Thursday, 30 August 2012

This Week In 1987: August 30, 1987

Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2012. Updated in 2017.

I'm sure I've said this already about 1987, but the top 50 chart really was a mixed bag in those days - and nothing proves that more than this week's batch of new entries. Besides New Order (below), there was some Aussie rock, a soundtrack hit in Spanish, a duet by two former chart-toppers and a novelty record. And to round things out, some glam rock as a breaker.

This week in 1987: one of my favourite bands with one of my favourite songs of all time

Maybe the top 50 today is as diverse as ever - and with acts as varied as fun., Guy Sebastian, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Florence & The Machine and Far East Movement in the top 10, that would seem to be the case, but the further down the top 50 you go, there does seem to be more soundalike tracks and bandwagon-jumping than you find on the 1987 chart.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 30, 1987

At number 1 this week in 1987 was, once again, "Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue, which spent its third week on top. The song that would end up knocking it off its perch was one of this week's debuts.

Off The Chart
Number 96 "Lies" by Jonathan Butler
Peak: number 68
This international breakthrough hit by the South African musician came from the George Benson school of smooth R&B-meets-jazz, and went mostly unappreciated in Australia.

Number 78 "Surrender" by Swing Out Sister
Peak: number 78
As "Breakout" dropped out of the top 20, this just as slickly produced follow-up single - a top 10 hit in the UK - joined it on the chart, but progressed no further than this debut slot.

"Talk Dirty To Me" by Poison
Peak: number 55
Long before Bret Michaels became a reality show punchline, he was lead singer of one of the most successful glam metal groups in America - although Poison wouldn't cross over in Australia until album number two, with this track from debut Look What The Cat Dragged In missing the top 50. I don't really recall this song, and listening to it now I can see why it failed where "Nothin' But A Good Time" and "Fallen Angel" succeeded, but everybody's got to start somewhere - and I'm sure the band was more than happy to score their first US top 10 hit with this track, even if much better was still to come.

New Entries
Number 43 "Star Trekkin'" by The Firm
Peak: number 3
This really is terrible. It was also a massive hit, reaching number 3 in Australia and the top of the chart in the UK. And it was genius, tapping into the most rabid fanbase on Earth (something The Timelords would also do the following year with "Doctorin' The Tardis", albeit with a much better song). I think I probably liked "Star Trekkin'" at the time, but as I've noted before, I pretty much liked most things on the chart in those days. It really is terrible, though - but just try not to watch the music video below... 

Number 40 "First We Take Manhattan" by Jennifer Warnes
Peak: number 32
Actually, to negate what I just said above, here's one song I distinctly remember disliking at the time. Listening to it again now, it's obvious why: it sounds pretty miserable, and "Luka" was as miserable as I got in 1987. It was also a Leonard Cohen song (in fact, he hadn't even released his version of it yet) - as was every track on Jennifer's accompanying album, Famous Blue Raincoat. Turns out before duetting with Joe Cocker, she was Leonard's backing singer and had been releasing records since 1968, but my interest in Jennifer begins and ends with her two number 1 soundtrack duets ("Up Where We Belong" with Joe, and "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" with Bill Medley, which would debut in the coming months). Anyway, back to "First We Take Manhattan", which would be Jennifer's last solo chart appearance.

Number 37 "Flames Of Paradise" by Elton John & Jennifer Rush
Peak: number 31
Here's another Jennifer with a number 1 Australian single under her belt, singing with a man who's recorded more than his fair share of duets over the years - but this song, which was a particular favourite of mine at the time, seems to have become long forgotten in the years since its release.
Of course, Jennifer's big hit (everywhere except in the US) had been 1985's "The Power Of Love", which Celine Dion would cover in 1994 and finally turn into a Stateside smash. Two things I didn't know until now about Jennifer: 1) her real name is Heidi Stern and 2) she released a new album as recently as 2010.

Number 31 "True Faith" by New Order
Peak: number 8
Not only is this one of my favourite songs ever (it currently sits at number 62 on my all-time list), but it's also one of my favourite music videos, too. The face-slapping, bouncing and running backwards choreography added some quirkiness to what would be another big pop hit for the band, who'd been moving further and further away from their Joy Division roots in the previous years, something that didn't sit well with all the band members. "True Faith" was a brand new song recorded for inclusion on Substance, a collection of New Order's singles to date - although, frustratingly for me, in the 12" versions.

Number 24 "La Bamba" by Los Lobos
Peak: number 1
The week's second highest new entry would also end the year in the runner-up spot as the second biggest single of 1987 behind "Locomotion", the song it'd dethrone from number 1 in a few weeks' time. Prior to covering the Ritchie Valens song for the biopic of the same name, the group had enjoyed a steady recording and touring career since the mid '70s, but this soundtrack hit would bring them a wider audience that they could possibly have imagined, claiming the top spot on charts all over the world. Their only other Australian chart appearances would also come from La Bamba - two more covers of Ritchie Valens songs: "Come On, Let's Go!" and "Donna".

Number 19 "Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 6
The week's biggest new hit was one of the most anticipated tracks of the year, since over the previous decade, Midnight Oil had steadily become one of Australia's most popular and political bands. And they didn't disappoint - even a pop fan like me found it hard to resist "Beds Are Burning".
It wouldn't be their highest charting Australian single, but it would be their biggest international success, which always struck me as odd, given it's quite specific frame of reference. Still, a good song is a good song and I'll be the first to admit to liking a several tunes without knowing what they're about at all.
The song's music video was also really memorable, if only for the awesome dance steps by the girl in the headband and the older lady in the green top in the scenes filmed in Redfern. They certainly showed Peter Garrett a thing or two about busting a move.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:

Next week: I'll look back as another six songs entered the top 50. And it's another diverse bunch of former hits. Before that, I'll take a trip back to 1984 to count down my favourite songs from the year that gave us Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Band Aid and Cyndi Lauper. 

Back to: Aug 23, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 6, 1987


  1. My memories of these songs are very much caught up in each other - a product of me really discovering the charts and how they worked. Funny how you mentioned diversity on the charts - I was just looking at the Billboard top 100 from 1979, aka the reason people hated disco:

    1. I would have been more than happy with a world dominated by disco (as evidenced by my own 1979 list)! Not so much a world dominated by grunge in the early 90s...

      I think Australia has always been a little bit more diverse because we take the best from UK and US (and wherever else) and then we have our own stuff, which is usually quite different again. Although these days our own stuff is often cheap knock-offs of what's big overseas like Guetta.

  2. Pretty sure I've heard the Swing Out Sister track before, but can never remember how it goes. It's nice, but certainly not as instant as 'Breakout'.

    I only knew (part of) 'Talk Dirty To Me' from a TV commercial for the group in 1989; I think for a tour. As I think I read in a magazine review, it looks like they raided their mothers' make-up.

    As an 8 year-old, I loved 'Star Trekkin'', and it was largely responsible (together with 'Respectable') for me deciding to buy my first compilation album, ''87 Hots Up'. I can see why others might hate it though.

    I don't think I've listened to the Jennifer Warnes track since 1987. It's pretty dull. Releasing a cover before the original was an interesting happening, though.

    Oddly, I don't think I've heard the Elton/Jennifer duet before.

    I like 'True Faith' a lot, but it doesn't hold a candle to 'Blue Monday' or 'Bizarre Love Triangle' for me. But few songs do.

    'Beds Are Burning' is a classic, but I only deciphered the "when our earth keeps turning" chorus lyric a couple of years ago when hearing the dance remake by Novaspace (they of 'Time After Time' in 2002) - for some reason I find it hilarious when a throwaway dance act covers a 'serious' song like this (e.g. A.D.A.M. featuring Amy’s ‘Zombie’). I previously thought the lyric might have been "how can we dance when our love is turning."