Once upon a time, going back to 1985 required a souped-up DeLorean and a bolt of lightning. This month, all you have to do is queue up the third season of Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning Stranger Things.
This time, it’s summer in Hawkins, and the band of plucky kids from the series are dealing with more than just a Mind Flayer — though that’s certainly trouble enough. In Stranger Things 3, young love is blooming under the Indiana sun, and even the strongest friendships risk turning Upside-Down.
Stranger Things is a hit thanks not only to the captivating storylines inspired by the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and Stephen King, but the aesthetic of 1980s suburbia that permeates every scene of the show. Just looking at the Starcourt Mall, the third season’s newest set piece, and you’ll reflect on your best days at the neon-lit food courts and snappily-designed Sam Goodys of yesteryear.
Of course, those memories are nothing without a soundtrack, and this season reminds us of some of our favorite hits from the year of Live Aid and VH-1. Inspired by the show’s newly-released soundtrack album, here are five jams from 1985 we’ll never get tired of.
This Champaign, Ill.-based quintet spent more than a decade turning out rock records with limited success — but everything changed with 1980’s Hi Infidelity, which spun off the chart-topper Keep On Loving You and the Top 5 follow-up Take It On The Run.
In 1984, Wheels Are Turnin’ became the group’s third consecutive Top 10 record, and spun off one of the decade’s best power ballads: Can’t Fight This Feeling. It came crashin’ through the pop chart’s door in the spring of ’85, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Play this at a prom today, and we bet everyone will have forgotten what they started fightin’ for!
1984 was a year for hitmakers that were easily identifiable by one name (Michael! Prince! Bruce! Lionel!) — but that could’ve applied anytime for the woman born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. Madge was the first American chart-topper of 1985, when breakthrough Like a Virgin continued its run at No. 1 from the end of ’84.
The pounding Material Girl was hot on its heels, peaking at No. 2 later that year. Madonna was just as hot off the charts that year as well: She appeared in two films (Vision Quest and Desperately Seeking Susan, her first starring role), began a rocky marriage with actor Sean Penn, and defiantly shrugged off a series of nude photos published in Penthouse and Playboy that summer. As the No. 1 debut of last month’s Madame X would indicate, she has yet to miss a beat more than 30 years later.
By the time you’re reading this, it’s a safe bet that Gaten Matarazzo and Gabriella Pizzolo’s goofy romantic take on the theme to big-budget fantasy epic The NeverEnding Story hasn’t left your ears since you heard it in the new season of Stranger Things. Even though both film and song were released in the summer of 1984, the fantasy-loving kids of Hawkins were almost certainly still spinning it a year later. And can you blame them? That addictive melody, supplied by co-writer/producer Giorgio Moroder, flies even higher and longer than the mighty Falcor.
Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin love Dungeons & Dragons, go as Ghostbusters for Halloween, and hang out with their science teacher after class. They’re nerds! And no one spoke to nerds in the ’80s better than “Weird Al” Yankovic. The polka-playing parodist scored an unlikely Top 20 hit in 1984 with Eat It, a note-perfect take on Michael Jackson’s Beat It with a killer video to match, and 1985’s Dare to Be Stupid, his third album, is still one of his best.
It contains more of his signature side-splitting parodies, including Like a Surgeon (reportedly suggested by Madonna herself) and Yoda, a salute to Star Wars’ little green Jedi master to the tune of The Kinks’ Lola. The album also possesses some of Al’s sharpest original writing, from the unimpeachable Devo homage Dare to Be Stupid to One More Minute, a doo-wop breakup anthem that goes to hilariously extreme lengths.
Love is in the air for Mike and Eleven this season on Stranger Things, so we’re opening and closing with two of the year’s biggest ballads. Fans already knew Foreigner for a quartet of Top 5 albums in America and rock radio staples like Feels Like The First Time, Cold As Ice, Hot Blooded, and Urgent — plus the dreamy ballad Waiting For a Girl Like You, which peaked highest of all at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The stage was set for even more greatness with I Want To Know What Love Is, which featured a typically powerful lead vocal by frontman Lou Gramm, moving synths from Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, and — as if emotions weren’t running high enough — a rafter-shaking guest turn from the New Jersey Mass Choir at the song’s end. (The choir even had their own Top 40 R&B hit with a version of the track.) Band founder Mick Jones later said that the track moved Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun to tears. You’d be forgiven if you felt the same way, decades later.
This article was produced in partnership with Sony Music.