This Week In 1983: August 21, 1983
Easy listening station Smooth FM is currently Sydney's most listened to radio station. My parents have it on constantly and whenever I'm there I always hear something I love from the '80s. The other day it was Stephanie Mills' "Never Knew Love Like This Before" and "These Dreams" by Heart.
This week in 1983, two ballads you could pretty much guarantee to hear on Smooth FM reasonably regularly made their debut on the ARIA chart. One was what we'd come to expect from the male singer in question, the other was somewhat of a change of direction for the band behind it.
There was a changing of the guard at the number 1 spot this week in 1983, as "Flashdance... What A Feeling" made way for "Australiana" by Austen Tayshus... for the time being.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 89
It would get a second lease of life in 1985, but despite flopping twice, this double A-side synthpop 12" single still sounds great - and was a highlight of Berlin's recent Australian tour.
Number 73 "Pieces Of Ice" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 73
She'd started the decade with some of her biggest solo (and duet) hits in Australia, but this forgettable US top 40 single saw Ms Ross back in the pop wilderness as far as local fans were concerned.
Number 50 "Maggie" by Foster & Allen
Peak: number 17
It was a bit of a week for big ballad hits - and it doesn't get more easy listening than this, although I doubt "Maggie" would crop up on Smooth FM. The song was an adaptation of folk tune "When You And I Were Young, Maggie", which had been first recorded in 1905 but dated back even earlier than that. Although this version by Irish duo Mick Foster and Troy Allen didn't get any further than number 17 (a spot it held for four non-consecutive weeks), it stayed in the top 50 well into 1984, by which point every grandmother in the country must have had a copy.
Number 45 "Maxine" by Sharon O'Neill
Peak: number 16
From "Maggie" we move now to "Maxine", a tune about a very different kind of girl. The song and its pretty depressing music video tell the story of a prostitute in Sydney's Kings Cross, and the dark tale provided New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Sharon O'Neill with her biggest hit locally. "Maxine" also reached number 16 back home in NZ for Sharon, who started her music career there with hits including a duet with future Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens.
Number 44 "Show Me Some Discipline" by Sunnyboys
Peak: number 44
Their last single, "This Is Real", had missed the top 100 completely, but Sydney's Sunnyboys were back in the top 50 for the fourth time with this single that would be included on their upcoming third album, Get Some Fun. Not as catchy as "Happy Man", "Alone With You" or "You Need A Friend", "Show Me Some Discipline" was accordingly a lesser hit.
Number 43 "Temptation" by Heaven 17
Peak: number 38
When The Human League split in two in 1980, Heaven 17 was the other group formed by departing members Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware. Together with vocalist Glenn Gregory, they'd released a series of critically well received singles while their now much poppier former band hit number 1 around the world with "Don't You Want Me". But Heaven 17 had their own pop smash up their sleeve, and "Temptation" gave the trio a UK number 2 hit and their first Australian top 50 entry.
Thanks to wailing guest vocals by Carol Kenyon and the presence of a 60-piece orchestra, the song's inherent drama was ramped up even more, resulting in one of the decade's most exciting synthpop releases. Nine years later, Brothers In Rhythm gave "Temptation" a remix that actually improved it - something that almost never happens when a song is already brilliant to begin with.
Peak: number 4
Here's the first of this week's easy listening ballads that you still hear played today. In the UK, "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" had been the first single released from Elton's Too Low For Zero album. In Australia and the US, "I'm Still Standing" had been chosen instead. Locally, that seemed to be the right decision, with "I'm Still Standing" peaking one place higher on the ARIA chart. In America, "Kiss The Bride" also came out earlier, but "I Guess That's..." ended up being the biggest hit of the three on the Billboard chart. Order of release oddities aside, the love song (featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica) is one of the highlights of Elton's '80s output and much better than the three other ballads he released during the decade that also hit the Australian top 5: "Blue Eyes", "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" and "Nikita".
Number 23 "True" by Spandau Ballet
Peak: number 4
Also peaking at number 4 on the ARIA chart was this worldwide mega-hit by Spandau Ballet. The much-sampled "True" was a pretty big shift in musical direction for the band that'd made its name with new wave tracks like "To Cut A Long Story Short" and "Chant No.1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)". A sentimental soul ballad, "True" was the title track of Spandau Ballet's third album and turned the band into one of the world's biggest acts in the mid-'80s. Like 99 percent of the group's material, it was penned by guitarist Gary Kemp, who was influenced musically by Al Green and Marvin Gaye, and lyrically by his unrequited crush on Altered Images singer Clare Grogan. As well as its chart position and enduring status as a much-played easy-listening hit, "True" shares one more thing in common with "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" - both songs' music videos were directed by Australian Russell Mulcahy.
Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:
Next week: the arrival of four big hits, including a major comeback for a New Zealand band that now called Australia home and the breakthrough of a British soul singer with a song originally recorded by Marvin Gaye.