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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1980: September 21, 1980

The year had already seen some big musical movies in the form of Can't Stop The Music and Xanadu, and this week in 1980, another film with a hit soundtrack made its presence felt on the Australian singles chart.

We certainly would remember Irene Cara's name following her first big soundtrack hit

Unlike those other two films, this movie was pretty well received, and its theme song was performed by a singer who'd become known for her big soundtrack hits one of which would even top the Australian chart.

On top of the singles chart this week in 1980, there was no change as "Moscow" by Genghis Khan stayed in place for a fifth week. 

Off The Chart

Number 91 "When You're Lonely" by Boys

Peak: number 52

The closest the Perth locals came to scoring a national top 50 hit in Australia, this was the debut single by the rock band, who' would release a couple of albums over the next few years.

Number 90 "King's Call" by Philip Lynott

Peak: number 82

Although Thin Lizzy had their own album coming out in October, their frontman had released his solo debut effort in April. Solo In Soho included this track, a tribute to Elvis Presley that featured Mark Knopfler on guitar.

New Entries

Number 49 "Ashes To Ashes" by David Bowie

Peak: number 3

Things had been quiet on the Australian singles chart for a couple of years for David Bowie, with "Boys Keep Swinging" and "D.J." falling short of the top 50. That all changed this week in 1980 as the lead single from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) leapt from number 86 to number 49, and in a few weeks would be inside the top 3 — the highest David had been on the chart since reaching number 1 with 1973's "Sorrow". For much of the '70s, he'd been a reliable album seller, with 11 consecutive top 11 albums between 1973 and 1979, but as we came into a new decade, David also started to land bigger and bigger hits. "Ashes To Ashes", which referenced earlier song "Space Oddity", served as somewhat of a full stop on his career to date and signalled a shift to the new era. (There's a longer discussion of that metamorphosis here.) I don't remember being aware of much of David Bowie's music up until this point, and even my memory of hearing "Ashes To Ashes" at the time is a bit foggy, but I do recall seeing the striking music video, which was the most expensive clip ever made up until that point.

Number 48 "Take Good Care Of My Baby" by Smokie

Peak: number 48

Able to rack up top 10 singles (and a couple of near misses) with ease just a few years earlier, Smokie's hit-making days came to an end — both here and in the UK — with this remake of a Carole King and Gerry Goffin-penned track previously recorded by both Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton. This would be the last we'd see of Smokie on the Australian top 50, although their legacy would live on, as we've seen on my recent 1995 recaps...

Number 45 "The One I Love" by Mike McClellan

Peak: number 45

The second of two minor top 50 hits for Australian singer/songwriter Mike McClellan, acoustic ballad "The One I Love" was released through his new deal with Albert Productions (and came with the obligatory Vanda & Young production). Besides releasing music, Mike also worked as a TV presenter and an in-house jingle writer for Mojo ad agency around this time.

Number 44 "Singing In The 80's" by The Monitors

Peak: number 16

Next up, another Australian act with two top 50 appearances to their name, although The Monitors' debut single was considerably more successful than either of Mike McClellan's hits. Presumably influenced by The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star", synthpop track "Singing In The 80's" had a similar structure, with an overly produced male vocal in the verse and the hook performed by a female singer, In this case, it was Queenslander Kim Durant who sang the chorus, although 14-year-old future Wombat and Neighbours stars (and failed pop stars in their own right) Gayle and Gillian Blakeney mimed along.

Number 39 "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" by The Korgis

Peak: number 11

Here's a song I came to know via cover versions in the '90s (Yazz and Baby D) and 2000s (Marc et Claude), but the much remade "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" was first performed by British band The Korgis, who already had one hit to their name "If I Had You" — in the UK. Locally, the sparse synth-based ballad was their first (and only) chart success.

Number 33 "Babooshka" by Kate Bush

Peak: number 2

If anyone had thought Kate Bush wouldn't be able to top "Wuthering Heights" in terms of drama and sheer WTF-ery, then they hadn't counted on "Babooshka". The single from her third album, Never For Ever, told the story of a paranoid wife, who tested the fidelity of her husband by creating a fictional younger woman the title character and tempting him, ruining their marriage in the process. But a whole other dimension was added by the music video, complete with Kate going at it in full Xena: Warrior Princess garb as Babooshka, Insane. Genius.

Number 30 "Fame" by Irene Cara

Peak: number 3

While Kate Bush consolidated her career in 1980, Irene Cara was just beginning hers. Well, her music career the singer/actress had acted on stage and screen already for some years. But it was her role as Coco in performing arts high school movie Fame — and her rendition of the title song — that turned her into a pop star. And when Fame was spun off into a TV series, she decided not to stay in the cast (replaced by Erica Gimpel) and focus on singing, which was probably a good decision given "Fame" won the Best Original Song Oscar and saw Irene herself nominated for a Grammy. More soundtrack successes were to come for Irene, who is seen in the video below a couple of years after Fame's success performing the song for the movie's video release in a clip that references Fame's iconic dancing on cars scene.

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

Next week: two Australian rock classics, and something for me with one of my favourite male singers from the '80s with his biggest hit locally.

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