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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1980: May 4, 1980

It's hard to think of a genre in music as divisive as disco. How many other types of music have had calls for it to be killed off? By 1980, disco was on the wane after a heady few years of chart domination.

DIsco songs wouldn't be heard on the radio for much longer

That was a potential problem for one of the artists entering the Australian singles chart this week in 1980 - not least of all because she was known as the Queen of Disco. Were her hit-making days as endangered as the genre itself?

A song that was in no danger continued to hold down the number 1 spot this week in 1980. "I Got You" by Split Enz stayed on top for a third week.

Off The Chart

Number 99 "I Think I'm Falling In Love" by The Word

Peak: number 99

This was the only top 100 appearance (and possible the only single) by the Canberra-based punk-ish band, who split later in 1980.

Number 97 "Take The Look Off Your Face" by Marti Webb

Peak: number 61

A top 3 hit in the UK, this song co-written and produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber was taken from the musical Tell Me On A Sunday. Singer/actress Marti Webb would return to the UK top 5 in 1985 with a cover of "Ben".

New Entries

Number 50 "Him" by Rupert Holmes

Peak: number 42

"Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" had made it all the way to number 3, but this follow-up, which had followed its predecessor into the US top 10, didn't achieve the same success in Australia. Like "Escape...", the lyrics of "Him" tell a tale of love and infidelity... just without the rum-based cocktails. It would be Rupert Holmes' last top 50 appearance in Australia.

Number 49 "On The Radio" by Donna Summer

Peak: number 36

By 1979, Donna Summer had cemented her status as the Queen of Disco, with two number 1 singles in Australia ("I Feel Love" and "Hot Stuff") and five other big hits. In the US, she was even more successful. Late in 1979, Donna had collected all those hits together for her first career retrospective, double album On The Radio: Greatest Hits Volumes I & II. Two new songs had been included: "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" and title track "On The Radio", but while her duet with Barbra Streisand had reached the top 10, "On The Radio" peaked considerably lower. 

Whether that was due to fans owning the album - although it only reached number 16 in Australia - or declining interest in disco, it's hard to say. There were certainly fewer big disco hits by this stage in 1980, with tracks by Viola Wills, Bonnie Pointer and Better Midler peaking lower down the chart. The Giorgio Moroder-written and -produced "On The Radio", which also appeared in the film Foxes, had been a top 5 hit in the US, but it would end up being a last hurrah for Donna's disco phase and for the genre itself, which, with the odd exception, fell even more rapidly out of favour as 1980 progressed.

Number 45 "Toccata" by Sky

Peak: number 22

Comprised of members from both England and Australia (including guitarist John Williams), instrumental prog rockers Sky had taken off in the UK in 1979 with the release of their self-titled debut album. By early 1980, Australia was ready for a Sky invasion with Sky hitting the albums chart in March ahead of the imaginatively named follow-up double album, Sky 2. Both reached the top 10 (as did 1981's Sky 3), while this reinterpretation of JS Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor", taken from Sky 2, became their only charting single. This kind of thing isn't really my bag, although I know of at least one kid my age who was into Sky - my cousin (who is two weeks older than me) had a Sky poster in his bedroom at some point in the early '80s. I didn't put posters up until the middle of the decade. My first one: Whitney Houston, which I think says it all.

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

Next week: two iconic Australian rock bands and a long-running vocal harmony group score their biggest hit with a medley.

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