This Week In 1983: August 28, 1983
Previously successful bands reform for a variety of reasons, but more often than not it's for the cash. Just look at all the '80s groups currently on the road - with music sales down, it's a sure-fire way to earn money off those old hits.
This week in 1983, a popular Australasian band from the '70s returned to the top 50 (albeit with a slightly different lineup). And yes, money was a motivating factor behind their comeback. Luckily, the group's new music was just as good - and successful - as first time around.
Up at the top of the chart this week in 1983, "Flashdance... What A Feeling" by Irene Cara moved back to number 1 for the first of two more weeks as the Victorian ban on "Australiana" resulted in the Austen Tayshus comedy record dipping down to number 7. Meanwhile, Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" rose to number 2 and his previous top 50 entry "I Don't Wanna Dance" re-entered the chart on its way to a new peak of number 21.
Off The Chart
Number 88 "Theme From Doctor Detroit" by Devo
Peak: number 88
This single was just as big a flop as the movie it came from, a Dan Aykroyd comedy about a college professor who poses as a mobster.
Peak: number 82
What a difference a year can make. In 1982, they'd had three back-to-back top 20 hits (including number 1 "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"); in 1983, this lead single from Album tanked.
Number 71 "Just An Illusion" by Imagination
Peak: number 64
In late 1982, this funk classic had got no further than number 88 so this was an improvement, although still much lower than it deserved. Years later, singles by P.M. Dawn and Mariah Carey that sampled "Just An Illusion" would both reach the ARIA top 20.
Number 69 "Sail Away" by Swanee
Peak: number 52
After a couple of top 20 hits from previous album This Time It's Different, John Swan would've hoped for better with this brand new song. When it missed the top 50, his next venture was a live album featuring a bunch of cover versions.
Number 48 "Words" by F. R. David
Peak: number 12
This European hit from the Tunisian-born, French-based singer had spent eight weeks between numbers 85 and 100 at the start of the year but got a second lease of life once it had reached number 2 in the UK in April. This time, the gentle synthpop ballad really made its presence felt on the Australian chart, narrowly missing out on a top 10 spot but spending 18 weeks in the top 50 and not falling out of the top 100 until April 1984. "Words" was the only hit for F. R. David, who'd been working as a musician since the late '60s and whose initials came from his middle names - he was born Elli Robert Fitoussi David.
Number 39 "I.O.U." by Freeez
Peak: number 3
From one synthpop classic finding success in Australia after reaching number 2 in the UK to another. "I.O.U." peaked almost as high locally and, like "Words", would be the only ARIA chart hit for its performer: dance act Freeez. In Britain, the much remixed and sampled "I.O.U." was the group's second top 10 single, although it sounded nothing like their earlier hit, 1981's "Southern Freeez". That track sounded like a precursor to acid jazz, while "I.O.U." fit right in with the electro/breakdance scene, right down to the record scratching, ghetto blaster and street dancing in its music video.
Peak: number 9
After a pair of UK number 2 singles, we move now to a British chart-topper - the breakthrough hit for Paul Young, who'd put out two previous singles (including the first release of "Love Of The Common People") without success. Originally the B-side of Marvin Gaye's "Too Busy Thinking 'Bout My Baby", soul ballad "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" was the perfect song to showcase Paul's slightly husky voice. That vocal style, which would become his trademark, seemed to be failing him last year when I saw him perform live as part of one of those '80s roadshow concerts. But in 1983, he was in fine voice and enjoyed his first of two ARIA top 10 hits with "Wherever I Lay...".
Number 37 "Rain" by Dragon
Peak: number 2
I wasn't old enough (no pun intended) to really remember Dragon in the second half of the '70s, when they amassed eight top 50 singles, including number 2 hit "April Sun In Cuba" and chart-topper "Are You Old Enough". Besides their record sales, the band from New Zealand that'd settled in Sydney halfway through the decade also gained notoriety thanks to their reputation for outrageous behaviour on and off stage.
When the rock'n'roll lifestyle caused the band to disintegrate in 1979, few would have expected Dragon to reform in 1982 and come close to hitting number 1 again the following year. But there were bills to be paid and singer Marc Hunter, who'd gone completely off the rails, had cleaned up his act. With Marc's solo career yielding only two minor top 50 hits ("Island Nights" and "Big City Talk"), it made sense for the band that'd got back together to tour to record some new music.
1982's "Ramona" had crept into the top 80, but Dragon Mk II hit paydirt with "Rain", a song that brought them right into the '80s with its hints of synths and boasted one hell of a sing-along chorus. Kept from the top only by "Australiana", the song ended the year as 1983's 15th biggest single and was the first of eight more top 50 hits for the band. Yep, Dragon were back - and weren't going anywhere soon.
Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:
Next week: a song named after a skipping game, a synthpop cover version of a song from the 1930s, and the first single from an album that incorporated sounds of the '50s and '60s.