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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1984: August 5, 1984

It only ran for 20 episodes, but ABC music drama Sweet And Sour looms large in my memories of the mid-'80s. For one thing, it had an awesome theme song, which made its debut on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1984.

The first pop album I ever owned

For another, the soundtrack album was the first non-children's release added to my music collection - I received it for Christmas that year. And that title track theme remains one of my favourite songs from that year.

Another of my favourite songs from that year held down the number 1 spot yet again this week in 1984. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! spent its third week on top.

Off The Chart

Number 92 "The Modern Bop" by Mondo Rock

Peak: number 85

The first two singles from The Modern Bop had reached the top 20 - one almost topped the chart - but the top 5 album's title track had a much more muted reception. Not a bad song, though.

Number 91 "Friday Night" by Redgum

Peak: number 82

This latest single from Frontline maintained the light feel of "I've Been To Bali Too", but didn't chart anywhere near as high. This was Redgum's final top 100 appearance with John Schumann as singer.

Number 84 "It's A Hard Life" by Queen

Peak: number 65

They'd had back-to-back top 10 hits so far in 1984, but this third single from The Works let the side down (but did reach the UK top 10). The album's fourth single wouldn't chart until mid-1985.

Number 59 "I'm A Fair Dinkum" by John Williamson

Peak: number 59

"The Vasectomy Song" had broken his decade-plus chart drought, but this dinky-di follow-up just missed the top 50. A similarly patriotic track would do the trick in a couple of years.

Number 55 "Busy Bleeding" by Wide Boy Youth

Peak: number 53

This reggae song was recorded by radio and TV presenter Jonathan Coleman, who'd also missed the top 50 in 1981 with his take on the "Stars On 45" craze called "Aussies On 45".

New Entries

Number 49 "Sweet And Sour" by The Takeaways

Peak: number 13

I only watched it the once - was it even repeated? - but I have vivid memories of tuning in to ABC's musical drama Sweet And Sour in mid-1984. I especially remember the scene where the aspiring band were given their name by manager Darrell (Ric Herbert) at a backyard gig. Of course, one of the best things about the series was its theme song, which was written by Sharon O'Neill, who recorded her own version in 1987, and performed by Deborah Conway, who provided the singing voice for the band's vocalist, Carol, instead of actress Tracy Mann. The song's music video, which was the subject of episode 18, couldn't be more '80s if it tried - with its then-tricky animation, the clicking/arm waving dance employed by saxophonist/singer Christine (Sandra Lillingston) and, of course, the presence of a singlet-wearing Reyne brother. But the single has aged very well, still sounding great today. 

Number 44 "No More Words" by Berlin

Peak: number 23

They'd made a fleeting visit to the top 100 in 1983 with "Sex (I'm A...) / The Metro" (which would return just as briefly in 1985), but "No More Words" gave American synthpop group Berlin their first hit in 1984. The lead single from the band's third album, Love Life, it was co-produced by no less a legend than Giorgio Moroder and came with a Bonnie & Clyde-themed music video that was perfect for MTV. As a result, "No More Words" also became a hit in the US - peaking at number 23 there as well.

Number 40 "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat

Peak: number 8

From an American synthpop act with their first hit we move now to a British synthpop group with their first ever single. Bronski Beat made quite a splash with their debut release - and not just because the music video was partly set at a swimming pool. Both lyrically and visually, "Smalltown Boy" captured the homophobia and rejection faced by young same-sex attracted people. In a decade when political content in pop hits wasn't as unusual as it is now, the song's powerful, raw honesty made it stand out. Speaking of standing out, "Smalltown Boy" also introduced the world to the piercing falsetto of vocalist Jimmy Somerville, whose voice floated over the track's much-sampled riff and would be heard on a few more major hits before the decade was out. 

Number 30 "Burn For You" by INXS

Peak: number 3

It was a bit of a week for great synthpop tracks, wasn't it? With possibly their synthiest single ever, INXS racked up their third top 3 hit in a row from The Swing, which had yet to leave the top 20 and was actually on its way back up towards the top 10. Such runaway success for a song from an already huge album was as sure a sign as any that INXS were firmly established as the nation's biggest band. And it's that success that made the fiction of Sweet And Sour probably not far from the truth - what group of musically inclined kids around the country weren't getting together their own bands and hoping to emulate the chart-conquering INXS?

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:

Next week: the chart-topping single that gave a music star a second stretch as a hitmaker, plus a big ballad from a man who'd become synonymous with Disney ballads in the early '90s.

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