Season 3 of Netflix’s beloved nostalgia creep-out “Stranger Things” premiered over the long weekend, bringing Hawkins, Ind., into the summer of 1985. In towns that didn’t have a portal to the Upside Down, those months may have been memorable for films like “Back to the Future,” cultural events like Live Aid and landmark sports victories, like the Lakers defeating the Celtics in the N.B.A. Finals. Here’s a playlist of 19 hits — and one iconic musical broadcast — that were floating in the musical ether back then.
Tears for Fears, ‘Shout’
No. 1 for three weeks in August, Tears for Fears’s beaming, anthemic call to protest was the unequivocal song of the summer.
Prince, ‘Raspberry Beret’
The gently psychedelic, string-laden “Raspberry Beret” was the first single to follow Prince’s cross-media “Purple Rain” domination. “The history of the song is shrouded in mystery,” wrote the Prince sessions expert Duane Tudahl in his 2017 book, “Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984,” “but considering how Prince worked, that isn’t a surprise.”
a-ha, ‘Take On Me’
The chorus of this indelible synth-pop hit was inspired by the rising melody of Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (best known from the bone-throwing “dawn of man” scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey”). The breakthrough for the Norwegian trio a-ha, this song was released three times in 1984 and 1985, but it only became a hit after its visionary, rotoscope-animation video conquered MTV.
Katrina and the Waves, ‘Walking on Sunshine’
Katrina and the Waves were underground vets: The guitarist Kimberley Rew was in Robyn Hitchcock’s wildly influential psychedelic punk band the Soft Boys, and the other three members had gigged around England as a cover band called Mama’s Cookin’. Their early singles didn’t land, but the Waves got some attention when the Bangles covered their 1982 album track “Going Down to Liverpool.” A slick production and a horn arrangement on another old tune turned “Walking on Sunshine” into a giddy smash. Katrina Leskanich told The Guardian in 2015, “I’d been this sulky goth and suddenly I was ‘Chrissie Hynde with a smile’ fronting ‘the new Monkees.’”
Dead or Alive, ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’
This dance smash was the first American hit for the production trio Stock Aitken Waterman, whose mix of Motown melody and strobe-light throb yielded big tracks for Bananarama, Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue. The band’s leader, Pete Burns, produced a demo for it that was inspired by Luther Vandross’s 1984 tune “I Wanted Your Love” (a dance song that was a mild hit in Britain) and Little Nell’s “See You Round Like a Record” (a quirky piece of faux Spector from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” actress Nell Campbell).
’Til Tuesday, ‘Voices Carry’
The ’Til Tuesday leader Aimee Mann would ultimately maintain a long career as a songwriter of beloved, literate indie rock, writing an Oscar-nominated song for the 1999 film “Magnolia” and releasing seven albums on her own SuperEgo Records. But in 1985 she was a Boston ex-punk who scored this Top 10 single, which she said was “like the first or second or third song I ever wrote by myself, except [for] a couple terrible garbagey things when I was 16.” The song would stick around; however, the long blond rattail she sported on the album art and in the music video would not. “I think it may be in a cigar box somewhere,” she told Rolling Stone in 1996.
Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam Featuring Full Force, ‘I Wonder if I Take You Home’
It would be another two years before Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam and the production crew Full Force would turn freestyle — the New York-brewed melting pot of electro, hip-hop, R&B and Latin rhythms — into a chart-topping pop concern. But this early single was a hit in Europe and subsequently a Top 40 success in the United States.
Mary Jane Girls, ‘In My House’
The biggest hit from these protégées of the superfreaky funkateer Rick James was a Top 10 pop smash. Lines like “I’ll be your sugar in the morning/And the sweet stuff you need at night” raised the eyebrows of the Parents Music Resource Center, which Tipper Gore helped found, and this buoyant dance tune ended up on its Filthy 15. “At the time, I also felt that this was just a feeble attempt at ‘censorship’ to the music that was created by Rick James,” the group’s leader, Jojo McDuffie, told Rolling Stone.
R.E.M., ‘Can’t Get There From Here’
Only a few of the so-called college rock bands — among them Talking Heads, U2 and X — managed to crack the fluffy haircuts and gated snares of the mainstream rock Top 40 in the summer of ’85. The coolest, however, was no doubt R.E.M., a Georgia-based group only on its third album. On this tune, it mixed its post-punk jangle with horns and art-funky rhythms.
Depeche Mode, ‘People Are People’
A warm message of acceptance housed in a chilly industrial production. Already established in their native Britain, the synth-pop pioneers Depeche Mode had their first American pop hit with this ice-cold collection of keyboards, drum machines, tape loops and clanging metal. Dave Gahan told Entertainment Weekly about this era: “We used to go into studios, and the first thing we’d do, we’d ask where the kitchen was — literally for pots and pans and things that we could throw down the stairs, and record the rhythms they would make crashing around, and then make it into loops.”
Paul Hardcastle, ‘19’
After watching a PBS documentary about Vietnam veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, the British producer Paul Hardcastle sampled some of the bleak dialogue and stuttered it out into an unlikely electro hit. Inspired by the music of Afrika Bambaataa, and with a hook tapped out on an early sampling synth, it was a stark hit that was less about the politics of dancing and more for dancing about politics.
Aretha Franklin, ‘Freeway of Love’
One of the most successful reboots of a boomer icon in the MTV era: The greatest pop vocalist of all time figuratively tries on Devo’s energy dome with the producer and drummer Narada Michael Walden and offers a slightly dirty, thoroughly modern ride in a pink Cadillac. Its musical passengers include the Bruce Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons, the future “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson on synth bass, the dance icon Sylvester on backing vocals and members of Carlos Santana’s band providing percussion assistance.
Run-DMC, ‘You Talk Too Much’
This sparse gripe-fest was the seventh single from Run-DMC, at that point the most famous rap group ever. By the end of the summer, they would be the first rap group to perform on “American Bandstand” and the only rap group to perform at the historic Live Aid concert.
Boogie Boys, ‘A Fly Girl’
The Harlem hip-hop trio Boogie Boys had produced one of the better 12-inches from hip-hop’s disco era with “Rappin’ Aint No Thing” (1981). But the group really took off in the age of drum machines. The producer Ted Currier recycled the drums from another song that he had made, Sly Fox’s “Let’s Go All the Way.” “Totally different song but same track — with some overdubs and omissions,” Currier told Red Bull Music Academy. “The pulse of the record demanded attention. And how often does that happen?”
Duran Duran, ‘A View to a Kill’
In a DVD commentary for “A View to a Kill,” the Duran Duran bassist John Taylor said he had met the James Bond franchise producer Cubby Broccoli at a London party and asked, “Hey, when are you gonna have a decent theme song again?” A collaboration with John Barry, the composer of the original iconic Bond theme, “A View to a Kill” became the first — and, to this day, only — Bond theme to hit No. 1.
Paul Young, ‘Every Time You Go Away’
“Every Time You Go Away” was originally recorded by Hall & Oates in 1980 as a Southern soul-styled weeper. With modern production and electric sitar, the British balladeer Paul Young turned it into a sappy ballad and a No. 1 hit.
Klymaxx, ‘Meeting in the Ladies Room’
Funk was about two years away from being commercially and critically devoured by hip-hop. Still, the mid-80s produced no shortage of essential funk singles from Cameo, Zapp, Midnight Star and this all-female sextet from Los Angeles.
Mötley Crüe, ‘Smokin’ in the Boys Room’
These glam-metal miscreants shamelessly covered this 1973 Brownsville Station tune at the suggestion of the vocalist Vince Neil — he used to cover it with his pre-Crüe band, Rock Candy. It gave Mötley Crüe its first Top 20 hit. “But every night, though I loved singing it live, Nikki [Sixx, the band’s bassist] would complain that the song was stupid, and he didn’t want to play it,” Neil recalled in the band’s biography, “The Dirt.”
Y&T, ‘Summertime Girls’
On their seventh album, the California glam-metal lifers Y&T finally scored a hit with the gleaming, keyboard-soaked “Summertime Girls,” somewhat of a pop detour from the whiskey-soaked hard rock of songs like “Mean Streak” and “Don’t Stop Runnin.’”
Queen, ‘Radio Ga Ga’ (Live at Live Aid)
One of the greatest live performances of all time was broadcast around the globe in the summer of 1985. Queen’s six-song set at Live Aid on July 13 was so monumental that it became the climax of last year’s Oscar-winning biopic, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” For the band’s second song, “Radio Gaga,” the audience at the Wembley Stadium in London, an estimated 72,000 people, clapped along.
An earlier version of this article misstated the Oscar status of an Aimee Mann song. "Save Me" was nominated for an Oscar in 1999, but did not win.
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