Yesterday (3.4.2017), my parents were watching the 1986 comedy, “CROCODILE” DUNDEE, on TV, and there was a scene in the movie which took place at a lavish NYC party (I believe in honor of main character Mick Dundee himself), and one of the songs people were dancing to was a song I had somehow forgotten about, but was glad to hear again – “Live It Up” by Sydney, Australia’s Mental As Anything.
The New Wave / Rock band formed in 1976 and featured its most-successful lineup for more than two decades, between 1977 and 1999: vocalist and guitarist Martin Plaza (real name Martin Murphy), lead guitarist and vocalist Reg Mombassa (real name Chris O’Doherty), his brother, Peter “Yoga Dog” O’Doherty on bass guitar and vocals, drummer Wayne de Lisle (real name David Twohill), and on vocals, keyboards and harmonica, Andrew “Greedy” Smith.
Between 1978 and 2009, Mental As Anything released 13 studio albums, five EPs, and four compilation albums. Their biggest success came in 1985, with their fifth studio album, FUNDAMENTAL, released in March of that year. The first single, “You’re So Strong,” gave the band one of their biggest Australian hits, reaching No. 11. It was also their only showing on any American chart, peaking at No. 21 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.
The follow-up single, “Live It Up,” would end up being the band’s greatest success. With vocals and song style kind of reminiscent of Marshall Crenshaw with a hint of Wall Of Voodoo, “Live It Up” is an upbeat song serving as a reminder that you’re not alone, whether you’re heartbroken about a breakup, or just having a hard time with anything, and do whatever you can to still enjoy life and, well, live it up.
“How can you see looking through those tears? / Don’t you know you’re worth your weight in gold? / I can’t believe that you’re alone in here / Let me warm your hands against the cold… Hey yeah, you beside the dance floor / What do you cry for, let’s live it up…”
In 1985, the kind-spirited and fun message of “Live It Up” lifted the song up to No. 2 in the band’s homeland of Australia and No. 6 in New Zealand. Following the 1986 release of “CROCODILE” DUNDEE, “Live It Up” became popular in other parts of the globe as well, reaching the Top 10 in the U.K., Germany, Ireland and Norway, and the Top 20 in Austria and Sweden nearly two years after its original 1985 release.
In 1987, the writer of “Live It Up,” Andrew “Greedy” Smith, was awarded an Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) Award, a songwriting award for Most Performed Australasian Popular Work. And in 2009, the band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall Of Fame.
More than 40 years after forming in Sydney, Mental As Anything is still going strong today, led by original members Martin Plaza and Greedy Smith. For some strange reason unbeknownst to me, Mental Is Anything never made a splash here in the U.S., but all these years later, I want to learn more about the band who said that in the face of sadness, we’re not alone, and fight through the tears and live it up…