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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1980: August 31, 1980

Sometimes a record company has got to do whatever it takes to turn a song into a hit, even if that means misrepresenting the artist in question.

One-hit wonders Skatt Bros: no actual members pictured

That was the case this week in 1980, when a song landed on the Australian singles top 50 thanks to the efforts of the local record company in producing a video that wasn't exactly what you'd call accurate in its depiction of the one-hit wonder band.

Fellow one-hit wonders Genghis Khan continued their reign at number 1 this week in 1980, with "Moscow" staying on top for a second week.

Off The Chart

Number 99 "We Know Who Done It" by Barron Knights

Peak: number 99

The biggest TV cliff-hanger of all time, Dallas' "Who shot JR?" mystery was the subject of this novelty record, which for some unfathomable reason used Gary Numan's "Cars" as its musical basis.

Number 98 "Get Back To The Shelter" by Richard Clapton

Peak: number 94

The lead single from his sixth album, Dark Spaces, was another chart disappointment for the artist whose only big hit remained 1975's "Girls On The Avenue".

Number 89 "Let My Love Open The Door" by Pete Townshend

Peak: number 82

He'd achieve solo success in 1986 with "Face The Face", but in 1980, The Who guitarist and singer had to settle for cracking the top 100 for the first time with this second single from Empty Glass

Number 85 "Who Shot J.R.?" by Gary Burbank with Band McNally

Peak: number 85

Here's another Dalls-themed single, this time from American radio star Gary Burbank. This record listed the culprit (whose identity wasn't revealed until November) in its list of suspects.

Number 74 "Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)" by The Mash

Peak: number 52

Although the TV spin-off of M*A*S*H was still on air at this point, this single was a re-release of the original film theme, which had originally been issued without success in 1970. It also reached number 1 in the UK in 1980.

New Entries

Number 50 "Over You" by Roxy Music

Peak: number 45

With the exception of 1975 single "Love Is The Drug" (which reached number 18), Roxy Music had never been anywhere near as successful in Australia as at home in the UK, where this lead single from Flesh And Blood was their seventh top 10 hit. By contrast, lead singer Bryan Ferry had three top 10 singles to his name locally, including chart-topper "Let's Stick Together (Let's Work Together)". And while it would take until 1981 - and the tragic death of a music legend - for Bryan's band to achieve a similar chart high, "Over You" did at least bring them back into the top 50.

Number 47 "Come Around" by Mental As Anything

Peak: number 18

They'd reached the top 20 straight out of the gate with debut single "The Nips Are Getting Bigger", but Mental As Anything had been unable to match that with anything else from debut album Get Wet. They were back amongst it with this sole single from second album Espresso Bongo, written and sung by Martin Plaza. Despite "Come Around" being among the band's 10 biggest hits, it's not a song you really hear very much anymore, with retro radio favouring the likes of "If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?" and "Live It Up".

Number 43 "Rock 'N' Roll High School" by The Ramones

Peak: number 41

Australia were a bit late to the party when it came to this soundtrack single by punk rockers The Ramones, who were sounding more and more pop as time went on. Released a year earlier in the US, "Rock 'N' Roll High School" was taken from the film of the same name and became the band's only charting single locally. In the decades since, acclaim for the band would only increase, with The Ramones now considered one of the most influential bands of the punk era.

Number 42 "Life At The Outpost" by Skatt Bros.

Peak: number 13

One of those songs that was only big in Australia, disco/rock anthem "Life At The Outpost" was helped up the chart by its music video, which was filmed locally when the band's US label refused to make one. As a result, the thirsty cowboys you see awkwardly dancing in scenes reminiscent of Ian Roberts' stint on Dancing With The Stars aren't actually the members of Skatt Bros. Instead they were actors hired to mime along to the record, a song which is like Village People, Boys Don't Cry and Frankie Goes To Hollywood all rolled into one. More proof that despite whatever homophobic sentiments there were in Australia in the 1980s, when it came to music, camp often went down a treat.

Number 29 "Xanadu" by Olivia Newton-John / Electric Light Orchestra

Peak: number 2

Speaking of camp classics... the latest single from  Xanadu - the title track, no less - stormed into the chart on its way to join "Magic" in the top 10. In fact, the two songs performed by the film's rollerskating star, Olivia Newton-John, would sit side-by-side at numbers 4 and 5 in a couple of weeks' time. Unlike "Magic", however, "Xanadu" was a collaboration between ONJ and the soundtrack's other main contributors, Electric Light Orchestra, with the song written and produced by ELO frontman Jeff Lynne. With "I'm Alive" also inside the top 30 this week, that made three simultaneous hits from the soundtrack, which began a six-week stint at number 1 on the albums chart this week.

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

Next week: two future chart-toppers and the latest from a band who were more than familiar with the number 1 spot.

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