Summer 1983 Tour Headliners: Where Are They Now?
The summer of 1983 was a good year for music, creating no shortage of concert options. The stages of amphitheaters and arenas were filled with a mix of both newer bands and heritage acts.
Some of them, like the Beach Boys and Heart, were a good distance removed from their last hit record. Others such as Joni Mitchell and the Grateful Dead could tour on the strength of their catalog, thanks to a dedicated audience.
New pairings delivered solid results. Yes found a winning formula with a new lineup featuring guitarist Trevor Rabin and a hit album, 90125. Meanwhile, Steve Howe was finding renewed success with the supergroup Asia.
Stevie Nicks proved that her initial success outside of Fleetwood Mac was no fluke. John Mellencamp was continuing to build steam with his blend of heartland rock, though he was still years away from ditching the "Cougar" moniker thrust upon him by his record company.
Many of those same acts are still going strong today. Here's an update on where 30 of them are now:
Asia had a booming year, performing multiple nights in some markets. Their initial lineup of John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe splintered by the mid-80s before they came back together in 2006 for a complete reunion. Howe departed again in 2013 and Wetton died at the beginning of 2017. The band remains active, featuring a revised lineup anchored by Downes and Palmer.
The Beach Boys weathered the tragic death of drummer Dennis Wilson at the end of 1983 but continued forward. Carl Wilson's death in the late '90s ushered in an era in which the group mainly featured Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, surrounded by touring personnel. Surviving members of the classic lineup reunited for a 2012 tour celebrating their 50th anniversary, but it wouldn’t become permanent. Brian Wilson and fellow legacy member Al Jardine continue to appear separately from Love’s and the Beach Boys.
Blue Oyster Cult
The power of “more cowbell” put Blue Oyster Cult into arenas and sheds long before Saturday Night Live paid tribute with their humorous sketch. These days, the band still features Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma at the core. They’re playing much smaller venues at the club and theater level, focusing on a series of legacy projects outside of their touring obligations. Blue Oyster Cult also continued to release new music.
David Bowie made a major return to commercial form with 1983’s Let’s Dance. The massive Serious Moonlight tour kept him out on the road through the end of 1983. Bowie continued working in the decades that followed, though health issues caused him to retire from the road in 2004. His final studio album, Blackstar, arrived in early 2016 – then Bowie died from complications of cancer just two days later.
Jackson Browne was nearing the end of his platinum era, highlighted by 1977’s seven-million-selling Running on Empty. The 1983 LP Lawyers in Love would be his final million seller, though Browne remained a popular draw because of his substantial catalog of fan favorites. His more recent releases included 2021's Downhill From Everywhere, which followed a pair of Top 20 hits.
The self-proclaimed “rock 'n' roll band with horns” largely jettisoned them in favor of synths and drum programming as the ‘80s progressed. Still, working with producer David Foster proved to be a winning formula as they found renewed success with 1982’s Chicago 16. The 1984 follow-up Chicago 17 marked their swan song with vocalist Peter Cetera, who went solo, but it wasn’t the end. Chicago still features original members Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane and Jimmy Pankow, and continues to regularly tour decades later.
Still playing shows with a label-issued last name, John Mellencamp wasn't able to finally ditch "Cougar" until he put out 1991’s Whenever We Wanted. He has increasingly followed his muse in more recent years while spending much of his time painting when he’s not on tour. Mellencamp also remains dedicated to Farm Aid, the charity he launched with Neil Young and Willie Nelson in the ‘80s.
Eric Clapton’s Money and Cigarettes album arrived in 1983, a few years before he started to enjoy a commercial resurgence. He still managed a Top 40 hit with “I’ve Got a Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart.” Further chart success followed with subsequent albums, particularly 1989’s Journeyman. A celebrated appearance on MTV’s Unplugged series introduced Clapton to new generations of fans around the same time that the poignant “Tears in Heaven” became a big hit. He's generated controversy in recent years with pandemic-related comments and even released several songs devoted to the subject.
The early ‘80s were challenging times for Peter Gabriel, who enlisted his former Genesis bandmates to help bail out his floundering WOMAD charity. But he continued to fill concert venues, and 1986’s So made him a household name as a solo artist. After the singularly titled Us in 1992, Gabriel’s output would become more sporadic. He still toured fairly regularly, including a co-headlining bill with Sting in 2016. New music finally began arriving again in 2023. Gabriel issued new songs connected to each new full-moon cycle from his long-gestating i/o album.
Three years removed from their most recent studio album, 1980’s Go to Heaven, the Grateful Dead were back on the road in 1983. Four years later, In the Dark gave the band their first (and only) Top 40 hit with the catchy “Touch of Grey.” Tragedy struck in 1995 when Jerry Garcia died. Surviving members of the group have toured with several subsequent configurations, most recently as Dead and Company featuring John Mayer.
Hall & Oates
After navigating periods of highs and lows in the ‘70s, Daryl Hall and John Oates found themselves flush with an overwhelming amount of success in the ‘80s. They would pause in late ‘83 to take stock of those highlights with the Rock ‘n Soul Part 1 collection, before dropping another mammoth album, 1984’s Big Bam Boom. These days, they work together in concert while releasing new music individually. Hall & Oates was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
Things sputtered out for Heart in the early '80s with the ongoing lukewarm reception to their more recent albums, including Passionworks from 1983. Teaming up with producer Ron Nevison and enlisting outside songwriters, Ann and Nancy Wilson opened a new chapter of multi-platinum success with 1985’s Heart. They released two more albums before deciding to shift to a less commercial sound in the early ‘90s. Collaborations with members of groups like Alice in Chains and Led Zeppelin were among the highlights of that decade. Though Heart reached the 50-year milestone in 2023, the Wilson sisters have been mostly focused on their careers recently.
Iron Maiden roared right back after releasing 1982’s Number of the Beast, their first album with vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The World Piece tour in support of 1983’s Piece of Mind did big business and they’d work steadily for the remainder of the decade. Dickinson parted ways with Maiden in the early ‘90s, then returned to the lineup in 1999. They have continued to record and tour regularly while branching out into additional ventures – including their line of beers.
Journey followed 1981's 10-million-selling Escape with Frontiers, which moved over six million copies in 1983. Their success was driven by seemingly tireless road work, although it wouldn’t last. Vocalist Steve Perry broke away to record his first solo album, 1984’s Street Talk, then was only part of two more Journey albums – spaced a decade apart. Since 1998, Journey has toured minus Perry, first with vocalist Steve Augeri and later with Arnel Pineda, who remains with the group.
Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks might have them all beat when it comes to brothers who battle. That friction helped to engineer a series of classic albums and singles, though touring was difficult in the early days. Dave Davies later said he felt they finally found their footing in the ‘80s as the Kinks performed in large arenas like the Spectrum in Philadelphia and the L.A. Forum. The brothers eventually parted ways, seemingly for the final time as a performing entity, following 1993’s Phobia. Both have worked on solo releases since then, while also hinting at the possibility of new Kinks music in more recent years.
High Adventure paired Loggins with Journey's Steve Perry in 1982 for "Don't Fight It," a Top 20 hit. By then, however, Loggins had already become the “Soundtrack King” of the ‘80s, scoring hits like “I’m Alright” from 1980’s Caddyshack, the title track to 1984’s Footloose and 1986’s “Danger Zone” from Top Gun. As the hits continued to pile up, Loggins eventually shifted to more of an organic, acoustically driven focus in the early ‘90s. After he released a memoir, 2022’s Still Alright, Loggins announced his This Is It farewell tour.
There was a long road before they cracked the U.S. with 1980’s Loverboy, they found it was worth the wait. Loverboy sold seven million copies of their debut in the U.S. and Canada. Their third album, 1983’s Keep It Up, added “Hot Girls in Love” to a growing list of hit singles. Loverboy's commercial viability faded near the end of the ‘80s, but they’ve remained a solid live draw. In recent years, the band has shared stages with REO Speedwagon and Foreigner.
Joni Mitchell’s long and winding career began when she was a pioneering influence for future songwriters, starting with her work in the late '60s. By the '80s, she'd moved to a new label, released 1982's Wild Things Run Fast on Geffen Records. "(You're So Square) Baby, I Don't Care" would be her highest charting single in years, but also one of her last. She retired after suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2015, before making a miraculous return. She began by holding informal get-togethers in her home that became known as Joni Jams. A surprise appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 2022 marked her first public performance since 2013. She followed that with a headlining concert in the summer of 2023.
Eddie Money’s blue-collar vibe and visible sense of humor always made him a great hang. By 1983, he was about to release Where’s The Party, his fifth studio album and the follow-up to 1982’s platinum No Control. Things got a bit lean at certain points in the ‘80s, but he remained a steady draw. Right Here featured Money’s final Top 40 hit, 1991’s “I’ll Get By.” He spent the later years of his career playing clubs and theaters but created a yearly tradition by opening the Detroit-area amphitheater Pine Knob Music Theatre as its first headliner each season. Money died in 2019 following a battle with cancer.
The Moody Blues’ unexpected success with 1967’s Days of Future Passed made them a popular draw throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. They experienced a second wave of popularity in part with early '80s singles like "The Voice" and "Gemini Dream," then kept the momentum going in the middle part of the decade with “Your Wildest Dreams” and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere.” They featured a connected story through their respective videos and received substantial play on radio and MTV. A symphony performance at Denver’s Red Rocks at the beginning of the ‘90s led tours that found the Moody Blues playing with local orchestras. The group halted following the deaths of Ray Thomas and Graeme Edge, as Justin Hayward and John Lodge opted to tour separately.
Stevie Nicks' solo career got off to a hot start with 1981’s chart-topping Bella Donna, which demonstrated her viability outside of Fleetwood Mac while establishing a place to put her overflow of songs. The Wild Heart kept things going in 1983 with three additional Top 40 singles, including "Stand Back." In the years that followed, Nick continued alternating between solo and Fleetwood Mac projects. She’s also toured with a number of her ‘80s contemporaries, including Don Henley, Tom Petty. In 2023, she played stadiums with Billy Joel.
This was the last big year for the Police, as their internal conflict led to their split just a few years later. They played a mix of arenas and stadiums in 1983's touring cycle in support of Synchronicity, then focused on solo work in the decades that followed. There's been only one reunion, as Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland played more than 150 shows over two years beginning in 2007.
Linda Ronstadt rose to singer-songwriting fame in the ‘70s and ‘80s, then became more exploratory by recording a trio of standards albums with bandleader Nelson Riddle, starting with 1983’s What’s New. A tribute to her Spanish heritage followed with 1987’s Canciones de Mi Padre. By 1989, she was back working in more traditional territory with Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind. Ronstadt retired from singing in 2011 then later revealed that she'd been diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease that was initially thought to be Parkinson’s. Later projects included a memoir and two documentary films.
Carlos Santana might have seemed like a man out of time in the ‘80s, but his relentless creativity kept him continuously engaged. He made solo albums throughout the decade, as well as band releases with his namesake group. The ‘90s brought a new wave of popularity as Santana released 1999’s Supernatural, an album of collaborations overseen by Arista’s Clive Davis. The album sold more than 15 million copies. He later reunited with surviving members of the classic Santana lineup for a 2016 studio album, Santana IV, and continues to regularly tour and record.
Southside Johnny Lyon began working with Steven Van Zandt in the early ‘70s. The pairing brought closer ties with Bruce Springsteen, and Lyon eventually recorded some of his material – including “The Fever.” He branched out in 1983 to work with Nile Rodgers on 1983's Trash It Up, but like Springsteen, Lyon has never been shy about paying tribute to his influences. That retro feel helped make him a popular figure on the concert trail, where he can still be found with his longtime associates, the Jukes.
Rick Springfield made acting a Plan B after his musical career failed to ignite in the ‘70s. By the time he secured the popular role as Dr. Noah Drake on the General Hospital soap opera, however, he'd already scored a hit with 1980’s Working Class Dog. Then “Jessie’s Girl” went to No. 1, driven by radio airplay as well as support from the fledgling MTV video-music channel. He scored another hit in 1983 with "Affair of the Heart" from Living in Oz. Springfield ended up taking most of the ‘90s off before releasing 1999’s Karma and has since frequently released new music. He also wrote a memoir and two fiction novels.
Joe Walsh never seems to be at creative loose ends. He worked with James Gang and Barnstorm before going solo, then joined the Eagles. Walsh went solo again after the group fell apart, and 1981's There Goes the Neighborhood and 1983's You Bought It - You Name It showed his trademark sense of humor was intact. He later took part in the Eagles' surprise reunion, released 2012's Top 20 hit Analog Man, then briefly returned to the James Gang as part of a tribute to the Foo Fighters' late drummer Taylor Hawkins, an avowed fan.
Chris Squire was the only constant member of Yes until his passing in 2015. He was joined in the 1983 edition of the band by Jon Anderson (who was back in the mix after an album away) and Trevor Rabin (stepping in for Steve Howe, who was busy with Asia). They had smashing success with 90125, but members continued to come and go. Howe returned in 2008, just as Anderson exited. Squire passed away and then Alan White died in 2022. Howe became the group's leader and continues with a lineup that includes keyboardist Geoff Downes, a member of the 1980-81 lineup who rejoined the band in 2011.
The early ‘80s found Neil Young at odds with his Geffen Records, as he delivered a series of polarizing albums like 1983’s Trans. He shifted to Reprise beginning with 1988’s This Note’s for You, then returned to radio with Freedom the following year. In the decades since, Young has worked at times with his longtime band Crazy Horse and in other configurations, depending on his creative mood. He’s been focused also on releasing a wealth of previously unreleased albums for more than a decade via his Neil Young Archives initiative.
Few bands adapted to the changing tides of the ‘80s more naturally than ZZ Top. They went global with 1983's Eliminator, thanks to the album's MTV-ready sheen. A ‘90s record deal with RCA Records didn’t pan out, partly due to the musical shift happening at that time. ZZ Top kept at it, eventually pairing up with producer Rick Rubin in 2012 for the well-received La Futura. No other albums have followed, though Billy Gibbons has made several records outside of the group. Dusty Hill died in 2021, but ZZ Top continued with Elwood Francis in Hill’s place.