80s Compilation Week 2: Rhino's VH1 - The BIG 80's [1996-2001]

MTV is fondly remembered by a generation who grew up watching music in addition to listening to it.  But when MTV began to transition away from music videos, sister channel VH1 was there to pick up the slack.  Launched on New Year's Day 1985, VH1 played Marvin Gaye's performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" recorded live prior to the 1983 NBA All-Star Game as its first video.  From the beginning, the mission of VH1 was clear - appeal to a slightly older demographic than MTV, a demographic that included MTV's first audience.  In 1994, VH1 launched the series The Big 80's with each 90-minute episode featuring videos originally shown on MTV.  The popularity of the show The Big 80's led to Rhino issuing VH1: The Big 80's CD (above) and cassette in 1996 with 15 tracks.

VH1: The Big 80's became one of Rhino's biggest sellers and a follow-up disc was released in 1997.  More Of... VH1: The Big 80's was packed with 16 songs by the artists handily listed on the front cover.  At the time of the disc's release, VH1 had started airing a second Big 80's show...  More Of The Big 80's.

The next disc in the series came out in 1998 and featured songs from Eighties movies.  VH1: The Big 80's: The Big Movies has 16 tracks including five from the films of John Hughes alone.  The disc sidesteps most of the decade's biggest and best-selling soundtracks for films like To Live And Die In L.A. and Earth Girls Are Easy.

VH1: The Big 80's: Big Hair even features two sets of metal umlauts in it's stylized title - that's how authentically rockin' it is.  The sixteen songs on the disc from 1999 run the gamut from genre-defining anthems to unexpected picks from familiar bands.  Rhino covered the same territory on their Youth Gone Wild series.

Merely three months after Big Hair, VH1: The Big 80's: Power Ballads caused massive shortages of Bic lighters on store shelves everywhere with a selection of mostly Big Hair-inspired hair metal slow jams with a few AOR ringers (Boston, Foreigner, Pat Benatar) thrown in to round things out.

Those same AOR artists were treated to their own disc in 2000, when VH1: The Big 80's: Arena Rock was released as the sixth disc in the series.  And while some fans and critics disagree on whether AOR and arena rock were the same thing (they're not), most folks agree that the disc was a decent compilation of both bands that had survived the Seventies, prospering in the Eighties as well as the new bands of the Eighties that were doing globe-trotting concert tours.

By the end of 2000, both of The Big 80's shows were off the air yet the CDs kept coming.  Released in 2001, VH1: The Big 80's: Pop! is a well-rounded collection of songs that got airplay on radio and MTV.  With nothing too edgy and nothing surprising, Pop! compliments the first two Big 80's discs quite nicely. 

Two months after Pop!, VH1: The Big 80's: Big Hair Volume 2 finished off the series.  There is surprisingly very little overlap between this disc and the Youth Gone Wild series.  In fact, when added to those four discs and the Big 80's discs Big Hair and Power Ballads, fans have a fairly comprehensive 7-disc set of hair metal music of the Eighties.

[VH1: The Big 80's: Christmas was released in September 2001, a week after one of the most infamously tragic dates in history.  HERC will be featuring that disc in December 2013 as part of The Hideaway's Annual Christmas Pageant.]

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