Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Best Of 1988 - part 2

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

I've mentioned before that in 1988, my taste in music started to broaden beyond the songs that landed inside the ARIA top 50 - but where did I hear about new music in the pre-internet era? Besides music TV, which was hit or miss when it came to championing new artists, I was reliant on music magazines from overseas.

Transvision Vamp's Wendy James got our love... if only for a short time

I'd been a regular reader of Smash Hits for the previous couple of years, but from 1988 on, I started to buy weekly UK pop magazine Number One from my local newsagency. It worked out quite well, since by the time the issues made it all the way to Australia (they came by surface mail), the songs that featured in the magazine's weekly chart were just being released in Australia. So, I would scour the UK chart, decide what songs I wanted to hear, then go to my local record store and listen to any 7" singles I hadn't already heard.

The other magazine that became essential reading was Billboard, and luckily a friend of mine at school subscribed to that (yep, I wasn't the only chart freak). Whenever he received a new issue in the mail, we'd spend hours after school on the phone talking about all the new songs.

As we count down numbers 75 to 51 on my list of favourite songs from 1988, you'll see quite a few of them that weren't hits in Australia but were introduced to me by Number One and Billboard.

Number 75 "That's The Way It Is" by Mel & Kim
The final single by the pop duo before Mel succumbed to cancer in early 1990, "That's The Way It Is" was another UK and Australian chart hit for which Mel had discharged herself from hopsital to record vocals. In 1988, the sisters went public with Mel's condition, and expressed optimism about her chemotherapy treatment being able to cure her, but sadly it wasn't to be, with Mel passing away from pneumonia contracted due to her lowered immune system. A couple of videos were made to accompany the single - there's a link to one, featuring a troupe of dancers - in the song title; while the other, which cut together live footage of the girls, is below.

Number 74 "Dreaming" by OMD
British synthpop act Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark were coming to the end of their run of hits (for the time being) - 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 73 "Stop Loving You" by Toto
Best remembered for "Africa", which has connected with a new generation of music listeners, Toto have many more great songs in their back catalogue, including this lead single from their seventh album, The Seventh One (nothing like a literal album title), and follow-up "Pamela", which is just outside my top 100. Harmonies as on-point as ever. 

Number 72 "Amazing World" by Venetians
In 1988, Venetians 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 71 "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" by Information Society
Many of the British synthpop bands, like OMD, that had defined the genre at the start of the decade were either breaking up, burning out or, in the case of Depeche Mode, developing their sound by 1988. But over in the US, 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 70 "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 69 "Better Be Home Soon" by Crowded House
This is as close as Crowded House ever got to a number 1 single in Australia, "Better Be Home Soon" spent four non-consecutive weeks in the runners-up slot - initially behind Kylie Minogue's "Got To Be Certain" then again behind John Farnham's "Age Of Reason". Despite continued success with their albums, the first single from Temple Of Low Men was also the last significant hit single by the group in Australia, with it taking until 1996's "Everything Is Good For You" (one of the new songs from Recurring Dream) for them to return - albeit briefly - to the top 10.

Number 68 "Mystify" by INXS
Mentioned above

Number 67 "Blue Monday 1988" by New Order
In the UK, the original 1983 release of "Blue Monday" is the highest selling 12" single of all time, although the expensive packaging which contained the vinyl record famously lost the band money until it was revised. Clocking in at over seven minutes, "Blue Monday" was, like other singles from that era, "Confusion" and "Temptation", a sure sign that New Order were embracing a more synth-based sound than the guitar-based sound of Joy Division. Five years later, the song received a freshen up, was given a more radio-friendly edit and even had an official music video - all of which helped to propel it into the Australian top 10 (the original had reached number 13).

Number 66 "One Good Woman" by Peter Cetera
After his big Karate Kid Part II soundtrack single in 1986, the former Chicago frontman kept having hits at home in the US, like his chart-topping duet with Amy Grant, "The Next I Fall", and this song, the first single from his One More Story album. A complete non-event in Australia, "One Good Woman" is one of those songs that goes from slow in the verse to fast in the chorus and was written with one of Madonna's key collaborators of the time, Patrick Leonard.

Number 65 "Left To My Own Devices" by Pet Shop Boys
Previously featured here

Number 64 "Megablast / Don't Make Me Wait" by Bomb The Bass
Like Todd Terry, who we saw back in Part 1, Tim Simenon was a DJ and producer who became a chart act in his own right when his sample-laden track "Beat Dis" reached number 2 in the UK. This double A-side release combined the similarly sample-heavy "Megablast" with the more traditional "Don't Make Me Wait", which featured vocals by Lorraine and was my preferred track of the two. Tim would continue to be a high profile producer, remixer and artist on the British dance scene for the next decade, and still releases new music today.

Number 63 "Broken Land" by The Adventures
I knew very little about this Belfast band at the time (and still do) since this track was only a minor hit in the UK and, from memory, was a song that popped up on one of the Saturday morning music shows in 1988 and stuck in my mind. Reminiscent, to me anyway, of World Party's "Ship Of Fools", it was moodier than the pure pop I liked at the time, but has a killer chorus - which explains why I'm a fan.

Number 62 "I Don't Believe In Miracles" by Sinitta
She'd had a lot of success with the singles from her debut self-titled album, but when it came time for her second LP, Sinitta started to struggle, with this lead track only reaching number 22 in the UK and missing the top 100 completely in Australia. It's at this point that producers Stock Aitken Waterman and Sinitta stopped working together, with subsequent releases handled by different producers both within and outside PWL.

Number 61 "She Wants To Dance With Me" by Rick Astley
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 60 "Girl You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli
In their defence, it's unlikely Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus could have had any idea how big Milli Vanilli was going to become in the next few years. Sure, the brains behind the project was producer Frank Farian, who'd created Boney M in the 1970s, but as massive as Boney M was, no one really paid that much attention to what was going on behind the scenes (and if they did, they weren't bothered), so why would anyone care if the dancers out the front of Milli Vanilli didn't sing the songs?
By 1990, it was clear a lot of people cared. With grunge about to take over the music landscape, patience with frivolous pop was waning and Milli Vanilli, with their record sales in the millions, were ripe for the destroying. As a pop fan, I still maintain that a) I don't really care who sang Milli Vanilli's songs since for me it's about the songs and not who sings them, and b) some of the group's tracks are awesome.

Number 59 "Nathan Jones" by Bananarama
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 58 "Love Will Save The Day" by Whitney Houston
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 57 "Good Life" by Inner City
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 56 "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 55 "I Want Your Love" by Transvision Vamp
Undoubtedly 1988's boldest new star was Wendy James, the frontwoman for pop/punk band Transvision Vamp. A blonde bombshell who half-sang, half-spoke her way into the hearts of teenage boys in the UK and Australia, Wendy was the ultimate lead singer - but even with her undeniable charms, it took the group a while to get up and running. Third single "I Want Your Love" followed the initial releases of later Aussie hits "Revolution Baby" and "Tell That Girl To Shut Up", and finally gave them the smash they needed. Bigger things were to come, though, in 1989... before it would all be over as (relatively) quickly as it began.

Number 54 "Im Nin'Alu" by Ofra Haza
Bet you weren't expecting this! "Im Nin'alu" was first recorded by Ofra in 1984 and performed by her on Israeli TV as early as 1978 - but it was the song's use in Eric B & Rakim's "Paid In Full" in 1987 which resulted in it becoming a European hit in 1988 after it was remixed in a similar style. Possibly the least likely hit to come as a result of the sampling trend, it is nevertheless a fascinating track that I'll never get sick of. Sadly, Ofra died of an AIDS-related illness in 2000, but her genre-defying legacy lives on.

Number 53 "I'm Not Scared" by Eighth Wonder
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 52 "Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry
There were few new artists as exciting as Neneh in 1988. Musically, "Buffalo Stance" and the album it came from, Raw Like Sushi, were like nothing else around - while Neneh's in-your-face image was like a breath of fresh air. Neneh was part of a group of cool London artists which also included Bomb The Bass' Tim Simenon, Jamie J Morgan and Cameron McVey (who Neneh went on to marry), all of whom contributed to "Buffalo Stance". The song itself had its roots in a B-side to Morgan McVey's "Looking Good Diving", which was produced by none other than Stock Aitken Waterman. Ah, the musical circle of life!

Number 51 "Underneath The Radar" by Underworld
Yes, it's the same Underworld who, eight years later, would contribute a remix of "Born Slippy" to the Trainspotting soundtrack. Well, it's kind of the same group. Underworld formed out of the remains of another act in 1987 and released this song - a top 10 hit in Australia - from the album of the same name. Since they had no similar success in the UK, this version of Underworld broke up and only Karl Hyde and Rick Smith carried on into the '90s with new members and a new musical direction.

In Part 3, two of the biggest dance groups to hit the music scene in 1988, two of the biggest American superstars of the era and Patsy Kensit. But before that, on Thursday, we'll check in on the ARIA chart from 25 years ago.

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  1. I have to go back and start with your first blogs with my comments, but mate, you and I have so many similar musical tastes, as well as a fascination with charts. I had to comment to this one though as it's not often a find someone else who still likes Milli Vanilli. They have some awesome music, with their song 'Baby, Don't forget my number' still ranking as one of my all time favourites. Also, the fact that your favourite band is the Pet Shop Boys. You'll be seeing more of my comments over the following weeks. Love your work. Finn

    1. Thanks for reading, Finn. And if you happen to notice any broken or expired YouTube links as you go through, drop me a line (gavinscott75@gmail.com) and I'll fix them.

      The thing for me with acts like Milli Vanilli is that it was the songwriters and producers who were the talent (in that case Frank Farian), and just because the people out the front weren't singing, it doesn't mean it wasn't still a good record.