Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Best Of 1988 - part 1

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

1988 is possibly my favourite year of all for music. My favourite song from the 1980s came out in that year, and there was an endless stream of pop classics released throughout those 12 months. Plus, since I'd discovered that there was much more to music than only those songs that made it onto the ARIA Top 50, I started to be introduced to artists and styles of music that weren't widely popular in Australia.

Watch out, Sabrina, your nipples are almost covered!

Since it's my favourite year for the '80s, it's only fair that I cover 1988 as thoroughly as I did 1987, and so each of the four parts in this series of posts will cover 25 songs each. Yep, I'll be counting through my top 100 - but, since some songs have popped up elsewhere in this blog already and there are quite a few artists with multiple entries, I won't go in-depth on every song. Ready?

Number 100 "Under The Milky Way" by The Church
It always amazes me that bona fide Australian classics like this, Hunters & Collectors' "Throw Your Arms Around Me" and GANGgajang's "Sounds Of Then" were never big hits on the chart. "Under The Milky Way" could only reach number 22, but it did receive the ARIA Award for Single Of The Year and also cracked the top 40 in the US. It's also stayed in the public consciousness ever since with continued airplay, multiple cover versions and soundtrack appearances.

Number 99 "If I Could" by 1927
As perfect a pop/rock ballad as you could ever hope for, "If I Could" turned 1927 from an up-and-coming band into one of 1988's hottest musical properties in Australia and propelled the ...ish album to become one of the decade's highest-selling albums locally. Listening to the song now, it sounds a little bit wet, especially when compared to songwriter Garry Frost's other big number 1 ballad, "What About Me?" by his former band, Moving Pictures. However, at the time, its innocent sentimentality and the fresh-faced appeal of singer Eric Weideman combined to make it a sure-fire crowd-pleaser. I saw a reformed 1927 play live a couple of years ago and when they finally unleashed "If I Could", the entire audience - and it was quite a mixed crowd - knew every single word. 

Number 98 "Amazing World" by Venetians
From an Aussie band having a massive 1988 we move to one who were still trying to match the success of their 1986 top 10 hit, "So Much For Love". They never did get as high again, but the second single from their third album, Amazing World, "Bitter Tears" did not bad. I much preferred the album's lead single and title track, which unfortunately didn't crack the ARIA top 50.

Number 97 "Turn Around And Count 2 Ten" by Dead Or Alive
They may have parted ways with producers Stock Aitken Waterman, but Pete Burns and co. still knew their way around a blistering hi-NRG romp, as evidenced by this first single from the then-upcoming Nude album. As with their previous couple of singles, "Turn Around And Count 2 Ten" actually did much better in Australia (where it reached number 30) than in the UK (where it struggled to number 70).

Number 96 "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen
The soundtrack to Dirty Dancing was unstoppable in 1987, with this song and Patrick Swayze's "She's Like The Wind" both racing into the Australian top 10 in early 1988. For Eric, "Hungry Eyes" gave his career a much-needed boost, since he'd not had a really big hit since the mid-'70s, when "All By Myself" got to number 7 in Australia. Eric wasted no time following up his Dirty Dancing triumph with "Make Me Lose Control", which turned out to be another massive hit for him that year, but since then has pretty much vanished off the face of the earth.

Number 95 "There's A Brand New World" by Five Star
We saw them in my 1987 countdown, but by 1988, it was going downhill quickly for the British five-piece, with this third single from the Rock The World album failing to make the UK top 40 altogether. As suggested by the album's title, the Pearson siblings tried to inject a little bit of rock (i.e. they wore leather jackets and had the odd guitar solo in their songs) into their music, and were clearly taking their cues from both Janet and Michael Jackson.

Number 94 "Boys (Summertime Love)" by Sabrina
The first of three (yes, seriously) songs by Italian star Sabrina Salerno in my top 100, "Boys (Summertime Love)" was her biggest hit, with its bouncy poolside romp of a music video titilating teenage boys and dirty old men the world over. Sabrina's voice wasn't up to much, but on this track, and subsequent singles "Sexy Girl" and the SAW-produced "All Of My (Boy Oh Boy)", it hardly mattered since the Europop hits were really only meant to be a bit of fun. And fun they were, right down to the cheesy lyrics, tacky single covers and soft porn videos that made Samantha Fox look positively tame. You gotta love the '80s!

Number 93 "Tears Run Rings" by Marc Almond
Aside from "Tainted Love", which featured in my 1981 countdown, I hadn't liked any other other Soft Cell tracks, and even though singer Marc had been releasing solo albums for years, it took until this lead single from his The Stars We Are album for something to finally connect with me. Not really a big hit in the UK (it got to number 26) and a complete non-event in Australia, "Tears Run Rings" is a bouncy little pop song - but the much more melodramatic "Something's Got A Hold Of My Heart" would be the song that would put his solo career on the map in 1989.

Number 92 "Sexy Girl" by Sabrina
Mentioned above

Number 91 "Baby Baby" by Eighth Wonder
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 90 "Foolish Beat' by Debbie Gibson
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 89 "Alphabet St." by Prince
While 1987's Sign O' The Times had been led by the topical single of the same name, Prince's 1988 album, Lovesexy, had a much more fun first release. At just under two and a half minutes in its 7" version, "Alphabet St." was short and sweet - and for me, it was Prince's best single since 1985's "Raspberry Beret".

Number 88 "All Of Me (Boy Oh Boy)" by Sabrina
Mentioned above

Number 87 "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" by Information Society
Synthpop was starting to fade by the end of the decade, with many of the British bands that had defined the genre at the start of the decade either breaking up, burning out or, in the case of Depeche Mode, developing their sound. In 1988, however, US group Information Society successfully (in the States, anyway) kept the genre alive with this number 3 hit and its follow-up "Walking Away". In Australia, they weren't even a blip on the radar.

Number 86 "Teardrops" by Womack & Womack
Spending four agonising weeks at number 2 in Australia was this song by husband and wife duo Cecil and Linda Womack. Linda was the daughter of soul legend Sam Cooke, while Cecil had previously been married to "My Guy" singer Mary Wells. In fact, it turns out the Wells, Womacks and Cookes had a complicated romance history the likes of which you'd normally see on a daytime soap opera. Inter-marrying aside, "Teardrops" became the first (and biggest) hit for Womack & Womack after five years of trying and would be followed up by the less successful "Celebrate The World". At the time, I wasn't an immediate fan of "Teardrops", but I liked it a hell of a lot more than the songs that kept if from the number 1 spot in Australia: The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" and then The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)".

Number 85 "Turn It Into Love" by Hazell Dean
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 84 "Weekend" Todd Terry Project featuring Class Action
While pop flourished in 1988, it wouldn't be long before house music would take over and faceless dance acts and DJ-led groups would flood the charts. Producer and DJ Todd Terry was one of the first to make an impact on the scene and although his big UK hit for the year was "Can You Party" under the name Royal House, it's this track that I prefer. In the mid-'90s, Todd would return to the spotlight with his landmark remix of Everything But The Girl's "Missing" as well as his own garage hits, "Something Goin' On" and "Keep On Jumpin'" with Martha Wash and Jocelyn Brown on vocals.

Number 83 "Heart Of Gold" by Johnny Hates Jazz
With the fifth of six singles from their debut album is the British group who scored a trans-Atlantic top 5 smash with "Shattered Dreams". This song was my next favourite of theirs but could only sneak to a number 87 peak in Australia.

Number 82 "Drop The Boy" by Bros
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 81 "Mercedes Boy" by Pebbles
One-time wife of LA Reid, the woman who brought the world TLC and cousin of R&B artist Cherrelle, Perri McKissack (you can see why she went by Pebbles) made a huge splash in the States in 1988 with her debut single, "Girlfriend", and this follow-up, which hit number 2 over there. One of a few car-themed hits from the time ("Pink Cadillac", "GTO", "Get Into My Dreams, Get Into My Car" were others), "Mercedes Boy" was written by the singer herself, who married her producer just as he and Babyface were getting their LaFace label off the ground.

Number 80 "Sign Your Name" by Terence Trent D'Arby
The biggest single from his Introducing The Hardline album, "Sign Your Name" reached number 3 in Australia - but it would be another five years before Terence returned to the top 10 with 1993's "She Kissed Me".Two years later after that final hit, as his recording career was crumbling, Terence (whose birth surname was Howard and who took D'Arby from his stepfather) changed his name to Sananda Maitreya, the name he retains today.

Number 79 "The Blood That Moves The Body" by a-ha
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 78 "I Get Weak" by Belinda Carlisle
Belinda kicked off the year riding high around the world with "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" and, unlike with her first solo album, she kept the hits coming. "I Get Weak" only got to number 34 in Australia but reached number 2 in the States, while third single "Circle In The Sand" peaked at number 7 over there.

Number 77 "Dreaming" by OMD
Another of the British synthpop acts who were coming to the end of their run of hits (for the time being) was Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - as evidenced by the release of their first hits collection in 1988. This new track was a modest hit for them in Australia and the US, but a complete miss back in the UK. Singer Andy McCluskey would single-handedly revive OMD's fortunes in 1991, but "Dreaming" marked the end of an era for the influential group.

Number 76 "Success" by Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Previously featured here

In Part 2, some more homegrown classics, a new vampy blonde bombshell, a couple more soundtrack hits and the most notorious group of the late '80s.

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