1980 – Bon Scott dies

The legendary lead singer of AC/DC from 1973 to 1980, Ronald Belford ‘Bon’ Scott was one of Australia’s greatest ever larrikins. His vocal style was heavily inspired by Little Richard, albeit with more of a heavy metal feel. Scott also co-wrote most of the songs on the band’s first seven album with the Young brothers, Malcolm and Angus (who were also members of the band).

Scott died when he passed out after a night of heavy drinking, and was left to sleep it off in a friend’s car. His death was ruled to have been caused by acute alcohol poisoning. His body was embalmed, and sent home to his family in Fremantle, where he was cremated and buried in the family plot. After Scott’s death, the other members of AC/DC considered quitting. Eventually, they decided that Scott would have wanted them to continue and with the encouragement of Bon’s family, the band hired Brian Johnson as the new vocalist. Five months after Scott’s death, AC/DC finished the work they began with Scott and released their next album, “Back in Black” as a tribute to him with two tracks from the album, “Hells Bells” and “Back in Black”, dedicated to his memory. It is now the fourth best-selling album in history.

Referenced in:
The TISM Boat Hire Offer — This is Serious Mum
(He’ll Never Be An) Old Man River — This Is Serious Mum

1980 – “Fridays” premieres

A short-lived competitor to “Saturday Night Live”, “Fridays” ran for three seasons on ABC from 1980 to 1982. It had a similar format to SNL – sketches, a guest host and musical guests – but was generally noted for having a sharper satirical edge to its politics. While it did not pull in the ratings ABC hoped, it did well enough to last three years.

It also launched a few careers, notably those of Larry David and Michael Richards, both of whom would go on to much greater success with “Seinfeld” a decade later – and almost all the regular cast members of “Fridays” have popped up on “Seinfeld”, sometimes as recurring characters.

Referenced in:
TV Party — Black Flag

1980 — Paul McCartney is busted for marijuana possession in Tokyo

It was a scandal briefly, and then completely forgotten. While passing through customs at Tokyo (on his way to tour Japan with Wings), Paul McCartney was discovered to have approximately 200 grams (or 8 ounces, if you prefer) of cannabis in his luggage. He was immediately arrested, and the news made headlines around the world.

But after ten days, the sheer weight of celebrity proved too great for the Japanese government. McCartney was released from prison without any charges being laid, although he was deported from the country, completely ruining the planned Wings tour. If only this had been the worst thing to happen to a Beatle in 1980.

Referenced in:
I’ve Been To Bali Too — Redgum

1980 – Dorothy Stratten is murdered

Dorothy Stratten was a former Playboy playmate of the year, and an up-and-coming actress at the time of her death. Her meteoric rise to stardom had been ridden for all it was worth by her husband, Paul Snider, but the couple had separated at Stratten’s behest. Snider despaired, seeing his chance for easy money (and possibly) the woman he loved. Stratten was by now in a relationship with director Paul Bogdanovitch, and the two planned to marry after her divorce was finalised.

On the afternoon of August 14, 1980, Stratten came to meet Snider at the house they had previously shared. At about 11pm, when Snider’s worried roomate broke down the door to his room, he found the pair both nude and shot dead – Stratten murdered and Snider a suicide. Police believe that Snider may have raped Stratten before the murder, and that he abused her corpse afterwards.

Referenced in:

Dead Meat — Bush
Cover Girl — Prism
Nick Cave Dolls — Bongwater
Flower Grown Wild — Bryan Adams
Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Best Was Yet To Come — Bryan Adams

1980 – The arcade game “Defender” is released

One of the earliest side-scrolling arcade video games, and probably the best known and most successful side-scroller, Defender was the single best-selling game ever to come out of the Williams Electronics workshops. Defender was a legendarily difficult game, in which it was never possible to actually finish – the game just continued to scroll from right to left, with an endless stream of enemies appearing.

It was an important evolution in gaming: the horizontal scrolling of the game was a massive advance in gaming formats that paved the way for a multitude of successors, imitators and evolutions – few of which managed its challenging gameplay as well.

Referenced in:

The Defender — Buckner & Garcia

1980 – The arcade game “Berzerk” is released

One of the most fondly remembered arcade games of its era, Berzerk combined fast shooting action with (at the time) groundbreaking speech synthesis samples – many of which have been sampled in assorted songs and other video games in tribute to Berzerk. Most of these samples came from the robots who were the player’s main enemy in the game.

The main enemy of Berzerk, Evil Otto, appears to be a malign basketball, but he is also the only arcade game villain to have caused deaths in the real world, with two different people succumbing to heart attacks (as teenagers, yet) after marathon Berzerk sessions.

Referenced in:

Goin’ Berzerk — Buckner & Garcia

1980 – The arcade game “Centipede” is released

One of the classic arcade shoot-em-up games, Centipede was released in June 1980. Its success can be roughly measured by the number of sequels, clones and ports that it spawned. Although not as large a franchise as Space Invaders, Pac-Man or Donkey Kong/Mario, it is still one of the few games to have survived from its arcade beginnings to all the current games platforms.

Referenced in:

Ode to a Centipede — Buckner & Garcia

1980 — Ronald Reagan is elected President

The 1980 United States presidential election was among the most bitterly fought of the Twentieth Century. Four years after the electorate had punished them for Watergate and Vietnam, the Republicans roared back into power behind Ronald Reagan, who crushed sitting President Jimmy Carter, winning 44 of the 50 states in the Electoral College. Carter’s defeat set a number of records for a Democratic President – none of them good.

Under Reagan, the United States would spend the 1980s being increasing bellicose and interventionist, just at the time that the USSR was collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions. Domestically, he began the trend of deregulation and globalization that led to such triumphs as the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. His eight years as President are still remembered by Republicans as a golden age, thus disproving the notion that viagra has no psychological side effects.

Referenced in:
Ignoreland — R.E.M.
(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang — Heaven 17

1980 – Pac-Man is first released

The highest-grossing and most well-known computer game of all time, Pac Man was created by the Japanese company Namco. It first made an impact as an arcade game, but by the mid-eighties, it was available for purchase to use on home gaming consoles, and it has remained available on many gaming platforms ever since.

At the time, moral watchdogs worried about its effect on impressionable youth, but since hardly anyone ever spent hours in dark surroundings listening to extremely repetitive electronic music while gobbling down a variety of pills, their concerns were clearly groundless.

Referenced in:

Pac-Man — Weird Al Yankovic
Pac-Man Fever — Buckner & Garcia

1980 – Ian Curtis commits suicide

Ian Curtis was only 23 years old when he killed himself on the eve of his band Joy Division’s first American tour. Curtis had suffered from intermittent depression for years prior to this, but his death came as a surprise to most of his closest associates, coming as it did at a time when his prospects seemed to be looking up.

The lead singer and primary lyricist of Joy Division, Curtis had a devoted, cult-like following at the time of his death, and would become one of the early icons of the nascent goth scene. His writings would receive greater critical respect in the years after his death – and his bandmates would continue to play, and reach greater financial success, under the name New Order.

Referenced in:

Ian Curtis — Thursday

1980 — Archbishop Oscar Romero is assassinated

Oscar Romero was a passionate advocate of social justice and human rights. As the Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador (the capital of El Salvador), this made him one of the repressive government’s most highly placed and widely respected opponents. He repeatedly called for the soldiers who served on the Salvadorian “Death Squads” to lay down their arms and end their brutal repression of their fellow Christians.

In order to send a message in no uncertain terms, he was shot and killed while celebrating mass on Sunday, March 24, 1980. His funeral on the following Saturday was disrupted by further assaults. Although in the short term Romero’s opponents succeeded in silencing him, they made of him a martyr to the cause of all who would oppose them. Today, thirty years later, Oscar Romero is a candidate for sainthood in the faith he gave his life for.

Referenced in:
Harrisburg — Josh Ritter
Oscar Romero — Richard Gilpin
Marching Song of the Covert Battalions — Billy Bragg

1980 – John Lennon is shot and killed

Mark David Chapman is, by any standard, an idiot. On this day in 1980, he shot John Lennon five times, in the back, while Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono looked on helplessly.

Whatever his actual motive for shooting John Lennon – and Chapman has contradicted himself on several occasions regarding it – the fact remains that he acheived only two things: depriving the world of a truly great musical talent, and giving the rest of the world one more reason to loathe American culture.

The fact that he has not been shanked in the yard at Attica State Prison only serves to underscore the massive injustice of Lennon’s death.

Referenced in:

That Says It All – Duncan Sheik
Far Side of Crazy – Wall of Voodoo
Life Is Real (Song for Lennon) – Queen
I Just Shot John Lennon – The Cranberries

1980 – Azaria Chamberlain disappears

It became one of the most controversial court cases in Australian history.

On August 17, 1980, Lindy and Michael Chamberlain were camping with friends in the Australian Outback, not far from Uluru (Ayers Rock). Lindy had been in one of the tents with the infant Azaria, when suddenly she came rushing back into the main part of the campsite, crying “A dingo’s got my baby!”

What followed would be a long series of investigations, claims and counterclaims. Eventually, Lindy would be convicted of Azaria’s murder, and served several years in prison for it. Azaria Chamberlain, whatever her true fate, was never seen again, alive or dead, although the clothes she was allegedly wearing at the time of her disapperance were found near a dingo lair, torn and blood-stained, a week later.

Referenced in:

Party Down – Reel Big Fish