and we felt ‘Growing Pains’
Some of the best TV ever hit our screens in 1985, and that’s because we got to watch Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia eat cheesecake at their kitchen table while teaching us all we need to know about friendships. We were also introduced to TV’s sexiest detective duo ever on Moonlighting, and were invited into the living room of the lovable Seaver family on Growing Pains. Now add MacGyver, 227 and Larry King Live to that list, and you can see why it was hard to get off the couch in ’85.
6. ‘The Breakfast Club’ — that is all
Nobody understood teen angst in the ’80s better than John Hughes, and the perpetual brilliance of a movie like The Breakfast Club (and the fact it’s just as relevant today as it was 35 years ago) has not gone unnoticed. As a matter of fact, the flick that introduced us to the jock, the snob, the geek, the punk and the kook in 1985 has been preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Hey Saturday detention kids, don’t worry, we won’t ever forget about you.
7. New Coke tried and failed
The phrase “if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” apparently was ignored by the higher-ups at Coca-Cola, because they decided a new formulation of America’s favorite soft drink was needed in order to compete with the growing diet soda market. But just three months after “New Coke" was released, it was deemed an epic marketing failure, and “Classic Coca-Cola” (the original formula) made its return to stores — and a very grateful American — soon thereafter.
8. First HIV screening blood test approved
The first blood test to detect antibodies for the AIDS virus was successfully developed, which made it possible to screen all blood donations for the virus, thus greatly limiting transmission via blood transfusions. Soon thereafter, it became possible to actually test at-risk patients, not just blood supplies, for virus antibodies.
9. An unknown redhead becomes best new artist
If one of the first cassette tapes you can ever remember playing over and over again was Cyndi Lauper’s album She’s So Unusual, you’re not alone. Lauper made a leap to fame in 1985, winning the Grammy for best new artist and single-handedly getting millions of girls to just wanna have fun.
10. It’s a top 10 list!
Just 35 years ago, late night’s favorite talk show host David Letterman did his first ever “Top Ten List.” That first one was titled, “Top Ten Words That Almost Rhyme with ‘Peas.’ ” Although that initial comic zinger of a list was quite a nonsensical one, thankfully they grew wittier and funnier year after year — to the tune of 30 years of them.
Image Credits: New Coke, Courtesy Coca-Cola; HIV Test, Photo by David McNew/Getty Images; Moonlighting, Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images; Growing Pains, Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images; Blockbuster, NorthScape/ Alamy Stock Photo; VH1 Roundtable, Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc; Cyndi Lauper, Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Live Aid, Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images; The Golden Girls, AF archive/ Alamy; The Breakfast Club, UNIVERSAL/ Ronald Grant Archive / Alamy; Bill Gates, Photo by Joe McNally/Getty Images; David Letterman, ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy;