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On December 14, 1981, while former Eagles drummer Don Henley and songwriter Danny Kortchmar are writing material for Henley's upcoming album I Can't Stand Still, Kortchmar accidentally spills vodka all over their notes for the final song to the album. At the coaxing of Henley's girlfriend Maren Jensen, they decide to go to bed, leaving what would have been the final song on the album, the would-be #3 hit “Dirty Laundry”, unwritten. As such, the album is released without it, and flops without its only hit, prompting Henley to call it quits in the music business.
The rest of the timeline chronicles the changes that occur in the world, which range from music and movies to sports and even politics. See how the world changes, all because of one song!
Don Henley: The focal point of the timeline. Former frontman and drummer for The Eagles, Henley's first (and presumably last) solo album, I Can't Stand Still, bombs without a successful single to back it up. As such, Henley is dropped from his contract with the Asylum Records label. Distraught, Don moves back to his home state of Texas, where he begins a friendship with Texas Senatorial candidate Lloyd Doggett, and eventually, a career in politics.
Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar: Henley's songwriting partner. After accidentally spilling vodka all over Henley's notes, Henley and “Kootch” nonetheless remain good friends, and Henley eventually makes Kortchmar Henley's campaign manager in his run for Congress in 1985.
June: I Can't Stand Still is released. Its commercial failure leads Asylum Records to drop Don Henley. He moves back to his hometown, Gilmer, Texas.
July: Facing some financial losses from its musical division (partly due to Henley's album underperforming), Warner Bros. decides to be more cost-effective with Atari. They refuse to pay Howard Scott Warshaw $250,000 for him to design the upcoming E.T. video game, and leading him to defect to Activision. The job is assigned to the next-best remaining programmer, Carla Meninsky, who follows Steven Spielberg's suggestion to make the game a Pac-Man clone.
October: The Baltimore Orioles win the World Series.
December: E.T. for the Atari 2600 is well received and becomes the best-selling game of all time. Atari decides to rework their computers in development to create a machine to compete with the Commodore 64. “Gloria” by Laura Branigan tops the Billboard Hot 100.
January: At the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Atari announces they will not release the 1200XL, instead promoting an upcoming computer, the 800XLP.
February: Atari pulls the 5200 from the market, promising a new version in December. To compensate, they release the Atari 2600 “E.T. Edition”. Don Henley starts a cleanup effort on Caddo Lake, and is courted to join the Democratic Party.
March: Laura Branigan releases Branigan 2, which would eventually go platinum. Warner's movie High Road to China debuts at #2 behind a re-run of Raiders of the Lost Ark, leading the company to market the latter's Atari video game to offset the film losses.
July: Atari releases the 800XLP, which would go on to sell 2 million units.
August: Boston releases the album Third Stage on Warner Bros. Records. It was preceded by the hit song “Amanda”, which the label leaked onto radio to pressure the band into releasing the album.
October: The Atlanta Braves win the World Series.
Uncertain: Atari supports the Amiga Corporation with $1 million.
January: E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears is released, being considered one of the worst movies of all time. The frustration makes Spielberg pull the plug on a production of his being developed at Warner Bros, Gremlins.
April: The Baltimore Colts move to Phoenix. The United States Football League, led by New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump, start hatching a plan to compete with the National Football League, including moving their schedule to the fall and having teams in markets without the NFL such as Oakland, Baltimore and Indianapolis.
June: The Houston Rockets pick Patrick Ewing as their #1 pick of the NBA Draft, and through a trade with the Chicago Bulls also snatch the #3 pick, used on Michael Jordan.
July: Former Commodore CEO Jack Tramiel buys Tandy Electronics, and its former parent company is renamed Radio Shack Inc.
August: Facing massive losses from its movie division, Warner Communications sells the thriving electronics division Atari to the defense and electronics conglomerate Honeywell, Inc. for $6 billion in cash and Honeywell stock.
July-August: The 1984 Summer Olympics happen in Los Angeles. The breakout star is boxer Evander Holyfield, gold in the light heavyweight category.
October: The Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
November: Ronald Reagan wins all states in the presidential election.
December: Vince Neil dies in a car crash, and Mötley Crüe replaces him with Axl Rose. Across the pond, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen nearly crashes his car, but saves himself.
Last quarter: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is released, being considered a sequel as good or better than Raiders and being the top moneymaker of the year with $300 million in the US alone.
Uncertain: The Home Computer Market Crash of 1984 takes Texas Instruments, Timex-Sinclair, Coleco, Tandy-Radio Shack, and the IBM PCjr from the personal computer market. Atari signs a deal with Nintendo to distribute their Famicom console outside Japan. Carla Meninsky leaves Atari to form Axiom Software once they discontinue the video game hardware division.
May: The Chevy Chase comedy Fletch is released. It would hit #1 the following week, become the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year and spawn several sequels.
June: The Houston Rockets win the NBA Finals, with Michael Jordan as Finals MVP.
July: Back to the Future, starring John Cusack, is released to great success. Three sequels follow.
August: Don Henley wins a supplementary election for the House of Representatives. Richard Ramirez, the “Night Stalker”, is beaten to death by an angry mob. Once Stephen Pearcy is arrested, Jon Bon Jovi fills in for him as RATT's singer. Mötley Crüe releases Resurrection, becoming the one of the biggest heavy metal bands in the world.
September: Following an underwhelming Cincinnati Reds season, Pete Rose is dismissed as player-coach and would eventually retire. Larry Holmes ties Rocky Marciano's 49-0 record by beating Michael Spinks, retaining his world Heavyweight champion title.
December: Zoologist Dian Fossey leaves Rwanda back to the United States after shooting two men who tried to kill her. She would establish the Ape Defense Fund in collaboration with author Douglas Adams and biologist Richard Dawkins. The Chicago Bears completes the first 16-0 result in NFL history. To celebrate, they release a rock song, “Perfect Season”.
Last quarter: Brad Delp becomes the lead singer of Van Halen, and releases his first album with the band, Starting at Zero, preceded by #1 single “The Test of Time”.
Uncertain: Atari releases the PC-2, a 16-bit computer based on the SIERRA and Amiga prototypes. Coca-Cola starts gradually changing its formula to a “New Coke” similar in taste to Pepsi. Warner Bros. purchases the DeLaurentiis Group to expand its movie catalogue.
1986 January: Def Leppard releases Hysteria, one of the best-selling albums of all time. The Chicago Bears manage a fully perfect 19-0 season by winning Super Bowl XX.
February: Whitesnake releases a self-titled album, also known as Serpens Albus in Europe and Japan. Saturday Night Live airs its final episode, hosted by Ron Reagan and with musical guests Van Halen.
March: Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos and his family are killed when revolutionaries bomb their palace.
April: Legend, starring John Cusack, hits theaters.
May: Following the defection of a colonel, the Soviet Union admits the radiation spike that begun the previous month was a nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Power Plant. The Lost Episode debuts. One of the first guests to appear is budding actor-comedian Kurt Cobain. Theatrical release of Top Gun, a massive hit starring Emilio Estevez and Jane Seymour.
June: Journey releases its first album with frontman Sammy Hagar, Alien. The movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, directed by Robert Zemeckis and with a script by the book's author Douglas Adams, is released.
July: The USFL v. NFL lawsuit has the former winning, the jury verdict awarding nearly $1.7 billion in damages. As a compromise, the remaining eight USFL teams join the NFL - including Trump's rechristened New York Generals. Theatrical release of Transformers: The Movie, directed by Chuck Jones.
August: Michael Spinks retires after losing to Evander Holyfield, who was making his heavyweight debut after great success in the Cruiserweight class.
September: Ratt releases its first Bon Jovi-fronted album, Bad Name. Genesis, a biblical epic by Robert Bresson, hits theaters. Stanley “The Hammer” Burrell helps the Oakland Athletics qualify for the MLB Playoffs.
January: The Bears repeat as Super Bowl champions over the Kansas City Chiefs, who controversially defeated the New York Generals in the NFC Championship.
Mullins v Coca-Cola: with proof that Coke was selling a changed product, the false advertisment lawsuit erodes the company's reputation and Coca-Cola now has only 11% of the soft drink market.
Motley Crue releases Appetite for Destruction.
The Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental has a controversial win when Def Leppard's Euphoria beats Metallica and AC/DC, among others.
Bernhard Goetz is elected mayor of New York City.
The Atari Nintendo's successor, the Atari Kasumi, hits stores.
Def Leppard releases its final album, Erotomania. To replace Steve Clark, who had died a year prior, comes in Poison guitarist Slash.