This Week In 1984: December 23, 1984
It's fitting that I write this week's 1984 recap in the UK, the home of the Christmas number 1. Nowhere else in the world is the race to be crowned the festive chart champ such a phenomenon - it's certainly never been a thing in Australia, where the charts used to close down for weeks over the holiday season.
And although the UK Christmas number 1 has lost some of its excitement after years of domination by The X Factor winners' singles and charity choirs (not to mention the odd spoiler effort), in 1984, the race for the title was a huge deal. One of the two songs that vied for the top spot also debuted on the ARIA chart this week that year - and although it ultimately fell short in Britain and Australia, it remains a bona fide Christmas classic.
If Australia did celebrate the Christmas number 1 single, the honour would have fallen to Madonna in 1984, who remained on top for a second week with "Like A Virgin" and would stay there for the next three weeks on a static holiday shutdown chart.
Off The Chart
Number 92 "Hot For Teacher" by Van Halen
Peak: number 89
Not only was this fourth and final single from 1984 not a hit in Australia, the ode to adolescent lust also missed the American top 50 despite its memorable music video.
Number 84 "Dusty Pages" by Icehouse
Peak: number 82
Also missing the mark was this third and final single from Sidewalk, which failed to match the chart success of predecessors "Taking The Town" and "Don't Believe Anymore".
Peak: number 70
Peak: number 4
There were actually four Christmas-related singles debuting on the ARIA top 50 this week in 1984 - and here's the first of them. The third consecutive UK chart-topper from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, "The Power Of Love" gained its festive quality not from its subject matter - although since Christmas is a time of love, it works in well enough - but from its nativity-themed music video.
Released too early to be a serious contender for the UK Christmas number 1, "The Power Of Love" peaked at the top quickly, but by the time the festive chart came around, it had slipped down to the number 6 position in Britain. In Australia, "The Power Of Love" became FGTH's third and final top 5 hit - and the first of three identically named singles to reach such chart highs in the next 12 months.
Number 46 "Hard Habit To Break" by Chicago
Peak: number 20
Not a Christmas tune, but another love song - and one which brought Chicago back to the top 50 for the first time since their 1982 top 5 hit, "Hard To Say I'm Sorry". Like that track, "Hard Habit To Break" was a power ballad produced by David Foster, but this time, Peter Cetera shared lead vocals with keyboard player Bill Champlin.
Peak: number 37
Here's what Australia had to offer by way of a Christmas single - a darkly comic track about the impending end of the world with a festive slant. Like Mental As Anything's previous single, the remake of "Working For The Man", the ZZ Top-sounding "Apocalypso..." was a stand-alone release that, if nothing else, kept the band on the radar. The Mentals would have one of their best-ever years in 1985 when they returned with their most popular songs in years and their biggest ever album, Fundamental.
Number 40 "Private Dancer" by Tina Turner
Peak: number 21
Next up, a song that couldn't be less appropriate for Christmas if it tried - a track that's generally assumed to be about a prostitute's lot in life (although Tina Turner has said she didn't initially perceive it that way and the video takes a more literal approach to the title). That said, Jesus was pretty comfortable around members of the world's oldest profession, so maybe it's not that out of place this week. Written by Mark Knopfler, "Private Dancer" was considered for Dire Straits' Love Over Gold album, but dropped when he decided it was better performed by a woman. Once offered to Tina, she recorded it with some of the members of Dire Straits, although Jeff Beck replaced Mark on lead guitar.
Number 31 "Christmas Countdown" by Frank Kelly
Peak: number 16
Our next Christmas record is also a comedy track, which made the national top 20 largely due to the fact that it reached number 1 in NSW. A spoken word routine by future Father Ted star Frank Kelly, "Christmas Countdown" reinterpreted "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" as a series of letters from a man named Gobnait O'Lunacy to a woman called Nuala, who sends him increasingly inappropriate presents (i.e leaping lords, swimming swans, etc.). I am not making this up.
Number 26 "Last Christmas" by Wham!
Peak: number 3
What better way for George Michael (and Andrew Ridgeley, of course) to cap off 1984 than to take out the Christmas number 1 spot in the UK? Everything George had released - in and out of Wham! - had been astronomically massive throughout the year, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood's decision to release "The Power Of Love" two weeks earlier in Britain seemingly left the way open for the duo to waltz away with the title.
In the end, "Last Christmas" was relegated to runner-up as Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" swept aside all competition on its way to becoming the then-highest-selling single in UK history. As a consolation prize, "Last Christmas" still holds the title for the highest-selling single not to reach number 1 in UK chart history. And as a bonus, George did contribute to that year's Christmas number 1 as one of the vocalists on the Band Aid record.
In Australia, "Last Christmas" got no further than number 3, but spent eight non-consecutive weeks there - four immediately following this debut and another four in early February when it rebounded up the chart thanks to rising interest in B-side "Everything She Wants" (which ended up getting a separate release and also making the top 10).
As for the song itself, "Last Christmas" was a tale of romantic betrayal set at Christmas time and managed to be something many holiday records aren't: cool (well, kinda). A sleek pop track - read more about its recording and the plagiarism lawsuit it attracted here - it wouldn't have sounded out of place on Wham!'s Make It Big, although it didn't appear on the album and was a stand-alone single instead.
With its lavish ski resort-set music video, which screamed mid-'80s excess, "Last Christmas" was the perfect pop present - and has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving, re-released in the UK in both 1985 and 1986, and returning to worldwide charts annually in the download and streaming era. In 2017, amid a campaign to finally get it to number 1 in the UK, the tune reached its highest position there since 1984, currently sitting at number 3.
Locally, "Last Christmas" has re-entered the top 50 twice since 1984 - once, in 1997, when it was made available again to help promote that year's compilation album, The Best Of Wham!: If You Were There and again, earlier in 2017 in the wake of George Michael's death.
ARIA wouldn't produce a printed end-of-year chart until 1988, but listed below are the top 100 biggest singles of 1984 - based on chart runs (as was the practice at the time) rather than pure sales. Whether or not the year's number 1 single was also its biggest seller is a question for the ages...
1. "Dancing In The Dark" by Bruce Springsteen
2. "It's Just Not Cricket" by The Twelfth Man
3. "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr
4. "Careless Whisper" by George Michael
5. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
6. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder
7. "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins
8. "Hello" by Lionel Richie
9. "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper
10. "Islands In The Stream" by Kenny Rogers / Dolly Parton
11. "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar
12. "Original Sin" by INXS
13. "Come Said The Boy" by Mondo Rock
14. "When Doves Cry" by Prince
15. "Heaven (Must Be There)" by Eurogliders
16. "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
17. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
18. "99 Luftballons / 99 Red Balloons" by Nena
19. "Calling Your Name" by Marilyn
20. "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
21. "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" by Phil Collins
22. "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner
23. "All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie
24. "I Can Dream About You" by Dan Hartman
25. "Burn For You" by INXS
26. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" by U2
27. "Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins
28. "Jump" by Van Halen
29. "To All The Girls I've Loved Before" by Willie Nelson / Julio Iglesias
30. "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" by Elton John
31. "Missing You" by John Waite
32. "Radio Ga Ga" by Queen
33. "Holiday" by Madonna
34. "The Reflex" by Duran Duran
35. "Rebel Yell" by Billy Idol
36. "I Want To Break Free" by Queen
37. "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder
38. "Victims" by Culture Club
39. "Listening" by Pseudo Echo
40. "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper
41. "Self Control" by Laura Branigan
42. "Legs" by ZZ Top
43. "Why Me?" by Irene Cara
44. "Let's Hear It For The Boy" by Deniece Williams
45. "I Send A Message" by INXS
46. "Twist Of Fate" by Olivia Newton-John
47. "Cum On Feel The Noize" by Quiet Riot
48. "Oh Sherrie" by Steve Perry
49. "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister
50. "To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)" by Mel Brooks
51. "The War Song" by Culture Club
52. "Freedom" by Wham!
53. "Soul Kind Of Feeling" by Dynamic Hepnotics
54. "Love Of The Common People" by Paul Young
55. "Wouldn't It Be Good" by Nik Kershaw
56. "Jump (For My Love)" by The Pointer Sisters
57. "Eat It" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
58. "To Sir With Love" by Vicki Sue Robinson
59. "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat
60. "In A Big Country" by Big Country
61. "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper
62. "The Warrior" by Scandal featuring Patti Smyth
63. "Like A Virgin" by Madonna
64. "Beast Of Burden" by Bette Midler
65. "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung
66. "Catch Me I'm Falling" by Real Life
67. "Drive" by The Cars
68. "Burning Up" by Madonna
69. "Run Runaway" by Slade
70. "A Beat For You" by Pseudo Echo
71. "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock
72. "Automatic" by The Pointer Sisters
73. "The Love Cats" by The Cure
74. "Up Rock" by Rock Steady Crew
75. "Borderline" by Madonna
76. "Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)" by Billy Ocean
77. "Just Be Good To Me" by The S.O.S. Band
78. "You Think You're A Man" by Divine
79. "The Wild Boys" by Duran Duran
80. "The Glamorous Life" by Sheila E
81. "Nobody Told Me" by John Lennon
82. "Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel
83. "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney / Michael Jackson
84. "No More Lonely Nights" by Paul McCartney
85. "All Of You" by Julio Iglesias / Diana Ross
86. "Eyes Without A Face" by Billy Idol
87. "Bitter Desire" by Kids In The Kitchen
88. "Agadoo" by Black Lace
89. "Only When You Leave" by Spandau Ballet
90. "Change In Mood" by Kids In The Kitchen
91. "Message To My Girl" by Split Enz
92. "You're The Best Thing / The Big Boss Groove" by The Style Council
93. "Right By Your Side" by Eurythmics
94. "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart
95. "It's A Miracle" by Culture Club
96. "I'm Tuff" by George Smilovici
97. "Passengers" by Elton John
98. "No Say In It" by Machinations
99. "Computer One" by Dear Enemy
100. "Everywhere I Go" by QED
Which brings us to the end of our look back at the ARIA charts from 1984. With that year complete, you can now find every top 50 printout from the very first one in mid-1983 to the year-end rundown for 1992 on this site. That's almost a decade's worth of music history at the click of a button!
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:
Next up: the 25 Years Ago... posts continue into 1993 on January 10.