Story by Paul Young
Australian hard rock band The Choirboys kicked off in 1979, honed their performing skills playing the pub circuit for several years, and clocked up a string of hits. They were an extremely popular live act. They played the Narara Music Festival in 1983, along with Divinyls, The Angels, Cold Chisel and a host of other Aussie greats, to an audience of some 45,000.
Their first big hit, for which they’ve been remembered ever since is 1987’s ‘Run to Paradise’. It’s a blazing rock track, though the dark lyrics tell a harrowing tale of heroin addiction. It was a number 3 hit nationally and stayed in the top 10 for an incredibly long time. It also hit number 13 in New Zealand and reached 33 on the U.S. charts. The band was ready to release their next song, but their company, Mushroom Records, said, ‘No we can’t release it, because the radio stations still want to play Run to Paradise’.
The story of the song’s rise to success gives an intriguing insight into the music industry back then. It was important to ensure that a song’s rise up the charts did not lose momentum, and this needed to be coordinated at a national level. If a track didn’t keep climbing the charts the stations would soon lose interest. ‘Paradise’ was number one in Sydney and Melbourne, but the owner of the big radio station in Adelaide didn’t like the song and had decided not to play it.
Back in ‘87 the Kent Music Report, compiled by enthusiast David Kent, was the weekly record sales chart. Kent and his staff would collect sales data from certain record shops, known as ‘charting stores’. Friends and fans of The Choirboys visited these stores to purchase multiple copies of the record. The highly revered and sorely missed Michael Gudinski, who ran both Mushroom Records and Frontier Touring, flexed his ‘marketing muscle’, also helping to keep the song ‘alive’ in the charts. The band’s drummer, Lindsay Tebbutt, told Radio Blue Mountains announcer Paul Young that he believed Gudinski told the owner of the Adelaide radio station he’d keep the big overseas acts out of Adelaide venues if the song wasn’t played. The song soon went to Number 1 in that town. In 2018 it was ranked number 24 on a list of the ‘most Australian’ songs of all time!
Though the band never again reached the heady heights of ‘Paradise’, they’re still rocking hard and pulling crowds whenever they perform. With the recent tragic loss of their drummer Lindsay, however, their future appears uncertain. If you get the chance though, check out these seasoned rock ‘n’ rollers for yourself.