Friday, July 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday: 10 '80s U.S. Chart Hits Everyone Should Know By Australian Bands Not Named INXS

"Living Eyes" Bee Gees" (1981) Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't all over for the Brothers Gibb once disco sucked. The trio had three U.S. Top 40 hits during the '80s, including the 1989 No. 7 "One" and a 1987 global smash called "You Win Again" that went all the way to the top in the UK. But for me, '80s Bee Gees wouldn't have been the same without the title track to the group's first album of the decade. Sadly, considering it's No. 45 peak on Billboard's Hot 100, I might be in the American minority. In the plus column, it did hit No. 7 in Bee Gees' adopted homeland, making it the threesome's biggest Aussie single of the post-disco decade.

"Overkill" Men at Work (1983) Look, I enjoy a good laugh as much as the next guy, but I always considered Men at Work to be more an early '80s comedy troupe than a rock band with a singer who sort of resembled the dad on Married... with Children later in the decade. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't kind of relieved that the group's run of U.S. success was a sprint, a mad dash that included a Best New Artist Grammy in 1983, making Men at Work the only Australian act to be so honored. I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that MAW's relatively brief hit shift produced at least one hit whose considerable appeal was no joke, a No. 3 ballad that didn't even sound like the work of the same band that gave the world "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive."

"Send Me an Angel" Real Life (1983) I used to get this mixed up with the Eurogliders track below, mostly for their overlapping celestial themes. But Real Life is the Australian group that holds the distinction of being, to my knowledge, one of two '80s one-hit wonders to go Top 40 twice: The 1983 original version of the band's only U.S. hit peaked at No. 29 in the U.S. in early '84, while an updated version re-titled "Send Me an Angel '89" went three notches higher five years later. By the way, that other double one-hit wonder was Benny Mardones, whose "Into the Night" hit No. 11 in 1980 and No. 20 in 1989.

"Heaven (Must Be There)" Eurogliders (1984) It seems you really can't go wrong when you name your song after a deluxe afterlife haven in the sky (see/hear like-titled '80s tracks by Psychedelic Furs, Eurythmics, The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams, Warrant and Simply Red, who covered Talking Heads' "Heaven"-ly 1979 track on its 1985 debut, Picture Book). This one, a No. 2 Australian hit that topped out at No. 65 in the U.S., is just further proof that when it comes to pop music, Americans often don't know heaven when they hear it. (Maria McKee's "Show Me Heaven," a 1990 U.K. No. 1, wasn't a U.S. hit either!)

"Just As I Am" Air Supply (1985) If you're anything like me, when recalling Air Supply's early '80s run, you tend to leave off the post-kiss-of-death Greatest Hits hit that was the last of the band's 11 consecutive Top 40 singles. That certainly doesn't un-make it one of Air Supply's better ballads and, along with "Making Love Out of Nothing At All," one of two that survives on my iPod to this day.

"Funky Town" Pseudo Echo (1986) I've said it before, and I'll say it once more: The 1980 electro-disco No. 1 formerly known as "Funkytown" was probably the last single by a one-hit wonder (Lipps Inc) that I ever would have expected to be revived six years later and turned into a No. 6 single by an Aussie foursome that was also destined to be a one-hit wonder in the U.S. The slight title change makes sense: Lipps Inc is requesting a trip to a specific place by the titular name ("Won't you take me to Funkytown?"), while Pseudo Echo's desired destination ("Won't you take me to the funky town?) is any place that's as funky as their rocked-out reworking isn't.

"The Dead Heart" Midnight Oil (1987) Everybody knows "Beds Are Burning," but the haunting follow-up, which only made it to No. 53 on the Hot 100, was every bit as scorching.

"Crazy" Icehouse (1987) "Can you believe "Electric Blue" was a Top 10 hit?" my BFF Lori recently asked. Actually, no, but mostly because its far superior chart predecessor peaked at a lowly No. 14, seven notches below it.

"Under the Milky Way" The Church (1988) I'll be forever grateful to late-'80s U.S. pop music fans for making this The Church's only charting single Stateside (No. 24), not because I love the song -- there's far more engaging work on Starfish, its parent album (e.g., "Destination," "Lost," "Spark," "Antenna," "A New Season" and "Hotel Womb") -- but because it led me to discover the rich '80s discography of a gifted group that to this day remains one of my 10 favorite bands of any decade.

"Breakaway" Big Pig (1988) I get what they were going for, but I always thought that a song as great as this one deserved to performed by a band with a better name. The album title, Bonk, probably did nothing to mask the stench of novelty. I'm convinced that had it been "Breakaway" by Big Pink (not to be confused with The Big Pink, a more recently emergent band from London), which is what I always accidentally call the group anyway, it would have gone much farther than No. 60 on the Hot 100. But I suppose that's still better than "Heaven."

(Editor's note I've purposely left one big '80s band from Melbourne out of this: Crowded House, whose co-founder and frontman, Neil Finn, hails from New Zealand.)

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