1983 – Ted Kennedy criticises the SDI

If there was one Democrat who kept the torch alight in the long, dark years between Carter and Clinton, it was Ted Kennedy. His early promise had fizzled, the deaths of his brothers and his own misadventure at Chappaquidick leaving him mired in grief and public disapproval. But by the time the Eighties rolled around, Kennedy was the elder statesman of the Democratic Party (which spent entire decade shut out of the White House).

He did a good job of being the loyal opposition: supporting where he agreed, and criticizing with polite intelligence where he did not. He was a particular opponent of the more sexist policies of the Reagan government, and also of many of its foreign policies – and their use to justify massive defence expenditures. Few things aroused Kennedy’s ire more than the Strategic Defence Initiative (or “Star Wars” as the media dubbed it), which was ludicrously expensive, impossible to create with then existing technology (and remains so today) and widely seen as likely to reignite the Cold War arms race. Thanks to Kennedy and many, many others, the SDI never became a reality.

Referenced in:
One-Way Ticket To Pluto — Dead Kennedys

1983 — Karen Carpenter dies

Karen Carpenter was one half of the Carpenters, her brother Richard being the other half. Richard played electric piano (and a variety of other similar instruments), Karen played drums, and both sang – although it was Karen’s voice that was the more popular. Offering a softer, more melodic alternative to the loudness and wildness of Seventies rock (the golden age of heavy metal), they became among the best-selling artists of their age. Their output consisted mostly of covers, such as “(They Long to Be) Close to You” was a #1 hit for them in America, “Please Mr. Postman” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”.

Karen Carpenter was longtime sufferer of anorexia nervosa. She died in 1983 of complications resulting from her anorexia, but in doing so, she helped to bring anorexia into greater prominence, leading to greater attention from the medical and psychiatric community.

Referenced in:
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions

1983 — “Down Under” reaches #1 on the UK charts

It’s probably a better-beloved ‘national anthem’ than “Advance Australia Fair”, and one of the best-selling Australian songs ever. Too bad that there was that rather unpleasant plagiarism case regarding the great similarity between the flute part in this song and the one in ‘Kookaburra’.

And for that matter, it’s a pity that the best known song of Men At Work, co-written by lead singer Colin Hay and lead guitar Ron Strykert (who were also the founding members of the band), is so widely misunderstood. It’s not actually a patriotic song – it’s more about the selling out of Australia, and if it is a celebration, it’s a celebration of Australian culture rather than of nationalism.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1983 – “The A-Team” premieres

In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

This opening narration prefaced every episode of “The A-Team”, first heard by the world when the opening episode was broadcast by NBC on January 23, 1983. For the next five years, the world would thrill to the adventures of “Howling Mad” Murdock, B. A. Baracus, John “Hannibal” Smith and Templeton Peck on a weekly basis. And even as late as 2003, it was voted the series that people most wanted revived.

Referenced in:
TV Party — Black Flag
I Love America — Alice Cooper

1983 – The Pine Tar Incident occurs

The Pine Tar Incident (also known as the Pine Tar Game) occurred during a game between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees on July 24, 1983 at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

After a home run was hit by George Brett of the Royals, the manager of the Yankees requested that the umpires take a closer look at Brett’s bat – and upon doing so, they determined that the bat had more pine tar on it than the rules allowed. They nullified Brett’s home run – and the run scored by the batsman on base from the same hit.

This would have been less controversial were it not for the fact that these two runs had put the Royals in front, and done so in the game’s ninth innings. As such, the Yankees won the game – although after a protest was lodged by the Royals, the game (from the point of Brett taking strike on) was replayed, with the Royals victorious.

Referenced in:

Pine Tar Wars — C.W. McCall

1983 – Paul Keating becomes Treasurer of Australia

The 1983 Australian Federal election was a smashing victory for the Australian Labor Party under Bob Hawke – which, as displaced ALP leader Bill Hayden commented, could have been led by a drover’s dog and still won. Sour grapes aside, the election was significant in that it ended 8 years of Liberal-National Coalition government, and also in that Hawke would go on to become the longest-serving ALP Prime Minister in Australian history.

His right hand man, a tall fella named Paul Keating – a ten year veteran of Federal Parliament and a notorious smart-arse – would become Treasurer of Australia in Hawke’s new Cabinet, and preside over a tumultuous but overall successful period of dramatic economic reform.

Referenced in:
My Right Hand Man — Keating! The Musical original cast

1983 – Stanislav Petrov's cool head prevents nuclear war

Lieutenant Colonal Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was a 44 year old officer in the Army of the Soviet Union whose assignment was to monitor the early warning systems at Serpukhov-15 base, near Moscow.

Not long after midnight on September 26, 1983, Petrov was alerted to what appeared to be an American first strike, with a single nuclear missile reported to be incoming. Only three weeks earlier, the Soviet Union had shot down a commercial jet near Korea, and tensions between the USA and USSR were running high. His orders required him to pass along the warning, but Petrov hesitated. Something wasn’t right about this.

Petrov concluded that a true first strike would involve hundreds of missiles fired simultaneously, with the intention of wiping out the USSR’s capacity to retaliate. A single missile made no sense – and there were already doubts about the reliability of the early warning systems. Petrov therefore reasoned – correctly – that the missile alert ws caused by a computer error, and should be ignored.

In doing so, he prevented a nuclear war from breaking out in 1983, and potentially rendering the planet uninhabitable to the majority of its species, including us. The man is a hero, and should be feted around the world for the good judgement and personal integrity he displayed in this matter. Instead, hardly anyone knows his name – but at least now you do.

Referenced in:

Stanislav Petrov — Beehoover
Thank You Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov — L’elan Vital

1983 – Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino is assassinated

Benigno Aquino Jnr, nicknamed Ninoy, was a Senator in the Phillipines. Elected in 1967, he was arrested in 1972 after Phillipine President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. The charges were widely considered to have been falsified, but Aquino spent the next eight years in prison anyway. He was released in 1980 after suffering a heart attack, and lived in Boston for three years.

The rising tide of anti-Marcos sentiment convinced him to return to the Phillipines. But upon his return, he was shot and killed by members of the Phillipine army. It remains unclear as to whether Marcos had anything to do with the assassination, although it seems clear that the conspirators were at least supporters of his.

In the end, it backfired on Marcos and his faction. Aquino became a martyr, and opposition to the Marcos regime solidified and grew. In 1986, his widow, Cory Aquino, was elected President of the Phillipines, beginning a new era of liberty and jokes about Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection.

Referenced in:

Mal Sacate – Kris Kristofferson

1983 – Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space

When the Space Shuttle Challenger launched on June 18, 1983 on mission STS-7, Sally Kristen Ride, age 32, became the first American woman in space as a crew member. (She was third overall, behind the Soviets Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982.)

Ride was selected by NASA in 1978, after answering a newspaper advertisment for the space program – 8900 other people also answered it. On her first mission, she was one of a five member crew who deployed two communications satellites and conducted pharmaceutical experiments. Ride rode again in 1984, again on the Challenger, and after the Challenger exploded on takeoff, she was a member of the Presidential Committee charged with investigating the mishap.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

1983 – Neighbourhood Watch begins in Victoria

Neighbourhood Watch is a community policing organisation found in many countries – it is more concerned with observing and reporting crimes than with directly preventing them (for example, through vigilante action). It is widely believed that it acts as a disincentive to criminals and lowers crime rates in the areas where it takes place.

The Victorian incarnation of this organisation began in Frankston, a suburb of Melbourne, with cooperation between community members and the local police. The project was quickly declared a success and rapidly spread to other areas of the state and the rest of Australia.

Its actual utility – and somewhat dubious motivations – are still matters of considerable debate, not least due to the difficulty of statistically proving the cause of a thing not happening.

Referenced in:
Neighbourhood Watch — My Friend The Chocolate Cake

1983 – Quiet Riot’s album “Metal Health” reaches #1 on the US album chart

Quiet Riot came out of nowhere in 1983, with two hugely popular singles in “Cum on Feel the Noise” and “Bang Your Health (Metal Health)” that carried the album to number 1 on the US, UK, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand charts.

Arguably, the success of Quiet Riot paved the way for the metal acts that were generally called the hair bands – groups like Poison, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue – simply because it made metal mainstream for a time. However, none of their subsequent albums ever performed as well as Metal Health, although Quiet Riot kept recording and performing until 2007, when lead singer Kevin DuBrow died. After DuBrow’s death, the group disbanded.

Referenced in:

Rockin’ the Suburbs – Ben Folds