This Week In 1980: April 13, 1980
In my 1995 flashbacks, we recently saw that despite going on to become one of this country's defining musical moments, Christine Anu's cover of "Island Home" failed to make much of an impression on the ARIA chart. Fifteen years earlier, another song that is inextricably linked with Australia's self-identity flopped just as monumentally.
Whereas Christine Anu was an emerging artist, the man behind the song that would go to be considered as something of a national anthem was incredibly well known. So why did his patriotic single bomb so badly?
A song that was doing anything but bomb stayed at number 1 this week in 1980. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen spent its seventh and final week in the top spot.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "It's My House" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 71
The former Supreme hadn't had a big hit in Australia in ages, and this final single from The Boss, written and produced by Ashford & Simpson, was just the latest to miss the mark. Things would dramatically improve later in the year.
Number 97 "Married Women" by Grand Junction
Peak: number 63
The first single released by this Australian country band was their only record to reach the top 100. Apparently, Grand Junction received their break thanks to a radio station in Tamworth.
Peak: number 72
Given Australia wasn't shy of sending a patriotic tune like "C'mon Aussie C'mon" to number 1, I'm astounded this song, which has become almost a second national anthem in the years since, didn't do better on the chart. But then again, Peter Allen only had two hit singles locally - "The More I See You", which reached number 10, and chart-topper "I Go To Rio" - and this was the first of three tracks to stall in the 70s. Written in record time while on the road, "I Still Call Australia Home" received a rapturous reception when performed live, but is another example of a future classic being spurned by record buyers.
Number 50 "A Message To You Rudy" by The Specials
Peak: number 29
Much more successful in the UK, where they managed eight top 10 singles (including two number 1s), The Specials only graced the Australian top 50 this one time. Produced by Elvis Costello, the 2 Tone band's remake of a song originally released by reggae artist Dandy Livingstone performed considerably better locally than the politically motivated "Ghost Town" and "Nelson Mandela", which would both peaked in the 60s.
Peak: number 48
Her biggest hit had come 15 years earlier with the Jackie DeShannon-written "Come And Stay With Me", and after a tumultuous 1970s which saw her battling addiction and an eating disorder, and being homeless, Marianne Faithfull made a major comeback with her seventh album, Broken English. This remake of a song first recorded by Dr Hook & The Medicine Show brought her back to the Australian top 50 for the first time since 1967, and although it and the album were only modest hits in Australia, the project was critically acclaimed and resulted in Marianne's only Grammy nomination.
Number 45 "An American Dream" by The Dirt Band
Peak: number 45
The week's third new entry was also another remake of an obscure song - in this case, "An American Dream" had been released by its writer, Rodney Crowell, in 1978 under a slightly different title. Speaking of altered nomenclature, this cover provided The Dirt Band with their first (and only) hit under that name, but they had previously peaked at number 15 in 1971 as Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with their version of "Mr Bojangles".
Peak: number 24
The only one of this week's new entries that I am familiar with was also the week's biggest hit - the breakthrough single for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Taken from the band's third album, Damn The Torpedoes, "Refugee" became their first top 50 appearance locally, having just missed the top 50 with debut single "Breakdown" in 1978. Tom was involved in some complicated wrangling with record companies in the lead-up to this album, which he said influenced the "defiant" feel of tracks like "Refugee".
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):
Next week: my favourite song from 1980 arrives, as does a song I liked when it was remixed in 1996 (and then came back and discovered the original). Plus, the biggest hit by a guy kids my age (at the time) were more familiar with from Saturday morning TV.