This Week In 1983: July 17, 1983
Reggae hits always seem to come in clusters. In 1993, the charts were dominated by the likes of Inner Circle, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Shaggy, Snow and UB40. A decade earlier, there'd been a good number of reggae songs in the ARIA top 50 throughout the year as well.
Take this week in 1983, for example, when two reggae tracks entered the singles chart at once. One was a posthumous hit by one of the genre's best known exponents, while the other was the biggest single by a male artist whose last big hit had been 15 years earlier (as lead singer in a group).
Meanwhile, there was a new number 1 on the second ever ARIA chart as "Flashdance... What A Feeling" by Irene Cara knocked "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" from the top spot.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "Stand By" by Roman Holliday
Peak: number 71
Their biggest single at home in the UK was follow-up "Don't Try To Stop It", but this debut single for the pop/swing band was their only one to reach the ARIA chart.
Number 98 "Tojo" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 80
It wasn't their debut single - that'd be "Leilani" - but this was the first top 100 appearance by Hoodoo Gurus. The song, subtitled "Never Made It To Darwin", was about Japan's attack on Darwin in WWII.
Peak: number 59
I love a bit of George Benson, who'd scored his biggest hit in 1980 with "Give Me The Night". This single from his In Your Eyes album was co-written by Toto's David Paich.
Number 50 "Bad Boys" by Wham!
Peak: number 9
With two top 10 hits under their belts, Wham! had no trouble making it a third with "Bad Boys", another song that dealt with the issues and hardships facing teenagers who just wanted to party in the early '80s. Specifically, still living with their parents but being "big enough to break down the door". Although the song's writer (and singer, obv) George Michael grew to hate the song, "Bad Boys" was also the duo's first placing on the Billboard Hot 100 - somewhere they'd make themselves right at home in the coming years.
Number 49 "We Two" by Little River Band
Peak: number 49
Next up is an Australian band that'd also become Billboard Hot 100 regulars, with six US top 10 hits to their name. Although, the version of Little River Band that'd become famous thanks to singles like "Help Is On Its Way" and "Lonesome Loser" looked a little different than the band progressing no further than this debut position with "We Two".
Original vocalist Glenn Shorrock had departed LRB for a solo career in early 1982 and been replaced by future comeback king John (no longer Johnny) Farnham. John had sung on the two new songs included on the band's Greatest Hits album - "The Other Guy" (number 18) and "Down On The Border" (number 7) - but that was where the success ended for the new line-up. This track from The Net was one of a number of a flops for LRB, with the band not scoring another hit until Glenn returned in 1988.
"We Two" actually re-entered the top 50 this week, having charted at number 50 three weeks earlier then dipping back down into the 50s for two weeks. Clearly, someone decided a re-entry was too confusing on a chart printout that had only existed for two weeks (never mind the fact that the majority of songs boasted a higher TI tally than that).
Number 41 "Shiny Shiny" by Haysi Fantayzee
Peak: number 3
In the UK, they made two appearances in the top 20 - the other was with a song about John Wayne having anal sex with a Native American woman. That didn't take off in Australia, so for our purposes the group fronted by "singers" Kate Garner and future superstar DJ Jeremy Healy was a one-hit wonder. And what a hit "Shiny Shiny" was - a quirky, genre-defying track performed by two dreadlocked, extraordinarily outfitted pop stars from the Bow Wow Wow/Toto Coelo school of new wave.
Peak: number 29
It'd never happen today, but back in 1983, it wasn't unusual at all for a stand-up comedian to have a hit record. In fact, the year's biggest single would be a comedy routine. After leaving the navy in 1972, Col Elliott moved on to a career in stand-up, landing his one and only chart hit a decade later with this single lifted from his 1982 album, Hey You Bloody Mug!
Peak: number 18
Bob Marley & The Wailers hadn't had that illustrious a chart career in Australia. "No Woman, No Cry" reached number 97 and "Could You Be Loved" peaked at number 95, while "Get Up, Stand Up" and "I Shot The Sheriff" failed to chart at all. The reggae band's only hit single during Bob's lifetime was "Is This Love", which got to number 11 in 1978. Following his death from cancer in 1981 aged just 36, the obligatory posthumous album, Confrontation, was released and spawned a second top 20 hit in the form of "Buffalo Soldier". Recorded five years earlier, the song got its name from the African-American troops that served in the US army during white settlement. This wouldn't be the last time we'd see Bob in the ARIA top 50, not by a long shot.
Number 27 "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant
Peak: number 2
Our second new reggae track is the biggest solo hit for a singer who was last in the top 10 back in 1968 with his band, The Equals, and their biggest hit, "Baby, Come Back" (later covered by Pato Banton). Eddy left The Equals in 1971 following a heart attack and started releasing solo music in 1975.
Things really fell into place for him with his 1982 album, Killer On The Rampage. First single "I Don't Wanna Dance" had already visited the top 50 for two brief stints in April and May, but had progressed no further than number 43. Thanks to the success of its follow-up, it would return in August and just miss the top 20.
"Electric Avenue" was that follow-up and gets its title from the street in Brixton that was the first in London to get electricity. Despite its upbeat feel, the song is about the riots that took place in the Brixton area between the large African-Caribbean community and the police in 1981. No doubt, many of the people who sent the song to number 2 here (and, thanks to MTV, for five weeks in the US) weren't as aware of the meaning behind the track as those in the UK (where it also reached number 2).
Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:
Next week: the arrival of the boy band that set the template for all that followed, the Queen of Disco makes a comeback and a song from a huge gender-bending comedy film.