New Book Argues That 1984 Was The Biggest Year For Minnesota Music

It’s not unusual for Minnesota musicians to be on the Grammys’ stage, but a new book makes the case that 1984 was the biggest year for Minnesota music, and pop music in general. Michaelangelo Matos shares more from his book (3:57) WCCO 4 Saturday Morning - March 13, 2021

Video Transcript

- The GRAMMYs, airing at 7 o'clock tomorrow right here on WCCO, are always music's biggest night. This year, Nisswa's own Adrianne Lenker, from the group Big Thief, is up for two awards. And it's not unusual for Minnesota musicians to be on the GRAMMY stage, but a new book makes the case that 1984 was the biggest year for Minnesota music and pop music, in general. I asked Michaelangelo Matos, the St. Paul based author, what made 1984 so special.


MICHAELANGELO MATOS: It was a transitional year, in terms of technology. The cassette had just taken over as the biggest selling medium for music from the LP, and the compact disk was coming in. It was also the year that-- it was a year after thriller, by Michael Jackson, had made such a huge splash. And so many other mainstream pop artists were sort of taking after that album, which was really a collection of hit singles. So a lot of people were making albums full of hit singles, like Prince and Madonna.

- It's kind of easy for people our age to say, well, 1984 was the best year for pop music. But are there some objective numbers that you can point to that make your case?

MICHAELANGELO MATOS: Well, I think so many of the big hit singles from that year that still get airplay, that people still sing at karaoke, that have become standards. We think of a lot of songs as being 80s, just 80s. If you actually look at it, a great deal of those come from that period, from 1983 and 1984. So 1984 itself was just a titanic year for the radio. Pop radio had not sounded that good in 20 years. And then, underground, you had all these things going on. You had hip hop starting to get popular. You had indie rock starting to become its own thing, with its own audience, and also starting to seep into the mainstream. So not only is 1984 a watershed year for the kind of pop and rock and R&B that was already making waves prior to it, but it set the stage for what would be pop in the next few years.

- In 1984, during the GRAMMYs-- Prince had shot the movie, Purple Rain, but it had not quite come out, yet. And you go into that a little bit in the book. I mean, there could be an entire book dedicated just to that six months to a year between those two periods. Because a lot happened in the Prince universe during that time.

MICHAELANGELO MATOS: He made something like six albums in a year. Some of them released under his name, many of them released under other artists' names. And, of course, he collaborated with people on those other albums, and on his own albums.

- Did Morris Day and The Time and Prince not also split ways between shooting Purple Rain and when it actually came out?

MICHAELANGELO MATOS: Well, I think it says something that when Purple Rain began, it was going to be Vanity 6 and The Time. Then, Prince and Vanity broke up, so it became Apollonia 6 and The Time. And then, by the time the movie was done, Apollonia had flown the coop and The Time had broken up. Morris Day was sick of Prince's being a dictator.

- You mentioned a story in the book, where Prince is actually sitting in his limousine waiting to go in to the premiere of Purple Rain, and says he doesn't know if he can do it.

MICHAELANGELO MATOS: He is spooked by the fervor he has created, yeah. I think it's a really interesting, telling moment. It's one of those rare moments where Prince really let his guard down around somebody.

- If you're a music fan, this book, Can't Slow Down, is a fascinating read. I posted a link to it on And don't forget to watch the GRAMMYs tomorrow night at 7:00, right here on CCO.