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Real Life (band)

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Real Life
OriginMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
Years active1980–present
MembersDavid Sterry
Past members
  • Richard Zatorski
  • Steve Williams
  • Rob Burke
  • Scott Ingram
  • Alan Johnson
  • George Pappas
  • Danny Simcic
  • Dean Walliss

Real Life are an Australian new wave and synth-pop[1] band that achieved international chart success with their 1983 singles "Send Me an Angel" and "Catch Me I'm Falling", both of which were taken from their debut studio album, Heartland (1983). The band originally consisted of David Sterry (lead vocals and guitar), Richard Zatorski (keyboards and violin), Allan Johnson (bass), and Danny Simcic (drums). Steve Williams (keyboards) replaced Zatorski in 1986, and was replaced by George Pappas in 1995 after a long hiatus of band activity.


1980–1984: Heartland[edit]

In late 1980, Richard Zatorski placed an ad in a Melbourne newspaper as a keyboard player looking for a guitarist with whom to write songs, and David Sterry responded. The two formed a writing partnership and began work on the material that would eventually become the first songs by Real Life. First using the name The Wires, Sterry and Zatorski started doing gigs accompanied by a primitive drum machine they named Gloria. In 1981, the pair decided to recruit more musicians, and through another newspaper ad, they found bassist Allan Johnson and drummer Danny Simcic. The group changed their name to avoid confusion with the English band Wire, and became known as A Private Life, which soon gained a loyal following,[2] opening for bands such as INXS, Mi-Sex, The Church, Midnight Oil, and others.[3] A band from Sydney called Private Lives threatened legal action over their name, which prompted them to change it once again, this time to Real Life.

After hearing an early version of "Send Me an Angel", the group's manager, Glenn Wheatley, was so impressed that he formed his own label, Wheatley Records, to release it as a single in early 1983. "Send Me an Angel" became a top 10 hit in Australia,[4] and led to Real Life being signed to the Curb Records label (which was distributed by MCA Records at that time) for the world outside of Australia. The song went on to top the charts in New Zealand and Germany,[5][6] and entered the top 30 in the US.[7] The second single, "Openhearted", was released in August 1983 and peaked at #72. In November 1983, "Catch Me I'm Falling" was released, eventually reaching the top 10 in Australia and Germany,[4][6] as well as the top 40 in the US.[7] The band's debut album, Heartland (produced by Steve Hillage), entered the top 40 in Australia,[4] Germany,[6] New Zealand,[5] and Switzerland,[8] and peaked at #58 in the US.[9] "Always" was released in Europe in August 1984 as the album's fourth and final single, followed by the November 1984 release of Master Mix, an EP of remixes that peaked at #74 on the Australian charts.

1985–1986: Flame and Down Comes the Hammer[edit]

In September 1985, they released "Face to Face" as the lead single from their second studio album, Flame, which came out the following month. "Face to Face" was a minor hit, peaking at #32 in Australia, while the album peaked at #42. The follow-up single "One Blind Love" fared less well, while the album and its singles went largely overlooked in the rest of the world.

In 1986, they recorded a handful of new songs, which were the band's first recordings not written by Sterry and Zatorski. "Babies", written by the songwriting team of Holly Knight, Michael Des Barres, and Mike Chapman, was released as a single, but failed to chart; another track, "Hammer of Love", was written by Steve Williams, who had replaced Zatorski earlier in the year. Both tracks were included on a compilation titled Down Comes the Hammer (which also included another new song, a remix of the title track of Flame, and a handful of other tracks from the band's two albums), which was only released in North America and France. Also in 1986, the movie Rad featured "Send Me an Angel" on its soundtrack,[10] and featured it in a scene wherein riders on BMX bikes performed various freestyle stunts as the song played.

1989–2000: Lifetime and Happy[edit]

In 1989, Real Life released a new version of "Send Me an Angel", titled "Send Me an Angel '89", which fared slightly better than the original in the United States.[7] The video for the 1989 version was identical to the original, except that Zatorski was edited out of all shots; another version for the Australian market was filmed in Ormond College, University of Melbourne, with Williams on keyboards.

The group released their third studio album, Lifetime, in 1990. This was their first album of all-new material in five years. The album spawned minor hits with "God Tonight" and "Kiss the Ground", both of which placed on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks and Dance Club Songs charts in the United States. After a falling-out occurred between Sterry and the remaining two original members, Johnson and Simcic, the band went on hiatus for several years.

In 1997, Real Life reemerged as a duo with Sterry and new member George Pappas on keyboards. Following the release of their fourth studio album, Happy, the band embarked on an extensive tour of the US, Germany and Australia, and were invited to perform at Salt Lake City's Synthstock2000 with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Berlin.[11]

2003–present day: Imperfection[edit]

In 2003, the band signed to the American independent label A Different Drum, and released their fifth studio album, Imperfection.[11] They toured the west coast of the US in 2004 as a trio of Sterry and Pappas with drummer Scott Ingram. In November 2005, Pappas announced his departure from the band, leaving Sterry to continue as Real Life on his own, performing at various 1980s-themed events such as Australia's Absolutely 80s and the US' Lost 80's Live. Pappas began recording solo material under the name Alien Skin in 2007, and A Different Drum released his debut album, Don't Open Till Doomsday, the following year.

On 19 May 2009, Real Life released their sixth studio album, Send Me An Angel – '80s Synth Essentials, on Cleopatra Records in the US. In addition to another new recording (and two remixes) of "Send Me an Angel", the album also includes cover versions of twelve other 1980s new wave classics by acts such as Depeche Mode, The Cure, Eurythmics, Tears for Fears, and Gary Numan.

After another lengthy hiatus, Sterry resurrected Real Life again in 2020 with a new studio album, Sirens.


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart position
  • Released: November 1983
  • Label: Wheatley (WRLP 1003)
  • Formats: Vinyl, cassette
30 12 38 10 58
  • Released: October 1985
  • Label: Wheatley (SFL1 0128)
  • Formats: Vinyl, cassette
  • Released: October 1990
  • Label: Curb, (D2-77271)
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette
  • Released: 1997
  • Label: Momentum (MOM1001)
  • Formats: CD
  • Released: 2004
  • Label: A Different Drum (ADDCD1193)
  • Formats: CD
Send Me an Angel – '80s Synth Essentials[12]
  • Released: 2020
  • Label: Not On Label
  • Formats: Digital download


Title Album details Peak chart position
Master Mix (EP)
  • Released: November 1984
  • Label: Wheatley (VAL1 0470)
  • Formats: Vinyl
Down Comes the Hammer
  • Released: 1986
  • Label: Curb/MCA (MCA-5834)
  • Formats: Vinyl record, CD, Cassette
Send Me An Angel '89
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: Curb (CRBD-10614)
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette
Let's Fall in Love
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: Curb (CRB-10624)
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette
So Far
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: Curb (SPCD 1187)
  • Formats: Vinyl, CD, cassette


Year Song AUS
US Dance

1983 "Send Me an Angel" 6 9 18 1 1 19 2 29 54 Heartland
"Openhearted" 72
"Catch Me I'm Falling" 8 9 12 40
1984 "Always" 54
1985 "Face to Face" 32 52 Flame
"One Blind Love"/"Love's Not Easy"
1986 "Babies" Down Comes the Hammer
"Hammer of Love"
1989 "Send Me an Angel '89" 51 22 26 5 Best of Real Life
"Let's Fall in Love" 21 Let's Fall In Love
1990 "God Tonight" 83 9 15 Lifetime
"Kiss the Ground" 161 27
1996 "Deep Sleep" Happy
1997 "Meltdown"
"Like a Ghost" non-album single
2004 "Oblivion" Imperfection
2005 "Send Me an Angel" (Starcity with Real Life) non-album single
2015 "Way to Nowhere"/"Small World" non-album single

Awards and nominations[edit]

Countdown Music Awards[edit]

Countdown was an Australian pop music TV series on national broadcaster ABC-TV from 1974 to 1987 and it presented music awards from 1979 to 1987, known as the Countdown Music Awards.[17]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1983 Heartland Best Debut Album Won
"Send Me an Angel" Best Debut Single Nominated
themselves Most Promising New Talent Won


  1. ^ Bush, John. "Real Life | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Interview with David Sterry". Cryptic Rock. 17 March 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  3. ^ Wallen, Doug (29 March 2017). "Send Me an Angel: the 80s synth-pop anthem that took over the world". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 October 2018. "We used to open for INXS, Mi-Sex, the Church, Midnight Oil and many others. It was a great apprenticeship."
  4. ^ a b c d e f Australian chart peaks:
  5. ^ a b c d "Real Life". charts.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e German chart peaks:
  7. ^ a b c d "Real Life Chart History > Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  8. ^ a b c "Real Life in der Schweizer Hitparade". hitparade.ch (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Real Life Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Rad (1986) : Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  11. ^ a b "'Click Interview' with Alien Skin: 'With A Change of Attitude Comes The Choice Of 'Sound' Itself'". Side-Line. 31 March 2019. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Imperfection - News". Reallife. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  13. ^ "austriancharts.at > Real Life in der Österreichischen Hitparade" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Item: 4253". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  15. ^ "Billboard > Real Life Chart History > Dance Club Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Billboard > Real Life Chart History > Alternative Airplay". Billboard. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  17. ^ "Countdown to the Awards" (Portable document format (PDF)). Countdown Magazine. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). March 1987. Retrieved 16 December 2010.

External links[edit]