Every Number 1 Hit By An Australian Act In The 1980s

Every Number 1 Hit By An Australian Act In The 1980s

joe dolce aussie singles
Joe Dolce, 1981 (Photo by Terry Lott/Sony Music Archive via Getty Images)

When it came to music in the 1980s, anything went. Pop, rock, dance, country, folk, comedy – if you look at any chart from that decade, songs from a huge variety of genres rubbed shoulders on the top 50. 

The list of number 1 singles by Australian artists during the 80s is just as diverse, with 23 different tracks reaching the pinnacle of the ARIA chart that decade.
"Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce Music Theatre
8 weeks, 1980

It doesn’t get much more Australian than this novelty tune. Written by an Italian-American who had immigrated to Melbourne, “Shaddap You Face” was performed by Joe Dolce as a thick-accented, mandolin-playing character called Giuseppe at a time when multiculturalism was becoming seen as the new normal. A song that opened the door for Australians of all backgrounds to laugh with each other rather than pick on minorities, it also topped charts around the world.

"Duncan" by Slim Dusty
2 weeks, 1981

If Joe Dolce represented a changing Australia, the return of true blue legend Slim Dusty to the number 1 spot for the first time in 23 years was a reminder of our country music heritage. Last on top with 1958’s “The Pub With No Beer”, Slim scored again with his version of a throwaway track originally recorded by its writer, Pat Alexander, who appears in the music video alongside the man it’s about: factory owner Duncan Urquhart.  


"Jessie’s Girl" by Rick Springfield
1 week, 1981

Like Air Supply and Little River Band, singer/actor Rick Springfield was an Australian act who would not only break through in the US, but end up having more hits there than at home. Written about being in love with your mate’s girlfriend, “Jessie’s Girl” was successful in both countries, reaching number 1 here and in America, where Rick’s fame soared thanks to his role on daytime soap General Hospital. Previously, Rick’s biggest hit had been his 1971 debut single, “Speak To The Sky”.

"You Weren’t In Love With Me" by Billy Field
1 week, 1981

By the time he released his debut album, Billy Field had been a part of the Australian music scene for over a decade. After the top 5 success of the cheeky “Bad Habits”, the musician from Wagga Wagga went all the way with the more heartfelt “You Weren’t In Love With Me”. He never enjoyed such chart highs again, but his gravelly voice remains one of Australia’s most distinctive.

Read more: I Love The 80s Music Quiz

"Physical" by Olivia Newton-John
5 weeks, 1981

It’s hard to imagine that this pop classic co-written by Aussie Steve Kipner was once deemed so racy that certain parts of America banned it, but in 1981, a song so blatantly about getting busy was a little confronting, especially coming from English-born, Australian-raised ONJ. Any concerns about its lyrical content (or the suggestiveness of the MTV-favoured music video) did nothing to stop “Physical” being a phenomenal success. In the US, the song spent double the amount of weeks at number 1 as in Australia, the longest stretch at the top for the entire decade.


"Down Under" by Men At Work
6 weeks, 1981

A hit twice over in Australia – first when it was lifted as the third single from Business As Usual and again in the wake of Australia II’s victory in the 1983 America’s Cup – “Down Under” was written as a celebration of Australian culture, but not in the jingoistic way it has since been used. The song, which also reached number 1 in numerous overseas countries, was the subject of a copyright dispute in 2009 due to the use of a flute riff deemed to be based on 1932 song “Kookaburra”.

"What About Me" by Moving Pictures
6 weeks, 1982

Another song that was a hit twice in Australia, but in the case of “What About Me”, it was taken to number 1 by two different local acts. For Sydney band Moving Pictures, it was easily the biggest single of their career despite not originally being intended for their debut album. In 2004, it returned to the top thanks to a remake by inaugural Australian Idol runner-up Shannon Noll.

"I Was Only 19" by Redgum
2 weeks, 1983

The first charting single of folk band Redgum’s career was also their biggest, striking a chord with Australians who had lived through or been affected by the Vietnam War. Written by frontman John Schumann based on experiences told to him by veterans of the conflict, “I Was Only 19” was also a charity record, with royalties going to the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia.


"Australiana" by Austen Tayshus
8 weeks, 1983

From the deadly serious we turn now to the seriously funny – and the year-end number 1 song of 1983. Written by Billy Birmingham, “Australiana” was the debut record by stand-up comedian Austen Tayshus and consisted of a long-winded story that incorporated a number of slang terms, locations and named of native flora and fauna. The 12” only release matched Joe Dolce’s eight weeks at number 1, but its run on top was broken by being briefly banned in Victoria. 

Semantics by Australian Crawl
1 week, 1983

The first of two EPs on this list, the four-track Semantics succeeded on the strength of “Reckless (Don’t Be So)” – a song that differed from the Crawl’s usual releases in two ways. Firstly, it provided the band with their first (and only) top 10 single, and secondly, its downbeat feel was in marked contrast to the types of songs they were known for.

"Original Sin" by INXS
2 weeks, 1984

Next up, another band also scoring their first top 10 hit. And somewhat shockingly, “Original Sin” was the only number 1 of INXS’s career – despite going on to come close with the likes of “What You Need”, “Good Times”, “Need You Tonight” and “Suicide Blonde”. Produced by Nile Rodgers and featuring Daryl Hall on backing vocals, “Original Sin” preceded game-changing album The Swing, which was also INXS’s first number 1 LP in Australia. 

"It’s Just Not Cricket" by The Twelfth Man
3 weeks, 1984

Australians loved their expletive-ridden comedy records about as much as they loved their cricket in the 1980s, and so this debut release from Billy Birmingham’s Twelfth Man persona, which combined both dinky-di passions, was a sure-fire winner. The first of many number 1 hits on both the singles and albums charts, “It’s Just Not Cricket” saw the funny side of Tony Grieg’s pitch report, Pakistani team member names and, of course, Richie Benaud’s marvellous commentary.

"Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight" by Models
2 weeks, 1985

One of two massive singles for Models in what would be their best year on the chart, “Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight” followed number 2 hit “Barbados” and went one step further for the band fronted by singers James Freud (on this track) and Sean Kelly. The punchy brass-soaked track also took Models into the American top 40.

Species Deceases by Midnight Oil
6 weeks, 1985

Achieving a chart first in Australia, this four-track EP debuted at number 1 on the ARIA chart. Containing brand new music from arguably the most popular rock band in the country at the time, Species Deceases marked the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the topic of “Blossom And Blood”, although the best known track from the EP is “Hercules”.

"You’re The Voice" by John Farnham
7 weeks, 1986

It was the comeback that almost didn’t take off, with Australian radio stations initially ignoring the lead single from John Farnham’s first solo album in six years – an album that manager Glenn Wheatley had to mortgage his house to fund since no labels wanted to sign a singer considered a has-been. John (and Glenn) had the last laugh, with “You’re The Voice” kicking off the biggest renaissance in Australian music history – one which, despite constant retirement rumours, continues to this day.

"Funkytown" by Pseudo Echo
7 weeks, 1986

They had been at the forefront of Australia’s synthpop scene, registering three top 20 hits since 1983, but the song that took Pseudo Echo all the way to number 1 was one that had already topped the chart – and only six years previously for disco act Lipps Inc. The Melbourne four-piece’s version was different enough to impress all over again, and saw the keytar-brandishing band reach the top 10 in the UK and the US.

"He’s Gonna Step On You Again" by The Party Boys
2 weeks, 1987

If there was ever any doubt about the preferred genre out of rock and pop in Australia in the 1980s, it was resolved in favour of the former when The Party Boys’ version of John Kongos’s 1971 hit triumphed over a cover released by Chantoozies at exactly the same time. A band with a floating line-up, The Party Boys were fronted in 1987 by John Swan, with this incarnation the first to hit the top 50.

"Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue
7 weeks, 1987

Performed at a football club charity event she’d attended with her Neighbours co-stars, the song originally recorded by Little Eva in 1962 became Kylie Minogue’s first single release from her record deal with Mushroom Records. Flying to number 1 within three weeks of release, “Locomotion” ended up as 1987’s number 1 song in Australia and started the ball rolling on this country’s biggest pop career.

"Electric Blue" by Icehouse
1 week, 1987

They’d been successful all decade, coming closest to the top of the chart with 1982’s number 5 hit, “Great Southern Land”, but in 1987, Icehouse went to another level with the 11-week number 1 album Man Of Colours. The album’s second single, “Electric Blue” had been co-written by Icehouse singer Iva Davies with John Oates of Hall & Oates, who has said he would have taken the song for the duo if Iva hadn’t wanted it. 

"Too Much Ain’t Enough Love" by Jimmy Barnes
1 week, 1987

Like INXS, Jimmy Barnes is an act you would’ve thought had reached number 1 more times than he did on the singles chart. (On the albums chart, his first six albums all hit the top.) As it turns out, this lead single from Freight Train Heart is Jimmy’s only chart-topper, either solo or with Cold Chisel. The soulful track was co-written by Jimmy with four American musicians known for their work with bands like The Babys and Journey.

"I Should Be So Lucky" by Kylie Minogue
6 weeks, 1988

Proving “Locomotion” had been no one-off, Kylie Minogue returned to the number 1 spot with her second single, which, so the story goes, was written by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken while Kylie waited in reception because Pete Waterman had forgotten the Neighbours star was coming into their studios and they had nothing ready. As well as its six weeks on top in Australia, “I Should Be So Lucky” spent five weeks at number 1 in the UK.

"Got To Be Certain" by Kylie Minogue
3 weeks, 1988

By now firmly ensconced in the Hit Factory, Kylie started to record tracks for her debut album and was given “Got To Be Certain”, which had previously been recorded by model-turned-pop star Mandy Smith but ultimately not released. Issued as Kylie’s third single, “Got To Be Certain” not only gave her a hat-trick of number 1s but also became the first ever 7” single to debut at the top of the chart (and only the second ever release following Species Deceases).

"Age Of Reason" by John Farnham
4 weeks, 1988

Whispering Jack had been a phenomenon, and remains the highest-selling Australian album of all time in this country, so following it up was going to be no easy task. John Farnham came through with the goods again with Age Of Reason, while its title track and lead single also gave him another number 1. The song was written by Dragon’s Todd Hunter and his partner, Scribble’s Johanna Pigott.

If the 80s is the era that gives you that warm fuzzy nostalgic feeling, then you must follow our Hits of the 80s playlist on Spotify...

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