Belatedly following up our piece on Aussie Icons on Countdown in the 70s, we now bring you a test team’s worth of classic Countdown appearances – mostly the particular band’s very first - from a range of Australian acts who had an impact in the 1980s. What we have here is very much from the turn of the decade; with the wealth of local talent getting an airing at the time, this will no doubt be the first of many parts!
The Reels - Love Will Find A Way
One of the quirkiest Australian bands of the 80s – all the way from Dubbo – was this lot, who actually debuted on Countdown in late 1979, with their irresistible first single. An almost prototypical new wave band to begin with, the Reels were a successful band through the 80s despite having quickly developed an idiosyncratic sound and becoming genuine iconoclasts.
Mental As Anything - The Nips Are Getting Bigger
Not quite as surreal as when “I Love To Have A Drink With Duncan” got Slim Dusty on Countdown, but seeing the teenyboppers clapping along to the Mentals’ ode to alcoholism was kind of odd. They definitely were different times. Mental As Anything had more hits than any homegrown act over the next couple of decades, but like the Reels, they actually got onto Countdown with their first single in late ’79.
The Riptides – Tomorrows Tears
Mark Callaghan later gained more fame with GANGgajang, but he came to prominence originally in this Brisbane-bred punky pop outfit who became a staple on the Sydney pub rock scene in the early 80s. “Tomorrows Tears” was their second single, and they appeared on Countdown in 1980 during a short period when the producers decided to showcase a different independent artist each week.
Flowers – I Can’t Help Myself
Though they initially built an audience with a set of punk and glam covers in the immediate post-punk era, the Flowers must’ve seemed to appear fully formed when they landed on Countdown in 1980. Their first album, from which they got the name they would soon take as their own, was a very assured record.
The Boys – When You’re Lonely
With their trade apprentice look, The Boys from Perth tried very hard to look pub rock, although they weren’t of drinking age when they started making records in 1980. That didn't stop them from becoming pub rock sensations at home, and making a few ripples when they ventured east. “When You're Lonely” was the first of a string of killer tough power pop records from these kids.
James Freud & The Radio Stars - Modern Girl
While the Models were the darlings of the Melbourne scene at the time, Sean Kelly’s old bandmate in the Teenage Radio Stars James Freud took the early initiative chart-wise with this great pop tune, but then faltered badly when Gary Numan took him under his wing. Of course, James would join Sean in the Models some years later, and they’d reach the top together.
The Innocents – Sooner Or Later
Debuting with a single that has become an internationally revered power pop classic, The Innocents sadly failed to connect, despite a couple of Countdown appearances. Fans of the single will want to pick up the band’s recently released new album Teardrop Kiss.
The Dugites – In Your Car
Quirky Perth new wave popsters the Dugites got the attention of non-commercial radio on the East Coast with a self-released single and were primed for Countdown and broader success when they ventured over and signed to Michael Browning’s fledgling label Deluxe Records.
INXS – Simple Simon
Although not as initially successful as the Dugites with their own quirky brand of new wave pop, this bunch soon became somewhat popular. “Simple Simon” was their rather unexceptional first single; it would take the band a couple of albums before they really hit their stride with a drastically overhauled sound.
The Church – Unguarded Moment
If INXS started off unexceptionally, the Church delivered from the get-go. Well nearly; their first single remains unheard by most, but their second single and first Countdown appearance for “The Unguarded Moment” hit immediately and remains a signature tune for the band and a classic of the 60s revival in the 80s.
The Sunnyboys – Alone With You
We can’t find a clip of the Sunnyboys doing their first single “Happy Man” on Countdown, so maybe they played the film clip instead? If anyone knows can they let us know? But they definitely did appear on the show playing their second single “Alone With You” in 1981. Of course an earlier and perfectly brilliant version of “Alone With You” had appeared on the first band’s first indie EP, but the rerecorded Mushroom version became the one that most people know.
The Divinyls – Boys In Town
With their first single and their debut Countdown performance and they had the entire country riveted.