Let’s Revisit the Scandalous 80’s

Music scandals of the 80’s were relatively uncommon compared to the decades which preceded and followed. There were a few major uproars towards the end of the decade, including the Madonna-Pepsi fiasco and the Milli-Vanilli fraud story. Unlike the 1990’s when rappers were being killed and Brittney Spears was providing monthly tabloid fodder, the majority of the ten year span included few tabloid pleasing storied about Rock ‘n’ Roll stardom.

There were incidents that were given some media coverage but that can hardly be classified as scandals. In 1982, Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for urinating on the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. A shocking, but not truly scandalous event, was the 1984 shooting of Marvin Gaye by his father Marvin Gaye, Sr. While Hollywood seared under the heat of the Rob Lowe’s sex tape and the sports industry endured Ben Johnson’s steroids and Pete Rose’s betting, the music industry was mostly just making music.

However, in the last year of the decade, the media who had been chomping at the bit for musical mischief latched on to the possibility that singing duo Milli-Vanilli were not, in fact, singing at all. First, the singers ran into technical sound issues during their live MTV performance in July. Then, in December, after singer Charles Shaw came forward to say that he was one of three people singing on the album All or Nothing. The duo was stripped of their Grammy the following year.

Just as the Milli-Vanilli story began to lose mileage, Madonna churned things up when she released a music video for her song Like a Prayer which was also being featured in a Pepsi commercial at the time. The music video was irreverent and thematically challenging to standing doctrine. The sensation created by the video, in contrast to the artistic and theoretic musings of the video itself, made for a chart-topping, millions-of-dollars making album and elevated Madonna into the iconic status she enjoys now.

While the 1980’s seem to have a certain music industry serenity to it, there was much boiling beneath the surface. In the early 1990’s, the stories which were being made during the previous decade began to bubble to the surface. The super scandals of the nineties would not have existed to entertain millions had it not been for the quiet petting of the underbelly of entertainment that was going on during the eighties.

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