December 3, 1984 — The Union Carbide plant at Bhopal explodes

The Bhopal disaster (also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy) is the worst industrial catastrophe in the history of the world.

It occurred on the night of December 2–3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. A number of chemicals – most notably methyl isocyanate gas – leaked out of the plant, and literally hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to it. Many of them were killed.

Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release subsequently. Other governmental agencies estimated 3,000, 8,000 and even 15,000 deaths from diseases and injuries resulting from the disaster. In 2006, a government affidavit gave a figure 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.

Union Carbide continues its business today, its safety standards not much improved from 1984.

November 6, 1984 — Ronald Reagan is re-elected President

The 1984 United States presidential election was a victory lap for Reagan, and he achieved the greatest electoral college majority in American history. Four years into his Presidency, he was only getting more popular with the electorate.

Reagan’s second term would be marred by scandal, especially the Iran-Contra scandal, by a resolute refusal to acknowledge the growing AIDS epidemic and by the growing perception that Reagan himself was becoming increasingly detached from the day to day duties of his office. (He was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, but when the earliest symptoms manifested is a bitterly contested issue.) His eight years as President are still remembered by Republicans as a golden age, thus disproving the notion that viagra has no psychological side effects.

President Ronald Reagan poses at his oval office desk

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Ignoreland — R.E.M.

September 29, 1984 — Essendon defeats Hawthorn in the VFL Grand Final

Favoured going into the game, Essendon played hard all day, but nonetheless trailed Hawthorn going into the game’s final quarter. But in that last quarter, they turned it all around, kicking 11 goals and 6 points (a record score for the last quarter of any VFL/AFL Grand Final), and more than doubling their score for the rest of the match.

They romped home at the game’s conclusion, defeating Hawthorn by four goals and winning Essendon’s 13th Premiership. It was particularly satisfying victory for Essendon’s fans – in the previous year’s Grand Final, the same two teams had fought, but the result had been very different, with Hawthorn winning by 83 points on that occasion.

September 15, 1984 — Prince Harry is born

The younger son of King Charles and Princess Diana, Harry (in full: Henry Charles Albert David Windsor; formally: Prince Henry of Wales), currently stands fifth in line for the throne (and gets further back each time he gains a nephew or niece). He is perhaps best known for being the only member of the Royal Family to be photographed wearing Nazi regalia, and for marrying an American woman who was not entirely white – the latter is regarded as far more controversial by the British press.

Despite his occasional embarrassments to the family, Harry is held in high esteem for his military service and sporting prowess. Or was – it’s clear that with his recent departure from the royalty, and subsequent public statements, this esteem is slipping with the British people and media, and Harry may wind up doing more damage to the institution of the monarchy than anyone since his great-uncle Edward.

Lancering Invictus Games 2020-7 (cropped)

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Heartland — The The

August 11, 1984 – Ronald Reagan thinks nuclear war is funny

It was one of those moments that America thinks is funny – and wonders why the rest of us don’t.

President Ronald Reagan, not realising that the mike he was on was live, joked that he had passed legislation to end the Russian threat forever. The punchline, of course, was “We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Now, there are conspiracy theories aplenty about whether or not he actually knew the microphone was live, but he remained stalwart in his claims that he had not, and that was good enough for most people. It remains an oddity in American politics: a shocking gaffe that probably helped Reagan win re-election later that year.

July 7, 1984 — First publication of “The Ballad of Halo Jones”

Originally published in five page installments in “2000AD”, beginning with the July 7, 1984 issue, “The Ballad of Halo Jones” was a serialised story written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson. It detailed the life and times of Halo Jones, introduced as an 18 year old living in the 50th century. Across three major arcs (“books”), Jones matured and took on various careers, including stewardess on a space-liner and guerrilla fighter.

But disputes over the ownership of the series saw it discontinued, although Moore and Gibson had planned six more books of the story (telling the complete history of Halo). And because they have been unable to reach an agreement with the owners of the copyrights, Gibson and Moore have been unable to complete the Ballad of Halo Jones, and are likely to remain so.

May 19, 1984 — “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” peaks on the Billboard chart

An unexpected breakthrough hit for Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” was originally written by Hal David and Albert Hammond, and recorded by them for Hammond’s 1975 album 99 Miles From L.A. Willie and Julio’s version went to number one on the Billboard country music chart, number 5 on the Hot 100 chart, number one in Belgium and Canada, and was a top ten hit in several other countries.

The song was Nelson’s greatest hit in Europe, and Iglesias’ biggest in North America. In the years since its release, it has been covered numerous times, including versions by Merle Haggard, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Alanis Morissette.

April 1, 1984 — Marvin Gaye killed

Marvin Gaye was one of the greatest singers ever to come out of Motown, possessed of a soulful, sensitive voice with great expressiveness and a vocal range of three octaves. Best known today for such classics as “Sexual Healing”, “Let’s Get It On” and his cover of “Heard It Through The Grapevine”, Gaye also used his music to pursue an activist agenda, creating anthems for the civil rights movement, most notably “What’s Going On?”

He was only 44 years old in 1984, when he intervened in a dispute between his parents. Enraged, his father shot him twice – although the first shot was fatal, and Gaye was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. He was cremated and his ashes scattered near the ocean. His father pleaded no contest to a voluntary manslaughter charge.

February 29, 1984 — Michael Jackson’s Thriller is #1 on the US album chart

Michael Jackson’s Thriller was his sixth studio album, and is still his best known and best-selling. It dominated the US album charts in 1983 and 1984, spending most of the year at number one on the charts (and the rest at number 2). It also reached number one on the charts in Australia, Japan, Sweden, West Germany, New Zealand, Holland, Canada and the United Kingdom. Of the seven singles from the album, all were top ten hits, with two of them (“Beat It” and “Billie Jean”) reaching number one on the US singles charts.

The album went on to win 8 Grammy awards, which remains a record number, and in the year of its release, became the best-selling album in the history of the world – a title which it still holds. It is also responsible for making “Weird Al” Yankovic a star, thanks to the success of his parody of “Beat It” (“Eat It”), which was his best selling single until 2009.

January 24, 1984 — Michael Jackson films an ad for Pepsi

In the early Eighties, getting a rock star to advertise your fizzy sugar drink was the done thing. Both Pepsi and Coca Cola got some of the biggest names of the era – David Bowie, Tina Turner, Billy Joel and others all recorded versions of their songs with the lyrics changed to spruik their sponsor’s drinks. But then Pepsi announced that they had won this arms race. They would produce an ad with the biggest star in the world, the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

The ad was shot in late January, 1984. It was never completed and has never been screened, due to the events of January 24. On that day, Michael Jackson was injured in a pyrotechnics accident, setting his hair on fire and leaving him with second degree burns. Jackson suffered extreme pain from the burns, and developed a pain killer habit as a result. It was a terrible accident, one that to many marks the beginning of Jackson’s decline as an artist.