Out of the Cabinet 1984/1985

QUICK FACTS
Up till this time Australia had a dollar note, a brown piece of paper with Aboriginal motifs of kangaroos and boomerangs on it. Then, in came the dollar coin, with which you could purchase a Twin Pack of Sorbent toilet paper, but not quite a bottle of Fountain Tomato Sauce ($1.06), or a 100g block of Cadbury’s chocolate ($1.34).

In the same year, the hundred dollar note was in circulation for the first time, and it could buy you 5 Compact Discs, much the same cost as today. CDs were then a brand new technology, and had only been adopted by 3% of consumers.

Australia’s population at the time was 15.5 million, and the car loved by most of those was the Ford Falcon GL, yours for just $12 200.

All this at a time when a typist’s salary was $13 785, Prime Minister Hawke was paid $124 219 a year, the Queen 7 million, and a musician $5000. (You can see why I was irresistible to Moya.)

In the world of technology, it was the era of the first dot-com domain name,

the first Apple Macintosh, and Microsoft’s very first Windows, version 1.

CYNDI

In 1979, a relatively unknown singer/songwriter called Robert Hazard recorded Girls Just Want To Have Fun, a song he’d written very much from a male perspective.

The phone rings in the middle of the night
My father says, “My boy, what do you want with your life?”
Father dear, you are the fortunate one
Girls just want to have fun

Come home with the morning light
My mother says, “My boy, you’ve got to start living right”
Don’t worry, mother dear, you’re still number one
Girls just want to have fun
These girls just want to have fun.

Cynthia Lauper was a New York girl with a big voice, who had been singing and writing songs since she was 12. By the age of 17 she’d changed her name to Cyndi, and was in a band called Blue Angel, making an album, and getting support gigs to acts like Hall and Oates. After a dispute with a manager, the band broke up and Cyndi, depressed and bankrupt, was unhappy with her first record label.

They wanted to put cement go-go boots on me so I couldn’t do anything on stage.

By 1983, she had changed labels and her debut solo album, appropriately called She’s So Unusual, went platinum many times over. A mixture of covers and originals, it included her reworking of Hazard’s song. In Cyndi’s words

The first time I heard it, I understood how I could sing from my point of view and make it a call to solidarity for women. I really wanted every woman to hear that song and think about their power.

Helped along by her outrageous multi-coloured hair, a stand-out video clip, and an idiosyncratic vocal sound, the once masculine song became not only one of the biggest international hits of 1984, but also a classic feminist anthem.

I come home in the morning light
My mother says- when you gonna live your life right?
Oh Mommy dear, we’re not the fortunate ones
And girls, they wanna have fun
Woah girls, just wanna have fun
That’s all they really want
Fun fun
Yes they wanna have fun, fun
Some boys take a beautiful girl
And hide her away from the rest of the world
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls they wanna have fun
Oh girls just wanna have
That’s all they really want
Fun fun,
Yes they wanna have fun, fun.

Rolling Stone magazine called her

rock’s answer to Betty Boop. One of the most vividly compelling female talents to emerge in the eighties.

When Lauper was asked her age, her reply was

I’m not a car. It doesn’t matter.

What mattered was that her career was well and truly launched. Her follow-up single was Time after Time, a song she wrote after she noticed a TV guide listing for a sci-fi film with that name. It was also a big hit that went on to be covered over 100 times since by artists as diverse as Miles Davis and Willie Nelson.

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick
And think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new
Flashback warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories
Time after time

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time.

VIRGINS AND SURGEONS

One singular sensation
Every little step she takes
One thrilling combination
Every move that she makes
One smile and suddenly nobody else will do
You know you’ll never be lonely with you-know-who.

From the song, One, from the musical a Chorus Line, filmed in 1984 by Richard Attenborough. In February that year he was in New York auditioning for dancers and in walked an unknown 25 year-old hopeful by the name of Madonna Louise Ciccone. He turned her down.

Unlike Cyndi, Madonna wasn’t a New Yorker through and through but had moved there while still in her teens to follow a career in dance, performing with celebrated contemporary choreographers like Alvin Ailey.

After a brief stint working in a musical in Paris, she started playing drums and singing in New York rock bands, developing a style that definitely had dance at its heart.

Then from her second album in ’84 came this.

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn’t know how lost I was
Until I found you

I was beat, incomplete
I’d been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new

Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time
Like a virgin
When your heart beats
Next to mine.

Helped along, no doubt, by moral rights campaigners who saw the song and its accompanying video as undermining family values, Like a Virgin was a number 1 hit around the world. Madonna was now the rage among young women who longed to adopt her look of lace tops, rosary beads, crucifixes, bleached hair and bustiers. These female disciples became known as Madonna wannabes, because their catch-cry was

We wannabe like Madonna.

Whereas Cyndi Lauper’s feminism was worn on her sleeve, Madonna’s influence was the subject of much debate among feminist elders.

Like a Virgin was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the writers of True Colours for Cyndi Lauper, Eternal Flame for the Bangles, and co-writers of I Touch Myself for the Divinyls.

Weird Al” Jancovic released a version of the song that gave it a completely new meaning.

Finally made it through med school
Somehow I made it through
I’m just an intern
I still make a mistake or two

I was last in my class
Barely passed at the institute
Now I’m trying to avoid, yeah I’m trying to avoid
A malpractice suit

Like a surgeon, hey
Cuttin’ for the very first time
Like a surgeon
Here’s a waiver for you to sign


Ooh baby, yeah I can hear your heart beating
For the very last time.


NUCLEAR

Back in 1984, Australian surgeons were not happy. Nor were many who worked in the local health industry. It was the year the newly re-elected NSW government, led by Nifty Neville Wran, cut hospital budgets, and the Hawke government introduced Medicare, the combination of which led to a bitter drawn out series of resignations and strikes within the medical profession.

But Hawkie felt secure enough to call an early election, which he won, but with a reduced majority. One of his first tasks was to deal with the failing ANZUS Treaty, and he rang up newly elected David Lange to beg him to change his policy of no nuclear warships in New Zealand.

Around the same time, Stevie Wonder released a song that marked a change from technological experimentation to a simpler approach where the melody, lyrics and vocal delivery said it all.

No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring
No song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Bob Hawke could have sung it to Lange with these words.

No nuclear ships
Down Auckland way
No joy for Reagan and his USA
For saving face
To save the day
David, there’s one thing I have to say

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Bob had a bit of a problem with the left faction of his party who convinced him to renege on the Fraser government’s decision to allow the US to trial its MX missiles in the oceans south of Tasmania. He had to face newly re-elected US President Reagan and give him the bad news.

In the words of Aussie band, Redgum, from their 1985 hit, The Drover’s Dog,

I flew around the world to improve my stature
I met Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher
The Pentagon rang so I sank in the boot
‘Cause they don’t need ANZUS or kiwi fruit
(No they don’t need ANZUS or kiwi fruit)
I serve as Reagan’s deputy
That’s why I am governing the whole country
(He serves as Reagan’s deputy
That’s why he is governing the whole country).

Who could forget the famous parody of the Gone With the Wind movie poster! Maggie Thatcher is in the arms of Ronald Reagan, and the caption reads

She promised to follow him to the end of the earth. He promised to organise it. Now showing worldwide!

Around the same time, Greenpeace had been protesting at Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific, the site of France’s nuclear tests. The environmental organisation was about to take a flotilla to the danger area for a Bastille day protest, when two explosions ripped through the Rainbow Warrior, a converted trawler that was to lead the flotilla. One crew member was killed.

And 1984 was the year that the British government confirmed that British nuclear testing had occurred almost 30 years earlier at Maralinga, South Australia, home to the Pitjantjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

Paul Kelly’s response was this song, Maralinga.

This is a rainy land
First we heard two big bangs
We thought it was the great snake digging hole
Then we saw the big cloud
Then the big black mist began to roll
This is a rainy land

A strangeness on our skin
A soreness in our eyes like weeping fire
A pox upon our skin
A boulder on our backs all our lives

This is a rainy land
This is a rainy land
No thunder in our sky
No trees stretching high
But this is a rainy land.

In 1985, a Royal Commission, led by Jim McLelland, recommended a major clean-up of the land and compensation for the traditional owners.

THEATRE AND MUSICALS

The nuclear issue was a key one back then, the subject of many songs, films and stage shows. One of these was The Boiling Frog, the last play presented by Nimrod at their Surry Hills venue (n0w the Belvoir Street Theatre). I know all about it because I wrote the music, and as I was going through the Heralds of ’84 I came across the press coverage of the show.

The Nimrod’s publicity machine described it as

a brave and jolly band of people who live, love, work, sing and dance- all happy characters with a cheering message.

But it’s not how the reviewers saw it.

An evening of unrelieved tedium, a dismal evening.

Meanwhile in London, the blockbuster musical, Les Miserables, which had originally been produced in Paris back in 1980, had its first English language production in 1984.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from the hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

In New York, Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George premiered on Broadway, and here in Australia, Cats began its long run. On opening night at the Theatre Royal, in the presence of Sydney’s glitterati and PM Bob Hawke, the big intro began for the hit song, and just as Debbie Byrne was about to give her golden tonsils an outing, there was a bomb scare. The audience was evacuated and by the time the all-clear was given and the audience was herded back in, it was almost

Midnight.

Because Andrew Lloyd-Webber had not needed a lyricist for CATS, thanks to T.S. Eliot, Tim Rice had to find new composers for his idea to create a musical about the Cold War. He heard that the Abba boys were looking for a project and, when the band broke up, they jumped at the chance. They even recycled the chorus of an obscure ABBA song.

I am an A
I’m a B
He is OK
So is she
Singing together in harmony.

The musical became Chess, released as a concept album in 1984, and the song became

Wasn’t it good?
Wasn’t he fine?
Isn’t it madness
He can’t be mine?
Oh so good
Oh so fine

He can’t be mine?
But in the end he needs
A little bit more than me
More security
He needs his fantasy
And freedom
I know him so well.

MOVIES AND MUSIC

In 1984 the movie of George Orwell’s book 1984 was showing at the cinema. Other films of ‘84/’85 included Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, The Big Chill, Amadeus, Out of Africa, A Passage To India, This Is Spinal Tap and Cocoon. Politics came to the fore in The Colour Purple, The Killing Fields, Silkwood and Gorky Park.

In Australia a young Sydney actor called Nicole Kidman make her movie debut in BMX Bandits, several local films were based on books (Annie’s Coming Out, Careful He Might Hear You and Bliss), and we produced the most expensive Australian film to date, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, featuring Tina Turner singing this song.

Out of the ruins
Out from the wreckage
Can’t make the same mistake this time
We are the children
The last generation
We are the ones they left behind

We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond
Thunderdome.

In music news, Michael Jackson, who had been advised by Paul McCartney to get into music publishing, bought the rights to nearly every Beatles’ song, much to McCartney’s dismay. But he was punished by having his hair set alight in a Pepsi commercial.

And in surprise news, Elton John got married, while on tour in Sydney, on Valentine’s Day 1984, to Renate Blauel, his German recording engineer.

I wanna kiss the bride yeah
I wanna kiss the bride yeah
Long before she met him she was mine, mine, mine
Don’t say I do
Say bye bye bye
And let me kiss the bride yeah.

The wedding was held at St Mark’s, Darlinghurst. For obvious reasons, the marriage didn’t last for too long.

Advance Australia Fair was officially our anthem, just in time for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Luckily Australia did badly at the Games, only winning 5 gold medals, so we didn’t have to put up with too many embarrassed athletes singing, with mouths open narrowly

Australian sons let us rejoice.

But, we can be thankful that a committee of Canberra’s best gave us

Australians all let us rejoice,

instead of the original

Australia’s sons let us rejoice.

JOH, MAGGIE AND STING

There weren’t many years in which there wasn’t a story about Joh Bjelke- Petersen, and these two years were no different.

A mate of his who ran the Queensland TAB, was accused of betting irregularities to the tune of $700 000. When it was suggested to Joh that he should get rid of him, Joh refused and said

It’s not like in NSW where politicians and influential people get up to all sorts of illegal mischief all the time.

Then, in 1985, Joh excelled himself when he quickly brought in tough anti-union legislation to control the Queensland power workers. His inspiration was Maggie Thatcher who was in the midst of a year long dispute with the Yorkshire coal miners, who went on strike after severe pit closures. In response, Sting wrote this song which appeared on his first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, in 1985.

We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together

This place has changed for good
Your economic theory said it would
It’s hard for us to understand
We can’t give up our jobs the way we should
Our blood has stained the coal
We tunnelled deep inside the nation’s soul
We matter more than pounds and pence
Your economic theory makes no sense

We work the black seam together
We work the black seam together.

Maggie won of course, significantly weakening the British trade union movement. 

AN ELECTION AND A NEW SOAPIE

In December 1984, Australia had a premature election, eighteen months early. Labor lost seats, for which Hawkie blamed the introduction of above-the-line voting in the Senate.

During the ten-week, Opposition leader Andrew Peacock challenged Hawke to a US-style pre-election television debate, which he reluctantly agreed to, and thus began the tradition that we now know and love. There was no worm back then, just phone calls.

Mike Carlton wrote that viewers had a choice between

a sun-tanned silvery PM in a sombre navy suit and oh so discreet maroon tie or a sun-tanned silvery Opposition Leader in a sombre navy suit and oh so discreet maroon tie.

The winner was deemed to be the latter, but his popularity in the debate wasn’t enough to stop John Howard from taking over as Opposition Leader in 1985. Howard from Sydney, Peacock from Melbourne, neither of them ever had to bother about being

Neighbours
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend.

Neighbours, the international television phenomenon, was first aired in 1985, on Channel 7. It didn’t get good ratings in Sydney, so the goings on in Ramsay Street were taken off the air, before Kylie and Jason even had a chance to appear. But the song did. Written by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, it has become the best known TV theme song in the world.

Neighbours should be there for one another
That’s when good neighbours become good friends.

FAMINE RELIEF

In those politically correct times, the Inner London Education Authority banned Peter Rabbit because he was too upper class, Tom Sawyer and Robinson Crusoe because they were racist, and Oliver Twist because it was anti-Semitic. But Christmas was still allowed, which is just as well for the inventors of Trivial Pursuit, because Christmas that year saw 200 000 Trivial Pursuit games being given as presents.

And what Christmas song of 1984 became the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history, selling a million copies in the first week alone, stayed at Number 1 for five weeks, and was also number 1 in Australia?

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.
Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Bob Geldof had seen a BBC TV report that year which highlighted the famine that had hit the people of Ethiopia, and wanted to raise money to help that cause. So he co-wrote Do They Know It’s Christmas? with his mate Midge Ure, and gathered a group of British artists to record it. Among them were Boy George, Sting, Phil Collins, members of U2, Spandau Ballet, Bananarama, Status Quo, Duran Duran, and the Boomtown Rats.

To maximise its income for the cause, Geldof worked tirelessly to talk record executives and manufacturers to donate time and services and to eliminate percentages. He talked around retailers, the Musicians’ Union, the BBC, and the media. It worked and the single raised £8 million, despite the British government refusing to remove the VAT on sales.

The next year Harry Belafonte instigated an American response, with another money-raising anthem, We Are the World, being written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, and recorded by a who’s-who of superstars like Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, , Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and  Ray Charles. It became the fastest-selling single in the world, raising $63 million.

We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
Its true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me.

This song led to the Live Aid concerts, shown in 155 countries to an audience of 2 billion. Australia nearly missed out on the telecast when Channel Nine questioned the wisdom of giving up a day to an unknown demographic. Molly Meldrum convinced the ABC to broadcast an Australian version, Oz For Africa. Live Aid raised an additional $50 million for famine relief and earned Bob Geldof his sainthood.

MISCELLANEOUS SONGS

By co-writing a song that contributed to such a good cause, Lionel Richie perhaps redeemed himself somewhat after giving us a video clip a year earlier, in which he follows a blind student into a craft room. As the student moulds a head that looks just like Lionel’s, he looks at her longingly while singing

Hello!
Is it me you’re looking for?
I can see it in your eyes
I can see it in your smile
You’re all I’ve ever wanted
And my arms are open wide
‘Cause you know just what to say
And you know just what to do
And I want to tell you so much
I love you.

On the good side, there was in ’84 there was a very strong Leonard Cohen album called Various Positions, which contained two Cohen classics.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love.

And a song that went pretty well unnoticed till it was picked up by Jeff Buckley many years later.

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

This is one of the few songs I know that gives you the chords, albeit indirectly- Leonard does it in the key of C, the fourth of which is F, the fifth is G. So after C F G it then goes to A minor (the minor fall) and to F major (the major lift). Thanks Leonard.

As far as Australian music goes, Ross Wilson’s Mondo Rock, a band that had been turning out great original music since 1976, made it to number 2 in the charts in ’84 with a song that had the honour of being banned by Sydney’s Catholic radio station 2SM.

The band split in 1980 and was launched with a new line-up that included guitarist/songwriter Eric McCusker, the writer of this coming-of-age gem, Come Said the Boy.

It was a party night, it was the end of school
He’s head was feelin’ light, the first time
She seemed much older then, she had turned seventeen
And she knew some older men, the first time

Come said the boy, let’s go down to the sand
Let’s do what we wanna do, let me be a man for you.

McCusker says of the song

When you write a song you can write what you like, and perhaps Come Said The Boy was me writing how I would have liked to have lost my virginity. Perhaps the fact that it didn’t happen that way explains the strong undercurrent of yearning in the song.

Interestingly for me, McCusker lists one of his inspirations for the song as French composer, Erik Satie. I say interestingly because I cite Satie as one of my major musical influences.

I’d listened to a lot of Erik Satie and I think there is a simple atmospheric surrealism in my song that might trace from there.

A bit of trivia- the keyboard and guitar player for Mondo Rock was James Black, who for many years featured in the band on SBS’s RocKwiz.

More trivia- 1985 was the year that TV network changed its name from 0-28 to SBS (Special Broadcasting Service).

WHAM! AND JIM STOKES

And finally, 1984 was the year when Wham!, two English boys, hit the number 1 spot on the Australian charts for the first time. The song’s title, Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, came from a sign that was hanging on a bedroom door. Wham! were even big in China, were the first Western pop group to perform there, and after their historic 10-day visit, left a Chinese public slightly bemused with lyrics like these.

You put the boom-boom into my heart
You send my soul sky high when your lovin’ starts
Jitterbug into my brain
Goes a bang-bang-bang ’til my feet do the same
But something’s bugging you
Something ain’t right
My best friend told me what you did last night
Left me sleepin’ in my bed
I was dreaming, but I should have been with you instead.

And what better way to introduce Dr Jim Stokes with his wry look at the Cabinet Records. Back then we always did 4 shows and got to hear Jim Stokes’ talks over and over, so by the fourth time we had to ask him that when he’d finished to

Wake us up before you go-go
Don’t leave us hanging on like a yo-yo
Wake us up before you go-go
We don’t want to miss it when you hit that high
Wake us up before you go-go
‘Cause we’re not plannin’ on going solo
Wake us up before you go-go
Take us dancing tonight
We wanna hit that high (yeah, yeah)
Whim Bim, thank you Jim.

To read Dr Jim Stokes’ take on the Cabinet Records of 1984and 1985, go to Jim Stokes cabinet papers 1984 and 1985.

NOTES

Songs, youtubes, credits
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Cyndi Lauper written by Robert Hazard
Find the original version by Robert Hazard at Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Robert Hazard
Time After Time written by Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman
Like a Virgin written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg
Like a Surgeon parody written by “Weird” Al Jankovic
I Just Called To Say I Love You written by Stevie Wonder. Parody by John Shortis
The Drover’s Dog written by John Schumann and Michael Atkinson, with a little help from Gilbert and Sullivan
Maralinga written by Paul Kelly
One written by Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban
I Dreamed a Dream written by Michael Schȫnberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, Herbert Ketzmer
I Am an A written by Benny Anderson and Bjȫrn Ulvaeus
I Know Him So Well written by Benny Anderson, Bjȫrn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice
We Don’t Need Another Hero written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle
Kiss the Bride written by Elton John
We Work the Black Seam written by Sting
Neighbours written by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch
Do They Know It’s Christmas? written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure
We Are the World written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie
Hello written by Lionel Richie
Dance Me written by Leonard Cohen
Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen
Come Said the Boy written by Eric McCusker
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go written by George Michael.

Books and magazines
Is That It? by Bob Geldof
Rolling Stone Magazine, Nov 24 1983