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VH1 Examines The 80s...

VH1 Presents the '80s'
Looks at How Decade's Music Reflected and Influenced Everything From Politics to Technology to Sex in New Documentary Special Debuting Sunday-Thursday, November 4-8 At 10:00 P.M. (ET/PT)

Interviews With Adam Ant, Kurtis Blow, Boy George, Chuck D, Sheila E., Deborah Gibson, Macy Gray, Rob Halford, Billy Idol, Rick James, Cyndi Lauper, Def Leppard, Willie Nelson, Moby, Motley Crue, Gary Numan, Poison, Johnny Rzeznik, Lionel Richie, Quiet Riot, Nile Rodgers, Henry Rollins, Run-DMC, Fred Schneider, Slash, Dee Snider, Joe Strummer, Andy Summers, John Taylor, Steven Van Zandt, John Waite And Jane Wiedlin

Five-Hour, Five-Night VH1 Documentary Special

NEW YORK, Oct. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- In 1980, almost nobody used computers, fax machines or compact discs yet. AIDS, Madonna and rap music were unknown, and music videos were just being born. But only ten years later, the world had become a vastly different place.

"VH1 Presents The '80s" looks at the decade's biggest musical artists and styles, and explores how music reflected and influenced our ideas about politics, money, technology, fashion, the media, drugs, race and sex. The VH1 documentary debuts as a five-hour, five-night special, Sunday-Thursday, November 4-8, at 10:00 p.m. (ET/PT) each night. Each individual one-hour episode will cover a single topic, including "Rock in the Video Age," "Heavy Metal," "New Wave/Alternative Rock," "Hip Hop/R&B" and "Music and Politics."

Two decades ago, the Cold War was in full swing, unemployment was at an all-time high, and if you wanted to see your favorite musician, you had to go to a concert or wait for a rare television appearance. Then it all changed. "VH1 Presents The '80s" examines the significance of those changes, as well as how the trends that started in that decade still dominate the culture today -- with music helping to play a major part -- through interviews with Adam Ant, Kurtis Blow, Boy George, Public Enemy's Chuck D, Sheila E., Deborah Gibson, Macy Gray, Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Colin Hay of Men at Work, Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Billy Idol, Rick James, Janie Lane of Warrant, Cyndi Lauper, Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and Phil Collen, Willie Nelson, Moby, Husker Du's Bob Mould, Motley Crue's Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx, Gary Numan, Dave Pirnir of Soul Asylum, Poison's Brett Michaels, CC DeVille and Rikki Rockett, Johnny Rzeznik of Goo Goo Dolls, Lionel Richie, Quiet Riot's Kevin Dubrow, Rudi Szarzo and Frank Banali, Nile Rodgers, Henry Rollins, Run-DMC's Joseph "Run" Simmons, Daryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jam Master Jay, Fred Schneider of The B-52's, Guns N Roses' Slash, Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, Rick Springfield, Joe Strummer of The Clash, Andy Summers of The Police, Duran Duran's John Taylor, Steven Van Zandt of the E Street Band, John Waite, Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's, and Kip Winger of Winger.

In addition, authors Nelson George and Joe Queenan, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, filmmaker Penelope Spheeris, record executives Danny Goldberg and Seymour Stein, and former Amnesty International head Jack Healey also share their perspectives.

VH1.com will celebrate the '80s online with a complete recap of the five-part series including comprehensive episode descriptions, a list of essential albums featured in each installment, and online polls. In addition, 80's fans can log on to catch interviews with some of the biggest stars of the decade, video clips from classic '80s music videos, and a special "Where Are They Now?" report, detailing the whereabouts of the some of the best-loved acts of the era. Eighties fans can also log on to VH1.com to access the "VH1 Presents The '80s" online radio station which will showcase all the classic '80s hits. To visit the "VH1 Presents The '80s" site, click http://www.vh1.com/eighties/.

"Rock in the Video Age"

Premieres Sunday, November 4 from 10-11PM (ET/PT)

By 1980, pop music's audience had fragmented and record sales were plummeting. Disco was no longer fashionable, punk had failed to produce a mainstream success. Rock radio had become safe, due in part to the influence of radio consultants who encouraged stations to play the least objectionable music. But in the '80s, video transformed music. The stars of the video age challenged existing ideas about sex and race. And by the end of the decade, they had changed the way the world looked and the way music sounded. Billy Idol says, "In those early days, Prince, Madonna, Billy Idol -- it looked as if we'd all been created for MTV."

When MTV launched in August 1981, they didn't have a wealth of videos to chose from, so they played mostly European pop acts who didn't stand a chance of getting on US radio. The first true stars of the video era were Duran Duran. The group became teen idols on both sides of the Atlantic, due in part to their good looks and cinematic videos. In 1983, Michael Jackson made a series of popular videos that helped "Thriller" become the biggest selling album of the decade. "It changed everything," says Nile Rodgers. "I mean, there was definitely the music biz before 'Thriller,' and the music biz after 'Thriller.' " But no artist in the video age used the medium better than Madonna, who manipulated her image and sexuality, and in the process became the first female star to reach the highest level of rock stardom, and assume total control of her music and career.

By the end of the decade, video had not only transformed music, its influence reached far into the culture with a new aesthetic that changed television itself, along with movies, fashion, advertising, language and more.

Interviews include Adam Ant, Dale Bozzio, Boy George, Deborah Gibson, Colin Hay, Billy Idol, Rick James, Cyndi Lauper, Moby, Gary Numan, Nile Rodgers, Henry Rollins, Fred Schneider, Slash, Dee Snider, Andy Summers, John Taylor and Jane Wiedlin.

"Heavy Metal":

Premieres Monday, November 5 from 10-11PM (ET/PT)

The '80s were an era marked by excess, and no music more accurately mirrored the heady times like heavy metal. Indeed, many metal bands actually based their image on an excessive appetite for sex and drugs. Though hated by parents, trashed by critics and denounced by political and religious leaders, no music meant more to its fans than heavy metal during the decade, when it was transformed from the music of a fading subculture into the dominant genre of American music. In 1980, Led Zeppelin's drummer John Bonham died after a night of heavy drinking; within weeks, the metal pioneers called it quits. Then, in the early eighties, MTV made superstars out of visually arresting, often androgynous artists, with "glam" metal bands like Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Ratt and Motley Crue, but the next wave of metal bands combined the intensity and heaviness of metal with the romantic sincerity of pop.

With photogenic front men, and pop-oriented hard rock, bands like Bon Jovi, Poison and Motley Crue led a wave derisively dubbed "hair metal." While the movie-star good looks of some artists helped push metal into the mainstream, the bands who were most successful also embraced styles traditionally neglected by metal groups: love songs and ballads. Power ballads were heavy enough to attract hard rock fans, yet pop enough to get metal bands on radio stations that would typically exclude metal. By the late '80s, metal's audience had split into two main camps. On one hand were the fans of bands that made heavy metal the music of pop radio and huge arena shows. On the other hand were the fans of "underground" or "thrash metal" bands like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeath. As the decade of excess came to a close, metal's "nothing but a good time" attitude began to lose its appeal: In 1988, heavy metal accounted for over 20% of all record sales, but four years later had dropped below 10%.

Interviews include Rob Halford, Scott Ian, Janie Lane, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Brett Michaels, CC DeVille, Rikki Rockett, Kevin Dubrow, Rudi Szarzo, Frank Banali, Slash, Dee Snider, Penelope Spheeris and Kip Winger.

"New Wave/Alternative Rock":

Premieres Tuesday, November 6 from 10-11PM (ET/PT)

By the early '80s, punk had been co-opted and watered down, with punk fashions like ripped clothes and safety pins making their way into major department stores. Pop artists attempted to adopt punk's look and sound, while skinny-tie bands like The Knack and The Romantics were making "New Wave" music safe enough for pop radio. In 1980, punk was still too dangerous for a mainstream audience, but there were new bands who were able to make elements of punk's look and sound accessible. Acts as diverse as Billy Idol, Adam Ant, U2, The Go-Go's, Talking Heads, Devo, The Police and The B-52's fell under the New Wave heading, and thrived by abandoning (or suppressing) punk's radical politics, and cleaning up punk's raw sound. One way that New Wave groups took the grit out of punk was through their use of synthesizers. Synth-pop bands started popping up like punk bands did in the mid '70s.

New Wave's status as the music of early-'80s suburban adolescence was due in part to its use in teen films like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Pretty in Pink," "Valley Girl" and "The Breakfast Club."

Meanwhile, with the support of college radio and underground press, bands like R.E.M., X, Black Flag, Husker Du, The Replacements and Sonic Youth created the alternative rock scene. By the end of the decade, young Americans were told they'd be the first generation since WWII who wouldn't do as well as their parents. The unpolished post-punk attitude of groups like Husker Du, The Replacements and Sonic Youth tapped into the cynicism and frustration of this demographic -- which would eventually become known as Generation X.

Interviews include Adam Ant, Boy George, Jerry Harrison, Billy Idol, Dale Bozzio, Warren Cuccurullo, Moby, Bob Mould, Gary Numan, Dave Pirnir, Johnny Rzeznik, Nile Rodgers, Henry Rollins, Fred Schneider, Penelope Spheeris, Joe Strummer, Seymour Stein, Andy Summers and Jane Wiedlin.

"Hip Hop/R&B":

Premieres Wednesday, November 7 extravagances, caviar -- you know, post-disco extravagance." In the wake of Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Prince became a multi-media superstar with "Purple Rain," Lionel Richie's combination of danceable pop and soul ballads made him the top-selling artist of 1984, and Whitney Houston became the first female artist to score five consecutive number one singles. But as black artists found greater acceptance on the pop charts, they struggled with the politics of crossover.

Rap's origins are debated, but most agree it started in the South Bronx in the early seventies when Jamaican DJs spun records at outdoor dances. In 1982, rap music took a giant step forward with the release of "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, a searing trip through the early-'80s urban nightmare, and the first record to show that rap could be a vehicle for social protest. The genre took more turns with groups like Run-DMC (who stripped down rap to emphasize bigger beats and rock guitars), the Beastie Boys (upper-class white kids who were managed and developed by impresario Russell Simmons), and Public Enemy (who elevated sampling to an art form, creating a sonic collage of funk, rock, jazz and live instruments). Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Ice T and NWA put West Coast rap on the map with their frank depictions of gang life. By decade's end, rap's sound had diversified and its audience had grown. What was dismissed as a fad from a neglected neighborhood now dominated music and culture.

Interviews include Kurtis Blow, Chuck D, Shelia E., Nelson George, Macy Gray, Rick James, Moby, Lionel Richie, Nile Rodgers, Joseph "Run" Simmons, Daryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jam Master Jay.

"Music and Politics"

Premieres Thursday, November 8 from 10-11PM (ET/PT)

The 1980s were a decade of innumerable contradictions for rock 'n' roll and the audience that grew up with it. The music that had challenged authority during years of social upheaval became part of the establishment; anthems of the anti-war movement and civil rights struggle were co-opted by corporate America, who used them to sell products to aging baby boomers. The decade started off inauspiciously as the ideals of the Woodstock generation took two big hits: In November 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected to his first term as president. A little over one month later, John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in New York City. Both events became symbols of changes in attitudes and ideals during the decade ahead.

One of the most outspoken artists of the decade was Bruce Springsteen. With marathon live shows, Springsteen had built a devoted following of fans and critics in the '70s. In the eighties, Springsteen wrote less about cars and girls, and focused his songwriting on ordinary Americans trapped by circumstance. At the same time, there was a reawakening of rock's power to affect public conscience on a great scale. After seeing a BBC report on Ethiopian famine, Boomtown Rats leader Bob Geldof recruited British pop stars to record the benefit single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Inspired by Geldof, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones organized the USA for Africa single "We Are the World" to benefit the famine-plagued continent. The commitment to social change expanded with other benefits like Live Aid, with acts like U2, Pete Townshend and Bob Dylan coming together to fight starvation in Africa; Farm Aid, organized by John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Neil Young to raise money for American family farmers, and Little Steven Van Zandt's antiapartheid album "Sun City." Musicians also led the charge to raise awareness and funds when AIDS began to decimate the gay community. And artists like Billy Joel took advantage of an era of "glasnost" that opened the cultural gates to the Soviet Union, bringing rock directly to Moscow and Leningrad -- and helping to end the Cold War.

Interviews include Mario Cuomo, Boy George, Chuck D, Jerry Harrison, Jack Healey, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Lillywhite, Willie Nelson, Daryl "DMC" McDaniels, Moby, Bob Mould, Joe Queenan, Johnny Rzeznik, Lionel Richie, Henry Rollins, Fred Schneider, Slash, Dee Snider, Penelope Spheeris, Andy Summers, John Taylor and Steven Van Zandt.

"VH1 Presents The '80s" is a production of VH1.

VH1 produces and programs a wide variety of music-based series, specials, live events and acquisition-based programming that keep viewers in touch with the music they love. VH1 is a registered trademark of MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc. MTV Networks owns and operates the cable television programming services MTV: Music Television, MTV 2: Music Television, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, TV Land and VH1 as well as The Suite from MTV Networks, a package of ten digital services, all of which are trademarks of MTV Networks. MTV Networks also has joint ventures, licensing agreements and syndication deals whereby its programming can be seen worldwide.

 

NEWSFILE: 31 OCTOBER 2001

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