Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Best Of 1980 - part 1

JUMP TO: 20-11 II 10-1

1980 was the year I started school. It was also the year of the much-boycotted Moscow Olympics (and the long-running number 1 song by Genghis Khan), The Empire Strikes Back and the disappearance of Azaria Chamberlain.

Thirty-two years later, we’re gearing up for the London Olympics, George Lucas is probably still tinkering with the Star Wars franchise and Lindy Chamberlain has just been vindicated, with the pronouncement that a dingo did, in fact, take her baby.

Village People were big in my house in 1980

In music, disco was on its last legs, rap was starting to pick up momentum and the world was shocked by the deaths of AC/DC’s Bon Scott, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and, on December 8, John Lennon.

My musical tastes at the time were still fairly influenced by what I heard on the radio (Sydney’s 2SM), on TV (Sounds, Countdown) and emanating from my sisters’ bedroom (Madness, mostly). So now, without further ado, here’s the first half of my favourite songs released in 1980...

Number 20 is "Gotta Pull Myself Together" by The Nolans, the family of sisters from Britain who’d had a hit over there the previous year with “I’m In The Mood For Dancing” and whose outfits can politely be described as bright. “Gotta Pull…” was actually their debut chart entry in Australia, where it got to number 3 in 1981 (after reaching number 9 back home in 1980). Long after their success dried up here and in the UK, the girls were still big in Japan well into the 1990s. Must've been the outfits.

The great clothes keep coming at number 19 with “Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl (Medley)” by The Spinners (known as Detroit Spinners in the UK, so as not to be confused with an identically-named British group). The Spinners had been around since the early ’60s, but didn’t find success until they signed with Atlantic Records in the ’70s. The songs in the medley were originally released by The Four Seasons and Michael Zager respectively. Years later, Boyzone also covered “Working My Way Back To You” – twice! Once as their debut Irish hit and a second time with French boy band Alliage. Phew!

The band at number 18 still performs today, most recently on top of Buckingham Palace. Yep, it’s “Baggy Trousers” by Madness. My sister was obsessed with the Nutty Boys (still is), and their cheeky chappy image and pop/ska songs made them appealing to five-year-old me as well.

More sisters in eye-catching outfits (and carrying shopping bags! And riding in elevators!) at number 17: “He’s So Shy” by Pointer Sisters. The trio of Ruth, Anita and June Pointer were in the midst of a successful chart run that would take them all the way to 1985 and their biggest hit, “Neutron Dance”. The group still performs, with Ruth's daughter, Issa, and granddaughter, Sadako, joining her on the road for the past few years - although just this month, Anita returned to the group in place of Issa. June passed away in 2006.

One of 1980’s biggest music phenomena can be found at number 16: “Can’t Stop The Music” by Village People. Remember my parents’ record collection, which I mentioned in my 1979 countdown? Well, aside from lots of ABBA, it also included the soundtrack to Can’t Stop The Music – a movie absolutely everyone saw in 1980. I clearly remember queues down the street from the cinema when we went to see it, then listening to the LP repeatedly back at home. The movie, which is terrible, often pops up on late-night TV and is worth a look, if for nothing else than the “Milkshake” sequence.

An interesting one at number 15, since “We Can Get Together” by Flowers was the second last release by the band before they were forced to change their name to Icehouse (chosen since it was already the title of their debut album). Led by Iva Davies, Flowers/Icehouse was one of the best Aussie bands of the 1980s – and their music is currently being rediscovered by a whole new generation thanks to a major re-release rollout.

At number 14: “What I Like About You” by The Romantics, which was a big number 2 hit for the American band in Australia in 1980. In the States, the song got to a not-so-impressive number 49, but they would go on to have success there three years later with “Talking In Your Sleep” (a song which, incidentally, Bucks Fizz would record for the UK market). As a sidenote, it's worth keeping in mind that "What I Like..." was sung by the band's drummer, Jimmy Marinos - you never know when it's going to come up at a trivia night.

Tartan alert! Number 13 was one of the breakthrough songs - and videos - of the New Romantic era: “To Cut A Long Story Short” by Spandau Ballet, which wouldn’t actually chart in Australia until 1981, but was the band’s debut single in Britain in late 1980. I still don't quite get what's going on with singer Tony Hadley's attire.

At number 12 it’s “All Out Of Love” by Air Supply, a song so saccharine it’s lucky it’s not edible. And here it is, high up on my list of favourite songs for 1980 - which gives you some indication of just how big a sweet tooth I am. Air Supply and their brand of sentimental love songs were also massive in the States, where they enjoyed seven straight top 5 hits between 1980 and 1982. But that should come as no surprise, since if any country rivals Australia for inhaling sweet treats, it's the USA.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s she could do no wrong so it’s no surprise that at number 11 we find “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John, a track from the ill-advised Xanadu. While the roller-skating film has kitsch appeal now, songs like this and another which we’ll find in the top 10 are un-ironic pop classics. And all without a leotard in sight!

That’s where we’ll leave the countdown for now. In the top 10, more Livvy, a “party anthem” that’s been covered way too many times and two appearances by a female-led band who dominated the charts for years. Any guesses?

1979 II 1980 II 1981 II 1982 II 1983 II 1984 II 1985 II 1986 II 1987 II 1988 II 1989
1990 II 1991 II 1992 II 1993 II 1994 II 1995 II 1996 II 1997 II 1998 II 1999
2000 II 2001 II 2002 II 2003 II 2004 II 2005 II 2006 II 2007 II 2008 II 2009
2010 II 2011 II 2012 II 2013 II 2014 II 2015 II 2016 II 2017 II 2018 II 2019


  1. Ooh. A quiz. Um... I think the Aussie artist may be AC/DC but I will place my money on Air Supply instead. Party anthem could be anything. Let's go with "Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc. and I've got a feeling in my waters that you are talking about a Miss Annie Lennox who first found success with The Tourists, then Eurythmics. My fallback guess would be Blondie!

    1. Some good assumptions there (especially the one about AC/DC not making my list). Will post the second half in the next day or so!

  2. "Ill-advised Xanadu"?!?! I'd rather live in a world with Xanadu than without it.

    1. Well, without Xanadu we would not have Kate singing the theme to an empty karaoke room so I guess you're right.