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  • Gavin Scott

The first Australian singles chart of the 1980s

Originally posted in 2018. Updated in 2020.

When I started this blog six years ago, I took a look back at the first ARIA chart I collected from July 1987. Since then, I've recapped every ARIA top 50 from mid-1983 (when they began) to the end of 1994.



Of course, even though there weren't national chart printouts available at record stores until halfway through 1983, there was a weekly list compiled of the biggest singles in the country each week: the Kent Music Report, which David Kent had put together since 1974.


To mark the sixth anniversary of me starting this trip down memory lane, I thought it would be fun to go back to the very first week of music's best decade and see what was on the Kent Music Report top 50 at the start of 1980. I even made my own top 50 list:



2020 UPDATE: I'll be continuing to look back at the singles chart from 1980 throughout this year and have added the Off The Chart section to my original post.

Off The Chart

Number 100 "This Is It" by Kenny Loggins

Peak: number 85

It just missed the US top 10, but this lead single from Kenny Loggins' third album, Keep The Fire, flopped locally. The Grammy-winning track was co-written by Michael McDonald, who provides backing vocals.

Number 99 "Arabian Nights" by Dalton Brothers

Peak: number 85

Previously known as The Daltons, this Australian band worked Middle Eastern influences into this track, which from what I can determine was their final release.

Number 97 "Midnight Wind" by John Stewart

Peak: number 97

Earlier single "Gold" had reached the top 5, but this next single from the Lindsey Buckingham co-produced Bombs Away Dream Babies didn't have the same success, despite the presence of Stevie Nicks on backing vocals once again.

The Top 50 Number 50 "Midnight Blue / Diary Of Horace Wimp" by Electric Light Orchestra

Peak: number 48

Australia seems to have been the only country where these two tracks from Discovery were issued as a double A-side, but it didn't do ELO much good, with the pairing not progressing much further. 

Number 49 "Love Will Find A Way" by The Reels

NEW ENTRY

Peak: number 39

The week's first new entry was the debut release by Sydney-based band The Reels, with the bouncy and unique "Love Will Find A Way" finding its way into the top 40 thanks to a little help from Countdown. It'd be a few more years before the band enjoyed a really big single, with the first of two hit cover versions they'd release during their career.

Number 48 "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra

Peak: number 6

The follow-up to this top 10 smash might have been struggling to gain traction a couple of places lower, but it did have a lot to live up to. A highlight of ELO's career, "Don't Bring Me Down" spent its 19th and final week in the top 50. It also happens to have been one of my favourite songs from 1979... when I was four.

Number 47 "Blame It On The Boogie" by The Jacksons

Peak: number 4

Here's one of my favourite songs from 1978, which was belatedly making its way up the Australian chart as the '80s began. I'm guessing it was spurred on by the success of a tune we'll right at the other end of the top 50.

Number 46 "Rise" by Herb Alpert

Peak: number 19

He had two Australian chart-toppers in the 1960s, but trumpet player/musician/record label founder Herb Alpert hadn't been inside the top 50 in over 10 years... until he returned to favour with this US number 1 instrumental. The Grammy Award-winning song will be familiar to hip-hop fans, being used in Notorious B.I.G. track "Hypnotize" a couple of decades later.

Number 45 "Out Of The Blue" by The Angels

Peak: number 29

This 12" release of the No Exit track had given The Angels a third top 30 hit in November 1979, and as the '80s began, the band were recovering from a New Year's Eve concert on the Sydney Opera House steps that had turned riotous, with singer Doc Neeson and bass player Chris Bailey hit by flying bottles and requiring stitches. Bigger things for The Angels were just around the corner, with a new record deal signed in the next couple of months. 



Number 44 "Cruel To Be Kind" by Nick Lowe

Peak: number 12

Another song that had reached its highest position in November was this debut hit for British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe. "Cruel To Be Kind" seemed to have a thing for the number 12 spot, peaking at the same position in the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand. Nick would return to the Australian top 50 in six years' time with "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n' Roll)". 

Number 43 "C'mon Aussie C'mon (The New Era)" by The Mojo Singers

NEW ENTRY

Peak: number 10

Plenty of songs have had a helping hand up the chart after being used in TV commercials, but here's a TV jingle that was subsequently turned into a song. Written to promote the Nine Network's World Series Cricket, "C'mon Aussie C'mon" had topped the chart for two weeks in February 1979. Refreshed in time for the 1979/80 season, a new version of the song, once again recorded by advertising agency Mojo, returned the sporting anthem to the top 10. 

Number 42 "Still" by Commodores

Peak: number 38

The last time Lionel Richie and friends had reached the Australian top 50, they'd gone all the way to number 1 here with US chart-topping soul ballad "Three Times A Lady". Although this track from the Midnight Magic album also reached number 1 on the Billboard chart, its reception locally was considerably more muted, having peaked just inside the top 40 in mid-December.

Number 41 "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Cliff Richard

Peak: number 3

It'd been three years between hits for Cliff Richard, whose last top 50 appearance had been with number 3 single "Devil Woman" in 1976. As well as hitting that same peak with "We Don't Talk Anymore", the Peter Pan of Pop returned to the top of the UK chart for the first time in 11 years and would be a much more regular hitmaker in the years to follow.



Number 40 "Whatever You Want" by Status Quo

Peak: number 22

Also returning to the Australian chart after a lengthy gap was British rock band Status Quo, with this title track of their 12th studio album. "Whatever You Want", which years later would feature in a truly awful ad campaign for Coles supermarkets, would be the Quo's final top 50 appearance locally despite the fact that the band are still together today.

Number 39 "Confrontation" by The Aliens

Peak: number 36

From some well-established international acts returning the chart we turn now to an Australian band making its first top 50 appearance. Combining throwback rock sounds with new wave stylings, Melbourne's The Aliens were still climbing with their debut single, which was produced by Charles Fisher, who'd go on to produce some of the most successful local albums of all time by Moving Pictures, 1927 and Savage Garden.

Number 38 "Rainbow Connection" by Kermit

Peak: number 14

I was a huge Muppets fan at this time in my life, and I recall seeing The Muppet Movie and loving this song performed by Kermit the Frog in the film's opening minutes. On its way to a top 15 peak in the wake of the movie's mid-December Australian release, the Oscar-nominated song became the Jim Henson franchise's signature song - and I defy anyone to watch the clip now and not a) tear up and b) disappear down a YouTube wormhole of Muppets-related videos.

Number 37 "Let's Go" by The Cars

Peak: number 6

Next up, it's new wave pioneers The Cars with the first of their three Australian top 10 hits, which had reached its peak in October. Although written by Ric Ocasek, lead vocals on "Let's Go" were handled by the band's other singer, Benjamin Orr.

Number 36 "Better Love Next Time" by Dr Hook

Peak: number 24

Although a couple of their biggest hits were still to come in the early '80s, Dr Hook will always represent the '70s to me, and that blend of country and soft rock that proliferated throughout the decade. The lead single from the band's ninth album, Sometimes You Win, "Better Love Next Time" also appeared on their 1980 compilation Greatest Hits, which was one of the only contemporary albums my parents bought during my childhood.

Number 35 "She's In Love With You" by Suzi Quatro

Peak: number 30

Another artist who personifies the '70s is original rock chick and Happy Days guest star Suzi Quatro, who'd racked up three number 1 hits in 1973-74. Although she also had one more top 10 hit up her sleeve, her best days were behind her, and even this song written by hitmakers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn could only climb a few more places.

Number 34 "Comin' Home" by The Radiators

Peak: number 33

While my parents liked the soothing tones of Dr Hook, my eldest sister thought The Rads ruled. "Comin' Home" was their debut single, and I have to admit I'm surprised to see it feature on this chart since I would've sworn it came out later. After this solid start, things went down (sorry!) with the pub band's next single, "Gimme Head", which missed the top 100 entirely.



Number 33 "Maybe" by Thom Pace

Peak: number 23

I have a vague recollection of seeing The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams on TV... and then swiftly changing channels, but I don't really recall this limp theme song, which reached its highest point in November. And I'm sure in about five minutes' time I'll have forgotten how the dreary ballad goes... with any luck.

Number 32 "Sunburn" by Graham Gouldman

Peak: number 26

Pop tune or advertising jingle - you be the judge. The theme song for the Farrah Fawcett movie of the same name was a solo project from the 10cc and Wax member, but one that is nowhere near as good as the best songs by those bands.

Number 31 "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes

NEW ENTRY

Peak: number 3

He had four albums to his name already, but it wasn't until Rupert Holmes released this track from fifth album Partners In Crime - and agreed to give the song its subtitle - that his career took off. The song about a man who answers a personals ad from his "own lovely lady" topped the US chart and made the Australian top 3, but after its runaway success at the dawn of the decade, it soon became written off as cheesy. Proving all things are cyclical, "Escape" has enjoyed quite a resurgence this century thanks to its almost constant use in films and TV shows, recently in the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie.

Number 30 "A Little Boy's Christmas Prayer" by Keith McGowan

Peak: number 30

To quote this spoken word festive release, "I just don't know where to begin." What even is this? And, more importantly, who was buying it? With a twangy version of "Silent Night" in the background, radio DJ Keith McGowan delivered this sob story of a tale about a boy who'd lost his parents on Christmas Day the year before. I don't want to sound hard-hearted, but this is the worst idea for a seasonal record ever.

Number 29 "Girls Talk" by Dave Edmunds

Peak: number 9

This song written by Elvis Costello (and later released as a B-side by him) brought Dave Edmunds back to the Australian top 10 for the first time in seven years, having previously visited there on two other occasions. A last hurrah for the Welsh singer, "Girls Talk" was his final hit locally.

Number 28 "Ti Amo" by Umberto Tozzi

Peak: number 25

"Blame It On The Boogie" wasn't the oldest song on the first countdown of the '80s. This ballad by Italian singer Umberto Tozzi had been released in 1977 and eventually found favour down under. "Ti Amo" was one of two Umberto songs later covered - and turned into monster hits - by Laura Branigan. The other: "Gloria".

Number 27 "Beautiful People" by Australian Crawl

Peak: number 22

Like The Radiators, Australian Crawl were a brand new band charting with their debut single at this point in time. A modest success, "Beautiful People" has since become one of the band's best known songs and kicked off a string of hits culminating with the chart-topping Semantics EP.



Number 26 "The Smurf Song" by Father Abraham

Peak: number 22

Proof that even in 1980, music could be horrendous, this novelty single dated back to 1977, when The Smurfs were still just characters in a comic strip and not yet Saturday morning TV entertainment for kids (including me) around the world. Recorded by Dutch musician Pierre Kartner, "The Smurf Song" had reached number 2 in the UK in mid-1978 and slowly finagled its way into the Australian chart as the decade ended.

Number 25 "Heartache Tonight" by Eagles

Peak: number 13

While their previous two albums had both reached number 1 in Australia, Eagles' singles had a much more modest reception locally, especially compared to their tally of five chart-topping singles in the US, including this lead single from The Long Run. Later sampled by Haim in "The Wire", "Heartache Tonight" did give Eagles their best-ever singles chart performance in Australia - surprisingly, "Hotel California" had only reached number 60.

Number 24 "I Was Made For Lovin' You" by KISS

Peak: number 2

Similarly, face-painted rockers KISS had been more of an albums act up until 1979, when they almost went all the way to number 1 with this rock/disco hybrid, created to prove a point about how easy disco songs were to write. One of the songwriters involved was Desmond Child, who we'd be hearing a lot more from as the '80s progressed, and it was one of the first instances of it being OK that a rock group who traditionally wrote their own songs had enlisted the help of an external songwriter. More from KISS soon...

Number 23 "Shape I'm In" by Jo Jo Zep &The Falcons

Peak: number 22

Still moving up on the first chart of the '80s was this follow-up to Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons' breakthrough hit, "Hit And Run". Another reggae-tinged rock track - very on trend given the success of The Police at this point - "Shape I'm In" was the third of five top 50 hits the band had before splitting in 1983, following which Jo Camilleri moved on to form The Black Sorrows.



Number 22 "Stay With Me Till Dawn" by Judie Tzuke

Peak: number 8

Also moving in the right direction was this exquisite tune by 23-year-old Elton John signing Judie Tzuke, who has never managed another hit again despite a recording career that continues to this day. A track that sounds as good now as it did in 1979, "Stay With Me Till Dawn" has lived on thanks to remake and samples, notably a version by 90s dance act Lucid and being incorporated into Mylo's "Need You Tonite".

Number 21 "Please Don't Go" by K.C. & The Sunshine Band

Peak: number 1

Another song that would receive a new lease of life in the '90s thanks to the smash cover version by KWS was this biggest hit by disco favourites K.C. & The Sunshine Band, who surprisingly had only managed one top 10 hit up until this point. "Please Don't Go" would rectify that, reaching number 1 in February.

Number 20 "Choir Girl" by Cold Chisel

Peak: number 14

We've already seen the debut singles by The Radiators and Australian Crawl, and while "Choir Girl" wasn't the first song released by Cold Chisel, the lead single from the then-still-upcoming East album was their first major hit. That's right, like "Hotel California", "Khe Sahn" had originally missed the top 40, peaking at number 41 in 1978. 

Number 19 "Sad Eyes" by Robert John

Peak: number 9

He'd been recording since the late '50s and had previously reached the Australian chart in 1972 with a version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", but this, it has to be said, rather bland former US chart-topper gave Robert John Pedrick Jr his greatest success locally.

Number 18 "Born To Be Alive" by Patrick Hernandez

Peak: number 1

Next up, a former Australian chart-topper that was anything but bland: disco classic "Born To Be Alive", which not only did well here but topped charts and sold millions right around the world. And then... nothing, with Patrick Hernandez becoming the very definition of a one-hit wonder.



Number 17 "Driver's Seat" by Sniff 'N' The Tears

Peak: number 13

Speaking of one-hit wonders, here's the only hit for British band Sniff 'N' The Tears, who have a pretty complicated history thanks to the multiple incarnations of the group that have existed over the years. The one constant is frontman Paul Roberts, who wrote this song, which still holds up really well today.

Number 16 "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by The Charlie Daniels Band

Peak: number 14

One of the best things about the 1980s was that as the decade progressed, country music got less and less of a look-in on the chart. But as the decade dawned, country hits weren't that uncommon a sight on the Australian top 50, especially if, like this bluegrass track, they'd previously crossed over onto the Billboard Hot 100. I got through a minute-and-a-half of this before I had to turn it off. You?

Number 15 "We Belong To The Night" by Ellen Foley

Peak: number 15

As Meat Loaf's long-time backing singer, she'd provided the female vocals on his "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", and on this debut single, singer/actress Ellen Foley sounds just as overblown and dramatic. But "We Belong To The Night" is actualy quite good in a "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" kind of way, without being a Jim Steinman composition.

Number 14 "Boy Oh Boy" by Racey

Peak: number 12

1979 had been great for Racey, who'd scored back-to-back number 1s with "Lay Your Love On Me" and "Some Girls". Obviously, such success is impossible to sustain, although did anyone predict just how quickly the British pop band would fall from favour, with "Boy Oh Boy" ending up as their last big hit. Then again, it was pretty repetitive for a song that's under three minutes.

Number 13 "Goose Bumps" by Christie Allen

Peak: number 3

One of my earliest musical memories thanks to its appearance on K-tel compilation tape Hot Nights City Lights, which my family owned, "Goose Bumps" remains one of my favourite songs of all time. The third single by the late Christie Allen, it was the first of her two top 5 hits in Australia.

Number 12 "Cars" by Gary Numan

Peak: number 9

If you wanted to know how music would develop in the '80s, you needed to look no further than this debut solo single by Gary Numan. Synthpop classic "Cars" followed where "Are 'Friends' Electric?", his recent hit as frontman for Tubeway Army, had led, its clinical electronic sound a sign of things to come on the chart.

Number 11 "I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats

Peak: number 1

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1979, incredulity at an American school shooting prompted Bob Geldof to write this two-week chart-topper. In 2018, "I Don't Like Mondays" stands out as easily the Irish band's biggest hit in Australia - and we're all incredulous at how common school shootings have become in the US.

Number 10 "Message In A Bottle" by The Police

Peak: number 5

It wasn't just Australian bands like Cold Chisel and Australian Crawl that were becoming massive as the '70s turned into the '80s. So too were The Police, who landed their first major hit in this country with the lead single from second album Reggatta De Blanc. In the years to come, the trio would dominate the singles and albums chart with a string of huge releases.

Number 9 "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" by ABBA

Peak: number 8

A group that knew a thing or two about a string of huge releases were up to their 14th top 10 hit and showing no sign of running out of steam at this point. A brand new track included on Greatest Hits Vol. 2, "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" managed to sound like classic ABBA while also feeling completely fresh at the same time. Of course, anyone with half an interest in pop music will know the synth hook from the song became the basis of Madonna's "Hung Up" 25 years later - only the second time ABBA allowed their music to be sampled.

Number 8 "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" by Donna Summer / Barbra Streisand

Peak: number 8

More big-name disco now, and unlike today, when everyone has guested on everyone else's song and has countless collaborations in their discography, this single was an event. The combination of two of the biggest female artists in the world, "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" was also a bit of a wasted opportunity - although the duelling divas recording the duet together, they didn't film a music video nor ever perform the song together live.

Number 7 "Tusk" by Fleetwood Mac

Peak: number 3

Like The Police, Fleetwood Mac had not breached the top 10 previously, not even with any of the singles from the mega-successful Rumours album ("Dreams" was the biggest hit, peaking at number 19). That finally changed with this Lindsey Buckingham-penned lead single from the double album of the same name - and, as it would turn out, "Tusk" would end up being the band's only top 10 single in Australia.

Number 6 "Babe" by Styx

Peak: number 3

Without wanting to sound like I'm repeating myself, this power ballad from American band Styx finally gave them a top 10 single locally and also ended up as their only top 10 hit. Written by singer Dennis DeYoung for his wife, it was not originally intended to be an official Styx recording, but wound up on their ninth studio album, Cornerstone, when its hit potential was realised.



Number 5 "Dream Police" by Cheap Trick

Peak: number 5

Joining the gang in gaining their first top 10 hit at the turn of the decade were Cheap Trick with this dramatic title track from their fourth album. "Dream Police" had actually been around since the band's debut album and had evolved to the point where they felt it fit for release.

Number 4 "Sure Know Something" by KISS

Peak: number 4

Continuing to ride the wave of their popularity in Australia, KISS followed "I Was Made For Lovin' You" with another disco-influenced single from Dynasty and once again found themselves in the national top 5. They'd return there later in the year with "Shandi" and complete a triumphant tour of the country in November.

Number 3 "Computer Games" by Mi-Sex

Peak: number 1

The top 3 of the first chart of the '80s was comprised entirely of number 1 hits, starting with this one-week chart-topper from New Zealand-spawned, Australian-based synthpop band Mi-Sex. On a par with anything coming from Europe, the electronic track was instantly memorable and incredibly timely, with video games like Atari increasingly finding their way into homes right around the country.

Number 2 "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson

Peak: number 1

On his was to spending three weeks at number 1 later in January, Michael Jackson was obviously no stranger to chart success, having already ruled the Australian top 50 with 1972's "Ben", and enjoyed a number of smaller hits with his brothers. Then came "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough", which not only kicked off a whole new phase in his career, but signalled the start of the era of music megastars, who thrived by utilising the medium of music video and releasing event albums packed with singles. 

Off The Wall was one of those big LPs, Michael's first release through his solo deal with Epic Records. Co-produced by Michael with Quincy Jones, it was Michael's musical coming of age, a slick mix of pop, R&B, funk and disco that was packed with hooks. The first of five singles from the album, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" was a joyous burst of energy, defying you not to get up and dance. It also showcased the vocal style for which Michael would become famous (and which would spawn countless imitators): all falsetto and vocal ad libs. Even as a five-year-old, I could recognise that this song was something special - and I wasn't alone.

Number 1 "Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles

Peak: number 1

Before it was famously the first song aired on American MTV in 1981, "Video Killed The Radio Star" helped usher in the new decade in Australia as it remained at the top of the local singles chart for seven weeks across December and January. But did you know it was a remake? Co-written by The Buggles members Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes with Bruce Woolley, it was actually recorded first by the latter with his band, The Camera Club. 

It was the version by Trevor and Geoff (released as The Buggles' debut single), however, that took off, becoming the final number 1 of the '70s and the first number 1 of the '80s. A comment on how technology was changing the music industry, "Video Killed The Radio Star" would be The Buggles' only hit in Australia and after the release of their second album, the duo would call time on the project, but as one-hit wonders go, they don't get more awesome. A fitting way to start music's best decade.

Listen to this week's chart on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):


Next week: A big hit from an Australian double threat and top 50 misses from the likes of Leo Sayer and XTC.

                                                                     GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 20, 1980


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