Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Best Of 1986 - part 3

JUMP TO: 40-31 II 30-21 II 20-11 II 10-1

By 1986, I was starting to build my record collection. Slowly. I was only in Year 6 and didn't receive much pocket money at that stage, and in fact, I didn't actually pay for the first two albums I owned. No, I wasn't a child shoplifter - the first album (the Sweet & Sour soundtrack) I received as a Christmas present and the second (Whitney Houston) I bought with a record voucher I won in some competition or other.

All good things must come to an end - and 1986 was the final year for Wham!

So, when it came to spending my own money, I thought long and hard before buying an album. I had to make sure there were enough good songs on the album to justify the expenditure, which meant I had to listen to both sides of the album in a record shop first. I would start spending a lot of Saturdays at music stores, listening to albums on the headphones and no doubt infuriating staff by rarely purchasing anything.

I attribute my reluctance to buy music at that age to my mother, who warned me that singles were a waste of money (which resulted in me not buying a 7" until 1987) and that compilation albums were as well, since you'd end up with a lot of songs you didn't like just to get the one or two you did. In my high school years I'd buy music like my life depending on it, but in 1986, I was too young (and too impecunious) to argue, so many of the songs on this list did not find their way into my collection for years.

Songs like this... by a band who'd put out an absolutely brilliant single every so often - at number 20, it's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung. The band (by this point a duo) had previously had a hit with "Dance Hall Days" in 1984 and would release "Let's Go" in 1987. I always thought Wang Chung were American, but they were actually British - although they barely had any success at home and were much more popular abroad.

Another song I wouldn't own until years later is at number 19 - it's "Dancing On The Ceiling" by Lionel Richie. Featuring an expensive music video in which Lionel and his dancers seemingly climbed the walls and, indeed, danced on the ceiling, the track was a massive hit around the world (number 2 in Australia). Despite the former Commodore having a couple more US top 10 hits up his sleeve, this was his final top 40 hit in Australia and these days you're more likely to find Lionel making a "surprise" appearance on an Idol or The Voice finale somewhere around the world than in the singles charts.

A Canadian band that broke through in 1986 is at number 18: "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)" by Glass Tiger, which was the group's one and only hit in Australia, reaching number 9. Other songs like "Someday" and "Thin Red Line" would be more successful overseas (both only reached the 90s on the Australian chart), and in Canada, the band would keep scoring top 10 singles until 1991. Interestingly, as well as still performing with the reformed band, vocalist Alan Frew seems to have quite a successful side career as a motivational writer and public speaker.

An Australian band I've been talking about in my weekly ARIA recaps is at number 17 - it's "Great Wall" by Boom Crash Opera. BCO's self-titled debut album was one of the albums I did buy and the group remains my all-time favourite Aussie pop/rock act. Despite notching up a decent amount of chart hits, "Great Wall" remains the band's only top 10 appearance. These days, Dale Ryder continues to perform - both on his own and with the rest of the band - but in place of his long curly locks, he now sports a shaved head.

One of two songs in my top 20 which were surprisingly not successful in the UK is at number 16 - it's "If You Leave" by OMD, which tanked at number 48 in Britain. In Australia, the song, best known for featuring in the film Pretty In Pink, climbed to number 15, while in the US it was a massive number 4 hit. 1986 marked an interesting time for the synthpop group (full name: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) - increased US success coincided with a downturn in their fortunes in the UK, while the more commercial feel of their music led to a split within the group. By the end of the decade, only singer Andy McCluskey would be left. However, like so many '80s bands, the best-known line-up has reformed, with the album History Of Modern being released in 2010.

With their farewell single, at number 15 it's "The Edge Of Heaven" by Wham!, who had dominated the charts since 1983 and parted ways while they were still one of the world's biggest acts. Another chart-topper for George and Andrew in the UK, "The Edge Of Heaven" reached number 2 in Australia and appeared on their final album (a best of compilation), fittingly titled The Final. It wasn't, however, their absolute final single in Australia, with UK B-side "Where Did You Heart Go?" coming out in its own right in November and reaching number 54.

At number 14: "Invisible Touch" by Genesis, the first of five singles from the album of the same name, which was another LP I added to my collection in 1986 (or maybe early 1987). It's little wonder people grew to despise Phil Collins during the '80s, since there really was no escaping him, with this album coming hot on the heels of No Jacket Required and his other solo singles from 1985. Still, there's no denying, whether solo or as part of Genesis, he released some of the catchiest pop/rock songs of the decade. By peaking at number 3 in Australia, "Invisible Touch" was far and away the biggest hit from the album - and of Genesis' entire career in this country.

With the first of her many major transformations, at number 13 is "Live To Tell" by Madonna. Although she's now renowned for her image overhauls, in 1986 Madonna's shift from her spunky and kind of trashy disco styling of 1983 to 1985 to a demure, grown-up look was a major shock. Sure, she'd worn a dress in videos before - but the understated outfit she sported in the "Live To Tell" clip was a world away from the slutty wedding dress in "Like A Virgin" or the Marilyn Monroe costume in "Material GIrl", and little did we know that her change to soft blonde locks would be only the first of many hairdo reinventions. Then there was the song - "Live To Tell" was like nothing she's released before, with other ballad hit "Crazy For You" sounding a little twee compared to this track. However, this version of Madonna wouldn't last long, with another major image change just around the corner... 

WIth his biggest Australian and American hit, at number 12 it's "No One Is To Blame" by Howard Jones, who I recently saw in concert performing the entirety of the album this track is taken from (Dream Into Action) as well as all of his debut album, Human's Lib. All these years later, he still sounded in good voice and the small but appreciative crowd knew every word to this track. By the way, this isn't the other song that wasn't a hit in the UK (it got to number 16) that I referred to back when I discussed OMD - that's to come in Part 4. 

Back again with new hair and a new wardrobe, at number 11 is "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna. Although "Live To Tell" (which was taken from the Sean Penn film At Close Range) is technically the first single from True Blue, "Papa Don't Preach" is the track that launched the album, coming out two weeks earlier. Naturally, the song's lyrics caused all sorts of controversy, something Madonna was already used to and would continue to effectively court well into the 1990s.

In Part 4, three artists starting completely new phases of their careers, that UK flop, the song after which this countdown is named and my favourite Madonna single of all time.

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