This Week In 1983: November 6, 1983
Between them, they'd pretty much defined pop music since the '60s, paving the way for countless other acts and recording numerous songs that would go down in history as classics. So, it was a pretty big deal for Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson to collaborate musically.
This week in 1983, the second single from the superstar pair was as well received as the first one had been a year earlier. The bonus: this time, the song on which they duetted was actually really good instead of just OK.
Another really good song held down the number 1 spot on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1983. "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club spent its second week on top.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 54
Sheena's transition to working in America paid dividends, with this boppy lead single from fourth album Best Kept Secret hitting the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. In Australia, not so much.
Peak: number 63
I don't quite know what to make of this song from the Perth band with the unusual name. The verses sound like any number of synthpop tracks before it explodes into a Status Quo-style chorus. Odd.
Number 79 "Club Tropicana" by Wham!
Peak: number 60
Until final single "Where Did Your Heart Go?", this was the only blight on Wham!'s run of top 10 singles in Australia. I never liked "Club Tropicana" as much as their other songs, but I'm surprised it flopped so hard.
Peak: number 50
My memory of Jon English the musician is limited to that song from the colonial miniseries — and fair enough, since "Six Ribbons" was his biggest single. But, the husky voiced singer had a number of other hits between 1973 and 1980, including "Words Are Not Enough" (number 6 in 1978) and "Hot Town" (number 11 in 1980). It'd been three years, however, since Jon had been inside the top 50 and he only barely managed it with the (sort of) title track of latest album Some People..., which climbed to number 50 in its 12th week on the top 100. Given its catchy chorus and the fact it sounds like the kind of song Rod Stewart would've sung at the time, "Some People (Have All The Fun)" should probably have done better, but it would end up being a rather understated final top 50 appearance for the Logie, Mo, Countdown and ARIA Award winner, who passed away earlier this year.
Number 49 "Crystal" by Elton John
Peak: number 12
Here's a '70s star who'd had no trouble keeping his momentum going in the '80s, so much so that this latest hit from Too Low For Zero almost made the top 10 without even having a music video. Only released as a single in its own right in Australia, "Crystal" was given double A-side status in the UK alongside A-side "Cold As Christmas (In The Middle Of The Year)". But, given "Cold As Christmas..." wouldn't make much sense in Australia, especially coming into the festive season, and "Crystal" is actually a much better song, Elton's local record company opted to go with the latter (and a different B-side) instead.
Number 44 "Change In Mood" by Kids In The Kitchen
Peak: number 10
Already in 1983, Real Life and Machinations had proved that Australian synthpop bands could be every bit as good as ones from the UK. As the year drew to a close, two more groups that were heavily influenced by British new wave and New Romantic acts made their presence felt on the ARIA chart — and would continue to do so for the next few years. The first was Melbourne's Kids In The Kitchen with their Simple Minds-ish debut single, "Change In Mood", which surprised the band themselves by making it all the way to the top 10. The other? We'll see them in December.
Peak: number 14
As successful as homegrown electronic music was becoming, it wasn't about to overthrown pub rock as the dominant genre in Australia just yet. And to prove the point, one of the biggest rock bands in the country charged back into the ARIA top 50 for the first time time in over a year this week in 1983. Last seen on the top 50 with "When The War Is Over", Cold Chisel returned with a double A-side release that would end up on their next (and final, for the time being) studio album, Twentieth Century, in April 1984. Although theoretically the lead track, the short and to the point "Hold Me Tight" was actually the less popular of the two songs, with the ska-influenced "No Sense" receiving more airplay and being included on later compilations Radio Songs and Chisel.
Peak: number 4
They'd already released one duet — Thriller lead single "The Girl Is Mine" — but this collaboration between two of music's most legendary performers had actually been recorded earlier and held back until Paul's Pipes Of Peace album. "Say Say Say" was the first release from that album, just as "Ebony And Ivory", Paul's duet with Stevie Wonder which reached number 2 in 1982, had been the lead single from Tug Of War.
Michael, meanwhile, was still in the midst of releasing singles from Thriller with three more still to come in Australia. After the disappointing performance of "Wanna Be Startin' Something", "Say Say Say" put him back in the ARIA top 5. In the US, only "Thriller" remained to be lifted as a single and "Say Say Say" followed the album's six top 10 hits to date. By reaching number 1 in the US, the duet became Michael's seventh top 10 hit of 1983 — breaking the record held by... The Beatles (together with Elvis Presley).
Unlike "The Girl Is Mine", which had also reached number 4 in Australia, "Say Say Say" came with a music video, in which Paul and Michael played travelling conmen aided by Paul's wife, Linda. LaToya Jackson also appears in the clip — oddly, as a love interest for Michael's character.
Number 8 "Union Of The Snake" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 4
Macca and Jacko might've been music superstars, but even they couldn't compete with a brand new song from one of the hottest bands in the world for the honour of the week's highest new entry. Only the third release to shoot straight into the top 10 in 1983 — their own "Is There Something I Should Know?" had been the first and Australian Crawl's Semantics the second — "Union Of The Snake" was snapped up by Duranies eager for new music from the British five-piece.
Unlike "Is There Something...", "Union Of The Snake" would be included on Duran Duran's forthcoming third studio album, Seven And The Ragged Tiger, which had been completed in Sydney and had its cover photo taken outside the State Library of NSW. The video for the single was also filmed locally, with the band's regular presence down under no doubt partially responsible for the fervour which greeted most of their new releases in the mid-'80s.
Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:
Next week: Billy Joel's latest retro-inspired single becomes his first number 1, while a chart-topping novelty single from New Zealand tries its luck in Australia. Plus, a punk legend reaches the top 50 with his latest band.