5 Summer Rock Hits from 1984, the 40th Anniversary Edition

The summer of 1984 was a behemoth season for rock and roll.

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Bruce Springsteen, Prince, and Van Halen all released defining albums. Meanwhile, U2 began their long relationship with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, which resulted in their biggest hit at the time.

With the commercial success of Duran Duran and Depeche Mode, synthesizers and drum machines became ubiquitous in rock bands. However, glam metal outfits like Twisted Sister and Ratt stuck to the basics and created enduring MTV moments around an uncomfortable dining table and stuffy adults to rebel against.

Night Ranger released “Sister Christian” as a single in March, and it climbed the charts during the summer. Also, The Cars released a lush ballad called “Drive,” which became their highest-charting single.

Bon Jovi had their own keyboard hit with “Runaway” in 1984, but they were still two years from “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

So, taking you back 40 years to the summer of 1984, here’s a list of hits from the same year Mary Lou Retton scored a perfect 10 for the U.S. during the Olympic games, author Truman Capote died, and Happy Days ended an 11-season run for Arthur Fonzarelli and friends.

Forget about Dr. Everything’ll-Be-Alright and crank up this 1984 playlist instead.

“Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince and the Revolution

“Let’s Go Crazy” opens Prince’s 1984 masterpiece Purple Rain, and it still sounds like the second coming of Jimi Hendrix. Released on July 18, 1984, Prince and the Revolution mastered the Linn drum machine and created a funk-rock anthem that eulogized “this thing called life.” Prince closes the song with a fury of a guitar solo, and if life is fleeting, Prince is going out with a wah-wah-soaked bang.

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word, life
It means forever, and that’s a mighty long time

“Round and Round” by Ratt

How many glam metal bands from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip referenced Shakespeare? Stephen Pearcy alludes to The Bard’s most famous romantics during Ratt’s biggest hit “Round and Round.” The music video featuring Milton Berle became one of MTV’s most iconic from the era. It returned to streaming TV screens through a 2020 Geico commercial when a couple inside their newly purchased home reveals they have a “Ratt problem.”

Like Romeo to Juliet
Time and time, I’m gonna make you mine
I’ve had enough; we’ve had enough
“It’s all the same,” she said

“Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2

When The Unforgettable Fire landed on American shores, a bunch of guitarists decided life was no longer tenable without a delay pedal. Released in the waning days of summer, “Pride (In the Name of Love)” became U2’s first U.S. hit. Bono initially wrote the song as a protest against President Reagan’s arrogance during the Cold War but later built the lyrics around the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At this point in the Irish band’s career, their earnestness was charming.

Early evening, April four
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

“Panama” by Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen, then the world’s greatest rock guitar player, wrote his biggest hit “Jump” on a synthesizer. However, Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, was more than the guitarist’s experimentation with new wave. In June of ’84, Van Halen released “Panama,” which assured listeners he didn’t sell his guitar to buy the synth. It also marked the end of the David Lee Roth era, who left the group the following year. Apart from the scorching guitar solo, sit back and enjoy Roth’s Gazzarri’s bathroom wall poetry.

Jump back, what’s that sound?
Here she comes, full blast and top-down
Hot shoe, burnin’ down the avenue
Model citizen, zero discipline

“Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen

The Boss built a songwriting career on wistful tales about the “everyday man” in a small town, boomboxes in the backyard, sunrises and sunsets, sad and empty streets, cars going somewhere, anywhere but here, and fireworks. “Dancing in the Dark” was the first single from Springsteen’s masterpiece Born in the U.S.A. This New Jersey anthem is the blueprint for The War on Drugs. You can distill the overarching sentiment of Springsteen’s vast catalog in one lyric: There’s something happening somewhere. Baby, I just know that there is. If you were ever curious about what a perfect song sounds like, this is it.

I get up in the evenin’
And I ain’t got nothin’ to say
I come home in the mornin’
I go to bed feelin’ the same way

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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