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Where Are They Now? 1982’s Biggest Pop Acts

Catch up with A Flock of Seagulls, Toni Basil, Tommy Tutone and more

A Flock of Seagulls, Toni Basil and Tommy Tutone

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1982 was a very weird time for the music industry. MTV had just gone on the air, and the new station was hungry for content. But many established stars still hadn't quite figured out the power of this new medium – so MTV filled long stretches of airtime with bizarre bands from Europe. Suddenly, heavily accented singers with names like Taco and Falco were scoring massive singles in America. Beauty standards for pop stars were changing quickly, too: As recently as the late 1970s, it had still been possible for a bunch of mustached dudes with huge beer bellies to rule the charts, but now guys like that were competing with fashion-forward trendsetters like A Flock of Seagulls. Here's a look back at some of the biggest acts of that strange year – from Tommy Tutone and Toni Basil to Asia and the Alan Parsons Project – and an update on what they're doing these days.

By Andy Greene

The Human League

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The Human League

Then: The Human League formed in England in the late 1970s and quickly won credibility in the art-rock community, but a lineup change in the early 1980s turned them into more of a mainstream synth-pop act. It was the perfect time for such a switch, and "Don't You Want Me" became a massive U.S. hit. (The song was originally written as a solo, but lead singer Philip Oakley recruited back-up singer Susan Ann Sulley to tell the story from a woman's perspective.) The group scored again in 1983 with "(Keep Feeling) Fascination." The group's commercial fortunes seemed to be spiraling downward by 1986, but they shot right back with "Human," which went to Number One in America. It was their last big hit here.

Now: Human League are widely dismissed as three-hit wonders in America, but they've held onto a following in Europe. Last year they released Credo, their first LP in a decade. They are a regular presence at European 1980s revival festivals, and this year they're playing the Royal Albert Hall in London and many other venues in England and Germany. 

Romeo Void

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Romeo Void

Then: You might not remember the name Romeo Void, but listen to the first few seconds of their 1982 hit "Never Say Never." It'll take you on an instant time-warp back 30 years. The San Francisco band, led by charismatic frontwoman Debora Lyall, had a cool mix of punk and pop sounds. The single was  produced by the Cars' Ric Ocasek, and the group seemed poised for bigger things. But aside landing a minor hit in 1984 with "A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)," Romeo Void pretty much vanished. 

Now: When the group split in 1985, they didn't exactly leave with a bag full of cash, so Lyall took a job as an art teacher. In 2004, VH1 got the group back together on TV, but it didn't lead to any long-term reunion. Lyall continues to make music, releasing occasional solo projects. 

Wall of Voodoo

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Wall of Voodoo

Then: Wall of Voodoo were a late 1970s Los Angeles post-punk group with a cult following. They had no business scoring a pop hit – but in 1982 MTV began playing their awesomely bizarre video for "Mexican Radio." It's a pretty unconventional pop song, but it's extremely catchy. Yet Wall of Voodoo's time at the top was brief. The group limped along to 1989, but it was rough going. Having a big hit alienated their original fans, and the people who loved "Mexican Radio" had little interest in the group's other work. It's basically what happened to Devo after "Whip It."

Now: Wall of Voodoo frontman Stan Ridgway has worked very steadily over the past 30 years, releasing nine solo albums and touring regularly. Wall of Voodoo seems like a piece of his distant past, though if you watch one of his live shows he'll usually bust out "Mexican Radio." 

Alan Parsons Project

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Alan Parsons Project

Then: Alan Parsons worked as an engineer on some of rock's greatest albums, including Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of the Moon and the Beatles' Abbey Road and Let It Be. In 1975, he decided to start making his own music and formed The Alan Parsons Project with singer Eric Woolfson. They had some minor prog-rock hits in the late 1970s, but they didn't really hit paydirt until 1982, when "Eye In The Sky" blew up in America. The song was actually sung by Woolfson, not Parsons, but most people just assumed it was Parsons because the band is named after him. (Carlos Santana has pulled a similar trick throughout his whole career.) Unable to repeat the success of "Eye In The Sky," the duo split in 1990.

Now: Parsons attempted a solo career in the 1990s, but it never really took off. In 1994 he put together a touring act called Alan Parsons Live Project – not to be confused with the original Alan Parsons Project. They are separate entities, and the Live Project didn't have Woolfson, who passed away in 2009. The Live Project is on the road right now. Catch them this September in South America. 

ASIA

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Asia

Then: In 1981, Yes guitarist Steve Howe; Emerson, Lake & Palmer drummer Carl Palmer; King Crimson bassist John Wetton; and Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes formed the prog-rock supergroup Asia. It was an instant hit. Their 1982 debut LP, Asia, featured the successful singles "Heat of The Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell." But follow-up albums with the alliterative titles Alpha, Astra and Aqua sold fewer and fewer copies, and the supergroup was no more by the late 1980s.

Now: A new line-up of Asia featuring original members John Wetton and Geoff Downes resurfaced and began touring in the early 1990s. Members came and went at an astonishing rate, and the group was largely relegated to casinos and fairs. But in 2006, the original members got back together for a tour. This left latter-day singer John Payne out in the cold, so he hit the road as "Asia featuring John Payne." The real Asia, meanwhile, toured under the name "All Four Original Members of Asia," just to make sure everyone knew what they were getting. Even so, the concurrent existence of multiple Asias remained a little confusing.

Tony Basil

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Toni Basil

Then: Toni Basil was a well-respected choreographer who tried her hand at music in 1982, hitting it big with her super-catchy cheerleading chant "Mickey." Even Basil herself must have realized that this was a one-time thing: she retired from music after releasing just one more album in 1983. 

Now: Basil bounced right back to her career as a choreographer and has worked on countless major movies, including That Thing You Do, My Best Friend's Wedding and Legally Blonde. "Mickey," of course, has had a huge afterlife. It's been on just about every VH1 countdown show in history, and it will surely be annoying and/or delighting people many decades from now.

Tommy Tutone

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Tommy Tutone

Then: Tommy Tutone isn't actually a person. It was a power pop band led by a guy named Tommy Heath that scored a a huge hit in 1982 with "867-5309." Apparently no lawyer vetted the song very closely, because its title and chorus happened to be the actual phone number of random people all over the country, who then had to endure countless phone calls from dudes looking for "Jenny." Needless to say, the group never had anything resembling a hit after "867-5309" – though some people heard similarities between that song and Bruce Springsteen's 2007 tune "Radio Nowhere." 

Now: Tommy Heath has worked for years as a computer analyst, though he's always willing to play some oldies gigs when he has the time. You can see him September 23rd in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on a double will with John Waite. It's a great chance to hear "Missing You" and "867-5309" in one night. 

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