Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Best Of 1988 - part 3

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

1988 wasn't just a big year in music, it was a big year for Australia, with the country celebrating the bicentenary of white settlement/invasion on January 26. I remember being on holidays north of Sydney and watching the replica tall ships making their way down the coast as part of the festivities.

Patsy Kensit's band Eighth Wonder finally broke through in 1988

It was also my high school's 75th anniversary that year - so it was a big year for celebrating all round. At school, I quickly became known as the guy who admitted to liking Kylie Minogue - and she wasn't the only perky blonde with a string of catchy pop hits to catch my ear in 1988, as you'll discover if you join me to count down my favourite songs for the year from 50 to 26...

Number 50 "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 49 "Never Trust A Stranger" by Kim Wilde
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 48 "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 47 "I'm Not Scared" by Eighth Wonder
Mentioned below

Number 46 "Got A New Love" by Good Question
The only thing I ever knew about this American group was that they were signed to Prince's Paisley Park Records. A quick look online reveals the duo consisted of a pair of brothers, Sean and Marc Douglas, who had a minor hit with this catchy debut single. It's one of many songs introduced to me by my previously mentioned Billboard-subscribing friend.

Number 45 "Somewhere In My Heart" by Aztec Camera
This song always makes me feel incredibly happy - yet I would have been much happier had this been a bigger hit in Australia, where it only managed a peak of number 34. In the UK, it was a much more satisfying number 3, easily surpassing their previous biggest single (and the other song of theirs I like), 1983's "Oblivious".

Number 44 "Nathan Jones" by Bananarama
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 43 "Touchy" by a-ha
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 42 "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" by Billy Ocean
Billy (real name: Leslie Charles) did like a lengthy song title, didn't he? Between this and 1986's "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going", and all those singles with brackets in the titles, he was a man of a lot of words. This song was a massive success in Australia, spending five weeks at number 1 and winding up as the year's fourth biggest seller - but it would be his last top 50 entry of any kind on these shores, where he'd been a fairly consistent hitmaker since his 1984 comeback.

Number 41 "Theme From S-Express" by S-Express
This dance act, whose name seemed to be written differently (S-Express, S'Express, S'Xpress) every time I saw it, really capitalised on the popularity of songs that sampled other songs. They even scored themselves a number 11 hit in Australia for their troubles - something not many dance songs from 1988 managed locally. At the time, I thought the group (which was really just DJ/producer Mark Moore with various guest performers) were linked to Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Starlight Express and expected more rollerskating in the music videos. This debut single, which was remixed and charted again in 1996, sampled a stack of other songs, most significantly the intro from Rose Royce's "Is It Love You're After" and the title line from "I Got The Hots For You" by TZ.

Number 40 "Hazy Shade Of Winter" by The Bangles
Originally recorded by Simon & Garfunkel in 1966, this track was covered by The Bangles for the soundtrack of Brat Pack film Less Than Zero and gave the girl band another top 10 hit in Australia. Apart from liking this song for its musical qualities, I always liked that, at two and three-quarter minutes in length, it usually fit on the end of whatever mix tape I was making at the time.

Number 39 "Everlasting Love" by Sandra
There are some songs that never die, with numerous cover versions over the decades. "Everlasting Love" is one of those songs. Originally recorded in a Motown style in 1967 by American singer Robert Knight, the song was given a pop makeover by UK act Love Affair the following year and went to number 1 there. By 1988, many more artists had recorded the track, meaning by the time I heard the version by German singer Sandra, I was probably vaguely familiar with the tune.
A nice Europop version of the song, Sandra's "Everlasting Love" would crack the Australian top 100 (peaking at number 72) and be a minor hit in the UK thanks to a PWL remix. I distinctly recall ordering the 7" at my local record store and, when a 12" rather than a 7" turned up, arguing that I would only pay the cost of a 7" single. They must have loved me. Thankfully, the 12" also had the 7" version on it (and anyone who knows my musical taste well, knows I always prefer the radio edit to the extended mix).
Sandra was a bit of a superstar across Europe, where she'd had a string of original hits in the previous few years, all of them produced by her eventual husband Michael Cretu (they wed in 1988). Michael would go on to create Gregorian chant pop under the name Enigma, which Sandra would provide some of the vocals for - while "Everlasting Love" would continue to be covered by everyone from U2 to Gloria Estefan.

Number 38 "Boys And Girls" by Mandy
She popped up in my 1987 countdown with the SAW-produced "Positive Reaction", but since that song as well as debut "I Just Can't Wait" both flopped, the producers handed over the reins to other PWL staff for Mandy's subsequent singles - like this, her third release in 1988. Despite having one of the weakest voices in pop (as evidenced by her flimsy original recording of Kylie's "Got To Be Certain"), Mandy did receive some quality tunes and her album is not bad at all. But, despite some European and Asian success, the UK market was more or less indifferent to her musical output and, after one last effort in 1989 when her cover of Human League's "Don't You Want Me" was released, Mandy moved on to other endeavours, like getting married and more modelling.

Number 37 "Domino Dancing" by Pet Shop Boys
Previously featured here

Number 36 "Most Of All" by Jody Watley
The final single lifted from the debut album by that year's Grammy Award winner for Best New Artist might not have been that big a hit anywhere in the world, but it was actually my favourite of the five released. That probably had something to do with the fact that it was co-written and produced by Patrick Leonard, who'd been responsible for some of Madonna's biggest hits in the previous few years. The former Shalamar singer would return with another album in 1989 and would score hits (at least in the States) into the early '90s.

Number 35 "Big Fun" by Inner City
We've already seen the rise of sample-driven hits and just as successful in 1988 were house and acid house tracks. Inner City, who scored big UK hits with this song and "Good Life", was comprised of producer Kevin Saunderson and singer Paris Grey - and together they took the Detroit house music sound mainstream. Even though the duo didn't sustain such massive chart success with subsequent releases, I continued to be a big fan of their tracks well into the '90s. In fact, I like a 1999 remix of "Good Life" even more than the original (which placed back at number 60 for 1988 on this list).

Number 34 "Cross My Heart" by Eighth Wonder
Virtually unknown here in Australia, Patsy Kensit was a former child star in the UK, whose adult career had been given a huge boost when she appeared in the film Absolute Beginners in 1986. Also a singer, Patsy and her band, Eighth Wonder, enjoyed their biggest hit with the song, "I'm Not Scared", which was written and produced by Pet Shop Boys. Other singles included "Baby Baby" (number 91 on this list) and this song, which would go on to be recorded by American singers Tracie Spencer and Martika (whose version is the best of the three). Once Eighth Wonder split, Patsy would remain in the spotlight thanks to a string of high profile marriages to musicians (Simple Minds' Jim Kerr, Oasis' Liam Gallagher and DJ/former Haysi Fantayzee member Jeremy Healy) and a role in UK soap Emmerdale

Number 33 "Turn It Into Love" by Kylie Minogue
Previously featured here

Number 32 "A Little Respect" by Erasure
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 31 "Maybe (We Should Call It A Day)" by Hazell Dean
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 30 "Man In The Mirror" by Michael Jackson
This was always my favourite single from the Bad album, and, when the King of Pop passed away in 2009, it was the song that fans downloaded most - being a more fitting tribute purchase than, say, "Bad", "Beat It" or "Thriller". A US number 1 at the time, it only climbed as high as number 39 in Australia in 1988 - probably due to the fact that most fans had already purchased the Bad album by that point. In 2009, however, "Man In the Mirror" surpassed that by reaching number 8 here. These days, the ballad routinely pops up on reality shows (most memorably in a duet between contestant Javier Colon and mentor Adam Levine on the first season of the US version of The Voice) - but there's no beating the original recording.

Number 29 "One Moment In Time" by Whitney Houston
Another song that received a huge sales surge around the world following the singer's death at the start of this year, "One Moment In Time" was originally a non-album track Whitney recorded for the Seoul Olympics and Paralympics. Even though I bought it on 7" single and sheet music, the song was inexplicably never a big hit in Australia (it hovered just outside the top 50 for the last couple of months of the year) - but it went all the way to number 1 in the UK. In the US, it was another hit for her, following "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" (number 68 on this list) and "Love Will Save The Day" (number 62 on this list) into the top 10.

Number 28 "Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie Fisher
A duo which got its name from members Simon Climie and Rob Fisher's surnames, Climie Fisher finally hit paydirt with this track (originally a single in 1987) when a remix got to number 2 in the UK and number 23 in Australia in 1988. By the time Climie Fisher started having chart success, Simon had already co-written a couple of big hits - "Invincible" by Pat Benatar and "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" by George Michael and Aretha Franklin - while Rob had played in briefly successful band Naked Eyes.

Number 27 "Freemason (You Broke The Promise)" by Boxcar
Usually referred to as Australia's answer to New Order, Boxcar became one of my favourite groups in the early 1990s thanks to tracks like this, their debut single, and others taken from 1990's Vertigo album, as well as follow-up album Algorhythm in 1994. When I was old enough to get into clubs, I even saw them play a few gigs for the latter album - even though they didn't always play their old songs by that stage. Boxcar was signed to pioneering Australian dance label Volition, home to a heap of artists I enjoyed, like Single Gun Theory and Southend. Even though they should have been bigger, I quite liked that Boxcar never enjoyed mainstream success - since they felt a bit like an underground secret I was in on.

Number 26 "Heart" by Pet Shop Boys
Previously featured here

That just leaves my top 25 for 1988, which, as you'd expect, it chock full of Stock Aitken Waterman-produced songs that I don't need to talk about again, as well as appearances by the woman with the biggest mouth (and hair) in pop, another former member of The Go-Go's and my favourite single released in the 1980s.

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