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Australian music in the 1980s

Australian music gained confidence throughout the 1980s, developing its own distinct 'Australian rock' sound. Midnight Oil was a popular band whose lyrics addressed social and political issues, such as Indigenous rights and environmental destruction. Several local rock acts also hit the world stage. In 1982, Australian band Men At Work released the patriotic song Down Under - it would go on to become a hit in both the US and UK. INXS also achieved international success, receiving Grammy nominations, MTV music awards and many top ten hits in Britain and the United States.

In 1987, Australian soap actress Kylie Minogue launched her music career with a remake of the 1960s hit Locomotion. It became the highest-selling Australian single of the 1980s. Minogue would go on to achieve worldwide stardom, especially in Britain and Europe.

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Non-Australian music in the 1980s

American music retained its popularity in Australia during the 1980s. Singers Michael Jackson and Madonna each achieved numerous number one hits in Australia, helped along by high-budget video clips broadcast on music television programmes. Other popular American acts of the decade included pop/dance duo Milli Vanilli and the rapper M.C. Hammer.

Several British acts also impacted the Australian music scene in the 1980s. The synthesised sounds of bands like Duran Duran became popular, while punk groups like The Cure gained a large following among alternative rock fans (refer to Topic 5, Chapter 5).

Music technology in the 1980s

Music went electronic in the 1980s, with the introduction of new synthesisers that produced electronically-generated sounds. Music technology also changed the way people listened to music. The boom box, or ghetto blaster, became popular in the 1980s. It was a portable device containing a cassette player and radio that allowed music to be played anywhere, at high volume.

Personal stereos enabled people to play music on cassette tapes and listen to it through headphones wherever they went. As their popularity increased, concerns were raised about the safety and social consequences of personal stereos. Oblivious to traffic noises around them, many personal stereo users were injured by cars while walking. Personal stereos were also criticised by some as being anti-social and in some cases, a demonstration of poor etiquette.

In the late 1980s, compact discs (CDs) began to replace vinyl records and cassette tapes. CDs were small, light and offered much higher sound quality than records and cassettes. In 1986, it was estimated that 4 percent of Australians owned a CD player. By 1993, this figure had increased to 33 percent.

Television in the 1980s

The Australian television industry had matured by the 1980s, as the number of Australian programmes screened by commercial stations reached a peak. Local programmes were generally high-quality and fared well amongst the mass of imported programmes. In 1980, it was estimated that eight of the ten most popular programmes screening on Australian television were produced in Australia.

The surge in popularity of Australian programmes in the 1980s can partly be attributed to the climate of nationalism created by events like the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, the America's Cup victory and the Bicentenary. Government funding injected into Australia's film and television industries since the 1970s also continued to spur the production of quality Australian content, particularly in the first half of the decade.

Many new Australian programmes were launched in the 1980s and continued to flourish throughout the decade. The drama series A Country Practice was a popular drama series set in a medical practice in a small country town. It debuted in 1981 and would run for 12 years. In 1987, the ABC began screening the late-night music programme Rage.

Two evening soap operas were also launched in the 1980s: Neighbours in 1985 and Home and Away in 1988. Both went on to achieve major overseas success, particularly in Britain. The successful comedy programme The Comedy Company began in 1988 and ran for two years, sparking a new era in home-grown comedy.

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Sport and television in the 1980s

Coverage of sport on television advanced in leaps and bounds during the 1980s. Many sporting telecasts featured multi-camera set-ups, slow-motion action replays, special effects and computer graphics.

In 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics were broadcast directly to Australia via satellite.

Launch of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)

In 1980, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) launched. It was a new multicultural television station that gave Australians access to a range of foreign-language and special interest programmes, as well as screening minority sports and independent films and documentaries.

The mini-series

The mini-series also proved to be a popular Australian television programme format in the 1980s. Typically running for several episodes, a miniseries combines elements of both film and television drama, and features high production values and aggressive promotional campaigns. Successful miniseries' from the 1980s include A Town Like Alice (1981), The Dismissal (1983)and Bangkok Hilton (1989).

Mini-series' often depicted significant historical Australian events and were considered to be an important contribution to the national identity debate in the 1980s. For the Term of His Natural Life portrayed life as an early settler, while Women of the Sun addressed the treatment of Aboriginal people. Many Australian mini-series' found success with overseas audiences and were important in the communication of an 'Australian' image to a global audience.

Non-Australian television programmes in the 1980s

American soap operas like Dallas and Dynasty were popular in Australia in the 1980s. Sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Family Ties rated highly, along with crime dramas like Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice (refer Topic 5, Chapter 5).

Radio in the 1980s

In 1980, many new commercial radio stations began broadcasting on the new FM band. FM stations employed sophisticated methods of audience research to appeal to specific groups of people. Some of these stations primarily played rock and pop music targeted towards young people, while others played hits from the 1960s and 1970s in a bid to appeal to more mature listeners.

Computer and video games in the 1980s

Personal computers became more affordable in the 1980s and a wide range of computer games provided a new source of entertainment. Handheld consoles for home computers were introduced in the late 1980s.

Young people could also gather in video arcades and play video games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong.

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Video cassette recorders (VCRs)

Video cassette recorders (VCRs) became a common fixture in Australian homes in the 1980s. The device allowed people to record programmes from their television sets onto a video tape and watch them later. The VCR gave people much more control over their viewing habits, allowing them to watch whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

In 1981, 3 percent of Australian households owned a VCR. By 1993, this figure had risen to 80 percent.

VCRs also allowed people to hire videos of movies that had previously screened at the cinema. In 1978, just two film titles were available on video. By 1993, 33 000 films were available.

Cinema in the 1980s

Cinema box office sales declined sharply after the introduction of the VCR, as many people chose to watch films at home. It has been argued, however, that home videos were responsible for an upsurge in the popularity of cinema in the late 1980s. As the novelty of the VCR began to wear off in the late 1990s, people who had become accustomed to watching feature-length movies, returned to the cinema.

When crowds did return, they watched films at a multiplex cinema. Multiplexes are large buildings that contain many separate cinemas. They are often built in suburban areas, and are easy to reach by car. The first multiplex was opened in 1986 in Chadstone, Victoria. As they spread across the country, multiplexes forced many small cinemas to close down.

Australian film in the 1980s

Film finance

The 1980s were a busy time in Australian film-making. In 1981, the Commonwealth Government introduced a tax incentive scheme that encouraged private interests to invest in Australian films, in return for tax benefits. Investment flooded into the industry - the number of feature films produced in Australia rapidly increased and their budgets skyrocketed.

Local films addressed a wide array of themes during this period. While Australian's have often explored issues of national identity through historical films, many contemporary issues came to the fore of Australian film in the early 1980s. These included adolescence (Puberty Blues), urban redevelopment (Heatwave) and drugs (Winter of our Dreams). During this period, Australian films also explored genres such as thrillers and action films.

In the mid 1980s, the tax incentive scheme for financing films was replaced by the Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC).

Australian films for an international market

As private investment became a crucial source of finance for Australian films in the mid 1980s, the industry began to change. Many films became more commercially-oriented, ie, designed to maximise profit and appeal to viewers in other countries, particularly America. The Man from Snowy River (1982), for example,starred American actor Kirk Douglas - even though its story was quintessentially Australian.

Other Australian films that achieved international success throughout the 1980s included Mad Max 2 (1981) and Gallipoli (1981).

In 1986, Crocodile Dundee was released. It went on to become the highest grossing non-American film in history and the most financially successful Australian film of all time. Although scripted and produced by Australians, the film was also designed to appeal to a mainstream American audience. Crocodile Dundee's storyline, for example, is essentially a revised version of a typical Hollywood comic narrative.

The success of Australian film in the international market had several kickbacks - it enabled the construction of a national identity on the world stage, increased awareness of Australia and promoted tourism. The star of Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan, also appeared in television advertisements that encouraged Americans to travel to Australia.

Hollywood influence in the 1980s

Throughout the 1980s, many Australian films achieved local and international success. American films, however, still retained their dominance at the Australian box office. American comedies and big-budget action movies were especially popular (refer to the Topic 5, Chapter 5).

Other entertainment in the 1980s

Active pursuits like trampolining and skateboarding became popular in the 1980s. Specially-built ramps allowed skateboarders to perfect their skills. Roller skating was also all the rage - young people could meet at roller-skating rinks, dressed in the latest fashions and skate to the latest music.

Many different toys and games were popular in the 1980s, including the Trivial Pursuit board game, Cabbage Patch Kid dolls and the Rubik's Cube puzzle.


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