Thursday, 5 July 2012

It all started this week in 1987: part 2

Today's the day: 25 years since picking up my first ARIA chart. With numbers 50 to 26 behind us in Part 1, it's time to hit the top 25. And with one very big exception, which we'll get to, I liked every song. Some more than others, but it was a golden era for pop. Let's get to it...

Jumping 13 places at number 25 was "Something So Strong" by Crowded House, the fifth and final single from the band's self-titled debut album. It would reach number 18 and be the album's second most successful single (after the worldwide hit, "Don't Dream It's Over"). Although I generally favoured pop and dance music (still do), I always liked a good bit of pop/rock - and Crowded House and Boom Crash Opera were my two favourites of that genre in 1987.

Holding at number 24, the a cappella former UK number one, "Caravan Of Love" by The Housemartins. The official video - worth watching to see Fatboy Slim, complete with crucifix shaved into his head, join in the cheesy dance moves - is continually taken down from YouTube. Instead, here's a Top Of The Pops performance.

At number 23: "What's My Scene" by Hoodoo Gurus, a song I used to like until it was turned into a footy anthem and became more jingle than rock classic. Its number 3 peak earlier in the year made it far and away the band's biggest hit.

Climbing to number 22"Breakout" by Swing Out Sister, a group who don't deserve the term "one hit wonder", but alas, in Australia this was their only top 50 appearance. But what a song it was. Just try not to smile...

Number 21"Let's Go" by Wang Chung, the last of three big hits (the others were "Dance Hall Days" and "Everybody Have Fun Tonight") in Australia for the English duo. For some reason, I always thought they were American.

Number 20 was a drop for "Looking For A New Love" by Jody Watley, the debut hit for the former Shalamar ("A Night To Remember") singer which had peaked at number 13 the previous week. Jody had many more hits in the US and even picked up a Grammy Award for Best New Artist, but "Looking For A New Love" - complete with its pre-Terminator use of "hasta la vista, baby" - was her sole Australian top 50 placing.

Number 19: "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna, the final single from True Blue, which just happens to be my favourite album of all time. It followed "Live To Tell", "Papa Don't Preach" and "True Blue" into the top 10, but my favourite track of them all (and favourite Madonna single ever released) is "Open Your Heart", which had stalled at number 16. Anyway, enough about me... here's "La Isla Bonita":

At number 18 is "Sweet 16" by Billy Idol, which was on its way up to number 9 to become one of the biggest hits by the sneering peroxide fan. It was a nice enough rock ballad, but give me "White Wedding" or "Rebel Yell" any day.

Still hanging around at number 17 after four months was "Livin' On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi. It was the first of two entries for the New Jersey rockers, who also had the number 2 album that week with Slippery When Wet. What's not to love about "Livin' On A Prayer"? The bit where the video goes from black and white into colour, the key change where Jon flies above the crowd, the fact that it makes me go hoarse if I try it at karaoke...

At number 16: "Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)" by Mel & Kim, another act with two songs on the chart, and although this was the London duo's debut single, it was still moving up, spurred on by the runaway success of their other single, which we'll get to later.

Falling out of the top 10 and down to number 15 was former chart-topper "Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room)" by Paul Lekakis. Rude lyrics are always a sure-fire way to have a hit (see also: Nine Inch Nails, Eamon), but "Boom Boom" was also a great dance record. Who didn't admire Paul's moves from the unofficial music video?

At number 14: the excellent "Hymn To Her" by The Pretenders, one of the band's regular big hits throughout the '80s. This was second only to "Brass In Pocket" in terms of chart performance, but was my favourite.

Here they are again: at number 13, "Wanted Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi. After two raucous rock anthems, it was ballad o'clock for the guys (a trend they continued with next single "Never Say Goodbye"). But 13 would prove to be an unlucky number for "Wanted..." which peaked there this week and, again, a few weeks later. Watch the clip and try not to join in on "I'm a cowboy..."

Number 12 is an interesting one. "At This Moment" by Billy Vera & The Beaters, which memory tells me had a Family Ties link. A quick check online, and yep, the 1981 song was used on the Michael J Fox sitcom, prompting a re-release in the US, where it hit number 1. It got to number 11 here. For some reason, I always associate this song with Jim Diamond's "I Should Have Known Better". Not sure why.

Another Euro dance hit at number 11: "Love And Devotion" by Michael Bow, which, unlike "Boom Boom" didn't even have a cheesy TV performance clip to play and Countdown used to just show footage of audience members dancing around when they played it. Like the Paul Lekakis song, as well as Man 2 Man, it was a 12" single release - but, for a radio edit fan like me, appeared on the best compilation of the '80s, 87 Right On Track, in 7" form. That's not online, but here's the extended mix:

Which brings us to the top 10 and at number 10: "He's Gonna Step On You Again" by The Party Boys, which you might remember back at number 46 was also performed by The Chantoozies. Just how the cover version double-up happened, I'm not sure, but despite The Party Boys only ever having had a number 100 single in 1983, they won the battle, with their version shooting up from number 28 this week on its way to the top. I never loved either track, but this was probably the better of the two.

And now, at number 9, the only song in the top 25 that I really hated: "(Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy" by Shona Laing. To me, it seemed like a really odd choice of topic for a pop song and listening to it now for the first time in 25 years, I'm pleased I showed such good taste as a 12-year-old. Others may beg to differ...

At number 8, another one-hit wonder: "Lean On Me" by Club Nouveau, which had peaked at number 5. Who didn't love this funkified take on the soul classic?

Some Aussie rock at number 7 with "Take Me Back" by Noiseworks giving the guys the first of their three top 10 hits (the others were "Touch" and the terrible "Hot Chilli Woman"). I liked a lot of Noiseworks songs and had in mind that they'd done better on the charts - well, they had, but on the albums charts, with all four of their releases going top 10.

At number 6, "Right On Track" by Breakfast Club, who rode their association with Madonna (she used to be their drummer) as far as it would take them. In the case of this song, to number 4 a couple of weeks later. Sure, the fun music video and the fact that this was a fantastic pop song helped. Unfortunately, they never charted again.

Kicking off the top 5, at number 5: "Ship Of Fools" by World Party, the solo project for ex-Waterboys ("The Whole Of The Moon") member Karl Wallinger which did way better here than back in the UK.

On the rise at number 4: "Respectable" by Mel & Kim (it would get to number 1 three weeks later). As well as being my favourite song from this entire top 50 and featuring some nifty dance moves and cool hats in the clip (click the link in the song title), it was probably the record which clued me into the production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. I'd liked Dead Or Alive, Princess, Bananarama's "Venus" and, yes, even Divine's "You Think You're A Man" without ever really connecting the dots. And so, a new fandom was created.

Number 3: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship. A brilliant song from a terrible movie - although to be fair, I probably enjoyed Mannequin at the time, but when I saw it recently on TV, I couldn't get past the first 15 minutes. Luckily, the theme song holds up much better.

Another movie song at number 2: "Slice Of Heaven" by Dave Dobbyn with Herbs (which always sounded like he was about to be cooked). From the Footrot Flats animated film, this Aussie chart-topper has never really gone away, being used in ads and remixed over the years. It still sounds great.

And finally, in its third of five weeks at number 1: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston. I was a massive Whitney fan - her self-titled debut album was the first record I ever bought for myself and this first single from the imaginatively-titled follow-up, Whitney, was her best single to date. It was also the second of her three Australian number 1s. One's obvious ("I Will Always Love You"), but can you recall the third?

So there we have it, the top 50 singles 25 years ago this week. If you enjoyed this trip back in time, watch this space. I'm on a bit of a roll now so I'll be keeping this up as long as people care to read (it won't always be a top 50, mind you). And feel free to let me know below what you'd like to see/be reminded of. Thanks for reading!

                                                                    GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: July 12, 1987


  1. Love it! This is year six of primary school for me - bringing back good memories of my burgeoning music nerdom. Hated Ship of Fools at the time, but quite like it now. Can't wait to see what's going to come into the charts over the next little while.

    1. Thanks! I actually liked Ship Of Fools, which isn't my normal taste. But something had to be really horrible for me to hate it, I think - my taste was pretty chart driven. And music was good then, so...

      There's a big new entry week ending July 12, 1987, so I'll write about that next!

  2. I've created a Spotify playlist of as many of the top 50 as I could find on there - 40 tracks in all.

    You can find it here:

  3. Magic stuff mate. Takes us all back to smoked filled dance floors ( remember the smell) and tequila sunrises. Even if we were in our teens. Love it.