Wednesday, July 30, 2008

An Aussie Queen Of Pop Gives Us Goosebumps

Singer Christie Allen will always hold a special place on the honour roll for Australian popular music. For an 18 month period during 1979 and 1980, Allen was the undisputed queen of Aussie pop.
English born Christie Allen had been fronting a Perth band called Pendulum when former Twilights guitarist Terry Britten saw the singer’s potential at one of the band’s gigs. Britten had been working in Britain as a songwriter/producer (he’d co-written Cliff Richard’s hit ‘Devil Woman’), but he returned to Australia fulltime to work with Allen. In late 1978 Christie Allen released her debut single ‘You Know That I Love You’ (#67), which though it wasn’t a major hit, did attract enough airplay and positive reviews to indicate bigger things on the horizon.

‘Falling In Love With Only You’ hit the Australian charts in April ‘79 and soon the music buying public were falling in love with Allen, sending the song to #20 on the charts. Allen had the formula just right for the time, musically laying strong pop hook toppings over a very danceable base. Her vocal style fused sultry disco diva with a girl next door sound, not unlike what Olivia Newton-John was doing around that time (think ‘Deeper Than The Night‘). Allen’s next single would move her into the court of Australian pop royalty. Aided by a seminal appearance from Christie Allen on ‘Countdown’, ‘Goosebumps’ hit the charts in September ‘79 and would go on to become one of the biggest selling singles by an Australian artist for the year. Peaking at #3 ‘Goosebumps’ was one of Mushroom Records all-time biggest selling single releases, spending 24 weeks on the charts and selling over 60,000 copies in the process.
The time was ripe for Allen to release her debut album, ‘Magic Rhythm’ debuting in November ‘79 and though it sold well enough (#59) light weight pop wasn’t the preferred dish for album buyers at that time. Regardless the album realised another major hit single shortly after when ‘He’s My Number One’ reached #4 in Australia in early 1980. All the while Christie Allen had continued a solid touring schedule, backed by The Hot Band which featured several members of Richard Clapton’s touring band.

I’m not sure what the odds were at the time but it was no doubt a sure bet that Christie Allen would take out the prestigious TV Week/Countdown Award for Most Popular Female Performer for both 1979 and 1980 (the equivalent of today’s ARIA Awards). Allen had reached the same level of popularity and acclaim that Marcia Hines had experienced in previous years. The title track ‘Magic Rhythm’ was the next single release but only reached a relatively disappointing #38. Such was Allen’s popularity at the time that she was also the singing voice for the then popular soft drink Tarino (I’d forgotten all about that drink - kinda like Fanta).

A second album ‘Detour’ (#96) was released in late 1980, preceded by the single ‘Baby Get Away’ (#38) but yielded only one other minor hit with ‘Don’t Put Out The Flame’ (#68) in 1981, by that time Terry Britten had moved on to work in the U.S. Sadly Allen had to pull back from her hectic touring and recording schedule due to ongoing health problems, completely robbing her of the momentum her career had established.

After starting a family, the 1990s saw Christie Allen return to music, albeit in a low profile capacity, fronting a number of country music acts. 1998 she appeared at the Mushroom 25 Live concert, performing her biggest hit ‘Goosebumps’. I recall seeing her interviewed at the time and she was overjoyed at being able to perform the song again, not just for her fans but for her children who were in attendance.

Allen’s main writer/producer Terry Britten went on to co-write more hits during the 80s with Tina Turner (‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’), and worked as a producer with Pete Shelley and James Reyne. Sadly, Christie Allen passed away in August 2008 after a battle with cancer.

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