ZTT Records is founded.
The Merchant Ivory film Heat and Dust is released. On the soundtrack, composed by Zakir Hussain, Ivory is featured on tanpura with Hussain (who also appeared in the film) on tabla.
January 8 – The UK singles chart is tabulated from this week forward by The Gallup Organization. In 1984 electronic terminals will be used in selected stores to gather sales information, and the old “sales diary” method will be gradually phased out over the next few years.
February 2 – “Menudomania” comes to New York as 3,500 screaming girls crowd Kennedy Airport to catch a glimpse of Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, who are playing six sold-out shows at the Felt Forum.
February 11 – The Rolling Stones concert film Let’s Spend the Night Together opens in New York.
February 13 – Marvin Gaye performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the NBA All-Star Game.
February 26 – Michael Jackson’s Thriller album hits #1 on the US charts, the first of thirty-seven (non-consecutive) weeks it would spend there on its way to becoming the biggest-selling album of all time.
February 28 – U2 releases their 3rd album War which debuts at #1 in the UK and produces the band’s first international hit single.
March 2 – Compact discs go on sale in the United States. They had first been released in Japan the previous October.
March 4 – Neil Young cancels the remainder of his tour after collapsing backstage in Louisville, Kentucky, after playing for seventy-five minutes.
A Generative Theory of Tonal Music by Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff is published.
US Interior Secretary James G. Watt causes controversy when he effectively bans the Beach Boys from a return performance at the Fourth of July festivities in Washington, announcing that Wayne Newton would perform instead. Watt claims that rock bands attract “the wrong element”. That same week President Reagan, himself an avowed Beach Boys fan, presents Watt with a plaster foot with a hole in it, symbolizing that Watt had shot himself in the foot.
April 11 – Dave Mustaine is fired from Metallica just as the band is set to begin recording its début album. He is replaced by Kirk Hammett.
April 14 – David Bowie releases Let’s Dance, his first album since parting ways with RCA Records and his fifteenth studio album overall. With its deliberate shift to mainstream dance-rock, it would become Bowie’s biggest commercial success, at 10.7 million copies sold worldwide. Bowie, however, would experience a critical downturn for the next ten years as a result of his perceived obligation to continue appealing to fans of the album.
April 18 – Ellen Taaffe Zwilich becomes the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music.