Wednesday, 24 February 2016

This Week In 1991: February 24, 1991

Given how big a fan of '80s music I am, you might think that my all-time favourite song would come from that decade. Actually, it's a song that debuted on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1991.

The best song of all time

Although it wasn't the biggest of the many hits the singer has had over the years, it's a song that excited me the minute I heard it. And, to this day, nothing else has surpassed it. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 24, 1991

This week in 1991, no other song could surpass Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You", which remained at number 1 for a second week.

Off The Chart
Number 89 "Whatcha Do To My Body" by Lee Aaron
Peak: number 74
Every so often a female singer would come along to break up the hair metal boys' club, but although relatively successful in her homeland of Canada, Lee Aaron didn't take off in Australia.

Single Of The Week
"Walk Through Babylon" by Seven Stories
Their previous single, "Sleeping Through Another War", had sneaked to number 68 in 1990, but despite the featured position on this week's ARIA chart, follow-up "Walk Through Babylon" didn't even dent the top 100. I previously compared Seven Stories (who were originally named Tall Stories) to bands like Hunters & Collectors (for their sound), and Girl Overboard and Bang The Drum (for their inability to become the next big thing) - but on this track, they emulate Midnight Oil's efforts to shine a light on the issues facing Australia's Indigenous population.

New Entries
Number 35 "Sadness (Part 1)" by Enigma
Peak: number 2
Remember when Gregorian chant dance music was a thing? Masterminded by Romanian-born, German-based producer Michael Cretu, Engima blended (uncredited) vocals from a medieval-style choir with synths and a Soul II Soul beat on debut single "Sadness (Part 1)" (aka "Sadeness (Part 1)", its original title). Thrown into the mix were some female vocals courtesy of Michael's then-wife, pop star Sandra, who'd had a string of European hits in the late '80s, including one of my favourite versions of "Everlasting Love"
A massive sensation around the world, "Sadness" briefly made monk prayer music cool - at least in new age circles, with all sort of copycat releases following Engima's lead and giving massage clinics something to play other than pan flute music and rainforest sounds. The type of song that could easily have made its performer a one-hit wonder, "Sadness" was actually followed by a handful of other hits, while Engima also proved particularly adept at shifting albums over the next few years. Naturally, all that success drew the attention of German choir Capella Antiqua München, who sued Enigma for the unauthorised use of their vocals - and settled out of court.

Number 27 "What Do I Have To Do" by Kylie Minogue
Peak: number 11
Do you remember where you were when you first heard your all-time favourite song? It was late 1990 and I was in my bedroom on the phone to a friend who'd just bought Rhythm Of Love on CD and was playing me bits of tracks. Tracks 1 and 2 I'd already heard, since they were the lead singles, "Better The Devil You Know" and "Step Back In Time", but I kept asking him to go back to Track 3. "What Do I Have To Do" had me hooked in 12 seconds - that swirling intro and "ah-ah-ah-ah-ah love you, love you" vocal line became lodged in my head. As soon as I owned the album myself, I had the unrelenting high-energy track on repeat.
Naturally, I was pleased "What Do I Have To Do" was chosen as the album's third single - it had actually been earmarked as the second single before "Step Back In Time" was chosen instead. And, even if Stock Aitken Waterman insisted on issuing an inferior single remix instead of going with the unmatchable original album version, I knew it would be a hit. Although not one of Kylie's highest-charting singles, "What Do I Have To Do" has become a firm fan favourite and seems to be generally considered as one of the best things both she - and SAW - have ever released.
The single was accompanied by Kylie's most provocative music video up until that point - a clip that made "Better The Devil You Know" look like "Never Too Late" by comparison. With her sexy dancing, steamy ironing and bedroom romping, this was not the girl-next-door Kylie anymore. Somewhat of a transitional single, "What Do I Have To Do" probably alienated some of her younger fans while simultaneously making older listeners who'd dismissed her earlier releases as too bubblegum sit up and take notice. It was an exciting time!

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:

Next week: nine new entries - including two future chart-toppers, as well as the solo debut of a singer who'd go on to co-write Kylie's highest-selling single worldwide. Oh, and thanks to 2016 being a leap year, my 1991 posts will now come out on a Thursday.

Back to: Feb 17, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 3, 1991

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

This Week In 1986: February 23, 1986

Some bands never recover from the departure or demise of their lead singer. Others do just fine with a new vocalist in place.

A change in line-up worked out perfectly for Bronski Beat

This week in 1986, a British synthpop group known for their upfront tunes debuted on the ARIA singles chart with the first release with a new frontman. The song would also wind up being their biggest hit.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending February 23, 1986

The biggest hit in Australia this week in 1986 was "A Good Heart" by Feargal Sharkey, who brought an end to Starship's run at the top. 

Off The Chart
Number 100 "It's All In The Game" by Nena
Peak: number 95
It'd worked before with "99 Luftballons / 99 Red Balloons", but Nena had no success turning previous German single "Haus Der Drei Sonnen" into an English-language hit.

Number 94 "Perfect Way" by Scritti Politti
Peak: number 75
Although it missed the UK top 40, this single from Cupid & Psyche 85 became the British band's first US hit, reaching number 11 there. Australia remained as disinterested as ever.

Number 88 "Something" by V. Spy V. Spy
Peak: number 65
The final single from Harry's Reasons gave the pub rock band their best placement up until that point - but things would get even better later in 1986 once they changed record label.

"That's The Way" by V-Capri
Peak: number 53
Last time around, they'd reached the top 50 pretty much on the strength on sales in Western Australia alone and Perth band V-Capri had their home state to thank once again for this follow-up coming close to repeating that feat. Quite why V-Capri couldn't convert the rest of the country to their cause, I don't know. "That's The Way" was a catchy enough song and with their mullet and singlet combo, the band certainly looked the part, but regional success was clearly all they were destined for.

"Burning Heart" by Survivor
Peak: number 55
In 1982, they'd had the year's number 1 song with "Eye Of The Tiger", the theme from Rocky III. Four years later, Survivor came nowhere close to matching that with "Burning Heart", which was taken from Rocky IV. Written by the two same band members, although performed by new lead singer Jimi Jamison (instead of Dave Bickler), the song was another inspirational power rock anthem that almost topped the US chart. Australia wasn't as easily impressed by "Burning Heart" and opted instead for another track from the Rocky IV soundtrack, which we'll see arrive next week.

New Entries
Number 50 "Sleeping Beauty" by Divinyls
Peak: number 50
"Pleasure And Pain" had given Divinyls one of the biggest hits of their career, but it was back down to the lower reaches of the top 50 for this follow-up. One of the sweetest sounding singles released by the band, "Sleeping Beauty" is also one of my favourites of theirs, but given the What A Life! album was still sitting in the top 10 after 15 weeks on the chart, it's likely that most fans were opting for that instead of the single.

Number 46 "Sex And Fame" by Jump Incorporated
Peak: number 32
Here's the debut single by a band that'd morphed out of late '70s/early '80s outfit Moving Parts (not to be confused with the way more successful Moving Pictures from the same era). For some reason I thought "Sex And Fame", which was produced by ARIA Award winner Mark Optiz and had his trademark big pop/rock sound, had charted higher. At least it did better than any of the other singles released by the band, which all missed the top 100.

Number 45 "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo
Peak: number 39
They'd been releasing music since the late '70s but this theme song from the film of the same name became the first chart hit for Oingo Boingo. It was also the first soundtrack project for the band's singer, who wrote and co-produced the track. You might have heard of some of his later projects - the theme tunes to TV series like The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives, and scores for a whole bunch of films, including most of Tim Burton's movies. Yep, the singer/songwriter for Oingo Boingo was none other than Danny Elfman.

Number 44 "Sounds Of Then" by GANGgajang
Peak: number 35
Some songs don't have to be particularly big chart hits to wind up as classics. Here's a case in point - a tune that has become an iconic Australian pop/rock anthem despite only being a minor top 40 hit at the time of its original release. Granted, a peak of number 35 was an improvement on GANGgajang's previous efforts, but it seems incredibly low for a song that is such an essential part of this country's soundtrack. 
Like "Throw Your Arms Around Me" - another classic track that was never a big hit - "Sounds Of Then" was released more than once, but even the addition of the "This Is Australia" subtitle in 1995 didn't see it improve on this initial chart position. Still, it's a song that most people who grew up in the '80s and '90s would know, even if they didn't buy it, thanks in no small part to the track's use in a memorable Coke ad from 1988, which at least would have provided the band with some cash for their troubles.

Number 42 "You're A Friend Of Mine" by Clarence Clemons / Jackson Browne
Peak: number 9
With the Born In The USA album finally exhausted of singles and the tie-in world tour having come to an end, E Street Band saxophonist Clarence took advantage of both his new-found downtime and his never-been-higher profile to release solo album Hero. Lead single "You're A Friend Of Mine" featured both Jackson Browne on co-lead vocals and Jackson's then-girlfriend, Daryl Hannah, on backing vocals - and never fails to put me in a good mood when I hear it. 
The type of song they just don't make anymore, the track would be Clarence's only chart appearance as a singer, although his saxophone playing featured on many other hits. Besides tunes by Bruce Springsteen, Clarence can also be heard on Aretha Franklin's "Freeway Of Love" and Lady Gaga's "The Edge Of Glory", filming the music video for the latter shortly before passing away in 2011. For Jackson, "You're A Friend Of Mine" was his first Australian chart appearance since "Lawyers In Love" (number 28 in 1983) and would easily be the biggest hit of his career in Australia.

Number 41 "And She Was" by Talking Heads
Peak: number 10
It usually goes the other way - the first single from an album charts highest then each subsequent single peaks slightly lower, but Talking Heads continued to buck the trend with the releases from Little Creatures. Third single "And She Was" not only became the biggest hit from the album, but it also gave the band their first - and only - Australian top 10 single. Since the bouncy track is also their best song, that all worked out rather nicely, don't you think? The video was directed by Jim Blashfield, whose distinctive animated style was also seen in the clips for "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz, "Leave Me Alone" by Michael Jackson and "Sowing The Seeds Of Love" by Tears For Fears.

Number 23 "Hit That Perfect Beat" by Bronski Beat
Peak: number 3
British trio Bronski Beat had done pretty well for themselves on the ARIA chart with singer Jimmy Somerville out in front, scoring two top 10 hits out of four singles. But then, just as the band were poised to release fifth single "Run From Love", Jimmy quit the band. Bronski Beat bounced back - and how! - with this single featuring sound-alike new vocalist John Foster. Not only did it return the group to the top 10, but it spent six consecutive weeks at number 3, stuck behind a combination of "That's What Friends Are For", and future hits "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" and "Concrete And Clay". "Hit That Perfect Beat" was also included in the British film Letter To Brezhnev, thus the scenes from the movie in the music video, while the song's lyrics were as sexually suggestive as those of "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?" had been issue-driven. But like those earlier hits, the meaning passed many listeners by (myself included) and "Hit That Perfect Beat" became a hit without a whiff of controversy. As for Jimmy... well, we'd be hearing from him later in 1986.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:

Next week: the second hit by a two-hit wonder, a massive soundtrack single that'd top the chart, that other tune from Rocky IV and a song that previously appeared on the top 50 as a double A-side returns in its own right - and peaks higher!

Back to: Feb 16, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 2, 1986

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

This Week In 1991: February 17, 1991

Each week when I sit down to write these blog posts about the ARIA singles chart from decades past, I look for some kind of pattern or link between the songs I'll be talking about. The new entries from this week in 1991 can be approached in a couple of different ways...

Vanilla Ice's other hit and Stevie B's only (Australian) hit

Firstly, I could remark that it was a good week for artists who liked to remake other people's songs. Secondly, I could play another round of my favourite game: One-hit Wonder Or Not? Since I'm feeling generous, I'm going to do both!

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 17, 1991

At number 1 this week in 1991, Londonbeat pushed aside Divinyls to take "I've Been Thinking About You" to the top in what would be a four-week run.

Off The Chart
Number 88 "X, Y & Zee" by Pop Will Eat Itself
Peak: number 88
Never as big as the similar sounding EMF or Jesus Jones, British dance/rock band Pop Will Eat Itself did enjoy their highest-charting single to date both here and in the UK with this track. 

"Coming Out Of The Dark" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 56
This was a shocker. It'd taken some time for Gloria Estefan to really cross over in Australia, but with the chart-topping Cuts Both Ways album and its inescapable singles, the Latin superstar had become a household name. And so you might've thought that this comeback single, released following the road accident in 1990 that nearly cost Gloria her life and her subsequent 12 months of recovery, would've been a bigger hit. 
An epic ballad with bonus gospel choir, "Coming Out Of The Dark" was not only incredibly poignant but it was one of her best singles - much more powerful than the insipid "Cuts Both Ways" or "Here We Are". We Australians might have been a heartless bunch, unmoved by Gloria's return, but "Coming Out Of The Dark" went all the way to number 1 in America following the singer's triumphant performance at the American Music Awards in late January.
In Australia, Gloria's next big hit wouldn't come until 1994 when she recorded an album of cover versions, which brings us to...

New Entries
Number 49 "I'm Not In Love" by Will To Power
Peak: number 38
In theory a freestyle act from - where else? - Miami, Will To Power was mostly known from their slow jam medley of "Baby I Love Your Way" and "Freebird" that'd taken them all the way to number 1 in the US. With few takers for their original pop/dance tracks, it was remake time again to launch second album Journey Home. Will To Power broke their one-hit wonder curse with this fairly faithful rendition of 10cc's "I'm Not In Love", which really only differed thanks to it being performed by a woman - new vocalist Elin Michaels. They weren't so lucky with the follow-up: yet another cover version, this time of "Boogie Nights", originally performed by Heatwave.

Number 48 "A Lil' Ain't Enough" by David Lee Roth
Peak: number 42
Here's a man who's no stranger to cover versions. In fact, his first two solo singles were both remakes - one a straight cover, another a medley. By 1991, the former Van Halen singer was up to this third solo album, A Little Ain't Enough, which was launched by this (almost) title track. An original song, "A Lil' Ain't Enough" was co-written by David with Robbie Nevil of "C'est La Vie" fame. As usual, Diamond Dave featured an abundance of scantily clad women in his music video, but in between their bursting bosoms and the blackface sported by a troupe of dancing little people, it was enough to get the clip banned by MTV. This would be David's final ARIA top 100 appearance.

Number 35 "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" by Stevie B
Peak: number 8
Known as the King of Freestyle, Stevie B (real name: Steven Hill, the B comes from middle name Bernard) was another Miami-based performer who achieved his greatest success with a syrupy ballad rather than his trademark dance tracks. Unlike Will To Power, however, some of his dance releases also did quite well on the Billboard Hot 100 - notably "Love & Emotion", which is the only song of his I like. A US chart-topper, "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" became Stevie's only top 50 hit in Australia, making him a one-hit wonder here - and it's a song I have never been able to listen to more than about 20 seconds of. From the pained vocal to the cheesy lyrics, it's a musical abomination - and this is coming from someone who liked some pretty slushy ballads in the early '90s.

Number 27 "Play That Funky Music" by Vanilla Ice
Peak: number 13
Speaking of musical abominations... here's the single that prevented Vanilla Ice from being a one-hit wonder in Australia. And, it's a remake of sorts! Originally released by funk band Wild Cherry in 1976, "Play That Funky Music" was made over Vanilla Ice-style. In other words, he took the bits he wanted and tried not to credit the original songwriters (until they sued), just as he'd done with "Ice Ice Baby". This was actually Vanilla Ice's second take on "Play That Funky Music". His first version had actually been the record that had featured "Ice Ice Baby" as its B-side. When that flipside became a huge smash, the rapper revisited "Play That Funky Music", adding new lyrics and issuing the new version as the follow-up to his international chart-topper.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:

Next week: the best single of all time. Seriously. Plus, what do you get when you mix a Gregorian chant with a dance beat? One of the biggest musical trends of 1991, that's what.

Back to: Feb 10, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 24, 1991

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

This Week In 1986: February 16, 1986

Despite the odd chronological inaccuracy, the Molly miniseries provided a fun snapshot of a bygone era - one we revisit each week as we look back at the ARIA singles chart from 1986. One of the the new entries on the top 50 this week that year was by an artist who became very good friends with Molly Meldrum over the lifespan of Countdown

Elton John and George Michael kept their sexuality under wraps in the '80s

In the miniseries, the disconnect between that singer's public and personal lives was touched on - and it's also summed up by the song that hit the chart this week in 1986. In public, the performer was one thing, while in private, he was wrapped up in completely different circumstances.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending February 16, 1986

At number 1 this week in 1986, "We Built This City" by Starship held on to the number 1 spot for a fourth and final week in a completely static top 7.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 63
This first of two releases - and versions - of "Opportunities..." hung around the top 100 for a while, but neither it nor the later remixed single ever became a big hit here like in the UK or the US.

Number 93 "Toughen Up" by Olivia Newton-John
Peak: number 93
This is more like it. After the try-hard "Soul Kiss", Livvy reverted to perky pop with this track written by the team behind "What's Love Got To Do With It" and originally offered to Tina Turner. 

New Entries
Number 49 "Lost Weekend" by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Peak: number 49
Last year, as we looked back at the charts of 1985, we saw a total of four singles by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions fall between numbers 51 and 100 on the ARIA chart. Imagine the celebrations there must've been when this second release from the Easy Pieces album finally broke that trend and sneaked into the top 50. Well, I'm sure the local record company was happy if nothing else. The triumph was short-lived, as "Lost Weekend", which was also the band's best song, fell back down into the 50s for the four following weeks.

Number 48 "Never" by Heart
Peak: number 48
Maintaining their new-found MOR sound, Heart released a slightly more upbeat power ballad to follow "What About Love?". "Never" went down a storm in the US, where the band landed consecutive top 10 hits for the first time in their lengthy career. In Australia, the track got stuck at number 48 for three weeks before reversing slowly out of the top 100.

Number 47 "The Bottom Line" by Big Audio Dynamite
Peak: number 34
It probably worked out for the best that Mick Jones had been kicked out of The Clash a few years earlier. As we saw last year, his former band managed one last gasp with "This Is England" before disintegrating completely in 1986. Meanwhile, Mick had been able to get on with things with new band Big Audio Dynamite, who made the top 40 on their first attempt with "The Bottom Line". The lead single from This Is Big Audio Dynamite is one of those songs I didn't think I knew - the name didn't ring a bell. But, the distinctive guitar riff in the opening seconds of the song is certainly familiar.

Number 43 "Wrap Her Up" by Elton John
Peak: number 22
The follow-up to "Nikita", "Wrap Her Up" is one of those overlooked Elton John songs from the '80s you don't hear anymore. And, for the second time in a row, it was a single that featured George Michael, who had provided backing vocals on "Nikita". For "Wrap Her Up", George played a more prominent role, not that you'd know it given the lack of an official credit. 
On the track, Elton and George sang "wrap her up/I'll take her home with me" and finished off with a call list of famous females like Samantha Fox, Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn. It's all pretty lighthearted - Kiki Dee appears in the video to be greeted by a cream pie in the face - rather than constituting any sort of macho posturing. Even so, it was songs like this, not to mention Elton's then-marriage to Renate Blauel, that kept the public buying the straight act he (and George) was selling at this point of his career.

Number 33 "Blue" by Fine Young Cannibals
Peak: number 13
Next up, the second single by Fine Young Cannibals - and although the British public might not have taken to "Blue", which fell one place short of the UK top 40, in Australia, the song actually peaked one place higher than "Johnny Come Home". Another polished pop/soul track that showcased Roland Gift's unique vocal, "Blue" further established FYC as one of the decade's most interesting new bands - a reputation they'd sporadically live up to for the rest of the '80s.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:

Next week: Seven new entries, including one of the most iconic Australian singles of the '80s. Plus, a British group lands its biggest hit after the departure of its lead singer.

Back to: Feb 9, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 23, 1986

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

This Week In 1991: February 10, 1991

It's one thing when one artist you don't particularly like releases a new single, but when two artists you can't stand team up for a duet, it's pure hell. Welcome to my life this week in 1991.

Sometimes one plus one equals musical torture

There was even more bad news this week with new songs I didn't like by two acts I normally did like. What was going on?

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 10, 1991

There was no movement going on at the top of the ARIA singles chart as Divinyls held strong for a second week with "I Touch Myself"

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Go For It! (Heart And Fire)" by Joey B Ellis with Tynette Hare
Peak: number 91
Nowhere near as good as previous Rocky soundtrack singles "Eye Of The Tiger" or "Living In America", this song from Rocky V sounded like a poor man's C&C Music Factory.

Number 95 "Can't Stop" by After 7
Peak: number 80
Like "Giving You The Benefit", this latest US hit from producers LA Reid & Babyface, performed by a trio featuring two of the latter's brothers, flopped locally.

Number 91 "It's A Shame (My Sister)" by Monie Love
Peak: number 90
Another song that really should've done better here is this biggest hit by the British rapper born Simone Gooden. The hook was taken from the Stevie Wonder-penned "It's A Shame" by The Spinners.

"All The Man That I Need" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 59
On the one hand, this was a bit of a turn-up for the books. "All The Man That I Need" was only Whitney's second single back after her two-year chart break, so you might've thought it would follow "I'm Your Baby Tonight" into the top 50. On other other hand, despite being known for her big ballad voice, Whitney hadn't had a really successful slow song since "Greatest Love Of All" reached number 1 in 1986. Originally released as "All The Man I Need" in 1982 by both Linda Clifford and Sister Sledge with David Simmons, the song (with added "That") did return Whitney to the top spot in America for a ninth time.

New Entries
Number 43 "Innuendo" by Queen
Peak: number 28
Queen's last big hit in Australia had been 1989's "I Want It All" and it, like so many other songs by the British band, had a big chorus custom-made for crowd participation. The lead single from the album of the same name, "Innuendo" had only the vaguest of hooks and a long section in the middle where it veered off into all sorts of musical diversions, including a flamenco guitar duel between Bryan May and Steve Howe from Yes. 
Some people compared its style-shifting and overblown pomposity to "Bohemian Rhapsody", but I just found "Innuendo" to be self-indulgent and lacking any of the excitement of their signature song. As we'll see, no other singles from Innuendo made the top 50, and it wouldn't be until after the tragic demise of Freddie Mercury later in 1991 that Queen would return to the chart with a re-release of "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Number 42 "Heart Of Stone" by Taylor Dayne
Peak: number 42
Not to be confused with Cher's single and album of the same name, "Heart Of Stone" became the second single in a row from Taylor Dayne that left me cold. Even though the singer who'd burst onto the scene with dance/pop singles like "Tell It To My Heart" eased back from the pop/rock stylings of previous single "I'll Be Your Shelter", "Heart Of Stone" just felt safe and ordinary. And there were better songs on album Can't Fight Fate. "Wait For Me", anyone? Instead, that ended up on the B-side. I can't have been the only one to be unimpressed, with "Heart Of Stone" not getting any higher than this debut position in Australia and becoming her first single to miss the US top 10.

Number 37 "It Takes Two" by Rod Stewart / Tina Turner
Peak: number 16
At least this tour through awful singles from 1991 is about to come to an end - and there was no song that bothered me more from the first few months of that year than this cover of the 1965 hit by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston. Sounding like something Jackie Love and Ricky May might perform on Midday, Rod and Tina's version of the much-covered Motown track felt garish and unsophisticated. It probably didn't help that I hadn't enjoyed anything Tina had released since 1985's "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" or that I've only ever liked one Rod Stewart song ("Young Turks" from a decade earlier). Naturally, "It Takes Two" became another big hit for both artists, aided somewhat by its use in a Pepsi commercial. Unfortunately, for me, it wasn't the last we'd hear from either singer in 1991.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:

Next week: two cover versions debut - one by an act that'd previously hit the chart with a remake medley and the other by an artist who'd sampled his way to number 1. Plus, one of the worst ballads of all time.

Back to: Feb 3, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 17, 1991

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

This Week In 1986: February 9, 1986

It hasn't been often that a foreign language song has penetrated the Australian top 50, but it happened a few times in the '80s. Most notably, German band Nena took "99 Luftballons" all the way to number 1, although it was backed by an English version, "99 Red Balloons", on the B-side.

Only in the '80s could a song in German about a dead classical composer reach the chart

This week in 1986, another German language single hit the ARIA top 50 - and although it was also a chart-topper in both the US and the UK, it had to settle for a top 20 berth locally.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending February 9, 1986

For the third of four weeks, the number 1 spot in Australia this week in 1986 was held by "We Built This City" by Starship.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "When A Heart Beats" by Nik Kershaw
Peak: number 92
If "Don Quixote" couldn't make the top 50, there was no way this good but not great lead single from Radio Musicola was going to turn Nik's ARIA chart fortunes around.

Number 98 "Ball And Chain" by Wax
Peak: number 89
They might've gone on to release one of my favourite songs of 1986 and, in 1987, the first 7" record I ever bought - but I didn't know this single existed until now. Not as good as those others, but still not bad.

Number 89 "Bring On The Dancing Horses" by Echo & The Bunnymen
Peak: number 78
The sole new track from the UK band's Songs To Learn & Sing best of, which included their two other top 100 singles: "The Cutter" (number 67 in 1983) and "The Killing Moon" (number 96 in 1984).

New Entries
Number 49 "Heroes" by Debbie Byrne
Peak: number 37
Fifteen years earlier, she'd been one of the six original cast members of Young Talent Time, her popularity so immense that she had two top 30 singles in 1974 and even won a Logie Award. But, it'd been a good few years since much had been heard from Debbie Bryne - a drug addiction derailing her career for the early '80s. That all changed with the release of film Rebel. Co-starring Matt Dillon and featuring Debbie as a singer (so no real stretch there), the movie put her back in the public eye and returned her to the chart for the first time in 12 years. Acting roles - both on screen and on stage - continued to come her way, but Debbie never returned to the ARIA top 50, coming closest with 1989's "Nature's Lament".

Number 45 "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco
Peak: number 15
Here's our German-language hit single, although at least some of the many versions of "Rock Me Amadeus" (including what looks to have been two separate releases in Australia) contained English lyrics. Delivered in a muttered style that made it difficult to discern exactly what language Austrian performer Falco was signing in, the synthpop tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was so unique that it was always going to be massive, especially coming in the wake of Oscar-winning film Amadeus. Falco is yet another one of those performers wrongly identified as a one-hit wonder. In fact, "Rock Me Amadeus" was only his second biggest hit in Australia, with his version of "Der Kommissar" peaking 10 places higher than the After The Fire remake when both simultaneously charted here in mid-1983.

Number 43 "The Whole Of The Moon" by The Waterboys
Peak: number 12
It's always nice to see when Australia got it right - often before anywhere else in the world. That was the case with this classic from Celtic rock band The Waterboys, which almost made our top 10, but got no further than number 26 in the UK. "The Whole Of The Moon" would later reach number 3 in Britain following its re-release in 1991 to promote a greatest hits album. Fronted by the song's writer and producer Mike Scott, The Waterboys also included among their number a future hit-maker in the form of World Party's Karl Wallinger, best known for his 1987 hit, "Ship Of Fools"

Number 42 "Men Without Shame" by Phantom, Rocker & Slick
Peak: number 36
Every so often, I'll come across a song of which I have no recollection. This debut single from Stray Cats spin-off project Phantom, Rocker & Slick is one of those tunes. With their former band split for the time being - Stray Cats would reform later in 1986 - drummer Slim Jim Phantom and bassist Lee Rocker teamed up with guitarist Earl Slick for this hard rock meets rockabilly project.

Number 29 "Love An Adventure" by Pseudo Echo
Peak: number 6
Despite another member change since we last saw them with "Don't Go" - Anthony Argiro was out, Vince Leigh was in - Pseudo Echo were on a bit of a hit streak at this stage of their career. The title track of their second album, "Love An Adventure" gave the Australian synthpop band their fourth big hit single. They seemingly had the world at their feet - although it would take a song not included on Love An Adventure to provide that global hit later in the year.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:

Next week: the debut of a new band fronted by one of punk's most popular performers, George Michael appears on a second single in a row by Elton John, new entries from Heart, Fine Young Cannibals and Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - and an actual ARIA chart printout.

Back to: Feb 2, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 16, 1986

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

This Week In 1991: February 3, 1991

Some artists are great at reinventing themselves - able to tell when it's a good idea to change musical direction or make over their image. Others get pigeonholed as one thing and are never able to move on, no matter how much they try.

New Kids changed their sound and their name, but no one was buying it

This week in 1991, two acts that had enjoyed top 10 success suddenly found themselves just scraping in to the top 40 with singles that were nothing like their big hits. Bad moves or just bad songs?

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 3, 1991

Moving up to number 1 this week in 1991, "I Touch Myself" gave Divinyls their first - and only - Australian chart-topper, knocking off "Ice Ice Baby" in the process.

Off The Chart
Number 84 "More" by The Sisters Of Mercy
Peak: number 74
Better late than never - the British goth rock band finally reached the ARIA top 100 with this epic lead single from third and final album Vision Thing

"Lock It" by Falling Joys
Peak: number 55
Back in the days when Rage used to play the ARIA top 60, I remember fast-forwarding through this track the handful of weeks it charted between numbers 60 and 51. I wasn't adverse to the odd bit of Australian indie rock from this era - like The Hummingbirds or The Clouds - but I found the verses of "Lock It" by Canberra band Falling Joys a bit dull and I don't think I ever gave the song a chance to get to the rousing chorus. If "Lock It" was released today, I'd probably quite like it, so I might need to give this some retrospective attention.

New Entries
Number 50 "I Saw Red" by Warrant
Peak: number 36
Oh, c'mon Warrant. You can't release a single like "Cherry Pie" and then expect us to take you seriously after that. OK, the shift back to a "Heaven"-style song might've worked in America, where they lapped up this kind of hair metal power ballad and sent "I Saw Red" to number 10. But, in Australia, Warrant would never be anything but the band behind the lyric "she wanted me to feed her/so I mixed up the batter/and she licked the beater", among other gems. "I Saw Red" was a very different tale of Jani Lane-style love and romance - the Warrant singer wrote the track about being confronted with the sight of his girlfriend and his best friend in bed together.

Number 43 "Games" by New Kids On The Block
Peak: number 33
Oh, c'mon New Kids On The Block. You can't release singles like "Step By Step" and "Tonight" one minute, then expect us to buy you as purveyors of Bell Biv Devoe-lite hip-hop the next. In all fairness, NKTOB, as they now styled their name, had to do something drastic. Fans were quickly tiring of their sickly sweet tunes. Recent allegations of miming - however unfounded they were - didn't help their cause, either. So it was out with the bubblegum pop, and in with the hip-hop and house beats, and an angry rap "to all those non-believers out there" from co-writer Donnie Wahlberg.
A more traditional New Kids-sounding version of "Games" had originally appeared on the Step By Step album, but the boy band recruited white hot remixers Robert Clivillés & David Cole (of C&C Music Factory fame) to turn the "Hangin' Tough"-style track into something much more credible. Musically, this was the most exciting thing the boys had ever released, but all the rebranding and posturing in the world couldn't disguise the fact that this single and the whole No More Games remix album project smacked of desperation rather than a genuine musical metamorphosis. 

Number 35 "Wiggle It" by 2 In A Room
Peak: number 3
Next up, a track that also fused hip-hop and dance, but didn't feel at all forced. A feel-good anthem with a cautionary warning about drink-driving worked in, "Wiggle It" was the perfect end-of-summer tune and its beach party music video was quickly on high rotation. Proof that America wasn't entirely being left behind while Europe charged ahead in the dance music stakes, the track was the only big hit by duo 2 In A Room, which was comprised of producer Roger "Rog Nice" Pauletta and rapper Rafael "Dose" Vargas. I actually wasn't a massive fan of "Wiggle It", but I could see why a lot of people were.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:

Next week: it takes two... of my most hated singers at the time teaming up for a dreadful cover version. Plus, dud singles by two other artists I normally liked. Thank goodness for two of the songs that didn't make the top 50.

Back to: Jan 27, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 10, 1991