This Week In 1983: September 4, 1983
Inspiration for pop songs can come from just about anywhere - an overhead conversation at an electronics store, a school massacre, being denied entry to a club... You name it, there's probably been a song about it.
This week in 1983, the new entries on the ARIA chart were inspired by a pretty diverse array of things: the Motown sound, a style of skipping, the political climate in America and, in the case of two cover versions, the original recordings.
A smash hit movie was the inspiration for the top 2 singles in the country this week in 1983. With "Australiana" still suffering from being banned in Victoria, "Flashdance... What A Feeling" spent its seventh and final week at number 1, with "Maniac" right behind it. Meanwhile, the Flashdance soundtrack was on top of the albums chart for a second week.
Off The Chart
Number 99 "Straight From The Heart" by Bryan Adams
Peak: number 98
In my 1991 posts, he's been stuck at number 1, but in 1983, Bryan Adams was at the other end of the top 100. Big ballad "Straight From The Heart" had been released by three other artists before he issued his own version as a single.
Peak: number 75
The band fronted by Wendy Stapleton had scored its biggest hit earlier in the year with "Play The Game". This follow-up not only missed the top 50 but would be their final top 100 single.
Number 49 "Family Man" by Daryl Hall & John Oates
Peak: number 49
Let's kick things off with a cover version of a song originally recorded by an artist we heard from just a few weeks ago. In 1982, "Family Man" had been the second single from Mike Oldfield's album Five Miles Out. A year later, Hall & Oates released their version of the song as the third single from H2O. H2O's lead single, "Maneater", was the duo's most successful single in Australia, but "Family Man" barely made the top 50. The inspiration for the lyrics? Co-writer and 10cc guitarist Rick Fenn.
Number 47 "Back To The Streets" by Moving Pictures
Peak: number 37
They'd last been seen peaking at number 51 with "Sweet Cherie", but it was back into the top 50 for the Australian band who'd been behind the second biggest single of 1982. But, this lead single from second album Matinée was no "What About Me?". It was, however, more typical of Moving Pictures' normal style than the chart-topping mega-ballad had been. And therein lay the problem. When your usual sound is nothing like your biggest hit, a minor top 40 hit is about as good as it gets. The performance of "Back To The Streets" would also be as good as it got for the Matinée album, with none of the other singles taken from it reaching the top 50.
Number 46 "Lawyers In Love" by Jackson Browne
Peak: number 28
If this single had come out in 2003, I'd have suggested the inspiration for "Lawyers In Love" might've been recently concluded drama series Ally McBeal, but in 1983, Jackson Browne was making a statement about Cold War politics and the nuclear weapons stand-off. The track - and album of the same name - signalled a move towards more political material for Jackson. Whether it's related or not, it also marked his final top 50 appearance as a solo artist, although he did accompany Clarence Clemons on "You're A Friend Of Mine", a top 10 hit in 1986.
Number 44 "Puttin' On The Ritz" by Taco
Peak: number 5
Our second cover version of the week took a song from the 1930s and brought it right up to date with an early '80s synthpop feel. Written by Irving Berlin in the late 1920s, "Puttin' On The Ritz" became a hit following its appearance in the 1930 movie of the same name starring Harry Richman. Harry's recording of the tune was a US chart-topper, while another well-known version was recorded by Fred Astaire, who's referenced in the Taco version by the tap dancing interlude midway through. Indonesian-born, German-based Dutch singer Taco Ockerse (that's his real name) was clearly a fan of Irving, with snippets of other songs penned by the prolific composer (including "White Christmas" and "There's No Business Like Show Business") worked in to the breakdown around the 3:15 mark. The original music video below comes complete with blackface, which has mostly been edited out of alternate versions of the clip.
Number 42 "Tell Her About It" by Billy Joel
Peak: number 9
While Jackson Browne was getting more serious, Billy Joel was doing the reverse - moving from the stark overtones of previous album The Nylon Curtain to a collection of songs that celebrated the music he'd grown up with. Newly single after the breakdown of his first marriage, he felt like a teenager again, so why not record the music of his youth as well? Lead single "Tell Her About It" is a homage to the Motown sound and was about as far removed from the likes of "Pressure" and "Allentown" (his last two Australian hits) as you could get. The upbeat toe-tapper returned Billy to the top 10 for the first time since 1980's "It's Still Rock And Roll To Me", but it wouldn't be anywhere near as long before he followed "Tell Her About It" with another smash hit. Look out for comedian Rodney Dangerfield popping up at the end of the Ed Sullivan Show-style music video - something we saw him do in the clip for "Dancing On The Ceiling" just recently in my 1986 posts.
Number 38 "Double Dutch" by Malcolm McLaren
Peak: number 14
Possibly one of the most unexpected things to inspire a top 40 single was the skipping rope game of double dutch - although we'd gotten used to expecting the unexpected when Malcolm McLaren was involved. "Double Dutch" featured elements we'd heard in Malcolm's two previous singles, "Buffalo Gals" (record scratching) and "Soweto" (African rhythms), and combined them with a spoken vocal about the skipping style from Malcolm and uncredited sung vocals by South African group Mahlathini And The Mahotella Queens. Malcolm made mention of several double dutch troupes, including the Ebonettes, whose name can be heard in what I guess passes for the unconventional song's chorus.
As well as not crediting the singers, Malcolm and fellow songwriter Trevor Horn were accused of ripping off South African group The Boyoyo Boys and their song "3 Mabone". The matter was settled out of court. Two musicians who did receive credit on the track and Malcolm's album Duck Rock were Anne Dudley and JJ Jeczalik, who, together with Trevor, worked on the first Art Of Noise album at the same time. Malcolm would make two more appearances in the ARIA top 20, but "Double Dutch" would remain his highest charting single.
Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:
Next week: the wife of one of Australia's most successful male performers hits the top 50 with a song written by her husband. Plus, one of the best one-hit wonders of all time.