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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1984: April 1, 1984

As a country where the primary language spoken is English, Australia hasn't welcomed that many foreign language songs onto the singles chart. Every so often, however, a single performed in a different tongue has broken through the language barrier and become a hit.

She might not have liked "99 Red Balloons", but a red jumpsuit was another matter...

This week in 1984, a German song that'd topped charts across Europe shot into the ARIA top 50. And while an English-language version had been recorded and included as a double A-side, it wasn't necessarily the one people listened to. Within a week, the single would be on top of the chart.

Before that happened, Cyndi Lauper spent a second week at number 1. Dislodged from the top in a week's time, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" would set up camp at number 2, remaining there for four weeks behind the runaway foreign hit.

Off The Chart

Number 94 "This Charming Man" by The Smiths

Peak: number 52

The closest the maudlin British band came to scoring a hit in Australia - and it's one of only two of their songs I like. Frontman Morrissey reached the top 50 a few years later as a solo performer.

Number 84 "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" by Quiet Riot

Peak: number 84

Not even the title's exhortation to headbangers to do what came naturally could help this song achieve the highs of predecessor "Cum On Feel The Noize". 

Number 82 "Who Kissed The Usherette?" by Don Miller-Robinson

Peak: number 61

This Mushroom signing might only have reached the chart this once, but Don, who'd appeared in Monkey Grip, went on to score films, including Erskineville Kings, and work as a producer.

New Entries

Number 44 "Blue Day" by Mi-Sex

Peak: number 24

As I mentioned towards the end of last year, things weren't quite over for Mi-Sex despite a series of chart disappointments. The second single from Where Do We Go?, "Blue Day" was the return to form the New Zealand band needed. Slightly reminiscent of "Avalon" before it gets going, the synthpop/rock track gave Mi-Sex their best chart placing since 1982's "Castaway"

Alas, follow-up "5 O'Clock (In The Morning)" missed the top 100 completely and the band took an extended break once promotion for the album was wrapped up. Although Mi-Sex have reunited for shows and new music in the past decade, it's been without singer Steve Gilpin, who passed away in early 1992 from injuries he'd sustained in a car accident towards the end of 1991.

Number 42 "I Send A Message" by INXS

Peak: number 3

With The Swing still one week away from release, second single "I Send A Message" had the benefit of being a completely new song to fans and raced into the chart, leaping from 42 to 7 to 5 in its first three weeks to give INXS their second top 5 hit. Like the rest of the album (except for the Nile Rodgers-produced "Original Sin"), the song was produced by Nick Launay, the English producer also behind big mid-'80s albums by Midnight Oil and Models. When The Swing arrived the following week, it debuted at number 1 and spent five non-consecutive weeks there, establishing INXS as the nation's premier rock band.

Number 40 "Hyperactive!" by Thomas Dolby

Peak: number 26

Exactly a year earlier, Thomas Dolby (real name: Thomas Robertson) had been climbing the Australian chart with breakthrough hit "She Blinded Me With Science". In 1984, he returned with the just-as-quirky electronic track "Hyperactive!", taken from second album The Flat Earth. The female vocals on the boundary-pushing song were performed by a singer called Louise Ulfstedt, but it was actually a pre-Fairground Attraction Eddi Reader who Thomas had intended to feature - but she couldn't reach the high notes.

The song itself was originally pitched to Michael Jackson, who Thomas had met while filming the "She Blinded..." music video. When Thomas didn't hear back, he released his own version. This was Thomas's final top 50 appearance in Australia, although he came close to landing another hit in 1988.

Number 38 "Here Comes The Rain Again" by Eurythmics

Peak: number 16

After the tropical delights of "Right By Your Side", it was back to the moody, symphonic synthpop for Eurythmics and this third single from Touch. In the US, "Here Comes The Rain Again" was actually the lead single from Touch and reached number 4 - probably the right decision since "Who's That Girl" and "Right By..." didn't make the US top 20. In Australia, "Here Comes..." became the duo's fifth top 20 hit to date.

Number 17 "99 Luftballons / 99 Red Balloons" by Nena

Peak: number 1

Having conquered Europe with "99 Luftballons", German new wave band Nena continued to storm charts around the world with their anti-war song. The lyrics told the (fictional) story of a fleet of balloons floating through the sky being mistaken for some kind of craft and sparking an international military crisis. In the midst of the Cold War, the topical song blasted straight into the ARIA top 100 at number 17, before leaping up to number 1 the following week and staying there for five weeks. 

The Australian single featured Nena's English revision, called "99 Red Balloons", on the flip side, providing buyers with the choice of which version they wanted to listen to - and I seem to remember hearing both versions played at the time. The band themselves weren't that thrilled with the English version and have never performed it - not even in English-speaking countries. In this English-speaking country, it was the only hit for singer Gabriele Kerner (who was also known as Nena) and her band-mates, despite further success at home.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:

Next week: the last time this female singer and producer had collaborated for a soundtrack, they'd reached the top 5. Could they repeat the trick? Plus, another female singer follows up a recent chart-topping duet with a solo release.

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