Bowie’s Biggest Hits In Australia

Bowie’s Biggest Hits In Australia

Posted 1 Nov 2019
david bowie 1973
David Bowie, 1973  (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images)

David Bowie began his Australian singles chart career in 1972 with “Starman”, which reached number 37, while his 1971 album, Hunky Dory, managed number 39 early the following year. But despite the low-key start, things soon kicked into gear for the British musician, especially on the albums chart, where he placed 12 consecutive albums in the top 11 between 1973 and 1980. Singles success was less consistent in the 70s, with the bulk of his big hits coming in the 80s.

david bowie hits australia
David Bowie in Circular Quay, Sydney, 2004 (Photo by Bob King/Redferns/Getty Images)


Here are all of David Bowie's top 10 singles from lowest to highest peak.
8. "Space Oddity”
Released: 1973
Peak: number 9

It had given him his debut British hit in 1969, reaching number 5, and would end up as his first UK number 1 on re-release in 1975. In Australia, the song about Major Tom launching into space was a hit in 1973 off the back of its belated success in the US. Although associated with the 1969 Moon landing, Bowie was inspired to write the song after seeing film 2001: A Space Odyssey… while stoned.

7. "Under Pressure” (with Queen)
Released: 1981
Peak: number 6

Originally, Bowie had worked on another track on Queen’s Hot Space album called “Cool Cat”, but his backing vocals didn’t end up making the cut. Instead, the singer and the four members of Queen collaborated on this track, which had started out as an impromptu jam session. By all accounts, the recording process involved some degree of musical head-butting.

6. "Modern Love”
Released: 1983
Peak: number 6

The third single from Let’s Dance, this Little Richard-influenced track was one of two top 10 hits from the album. Another release, “China Girl”, peaked just outside, reaching number 15, making it Bowie’s best-ever singles run from an album. “Modern Love” would later be used in a Weird Science-themed Pepsi commercial featuring Bowie and Tina Turner.

5. "Absolute Beginners”
Released: 1986
Peak: number 5

Bowie’s final top 10 hit in Australia was taken from the film of the same name, in which the singer had a minor role in return for recording music for the project. “Absolute Beginners” featured Rick Wakeman on piano but not, as is sometimes rumoured, Kate Bush on backing vocals – it was a singer called Janet Armstrong. The song’s music video was directed by the film’s director, Julian Temple.

4. "Ashes To Ashes”
Released: 1980
Peak: number 3

A sequel to “Space Oddity”, “Ashes To Ashes” revisits the character of Major Tom, now adrift in space and described by Ground Control as a “junkie”. Considered as a reference to Bowie’s own battles with drugs, the singer stated that the nursery rhyme-style song was inspired by “Inchworm” as performed by Danny Kaye in Hans Christian Andersen. At the time, the iconic music video was the most expensive ever made, with a cost of a quarter of a million pounds. 

3. "Let’s Dance”
Released: 1983
Peak: number 2

Held off the Australian number 1 spot for three weeks by Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”, this UK and US chart-topper was the title track of the highest-selling album of Bowie’s career. “Let’s Dance” was transformed from Bowie’s demo by co-producer Nile Rodgers, who the singer had sought out in order to change up his sound. The music video was, of course, filmed in outback New South Wales, including scenes in a pub in Carinda and exterior shots in the Warrumbungle National Park.

2. "Dancing In The Street” (with Mick Jagger)
Released: 1985
Peak: number 1 (two weeks)

Having not been involved in the hits by charity ensembles Band Aid or USA For Africa, Bowie and The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger recorded a duet version of the 1964 Motown hit by Martha And The Vandellas in aid of Ethiopian famine relief. They had originally intended to sing together at Live Aid – Bowie in London, Jagger in Philadelphia – but it was logistically impossible to sync up their performances due to the satellite delay. Instead, both song and video were recorded in 13 hours during Bowie’s sessions for the Absolute Beginners soundtrack.

1. "Sorrow”
Released: 1973
Peak: number 1 (two weeks)

Previously recorded by folk band The McCoys and pop/rock group The Merseys, “Sorrow” was included on Bowie’s 1973 album Pin Ups, a collection of remakes of songs, including his version of The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind”. Spending two weeks at the top of the Australian singles chart but longer overall on the top 100 than “Dancing In The Street”, it is Bowie’s most successful single locally.

Get all of Bowie's albums on CD and vinyl here. 

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