By Steve Spears
What is it about pop music that Australian musicians have a complicated relationship with? A month ago, I interviewed Steve Kilbey of The Church. The Sydney-born band had just performed on this year’s voyage of The 80s Cruise, and he confessed to me he was no longer a fan of “Unguarded Moment,” one of the first hits the band had back in the ’80s. (Listen to the full interview here.)
A week later, I was talking with David Sterry of Real Life, the Melbourne-bred new-wavers who will perform on the 2024 cruise. David confessed he wasn’t a fan of his song “Catch Me I’m Falling” – the band’s second Top 10 hit in Australia after the iconic “Send Me An Angel.” (Don’t confuse the Real Life song with the tune “Catch Me (I’m Falling)” by Pretty Poison…though maybe bone up on both for Big ’80s Trivia, where David will be a VIP guest for one session in 2024.)
“It’s a very clever song. It’s well-written and everything is in the right place, but I just, for some reason, don’t love it,” David said of the Real Life tune, which peaked at No. 8 in Australia). The incredibly – pardon the pun – catchy song is about living one’s dreams.
David is continuing to live his dream, writing and performing music while residing in the suburbs of Melbourne, where his band got its start.
“I still write and record music, and I’m just trying to find that balance where I still get to play my latest material, if it’s good enough,” he says. “My ’80s songs have gotten me to play places like the Greek Theatre a couple of years ago, because I was on one of those big ’80s tours with Wang Chung and A Flock Of Seagulls. So I’m very grateful for that as well. It’s just trying to find that balance where you go, hey, I’m still alive, I can still write songs, there are still things I want to write about. I’m still falling in love. I’m still getting a broken heart, all that stuff.”
David and I talked about a variety of topics including the band’s music videos, his early influences and a story about a Midnight Oil crowd that has a surprising ending. Click here for a link to the full interview. Here are some highlights.
New Wave had just gotten started when you answered a newspaper ad to join a band in 1980. What bands were you listening to at the time?
I was a big Yes fan. I’m still a Yes fan. I was listening to New Order and Giorgio Moroder, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, all of those bands, mostly English bands at the time. Oh, Talking Heads from America, of course, and Devo. It was a really exciting time. There was a transition in technology, and people could make music without having a record label sometimes and just doing a do-it-yourself approach to a lot of things. That made it a lot easier for bums like me who weren’t particularly talented.
Your song “Send Me An Angel” had two lives in the ’80s – once on its original release in 1983 and again when it appeared in the movie “Teen Wolf Too.”
I have a good story about that. I was living in a little flat in Hollywood for a while because I needed to be close to our record company and management. One day they rang me up and said, “Look, there’s a new movie premiering tonight and you’re in the soundtrack.” And so, I rang up a girl that I knew and said, “Guess what? We’re gonna walk the red carpet tonight.” And, we got down there, walked the red carpet, no one knew who I was, thank God. And, we’re sitting in the movie and it’s a crap movie, and all of a sudden there’s this awful fight scene and it goes, da da da da… And I hadn’t told the girl we were in there. And all of a sudden “Send Me An Angel” comes on, and she just looked at me, and I was just went, “Oh, no.”
The movie is an infamous bomb, but people remember the montage scene and the song. So many other artists have covered it too. Do you have a favorite?
Yes! There was an Australian TV show called “Underbelly” about the criminal world in Australia. At the end of one show called “Underbelly: Razor,” set between the world wars, a lady is opening a kind of a strip club in Sydney, and she has a singer on who comes on and sings a 1920s version of “Send Me An Angel,” which is just fantastic. The girl who sang it, a lady called Jessica Mauboy, did a beautiful, beautiful version of it. (Watch a clip here.)
You just finished performing on another music cruise, this one sailing out of Australia. How did you enjoy cruising?
I love the ocean. I love being near the ocean. The thing that surprised me most was I was the only person outside most of the time. They were all in this casino in there, there are bars in there, so everyone’s in there having a really good time, but I was out just watching the ocean, and it was all like I had this whole deck all to myself and it was fantastic. It was just beautiful.
You’re scheduled to be our guest for Big 80s Trivia one day while we’re at sea on this cruise. How well do you think you’d do if you were competing?
Well, we have a couple of rock and roll trivia shows in Australia, and I’m pretty good. I’m still one of these people who’s going, “I know that, I know that, I know that.” The funny thing is, I was walking around in my local supermarket, and there were so many people that I knew on the speaker system. There’s music playing all the time, and I know nearly everybody, I’ve got a story to tell about nearly everybody on the radio. So, yeah, I know lots of stuff about the music business. I’ve been fascinated with it. I can’t believe I’m a part of it, I’m very lucky.
There’s an infamous tale about the first 80s Cruise where my co-host and I asked a question about the America’s Cup loss in the 1983 competition to Australia. People thought the question was too bizarre and some even left. We can never live down that stupid question.
That was a very big day in Australia, and I remember that so well because we were in Sydney at a recording studio called Rhinoceros, making our first album, “Heartland,” and that was on the night that we won. And our prime minister, whose name was Bob Hawke at the time, he was sort of saying, “Anyone who sacks anyone today for not going to work is a bastard!”
That was a rough day at trivia, and it was a rough day at sailing for us. You got a long flight ahead of you to get to Florida but we can’t wait to meet you on the ship.
Thank you, Steve. I can’t wait to meet everybody on the cruise and have some fun.
(Steve Spears is the creator and co-host of Stuck in the ’80s, the longest running podcast about the decade. He and Brad Williams present Big 80s Trivia on each voyage of The 80s Cruise. Find out more at sit80s.com)