Timeline 1979 – 1989


May 4

Margaret Thatcher becomes the UK’s first female prime minister


Sony Walkman goes on sale in Japan

July 12

Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago


Sandinista National Liberation Front takes control of Nicaragua


Gary Numan releases “Cars” in the UK (North American release in 1980)


The NewMusic TV show debuts on CityTV in Toronto, Canada

November 1

Iran hostage crisis

November 30

Pink Floyd releases The Wall

December 3

Eleven fans are crushed to death at a Who concert in Cincinnati

December 14

The Clash releases London Calling in the UK


February 19

Bon Scott, leader singer of AC/DC, dies in London

March 3

Pierre Trudeau returns to office as prime minister of Canada

March 8

Tbilisi Rock Festival takes place in the USSR


The United States announces boycott of summer Olympics in Moscow

April 12

Terry Fox begins his Marathon of Hope in Newfoundland

May 18

Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington State, killing 57 people

May 18

Ian Curtis, of the band Joy Division, commits suicide


Sony Walkman goes on sale in North America

June 21

“Cars” by Gary Numan hits #1 in Canada


AC/DC releases Back in Black; Brian Johnson is the new lead singer

July 19

Summer Olympics begin in Moscow

August 16

The first Monsters of Rock festival takes place at Castle Donington, UK

August 23

Heatwave festival takes place just outside Toronto, Canada

November 4

Ronald Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter in the US presidential election

December 8

John Lennon shot dead in New York


March 30

US President Ronald Reagan shot and wounded by John Hinckley Jr.

April 11

Brixton riots in London, England

May 11

Bob Marley, 36, dies of cancer

May 13

Pope John Paul II shot and wounded by a Turkish gunman

June 6

Kerrang! heavy metal music magazine debuts

June 13

Six blank shots fired at Queen Elizabeth II by British teenager Marcus Sarjeant

July 3

Riots in Liverpool, England

July 7

“Tainted Love” by Soft Cell released in the UK

July 29

Charles, Prince of Wales, marries Lady Diana Spencer

August 1

MTV goes on the air in the United States

October 28

“Home Taping is Killing Music” campaign launched by British Phonographic Industry (BPI)



Commodore 64 home computer debuts at the US Consumer Electronics Show


Unemployment in the UK passes the 3 million mark-a post-war record


Chariots of Fire is named Best Picture at the Academy Awards

April 2

Falklands War, between the UK and Argentina, begins

June 14

Falklands War ends; 907 people killed during the conflict

September 3-5

First US Festival takes place in California


Sony markets the first compact disc player, CDP-101, in Japan

November 30

Michael Jackson releases Thriller


March 13

Michael Jackson debuts the moonwalk dance move on the Motown 25th anniversary TV show

March 23

US President Ronald Reagan announces his “Star Wars” plan to intercept enemy missiles


Sony launches its CDP-101 CD player worldwide


The movie Flashdance is released

May 28-30

Second US Festival in California

June 9

Margaret Thatcher is re-elected by a landslide majority

September 1

Korean Air Lines flight 007 shot down after it enters Soviet airspace; 269 killed

October 25

US troops invade Grenada

November 2

US government signs bill to create a Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday

December 2

“Thriller” by Michael Jackson, the first million-dollar music video, premieres on MTV


January 21

“Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood reaches #1 on the UK singles chart, despite being banned by the BBC

January 22

Apple’s “1984” ad plays during the television broadcast of the Super Bowl

January 27

Michael Jackson’s hair catches fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial

July 28

Summer Olympics open in Los Angeles

August 31

Canada’s MuchMusic debuts; Rush’s “The Enemy Within” is the first video played

September 7

Janet Jackson elopes with singer James DeBarge; the marriage would be annulled in 1985

September 17

Conservative leader Brian Mulroney becomes prime minister of Canada

November 6

Ronald Reagan re-elected president of the United States

November 29

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” the benefit single for famine relief, released in the UK

December 2-4

Bhopal Gas Tragedy in India kills over 4,000 people


January 11

Brazil’s massive Rock in Rio festival is staged for the first time


Whitney Houston releases her self-titled debut album


David Lee Roth leaves Van Halen for the first time

May 13

Dire Straits releases Brothers In Arms

July 10

French agents bomb and sink the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior

July 13

Live Aid staged at London’s Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium


Michael Jackson purchases ATV Music, which includes the publishing rights to The Beatles’ early catalogue, for $47.5 million


The Parents Music Resource Center’s Senate hearing on rock censorship begins in Washington, DC

September 22

First Farm Aid concert staged in Champaign, Illinois


April 26

Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the USSR kills over 4,000 people

May 2

Expo ’86 opens in Vancouver, BC

May 25

Norwegian band a-ha wins eight MTV Video Music Awards

June 4

Amnesty International’s Conspiracy of Hope tour begins in the US


Iran/Contra affair becomes public knowledge

November 15

Beastie Boys release License to Ill


March 9

U2 releases The Joshua Tree

June 11

Margaret Thatcher re-elected for a third term

June 12

While on a visit to Berlin, Ronald Reagan challenges Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”

June 27

Whitney Houston’s second album, Whitney, debuts at #1

July 27

Rick Astley releases “Never Gonna Give You Up”

July 21

Guns N’ Roses releases Appetite for Destruction

August 1

MTV Europe launches

August 21

Dirty Dancing released

August 31

Michael Jackson releases Bad

September 11

Peter Tosh murdered

October 3

“Pump Up the Volume” by M|A|R|R|S hits #1 in the UK

October 19

Black Monday; stock markets around the world fall sharply

October 30

George Michael releases his first solo album, Faith

November 18

Sony Corporation buys CBS Records for $2 billion


April 14

Public Enemy releases It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

June 11

Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert held at Wembley Stadium

June 18

Depeche Mode concludes their world tour with a concert at the Rose Bowl in California attended by 80,000 fans

June 27

Motown Records sold to MCA and Boston Ventures for $61million

October 31

Paul McCartney releases CHOBA B CCCP exclusively in the USSR

November 21

Brian Mulroney re-elected prime minister of Canada

December 8

Roy Orbison dies of a heart attack


January 20

George H.W. Bush succeeds Ronald Reagan as US president

March 4

Time Inc. and Warner Communications announce plans to merge

March 21

Madonna releases Like A Prayer

March 24

Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska

June 4

Students massacred on the streets leading to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square

June 4

Solidarity party wins elections in Poland

June 15

Nirvana releases debut album Bleach on Sub Pop label

July 31

Nintendo releases the Game Boy

August 31

The Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels North American tour begins

November 9

Destruction of the Berlin Wall begins