Sunday, 14 August 2016

This Week In 1983: August 14, 1983

There are some soundtrack hits that are so inextricably linked to the movie scenes they played during that you can't ever hear the song without picturing the scene. 

Jennifer Beals danced like a maniac in Flashdance

A song that provided the backing track for a memorable montage in one of the year's biggest movies made its debut on the ARIA chart this week in 1983 - and will forever be associated with that moment in the film.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 14, 1983

Another song from the same movie held down the number 1 spot this week in 1983. "Flashdance... What A Feeling" by Irene Cara stayed on top for a fifth week.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Milk From The Coconut" by Toto Coelo
Peak: number 100
Their first two singles had been big hits in Australia but this third effort, which was less of a novelty record than the other two, was a resounding failure. Coincidence?

Number 99 "The Woman In You" by Bee Gees
Peak: number 73
Speaking of resounding failures, this single from the soundtrack of Staying Alive proved Bee Gees were better off writing hits for other artists until the backlash against them (and disco) blew over.

Number 98 "What You Do To Me" by Carl Wilson
Peak: number 98
Here's another act used to more success - at least with his band, The Beach Boys. This single was from Carl Wilson's second solo album. Worth a watch for the Solid Gold hosts bursting in halfway through and then boogieing off to let Carl continue.

Number 82 "You" by The Radiators
Peak: number 82
They were coming off their biggest hit yet but The Radiators hit a wall with this second single from Scream Of The Real, which may have been a bit new wave for the pub rock band's audience.

Number 67 "Save A Prayer" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 56
In some ways, the chart failure of this fan favourite single is a shock, but it did maintain Duran Duran's flop - top 5 hit - flop - top 5 hit - flop pattern of releases. Of course, that meant a top 5 single should be next...

New Entries
Number 49 "Maniac" by Michael Sembello
Peak: number 2
Here, of course, is the song I was talking about at the start - the second smash hit from Flashdance. The high-energy debut single by former session musician Michael Sembello, "Maniac" played during Alex's (Jennifer Beals) iconic legwarmer and leotard training session in the movie. That footage, along with other clips from the film, comprise the track's music video. In fact, poor Michael doesn't even get a look-in and I was unaware what he even looked like until I tracked down this live performance. "Maniac" was nominated alongside "Flashdance... What A Feeling" for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but just as it missed the top spot on the ARIA chart, it would end up losing out to Irene Cara's chart-topper at the Oscars as well. Generally described as a one-hit wonder, Michael actually had one more (very minor) top 50 hit in Australia, which we'll see in coming months. 

Number 48 "My Boyfriend's Back" by Melissa Manchester
Peak: number 48
Having released music since the late '60s, it was as good a time as any for Melissa Manchester to put out a greatest hits collection in 1983. The album featured a newly recorded medley of '60s classics "My Boyfriend's Back" (by The Angels - the girl group, not the Australian rock band) and "Runaway" (by Del Shannon), which was cut down to just the former for single release. The edited version of "My Boyfriend's Back" was only Melissa's second top 50 appearance in Australia, following 1982's number 4 hit "You Should Hear How She Talks About You"

Number 44 "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names" by Joan Armatrading
Peak: number 20
We've seen on my 1985 and 1986 posts that they weren't particularly good years for Joan Armatrading on the ARIA chart, but it was a very different story in 1983. "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names" became Joan's second hit of the year following top 10 smash "Drop The Pilot". Joan has said that despite the lyrics referring to the destructive relationship between a man and woman, the song was actually inspired by two male members of her touring band who had a competitive love/hate relationship.

Number 38 "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 25
Here's another artist who was having a pretty good 1983... until now. Actually, a number 25 chart position is nothing to be sniffed at - especially for the fourth single from an album. But, when that album was Thriller and its previous singles had reached numbers 4, 1 and 2, the peak of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was a little disappointing. 
Originally written and recorded during the sessions for previous album Off The Wall, the track ended up on Thriller instead. Like first single "The Girl Is Mine", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" didn't have a music video - in fact, only three of the album's seven singles did - but that didn't stop it reaching the US top 10 (a feat achieved by all seven singles). 
Twenty-five years after its original release, Rihanna sampled "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" on her track "Don't Stop The Music" and her use of the "ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sas" hook prompted Cameroon artist Manu Dibango to sue both Michael and Rihanna. The line came from his 1972 song "Funky Soul Makossa" and it had been used without permission. Michael settled out of court. The following year, a 2008 update of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" featuring Akon was released as part of the Thriller 25 celebrations.

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

Next week: two classic '80s ballads you still hear a lot today (if you listen to Smooth FM), and a folk tune that spent nearly nine months on the top 100. Plus, the original version of one of the only songs to improve when it was remixed in the '90s.

Back to: Aug 7, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 21, 1983


  1. 10 years ago I expanded my collection of Toto Coelo tracks from 1 to 3, after downloading the 2nd and 3rd singles. I love 'Milk From the Coconut', and wish it had been a hit for them (though apparently it was in South Africa). It prompted me to buy one of their numerous compilation albums, which was surprisingly good (well, if you like the singles).

    That intermission from the Solid Gold hosts was interesting.

    The synth intro before the percussion comes in that repeats throughout the song is the highlight of the Duran Duran track for me, and sounds quite futuristic for 1983.

    I love 'Maniac' and its frantic beat, matched by the dancing in the video (which is great to watch in a dark room with all of its strobe flashing effects). After seeing the follow-up video recently, Michael doesn't look like the typical pop star; though that wasn't a mandatory requirement in those early MTV days where talent could still win out over image.

    Never heard the Melissa Manchester song. Not bad, but a bit pointless when the original was still so well-known.

    The Joan Armatrading song is one I (re-)discovered from a Countdown re-run on rage. I knew the chorus, but not who it was by. Quite a catchy song.

    My dad had the 'Thriller' LP (before it was massive), so I remember hearing 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'' and liking it. Odd that he didn't make a video for it, but one (not featuring him, obviously) looks like it was put together (by Countdown?) to promote the single in Australia - - and aired when rage did a tribute special in 2009.

  2. I'm surprised that Save A Prayer only made #56. It is one of the best Duran Duran singles, in my opinion.

    Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' is my equal-favourite Michael Jackson song ever - it too wasn't as big a hit (#25) as I might have thought. Still one of the best 80s dance tracks!