Thursday, 30 August 2012

This Week In 1987: August 30, 1987

Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2012. Updated in 2017.

I'm sure I've said this already about 1987, but the top 50 chart really was a mixed bag in those days - and nothing proves that more than this week's batch of new entries. Besides New Order (below), there was some Aussie rock, a soundtrack hit in Spanish, a duet by two former chart-toppers and a novelty record. And to round things out, some glam rock as a breaker.

This week in 1987: one of my favourite bands with one of my favourite songs of all time

Maybe the top 50 today is as diverse as ever - and with acts as varied as fun., Guy Sebastian, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, Florence & The Machine and Far East Movement in the top 10, that would seem to be the case, but the further down the top 50 you go, there does seem to be more soundalike tracks and bandwagon-jumping than you find on the 1987 chart.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 30, 1987

At number 1 this week in 1987 was, once again, "Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue, which spent its third week on top. The song that would end up knocking it off its perch was one of this week's debuts.

Off The Chart
Number 96 "Lies" by Jonathan Butler
Peak: number 68
This international breakthrough hit by the South African musician came from the George Benson school of smooth R&B-meets-jazz, and went mostly unappreciated in Australia.

Number 78 "Surrender" by Swing Out Sister
Peak: number 78
As "Breakout" dropped out of the top 20, this just as slickly produced follow-up single - a top 10 hit in the UK - joined it on the chart, but progressed no further than this debut slot.

"Talk Dirty To Me" by Poison
Peak: number 55
Long before Bret Michaels became a reality show punchline, he was lead singer of one of the most successful glam metal groups in America - although Poison wouldn't cross over in Australia until album number two, with this track from debut Look What The Cat Dragged In missing the top 50. I don't really recall this song, and listening to it now I can see why it failed where "Nothin' But A Good Time" and "Fallen Angel" succeeded, but everybody's got to start somewhere - and I'm sure the band was more than happy to score their first US top 10 hit with this track, even if much better was still to come.

New Entries
Number 43 "Star Trekkin'" by The Firm
Peak: number 3
This really is terrible. It was also a massive hit, reaching number 3 in Australia and the top of the chart in the UK. And it was genius, tapping into the most rabid fanbase on Earth (something The Timelords would also do the following year with "Doctorin' The Tardis", albeit with a much better song). I think I probably liked "Star Trekkin'" at the time, but as I've noted before, I pretty much liked most things on the chart in those days. It really is terrible, though - but just try not to watch the music video below... 

Number 40 "First We Take Manhattan" by Jennifer Warnes
Peak: number 32
Actually, to negate what I just said above, here's one song I distinctly remember disliking at the time. Listening to it again now, it's obvious why: it sounds pretty miserable, and "Luka" was as miserable as I got in 1987. It was also a Leonard Cohen song (in fact, he hadn't even released his version of it yet) - as was every track on Jennifer's accompanying album, Famous Blue Raincoat. Turns out before duetting with Joe Cocker, she was Leonard's backing singer and had been releasing records since 1968, but my interest in Jennifer begins and ends with her two number 1 soundtrack duets ("Up Where We Belong" with Joe, and "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" with Bill Medley, which would debut in the coming months). Anyway, back to "First We Take Manhattan", which would be Jennifer's last solo chart appearance.

Number 37 "Flames Of Paradise" by Elton John & Jennifer Rush
Peak: number 31
Here's another Jennifer with a number 1 Australian single under her belt, singing with a man who's recorded more than his fair share of duets over the years - but this song, which was a particular favourite of mine at the time, seems to have become long forgotten in the years since its release.
Of course, Jennifer's big hit (everywhere except in the US) had been 1985's "The Power Of Love", which Celine Dion would cover in 1994 and finally turn into a Stateside smash. Two things I didn't know until now about Jennifer: 1) her real name is Heidi Stern and 2) she released a new album as recently as 2010.

Number 31 "True Faith" by New Order
Peak: number 8
Not only is this one of my favourite songs ever (it currently sits at number 62 on my all-time list), but it's also one of my favourite music videos, too. The face-slapping, bouncing and running backwards choreography added some quirkiness to what would be another big pop hit for the band, who'd been moving further and further away from their Joy Division roots in the previous years, something that didn't sit well with all the band members. "True Faith" was a brand new song recorded for inclusion on Substance, a collection of New Order's singles to date - although, frustratingly for me, in the 12" versions.

Number 24 "La Bamba" by Los Lobos
Peak: number 1
The week's second highest new entry would also end the year in the runner-up spot as the second biggest single of 1987 behind "Locomotion", the song it'd dethrone from number 1 in a few weeks' time. Prior to covering the Ritchie Valens song for the biopic of the same name, the group had enjoyed a steady recording and touring career since the mid '70s, but this soundtrack hit would bring them a wider audience that they could possibly have imagined, claiming the top spot on charts all over the world. Their only other Australian chart appearances would also come from La Bamba - two more covers of Ritchie Valens songs: "Come On, Let's Go!" and "Donna".

Number 19 "Beds Are Burning" by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 6
The week's biggest new hit was one of the most anticipated tracks of the year, since over the previous decade, Midnight Oil had steadily become one of Australia's most popular and political bands. And they didn't disappoint - even a pop fan like me found it hard to resist "Beds Are Burning".
It wouldn't be their highest charting Australian single, but it would be their biggest international success, which always struck me as odd, given it's quite specific frame of reference. Still, a good song is a good song and I'll be the first to admit to liking a several tunes without knowing what they're about at all.
The song's music video was also really memorable, if only for the awesome dance steps by the girl in the headband and the older lady in the green top in the scenes filmed in Redfern. They certainly showed Peter Garrett a thing or two about busting a move.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:

Next week: I'll look back as another six songs entered the top 50. And it's another diverse bunch of former hits. Before that, I'll take a trip back to 1984 to count down my favourite songs from the year that gave us Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Band Aid and Cyndi Lauper. 

Back to: Aug 23, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 6, 1987

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Best Of Girl Groups - part 3: girl duos

JUMP TO: Part 1 II Part 2 II Part 3

In Part 2, I revealed my top girl group of all time: Bananarama. Despite the fact that for the majority of their 30+ year existence, Bananarama has been a duo, their period of greatest success was as a trio.

But there are several female duos I didn't include in my girl groups list since the word "group" generally implies three or more members. Hey, if it's good enough for the Grammys to distinguish between duos and groups, then it's good enough for me. 

Some acts that didn't quite make the cut for my top 5 include M2M, S.O.A.P., Pepsi & Shirlie and Mary Mary. But now, without further ado: my favourite female duos of all time...

5. Mini Viva

Members: Frankee Connolly, Britt Love
Years (releasing music): 2009-2010
Top 3 best songs: "One Touch", "Left My Heart In Tokyo", "I Wish"

They shone so brightly for such a short period of time, but even though their lifespan was brief, Mini Viva still managed to release some of the best pop singles of the late '00s. Like Girls Aloud, production house Xenomania was responsible for the music - and while only "Left My Heart In Tokyo" was a substantial hit in the UK, the other two songs mentioned above both should've been big.

4. Mel & Kim

Members: Kim and Mel Appleby
Years: 1986-1988
Top 3 best songs: "Respectable", "Showing Out (Get Fresh At The Weekend)", "F.L.M."

I was actually surprised Mel & Kim weren't higher in my ranking (there's a spreadsheet involved in working out all my lists, by the way) but they were only able to release four singles (the three listed above and "That's The Way It Is") before Mel's ill health forced them to put music on hold.
Tragically, Mel wouldn't survive her battle with cancer - but fans of the music she made with sister Kim will always have those four singles, not to mention one of the best pop albums of all time in F.L.M., to remember her by. Kim returned to the charts (the UK ones, at least) in 1990 with "Don't Worry", the first of a run of great solo singles.


3. Booty Luv

Members: Cherise Roberts, Nadia Shepherd
Years: 2006-present
Top 3 best songs: "Some Kinda Rush", "Shine", "Say It"

Before becoming Booty Luv, Cherise and Nadia were both members of short-lived UK R&B group Big Brovaz, who had a couple of big hits in Australia with "Nu Flow" and "Baby Boy" in 2003.
After that group self-destructed, the girls were signed to perform cover versions of American R&B tracks - but with a twist. Booty Luv's versions of songs like Tweet's "Boogie 2nite" and Luther Vandross' "Shine" were based on popular dance mixes of the originals rather than the album versions or radio edits.
Their dancefloor-friendly album also included covers of remixed songs by Mary J Blige and Lucy Pearl, but they proved with "Some Kinda Rush" (my favourite song of theirs) that their original tracks weren't too shabby. A second album has been in the offing for ages, but looking less and less likely as time goes on.

2. The Veronicas

Members: Jessica and Lisa Origliasso
Years: 2005-present
Top 3 best songs: "4ever", "This Love", "I Can't Stay Away"

Brisbane sisters Jess and Lisa were hotly tipped for world domination when they launched in an explosion of catchy choruses and fun film clips in 2005, but despite five singles being lifted from debut album The Secret Life Of..., that international success failed to materialise. Luckily, Australia was smitten with the twins and a second album was guaranteed - with Hook Me Up proving to be the album that contained that elusive worldwide hit, "Untouched".
Although The Veronicas' music has morphed from Pink-style powerpop ("4ever" even has the same chorus structure as "U + Ur Hand") to synth-based electropop over the years, one thing's remained the same: the girls have always known their way around an infectious tune. 

1. t.A.T.u.

Members: Lena Katina, Julia Volkova
Years: 2000-2010
Top 3 best songs: "All The Things She Said", "How Soon Is Now", "All About Us"

Yeah, this result was another surprise for me, too - but it's often forgotten that Russia's faux lesbians racked up a number of excellent singles in their time together.
Their debut English-language album, 200km/h In The Wrong Lane, might have included worldwide smash "All The Things She Said", but second album Dangerous And Moving was actually much stronger - although by then, the gimmick had worn off for a lot of people.
Sure, their voices sometimes sounded dangerously close to those of Alvin & The Chipmunks - never more so than on their sacrilegious (but brilliant) cover of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" - but somehow it worked. Well, it did for me, anyway.

Girl groups: the best of the rest

Whether they weren't around long enough to produce enough great songs, or were but didn't, the girl groups below are all worthy of recognition.

Boy Krazy

Best song: "That's What Love Can Do"
Year: 1991


Best song: "Come And Get Me"
Year: 2000


Best song: "Let Me Be The One"
Year: 1987


Best song: "Sweet Love 2K"
Year: 2000

Girl Thing

Best song: "Girls On Top"
Year: 2000


Best song: "Sooner Or Later"
Year: 1994


Best song: "End Of The Line"
Year: 1998


Best song: "Everyday Of The Week"
Year: 1994


Best song: "Good Love"
Year: 1990

Mary Jane Girls

Best song: "All Night Long"
Year: 1983

Salt 'n' Pepa

Best song: "Push It"
Year: 1987


Best song: "Two To Make It Right"
Year: 1989


Best song: "Right Here (Human Nature)"
Year: 1993

The Three Degrees

Best song: "The Runner"
Year: 1979

Wilson Phillips

Best song: "Hold On"
Year: 1990

Young Divas

Best song: "This Time I Know It's For Real"
Year: 2006

I've had fun looking back at my favourite boy bands and girl groups, but after this Thursday's regular ARIA chart recap, it's back to the '80s to resume my year-by-year look at my favourite songs from years past. Next up: 1984.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Best Of Girl Groups - part 2: 10 to 1

JUMP TO: Part 1 II Part 2 II Part 3

If you thought the girl groups in Part 1 went through a lot of line-up changes, then you ain't seen nothing yet. Nine out of the 10 groups still to come all had members come and go over the years, with some taking the practice to ridiculous extremes (cough Sugababes cough).

The only group in my top 10 not to have had member movement probably would have done eventually, but went on an extended break before anyone could jump ship (although they're set to reunite in the next few months, so there's still time!).

OK, enough preamble, let's resume the list...

10. Pussycat Dolls

Members: Carmit Bachar, Ashley Roberts, Nicole Scherzinger, Jessica Sutta, Melody Thornton, Kimberly Wyatt
Years (releasing music): 2004-2009
Top 3 best songs: "I Don't Need A Man", "Hush Hush; Hush Hush", "Hot Stuff (I Want You Back)"

A burlesque troop long before anyone thought of them invading the pop charts, Pussycat Dolls really owe their music success to lead singer Nicole Scherzinger and the army of songwriters and producers that supplied the hit tunes for her to sing.
Sure, the other girls contributed in some way to the appeal of the group - after all, Nicole has had significantly less success as a solo artist (especially in the US), so it can't be all about her. I guess it proves that sexy dance routines and pretty backing vocalists sometimes make all the difference.

9. Mis-teeq

Members: Alesha Dixon, Zena McNally, Su-Elise Nash, Sabrina Washington
Years: 2000-2003

Top 3 best songs: "Scandalous", "One Night Stand", "All I Want"

Until writing this, I didn't even realise Mis-teeq was originally a quartet, with Zena making a swift departure after debut single "Why?", but for the majority of their chart run, the group was a three-piece and, at the time, felt like a breath of fresh air in a rather crowded British girl group market.

Their point of difference? Alesha's feisty raps and many of their songs' 2-step production, which gave Mis-teeq an edge over their contemporaries. They were even unique enough to make a small impression in the States and I would've been interested to see how their career would have progressed, but the girls split in 2005.
Alesha went on to enjoy a moderately successful solo career in the UK and an even more successful career as a reality TV show judge after winning her season of Strictly Come Dancing (the series on which Dancing With The Stars is based). The other two? The odd TV appearance and talk of solo albums that have yet to eventuate. However, Su-Elise and Sabrina will be getting back together with Alesha later this year to release some new music. Hopefully they'll pick up where they left off!

8. The Pointer Sisters

Members: Anita, Bonnie, June and Ruth Pointer
Years: 1971-1993
Top 3 best songs: "Jump (For My Love)", "Dare Me", "I'm So Excited"

You wouldn't think there'd be much room for movement in a group made up of sisters, but The Pointer Sisters went from a duo (June and Bonnie) to a trio (June, Bonnie and Anita) and then to a quartet (when Ruth joined in 1972), before dropping back to a trio when Bonnie left after 1977.
The group's greatest success came following that final change and, like this whole list, their placement here at number eight is based entirely on those post-1979 releases, which includes the songs mentioned above, "Automatic", "He's So Shy", "Neutron Dance" and "Baby Come And Get It".
In the '90s and 2000s, the sisters continued to perform in various incarnations, with Ruth's daughter and granddaughter recruited to fill in for June, who for a time teamed up with Bonnie and has now sadly passed away.

7. Destiny's Child

Members: Beyonce Knowles, LeToya Luckett/Michelle Williams, LaTavia Roberson/Farrah Franklin, Kelly Rowland
Years: 1997-2005
Top 3 best songs: "Say My Name", "Bootylicious", "Independent Women Part 1"

Much of the drama in girl groups comes when they are at the top of their game - the success fuelling thoughts of solo careers and sometimes creating infighting. For Destiny's Child, a major shake-up occurred just as the group was starting to make its mark, and immediately prior to the release of breakthrough single "Say My Name". After being part of the group right back to its inception as Girl's Tyme, LeToya and LaTavia suddenly found themselves dumped in favour of new arrivals Michelle and Farrah (who wouldn't last very long herself). 
Whatever really went down (and getting to the truth involves navigating a complicated round of "she said, she said"), the member swap provided some added publicity for the group, who proceeded to have a succession of international hits before the inevitable solo careers commenced in 2003. But Destiny's Child weren't through, with Destiny Fulfilled released in 2004 before the group ultimately announced their break-up in 2005. 
Musically, Destiny's Child was always on the cutting edge of pop/R&B and although Beyonce was clearly the superstar-in-waiting, it was nice that the vocals were frequently split evenly between her, Kelly and Michelle, since there's no point being in a group if you want to hog the limelight.

6. Atomic Kitten

Members: Natasha Hamilton, Kerry Katona/Jenny Frost, Liz McClarnon
Years: 1999-2006, 2008
Top 3 best songs: "Right Now", "I Want Your Love", "The Last Goodbye"

If it wasn't for "Whole Again", Atomic Kitten would probably be much lower down this list since, after the four previous singles by the Liverpudlian trio had resulted in ever-diminishing success, that ballad was one last ditch attempt by the girls' record company to turn the group's fortunes around.
As well all know, it worked a treat and not even Kerry's pregnancy could disrupt the group from becoming a major success in the UK and here in Australia. Kerry opted out and was replaced by Jenny from Precious - although since she wasn't as vocally skilled as Liz and Natasha, it did feel like she was really only there to keep the group as a trio.
"Whole Again" also signalled a shift from the high-energy pop of the group's first few singles to the slower radio-friendly sound of subsequent releases like "If You Come To Me", "It's OK!" and their cover of "Eternal Flame" - but, as you can see by the first two songs I've lised as my favourites, I enjoyed Atomic Kitten's initial playful feel even if nobody else did.

5. Eternal

Members: Easther Bennett, Vernie Bennett, Kelle Bryan, Louise Nurding
Years: 1993-1999
Top 3 best songs: "Stay", "Just A Step From Heaven", "I Am Blessed"

I've long assumed that the reason first Louise and then Kelle left Eternal was that the Bennett sisters forced them out. That's certainly true in Kelle's case, who was dropped from the group by fax (the '90s equivalent of dumping someone by SMS) in 1998.
Officially, Louise (who'd go on to become Mrs Jamie Redknapp) left the group to pursue a solo career and explore different types of music, but I'm convinced she got out while the going was good and while she could still leave on her own terms.
Besides all the behind-the-scenes machinations, Eternal produced a slew of pop/R&B hits in the mid-'90s and proved to be the most successful of the First Avenue stable of artists, which also included Michelle Gayle, Dina Carroll, MN8 and The Honeyz - but no one was interested in the post-Kelle duo version of Eternal, which I consider to be the most perfect form of karmic payback.

4. Spice Girls

Members: Victoria Adams/Beckham, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell
Years: 1996-2000, 2007
Top 3 best songs: "Wannabe", "Stop", "Who Do You Think You Are"

What can you possibly say about Spice Girls that hasn't been said a million times already? In retropsect, their trailblazing success makes so much sense, but at the time, the Britpop-heavy music scene in the UK was anything but conducive to pop. Of course, the lack of any similar artist on the scene is exactly what gave the girls such a wide open market. But it's what they did with that opportunity that made all the difference.
On the music side of things, the group only released 10 singles - two of them double A-side - during their initial run (and an 11th, the disappointing "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)" in 2007 to coincide with Greatest Hits), but nine of those went to number 1 in the UK (including three successive Christmas number 1s) and together sold many millions of copies worldwide.
One of my favourite Spice Girls memories is from the documentary The Spice Girls In America: A Tour Story when Victoria is recording some aaahs for "Goodbye". She isn't sounding great (it's at the very end of this video) and says, "Sometimes the easiest things are the hardest, you know." That, to me, sums up Spice Girls - they might not have been the most gifted singers or most accomplished dancers, but what they were good at was being brilliant pop stars.

3. Girls Aloud

Members: Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts, Cheryl Tweedy/Cole, Kimberley Walsh
Years: 2002-2009
Top 3 best songs: "Love Machine", "Biology", "The Show"

The only girl group in my top 10 to maintain their original line-up? Yep, it's Girls Aloud - and in many ways they're the least likely candidates for solidarity since groups thrown together by reality shows have even less time to form a bond that your average manufactured pop group and someone's bound to not get along with the others or want a quickie solo career.
Then there's the fact that reality show winners of any variety don't often last long as hitmakers - but Girls Aloud is the exception that proves just about every rule.
When it came to the music, the teaming of Girls Aloud with production team Xenomania is what's kept the group in the UK charts. From debut single "Sound Of The Underground" right up until 2008's Out Of Control album, they always had a freshness that was lacking in not only the songs by other reality show winners but missing from most other pop acts' music as well.
The group went on hiatus in 2009 to pursue their own projects (with only Cheryl having any real success as a solo artist) and a promised reunion will finally eventuate later this year, with a new single from the group set for release in November. Something tells me that (and a concert tour) will be that for Girls Aloud, but you never know...

2. Sugababes

Members: Mutya Buena/Amelle Berrabah, Keisha Buchanan/Jade Ewen, Siobhan Donaghy/Heidi Range
Years: 2000-present
Top 3 best songs: "Easy", "Hole In The Head", "Round Round"

I recently wrote about my favourite Sugababes songs to date, and although they come up just shy of being my favourite girl group of all time, they certainly take the prize for going through the most ridiculous amount of personnel changes, with no original members left in the current line-up. In fact, as we all know, the original trio have reunited as Mutya Keisha Siobhan to, hopefully, show Sugababes version 4.0 how it's done.
I've liked the group in all its different incarnations - and think 2000's debut, One Touch, is an underrated pop album. But it was the second and third line-ups that were most prolific and successful, and it's from these years that the majority of my favourite Sugagbabes songs come.
I've no idea what to expect from MKS - or indeed whether Sugababes as they currently stand will ever release another record again, but I'm hopeful that neither ruin the legacy of what has been a brilliant pop group (and my favourite artist of any type for the 2000s). 

1. Bananarama

Members: Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey/Jacquie O'Sullivan, Keren Woodward
Years: 1981-present
Top 3 best songs: "I Want You Back", "Venus", "Love In The First Degree"

Yep, my favourite girl group of all time is a British act which started off comprised of Sara, Keren and Siobhan, three backing vocalists who landed their first chart appearance by guesting on a song by Fun Boy Three (who would return the favour on "Really Saying Something", the girls' first hit in their own right).

From that point on, there was very little stopping the Nanas, with "Cruel Summer", "Shy Boy", "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" and "Robert De Niro's Waiting" all climbing charts around the world. Then, in 1986, they teamed up with producers Stock Aitken Waterman for two tracks on their True Confessions album - and one, a cover of Shocking Blue's "Venus", would give them their biggest smash to date. 
More hits followed with SAW, including my numbers 1 and 3 songs above, "I Heard A Rumour", "Love, Truth And Honesty" and a cover of The Beatles' "Help!" - but despite the continued success, Siobhan exited the group and formed Shakespears Sister, and was replaced by Jacquie.
Jacquie only ended up sticking around for one full album, 1991's Pop Life, and ever since, Sara and Keren have carried on as a duo - regularly releasing albums of new material and revised best of collections. Despite not having anywhere near the same type of success post-1992 as they did in their first decade, Bananarama have kept fans happy with songs like "Love Comes", "Every Shade Of Blue" and "Movin' On" - and, for me, are everything a pop act should be: fun, unpretentious and, most importantly of all, responsible for catchy songs.

As I mentioned at the start of my look back at girl groups, two people isn't enough for a group - and so in Part 3, I'll be counting down my top 5 female duos of all time.

Obviously, Bananarama ended up being a duo longer than a trio, but since the bulk of their hits were recorded with three members, I'll let that slide.

As I did with boy bands, I'll also take a look at some long-forgotten girl groups - watch out for that post in the next couple of days.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Best Of Girl Groups - part 1: 20 to 11

JUMP TO: Part 1 II Part 2 II Part 3

Last week, I counted down my top 20 boy bands, so it seemed only logical to do the same thing with my favourite girl groups - and I'll approach things in a similar format. We'll go through my top 20 in two parts, with the positions based on how much I've liked the groups' catalogue of singles. Then, in the third part, I'll look at my top 5 female duos (because two people's not really a group, is it?) and remember some other worthy girl groups.

Possibly the only time Diana Ross bent over backwards for her fellow Supremes

And while girl groups have pretty much been around since the dawn of the rock era (unlike the modern boy band), I'll be limiting my list to girl groups since 1979. Why? Well, regular readers will know that's when I first began to appreciate music so, like all things on this blog, that's my starting point.

Obviously, the likes of The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas and The Shirelles are all great girl groups from before my time, but I'll leave it to someone else to talk about them. Oh, and once again, there'll be a no instruments policy, which rules out The Go-Go's and The Bangles, both excellent all-female bands. Let's make a start...

20. Precious

Members: Kalli Clark-Sternberg, Jenny Frost, Anya Lahiri, Sophie McDonnell, Louise Rose
Years (releasing music): 1999-2000
Top 3 best songs: "Rewind", "New Beginning", "Say It Again"

Featuring future Atomic Kitten member Jenny Frost, Precious came to fame after competing in 1999's Eurovision Song Contest for the UK. Their song, "Say It Again", finished 12th that year, but would go top 10 at home, and in 2000, the Britney Spears sound-alike "Rewind" would almost do the same, but two singles later, it was all over.
Jenny had the most success post-Precious, as we'll see when we get to Atomic Kitten, but she was really only there to make up numbers.

19. Sweet Sensation

Members: Margie Fernandez, Mari Fernandez/Sheila Vega, Betty LeBron
Years: 1987-1991
Top 3 best songs: "Love Child", "Hooked On You", "Each And Every Time"

Or New York's Sweet Sensation to give them their full name. The freestyle trio would have a string of club hits from their debut album, Take It While It's Hot, in 1988-89 but it would be their cover of The Supremes' "Love Child" (which features a great "there's something on my leg" dance move in the video) and monster ballad "If Wishes Came True" which would see them cross over in 1990, the latter even becoming a minor hit here in Australia thanks to American Top 40 play.
Like many a girl group, Sweet Sensation would undergo numerous line-up changes (the original version of the group is pictured above), but it's the trio of Margie, Sheila and Betty (who feature in the clip below) who would enjoy the most success.

18. Sister Sledge

Members: Debbie, Joni, Kathy and Kim Sledge
Years: 1971-1986
Top 3 best songs: "We Are Family", "He's The Greatest Dancer", "Got To Love Somebody"

They started their career in the early '70s, but it was during the disco era that the four Sledge sisters (nothing like a literal group name) hit the big time, with a string of classics like "Lost In Music", "Thinking Of You" and "We Are Family", which would then go on to be regularly remixed and re-released over the next decades.
Then, in 1985, just when it seemed like the group's fortunes were winding down, they returned with one of their biggest singles of all time: "Frankie". That was their last new hit, but they still perform and release music from time to time.


17. Bardot

Members: Belinda Chapple, Sophie Monk, Sally Polihronas, Katie Underwood, Tiffany Wood
Years: 2000-2002
Top 3 best songs: "These Days", "Love Will Find A Way", "I Need Somebody"

Before Australian Idol, The X Factor or The Voice, there was Popstars - and in the first season of the groundbreaking reality series, Bardot was created, and then rejigged when original member Chantelle Barry was kicked out amid accusations of theft. The final line-up shot straight to number 1 with both "Poison" and their self-titled debut album, but, such was the fervour surrounding the show, just about anything would have sold by the truckload.
By their third single, "These Days", their music started to sell on the strength of the songs themselves and the trio of well-received singles they released from second album Play It Like That suggested they had a bright future on the pop scene. But, wouldn't you know it, the girls wanted solo careers.
Katie was first to jump ship, leaving on the eve of the release of "ASAP" for a new production of Hair which never eventuated and recorded two singles with Disco Montego. After the remaining foursome parted ways, Sophie Monk went on to be most successful - releasing a couple of solo hit singles and finding a degree of fame in the US (and was Benji Madden's fiancĂ©e for a time), but to my mind Bardot could have gone on to bigger and better things if they'd stuck together just a little bit longer.

16. All Saints

Members: Natalie Appleton, Nicole Appleton, Melanie Blatt, Shaznay Lewis
Years: 1997-2001, 2006-2007
Top 3 best songs: "Pure Shores", "I Know Where It's At", "Never Ever"

Here's another group who really should have stayed together for at least one more album at the height of their success. By the time they did reunite for 2006's Studio 1, it was too little, too late. But at the turn of the millennium, there was no cooler girl group than All Saints. With their moody demeanour and uniform of cargo pants and tiny tees in sharp contrast to Spice Girls' flashy outfits and cheesy nicknames, All Saints even managed to cover a Red Hot Chili Peppers song without too much kerfuffle.
The inevitable solo careers eventuated (well, the Appleton sisters actually stuck together and enjoyed the most success with songs like "Fantasy" and "Don't Worry"), but none of the group's side projects would be anywhere near as big as their initial four-year period of chart domination together.

15. Solid HarmoniE

Members: Elisa Cariera, Mariama Goodman, Melissa Graham, Rebecca Onslow
Years: 1996-1998
Top 3 best songs: "I'll Be There For You", "I Want You To Want Me", "I Wanna Love You"

I never realised it at the time, but this girl group had a rather complicated revolving door-style line-up. In fact, I didn't really know anything at all about Solid HarmoniE other than the fact that the capital letters in their band name spelt SHE (clever!) and they worked with pop maestro Max Martin (and his colleague, Kristian Lundin, at Cheiron).
And it's the Swedish songwriting/production team's work that really explains why Solid HarmoniE are so high on my list - all four of the singles from their self-titled album were among my 50 favourites from 1998.
Mariama would go on to be a member of Honeyz (who would have their own member switcheroo) and there would be subsquent versions of Solid HarmoniE, but once "To Love Once Again" had been released, it was pretty much all over.

14. B*Witched

Members: Lindsay Armaou, Edele Lynch, Keavy Lynch, Sinead O'Carroll
Years: 1998-2000
Top 3 best songs: "C'est La Vie", "Rollercoaster", "Jump Down"

Despite some appalling denim outfits, this Irish quartet (featuring Shane from Boyzone's younger sisters) had an impressive run of four number 1 singles in the UK in 1998-9, but that success stopped just as suddenly as it had begun, and the girls were dumped by Sony after album number two.
I can't think of another act who've gone from such highs to such lows in such a short amount of time (but I haven't tried very hard - there are probably loads), but the demise of B*Witched can basically be attributed to one thing: "Jesse Hold On". The annoying first single from Awake And Breathe signalled the beginning of the end. And even though their final single, "Jump Down", was one of their best, it was all too late by that stage.
I once saw B*Witched play a nightclub gig in London and can still picture how much energy they put into every song, but it just goes to show that if the songs aren't right, no amount of choreography and chirpiness can salvage things.  

13. The Saturdays

Members: Una Healy, Mollie King, Frankie Sandford, Vanessa White, Rochelle Wiseman
Years: 2008-present
Top 3 best songs: "Forever Is Over", "Higher", "All Fired Up"

It's hard to gauge from the other side of the world where they are virtually unknown, but despite their 11 top 10 singles in the UK, The Saturdays don't seem to have become a phenomenon in the way Spice Girls or Girls Aloud did, and haven't landed a number 1 hit or had a massive selling album like All Saints, Sugababes or Atomic Kitten all did at different points in their careers. And yet, they don't really have a lot of competition in the girl group stakes at the moment (although recent X Factor victors Little Mix are about to change all that), so there's not a lot standing in their way.
Personally, I like quite a number of their songs (obviously, or they wouldn't be this high on my list), but I still feel like I'm waiting for their defining moment - a song that goes beyond just sounding current and having an expensive looking video and really gives me a sense of what The Saturdays are all about. Until then, they'll just be a pretty pop group with a bunch of decent songs but won't have the impact of those other groups I've mentioned.

12. En Vogue

Members (classic line-up): Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson
Years: 1990-2005
Top 3 best songs: "Don't Let Go (Love)", "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)", "Hold On"

Here's a group who did make a statement with their music in the way The Saturdays have yet to do - and they did so in an era when R&B vocal groups were a dime a dozen. En Vogue released a string of sassy, soulful tracks that had attitude and an opinion. From the songs mentioned above to "Lies", the sexy collaboration with Salt 'n' Pepa, "Whatta Man", and the in-your-face "Free Your Mind", these ladies had something to say.
Like so many girl groups, there's been a hard-to-follow series of member manoeuvres ever since their third album, EV3 (which was named to signal the first change from four to three singers), but that was also the last album that had major success, so those subsequent changes are really footnotes to a great initial run for the group.

11. TLC

Members: Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins
Years: 1992-2004
Top 3 best songs: "No Scrubs", "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "Hat 2 Da Back"

What a great way to end the first part of this look back at my favourite girl groups of all time (or post-1979). TLC were another American act with a really strong image and musical style. And even though that image evolved over their career - from the condoms as accessories look of Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip to FanMail's futuristic styling - it always felt like a natural progression and totally in keeping with the everything the group was about.
And then there were the songs - fresh, adventurous and streetwise tunes like the ones mentioned above, "Creep", "Unpretty" and "What About Your Friends". I was never a massive fan of "Waterfalls", but its cultural impact (especially the music video, which tackled the issue of HIV infection) can not be understated.
There was talk of T-Boz and Chilli using a reality show to find a replacement for the late, great Lisa "Left Eye" but I'm glad that never eventuated - instead the winner of series R U The Girl merely got to perform and record a track with the two surviving members of the group. Some things are best left as a happy memory - and there are plenty of those when it comes to TLC's back catalogue.

Who does that leave for my top 10 girl groups? I'll tell you this much: seven of them are from the UK and three come from the US (sorry, Girlfriend). See you in a couple of days to count down to number 1.