Wednesday, September 26, 1984

Prince released “Purple Rain” as a single

First posted 11/17/2019; updated 3/10/2021.

Purple Rain

Prince & the Revolution

Writer(s): Prince (see lyrics here)

Released: September 26, 1984

First Charted: September 21, 1984

Peak: 2 US, 12 CB, 12 RR, 4 RB, 18 AR, 6 UK, 3 CN, 41 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.69 UK, 1.69 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 193.40 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Purple Rain” was the third single from Prince’s monstrous 1984 soundtrack of the same name. It followed two #1 songs – “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” It peaked at #2, but after Prince’s death in 2016, it re-charted, hitting #4. In the UK, the revived song hit #6, two spots above its original peak, and in France it went to #1 after the original stalled at #12. WK

Prince originally reached out to Stevie Nicks to write lyrics for what was then a country-tinged 10-minute song. She said, “I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. It’s too much for me.’” NME She’s also said she suspected he wanted a relationship with her. SF He eventually wrote three verses – one about his parents, one about Apollonia (his girlfriend at the time and co-star in the movie), and his band mates. NME In the movie, Prince’s band mates Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman complain that he never uses any of their material. The move ends with him taking the stage and introducing the song as being written by them. SF

Coleman said the song symbolized “a new beginning. Purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor.” NME Prince explained it by saying, “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple…purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.” NME The idea echoed a theme from his “1999” song two years earlier in which he sang “…could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple…” WK However, the phrase was first used in America’s 1972 hit “Ventura Highway” and the line “Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by purple rain.” SF

Prince also reached out to Journey’s Jonathan Cain because he was worried the song sounded too much like the band’s “Faithfully” ballad. Cain was okay with it, noting that songs only shared a few chords. NME He told Prince, “I’m just super-flattered that you even called. It shows you’re that classy of a guy. Good luck with the song. I know it’s gonna be a hit.” SF

The song was recorded live at a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre on August 3, 1983 at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. NME The songs “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star” were also recorded at the performance and used on the Purple Rain soundtrack. WK The song was also memorably featured in his Super Bowl halftime show in 2007 – while it was raining.

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Monday, September 24, 1984

David Bowie Tonight album released


David Bowie

Released: September 24, 1984

Peak: 11 US, 11 UK, 4 CN, 4 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.5 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Loving the Alien [7:10] (6/8/85, 10 CO, 19 UK, 65 AU)
  2. Don’t Look Down (Pop/Williamson) [4:10]
  3. God Only Knows (Asher/Wilson) [3:07]
  4. Tonight (with Tina Turner) [3:45] (12/1/84, 53 US, 51 CB, 32 AR, 6 CO, 53 UK, 21 CN, 70 AU)
  5. Neighborhood Threat (Bowie/Pop) [3:13] (10/13/84, 40 AR, 32 CO)
  6. Blue Jean [3:12] (9/15/84, 8 US, 5 CB, 10 RR, 2 AR, 2 CO, 6 UK, 12 AU)
  7. Tumble and Twirl (Bowie/Pop) [4:59]
  8. I Keep Forgetting (Leiber/Stoller) [2:36]
  9. Dancing with the Big Boys (with Iggy Pop)(Alomar/Bowie/Pop) [3:34]

Songs written by David Bowie unless indicated otherwise.

Total Running Time: 35:32

The Players:

  • David Bowie (vocals) Derek Bramble (guitar, bass, synthesizers, backing vocals,)
  • Carlos Alomar (guitar)
  • Carmine Rojas (bass)
  • Omar Hakim (drums)
  • Sammy Figueroa (percussion)
  • Rob Yale (Fairlight CMI)
  • Guy St. Onge (marimba)
  • Arif Mardin (string arrangements, synthesizers)
  • Mark Pender (flugel horn, trumpet)
  • Robin Clark, George Simms, Curtis King (backing vocals)
  • Mark King (bass on “Tumble and Twirl”)
  • Tina Turner (guest vocals on “Tonight”)
  • Iggy Pop (guest vocals on “Dancing with the Big Boys”)


2.577 out of 5.00 (average of 24 ratings)

About the Album:

After achieving the best-selling album of his career with 1983’s Let’s Dance, David Bowie followed up with an album in much the same formula with dance-oriented pop inflected with blue-eyed soul. Unfortunately, the album was missing a few of the key players that made Let’s Dance so successful, namely Chic’s Nile Rodgers as producer and Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar.

Blue Jean, the lead single, is generally viewed as the best song on the album, which isn’t surprising since it followed the same formula as the hits from Let’s Dance. Other than that song, “none of the material equals the songs on Let's Dance, but that doesn’t stop Tonight from becoming another platinum success.” AMG

The Serious Moonlight tour in support of Let’s Dance brought a new audience which Bowie didn’t even recognize. He was uninspired to record a new album, but was pressured by the record label to come up with a quick follow-up. As on the previous album, Bowie didn’t play any instruments, focusing exclusively on vocals. He didn’t even provide much direction to the other musicians in the studio. WK

He also stepped back on the writing, covering the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows and Chuck Jackson’s I Keep Forgetting, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Biographers Nicholas Pegg and Chris O’Leary have both called Bowie’s version of “God Only Knows” “the worst recording he ever made.” WK Author David Buckley called “I Keep Forgetting” “unmemorable.” WK

Bowie originally wrote Neighborhood Threat and the title cut with Iggy Pop for Pop’s 1977 Lust for Life album. Don’t Look Down was written by Pop for his 1979 New Values album. The pair also wrote the new songs Tumble and Twirl and Dancing with the Big Boys. Pop duets with Bowie on the latter.

In addition to “Blue Jean,” the song Loving the Alien was released as a single, but it didn’t even scratch the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Bowie felt the song didn’t fit with the rest of the album because of its darker nature. WK The “reggae-influenced” WK “Tonight,” featuring Tina Turner, reached #53 in the U.S. They sang the song face-to-face in the studio together. WK

Almost immediately upon the album’s release, Bowie seemed almost apologetic in interviews. WK Critics weren’t too kind in judging the album. All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said, “The record stands as one of the weakest albums Bowie ever recorded.” AMG Rolling Stone said “this album is a throwaway, and David Bowie knows it.” WK

Stylus magazine did, however, say “It’s a much better album than you think it is” and that even though it isn’t a great album, it is a good one. WK The New Statesmen’s Yo Zushi said, “no album that begins with the seven-minute masterpiece ‘Loving the Alien’ and contains the rocking ‘Blue Jean’ should have received the drubbing it got.” WK

Notes: “As the World Falls Down,” from the Labyrinth soundtrack, and singles “This Is Not America” (with Pat Metheny – from the soundtrack for The Falcon & the Snowman) and “Absolute Beginners” (from the soundtrack of the same name) were added to the Virgin Records CD reissue.

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First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 8/2/2021.

Saturday, September 22, 1984

Stevie Wonder’s The Woman in Red charted

The Woman in Red (soundtrack)

Stevie Wonder

Charted: September 22, 1984

Peak: 4 US, 14 RB, 2 UK, 4 CN, 4 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.3 UK, 8.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. The Woman in Red
  2. It’s You (with Dionne Warwick)
  3. It’s More Than You
  4. I Just Called to Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder) [4:21] (8/1/84, 1 US, 1 CB, 1 RR, 1 AC, 1 RB, 1 UK, 1 CN, 1 AU, sales: 4 ½ million)
  5. Love Light in Flight (Stevie Wonder) [6:54] (12/1/84, 17 US, 16 CB, 14 RR, 10 AC, 4 RB, 44 UK, 39 CN)
  6. Moments Aren’t Moments (by Dionne Warwick)
  7. Weakness (with Dionne Warwick)
  8. Don’t Drive Drunk (12/29/84, 62 UK)

Total Running Time: 41:19


2.724 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)

About the Album:

1984 was a good year for Stevie Wonder. Detroit gave him the key to the city and he considered a run for mayer. He played harmonica on “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” Elton John’s biggest hit in 4 years. Wonder released the biggest single of his career with I Just Called to Say I Love You. It became one of Britain’s ten largest-selling singles of all time. The song also won the Oscar for Best Song, but Wonder evoked some anger in dedicating the award to Nelson Mandella. South African radio stations responded by banning his music.

The parent album did well commercially, reaching #4 in the U.S. and going platinum, and also becoming Wonder’s first #1 in the UK. However, the album – a soundtrack to a Gene Wilder comedy – still frustrated fans and critics who didn’t rate it amongst his best material. All Music Guide’s William Ruhlmann said it was “less than a full-fledged Wonder record,” AMG which was a disappointment to fans who’d already waited four years for an entire album’s worth of new material. Ruhlmann said that even “I Just Called to Say I Love You” was a “sappy” AMG and “formulaic TV commercial-in-the-making.” AMG

The album did produce a second top-20 hit, Love Light in Flight and the single Don’t Drive Drunk. The U.S. Department of Transportation used the latter as a Drunk Driving Prevention public service announcement the following year. WK

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Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 6/20/2008; last updated 8/3/2021.

Friday, September 14, 1984

Madonna performed “Like a Virgin” at the MTV Video Awards

First posted 11/14/2019; updated 3/19/2021.

Like a Virgin


Writer(s): Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly (see lyrics here)

Released: October 31, 1984

First Charted: November 16, 1984

Peak: 16 US, 15 CB, 13 RR, 29 AC, 9 RB, 3 UK, 11 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.14 US, 0.93 UK, 3.19 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 67.0 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

One could potentially mark September 14, 1984 as the date when Madonna became a superstar. Over the last year, she’d had three top twenty Billboard pop hits with “Holiday,” “Borderline,” and “Lucky Star.” However, the title track from her sophomore album launched her into the stratosphere. She premiered the song on the aforementioned date at the first MTV Video Music Awards. When she writhed on the floor in a wedding dress, the world took notice of her no-holds-barred sexuality. It was “one of the seminal moment in the history of MTV” SF and “one of the most iconic pop performances of all time.” WK

The song wasn’t originally written for Madonna, or even a female singer. Lyricist Billy Steinberg wrote the song from personal experience. He said it wasn’t about truly being a virgin, but about the positive feeling that came with a new relationship. At a meeting with Warner Brothers Record’s Michael Ostin, Steinberg and Tom Kelly, the song’s co-writer, played a demo of the song and told him they weren’t sure who it would fit. Ostin happened to have a meeting with Madonna the next day and thought it would be perfect for her. BR

Ostin said, she “went crazy, and knew instantly it was a song for her.” WK Madonna said, “I certainly wasn’t a virgin, and, by the way, how can you be like a virgin? I liked the play on words; I thought they were clever.” WK She said she never realized it would become one of her signature songs. WK

Producer Nile Rodgers, best known for being in Chic (“Le Freak”), gave the song “a masterful pop sheen.” CR He didn’t want Madonna to record the song initially. He didn’t think the title was, as he told the Los Angeles Times, “the all-time catch phrase. But after about four days I couldn’t get the song out of my head.” BR Audiences couldn’t get it out of their heads either. “Like a Virgin” became her first of 12 #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and the biggest song of 1984. WHC Madonna became “an icon to a generation of emancipated women.” CR

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Madonna
  • DMDB page for parent album Like a Virgin
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 524.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 63.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WHC Joel Whitburn (1999). A Century of Pop Music. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 113.
  • WK Wikipedia

The First MTV Video Music Awards: September 14, 1984

Originally posted September 14, 2012.

image from

Barely three years old, MTV launched its first video music awards in 1984. They handed out the awards on September 14 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in a show hosted by Bette Midler and Dan Akyrokyd. The big nominees of the night were The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” (winning for Best Cinematography) and Herbie Hancock’s “Rock-It”, each with eight nominations. Cyndi Lauper received nine total nominations for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (6) and “Time after Time” (3).

Hancock was the big winner of the night taking home five trophies (Special Effects, Concept Video, Most Experimental Video, Art Direction, Editing). The Cars took the prize for Video of the Year with “You Might Think”. Best Male Video went to David Bowie’s “China Girl” while Lauper’s “Girls” won for Best Female Video. ZZ Top’s “Legs” garnered the award for Best Group Video and their “Sharp Dressed Man” snagged Best Direction.

Other “Moonmen” awards – they were nicknamed for the astronaut statuette inspired by MTV’s then-logo – went to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (Best Overall Performance, Best Choreography, Viewers’ Choice), the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” (Best New Artist), Van Halen’s “Jump” (Best Stage Performance).

In addition to performances from Bowie and ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Huey Lewis & the News, Rod Stewart, and Ray Parker Jr. all performed. However, it was Madonna who stole the show with her performance of “Like a Virgin” during which she slunk around on the floor in a wedding dress.

Note: seven of the videos which won awards that night appear on the DMDB list of the top 100 videos of all time: “Thriller” (#2), “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (28), “Every Breath You Take” (29), “Rock-It” (30), “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” (34), “You Might Think” (39), and “Legs” (97).

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Tuesday, September 4, 1984

U2 released “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

First posted 2/7/2021.

Pride (In the Name of Love)


Writer(s): U2 (see lyrics here)

Released: September 4, 1984

First Charted: September 15, 1984

Peak: 33 US, 34 CB, 31 RR, 2 AR, 1 CO, 3 UK, 26 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 89.33 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Over three albums, U2 had built a following with songs like “I Will Follow,” “New Year’s Day,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” However, it was “Pride (In the Name of Love)” which gave the band their first Billboard top 40 hit. It became a staple in the band’s live sets and “a modern rock classic.” AMG

The song originated during a soundcheck before a November 1983 concert. Lyrically, Bono, the band’s lead singer, initially aimed to write a song “condemning Ronald Reagan for an arrogant pride that led to nuclear escalation.” SF After reading books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, he changed gears and wrote about the civil rights campaigns – both violent and non-violent. The song makes a broader statement “about those throughout history who have died because they preached of the equality of all men” and those who have been “martyrs to this ideal” because they “lived their life an inner pride.” SF There is a reference in the lyrics to King being shot in the morning, but it actually happened at 6pm. Bono typically fixes the error now in live performances. WK

The effort was met with mixed reviews. Rolling Stone’s Kurt Loder said the song “gets over only on the strength of its resounding beat and big, droning bass line, not on the nobility of its lyrics, which are unremarkable.” WK Robert Christgau complained in the Village Voice about the lyrics glorifying MLK’s martyrdom. WK On the flip side, Denise Sullian wrote at All Music Guide that “the freedom-fighting anthem is alternately gentle and powerful from verse to chorus” and that “the soundscape is unrelenting.” AMG

The song became a rallying cry for turning MLK’s birthday into a national holiday when the band was touring for their next album, The Joshua Tree. The band received death threats for supporting the movement and at a show in Tempe, Arizona, Bono was warned by the FBI of someone who actually had a ticket to the show, was armed, and was threating to shoot Bono on stage if he sang “Pride.” Bono sang it anyway, closing his eyes during the lines about MLK being shot. When he opened his eyes, the bassist, Adam Clayton Jr., was standing in front of him, ready to take a bullet for his bandmate. SF

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Saturday, September 1, 1984

Tina Turner topped the charts with “What’s Love Got to Do with It”

First posted 11/26/2020.

What’s Love Got to Do with It

Tina Turner

Writer(s): Graham Lyle, Terry Britten (see lyrics here)

Released: May 1, 1984

First Charted: May 19, 1984

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 2 RR, 8 AC, 2 RB, 51 AR, 3 UK, 13 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 1.5 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 105.8 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Ike and Tina Turner were an active recording duo from 1960 to 1976 scoring notable R&B and pop songs with “River Deep – Mountain High” and their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” The pair married in 1962 and after years of spousal abuse, Tina left with “36 cents, a gasoline charge card and the clothes she was wearing.” BR1 After their split, Tina little success with solo releases in the latter half of the ‘70s and it looked like her career might be over.

However, in 1983 a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” was a surprise #3 R&B hit and top 30 pop song. It launched what some have called the greatest comeback in rock history. The follow-song, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” went to #1 on the pop charts, making Tina – then 44 – the oldest solo female artist to top the Billboard Hot 100. WK It also set a record for the longest time between the first chart entry by an artist (Ike & Tina Turner’s “A Fool in Love” in 1960) and first #1 hit. SF Billboard ranked it the #2 song of 1984, only behind Prince’s “When Doves Cry.”

The song was written from the point of view of someone who enjoys the physical aspects of a relationship, but doesn’t want the emotional attachment. Before it fell in Turner’s hands, it was offered to Cliff Richard, Phyllis Hyman, Donna Summer, and British pop group Bucks Fizz. The latter recorded it in 1984, but didn’t release it after Turner’s became a hit. She initially balked at recording the anti-love song but her manager, Roger Davies, was convinced it would be a hit. SF

Turner “invests the song with one of the most passionate vocal performances of her career.” AMG Mark Millan of the Daily Vault called it “three minutes and 48 seconds of pop perfection.” WK People magazine noted that the song had “the characteristic flair and energy that have made Tina the envy of every singer this side of Aretha.” WK The song took home Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. MTV gave her the Best Female Video award for the song in 1985. The song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

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