When I have featured some acts in this series who made the Australian chart, they have usually only appeared in some of the lower positions, and should’ve done better. But this is a group who actually (although rather briefly) had some decent-sized success, including having one of the most popular hit singles of the early-80s in Australia.
When was watching some videos to determine who I would like to feature, and I saw this one for the first time, I just laughed, as I wasn’t sure how seriously I was supposed to be taking all of this, although the song was definitely catchy. But the singer wore a little bowtie, had a rather high-pitched voice, and liked to do a rather bendy-legged dance. This didn’t seem to be a winning formula, but it actually was.
It turns out that they are The Swingers, a group from New Zealand, who formed in the late-70s, and their frontman Phil had previously been a member of Split Enz, best-known in this country for “I Got You”. Their debut album “Practical Jokers” was released in 1980, as was their debut single “One Good Reason”. But it was in February 1981 when they hit the big time when “Counting The Beat” was released.
This was a chart-topper in both Australia and New Zealand, and this was also the biggest single of 1981 in Australia. I’m not sure criteria was used to calculate this in those days, I don’t think that it was on sales alone. I’m also not sure how many copies you need to sell to do well, but this is reported to have sold 100,000 copies in Australia, which is considered to be a huge amount.
To get a better idea of the tastes of the Australian record-buying public in those days, these are the other hits of the year in the other years of the 80s:
1980: “I Got You” Split Enz
1982: “Eye Of The Tiger” Survivor
1983: “Australiana” Austen Tayshus
1984: “Dancing In The Dark” Bruce Springsteen
1985: “We Are The World” USA For Africa
1986: “Chain Reaction” Diana Ross
1987: “Locomotion” Kylie Minogue
1988: “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” Bill Medley And Jennifer Warnes
1989: “Like A Prayer” Madonna
By this point, they were regularly appearing on Countdown, where people were very keen to see them. But remarkably, they never had another Top 40 hit single in Australia. Although more singles were released, including “One Track Mind” and “Punch And Judy”, which were also enjoyable, it was only June 1981’s “It Ain’t What You Dance It’s The Way You Dance It” that got anywhere near the chart, reaching no. 43.
In 1982, they contributed to Starstruck, a film starring Jo Kennedy about a young woman who aspires to be a pop star, in what sounds like a similar idea to Breaking Glass, only a little more comedic in style. Also in 1982, “Counting The Beat” was released in the USA and the UK, but didn’t chart. Not long after, following a few line-up changes, The Swingers split. But their biggest hit is still familiar, and has on gone to be used on several adverts and the like.