Saturday, 30 September 2017

This Week In 1984: September 30, 1984

It seems kind of appropriate with everything that's going on in Australia in 2017 for this week's flashback to the ARIA chart of 1984 to include the debut of a top 10 smash by drag queen-turned-pop star Divine. It's a reminder that the '80s were a pretty progressive time in many ways, and that for every step forward in diversity and tolerance, there's always someone wanting to drag us backwards.

Divine did it in a dress in 1984 - and went all the way to the ARIA top 10

On a lighter note, Divine's hit marked the chart debut of a trio of producers who would come to define pop music over the next five years and be responsible for chart-topping singles by four different artists (none of whom were Divine).

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 30, 1984

The chart-topping single this week in 1984 was still "Careless Whisper" by George Michael, which spent a second week on top and looked set to stay there for a while as it made a clean sweep of the state charts.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "She's Fresh" by Rock Steady Crew
Peak: number 85
Not to be confused with Kool & The Gang's "Fresh", this follow-up to "Up Rock" traded in the street beats for a more straightforward pop tune. Not the best idea.

Number 90 "Half A Boy And Half A Man" by Nick Lowe
Peak: number 66
Returning to the top 100 exactly five years to the day since his 1979 hit, "Cruel To Be Kind", debuted, Nick Lowe brought a bit of Tex Mex flavour to the chart. He'd do better with straight out rock'n'roll in 1986.

New Entries
Number 48 "Blue Jean" by David Bowie
Peak: number 12
More popular than ever, David Bowie had enjoyed the best chart run of his career with the singles from Let's Dance, so expectations were high for his next album, Tonight. David didn't stray too far from the sound that'd gained him a legion of new fans, with lead single "Blue Jean" a natural musical successor to the likes of "Modern Love". A bunch of music videos were made for the track, including a 20-minute Grammy-winning mini-film, Jazzin' For Blue Jean. Although "Blue Jean" gave David another top 15 hit, it would be his only major success from the album.

Number 45 "Torture" by The Jacksons
Peak: number 32
What do you do when the two lead singers on your latest single won't feature in its music video? Carry on without them - and rent a wax dummy to take the place of one of them. With Michael Jackson unavailable to film "Torture" and Jermaine refusing to appear, the other Jackson brothers soldiered on and worked around them, which involved borrowing the Madame Tussaud's statue of Michael to be included in a few scenes. The expensive, horror-themed video was the first choreographed by Lakers cheerleader Paula Abdul, who'd quickly become one of the most in-demand choreographers for music videos (especially by Jackson sister Janet) and film. For The Jacksons, the future wasn't so bright and "Torture" would end up being their final top 50 appearance in Australia.

Number 41 "Agadoo" by Black Lace
Peak: number 16
If there's a radio station in Hell, chances are it has this novelty record on repeat. Originally recorded in the early '70s as "Agadou" and at one point used as the theme tune for Club Med - which says it all, really - "Agadoo" was the first English-language version of the song and became a Brits abroad summer holiday smash during the European summer of 1984. Performed by the latest incarnation of lineup-shifting former Eurovision contestants Black Lace, the song thankfully wasn't as huge in Australia as it was in the UK, where it was only blocked from number 1 by George Michael and ended up as the year's eighth highest-selling single.

Number 39 "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper
Peak: number 6
To completely contradict my opening statement about the mid-'80s being a progressive time, here's one of the songs that wound up on the Filthy Fifteen, a list of tracks deemed the most offensive in pop music by the Parents Music Resource Center, who were responsible for the institution of parental advisory stickers on music releases. Of course, America has always been more conservative than some parts of the Western world and even a song like "She Bop", which makes no direct references to its female masturbation subject matter, was found to be objectionable. Cyndi Lauper, who landed her third top 10 hit in a row with the song, deliberately kept its true meaning implied so younger listeners (like nine-year-old me) could assume the lyrics referred to dancing and enjoy it on that level - something she carried over to the innuendo-laden music video.

Number 38 "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart
Peak: number 16
Featuring one of the most iconic synth riffs of the '80s, "Sunglasses At Night" was the debut single by then-22-year-old Canadian singer Corey Hart. Signed a couple of years earlier after recording demos with Billy Joel's backing band, Corey had his debut album, First Offense, ready to go... except for "Sunglasses At Night". At home in Canada when the inspiration for the song struck, Corey was sent back to the UK, where he'd recorded the album, to cut the track and add it to the LP. Issued as its lead single, the song became a US top 10 hit (although a more modest number 24 single in Canada) and was the first of Corey's three top 40 appearances in Australia.

Number 33 "You Think You're A Man" by Divine
Peak: number 8
1984 had already given us Marilyn, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bronski Beat, but one of music's most diverse years still had another queer mega-hit up its sleeve in the form of this top 10 smash by drag queen Divine. A frequent collaborator of movie director John Waters, Divine (real name: Harris Milstead) snarled into the top 10 with "You Think You're A Man", the first chart hit for producers Stock Aitken Waterman. 
Although not written by SAW - the song was penned by Geoff Deane, who'd go on to write the screenplay for the film Kinky Boots - the track established the template for the Hit Factory's Hi-NRG-meets-pop sound. The song was especially successful in Australia, where it eclipsed the number 16 peak of the tune in the UK, resulting in Divine making a memorable and well-received appearance on Countdown. It would turn out to be the only hit for the larger-than-life drag star, despite a string of singles between 1981 and 1987, including another SAW production, "I'm So Beautiful" - but what a hit it was.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:

Next week: the longest-running number 1 of 1984 debuts, plus a rebellious anthem from a briefly huge hair metal band.

Back to: Sep 23, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Oct 7, 1984

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

This Week In 1992: September 27, 1992

Last week, we saw one-hit wonders Riff arrive on the ARIA top 50 and this week in 1992, another one-time hit-maker debuted with a song he'd recently taken to number 1 at home in the UK.

Jimmy nailed it with his 1992 hit, "Ain't No Doubt"

Meanwhile, there was also a new entry from a singer many probably thought would be a one-hit wonder when she burst onto the music scene with a long-running Australian number 1 in 1987, but who was up to her 17th hit single by 1992.

Kylie Minogue celebrated five years as a hit-maker in 1992

Although neither of the new singles topped the chart locally, the one-hit wonder's song came closest, while the other singer did enjoy her best performance on the albums chart in years as a result of a career retrospective.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 27, 1992

The song that was at number 1 this week in 1992 was a welcome relief after six weeks of "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)". "Humpin' Around" by Bobby Brown ascended to the top for a single week before the country was overtaken by line-dancing mania.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Saturday Night" by Sound Unlimited
Peak: number 59
Having dropped the "Posse", Australia's highest profile hip-hop act delivered another commercial rap tune that unfortunately didn't follow "Kickin' To The Undersound" into the top 50.

Number 96 Live With It! by Judge Mercy
Peak: number 96
This debut EP by the Australian metal band featured lead track "Mr Attitude". There also seems to have been a video for third track "Live It All Tough", too.

Number 95 "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" by En Vogue
Peak: number 84
This remake of the 1976 single by Aretha Franklin might've done well in the US, but it might've made sense for Australia to have skipped ahead to "Free Your Mind" instead.

Number 76 "Tribal Voice" by Yothu Yindi
Peak: number 51
The Indigenous band came incredibly close to a third top 50 hit with this title track from their hit album. Perhaps it also needed a dance makeover?

Single Of The Week
"Through An Open Window" by Cliffs Of Dooneen
Peak: number 123
This Boston band had several links to Ireland - not least their name, which they shared with an Irish folk ballad. Cliffs Of Donneen also featured an Irish guitarist and were influenced by old school U2, but none of that was enough to provoke much interest in Australia, where this track missed the top 100.

New Entries
Number 48 "Neighbor" by Ugly Kid Joe
Peak: number 28
As Ugly As They Wanna Be was 19 weeks into its top 50 lifespan and still just outside the top 10. This week, the resilient EP was joined on the chart by "Neighbor" from the newly released America's Least Wanted, which had debuted on the albums chart the previous week. Lacking the fun factor of "Everything About You" (which was also included up on the album), "Neighbor" only ended up as a minor top 30 hit. But another monster hit was lurking on America's Least Wanted...

Number 47 "Share This Wine" by Things Of Stone & Wood
Peak: number 46
The song that was responsible for Things Of Stone & Wood winning Best New Talent at the 1993 ARIA Awards was also the debut single for the folk band. I don't recall ever listening to "Share This Wine" at the time and it wasn't a big enough hit to have come to my attention otherwise, but it's a pleasant enough song. Something 1992 me would've hated, but something 2017 me doesn't mind that much.

Number 38 "Ain't No Doubt" by Jimmy Nail
Peak: number 5
I thought we'd never get to the good stuff this week! Jimmy Nail already had one UK top 5 hit under his belt thanks to his 1985 version of "Love Don't Live Here Anymore", but although released locally (slightly before I'm Talking's cover), it hadn't charted. And so those Australians who were aware of him from his TV series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Spender probably didn't realise he was also a singer. 
That changed with "Ain't No Doubt", Jimmy's first single in six years and a former UK chart-topper. The half-spoken, half-sung tale of a relationship disintegrating (with featured female vocals by Sylvia Mason-James) gave him a big top 5 hit in Australia, but would end up being his only chart appearance here. In the UK, he achieved a third top 5 hit with the theme to another of his TV shows, Crocodile Shoes, as well as a number of other minor hits.  

Number 37 "What Kind Of Fool (Heard All That Before)" by Kylie Minogue
Peak: number 17
Things had taken a terrible turn for Kylie Minogue on the ARIA chart a couple of months earlier when she missed the top 50 for the first time with "Finer Feelings". So there was nothing like a perky piece of Hit Factory goodness to get things back on track. Sounding like it could well have been lifted from either of her first two albums, "What Kind Of Fool (Heard All That Before)" was classic Kylie - a fact that may or may not have been deliberately alluded to in its subtitle. 
The thing was, Kylie had moved on musically since then, and although the pop tune put her back in the top 20, it did feel like a - wait for it - step back in time. Not that I was complaining, but that's probably why she hates the song and has never performed it in full live. "What Kind Of Fool..." was one of three new tracks included on Greatest Hits - and I doubt few people would've predicted five years earlier as "Locomotion" spent its final week at number 1 that by 1992, Kylie would have racked up enough hits to fill such a collection. Indeed, all 17 of her top 30 hits (and one more to come) were included on the top 3 album - even if we had to put up with "The Loco-motion" instead of the original Australian single version.

Number 25 "Love How You Love Me" by Teen Queens
Peak: number 14
Their more modern twist on "I Can't Help Myself" hadn't gone down as well as "Be My Baby" and so Teen Queen went back to keeping things more faithful to the original with their take on "Love How You Love Me". Originally recorded, as "I Love How You Love Me", by The Paris Sisters, the delicate ballad had only reached number 31 in Australia in 1961. Three decades later, this dreary cover - essentially a solo single for Kellie Hoggart, with her band-mates not showing up in the video until almost the three-minute mark - returned the trio to the top 20. 

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1992:

Next week: one of the most unlikely samples delivers one of the year's best singles, plus another mega ballad duet arrives.

Back to: Sep 20, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Oct 4, 1992

Saturday, 23 September 2017

This Week In 1984: September 23, 1984

In 1984, U2 were just another up-and-coming band. They'd already had a couple of minor hits in Australia, but were years away from selling out stadiums and appearing unannounced on people's Apple products.

U2: soon to be the world's biggest band

This week in 1984, the song that would set them on the path to world domination debuted on the ARIA singles chart. A game-changer, it established them as a chart force on a global scale, not just in Ireland.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 23, 1984

George Michael proved what a chart force he was - with or without Wham! - this week in 1984, when his debut solo single, "Careless Whisper", moved into the number 1 slot, just two weeks after "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" departed it. The song would stay there for four weeks.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "To France" by Mike Oldfield
Peak: number 97
Like 1983's "Moonlight Shadow", this lead single from Discovery featured uncredited vocals by Maggie Reilly. Not a success in Australia or the UK, "To France" did well across Europe.

Number 96 "I'm Ready / Carrie-Ann" by Swanee
Peak: number 72
The A-side was a cover of a Bryan Adams single from Cuts Like A Knife, while double A-side "Carrie-Ann" was a self-penned number. Not a great debut for his new deal with RCA.

Number 93 "New Hero" by Dear Enemy
Peak: number 93
A brand new song from the band behind "Computer One", "New Hero" featured on the soundtrack to boxing film Street Hero. Dear Enemy would make one final top 100 appearance in 1986.

New Entries
Number 44 "Drive" by The Cars
Peak: number 10
They missed the top 50 at the start of the month with "Magic", but The Cars had no such trouble with the third single from Heartbeat City, which equalled the peak of 1981's "Shake It Up" to give them a third top 10 hit in Australia. A synth-soaked ballad with lead vocals by bass player Benjamin Orr, "Drive" was a shift in direction for the normally more upbeat new wave band. The music video featured actor Timothy Hutton and model Paulina Porizkova, who'd go on to marry The Cars' other main singer, Ric Ocasek. In the UK, "Drive" became a top 5 hit twice over - once in 1984 and again in 1985, after the song was used as a backing track for footage of the famine in Ethiopia during the London component of Live Aid.

Number 42 "Wilderworld" by Dragon
Peak: number 42
Like the Dear Enemy song, this latest release from Dragon was included on the Street Hero soundtrack, but "Wilderworld" had also appeared on the band's Body And The Beat album, which had spent the last 13 weeks in the top half of the albums top 50. Yet another Dragon single that should've done much better, "Wilderworld" boasts a typically soaring chorus courtesy of songwriters the Hunter brothers (Marc and Todd) and Todd's partner, Johanna Pigott, who'd all also been responsible for "Rain".

Number 36 "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince & The Revolution
Peak: number 10
As former chart-topper "When Doves Cry" made its way down the top 10, it was joined on the chart by the next release from Purple Rain - the album and movie. As energetic as its predecessor was moody, "Let's Go Crazy" is a good-time burst of infection pop/funk that gave Prince his fourth top 10 locally (although not consecutively, since a couple of singles missed the top 100 completely between "Little Red Corvette" and "When Doves Cry"). Tucked away on the B-side of "Let's Go Crazy" was one of Prince's most notorious songs, "Erotic City", in which he dropped the F-bomb years before "Sexy MF".

Number 13 "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" by U2
Peak: number 4
"Gloria" had reached number 32 in 1982 and "New Year's Day" had managed number 36 a year later, but this lead single from The Unforgettable Fire propelled U2 to new chart heights, remaining at number 4 for five weeks and helping the album debut at number 1 in early November (the same week as Midnight Oil's Red Sails In The Sunset entered behind it at number 2). 
Inspired by Martin Luther King especially, and written about non-violent activism and resistance in general, "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" took the Irish band to a whole new level. As well as its Australian success, it reached number 3 in the UK (their highest position until "Desire") and was their first top 40 success in the US.
The song had started out as a Reagan-bashing track, but lyricist Bono changed tack and turned it into a positive, celebratory song about MLK, with one of the most rousing choruses in music history. Even I was a fan of it (and I've spoken about my disdain for 1980s U2 elsewhere) - and until 1991's "Mysterious Ways", it remained the only original U2 song I truly loved (although I was also quite partial to their cover of "Everlasting Love").
Fun fact 1: Chrissie Hynde sings backing vocals on "Pride". Fun fact 2: Bono sometimes corrects the lyric "early morning, April 4" when he performs it live, singing "early evening, April 4", which is an accurate description of the time of day MLK was assassinated.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:

Next week: Stock Aitken Waterman's first hit single, a song about self-pleasure and one of the worst party songs of all time. Plus, Corey Hart, David Bowie and The Jacksons.

Back to: Sep 16, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 30, 1984

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

This Week In 1992: September 20, 1992

It was a pretty eclectic week on the ARIA top 50 this week in 1992, with a diverse range of songs making their debut - truly something for everyone. The biggest hit of all was a single which got its rather unusual title from the film in which it featured.

White Men Can't Jump spawned one of 1992's biggest R&B hits

I say "unusual" not only because it was kind of an odd thing to call a song, but because the vast majority of soundtrack hits aren't named directly after the movies from which they are taken. Can you imagine a tune called "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves" or "Titanic" or "Four Weddings And A Funeral'? And yet "White Men Can't Jump" became a song.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 20, 1992

The reign of terror was almost over as "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)" spent its sixth and final week at number 1 this week in 1992. We'd get a brief respite before an even worse track lodged itself firmly on top.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "So What 'Cha Want" by Beastie Boys
Peak: number 64
The rap trio's first top 100 appearance since "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)" established their early hit would not be indicative of the rest of their more credible output.

New Entries
Number 49 "Don't You Want Me" by Felix
Peak: number 17
Our smorgasbord of new entries begins with one of 1992's great dance tracks - the debut single by British DJ/producer Francis Wright. Taking its vocal hook from Jomanda's 1989 release "Don't You Want My Love", Felix's "Don't You Want Me" gave birth to a new more electronic sub-genre of house known as hardbag. And since it was one of those era-defining dance tunes, it's never really gone away since, with regular remixes, covers and samples (including in Snoop Dogg vs David Guetta's 2011 chart-topper, "Sweat"). For Felix, it'd be his only hit in Australia, although we'll see a couple of follow-ups make the top 100 in months to come.

Number 48 "Without You" by Girlfriend
Peak: number 18
So far, the Girlfriend explosion had left me unmoved, but with their third single, obligatory big ballad "Without You", my interest was piqued. Unlike their two hits to date, "Take It From Me" and "Girl's Life", the song wasn't a watered down version of new jack swing, but just a nice tune, sung well. And it gave the five-piece a third top 20 hit to coincide with the release of their debut album, Make It Come True, which debuted in the top 10 in early October.

Number 46 "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" by Def Leppard
Peak: number 44
At this point, Def Leppard and Bryan Adams really were kind of interchangeable - with this latest single from Adrenalize sounding like it could just as easily have been the next power ballad released from Waking Up The Neighbours. "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad" didn't progress much further and we wouldn't see the British rock band on the top 50 until they had their next album out in late 1993.

Number 40 "Who Is It" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 34
After three straight Teddy Riley co-productions, Michael Jackson plucked another track co-produced with Bill Bottrell (who'd worked on "Black Or White") off Dangerous for the album's fifth single. The moody "Who Is It" is about wanting to know who your partner has been seeing on the side, and in the David Fincher-directed music video, Michael's lover had a double life as a high-class escort and therefore slept with quite a few different people behind his back.

Number 38 "Lead Me To Water" by Southern Sons
Peak: number 36
Uh-oh, looked like the band that'd taken over from 1927 as Australia's favourite FM-friendly pop/rock group a couple of years earlier were themselves going to stumble with their second album. This lead single from Nothing But The Truth could only have been a commercial disappointment for Southern Sons, who'd enjoyed three consecutive top 20 hits straight out of the gate. It probably didn't help that it was kind of forgettable. Things got even worse when the album itself was released in November - it spent just two weeks on the top 50, peaking at number 31 and its second single, "Can't Wait Any Longer", missed the top 100 completely. But the story for Southern Sons - and Nothing But The Truth - wasn't quite over, with a surprise turnaround in 1993.

Number 37 "Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home" by Sinéad O'Connor
Peak: number 37
Here's another artist following up one of 1990's biggest albums and making her first appearance on the singles top 50 since "The Emperor's New Clothes". But Sinéad O'Connor also came nowhere near matching the phenomenal success of "Nothing Compares 2 U" and I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. This was pretty much down to two reasons: 1) "Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home", a reworking of the 1962 Loretta Lynn song just called "Success", and her album of jazz standard covers, Am I Not Your Girl?, weren't as well received by fans or critics and 2) in a couple of weeks' time, Sinéad's controversial decision to tear up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live got a lot of people offside.

Number 36 "White Men Can't Jump" by Riff
Peak: number 6
It might've seemed like this five-piece were riding on Boyz II Men and Color Me Badd's coattails, but the truth of the matter was New Jersey's Riff had actually beaten their vocal harmony rivals onto the Billboard Hot 100 with their ballad debut single, "My Heart Is Failing Me" (incidentally, one of my favourite songs from 1991). They'd also featured as a doo-wop group in 1989 film Lean On Me. In Australia, it was another movie, Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson basketball comedy White Men Can't Jump, that provided Riff with their only top 50 hit: the film's title song. The lyrics of the Dallas Austin-produced track seem to reflect the premise for the film - Woody's ex-player character would hustle black guys playing ball who'd assume he was no good because of his race.

Number 35 "Digging In The Dirt" by Peter Gabriel
Peak: number 23
It'd been six years since Peter Gabriel's last studio album, So, and five-and-a-bit since he last visited the ARIA top 50 with "Big Time". For the lead single from his sixth studio album, Us, Peter chose a much darker song (inspired by a project of his delving into the minds of serial killers, as well as him dealing with his own personal issues) than people might've been expecting. I'd go as far as to suggest that it probably only did as well as it did on the chart because it'd been so long since he'd released anything. Also, for a touch of familiarity, he teamed "Digging In The Dirt" with another cutting edge animated music video, which went on to win a Grammy Award and probably helped the single's cause.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1992:

Next week: the debut of a UK number 1 hit by an artist who'd end up a one-hit wonder in Australia, plus a singer with quite a few number 1s under her belt released her first greatest hits collection.

Back to: Sep 13, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 27, 1992

Saturday, 16 September 2017

This Week In 1984: September 16, 1984

After a few busy weeks on the ARIA chart, things quietened down this week in 1984 with only two new entries to the top 50 - both by well-known artists and both reasonably big hits.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 16, 1984

There was, more excitingly, lots of movement up the top of the chart and a new number 1 record in Australia. After seven weeks at number 1 - spread out over eight weeks when it briefly stepped aside to let Prince have a go - "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! fell from the top spot. In its place, Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" jumped up to number 1, but George Michael wouldn't be denied for long...

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Sexy Girl" by Glenn Frey
Peak: number 76
He'd have a massive hit in about six months' time with a certain soundtrack song, but until then, this lead single from second solo album The Allnighter had few takers. And no, this song has nothing to do with the Sabrina tune from 1988.

Number 99 "Screaming Dreaming" by Allniters
Peak: number 84
It was as jaunty and brass-drenched as their big hit, "Montego Bay", but not even the fact that this was a previously unreleased song could help it up the chart.

Number 78 "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 66
With "Legs" taking great strides up the top 50 (see what I did there?), this earlier single from Eliminator, with another storyline music video, joined it on the top 100.

New Entries
Number 48 "Passengers" by Elton John
Peak: number 9
Elton John racked up top 10 hits during the '80s with relative ease, but this second single from Breaking Hearts is probably my least favourite of the eight that did. There's something about it that's just too cutesy and kind of annoying. Nevertheless, it followed "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" into the upper reaches of the chart to give Elton back-to-back top 10 hits for a fifth and final time. Despite all that success, he never did manage three in a row.

Number 42 "Love Resurrection" by Alison Moyet
Peak: number 17
She'd been the voice of two of the best singles of 1982, and when Yazoo disbanded after a relatively short career, there was no doubt singer Alison Moyet would go on to a solo career. That got slightly delayed thanks to some record company wrangling, but in late 1984, she kicked things off with this lead single from debut album Alf (her nickname during her punk rock days in the late '70s and early '80s). Just as the synthpop sound of Yazoo was a departure from her career beginnings, so too was "Love Resurrection" another musical pivot, the slick pop track being co-written and produced by Jolley & Swain (also responsible for albums by Bananarama and Spandau Ballet). An undeniable hit from an unmistakable voice.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:

Next week: the song that turned a certain Irish band into true chart stars, plus two massive US hits that both peaked at number 10 locally.

Back to: Sep 9, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 23, 1984

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

This Week In 1992: September 13, 1992

Sometimes there's nothing better than a good ballad. Other music trends may come and go, but a heartfelt slow song can connect with people unlike anything else, stirring the emotions and setting the chart alight.

Wendy Matthews released her signature song in 1992

This week in 1992, a homegrown artist kicked off their second album with the biggest hit of their career - and one of the most successful ballads of the year. What I didn't know at the time was that it was a cover version, but what I did know was that it was a beautiful tune only blocked from the top spot by another of the year's monster ballads.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 13, 1992

For every good ballad, there's a bad one - and that song was still at number 1 this week in 1992. Yep, "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)" by José Carreras and Sarah Brightman stayed put for a fifth week.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Be My Downfall" by Del Amitri
Peak: number 86
This follow-up to fourth top 50 single "Always The Last To Know" didn't become the Scottish band's fifth hit - and in fact they'd never see the inside of the top 50 again.

Number 97 "Symphony Of Destruction" by Megadeath
Peak: number 58
Three years after they slipped into the top 50 with "No More Mr Nice Guy", American heavy metal band Megadeath just missed out on a second hit with this Countdown To Extinction single.

Number 93 "All Shook Up" by Billy Joel
Peak: number 54
It'd be almost another year before Billy Joel's next studio album. In the meantime, his version of the Elvis Presley classic was one of many remakes on the Honeymoon In Vegas soundtrack.

Number 90 "Restless Heart" by Peter Cetera
Peak: number 89
He'd been a reasonably reliable hitmaker in the '70s and '80s - with and without Chicago - but there was little love for the MOR balladeer in the '90s with this lead single from World Falling Down.

Number 77 "Walking On Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox
Peak: number 58
These singles from Diva really weren't connecting, were they? The excellent third release did improve slightly on the peak of "Precious" and pushed the album back in the top 40 for a brief spell, so that's something.

New Entries
Number 49 "Ain't Love The Strangest Thing" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 46
The Black Sorrows had reached their commercial peak with 1990's Harley & Rose and probably thought their existing fanbase would go with them when they released this bluesy number as the lead single from Better Times. But it might have been safer to stick with what'd worked and gone with the album's more upbeat title track, which shared more in common musically with "Hold On To Me" and "Harley & Rose". Perhaps then, Better Times would've given the band their third top 10 album in a row when it debuted later in the month - as it was, they had to be satisfied with a number 13 placing.

Number 48 "Motor City (I Get Lost)" by Company Of Strangers
Peak: number 26
You might've thought a supergroup comprising Daryl Braithwaite and James Reyne, who'd both had an exceptionally successful few years as solo artists, would cause a bigger splash on the chart than this top 30 single. The singers were joined in Company Of Strangers by guitarist Jef Scott and producer/multi-instrumentalist Simon Hussey (formerly of Cats Under Pressure), who'd worked on Daryl and James's solo efforts since 1987. Despite the fact the band all clearly knew their way around a hit or several, the hook-laden "Motor City (I Get Lost)", which I actually quite like, wasn't the sensation they probably hoped it would be.

Number 45 "Breaking The Girl" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Peak: number 30
Just as Blood Sugar Sex Magik was beginning to slide down the chart, this fourth and final single from the album not only gave Red Hot Chili Peppers another hit to add to their rapidly growing tally, but pushed the album back into the top 30 for another couple of months. Written about singer Anthony Kiedis's breakup with model Carmen Hawk, "Breaking The Girl" had more in common musically with chart-topper "Under The Bridge" than its frenetic predecessor, "Suck My Kiss" - and I for one much preferred this more melodic side of the band.

Number 43 "The Day You Went Away" by Wendy Matthews
Peak: number 2
Originally recorded by British group Soul Family Sensation in 1991 - this is new information to me, too - "The Day You Went Away" is the type of song that creeps up on you. The first time you hear it, you think, "Oh yeah, that's nice enough." But the more you listen to it, the more it sinks in, its subtlety a huge part of its appeal. Performed by Wendy Matthews with remarkable restraint and backed by only the sparsest of accompaniments, the song feels like it was a bit of a risk - it could well have slipped under the radar since it's not as immediate as her previous biggest hits, "Let's Kiss (Like Angels Do)" or Absent Friends' "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You". But it paid off - big time. The lead single from her second album, Lily, it became easily the biggest hit of her solo career and her only single to reach the top 10, where it spent 15 weeks. As a result, it won the ARIA Award for Highest Selling Single, as well as the one for Single Of The Year.

Number 42 "Proove" by Radio Freedom
Peak: number 30
Whatever its faults, I could at least clearly remember Radio Freedom's debut single, "I Can Feel It", all these years later. The same can't be said of follow-up "Proove", with only the vague lasting impression that it was a better song remaining in my mind. It's not, so I'm not sure where I got that idea from. Unlike the party starter that'd come before, "Proove" was a slinkier, groovier number with added brass and soulful backing vocals - and another cheesy rap from model frontman Pehl, who smouldered his way around a basketball court in the music video way before Jeremy Jordan.

It's also worth noting that "November Rain" by Guns n' Roses, which now had that flashy, lengthy music video, re-entered the top 50 this week for the first time since May and would quickly shoot past its earlier peak of number 21 to take up permanent residence in the top 10 until February 1993.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1992:

Next week: the artist behind 1990's highest-selling single returns, while the fifth hit from an album that had more than a few singles left in it and one of the best dance tracks of the year also arrive.

Back to: Sep 6, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 20, 1992

Saturday, 9 September 2017

This Week In 1984: September 9, 1984

Some big singles were released in 1984 - songs that would sell millions of copies around the world and come to define the decade as a whole. This week that year, two such singles debuted on the ARIA top 50.

Guilty feet provided George Michael with his first solo smash

One was the solo debut of a singer who also held down the number 1 spot that week as one-half of pop's biggest duo. The other was the theme tune to one of 1984's most successful movies.

The film's stars and other random celebs popped up in the "Ghostbusters" video

Only one of the two tracks would make it to number 1 in Australia, but both would end up among the year's top 5 biggest hits.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 9, 1984

Another song that would end up as one of 1984's top 5 biggest hits spent its seventh and final week at number 1. Yep, it wasn't long before "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! would be gone-gone from the top spot.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young" by Fire Inc.
Peak: number 80
As "I Can Dream About You" moved up to number 3, this next single from Streets Of Fire debuted. One listen should be all you need to realise it was written by Jim Steinman, while Fire Inc. were a studio-based band put together for the film's soundtrack.

Number 76 "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" by Quiet Riot
Peak: number 59
Proving you can't always recreate chart magic, American rockers dipped into the Slade well for a second time with this remake of the 1972 song, but it fell some way short of the achievements of their cover of "Cum On Feel The Noize".

New Entries
Number 50 "Missing You" by John Waite
Peak: number 5
The week's first new entry may not have reached "Careless Whisper" or "Ghostbusters" levels of success in Australia, but it did pretty well for itself, staying at number 5 locally for five weeks, as well as reaching number 1 in the US and the top 10 in the UK. The lead single from his second album, No Brakes"Missing You" was the first solo hit for the former singer of The Babys (and future Bad English frontman) since nothing on his debut album had done very well. 
It was also a last-minute addition to No Brakes, with John writing the song in record time once he came up with the opening line (which was inspired by The Babys' hit, "Every Time I Think Of You"). I always associate "Missing You" with short-lived TV series Paper Dolls - not only did John perform the song in the primetime soap, but he also appeared as himself in a number of episodes and was the love interest for Nicollette Sheridan's character.

Number 48 "A Love Worth Waiting For" by Shakin' Stevens
Peak: number 44
He still had plenty of fans in Britain, with this latest single from The Bop Won't Stop reaching number 2 there, but this was Shakin' Stevens' last gasp of chart success in Australia with "A Love Worth Waiting For" proving to be his final top 50 hit. In the UK, the retro rocker still had a Christmas number 1 single (in 1985) up his sleeve and a top 5 hit as late as 1987, when his throwback sound was well and truly past its use by date.

Number 46 "I Wish" by Rose Tattoo
Peak: number 32
In 1984, a new-look Rose Tattoo returned with the Southern Stars album, three members having left and been replaced since we last saw them on the chart. Lead single "I Wish" saw Angry Anderson getting political, singing about his desire to do something more for people around the world (Ireland, Poland, Afghanistan and El Salvador are specifically mentioned) caught up in wars.

Number 44 "No Second Prize" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 12
While he was essentially absent from the music video for his former band Cold Chisel's "Flame Trees", which we saw debut last week, Jimmy Barnes was front and centre for this record: his debut solo single. The song, "No Second Prize", actually dated back to his days in Cold Chisel, who had recorded a demo of it in 1980 after Jimmy wrote it in tribute to two of the band's roadies who'd been killed in a car accident. Surprisingly, "No Second Prize" didn't make the top 10, peaking just outside, although perhaps his fans were saving their dollars for his debut album, Bodyswerve, which was released a few weeks after the single and made it to number 1 in mid-October.

Number 41 "Legs" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 6
They certainly took their time to release this song as a single, didn't they? The fifth single from Eliminator, which had come out 18 months earlier, "Legs" was far and away the biggest hit of ZZ Top's career to date (and of all time in Australia). Remixed from the more guitar-based album version, "Legs" was accompanied by the latest in the band's series of music videos featuring the Eliminator (the red car), the Eliminator girls (the trio of Playboy models who give the harried female protagonist a makeover) and ZZ Top's iconic fluffy guitars.

Number 26 "Careless Whisper" by George Michael
Peak: number 1
Wham! were at the height of their success - and would continue to be for a year or so - but that didn't stop the duo's singer and principal songwriter from launching his solo career with a song he'd written at the very start of the decade. It actually made complete sense for "Careless Whisper" to be released as a George Michael record instead of a Wham! one (except in the US and a couple of other countries, where it was credited to Wham! featuring George Michael). The moody ballad wasn't like anything Wham! had released before - both in terms of style and subject matter - but it did give a hint of the more serious and mature direction George Michael would take when he eventually went solo full-time.
Despite Andrew Ridgeley not having an artist credit on "Careless Whisper", he did receive a songwriting credit, with George explaining his band-mate contributed some lyrics and that the song was based on a chord pattern Andrew came up with. The song about a cheating partner was written when the pair were in their teens, and was one of the demos that landed them their original record and publishing deals. It had almost come out earlier, since it was recorded with legendary producer Jerry Wexler and Wham!'s original label, Innervision, wanted to release it. But that release was blocked and, after a new version was produced by George himself, it came out as the second single from the upcoming Make It Big album on Epic Records.
To say "Careless Whisper" was a big hit would be an understatement. A number 1 single in Australia, the UK (where it sold over 1.3 million copies), the US (where it sold over 2 million copies) and many other countries, the sax-driven schmaltz fest was massive. And I seem to be one of the only people in the world who doesn't really like it - too slow, too corny. Yes, the latter can also be said of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", but at least that has energy. But what do I know? As it would turn out, "Careless Whisper" would wind up one place above "Wake Me..." in the year-end chart, finishing 1984 as the year's fourth-biggest hit.

Number 17 "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr
Peak: number 2
Next up, the song that ended 1984 as the year's third-biggest hit in Australia despite never reaching number 1. The theme tune to the film of the same name, "Ghostbusters" would, however, spend 21 weeks in the top 10 - including at least one week at every position between numbers 2 and 10 (including five straight weeks at number 3). 
The song was written and produced by Ray Parker Jr, who had previously reached the top of the singles chart in Australia with his debut solo single, 1982's "The Other Woman", and had landed two top 10 hits in the late '70s with his former group, Raydio. When given the assignment of coming up with the theme tune, Ray was instructed that it had to be called "Ghostbusters" to match the movie and struggled at first to get the word into the song. Once he came up with the late-night infomercial concept of the track, it quickly fell into place.
Problem was: musically, "Ghostbusters" sounded a little too similar to "I Want A New Drug" by Huey Lewis & The News. Huey, who'd actually been approached to write the theme for Ghostbusters but was already committed to working on Back To The Future, sued Ray for plagiarism and the case was settled out of court with a non-disclosure agreement. When Huey discussed the matter in 2001, revealing he'd been paid a settlement by Columbia Pictures, Ray sued for breach of the NDA. Given "Ghostbusters" was such a massive hit, I'm sure there was plenty of money to go around.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:

Next week: the debut solo single from one half of a hit-making synthpop duo, plus the second half of a duo of top 10 hits from a male singer's latest album.

Back to: Sep 2, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 16, 1984