This Week In 1980: October 12, 1980
Having never really paid that much attention to the Australian charts of the 1960s and '70s, I'm often surprised when I do look back (usually for the purposes of this blog) to discover many big-name artists weren't the regular hit-makers I would have thought them to be.
This week in 1980, two male singers who had been releasing music for years by that point returned to the top 50 with their latest singles. In one case, the performer had several top 5 singles already to their name; in the other, the artist had never progressed higher than number 10.
Another singer whose previous success in Australia didn't match what I would have expected given her status as a music legend made up for lost time this week in 1980. Diana Ross held on at number 1 for a second week with "Upside Down".
Off The Chart
Number 100 "Touch And Go" by The Cars
Peak: number 62
The lead single from their previous album had taken them to the Australian top 10 for the first time, but this first release from third album Panorama didn't despite coming with another catchy chorus.
Number 99 "Years From Now" by Dr Hook
Peak: number 72
After two hits from Sometimes You Win, this fairly schmaltzy third single from the band's ninth album failed to make it a hat trick. But 1981 would turn their fortunes right back around.
Peak: number 94
While an EP of some of The Monkees' biggest hits could manage a top 50 berth a few months earlier, this single by Michael Nesmith about three homeless people in LA came nowhere close to giving him a fourth solo hit.
Number 93 "Psycho Chicken" by The Fools
Peak: number 51
This parody reinterpratation of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" came oh-so close to the Australian top 50, spending seven weeks hovering just outside in the 50s.
Number 92 "You Bring Out The Best In Me" by Dr Ron Beck's
Peak: number 92
Although it's the track credited as charting, "You Bring Out The Best In Me" seems to have been the B-side of his version of the Burt Bacharach-penned "Make It Easy On Yourself".
Peak: number 84
You might not think Mi-Sex have much in common with Dr Hook, but the new wave band also experienced a flop third single from their latest album following two previous hits. Similarly, Mi-Sex would be back on the top 50 in 1981.
Peak: number 2
"For Once In My Life": number 24. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours": number 50. "Superstition": number 95. To say Stevie Wonder's career to date had been under-appreciated in Australia is something of an understatement. The highest he'd ever charted was with number 10 hit "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" in 1973. By contrast, in the US, 14 of his singles had reached the top 5, including six number 1s. Australia finally sat up and really took notice of the music legend with this first single lifted from his Hotter Than July album.
Influenced — both lyrically and musically — by Bob Marley, with whom Stevie had toured and formed a friendship, "Master Blaster (Jammin')" has a message of peace and unity, which Stevie had hoped to further promote with a joint concert with Bob, but the latter's cancer diagnosis and death in early 1981 prevented that happening. Stevie would go on to become more of a regular in the upper reaches of the Australian chart in the years to come, both in his own right and as a featured performer on some major hits.
Number 45 "Baby Get Away" by Christie Allen
Peak: number 38
In July, Chrisie Allen had reached the top 50 with "Magic Rhythm", the final single from and title track of her debut album. Barely pausing for breath, she moved onto album number two, Detour, with this lead single boasting a rockier sound that took her away from the disco influences demonstrated on tracks like "Goose Bumps" and "He's My Number One". That made sense, given the times were a-changing, but unfortunately "Baby Get Away" could only equal the peak of "Magic Rhythm", which had to be a bit of a disappointment given it was a new song. Follow-up "Swtichboard" missed to the top 100 altogether.
Peak: number 40
While some artists like Christie Allen moved their sound significantly away from disco, other acts embraced a more subtle shift, like The S.O.S. Band, whose debut single "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" is an example of the genre now referred to as post-disco. Incorporating elements of funk and R&B into their club-friendly sound, the band fronted by singer Mary Davis would go on to be a key player in the development of dance and R&B music in the '80s, especially when they went on to record with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis in a few years' time resulting in classic track "Just Be Good To Me". A top 3 hit in the US, "Take Your Time..." had to make do with a top 40 position locally.
Peak: number 25
Achieving what she'd been doing back home in New Zealand for a few years already, Sharon O'Neill cracked the top 50 with this follow-up to "Words". "How Do You Talk To Boys" was so-written by Steve Kipner, an Australian songwriter with hits spanning several decades for artists ranging from Olivia Newton-John and Chicago to Christina Aguilera and Cheryl Cole. I have to say, "How Do You..." isn't one of his most memorable tunes.
Number 34 "Dreamin'" by Cliff Richard
Peak: number 4
Unlike Stevie Wonder, Cliff Richard had been a regular visitor to the Australian top 5 for two decades — and this lead single from I'm No Hero returned him to that section of the chart for a 12th time. Co-written by Leo Sayer, who held down the number 2 spot this week with "More Than I Cay Say", "Dreamin'" was another breezy pop tune that suited Cliff's easy vocal style.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):
Next week: another entertainment veteran scores her biggest hit, while a reggae band from the UK register their first.
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