This Week In 1983: July 24, 1983
Boy bands. Where would pop music be without them? This week in 1983, the group that kicked off the modern era of boy bands debuted on the ARIA top 50 with their first single.
Without Ricky, Michael, Bobby, Ronnie and Ralph, there'd be no New Kids On The Block, no Take That, no Backstreet Boys, no *NSYNC and no One Direction. For some of you, that may be no bad thing.
At number 1 for the second week this week in 1983, Irene Cara had the most popular single in the country with "Flashdance... What A Feeling" heading a static top 4.
Off The Chart
Number 94 "Snot Rap" by Kenny Everett
Peak: number 91
This novelty record by the TV comedian, performed in character(s) as Sid Snot and Cupid Stunt, had been a top 10 hit in the UK. Kenny had more of a cult following in Australia.
Number 93 "Flight Of Icarus" by Iron Maiden
Peak: number 93
"Run To The Hills" had given the British heavy metal band a top 30 hit in 1982, but this mythologically themed lead single from Peace Of Mind had much more limited appeal.
Number 85 "Sound On Sound" by Venetians
Peak: number 85
In other posts on this blog, we've seen how the story played out for local synthpop band Venetians, but it all began with debut single "Sound On Sound".
Number 84 "Soweto" by Malcolm McLaren
Peak: number 53
The English impresario scored three top 20 hits in 1983-84, but not with this song, which came out between "Buffalo Gals" and "Double Dutch" from the acclaimed Duck Rock album.
Number 50 "It Might Be You" by Stephen Bishop
Peak: number 50
The movie it came from, cross-dressing comedy Tootsie, might have been one of 1983's most successful films, but theme tune "It Might Be You" could only scrape the bottom of the top 50. The tender love song (itself nominated for an Oscar) was written by multi-Grammy Award-winning composer Dave Grusin, and three-time Academy Award-winning lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The song was performed by easy listening singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop, whose biggest US hit, "On And On", missed the Australian top 50 in 1977.
Number 49 "Never Gonna Die" by Choirboys
Peak: number 30
As with Venetians, we've seen the rise and fall of Choirboys play out on this blog, with their biggest hit, "Run To Paradise", and their final ARIA top 50 appearance (under their own steam) coming with 1991's "Rendezvous". Before all that, Sydney rock band Choirboys got their big break in 1983 when, after four years playing the pub circuit, they were signed to Albert Records. Debut single "Never Gonna Die" got things off to a good start by reaching the top 30, but none of the other singles from their self-titled debut album reached the top 100.
Number 48 "Nobody's Diary" by Yazoo
Peak: number 17
Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet had already announced their split by this point, with tension between the duo having got to the point where they recorded their second album pretty much separately. That didn't stop this only single from You And Me Both from reaching the Australian top 20. For me, "Nobody's Diary" is nowhere near as good as earlier hits "Only You" and "Don't Go", both of which made the top 10 locally. But, given the positive reception "Nobody's Diary" received here and in the UK, where it got to number 3, it would seem the public hadn't tired of Yazoo yet, even if Vince had.
Peak: number 4
Between 1976 ("Love To Love You Baby") and 1980 ("The Wanderer"), Queen of Disco Donna Summer had reached the Australian top 10 with six singles - including number 1s "I Feel Love" and "Hot Stuff". But, like most acts from the disco era, Donna had found the charts not as welcoming in the '80s. None of the other singles from The Wanderer or Donna Summer went any higher than number 17 ("Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)"), with matters not helped by all the record company wrangling involved in her career at that point.
In 1983, Donna recorded the album She Works Hard For The Money, which she owed to her old label Casablanca Records as part of the settlement after she left to become the first artist signed to Geffen Records. More in line with the style of music she'd previously been known for than her Geffen releases, the album (which actually came out on Mercury Records) featured a big hit in the form of its title track. With its music video featuring Donna playing a hard workin' waitress, "She Works Hard For The Money" went into high rotation, and propelled her back up the chart in Australia and the US.
Number 41 "Candy Girl" by New Edition
Peak: number 10
With a name and sound that harked back to The Jackson 5, New Edition were marketed to be to the '80s what Michael and his brothers had been to the '70s, just without the instruments. They may as well have been called Version 2.0. Having formed more or less organically in their Boston neighbourhood, the five-piece eventually gained the attention of songwriter and producer Maurice Starr (later, the man behind New Kids On The Block), who signed them to a record deal, and co-wrote and co-produced their debut single, "Candy Girl".
The song, which bore more than a slight resemblance to The Jackson 5's "ABC", showed off the singing, rapping and formation dancing talents of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant, If the music video was anything was to go by, the 13- to 15-year-olds were also capable of pulling "girls" up to 10 years older than themselves. Although "Candy Girl" was a big hit in Australia and the UK, where it topped the chart, the bubblegum pop song was more of a modest success in the US, peaking at number 46. But, the New Edition story was far from over.
By the time they next visited the ARIA top 50, with reunion single "Hit Me Off" in 1996, the boy band had dumped Maurice over a contract and royalty dispute, scored two US top 10 singles (1984's "Cool It Now" and "If It Isn't Love" in 1988) under their new record deal, fired Bobby Brown, hired Johnny Gill and then split off into various side projects. Never one of my all-time favourite boy bands, New Edition's set the standard that is still imitated today.
Peak: number 8
It'd be another 10 months before The Human League's follow-up album to Dare would see the light of day, but they kept fans appeased by releasing a second stand-alone single in the meantime. Like previous release "Mirror Man", "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" was a global hit, reaching number 8 in Australia and the US, and becoming their second number 2 in a row in the UK. Accompanied by a music video with visuals that today would be produced using CGI but in 1983 was achieved with the help of several cans of orange paint, the track suggested that whenever the synthpop band's next album did arrive, it would be a corker. As it turned out, that wasn't quite the case...
Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:
Next week: the comedy record that would end up as the year's biggest single. Plus, new hits from a bunch of bands that'd seen better days.