December 16, 1979: It’s the “End of the Decade” on Australia’s “Countdown”

By on December 16, 2015

36 years ago, on December 16, 1979, the long running Australian music series “Countdown” — which aired on the ABC network for 13 years, from 1974-1987, showcasing all the latest hits and music fads, current chart trends, and interviews, becoming staple viewing for an entire generation — broadcast a special looking back at the decade of the Seventies, and also forward to the next one, the Eighties.

This introductory clip we’ve posted here teases with some of the top acts who are included below, giving their honest opinions about varied range of topics like the importance of punk rock, the effect of the Beatles on 1970s music, the development of technological advantages and how they affect the way music is recorded, and disco, which Bob Geldof (then of the Boomtown Rats) calls the “‘cultural Volkswagen’ of the 1980s.”

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We recently found this great Youtube account — based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia — which is a veritable treasure chest of clips from the show (some clips may be blocked on certain media, and certain countries, due to various copyright issues), but wanted to share these December 1979 shows with you in particular.

“Countdown” was a hugely popular show, growing from the first six half-hour episodes that aired during a Saturday night timeslot in 1974 into the longtime prime-time Sunday evening hour-long series, airing at six o’clock every Sunday night, from early 1975, until it was axed in 1987.

By the late 70s, the show’s host, Ian “Molly” Meldrum — who was originally a talent coordinator on the show before becoming the show’s host, replacing guest deejays and original host John Farnham. He was also one of the creators of the show, along with Michael Shrimpton and Rob Weekes.

In addition to introducing the ABBA phenomenon to the rest of the world, bands like Blondie and The Human League also benefited from “Countdown”‘s promotion, and Meldrum was particularly fortunate to be in the position to help break artists in Australia and give them a primetime TV show in which they were exposed to millions of news fans in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Many of the clips here actually originate from a more recent show, “Rage,” an all-night music video program that is the longest-running music television program still in production. It airs every weekend in Australia on ABC, for over twenty-seven years now, and they have re-broadcast many of the original “Countdown” shows, which is why you’ll see the “Rage” logo on the clip.

These clips are broken up into multiple segments, and we’ll rely here on the Youtuber’s original descriptions for what are included, plus the “Vaxfacts” which provide additional info. This is just a sample of the awesome clips you can find at the Youtube link above, and we’re very thankful for being able to see these vintage clips.

This clip features a retrospective of the musical acts that defined the 1970s. Acts include KISS (“Detroit Rock City”), Kate Bush (“Wuthering Heights”), Meat Loaf (“You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth”), Billy Joel (“Just The Way You Are”), Boz Scaggs (“Lido Shuffle”), Andy Gibb (“I Just Want To Be Your Everything”), Electric Light Orchestra (“Livin’ Thing”), Linda Ronstadt (“Blue Bayou”), Bob Marley (“Is This Love”) John Williams (“Star Wars Theme”), and Australian band The Angels (“Shadow Boxer”).

Interviewees include Tom Waits, Meat Loaf, Carol Bayer Sager, Howard Kaylan of Flo and Eddie, Rickie Lee Jones, Bette Midler, Roger Voudouris, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Gabriel, Johnny Rotten, Shaun Cassidy, Leo Sayer, Squeeze (known as UK Squeeze at the time), Suzi Quatro, The Knack, Cliff Richard, Steve Harley, The Bay City Rollers, and Rod Stewart. Topics include the artists view of 1970s music, and what they felt was wrong with the music of that era.

Interviewees include Carol Bayer Sager, Alice Cooper, Howard Kaylan of Flo and Eddie, Tom Waits, Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, The Knack, and Paul McCartney. Topics include the development of technological advantages and how they affect the way music is recorded.

Interviewees include David Bowie, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, Kate Bush, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, Paul McCartney, Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones, Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel, Stevie Wonder, Cliff Richard, Peter Gabriel, and Meat Loaf. Topics include the effect of punk rock on 1970s music, particularly from the Sex Pistols.

Interviewees include Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, The Doobie Brothers, and Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats. Topics include the effect of disco music on 1970s music. The clip of the Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive” has been edited to avoid being blocked worldwide.

Vaxfacts: At the end of the segment, Bob Geldof refers to disco as the “‘cultural Volkswagen’ of the 1980s.” It is not known what Geldof meant by that statement, but alas, disco music would fade away within a year — 1980 saw hardly any disco songs in the US Top 10, and the first and only Grammy Award for “Best Disco Recording.”

Elton John discusses with Molly about his involvement with the Watford Football Club, where he became Club Chairman in 1976, along with his disillusionment of the music industry at that point, which led him to his ‘retirement’ from performing (where he continued to release ‘only’ an album a year, and eventually returned to performing within two years). Elton also shares his opinion of how music was changed in the 1970s.

Elton discusses with Molly about his ‘split’ (which Elton states was not a split in the conventional sense) with his long-time songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin, and their eventual reunion.

This clip features an interview of Olivia Newton-John, first a small segment from an early 1970s interview, then the interview, presumably conducted in 1979, by Molly Meldrum. Olivia initially discusses her early trials as a singer in the United Kingdom, then her opinion of 1970s music. Olivia then discusses movie musicals such as her own movie Grease, and then discusses her career moves in the 1980s, including the movie she is next working on, the musical Xanadu.

The interview begins, after a short clip of Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me,” with a discussion about Stewart’s preferences over playing with a band or playing solo. They also discuss which of Stewart’s past work appeals to him. A discussion is also had about how living in the US has affected Stewart’s music. They also discuss Stewart’s upcoming world tour.

This clip features an interview of Blondie, featuring band members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Clem Burke. The interview begins, after a short clip of Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass,” with a discussion about Australian music video producer Mike Chapman, who has also produced records for bands such as The Knack, Suzi Quatro, and Racey, and also produced Blondie’s album Parallel Lines, from which “Heart Of Glass” comes. Also discussed is how their image is perceived, how they record an album, what they think of Australian bands, and how indigenous sounds affect musical acts of certain countries.

Interviewees include Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder. Topics include the future of music in the 1980s.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.