Sunday, 30 October 2016

This Week In 1983: October 30, 1983

Our family didn't own a VCR until around 1986. I can't remember exactly when it was but we got a free copy of The Last Starfighter on video when we bought it, so whenever that was a new release in Australia. 

John Belushi had passed away by the time The Blues Brothers reached the top 10

Back in 1983, home video was really starting to take off in Australia. In fact, a movie that had been in cinemas in 1980 was released on video in 1983 - and, as a result, its soundtrack rose to a new chart high and a song taken from the film even dented the top 50.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending October 30, 1983

Also this week in 1983, Culture Club brought an end to Austen Tayshus's stranglehold on the number 1 spot. "Karma Chameleon" spent its first of five weeks on top.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "Rock Of Ages" by Def Leppard
Peak: number 96
It'd take until the end of the decade for Australia to really get on board the Def Leppard train, but this single from Pyromania gave the British rockers their first top 100 appearance here if nothing else.

Number 92 "The First Picture Of You" by The Lotus Eaters
Peak: number 63
This British indie pop band were the subject of a bidding war following their appearance on one of BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel's Sessions. "The First Picture of You" would be their only UK hit (and ARIA chart appearance).

Number 90 "Popcorn Love" by New Edition
Peak: number 73
"Candy Girl" had been huge, but despite skipping over painful ballad "Is This The End", the similarly junk food themed "Popcorn Love" couldn't repeat the trick for New Edition.

Number 88 "Confusion" by New Order
Peak: number 72
Here's another act failing to follow up a big hit. Released on 12" single and limited edition cassette single, "Confusion" peaked 59 places lower than "Blue Monday".

New Entries
Number 50 "Everyday I Write The Book" by Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Peak: number 40
Sometimes it's best not to overthink things. At least, if you want a hit record, that is. Many of history's biggest singles have been (allegedly) written in 15 minutes - and that was the case with this playful tune, which Elvis dashed out to prove he could. The song which compares a relationship to a novel might not have taken as much effort as some of the singer/songwriter's other works, but it certainly had an impact. 
In Australia, it brought Elvis Costello back to the top 50 for the first time since "Good Year For The Roses" in early 1982, while in the US, "Everyday I Write The Book" was his first top 40 hit. Besides the Charles and Diana lookalikes in the music video, keep an eye out for backing singer Caron Wheeler - who achieved her first chart credit as vocalist for Soul II Soul in 1989, the same year Elvis had his next ARIA top 50 hit.

Number 47 "Shake Your Tailfeather" by Ray Charles with The Blues Brothers
Peak: number 47
This might be sacrilege, but I've never actually seen The Blues Brothers - and don't really have any desire to. I was five in 1980 when the movie came out and still fairly young when it was released on video in 1983. Over the years, I've seen bits and pieces of the comedy film, and I know some of its more iconic moments - like the scene at Ray's Music Exchange. 
Ray is, of course, Ray Charles, whose cover of "Shake A Tail Feather" by The Five Du-Tones was pushed as a single once the soundtrack belatedly took off in Australia. The album had first charted in February 1981 but only got to number 65, a position it reached again in November 1982. It re-entered the top 100 again in June 1983, finally venturing into the top 50 and going all the way to number 10, a position from which it fell one spot this week in 1983.

Number 43 "Forbidden Colours" by David Sylvian / Ryuichi Sakamoto
Peak: number 29
Our final new entry for the week is another soundtrack release - this time from a film that was actually in cinemas in 1983. Featuring Japan frontman David Sylvian, the haunting "Forbidden Colours" is the vocal version of the instrumental theme from World War II POW film Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, which starred David Bowie, Jack Thompson and the movie's composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. I wasn't sure I knew this song - the title certainly wasn't familiar - but I recognised the distinctive piano hook as soon as it kicked in. Ryuichi would briefly return to the albums top 100 in 1988 with his Oscar-winning score to The Last Emperor, but this was David's only singles chart appearance, despite Japan having released excellent synthpop tunes like "Life In Tokyo" and "Quiet Life"

Albums Chart

Given it was a pretty lousy singles chart this week in 1983, I thought I'd take a quick look at what was happening on the albums side of things...

As well as bagging their second chart-topping single, Culture Club debuted at number 1 with their second album, Colour By Numbers, which was a bit of an improvement on the number 12 peak of previous release Kissing To Be Clever. Like "Karma Chameleon", Colour By Numbers spent five weeks on top - but added another two weeks at number 1 to its total in mid-1984 as a result of the band's Australian tour.

While Culture Club scored their first number 1 album, the reverse was true for Moving Pictures, who'd hit the top last time around with 1981's Days Of Innocence. Their second album, Matinee, which included single "Back To The Streets", wouldn't get any higher than its debut position of number 16. Meanwhile, an album that'd been released a few weeks after Days Of Innocence was still on the top 50 this week in 1983. Thanks to the resurgence of "Down Under", Men At Work's Business As Usual spent its 63rd week in the top 50. INXS's Shabooh Shoobah was not far behind with 53 weeks.

Alongside old albums by new acts were some new albums by veteran performers, as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole debuted with Australian-only compilations Through The Years and Unforgettable respectively. Both were released (with consecutive catalogue numbers) by Capitol Records and seem to have come out on CD as well as vinyl - no doubt the unique selling point of yet another compilation by the singers. Unforgettable would be the more successful, peaking at number 10, while Through The Years reached number 24.

No look back at an albums chart from the '80s would be complete without checking out the various artist compilations that feature - and spending its final week in the top 50 is a double album that couldn't be more '80s if it tried: Jane Fonda's Workout Record, which originally came out in late 1982 and had recently re-entered the top 100. Elsewhere on the top 50, there were descriptively named collections called Reggae and Dance Rap, and the requisite hits compilation, The Breakers '83, which had topped the chart for two weeks in September.

Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:

Next week: a brand new single from one massive British pop group bursts straight into the top 10, while the latest from another misses the top 50 completely. Plus, the first single from a brand new Australian pop act and the second duet from a pair of superstars both debut.

Back to: Oct 23, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 6, 1983


  1. My parents got a VCR in '84. I still have one, which I got brand new in 2008. I hope it doesn't die on me soon, as no doubt new ones are hard to find now. There's even a limited range when buying a DVD/Blu-Ray recorder now.

    The 'Rock of Ages' pseudo-German spoken intro was sampled on The Offspring's 'Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)'. It seems weird seeing the drummer with 2 arms in this.

    The Lotus Eaters track, which I hadn't heard before, is good. I didn't know 'Popcorn Love' either.

    I've heard 'Confusion' before, but can never remember how it goes. It's no 'Blue Monday'. I never knew we had cassingles here as early as '83.

    I hadn't spotted Caron Wheeler in the Elvis Costello video before. I discovered recently that the other backing singer is Claudia Fontaine, who appears as a backing singer in several 80s videos, including Marilyn's 'Baby U Left Me...', and a Style Council video too (I forget which one).

    I remember the Blues Brothers being mentioned in the early 80s, but have never seen the film, and also have no interest in doing so. I'm surprised 'Shake Your Tailfeather' peaked so low, though.

    I didn't know 'Forbidden Colours' until it aired on a rage Wild Card special. It's a nice song.

    I can't believe a workout record actually made the top 50 back then! Paired with 'Australiana', it's like Australians didn't have a proper understanding of what a single and an album are meant to be.

  2. "Shake A Tail Feather" is cool. I only discovered the Blues Brothers about 8 years after this (1990-91 ish) when we watched it on video and someone played the soundtrack album at their 21st birthday party. I love their version of the 1966 Spencer Davis Group song Gimme Some Lovin', and also their rendition of Sweet Home Chicago!

    Forbidden Colours is also terrific - a piece of music that really grew on me over several years. I am not a fan of David Sylvian at all - his voice is not euphonious to me - but somehow this collab with Ryuichi Sakamoto really works, even though I don't know the movie it's from.

    Speaking of not being a fan of certain people's singing voices - Elvis Costello falls into this category for me too. I only really like 3 of his songs: the satirical Oliver's Army and the punky Pump It Up, both from ages ago in the 1970s, and What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love And Understanding.