The Summer of ’85: Relive the Eleven Biggest Musical Moments
This year has been awash with nostalgia for the final year of the Sixties and the end of the 20th Century (a.k.a. 1999), but Stranger Things is bringing the Eighties back in a, like, totally major way. The upcoming third season of the hit Netflix series (set to premiere July 4th on the streaming service) finds the Hawkins, Indiana crew navigating adolescence, as well as a paranormal phenomenon or two, over their school vacation in 1985. Aside from the near constant supernatural threats, we have to admit we envy them.
Those warm months in the mid-point of the decade were a golden era for pop culture —and particularly music. Sure, the summer of ’69 may have had Woodstock, Abbey Road and “Honky Tonk Women,” but the summer of ’85 had Live Aid, Brothers in Arms and, well, “Summer of ’69.” Strap on your Walkman and read on.
1. Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits Becomes the First Million-Selling CD (May 13th)
Billy Joel’s 52nd Street holds the distinction of being the first pop music album ever released on CD, hitting the streets in Japan on October 1st, 1981 with the catalogue number 35DP-1. But Dire Strait’s fifth album, Brothers in Arms, was among the first to be crafted specifically for this shiny new format. Mark Knopfler’s quest for sharper sound quality led him to former Beatle producer George Martin’s AIR Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat in the fall of 1984, where he made use of the facility’s state-of-the art Sony 24-track digital tape machine. At a time when albums were almost completely cut on analog equipment, the move signaled the sea change that would transform the industry by the end of the decade.
Knopfler penned each of the nine songs, including the bluesy “So Far Away,” the rootsy Everly Brothers-esque “Why Worry,” and the title tune — an emotional denunciation of war inspired by the conflict raging in the Falkland Islands. The album’s standout track, however, had a much more mundane genesis. Knopfler was shopping in a New York City department store when he overheard two deliverymen moaning about their jobs while watching MTV on a bank of televisions in the electronics section. Their complaints formed the bulk of his lyrics. “I was reporting, verbatim, what a particular guy thought about music,” he later explained in Uncut magazine. “I transcribed his words there and then. He was a meathead. To him, being a rock star was easy, hence, ‘That ain’t working.'”
The song, called “Money for Nothing,” wound up getting a hand from Sting, who happened to be vacationing near AIR Studios during the Brothers in Arms sessions. “Sting used to come to Montserrat to go windsurfing and he came up for supper at the studio,” Dire Straits bassist John Illsley recalled in Classic Rock magazine. “We played him ‘Money for Nothing’ and he turned ‘round and said, ‘You’ve done it this time, you bastards.’ Mark said if he thought it was so good, why didn’t he go and add something to it. He did his bit there and then.” The Police frontman contributed the memorable “I want my MTV” refrain, earning him a co-credit on the song.
Fittingly, “Money for Nothing” became a staple on the still-novel music video network. Just as the recording utilized cutting edge technology, so too did the groundbreaking visuals. Director Steve Barron employed early computer animation software systems like Quantel Paintbox and Bosch FGS-4000 to illustrate the lyrics, and even the deliverymen who first sparked the idea. The popularity of the video helped elevate the song, and subsequent album, to the highest sales echelons imaginable. “Money for Nothing” became Dire Straits’ first American number one, and Brothers in Arms went platinum nine times over, ultimately selling more than 30 million copies worldwide. The disc remains the first CD to break a million in sales, all while outselling its vinyl format. It also took home two Grammys, including Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and, decades later, Best Surround Sound Album for the 20th anniversary reissue.
2. a-Ha Release Their Debut Album, Hunting High and Low (June 1st)
Just a brief listen to a-Ha’s stunning debut from May 1985 proves that the Norwegian synth-pop trio are far better than the “one hit wonder” title that’s so often foisted upon them. Of course, the one hit in question — the jubilant pogo-inducing “Take on Me” —is a stone-cold classic of the New Wave era, all the way down to the innovative cartoon-meets-live action video, which took director Steve Barron’s team of animators 16 weeks to painstakingly sketch frame by frame. The dazzling visuals, affecting romantic storyline, and the chiseled cheekbones of ultra-photogenic singer Morten Harket helped make the clip a mainstay on video networks and propelled the song to the top of the charts that October. “I have no doubt that the video made the song a hit,” keyboardist Magne Furuholmen told Rolling Stone in 2010. “The song has a super catchy riff, but it is a song that you have to hear a few times. And I don’t think it would’ve been given the time of day without the enormous impact of the video.”
The album reached Number 15 in the States, earning a platinum certification, and spawned an additional Top 20 single, the majestic “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” The video is a sequel to “Take on Me,” reuniting Harket with English model Bunty Bailey. The pair would date for a time, but their real-life relationship was just as doomed as their onscreen one.
Catchy cuts like “Train of Thought” and the title track would rank high in Europe and elsewhere, but a-Ha would never score a Top 40 entry in the United States again. “We were three headstrong Norwegians saying, ‘No we don’t want to record another “Take on Me,” we’re doing our own thing,’” Furuholmen says. “We never expected to become teenage idols, so for us it was like, ‘Let’s move on.’ But for the record company this was a successful formula, and anything we did to break with that was seen as a disease.” When the group decided to disband in 2010 (before eventually reuniting in 2015), they called their farewell tour “Ending on a High Note” — a humorous nod to the soaring falsetto leap in the “Take on Me” chorus.
3. Classic Guns N’ Roses Lineup Performs Together for the First Time — and Then They Almost Die (June 6th)
The future hard rock powerhouse was originally the fusion of two separate Los Angeles outfits: Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns. When L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns was looking for a new singer for his group in late 1984, he consulted his roommate Izzy Stradlin, who had played guitar for Hollywood Rose prior to the band’s recent split. Stradlin, in turn, suggested his band’s former vocalist, Axl Rose. “We had a singer that our manager didn’t like, so we fired him,” Guns later explained. “So then I asked Axl to join L.A. Guns and he was in the band for about six, seven months. The same manager ended up hating Axl and he wanted to fire him. We’re all living together at this point and Axl and I sat down and went, ‘What are we going to do?’”
Forming a new band seemed like the logical answer. They initially contemplated calling themselves “Heads of Amazons” and the wildly offensive “AIDS” before landing on their famous moniker by simply combining their original names. They played their first gig at the Troubador on L.A.’s Santa Monica Boulevard on March 26th, 1985, with Rose, Guns, and Stradlin, as well as former L.A. Guns members Rob Gardner on drums and Ole Beich on bass. In what would become something of a theme, the lineup proved volatile and Beich only lasted the one gig before he was replaced by Duff McKagan. An argument with Rose prompted Guns to leave the band by mid-May (“It just wasn’t fun anymore,” he later said), and he was followed out the door by Gardner. The newly departed were replaced by former Hollywood Rose members Slash and Steven Adler, completing the band’s best known lineup, which would be heard by millions two years later on their first LP, Appetite for Destruction. This famous incarnation made their live debut at the Troubador on June 6, 1985 [https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-lists/guns-n-roses-early-days-13870/guns-n-roses-june-6-1985-226391/], with a gig advertised, quite prophetically, as “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Bash Where Everyone’s Smashed.”
But it was far from instant success. Days later the group embarked on the so-called “Hell Tour,” during which time the band’s van broke down, forcing them to hitchhike up to Seattle with only their guitars. For their troubles, they were rewarded with just $50 (a fraction of their promised fee) and an audience of 13. A number of future shows were promptly cancelled. Soon after they arrived back in Los Angeles, they suffered a serious car accident when McKagan’s Toyota was broadsided at an intersection. “Duff’s car was totaled and we could have been too,” Slash wrote in his memoir. “That would have been a sick twist of fate: the band dying together after we’d just gotten together.”
4. Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears Tops the Charts (June 8th)
After weeks locked in the studio with producer Chris Hughes to perfect their new song “Shout,” Roland Orzabal — who served as the public face of Tears for Fears alongside partner Curt Smith — began strumming a pair of chords on his acoustic guitar. Even though sessions for their sophomore album, Songs From the Big Chair, were wrapping up, they decided to develop it. Orzabal initially feared that the dreamy passage would be too out of place amid the emotional intensity of their prior tracks, which drew inspiration from the psychological drama Sybil and Dr. Arthur Janov’s theory of primary scream therapy. For counterbalance, he gave the piece an appropriately heavy name: “Everybody Wants to Go to War.” Unhappy with the results, he nearly scrapped the song entirely until both his wife and Hughes pressed him to continue. Eventually Orzabal landed on the final title and the rest of the track quickly fell into place. “Once we got those lyrics, it was a joyful song,” Orzabal explained.
Despite the jaunty shuffle rhythm, shimmering synths, and searing guitar solo aimed directly at the American singles market, Smith later emphasized that “the concept is quite serious — it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.” Released just months after “We Are the World,” and months before the musical peace summit of Live Aid, the geo-political message of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” resonated in the final years of the Cold War era. “You still had a threat of nuclear war then,” Orzabal reflected in 2019. “It was Russia versus America but in a very different way than the [release of] emails and underhanded methods now.”
The song became Tears for Fears’ first number one hit in the United States (“Shout” would follow two months later) and helped make Songs from the Big Chair quadruple platinum and a worldwide bestseller. But there was one person who was slightly miffed by the success of the tune. The Clash maestro Joe Strummer felt that Tears for Fears had borrowed the title of their hit from lyrics of his own 1980 song, “Charlie Don’t Surf.” In an interview with Musician magazine, he recalls approaching Orzabal at a restaurant with the line, “You owe me a fiver.” Orzabal responded by reaching into his pocket and handing over the bill — or so Strummer claimed.
5. Back to the Future Has Everyone Wanting to Play “Johnny B Goode” Like Michael J. Fox (July 3rd)
It’s November 1955, and a gymnasium full of hopelessly square students gleefully jitterbug their way through the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Then a mysterious new student named Marty McFly takes the stage, cherry red Gibson in hand. “This is an oldie,” he says before quickly correcting himself. “Well, it’s an oldie where I come from.” With that, he leads the band into a furious version of “Johnny B. Goode.” To call it a cover isn’t quite accurate — the track wouldn’t be written for another few years. The crowd doesn’t know what hit ‘em; heads begin to bob, feet begin to move, waists begin to sway. One observer is so enthralled that he immediately dials up his cousin, Chuck Berry, and informs him that the “new sound” he’s looking for has arrived. Thanks to the magic of time travel, McFly has introduced rock & roll to the kids at Hill Valley High School.
The scene, culturally problematic in retrospect, is a highlight of Back to the Future, the July 1985 blockbuster staring Family Ties heartthrob Michael J. Fox as the DeLorean-driving McFly, on a time travel mission to set up his then-teenage parents while fending off his mother’s advances. (Eww.) Despite Fox’s convincing performance, he’s actually miming the guitar work of Tim May and lip-syncing singer Mark Campbell’s vocals. Remarkably, writer/director Robert Zemeckis nearly cut the iconic sequence, fearing that it brought the story to a standstill. Thankfully, test audiences reacted better than McFly’s crowd, who look aghast as he begins tearing off some wild anachronistic Van Halen licks and kicking over his amp like Pete Townshend. “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet,” he memorably tells the confused audience. “But your kids are gonna love it.”
Who cares that, in reality, artists like Ike Turner and Billy Haley had already made tentative forays into the rock realm in 1955? Even Chuck Berry had released pioneering singles like “Maybellene” earlier that summer. As a movie moment, it manages to be both goofy and badass — not to mention unforgettable. Though it’s unclear what Berry himself thought of the scene, it’s worth noting that for his 60th birthday concert in 1986, his backing band was dressed exactly like McFly’s group, the Starlighters.
6. The Music World Comes Together for Live Aid (July 5th)
On July 13th, an astonishing 1.5 billion people tuned in to watch the biggest musical acts on the planet broadcast live from Wembley Stadium in London and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium. This “global jukebox” was spearheaded by Boomtown Rats frontman Bob Geldolf along with Ultravox’s Midge Ure, who were moved to take action after seeing a BBC News special on the devastating famine in Ethiopia. The duo was riding the momentum of their successful Band Aid charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which they’d written to raise funds for the same cause at the end of 1984.
Au courant royals Prince Charles and Princess Diana rang in the Live Aid festivities at noon in London, and the extravaganza came to a close 16 hours later with a star-studded 100 strong chorus singing “We Are the World” before a crowd of 100,000. What happened in between showcased the good, bad, and ugly of music in 1985. Some 60 acts performed, including Madonna, U2, Elton John, Run DMC, George Michael, David Bowie, and Phil Collins — who played at both locations during the marathon concert thanks to a quick trip on the Concorde. While Live Aid is remembered chiefly for Queen’s show-stealing 20-minute set, there were a number of hiccups and controversies along the way. The long awaited reunion of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones (featuring an understandably groggy Collins deputizing for the late John Bonham) sounded ragged and under-rehearsed. Plant would characterize the performance as “a fucking atrocity for us. … It made us look like loonies,” and Collins later admitted, “If I could have walked off, I would have.” The Who’s reunion was marred by difficulties of the technical variety, but nothing as bad as the fate that befell poor Paul McCartney, whose mic memorably conked out during London’s “Let It Be” finale.
More broadly, the show received criticism for its lack of black performers. Artists like Rick James, Run DMC and Dionne Warwick were reportedly not asked to attend, and many others like Michael Jackson and Diana Ross simply declined. “Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder — why aren’t they doing it?” one booker wondered aloud to Rolling Stone in the lead up to the concert. Still, audiences recall the jubilant and unifying spirit behind the unparalleled production. Some non-Queen highlights include Mick Jagger and Tina Turner’s electrifying duet on “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Elton John and George Michael’s soulful rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” Bowie’s impassioned “Heroes,” and Elvis Costello busking an “old northern English folk song” — also known as “All You Need Is Love.”
Though charity shows had become increasingly regular since George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971, Live Aid harnessed global satellite technology to spread an urgent message in real time across the planet through music. An estimated 40% of the world population watched, and many of them heeded Geldof’s heated pleas to pledge money. The event raised a reported $127 million, and refocused international attention on the humanitarian crisis in Africa.
7. Aretha Franklin Asserts Her Billboard Dominance with Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (July 9th)
Though it seems like a sin to suggest that the Queen of Soul ever faltered, her commercial prospects were undeniably at a low ebb in the early Eighties. The Luther Vandross-produced Jump to It was a moderate entry on the R&B charts in 1983, but Hot 100 success remained elusive. Soon after sessions wrapped, Franklin backed away from the music industry entirely to care for her ailing father, the Reverend C. L Franklin, marking nearly two years away from the studio. Following his death that July, the Queen plotted her return. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she outlined “a record with a younger sound to it. I’d been listening to the radio and I really liked what I heard.”
Clive Davis, head of Arista Records, arranged a telephone meeting between Franklin and producer Narada Michael Walden, who was then working with an up-and-coming Whitney Houston. At some point during the conversation, Walden asked the superstar what she did to relax. In a response worthy of Mae West, Franklin described her method for flirting with men. “If I see someone cute I may wink,” she explained. “Then he may wink, and it’s like ‘Who’s zoomin’ who?’” Walden got the gig, and the album got its title and its title track. “After I hung up the phone, I said that’s kind of a cool concept for a song,” he recalled in an interview with Songfacts in 2012. Inspired, he and collaborator Preston Glass got to work. “But after it was done she didn’t really like the song. Clive Davis had to convince her to do it.”
To accommodate the travel-wary singer, Walden prepared backing tracks in Los Angeles before sending them off to Detroit for Franklin to add her vocals. “She had to get reacquainted with being in the studio and she’d get winded,” Walden told Rolling Stone. “She’ll sing a song down in the lower range maybe four or five times. Then she’ll sing it up in her range and do two or three takes.” The final product — her 30th studio LP— launched two Top 10 singles, and became her highest charting album since 1972’s Young, Gifted and Black. The Clarence Clemons-bolstered “Freeway of Love,” and the titular tune helped reinvigorate her career and reintroduced Franklin to the music video generation.
Moreover, her empowering duet with Annie Lennox for “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” blasted through the airwaves like an updated version of her own immortal “Respect.” It remains one of the finest women’s rights anthems of the Eighties.
8. Phil Collins Hits Number One with “Sussudio” — Even Though No One Knows What It Means (July 6th)
Phil Collins had Prince on the brain when he began playing around on a drum pad one day. Inspired by the Purple One’s recent hit “1999,” he sought to create a horn-heavy dance track that melded trendy synths with old-fashioned R&B funk. Improvising lyrics over the beat, a string of nonsense syllables fell out of his mouth. “I started to sing into the microphone, and this word came out, which was ‘sus-sussudio,’” he said during a 1997 episode of Storytellers. “I kind of knew I had to find something else for that word, then I went back and tried to find another word that scanned as well as ‘sussudio,’ and I couldn’t find one, so I went back to ‘sussudio.’” Retroactively giving the word meaning, he crafted a story about a schoolboy crush on a girl named Sussudio. “I’m sure there are children all over the world with the name Sussudio [now], so I apologize for that,” he later joked.
Featuring the Phenix Horns (famous for their work with Earth, Wind & Fire) and synthesizer programming by David Frank of The System, the song followed “One More Time” to become Collins’ second U.S. number one hit from No Jacket Required that July. Despite earning him his fifth Gold record — and becoming the song fans most often sing at him in public — Collins doesn’t hold the tune in particularly high regard. “At the time, I wasn’t being me,” he told Rolling Stone in 2016. I’ve grown up a bit now and much prefer to play songs that are me. I only play a bit part in that one.”
9. Michael Jackson Buys the Beatles’ Catalogue (August 10th)
Paul McCartney had taken Michael Jackson under his wing in the spring 1981, teaming up with the newly-minted solo star to record the duet “Say, Say, Say” with former Beatles’ producer George Martin in London. Jackson was a frequent guest at the McCartney home during these sessions, and one night after dinner the elder musician imparted some valuable business advice: invest in music publishing. Jackson looked on in awe as McCartney thumbed through a thick bound notebook filled with classic titles. Suitably impressed, Jackson responded with a line that would haunt McCartney for years to come. “He looked at me — I thought he was joking — and he said, ‘I’m going to get yours!’” McCartney recalled in 2009. “I kind of thought, ‘Oh, you!’”
But he wasn’t kidding. When ATV Music Publishing’s 4,000-song portfolio, which featured 250 songs from the Beatles’ catalogue, came up for sale in 1984, Jackson — flush with cash from the record-breaking global success of Thriller — was in a position to take it. His attorney, John Branca, offered a word of caution. “Other people are also after the catalog. It’s going to be a struggle.” Jackson, however, was undeterred. “I don’t care. I want it … please.”
Negotiations continued for months as Jackson competed against a number of other bidders. Surprisingly, McCartney was not among them. Although ATV later claimed they gave the composer right of first refusal (along with John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono), he apparently balked at the steep price and declined to make an offer. Though his precise reasoning is known only to him, many have speculated that Macca, one of the richest musicians in the world at the time, found it hard to justify paying tens of millions for creative property that he felt were rightfully his. He also expressed reluctance in making a bid without Ono, worrying that he’d come off as “grabby” for “owning John Lennon’s bit of the songs.”
Whatever the case, a deal was signed at 2:45 a.m. on August 10th giving Jackson control of ATV Music for $47.5 million. At the time it was believed to be the largest music catalogue purchase by an individual, rounded out with songs by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis Presley.
Though McCartney remained diplomatic about it in the press, it was no secret that he viewed Jackson’s purchase as a betrayal. When the Beatles’ original 1968 recording of “Revolution” cropped up in a Nike ad 18 months later, it only added insult to his injury. Jackson, for his part, remained frustrated by McCartney’s attitude. “If he didn’t want to invest $47.5 million in his own songs, then he shouldn’t come crying to me now,” he reportedly told his associates at the time.
Reflecting on the matter shortly after Jackson’s death, McCartney claimed there was “no big bust up” that led to the end of their professional relationship. “I did talk to him about [the sale], but he kind of blanked me on it,” he told David Letterman. “He kept saying, ‘That’s just business Paul.’ [I’d say] ‘Yeah it is…’ and wait for a reply. But we never got to it. So we kind of drifted apart.”
10. Madonna Begins Her Rocky Marriage with Sean Penn After Wrapping Her First National Tour (August 16th)
“Welcome to the remaking of Apocalypse Now,” Sean Penn cracked to the 200 guests who had assembled for his wedding to Madonna on August 16th, 1985 — the bride’s 27th birthday. The paparazzi helicopters that buzzed dangerously low overhead transformed the Cinderella-themed ceremony into a scene straight out of the Vietnam War epic. The couple had taken great pains to keep details of nuptials under wraps, refusing to reveal the location to star invitees like Cher, Martin Sheen, Diane Keaton, and Andy Warhol until less than 24 hours before. But word had inevitably gotten out and now the Malibu enclave belonging to millionaire real estate developer Don Unger was under siege. Photographers who had failed to bribe caterers set up camp in nearby rental homes, eagerly snapping away with telephoto lenses. But the more enterprising shutterbugs had helicopters, and the circular blades sent hair and dresses whirling. During the five-minute ceremony, Madonna and Penn shouted their vows to be heard above the noise and punctuated their expressions of devotion with middle fingers raised angrily to the sky. Later, Penn wrote “Fuck Off” in the sand before firing a few warning shots with his .45 pistol. “I would have been very excited to see one of those helicopters burn and the bodies inside melt,” he later seethed.
In many ways, the wedding was a perfect summation of their marriage: turbulent, brief, and undeniably starry. They’d met the previous January on the set of the “Material Girl” music video. Madonna was done up in full Marilyn à la Gentlemen Prefer Blondes garb when Penn, the privileged son of Hollywood elite, showed up to the soundstage at the invitation of director Mary Lambert. As the singer recalled, it was something approaching love at first sight. “I had this fantasy that we were going to meet, fall in love and get married. Suddenly it’s what I was wishing would happen. Why I fell for him that day, I can’t say. I have no idea. I just know I wanted him.” Her brief dalliance with Prince quickly fell by the wayside, and soon the two were an item.
He was present when the Virgin Tour, Madonna’s first nationwide trek, opened in Seattle that April, and again that May when the show rolled through her home state of Michigan. Pulling hits from her 1983 self-titled debut and the following year’s Like a Virgin LP, the shows sold out across the globe. “That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas,” she remembered in 2009. “I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings. I was like, ‘This is insane!’ After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas.”
Penn proposed to Madonna in a Nashville hotel room soon after the tour wrapped that June, and news of the engagement kicked the media frenzy into high gear. This proved too much for the press-phobic Penn, whose short fuse was further trimmed by alcohol and jealousy. Their relationship was characterized by his frequent violent outbursts, often against members of the media, earning them the dubious nickname “the Poison Penns.” That July he was arrested for allegedly attacking a pair of journalists with a rock after they tried to take the couple’s picture (he pled no contest to the charges, paid a $50 fine and served a suspended sentence) and the following April he was put on prohibition after reportedly beating up a songwriter he thought was kissing Madonna at an L.A. nightclub. The charges continued to escalate, and in 1987 Penn served 33 days in jail for pummeling an extra who had taken his picture on the set of the film Colors, as well as an unrelated charge of reckless driving.
The frequent legal woes drove a wedge between Madonna and the man she dubbed “the coolest guy in the Universe” in the liner notes of her 1986 album True Blue. An annulment she filed in December 1987 was quickly rescinded, but the pair would split for good in January 1989. Ever since, rumors have persisted that Penn was physically abusive to Madonna throughout their marriage, including reports that he beat her with a baseball bat in 1987. Equally troubling is the infamous incident that allegedly occurred at the couple’s home on December 28th, 1988, when — according to numerous tabloid reports — a drunken and enraged Penn bound Madonna with a lamp cord and subjected her to a terrifying nine-hour ordeal, the details of which remain hazy. Penn has admitted that L.A. County Sherriff’s deputies were summoned to the home at Madonna’s request, but charges she filed with Malibu police were almost immediately dropped.
In an interview with Rolling Stone months after the supposed incident, Madonna called the salacious reports “extremely inaccurate, as they usually are. They made it all up. But I expect it. They’re always making shit up. I’ve completely reconciled myself to that fact.” She continued to deny the claims in court documents filed in December 2015, writing, “Sean has never struck me, ‘tied me up,’ or physically assaulted me, and any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless and false.”
11. “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams Makes the Top 10 (August 31st)
Bryan Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance weren’t so sure about the new song they were working on. Unabashedly sentimental, it took lyrical inspiration from Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and even the Beatles to weave a coming-of-age story of a boy and his guitar. That part was all great, but the title, “Best Days of My Life,” was a little too on the nose. Reading back over the words, the pair zeroed in on a line that originally only appeared once in the tune: “Summer of ’69.” That one stuck.
Even after conjuring up a winning title, it took an exhausting amount of workshopping in the studio until Adams was anywhere near happy with it. “I recorded and rerecorded and recorded and rerecorded until I thought it was as close to being as good a record as it could possibly be,” he told the Aquarian in 2014. “I can even remember when the final fader went down on ‘Summer of ‘69,’ I still thought we hadn’t quite got it. I listen to it now and I don’t know what I was wondering about because it sounds right to me.” It was a work of partial fiction — Adams was only nine years old in the real summer of ’69, after all — but blended real-life memories of old friends and band mates running off to get married.
For months it languished as an album cut on 1984’s chart-topping Reckless, but when it was released as a single the following June it shot to number five on the Hot 100. Though the Canadian crooner had previously scored hits like “Straight from the Heart” and “Cuts Like a Knife,” this track would ultimately become his trademark. For millions of Baby Boomers adjusting to their thirties, it crystalized the growing sense of nostalgia that would come to bear just a three years later when The Wonder Years, an affectionate look back at the Sixties, premiered on ABC. Adams’ song was a landlocked continuation of the Beach Boys’ “endless summer,” set during the apex of the Age of Aquarius.
Of course, millions of kids in the schoolyard took great delight in perverting the saccharine sentiments by theorizing that the song was actually something else entirely — “Sixty-nine — get it!?” As it turns out, they were sort of right. “A lot of people think it’s about the year,” Adams later said, “but actually, it’s more about making love in the summertime. It’s using ’69 as a sexual reference.”