30 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Rise of the Police, End of the Clash

Sting on being intelligent, Steve Jobs on the invention of the Mac, Bono's favorite music, Bruce Springsteen's young girlfriend

David Bailey
The Police on the cover of Rolling Stone.
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The March 1st, 1984 edition of Rolling Stone (issue No. 416) included articles ranging from a William Greider defense of Walter Mondale (the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination) to an in-depth investigation of the irregularities surrounding the death of Jerry Lee Lewis's fifth wife. Ten other highlights:

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1. The Police on the beat
In Christopher Connelly's cover story on the Police, Sting was enjoying the massive success of Synchronicity and looking forward to the release of the movie Dune. Reflecting on his situation, Sting said, "I get a lot of feedback from all kinds of people: Jungian analysts, religious people, anarchists, whomever. Enough who are informed and cognizant of what I'm trying to do to make me feel that at least someone is getting it. I'm sure that a lot of people will enjoy it on one level, and others maybe on a higher level, but it's just as valid. I think that at its best, art – if I may use that word – can communicate without necessarily being understood."

Sting continued, "If you are blessed or cursed with intelligence, then you have to think about more. And there are a great deal of paradoxes in the world of success that intelligence doesn't make any easier. If anything, it makes them more acute. The problem I think about a lot is: I'm a rich, successful songwriter – what do I write about now?"

2. The birth of the Mac
Another one of the twentieth century's most muscular egos – Steve Jobs' – was on full display in Steven Levy's article about the development of Apple's Macintosh computer, "The Whiz Kids Meet Darth Vader." (Read the full story here.)  Jobs laid out his goals: "Apple has the opportunity to set a new example of how great an American corporation can be, sort of an intersection between science and aesthetics. Something happens to companies when they get to be a few million dollars – their souls go away. And that's the biggest thing I'll be measured on: Were we able to grow a $10 billion company that didn't lose its soul?" In 2011, the year Jobs died, Apple was worth $300 billion and was widely considered to be an exemplar of greatness.

3. Steven Wright, 28-year-old up-and-comer
Random Notes had a short profile of a hot young comic: Steven Wright. He had a house powered by static electricity, he joked: "To use the blender, we have to rub balloons on our heads." Wright's surreal humor got him invited to David Bowie's backstage trailer at the Us Festival, where he found himself sitting between Bette Midler and Bianca Jagger. "I love the Stones," Wright said. "I can't believe they're still around after all these years… Fred and Barney."

4. This little girl is mine
Another Random Note: an item written in a mildly scandalized tone about Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen, "older eminences" recently spotted with new, young girlfriends. (Seger was 38; Springsteen was 34.) "A story making the rounds is that Springsteen recently informed one buddy of his intention to take [his girlfriend] to California because 'she's never been there before.' Said the pal: 'Why don't you take her to Bloomingdale's? She's never been there, either.'"

5. Michael Jackson thrills
In the 1983 Rolling Stone Music Awards, the critics named R.E.M. the best new artist; the readers opted for Big Country. Also doing very well were the Police (readers' band of the year; critics' single of the year), David Bowie and Stevie Nicks (the readers' favorite male and female vocalists) and, especially, Michael Jackson, whom both the readers and the critics chose as artist of the year.

6. Bono's favorite music
Various musicians submitted their own lists of their top ten records of 1983. Bono's picks (a few of which date back to 1982): Simple Minds' "Waterfront"; the Waterboys' "December"; the The's "Under My Skin" (he probably meant "Uncertain Smile"); T-Bone Burnett's Proof Through the Night; the Alarm's "The Stand"; R.E.M.'s Murmur; Romeo Void's Benefactor; In Tua Nua's Summit (never commercially released, possibly a bootleg recorded at the Summit Inn in Dublin County); Big Self's "Don't Turn Around," and Blue In Heaven's "The Lights Go Out."

7. Stars pat themselves on the back
Phil Collins' top-ten list indulged in some self-congratulation by naming Frida's "I Know There's Something Going On" as one of the year's best tracks. It's one of 1982's greatest singles – but Collins produced it himself. Rick James outdid Collins in the self-promotion department by not only listing the Mary Jane Girls' album (written and produced by, yep, James) but his own album Cold Blooded.

8. Mind the Gap Band
The Gap Band (the funk group behind "You Dropped a Bomb on Me") went from backing up Leon Russell to scoring multiple hits (but not reaping the expected financial rewards because they had signed away most of the publishing rights to their record-company president). Michael Goldberg wrote: "[Bassist Robert Wilson] pulled me into an empty room, closed and locked the door. 'Now we can talk,' he said conspiratorily. Then he ranted about God, Jesus, the fact that nobody gave him any presents for his birthday, and how he was going to tell me everything the next day. But he didn't show up for our scheduled interview."

9. Back against the record machine
Record reviews: John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Milk and Honey (unfinished at the time of Lennon's death), Nick Heyward's North of a Miracle, the self-titled debut by Let's Active, Blue Oyster Cult's The Revolution by Night, the John Travolta / Olivia Newton-John soundtrack to Two of a Kind, and a four-star rave for Van Halen's 1984. J. D. Considine opined, "by album's end, you're convinced that, despite all the bluster, Van Halen is one of the smartest, toughest bands in rock & roll."

10. The Clash clash
Michael Goldberg covered the split between the Clash's Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. While Jones worked with a new band (not yet called Big Audio Dynamite), Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon recruited three young musicians and hit the road as a revamped Clash. When Jones declared that he wanted to run any plans by his lawyer, Strummer said, he told Jones, "You can go to your lawyer, and you can write the bleeding songs with him."

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