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The Week in Pop Culture History: If I Ruled Copacabana

September 23, 2010

It’s the 25th anniversary of both Desperately Seeking Susan and Brazil, which made me realize, whoa, 1985 is suddenly a decent chunk of years away.  What else from that year became important pop cultural touchstones that led to where we are now?

Most any “back in the day” hour on a mainstream hip hop radio station nowadays seems to feature Nas (and Lauryn Hill)’s “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” from 1996.  But the reason that song sounded so good when it came out is because we remembered Kurtis Blow’s fifth album America, which came out in 1985 and featured “If I Ruled the World”, his first really big single since “The Breaks”.

You think musical numbers based on current pop songs is a new phenomenon?  Oh please.  Singin’ in the Rain was doing the Glee/Baz Luhrmann thing of taking popular songs and stringing them into a story in 1952.   And before Billy Joel and Elton John started to get their piece of converting their songs into shows, Barry Manilow premiered the musical Copacabana in 1985, which also spawned a made-for-tv movie — with Annette O’Toole!  I was about to say “remember her” but then I remembered she’s been on two dozen seasons of Smallville, so she’s out there, just not in places I travel.  How about this:  remember Cat People??  Anyway, I’ve never seen Copacabana and sadly Netflix doesn’t have it and online sources are pricing it at $40 used; I’d rather throw down $25 for a fancy 25th anniversary edition.   Though the Muppet Show version with Liza Minnelli pops up in my head a lot, too, so this will suffice for now.  This is from 1979, but I never promised you a rose garden free of digressions.

The popularity of Mad Men has everyone interested in the history of advertising, so how about this fun tidbit:  in 1985, Courteney Cox used the word “period” for the first time in a Tampax commercial.

I can see why the Cougar Town star gets along well with the Arquettes — she’s just always showing up in something you’re watching.

And last but not least, did someone say remastered 12″ version of Atlantic Starr’s Secret Lovers?  I thought so.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. evmaroon permalink
    September 23, 2010 3:54 pm

    I regularly and with gusto acted out the story to Copacabana when I was 8 or 9 with my friend and her little brother. It was humiliating to always get shot and killed by a 4-year-old, but I really wanted to be Tony, and my friend Beth insisted on playing Lola. I wonder if any of the three of us ever retold our little compulsion story to a therapist…

    Don’t say 1985 was a long time ago, dude! I was a sophomore in high school! Now I just feel old. What I remember from that year was that Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA was still topping the charts, Brothers in Arms won the album of the year Grammy, all my HS friends wore those stupid jelly shoes, and Family Ties jumped their own shark by airing a vacation episode.

  2. September 23, 2010 3:59 pm

    I very carefully didn’t say “a long time”!! hahah.

    Those people-sized muppets always scared me just a little, while also mesmerizing me.

  3. evmaroon permalink
    September 23, 2010 4:06 pm

    I love that Liza segment. I know we’ve written about the muppets here a bit, but we ought to do a proper homage one of these days. What Henson and Oz put together was pretty special.

    And okay, maybe it’s just me realizing 1985 was a long time ago! Today’s college students weren’t even around then!

  4. September 23, 2010 5:26 pm

    Of course, one of the best songs from the year, from our good friend Huey! Who snagged a chart toping theme from the most popular movie of the year Back to the Future

  5. September 23, 2010 5:30 pm

    This is a fantastic post, Raymond. I forgot to say.

  6. September 23, 2010 7:02 pm

    thanks – I saw the tag “the week in pop culture” and thought: we should use this more!

  7. September 23, 2010 7:26 pm

    it was such a great trip down memory lane. I loved listening to that Kurtis Blow track. Damn, that was great cut. It’s so weird to be able to vividly remember 25 years ago, but still feel kind of young.

  8. September 23, 2010 8:45 pm

    I know, right? my memories pre-1984 are fuzzy, but 1985 is when things started to crystalize for me.

  9. September 23, 2010 9:16 pm

    Ev, my best friend and I had a thing for Copacabana when were were around age 8 (I believe we were in 3rd grade). I remember being vehement that you had to roll the “R” in “Rico.”

    This was a fantastic post, Ray! Posts like this make me feel both old and young. Also, kudos to Snarky for busting out “Power of Love,” which I have mentioned before as being one of my favorite songs ever. EVAR.

    Let’s not forget the great tragedy of Van Halen breaking up in 1985! Also, we got the film version of “A Chorus Line” with Michael Douglas and a super…awesome…score….just listen to those synth instruments and electric drums….

  10. September 23, 2010 9:28 pm

    1985 was a pretty interesting year. No mention of USA for Africa, “We Are The World?” And Live Aid was the other element along those lines, with Phil Collins performing in London, hopping aboard the SST and performing again in Philadelphia! That’s 1980s style decadent charity right there!

  11. September 24, 2010 8:02 am

    No conversation about 1985 would be complete without Money for Nothing which documented the rise of both MTV and Best Buy:

  12. September 24, 2010 8:12 am

    re: Money for Nothing.

    I hear you, Sting.

  13. September 24, 2010 9:17 am

    @sm, That’s the way you do it: blogging for nothing, but your pens for free.

  14. September 24, 2010 9:36 am

    I got to move these refrigerators. I got to move these color tvs!

  15. September 24, 2010 1:03 pm

    Lauryn Hill’s version is great an all, but I have said so many times, I appreciate real joy in art much more than being real serious. Kurtis Blow’s original has a buoyancy about it that makes it hard for me NOT to smile when I hear it. So, so, so good. This was a killer post. I so often get caught up in my response to pop culture that I forget to put it into it’s original context. Awesome!

  16. IrishUp permalink
    September 24, 2010 1:42 pm

    The year Mad Max became warm and fuzzy.
    Still so full of love for Aunt Entity!

  17. September 24, 2010 1:49 pm

    @IrishUp: That’s not pigshit, that’s energy!

  18. IrishUp permalink
    September 24, 2010 1:56 pm

    HAH! I think that line needs to be put back into circulation …

  19. September 24, 2010 2:27 pm

    @NYCPenpusher: I wasn’t looking to capture all of 1985, but more a few choice underappreciated bits that are currently mirrored in what’s happening right now. And I don’t know about you, but I saw that We Are the World remix of this past year and I don’t ever want to think about it again.

    @IrishUp: that Tina video fits right in though as a reminder of when we weren’t all hating Mel Gibson! it’s almost hard to remember.

    @p0plife: I’ve decided that for me personally, “pop culture” is social history + art. Low art, some would argue, but I don’t mind getting low like Lil Jon.

  20. September 24, 2010 2:29 pm

    @eieioj: That Chorus Line clip is awesome!!! Why do I always forget he was in that?? Perfect bookend to this year’s Wall Street sequel, too.

  21. September 24, 2010 2:42 pm

    @raymondj see, and I blocked that “We Are The World” remix from my mind! Gaaah! I seriously forgot about it. UNTIL NOW. 😛

  22. September 24, 2010 2:46 pm

    Hahahaha — sorry, but my brain went there when you mentioned the original!!

  23. IrishUp permalink
    September 24, 2010 2:46 pm

    @raymondj – I know, right?!?! I had a HUGE crush on Mel, bitd. I recently saw “Signs” again, and there is this moment, when he’s talking to the guy who XXXXed* his wife, and he does all these wonderful little things with his face in about 2-3secs, and I just … idk … GRIEVED that someone capable of that should be as horrible as Mel really is.

    *Just in case anyone hasn’t seen it.

  24. September 24, 2010 6:07 pm

    Aww, Kurtis Blow. I love him. I do like the Nas/Lauryn Hill version of “If I Ruled the World”, though.

    I was only 5 for all this! Still watching Muppet Babies and Sesame Street!

  25. September 24, 2010 8:53 pm

    @IrishUp: I recently re-watched Signs too, and just decided I would soften up and let myself enjoy Mel as he was. There were definitely a few moments though when he’d do something in a scene, and I’d just shake my head.

    @Tasha: I would go nuts for a Muppet Babies DVD set.

  26. September 25, 2010 12:02 am

    AHHHHHH MUPPET BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ..yeah, ok. I’m better now.

  27. September 25, 2010 12:02 am

    Also, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” is one of my jams, and a total Hairbrush Anthem.

  28. September 25, 2010 8:39 am

    @eieioj, oh thank god you commented about muppet babies, I got a little scared that Tasha and I were the only ones!

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