What an exciting time: the new LACO season is almost upon us! On Sept. 20 and 21, LACO will kick off their 46th Orchestral Series with Beethoven 5, a concert that celebrates the classics while ushering a new masterpiece into the world. The program includes the world premiere of Cameron Patrick’s Lines of the Southern Cross, Beethoven’s iconic Symphony No. 5, and Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 5, known as his “Egyptian” concerto. It’s no surprise that LACO hasn’t performed Lines of the Southern Cross before, as it is a world premiere. I was surprised, however, to hear that the other two pieces have only been played once before on the LACO stage. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 was introduced to LACO audiences in 2009 (as the inaugural piece in their compelling and unique “Discover” format), but Saint Saens’ “Egyptian” Concerto hasn’t been performed since 1985 – 29 years ago! Thinking back to 1985 doesn’t yield many memories from outside my home or school, but then again, I was only six years old. Turns out, though, that 1985 was a notable year in many regards. Are you ready for a flashback?
Two popular orchestral pieces were heard for the first time in 1985, both thanks to commissions by major American symphonies. The Milwaukee Symphony commissioned American composer John Adams, and the end result was The Chairman Dances, which has since been recorded at least three times. 1,000 miles to the east, the Boston Symphony Orchestra commissioned English composer Peter Maxwell Davies, who delivered Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise, a popular work that’s known for being one of the few classical pieces to feature a bagpipe solo.
If you tuned your radio to the top-40 stations, you’d likely hear hits from some of the biggest names in music. Madonna released Like A Virgin in late 1984, and her smashes “Material Girl” and “Into the Groove” were played throughout most of 1985. Bruce Springsteen also had a hit 1984 album, Born in the U.S.A., with hit singles “I’m on Fire” and “Glory Days” hitting airwaves in 1985. Phil Collins’ third solo album, No Jacket Required, hit store shelves in January 1985, and it would go on to be the #1 album in the country for seven weeks, and eventually win three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
Film audiences craved adventure, with Back to the Future and The Goonies filling theaters coast-to-coast. If you were in an action mood, you could buy a ticket for Commando or your choice of Sylvester Stallone sequels: Rambo: First Blood Part II or Rocky IV. Meanwhile, classical music fans celebrated when Amadeus cleaned up at the 57th Annual Academy Awards (handed out in March 1985) – the Mozart film won 8 statues, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.
Those who opted to stay home had plenty to choose from, with laughter being a likely outcome. Five of the top ten highest-rated television shows were comedies: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, The Golden Girls, Cheers, and Who’s The Boss?. 1985 also saw the debuts of many television staples: David Letterman presented his first Top Ten List on September 18th (topic: “Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas”), Elmo made his first appearance on Sesame Street on November 18th, and CNN introduced a new nightly interview show, Larry King Live, on June 3rd.
A couple new products were introduced into the marketplace, with differing results: Coca-Cola tinkered with its 99-year-old formula and released New Coke, but public backlash and savage reviews forced the company to reintroduce its Classic beverage just months later. At the other end of the spectrum, Microsoft introduced the first version of Windows, called Windows 1.0, and the product is still going strong nearly 3 decades later.
Some final fun facts about 1985: It was the year that Michael Jordan was named NBA Rookie of the Year, the year that the cost of a first-class stamp rose from 20 to 22 cents, and the year that the English version of the immensely popular musical Les Miserables premiered (in London). And if you wanted to fill up your gas tank? The average price, per gallon, was only $1.09.