January 1 – 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.
April – A Generative Theory of Tonal Music by Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff is published.
April 5 – 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 18 – Ellen Taaffe Zwilich becomes the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
May – Singer Anna Vissi marries composer Nikos Karvelas.
May 16 – The Motown 25 Special airs on NBC, celebrating a quarter century of Motown Records. The most talked-about performance is by Michael Jackson, who unveils his famous moonwalk dance move during an electrifying performance of “Billie Jean”.
May 28-30 and June 4 – The second US Festival is held at Glen Helen Park in California.
June 18-19 – Menudo’s second visit to New York is an even bigger event. This time, the band plays four shows at Madison Square Garden; all 80,000 available tickets had sold out within three days of going on sale.
June 20 – Catalunya Ràdio begins broadcasting.
July 19 – Simon and Garfunkel begin their North American summer tour in Akron, Ohio.
July 21 – Diana Ross performs a filmed concert in Central Park in pouring rain; eventually the storm forces her to postpone the rest of the concert till next day.
July 29 – Friday Night Videos is broadcast for the first time on NBC.
August 5 – David Crosby is sentenced to five years in prison on charges of drug and weapon possession by a judge in Dallas, Texas.
August 16 – Johnny Ramone suffers a near-fatal head injury during a fight over a girl in front of his East Village apartment. Singer Paul Simon marries actress Carrie Fisher.
August 20 – The Rolling Stones sign a new $28 million contract with CBS Records, the largest recording contract in history up to this time.
September 1 – Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of The Clash issue a press statement announcing that Mick Jones has been fired from the group.
September 4 – Phil Lynott performs his final show with Thin Lizzy in Nuremberg, Germany.
September 7 – During a Def Leppard concert in Tucson, Arizona, frontman Joe Elliott refers to the previous night’s venue, El Paso, Texas, as “that place with all the greasy Mexicans”. As word of the remark gets out, the band faces boycotts from various radio stations and Mexican-American community leaders.
September 18 – The members of Kiss show their faces without their makeup for the first time on MTV, simultaneous with the release of their album Lick It Up.
September 20 – The first ARMS Charity Concert is held at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
September 30 – Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott apologizes on an El Paso radio station for the racial slur he made while referring to the city on September 7. The band later follows up the apology with donations to Hispanic charities.
November 26 – Quiet Riot’s Metal Health album tops the US album charts, the first heavy metal album to hit #1 in America. This commercial breakthrough confirms the ascendancy of “glam metal”, which will remain popular with American youth for the next eight years.
December – The Uday-Ustav Festival, a tribute to Uday Shankar, is staged at the instigation of Uday’s younger brother, Ravi Shankar.
December 2 – Michael Jackson’s extravagant 14-minute music video for Thriller is premièred on MTV.
December 2 – Phish plays first known show.
December 31 – The twelfth annual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special airs on ABC, with appearances by Culture Club, Rick James, Laura Branigan, Barry Manilow, Mary Jane Girls and David Frizzell.