Sunday, 4 December 2016

This Week In 1983: December 4, 1983

This week in 1983, a future superstar made her first appearance on the ARIA top 100. The single - her second - didn't progress very far, although it would get a second wind in 1984 once her third single had become a massive hit.

Madonna didn't exactly burn up the chart in 1983, but it wouldn't take her long

Yes, I'm talking about Madonna (did the picture above give it away?), who as we all know would be one of the most successful recording artists of the next few decades. I wonder how many people watched her writhing around on the road, bangles almost up to her elbows, and thought, "Yep, she's going to be the biggest female singer of the '80s."

ARIA  Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending December 4, 1983

While Madonna had to wait a while for her first number 1, Australian Crawl finally achieved theirs after being stuck at number 2 for the previous four weeks. Semantics (featuring "Reckless (Don't Be So...)" knocked "Karma Chameleon" off the top spot, but the EP would in turn be displaced in seven days' time.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "New Song" by Howard Jones
Peak: number 60
He reached the UK top 3 with this debut single, but in Australia, Howard Jones got his wish of not wanting "to be hip and cool" - for the time being, anyway.

Number 98 "Riders On The Storm" by Annabel Lamb
Peak: number 98
This new wave remake of the 1971 single by The Doors was belatedly added to British singer Annabel Lamb's debut album, Once Bitten. "Riders On The Storm" was her only UK hit.

Number 95 "Burning Up" by Madonna
Original peak: number 95
I'll give this a full write-up when it becomes a top 50 hit in the wake of the success of "Holiday", but the occasion of Madonna's first appearance on the top 100 should not go past unmentioned. Her second single, "Burning Up" made an in-and-out visit to the ARIA chart, which is still better than it did anywhere else. Thanks to Countdown, we'd be seeing a lot more of Madonna in 1984...

New Entries
Number 50 "My Girl" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 35
Support from Countdown also helped this third single by Hoodoo Gurus become their first top 50 hit. The fact that "My Girl" was easily the band's most commercial single to date and had a greyhound racing music video that was just begging to be given airtime didn't hurt, of course. Like "Leilani" and "Tojo", "My Girl" would end up on Hoodoo Gurus' upcoming debut album, Stoneage Romeos, but it would take until 1985 for them to really take off. 

Number 49 "Automatic Man" by Michael Sembello
Peak: number 49
Thanks to my rather strict definition of what makes a one-hit wonder, this is the single that prevents me from describing Michael Sembello as one, even though everyone else does. But if I'm being realistic, since "Maniac" was such a massive hit and follow-up "Automatic Man" spent just a solitary week in the top 50 (and I'd never heard of it until now), I'm willing to let this one slide. I'm kind of surprised the song was such a resounding flop - it's not a bad piece of synthpop, and Michael's record company clearly got a bit carried away and went all-out with a crazy sci-fi music video (in which the singer actually appears). After the failure of "Automatic Man", Michael changed course completely and released ballad "Talk" (featuring Cruz Baca Sembello), which was an even bigger bomb.

Number 48 "Working For The Man" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 20
It was becoming a habit. Between their studio albums, Mental As Anything would release a stand-alone single to keep things ticking along. "(Just Like) Romeo And Juliet" had come out between Espresso Bongo and Cats & Dogs; "I Didn't Mean To Be Mean" had done the same between Cats & Dogs and Creatures Of Leisure. In this case, the band recorded a cover version of the 1962 single by Roy Orbison and released it once they'd done with the Creatures Of Leisure album. The Mentals' take on "Working For The Man", which always remind me a bit of the theme from Rawhide, made up for the poor performance of "Brain Brain" (number 82) and restored them to the top 20, equalling the peak of "Spirit Got Lost". Just to keep everyone on their toes, Mental As Anything would release one more non-album single before their next LP, the massive Fundamental

Number 47 "Strait Old Line" by Split Enz
Peak: number 42
Last week, we saw the third solo release from Tim Finn enter the top 50. Joining it this week was the lead single from his band Split Enz's latest album, Conflicting Emotions. Whether the title was a reference to the growing dissension in the ranks, I'm not sure, but the cracks in the band were certainly starting to show and it was a surprise to no one when Tim left Split Enz following the album. As a first single, "Strait Old Line" strikes me as an odd choice, especially given what they had up their sleeve, although it's very quirkiness is I guess what makes it a typically Split Enz song. It's just a Split Enz song that not many people wanted to buy. Thankfully, the best track on the album would be chosen as the second single and put the band back in the top 10.

Number 39 "Undercover Of The Night" by The Rolling Stones
Peak: number 27
Speaking of intra-band strife, the conflict between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards is one of rock's most famous feuds - and it really kicked off during the recording of The Rolling Stones' 1983 album, Undercover. The two members disagreed about the musical direction of the band - Mick wanted the band to push ahead with the times; Keith wanted to stick with their existing sound. For now, Mick seemed to win out, with the album more experimental than any before or after it. This lead single was also quite adventurous, with its topical subject matter (political corruption in Central and South America) and violent music video, in which Keith got to shoot Mick. "Undercover Of The Night" might not have been as successful in Australia as it was elsewhere (number 9 in the US; number 11 in the UK), but it was their biggest hit here since 1981's "Start Me Up"

Number 34 "The Vasectomy Song" by John Williamson
Peak: number 28
I don't know if it's un-Australian to admit it, but my knowledge of John Williamson doesn't really extend beyond patriotic anthem "True Blue" and pro-environment single "Rip Rip Woodchip". Based on that evidence, I'd always considered him a pretty serious kind of artist. Turns out, his two biggest chart hits were comedy tracks - debut single "Old Man Emu" (number 4 in 1970) and this tune about getting the snip. "The Vasectomy Song" was taken from his first live album, Singing In The Suburbs - Live (aka Waltzing Matilda - Live), and saw him welcomed back to the top 50 by a record-buying public that'd made Austen Tayshus's "Australiana" the year's number 1 record.

Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:

Next week: a singer with two massive soundtrack hits to her name returns with a song not from a movie, while another female artist finds herself back in the top 5 thanks to her latest film song. Plus, an Australian synthpop group discovered by Countdown's Molly Meldrum.

Back to: Nov 27, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 11, 1983


  1. Never heard the Howard Jones track. The synth-heavy middle 8 was the best bit.

    Interesting cover of 'Riders...'

    'Burning Up' is one of my favourite Madonna songs; no doubt benefiting from being less-overplayed than her other 80s hits.

    Michael Sembello even came to Australia to promote 'Automatic Man', performing it 'live' on Countdown, complete with backing dancers - .

    'Working For the Man' always seemed like a 1981 track to me, not 1983.

    Don't think I've heard 'Strait Old Line' before, unusually. It's a bit sinister-sounding, and definitely not lead-single material, but I like it.

    Nothing the Rolling Stones did from this point onwards was relevant, to me, other than 'Almost Hear You Sigh' from 1990, which I liked, and Mick Jagger's 'Just Another Night' and 'Sweet Thing'.

    I saw 'The Vasectomy Song' listed on some old radio charts, but haven't actually heard it until now.

  2. Burning Up was actually Madonna's first single in Australia. "Everybody" was released in NZ (I have a copy of the NZ single), but as far as anyone at Warners has been able to confirm, it was not released in Australia (I even checked with David Kent as to whether he received info about it for publication in the new releases section of the Kent Report, and he told me that he had no record whatsoever of it ever having been issued as an official single here).

    From info provided by Molly in recent years, BU really didn't register with him when it first entered our charts, so it goes to show how important exposure on Countdown was in those days for a new artist to achieve success. It wasn't until he met Madonna in NYC early in 1984 that he became a fan (and thank God for that!).

    1. I do find it interesting when an international artist (successful yet or otherwise) releases something in New Zealand but not Australia.

      This site has (incomplete) listings of Australian-pressed records/singles from the 70s/80s - . The WEA listing only goes up to 1982, but there's no listing for 'Everybody' in it.