This Week In 1980: July 27, 1980
Sometimes even the most floundering of careers can get right back on track with one hit single - all it takes is the right song at the right time.
This week in 1980, a singer who would make two comebacks during the decade returned to the top 50 after a lengthy absence - and all it took was a little help from a former chart-topper.
The chart-topper this week in 1980 was still "Can't Stop The Music" by Village People, which remained at number 1 for a third week.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 69
The final top 100 appearance by the easy listening singer who'd enjoyed five top 10 hits in Australia in the 1960s was a duet with his daughter on a track he'd previously recorded solo for 1978's All You Need Is The Music.
Number 88 "Shining Star" by Manhattans
Peak: number 67
They'd reached number 4 here (and number 1 in America) with 1976's "Kiss And Say Goodbye", but this US top 5 hit didn't do so well locally for the R&B vocal harmony group.
Number 50 "When I'm With You" by Sparks
Peak: number 17
One of those bands whose influence far outstrips their chart success - at least in Australia - Sparks had missed the top 50 with two of their biggest international singles, "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" (number 69 in 1974) and "The Number One Song In Heaven" (number 85 in 1979). But the band, who had moved in a more electronic direction in the previous few years, finally broke through with "When I'm With You", which was taken from their ninth album, Terminal Jive. As on their previous album, No. 1 In Heaven, Sparks worked with producer Giorgio Moroder on Terminal Jive - although it is unclear what the division of labour was between the Italian electronic pioneer and co-producer Harold Faltermeyer. The top 20 success of "When I'm With You", which didn't do too well in most other parts of the world despite being one of their more commercial offerings, was a one-off for the band led by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, who continue to record to this day.
Number 48 "We Live For Love" by Pat Benatar
Peak: number 28
Another top 50 debut, but this time by a singer who would go on to score many more hits in Australia, notably number 1 "Love Is A Battlefield" and "All Fired Up", which reached number 2 in 1988. Before that, however, Pat Benatar would get stuck in the range between numbers 28 and 33 with her first five hits, starting off with this latest single taken from her debut album, In The Heat Of The Night, which sounds to me like a cross between Blondie and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts. While the bulk of that album, including previous top 100 single "Heartbreaker", consisted of remakes, "We Live For Love" was one of three original songs. Specifically, it was written by Neil Giraldo, who would go on to become Pat's main musical collaborator - and her husband.
Number 44 "I'm Alive" by Electric Light Orchestra
Peak: number 27
The first hit lifted from the Xanadu soundtrack had arrived on the top 50 last week - and bounded up nine spots this week for Olivia Newton-John. "Magic" was swiftly followed onto the chart by a song from the other main contributor to the film soundtrack, Electric Light Orchestra. Unmistakably an ELO song, "I'm Alive" would possibly suffer from the album's arrival on the chart the following week and the fact it reached number 1 a month later. As a result the song doesn't number among the band's biggest hits in Australia. That said, none of those circumstances prevented the title track from almost topping the chart, as we'll see in due course...
Number 43 "Downhearted" by Australian Crawl
Peak: number 12
After back-to-back number 22 hits with their first two releases, Australian Crawl's third and final single from The Boys Light Up took the local band 10 places higher. The mid-tempo rock track was the last we'd see of James Reyne and pals until mid-1981 on the singles chart, but their album would prove to have a lengthy shelf life, registering 101 weeks inside the top 100.
Number 39 "Help" by John Farnham
Peak: number 8
A man who covered "Downhearted" in 2005, John Farnham had last been in the top 50 back in 1973, when he was still known as Johnny and "Shake A Hand" limped to number 48. In 1980, it had been five years since his last studio album (although a greatest hits collection had been issued in 1976) and three since the release of stand-alone single "Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame", which failed to chart. Having focussed more on his TV and live work in the intervening years, the time was ripe for John, who'd shortened his stage name in 1979, to stage a comeback. Newly signed by former Master Apprentice bass player and Little River Band manager Glenn Wheatley, John recorded an emotional ballad version of The Beatles' "Help!" (a number 1 in 1965) and it returned him to the top 10 for the first time since "Everything Is Out Of Season" reached number 9 in 1973. The comeback was short-lived - nothing else from Uncovered made the top 50 and neither did two subsequent singles. But, if John could have one comeback, why not another (after standing in as vocalist for LRB)?
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):
Next week: another Australian male artist whose solo career would be interrupted by a stint in a local group, plus one of the biggest bands of all time returns with another top 10 hit.