by 11 Points
Modern perspectives on ‘80s and ‘90s nostalgia
October 15th, 2021 • Issue 69
This week in nostalgic history
33 years ago, on October 15th, 1988 - Kirk Gibson hit his famous World Series game-winning home run.
The image of Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases after hitting a pinch hit home run to win game one of the World Series (for the Dodgers, over the A’s) is one of those hyper-iconic moments which makes every baseball highlight reel ever.
The moment itself was a true Casey At the Bat come to life (only with the Wayne’s World mega happy ending as opposed to the poem’s real ending).
It stacked element upon element to create a perfect storm of legendary moment-creating factors. Power hitter Gibson, only 33 at the time but with injuries to both legs and a condition I would diagnose as Old Face making him look about 56, came into the game for his only at-bat in the entire World Series. He managed to hit a home run with his upper body only — no power at all from power from his legs. He hit the home run against legendary pitcher Dennis Eckersley and legendary announcer Vin Scully was on the call.
So as Gibson hobbled around the bases after hitting the home run, pumping his fist as he ran (even though his injury was to his legs, the awkwardness of the fist pump made you wonder if there was an injury to his arms as well), the moment was essentially securing its permanent highlight reel spot in real time.
Also on October 15th: George Brett left a World Series game for hemorrhoids (1980)… the first crowd wave was done inside of a sports stadium (1981)… Metallica was formed (1981)… Evil Dead hit theaters (1981)… Bob Barker stopped dying his hair (1987)… UB40’s single Red Red Wine hit number one (1988)… Wayne Gretzky set the NHL scoring record (1989)… Ugly Kid Joe’s album Ugly As They Wanna Be was released (1991)… Clarence Thomas was confirmed for the Supreme Court (1991)… Nelson Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize (1993)… Rudy hit theaters (1993)… Bryan Adams’s single Please Forgive Me was released (1993)… Fight Club hit theaters (1999)… Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered on HBO (2000)… Smallville premiered on the WB (2001)
29 years ago, on October 16th, 1992 - Candyman hit theaters.
If you want to make a movie about a monster that appears when you repeatedly say its name, how do you stand out? By leaving those “three name appear-ers ” like Beetlejuice and Bloody Mary in the dust and requiring *five* repetitions.
This was the horror movie equivalent of someone making the apocryphal “six-minute abs” from There’s Something About Mary.
Also on October 16th: The Baltimore Orioles won the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies (1983)… Baby Jessica was rescued from the well (1987)… the never-before-aired and quite different Gilligan’s Island pilot episode aired on TBS (1992)… the Million Man March was held in Washington, D.C. (1995)… Practical Magic and the Bride of Chucky hit theaters (1998)
31 years ago, on October 17th, 1990 - IMDb launched on as a searchable database.
Much like Facebook, IMDb was the result of serendipitous perverts creating something bigger than they initially realized.
IMDb started on the pre-World Wide Web boards of Usenet in 1990. (Note: I was all over Usenet in 1990, but spending pretty much all of my time on the pro wrestling boards. So I missed out on this. Also I was just a kid and it’s probably good I wasn’t hanging out with these dudes.)
In early 1990, a computer programmer created a post on a movies board (rec.arts.movies) called These Eyes, where he and others began to compile a list of actresses with really purty eyes. The dudes on rec.arts.movies really got into the crowdsourced list-making thing, quickly transitioning it away from pretty eyes and onto topics like best directors and, eventually, every movie and TV show ever. On this day in 1990, those lists were turned into searchable databases, thus launching what would become IMDb.
The database grew in popularity over the next few years, with IMDb then making an early jump to the nascent web in 1993. The site was also an early Amazon acquisition, scooped up in 1998 for $55 million.
IMDb is still an Amazon brand today, and, believe it or not, still run by the same guy who started the pretty eyes list more than three decades ago.
Also on October 17th: Christopher Cross’s Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do) hit number one (1981)… The Sally Jessy Raphael Show premiered (1983)… Hans and Franz debuted on Saturday Night Live (1987)… Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s single Lost in Emotion hit number one (1987)… the Traveling Wilburys’ debut album was released (1988)… Billy Joel’s album Storm Front was released (1989)… the World Series was delayed by an earthquake in California (1989)… I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Devil’s Advocate hit theaters (1997)… Warren G sued Garth Brooks over the “G” logo (1997)… Jump, Jive, an’ Wail by the Brian Setzer Orchestra peaked at number 23 (1998)… Barenaked Ladies’ single One Week hit number one, and stayed there for exactly one week (1998)… Jay Z’s single Hard Knock Life was released (1998)… Halloweentown premiered on Disney Channel (1998)
36 years ago, on October 18th, 1985 - The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America… but just in New York to see if it would actually sell.
Knowing how things all turned out, it’s wild just how little confidence there was in the Nintendo upon its debut.
In 1985, the U.S. home video game console market was reeling from its significant and highly-publicized crash in 1983 and loud questions persisted about whether Americans wanted, or would ever want, to play video games at home on their TVs.
But the Famicom — the Japanese version of the NES, if you’re unfamiliar — was quite popular in Japan since its launch in July of 1983. It was popular enough for Nintendo to dare to dream of bringing it to the U.S. But there was so much skepticism that Nintendo tried to get a U.S. game company like Atari to team up with them — no one would.
So on this day in 1985, Nintendo kicked off its American odyssey solo, with a very small test run. The NES went on sale in limited quantities at FAO Schwartz in New York City (who only agreed to take the inventory on consignment) and a few other toy stores in the area.
The test went well enough to inspire a second test; Nintendo would do another limited run the following February in Los Angeles before going nationwide in September.
By 1990, one-third of households in the U.S. had a Nintendo.
Also on October 18th: Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a World Series game, inspiring the game of Baseketball in the process (1977)… Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was released (1987)… Roseanne premiered (1988)… My Own Private Idaho and Vanilla Ice’s movie Cool As Ice hit theaters (1991)… Sleepers hit theaters (1996)… Swingers hit theaters (1996)… the infamous Walker Texas Ranger AIDS episode premiered (1997)… The Ring hit theaters (2002)
36 years ago, on October 19th, 1985 - a-ha’s single Take On Me hit number one.
Take on Me wasn’t a hit out of the gate but became one thanks to a new star-making medium: MTV.
a-ha, which was basically (and this sounds perhaps more reductive than it should, but it’s building toward a point) a by-the-numbers ‘80s Scandinavian synth pop band, produced an extremely catchy song, absolutely. But what helped Take on Me — and, as a result, the band — rise above the synth pack was the music video. It featured a blend of live video and pencil drawn animation creating a cool (and unique for the era) effect that stood out from any other video out there. It was the kind of video that stopped someone from channel surfing in their tracks.
The quality of the video led to heavy airtime on MTV, and served as a Trojan horse for the song. Because after listening to Take on Me enough times, it burrows into the brain to the point where you just want to hear it over and over, artistic visual mediums be damned.
Take on Me was an international top hit, including the run that began today in 1985 at the top of the US charts. The song was even in the top 10 on Billboard’s year end charts.
The takeaway — a standout video could power a song to the top of the charts — was instantly and widely adopted, at least during the era where music videos and MTV rotation could transform the fortunes of a band and a song. Video budgets — and creativity — would grow quickly throughout the rest of the ‘80s and beyond. And a-ha probably deserves more credit for that than they’ve ever received.
Also on October 19th: St. Elsewhere premiered on NBC (1982)… the stock market had the “Black Monday” stock crash (1987)… Roxette’s album Look Sharp! was released (1988)… Another Bad Creation’s single Iesha was released (1990)… Clerks hit theaters (1994)… Dinosaurs premiered during TGIF (1994)… Cher’s single Believe was released (1998)… Being John Malkovich hit theaters (1999)… Riding in Cars with Boys and Mulholland Drive both hit theaters (2001)… Making the Band 2, which made a group literally called Da Band, premiered (2002)
23 years ago, on October 20th, 1998 - 98 Degrees’ album 98 Degrees and Rising was released.
In last week’s issue of The Retro I made an RC Cola reference about MadTV. And since I have a strict “don’t reuse the RC Cola metaphor in back to back weeks” policy, I’ve now set myself up for the impossible task of trying to describe 98 Degrees via some other “known brand but clear number three of three” analogy.
College baseball? Ross Perot? Cincinnati? BlackBerry? Relish? Myrrh?
Anyway, I’m open to suggestions.
Also on October 20th: U2’s debut album Boy was released (1980)… the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series (1988)… Drugstore Cowboy hit theaters (1989)… the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series (1990)… James Ingram’s single I Don’t Have the Heart hit number one (1990)… 2 Live Crew were acquitted on obscenity charges in Florida (1990)… Madonna’s album Erotica was released (1992)… the website WhiteHouse.gov launched (1994)… Ace of Base’s single Beautiful Life was released (1995)… Get Shorty hit theaters (1995)… Mallrats hit theaters (1995)…
21 years ago, on October 21st, 2000 - Baha Men’s only hit, Who Let the Dogs Out, peaked at number 40.
The Baha Men were very close to not becoming a one-hit wonder and instead spending their days as a no-hit wonder — as close as you can get. Had Who Let the Dogs Out not managed to squeak out just enough sales or radio plays or whatever the metric du jour was in 2000, the Baha Men never would’ve had a top 40 hit.
I went on a hunt for other one-hit wonders whose only hit peaked at number 40 — the “just barely one-hit wonders club.”
Here are the ones from the time period covered in this newsletter:
Video Killed the Radio Star, The Buggles, 1979
A Lover’s Holiday, Change, 1980
Stone Cold, Rainbow, 1982
The Last Time I Made Love, Joyce Kennedy, 1984
Don’t Leave Me This Way, The Communards, 1987
I Want You, Shana, 1990
Kissing You, Keith Washington, 1991
Love on a Rooftop, Desmond Child, 1991
Got a Love for You, Jomanda, 1991
Funky Y-2-C, The Puppies, 1994
Possum Kingdom, Toadies, 1995
Got to Get It, Make It Hot (2000)
Lessons Learned, Tracy Lawrence (2000)
Who Let the Dogs Out, Baha Men (2000)
I’m really solid on this entire era of music and only recognize three songs on the list — Dogs, plus Video Killed the Radio Star and Possum Kingdom. So it’s quite possible of all the number 40 one-hit wonders, Who Let the Dogs Out is the most recognizable song — and the most enduring with younger generations.
Also on October 21st: The Philadelphia Phillies won their first-ever World Series (1980)… Apple introduced the PowerBook (1991)… Wario made his first appearance, as part of Super Mario Land 2 (1992)… Madonna’s book Sex went on sale (1993)… Shannon Hood, lead singer of Blind Melon, died (1995)… the Backstreet Boys’ single As Long As You Love Me was released (1997)… the New York Yankees won the World Series (1998)… the TV show Cheaters premiered (2000)
Everything old is new again
A look at the reboots, revivals, throwbacks, retro insights, and nostalgia in the news.
Netflix has ordered a spinoff of That ‘70s Show called That ‘90s Show which, I assume, hopes to avoid the single-season flame out of the first spinoff, That ‘80s Show. So far, the only cast members from That ‘70s Show who are confirmed for the new spinoff are the Forman parents.
Controversial arcade legend Billy Mitchell won the right to sue video game record keeping association Twin Galaxies for defamation, after they stripped him of his records over alleged cheating.
Throwbacks and recommendations
Thanks for reading!