January 15 – American Pie, Ultravox, Men At Work, Babylon Zoo?


Singer-songwriter Don McLean scores a major hit with the endless verses of cryptic folk rock tune American Pie.

So bye-bye, miss american pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’, ‘this’ll be the day that I die.’

It’s the longest-ever (8.5 minute) chart topper. It’s ‘real’ meaning is argued endlessly. But clearly it’s a tribute to the music of Buddy Holly.
Ten years after, McLean gets another top-10 with a fine cover of Roy Orbison‘s already well-known 1961 hit Crying.


Brit group Ultravox releases synthpop single Vienna.
Taken from the Vienna album released July 11, 1980, the single spends 4 weeks at UK#2, and is a top-10 in many world charts.


Australian rock phenom Men At Work has an international top-10 single with Down Under
and -two- platinum albums … and a Grammy … on the strength of it and another single, Who Can It Be Now. Worked a little reggae in there, some woodwinds … and great marketing. Both singles still get regular airplay. Worthy, if not AU’s greatest moment in rock.



UK rockers Babylon Zoo release single Spaceman in the US.
It had jetted to #1 in the UK and all over Europe in December (selling a half-million in a week). How could it miss in the US?
But it doesn’t even break wind in the US, or anywhere else in the world. Its jolt of sugar-rush success was the result of its use in a European Levi’s commercial. Nothing to do with the music at all, go figure. Which raises the question: how much of ‘popular’ is ‘good music’?