Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Best Of 1988 - part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 75 "I Say Nothing" by Voice Of The Beehive
Featuring Woody and Bedders from Madness, and fronted by singing sisters Tracey Bryn and Melissa Brooke Belland, Voice Of The Beehive would eventually have a big Australian hit with their cover of "I Think I Love You" in 1992, but in 1988 they released the criminally underappreciated singles "Don't Call Me Baby" (which struggled to number 48 here) and "I Say Nothing", which is about as infectiously happy as a song can be.

Number 74 "That's The Way It Is" by Mel & Kim
The final single by the pop duo before Mel succumbed to cancer in early 1990, "That's The Way It Is" was another UK and Australian chart hit for which Mel had discharged herself from hopsital to record vocals. In 1988, the sisters went public with Mel's condition, and expressed optimism about her chemotherapy treatment being able to cure her, but sadly it wasn't to be, with Mel passing away from pneumonia contracted due to her lowered immune system. A couple of videos were made to accompany the single - there's a link to one, featuring a troupe of dancers - in the song title; while the other, which cut together live footage of the girls, is below.

Number 73 "Better Be Home Soon" by Crowded House
This is as close as Crowded House ever got to a number 1 single in Australia, "Better Be Home Soon" spent four non-consecutive weeks in the runners-up slot - initially behind Kylie Minogue's "Got To Be Certain" then again behind John Farnham's "Age Of Reason". Despite continued success with their albums, the first single from Temple Of Low Men was also the last significant hit single by the group in Australia, with it taking until 1996's "Everything Is Good For You" (one of the new songs from Recurring Dream) for them to return - albeit briefly - to the top 10.

Number 72 "One Good Woman" by Peter Cetera
After his big Karate Kid Part II soundtrack single in 1986, the former Chicago frontman kept having hits at home in the US, like his chart-topping duet with Amy Grant, "The Next I Fall", and this song, the first single from his One More Story album. A complete non-event in Australia, "One Good Woman" is one of those songs that goes from slow in the verse to fast in the chorus and was written with one of Madonna's key collaborators of the time, Patrick Leonard.

Number 71 "Left To My Own Devices" by Pet Shop Boys
Previously featured here

Number 70 "Megablast / Don't Make Me Wait" by Bomb The Bass
Like Todd Terry, who we saw back in Part 1, Tim Simenon was a DJ and producer who became a chart act in his own right when his sample-laden track "Beat Dis" reached number 2 in the UK. This double A-side release combined the similarly sample-heavy "Megablast" with the more traditional "Don't Make Me Wait", which featured vocals by Lorraine and was my preferred track of the two. Tim would continue to be a high profile producer, remixer and artist on the British dance scene for the next decade, and still releases new music today.

Number 69 "Broken Land" by The Adventures
I knew very little about this Belfast band at the time (and still do) since this track was only a minor hit in the UK and, from memory, was a song that popped up on one of the Saturday morning music shows in 1988 and stuck in my mind. Reminiscent, to me anyway, of World Party's "Ship Of Fools", it was moodier than the pure pop I liked at the time, but has a killer chorus - which explains why I'm a fan.

Number 68 "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" by Whitney Houston
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 67 "I Don't Want Your Love" by Duran Duran
Gone were the days when Duran Duran were guaranteed a top 5 hit in Australia, and even though this song was the lead single from a new album (Big Thing), it could only reach number 23 nationally. By now settled into life as a trio (with Roger and Andy Taylor having quit the band prior to 1986's Notorious), Duran Duran were determined to break out of the teen heart-throb mould - and they did, with acts like Bros happily taking their place on bedroom walls and in the upper reaches of the chart.

Number 66 "New Sensation" by INXS
Global stars in 1988, INXS mined the Kick album for singles, with even songs like "Mystify" (my favourite from the album) and the title track getting a run on charts around the world. "New Sensation" was the third single released and reached number 9 in Australia.

Number 65 "I Don't Believe In Miracles" by Sinitta
She'd had a lot of success with the singles from her debut self-titled album, but when it came time for her second LP, Sinitta started to struggle, with this lead track only reaching number 22 in the UK and missing the top 100 completely in Australia. It's at this point that producers Stock Aitken Waterman and Sinitta stopped working together, with subsequent releases handled by different producers both within and outside PWL.

Number 64 "She Wants To Dance With Me" by Rick Astley
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 63 "Girl You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli
In their defence, it's unlikely Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus could have had any idea how big Milli Vanilli was going to become in the next few years. Sure, the brains behind the project was producer Frank Farian, who'd created Boney M in the 1970s, but as massive as Boney M was, no one really paid that much attention to what was going on behind the scenes (and if they did, they weren't bothered), so why would anyone care if the dancers out the front of Milli Vanilli didn't sing the songs?
By 1990, it was clear a lot of people cared. With grunge about to take over the music landscape, patience with frivolous pop was waning and Milli Vanilli, with their record sales in the millions, were ripe for the destroying. As a pop fan, I still maintain that a) I don't really care who sang Milli Vanilli's songs since for me it's about the songs and not who sings them, and b) some of the group's tracks are awesome.
There's a link to the music video in the song title above and a Top Of The Pops appearance below.

Number 62 "Love Will Save The Day" by Whitney Houston
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 61 "Underneath The Radar" by Underworld
Yes, it's the same Underworld who, eight years later, would contribute a remix of "Born Slippy" to the Trainspotting soundtrack. Well, it's kind of the same group. Underworld formed out of the remains of another act in 1987 and released this song - a top 10 hit in Australia - from the album of the same name. Since they had no similar success in the UK, this version of Underworld broke up and only Karl Hyde and Rick Smith carried on into the '90s with new members and a new musical direction.

Number 60 "Good Life" by Inner City
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 59 "Nothing Can Divide Us" by Jason Donovan
Anything Kylie can do... Actually, Jason's solo career didn't get off to as flying a start as his Neighbours girlfriend's had, with this debut single only reaching number 3 in Australia. That said, aside from "Especially For You", it was his highest charting single in this country. However, in the UK, where he went on to have 1989's biggest selling album, the SAW-produced track only got to number 5. Bigger things were around the corner for him in Britain, but Australia would soon be indifferent to Jason's musical efforts.

Number 58 "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 57 "Mystify" by INXS
Mentioned above

Number 56 "Intimacy" by Machinations
Still plugging away in Australia in 1988 was this synthpop act, who had a new album (Uptown) to promote and a new batch of dance floor-ready singles. Unfortunately, "Intimacy" would stall at number 40 and the end was nigh for the group who'd been around since the dawn of the decade.

Number 55 "Yes" by Merry Clayton
Another single from the behemoth that was the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, "Yes" is often overlooked for the likes of "Hungry Eyes" or "She's Like The Wind", but I like it better than both of those hits. Merry was a renowned back-up singer (she performed on "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Gimme Shelter"), but besides this song, never really got to break out in her own right.

Number 54 "Two Hearts" by Phil Collins
From one soundtrack hit to another, "Two Hearts" appeared in the film Buster, which also starred Phil Collins as Buster Edwards, the criminal behind the Great Train Robbery in the early 1960s. In keeping with the movie's era, "Two Hearts" was composed with legendary Motown songwriter Lamon Dozier and followed a cover of "A Groovy Kind Of Love" (originally recorded by The Mindbenders in 1965) as Phil's second single from the soundtrack. Long before OutKast used the idea for "Hey Ya!", the clip for "Two Hearts" also paid tribute to the decade, featuring Phil as every member of a band playing on an American Bandstand-type show.

Number 53 "Stand Up For Your Love Rights" by Yazz
Mentioned in Part 4

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

Number 51 "I Want Your Love" by Transvision Vamp
If there was anyone to rival Neneh as 1988's boldest new star it was Wendy James, frontwoman for pop/punk band Transvision Vamp. A blonde bombshell who half-sang, half-spoke her way into the hearts of teenage boys in the UK and Australia, Wendy was the ultimate lead singer - but even with her undeniable charms, it took the group a while to get up and running. Third single "I Want Your Love" followed the initial releases of later Aussie hits "Revolution Baby" and "Tell That Girl To Shut Up", and finally gave them the smash they needed. Bigger things were to come, though, in 1989... before it would all be over as (relatively) quickly as it began.

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

1979 II 1980 II 1981 II 1982 II 1983 II 1984 II 1985 II 1986 II 1987 II 1988 II 1989
1990 II 1991 II 1992 II 1993 II 1994 II 1995 II 1996 II 1997 II 1998 II 1999
2000 II 2001 II 2002 II 2003 II 2004 II 2005 II 2006 II 2007 II 2008 II 2009
2010 II 2011 II 2012 II 2013 II 2014 II 2015 II 2016 II 2017 II 2018 II 2019


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

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

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