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In the summer of 1979, a song called “Hey St Peter” climbed into the pop charts. It had a unique, new wave sound with lyrics spoken in a tinny voice, a driving beat, and a catchy hook. I remember thinking at the time this was what would happen if Dire Straits got together with The Cars, The Police, and The Buggles. “Hey St Peter” was the product of a pair of Australian minds who called their project Flash and the Pan.
Flash and the Pan seemed to come out of nowhere, but its principals, Harry Vanda and George Young, had been around the pop music scene since the early 1960s when they released the international hit “Friday On My Mind” with their earlier group, The Easybeats. Years later, they produced the early albums for AC/DC, which happened to include George’s younger brothers Angus and Malcolm. They also wrote and produced the international soft-rock hit “Love is in the Air” for John Paul Young (no relation to George) in 1978.
The first Flash and the Pan album (pictured above with its US and Australian covers) contained 10 songs, all done in the same synthesizer-heavy style with deadpan vocals. The songs range from poppy “Hey St Peter” and “Man in the Middle” to brooding and almost sinister with “First and Last” and “Walking in the Rain.”
A standout on the album is the song “Down Among The Dead Men,” which tells the story of the Titanic, complete with Morse Code being tapped out over the closing moments of the song. Lyrics are on the next page.
The 1980 followup album Lights in the Night continued in the style of the original, but didn’t spawn any top 10 hits. The LP cover is interesting, though: it appears to be mostly black until you look closely and see that the cover from the 1979 US issue of the first Flash and the Pan album lurks underneath the black ink, revealed through a “scratch” in the Lights cover art.
Not much else was heard from Flash and the Pan in the US after that, although they did score a hit in Europe in 1983 with the song “Waiting for a Train,” which has been described as sounding like “New York white guys did the backing track for Timmy Thomas’ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together?’”
If you want to explore a lesser-known piece of 80s musical culture, check out this band.


Down Among The Dead Men
(Vanda/Young)
It was night
A starry moonless sight
Out in the mid Atlantic
There sailed a ship of light
She was big This ship of luxury
Everything was peaceful
No safer place to be
And she sailed
Through the night
On her way
Down among the dead men
Down among the dead men
The band played
She sailed the virgin
She sailed the sea
Down among the dead men
Captain Smith
The master in command
A man with wealth of wisdom
A fine upstanding man
But the fog He didn’t hear the calls
The ice mountain was waiting
For fifteen hundred souls
And she sailed
Through the night
On her way Down among the dead men
Down among the dead men
The band played
She sailed the virgin
She sailed the sea
Down among the dead men
Down among the dead men
And into history

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