See also: #1 Hits of the Laundryverse
Without “Dirty Laundry” to push I Can't Stand Still to success, Don Henley is dropped by Warner Bros. Records (parent of his label, Asylum) gives up on music, and pursues a political career.
IOTL: In the 1980s alone, I Can't Stand Still was followed by the widely praised Building the Perfect Beast in 1984, with two top 10 hits (including the Grammy winner “The Boys of Summer”) and 1989's The End of the Innocence, which gave Henley another Grammy.
Henley's musical partner Danny Kortchmar eventually joined another one of the Eagles, Glenn Frey, writing with him a song named “Don't Look Back” in 1985. Frey by then had scored a top 10 album and hit with Smuggler’s Blues and its leading single title track, which is followed by the #1 hits “The Heat Is On” (theme of the movie Beverly Hills Cop) and “You Belong to the City” (from the show Miami Vice). The success of both media also helps Eddie Murphy (“Party All the Time” is also #1) and KISS (Gene Simmons' appeared in an episode of Vice, “Heaven's On Fire” shoots to the top 10)
IOTL: “Don't Look Back” is what could be salvaged from OTL's “The Boys of Summer”, one of Henley's biggest hits. Frey's 1984 album was The Allnighter, after the song of the same name, and MCA released “Sexy Girl” (#20 on the Billboard Top 100) as the first single, followed by “The Allnighter” (#54), and then “Smuggler’s Blues” (#12). “Party all the Time” was #2, beaten by Lionel Richie's “Say You, Say Me”, while “Heaven's on Fire” was only #49. Both of Frey's songs hit #2, the former behind “Can't Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, and the latter trailing Starship's “We Built This City”, which is different ITTL…
Heart's self-titled album, released in 1985, continued the band's transition into mainstream hard rock, a genre that yielded the band its greatest commercial success. It had six hits, including “We Built This City / Rock and Roll“, which started with a song by lyricist Bernie Taupin before launching into Heart's trademark cover of Led Zeppelin's “Rock N' Roll”. “What About Love” features backing vocals of Grace Slick of Starship, which had a commercial failure with the album Sara.
IOTL: Heart marks the band transition to mainstream rock, with five hit songs. “We Built This City” is a #1 hit for Starship (one of its lines named its platinum-selling album Knee Deep In the Hoopla), and is sometimes labeled the worst hit song ever.
Boston releases Third Stage in 1983 on Warner Bros. Records, where Tom Scholz signed after leaving Epic Records because the company's ties to Atari gave him the backing for his Rockman amplifier. Given the label leaked “Amanda” to pressure Scholz into finishing the album, the song became the lead single, topping the Billboard Hot 100. “Hollyann” and “We're Ready” were also top 10 hits as the album was certified Diamond, with 11 million copies in the USA alone. Singer Brad Delp wound up recruited to replace David Lee Roth in Van Halen in 1985. His debut in the band was Starting At Zero, featuring #1 hit “The Test of Time” and released in 1986 - the same year Journey released the album Alien, their first with singer Sammy Hagar as Steve Perry preferred to remain solo.
IOTL: Boston signed with MCA and only released Third Stage in 1987. The album was 4x Platinum for 4 million copies, and “Hollyann” failed to chart. Van Halen recruited Hagar to replace Roth, with “Van Hagar”'s first album 5150 topping the Billboard 200 and featuring a #3 hit with “Why Can't This Be Love”. Perry was still invited to record Journey's 1986 album Raised on Radio, which had the singer firing bassist Ross Valory and drummer Steve Smith during production. Perry recorded one more album before leaving Journey.
“Weird Al” Yankovic released in 1984 the album Panda Polka Party, named after the title track, a parody of Boston's “Amanda”. Its formula of original songs for half the album and parodies in the other side is followed across all his releases.
IOTL: Al's album that year was In 3-D, named after track “Nature Trail to Hell”. His albums are not as formulaic.
Following the low-charting hit “Little Red Corvette”, Prince releases Purple Rain, which while praised by critics underperforms commercially, with its singles “Computer Blue” and “Purple Rain” peaking at #86 and not charting, respectively. Not helping is the fact the album was released the same day as an accompanying movie, with no advance single, a decision Prince blames on label Warner Bros. The film also tanked at the box office. Prince records only one more album before becoming a producer-songwriter.
IOTL: “Little Red Corvette” was Prince's first top 10 hit, and Purple Rain, released one month before the movie and driven by lead single “When Doves Cry” (which does not exist ITTL) cements Prince as one of the top artists of the decade. Even if follow-up Around the World in a Day was launched with little publicity and no advance single.
During the 1984 Video Music Awards, Michael Jackson and Madonna's shared musical number ends with the latter passionately kissing MJ while grinding against him. A controversial moment, it ends derailing Madonna's career - “Like a Virgin” is banned by various stations and missed #1, and her next album Sexy Blasphemy ramps up on the controversial content so much it only gets a gold certification and receives bad reviews deeming it “a transparent attempt to outrage and offend.” On the other hand, Jackson retained successful by not shedding his wholesome image, with 1986's Just You & I being quite conservative.
IOTL: Michael Jackson had burned his scalp filming a Pepsi commercial, and remained for years away from big events like that year's VMAs. The ceremony still counted with Madonna singing “Like a Virgin”, an eventual chart-topper which remained at #1 for 5 weeks. Even more success followed Madonna with True Blue (1986), the best-selling album of its year, and Like a Prayer (1989), that despite the title track earning religious controversy, is perhaps her most critically lauded record. Jackson became a transgressive and quite insane performer, as 1987's Bad plentifully demonstrated. “The Kiss” is an amalgalm of two events during the 2000s, Jackson's sister Janet suffering a wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl and Madonna kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in the VMAs.
Cyndi Lauper is the biggest female singer of the 1980s. One of her albums is a collaboration with Billy Joel, 1985's Code of Silence, which featured tracks by both along with a duet in the title track.
IOTL: In 1986, Lauper released True Colors and Joel had The Bridge, which featured “Code of Silence”, co-written and with backing vocals by Lauper.
Vince Neil dies in a 1984 car crash. To replace him, Mötley Crüe recruits another Sunset Strip singer, Axl Rose. The band's first album with Rose, Resurrection, produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange, is widely successful with five Top 10 singles: the number-one hits “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” along with power ballads “Home Sweet Home,” “Resurrection Day,” and “November Rain.” They become the top band of the heavy metal scene, specially once follow-up Appetite for Destruction earns even more praise. They had a sort of rivalry with Def Leppard, who eventually brought as a guitarist another hair metal standout, Slash, of Poison.
IOTL: Neil survived the crash that killed his passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley. Once he was out of prison, Mötley Crüe recorded Theatre of Pain, shifting towards glam metal, and featuring concert mainstays “Home Sweet Home” and “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”. Axl Rose and Slash formed Guns N' Roses in 1985, and two years later the band released debut album Appetite for Destruction (which they considered doing with Lange, but he was too expensive), the best-selling debut ever. Slash had previously auditioned for Poison before C.C. Deville was hired - and said band was hated by Def Leppard. Speaking of them…
Rick Allen nearly crashes his car in 1984, inspiring the Def Leppard song “Swerve”, one of the hits in their standout album Hysteria. Released in 1985, it sold 40 million copies worldwide, had four #1 hits and is wisely praised, even being nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. Follow-up Euphoria continues their winning streak, earning them a controversial Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental over among others Metallica. After guitarist Steve Clark dies of an overdose, he is replaced by Slash, who records the band's final album Erotomania in 1991.
IOTL: Allen's nearly-fatal accident severed his right arm and forced Leppard to take a break. Following producer “Mutt” Lange suffering a car crash of his own and a bout of the mumps suffered by singer Joe Elliott in 1986, Hysteria only came out in 1987. It sold 20 million copies and had four top ten hits, with “Love Bites” topping the Hot 100. Clark died in 1991 before being able to record Adrenalize in 1991. Def Leppard is still active in 2016. The 1989 Grammy controversy had Jethro Tull as the winners, and The Recording Academy never nominated Def Leppard for anything.
Whitesnake releases a self-titled album in 1986, also known as Serpens Albus in Europe and Japan. With the same line-up of predecessor Slide It In except for keyboardist Jon Lord (replaced by Richard Bailey), it reaches #3 in the United States, and sees “Is This Love” top the Hot 100.
IOTL: Due to Coverdale getting a sinus infection, Whitesnake only comes out one year later - it's named 1987 in Europe, and Serpens Albus in Japan. During the 3 years that followed Slide It In, drummer Cozy Powell defected for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, guitarist Mel Galley had to leave as a botched surgery rendered him unable to play, and Lord's replacement Richard Bailey was fired. “Here I Go Again” also topped the charts - partly due to the iconic video with Tawny Kitaen, who ITTL hadn't yet dropped RATT's Robbin Crosby for Coverdale and was thus absent. Speaking of RATT…
Stephen Pearcy, frontman for the heavy metal band RATT, is arrested after a concert in Abilene, Texas and charged with violating the state obscenity statute. Jon Bon Jovi –- whose self-titled band had been touring with RATT as their opening act –- takes over for Pearcy on lead vocals, first only to finish the tour and then for good. With the collaboration of producer Bruce Fairbairn and songwriter Desmond Child, RATT's first album with Bon Jovi, Bad Name, peaks at #2 on the Billboard 200, sells 4 million copies, and features four hit singles, “(You Give Love A) Bad Name,” “Dance,” “Prayer,” and “Walk Like An Egyptian.”
IOTL: Despite a Texas concert where Pearcy claims he was nearly arrested, RATT finishes the Invasion of Your Privacy tour without problems. In 1986, Ratt releases Dancing Undercover (No. 26 and platinum, with only one hit song, “Dance”) while Bon Jovi, in turn, sees his band thrive with the help of Fairbairn and Child, as Slippery When Wet tops the Billboard 200, is certified diamond, and has both “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin' on a Prayer” get to #1. “Walk Like An Egyptian”, written by RATT collaborator Liam Sternberg, became a #1 hit for The Bangles.
German rock band Scorpions are huge, with “Rock You Like a Hurricane” hitting #1 and a cover of “Dust in the Wind” leading them to record an album of re-recordings, Paralyzed. One of the tracks, “Weekend in New England”, featured original artist Barry Manilow and led to the brief “lounge metal” craze. One festival they organized, a traditional German Oktoberfest at the Meadowlands Complex in New Jersey featuring a lot of fellow “Krautrock” groups, sets a landmark for big rock events with indoor-outdoor festivals.
IOTL: “Rock You Like a Hurricane” was #25, and Scorpions never had any cover album, only two albums with many versions in the 21st century. The big crossover cover featuring the original artist was Run-DMC and Aerosmith's “Walk This Way”, leading to rap rock collaborations and resurrecting Steven Tyler's band. The big 1980s events were charity concerts such as Live Aid, and singles such as “We Are The World” and “That's What Friends Are For”, all of whom don't exist ITTL.
“Lounge metal” songs included “The Bitch is Back” (Motley Crue and Elton John), “Thank God I’m A Metal Boy” (Twisted Sister and John Denver), “You’re So Vain” (Joan Jett and Carly Simon), and “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” (Poison with a remastered recording of the Jim Croce original).
IOTL: Poison actually did cover “You Don't Mess Around With Jim,” albeit terribly, in 2006 and 2007. Twisted Sister had one thing close to “lounge metal” in covering “Leader of the Pack”. Joan Jett's Good Music album in 1986 doesn't exist ITTL.
Scorpions producer Dieter Dierks helps propel the careers of Portland metal band Black ‘n Blue, whose album he produced and went gold behind the strength of the singles “Hold On to 18” and “Chains Around Heaven”; and the British girl group Bananarama, who went to Dierks after leaving producers Jolley & Swain, and embraced a pop-metal in the late 80s, starting with a “lounge metal”-style cover of Shocking Blue's “Venus” that tops the Hot 100.
IOTL: Black ‘n Blue only hit #129 in the Billboard 200, and the songs didn't chart. Bananarama decided to go for Stock Aitken Waterman after listening to Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Right Round,” and were converted from a self-conscious parody of pop-girl-groups into the full-fledged embodiment of everything they thought they were spoofing. It worked, as the S-A-W produced cover of “Venus” hit #1.
Run-DMC becomes a primarily rap rock group starting with 1986's Louder than a Gunshot, featuring guitarist Tony MacAlpine. The title track contains a sample of Chicago that raises plagiarism disputes. Jam Master Jay is still alive in most of the 2000s.
IOTL: Raising Hell had their aforementioned “Walk this Way” cover, paving the way for more rap in mainstream radio. The plagiarism is a reference to Vanilla Ice and Queen. JMJ was killed in 2002.
Propelled by the good ratings of Miami Vice, Don Johnson has a hit album with No Easy Way Out, the 11th best-selling record of 1986. It has two top 20 hits, the title track, which his friend Robert Tepper wrote for Rocky IV (#17), and “Lifeline” (#3). It remains his only record.
IOTL: Johnson had the 17th highest seller of that year with Heartbeat, whose title track shot to #5. The album is as cheesy as it sounds, and follow-up Let It Roll (1990) is considered somehow even worse. Tepper himself sung “No Easy Way Out”, which charted at #22.
The hit movie //Top Gun//, starring Emilio Estevez, features in its soundtrack REO Speedwagon’s “Highway to the Dangerzone”, Patty Smyth’s “Take My Breath Away,” and Van Halen's “Learning to Fly”.
IOTL: REO Speedwagon was the second band to reject “Danger Zone” after Toto, being replaced with Kenny Loggins (that already had “Playing with the Boys” in the soundtrack). Berlin recorded “Take My Breath Away”, and broke up afterwards. “Learning to Fly” is TTL's version of “Dreams”, one of the hits in Van Halen's 5150 album (which does not appear in Top Gun).
Laura Branigan tops the Hot 100 with the Flashdance song “Gloria”, and the album that followed went platinum.
IOTL: “Gloria” was held off the top spot by Lionel Richie and Toni Basil, at a certain point with #3 being… “Dirty Laundry”. Branigan 2 was certified gold.
Hit movies and TV shows dictate much of the charts in 1984-5. “Ghostbusters” is the top song of 1984. Stephanie Mills’s “Bit by Bit”, theme song for the 1985's fourth biggest hit //Fletch//, peaks at #4, being her biggest hit ever. Rampage, the fictional-bad-boy-band led by Michael Bolton from the TV show Dreams, has a #7 with “Everybody's Crazy”.
IOTL: “Ghostbusters” was #9, with the year's top song being the non-existent ITTL “When Doves Cry”. “Bit by Bit” peaked at #78, with Mills still having her biggest success with “I Never Knew Love Like This Before” in 1980 (#8). “Everybody's Crazy” was the title track of Bolton's last hard rock album, before he shifted to a successful AOR-oriented easy listening career.
Survivor's fifth album Vital Signs (1984), featuring new singer Jimi Jamison and drummer Mickey Curry, is their most successful U.S. release, reaching #1 on the Billboard Album charts, being certified 12x platinum, and spawning two #1 hits, including Grammy winner “The Search Is Over”.
IOTL: Curry only joined Survivor in 1988, and Vital Signs, featuring drummer Marc Droubay, was #16, platinum, and with two top 10 hits. “The Search Is Over” lost the Grammy to… Don Henley.
In 1985, Supertramp releases In the Eye of the Storm, source of the #7 hit “Sleeping with the Enemy”.
IOTL: Roger Hodgson had left Supertramp in 1983, and “Sleeping with the Enemy”, a song he had been working on since 1982, was the lead single off his debut solo album In the Eye of the Storm (1984), reaching #48. In turn, the rest of the band released Brother Where You Bound in 1985, whose lead single “Cannonball” hit #28.
Def Jam Recordings arranges for two of its bands, the up-and-coming thrash metal group Slayer and the struggling punk rockers Beastie Boys. The former's guitarists join the latter, resulting in Magnatar, whose self-titled album is a threshold in metal history, marking the transition of Def Jam from primarily a hip hop label to a thrash and heavy metal one. While a platinum seller with hit songs “Fight For the Right to Rock” and “Bombs Over Brooklyn”. it raised much controversy, from the original title Don't Be A Faggot to lyrics about homosexuality, death, atheism, Satanism, insanity, murder, and Nazism. Follow-up Reign in Blood earns even more praise.
IOTL: Once the Beastie Boys won $40,000 in a lawsuit, they moved to Brooklyn where they practiced their sound, eventually transitioning into a rap trio. Their debut album Licensed to Ill (which the Beasties had considered naming Don't Be A Faggot), released in 1986, is a hip-hop landmark, featuring #7 hit ”(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” - even if its misogynistic and homophobic lyrics are a point of content. One of the tracks, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, features guitarist Kerry King of thrash metal band Slayer, who also released an album that year for Def Jam (even if the label was and still is a rap one), Reign in Blood.
To fill Pink Floyd's contract with EMI, Roger Waters revives the band with the musicians that recorded his solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking, including Eric Clapton. This also results in a lawsuit by David Gilmour once he discovers he was using the Pink Floyd name. Pink Floyd's Radio Waves is released in 1986 to massive success, including the Clapton-penned hit “It's in the Way That You Use It”, specially compared to David Gilmour's album with Nick Mason, *Notochord*.
IOTL: Gilmour was the one who revived Pink Floyd, leading Waters to sue. In 1987 comes Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse of Reason, a smash hit, and Waters' solo album Radio K.A.O.S., with barely any success. A year prior, Clapton had released his best-selling album *August*, source of “It's in the Way That You Use It”.
Stevie Nicks only scores one Top 40 hit in her 1983 album The Wild Heart, “If Anyone Falls” (#14).
IOTL: The album's lead single “Stand Back” hit #5, and Nicks wrote it after listening to Prince's “Little Red Corvette” (which never even cracked the top 10 ITTL). “Nightbird” also got to the top 40 (#33)
Former Go-Gos singer Belinda Carlisle tops the Billboard 200 with her album Belinda, source of two hit singles, “Mad About You” (#2) and “Follow Your Heart” (#4).
IOTL: Belinda was #13, “Mad About You” was #3, and “Follow Your Heart” is the song Madonna would rewrite into “Open Your Heart”.
Kurt Cobain is a successful actor\comedian, who had his big break in 1986, once Bobcat Goldthwait arranged him an appearance in The Lost Episode.
IOTL: The above is barely plausible (the author not liking Cobain's band helps). Even before the POD, Kurt was mostly interested in music. In 1986, Kurt was a poor 19 year old who had formed a band in December of the previous year, and didn't have any resources to leave Seattle - so him in California attempting an acting career is a stretch, specially as he only met the “connection” Bobcat Goldthwait after forming Nirvana.
1984 Grammy Awards
1985 Grammy Awards (OTL winner in bold unless specified):
—- 1989 Grammys
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental: Def Leppard's Euphoria over AC/DC’s Heatseeker, Metallica’s …And Justice For All, and the runaway favorite, Motley Crue’s Appetite for Destruction.
IOTL: Crest of a Knave by Jethro Tull beat Blow Up Your Video by AC/DC, “Cold Metal” by Iggy Pop (from the album Instinct), Nothing's Shocking by Jane's Addiction,, and the favorite, Metallica's album.