Sunday, 31 July 2016

This Week In 1983: July 31, 1983

There were some fantastic songs released in 1983 - you can see my favourites here - but the single that ended up as the year's biggest hit in Australia wasn't a song at all.

"Australiana": the country's number 1 single for 1983

Outperforming the likes of "Gloria", "Billie Jean" and "Total Eclipse Of The Heart", the number 1 single of 1983 in Australia was a pun-packed spoken-word record by a stand-up comic who'd started performing just two years earlier.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending July 31, 1983

The song that ended the year as Australia's second biggest single was still at number 1 this week in 1983. "Flashdance... What A Feeling" by Irene Cara stayed on top for a third week.

Off The Chart
Number 96 "The Animal Song" by The Europeans
Peak: number 96
This was the astonishing debut single by British new wave band The Europeans, who are not to be confused with Europeans, a late '70s band from the UK with just as limited success.

Number 95 "My Love" by Lionel Richie
Peak: number 93
The third and final single from Lionel Richie's self-titled debut album was another US top 5 hit, but the "Easy" soundalike, which features Kenny Rogers on backing vocals, barely dented the Australian top 100.

Number 92 "Mornin'" by Al Jarreau
Peak: number 82
Unlike Lionel, fellow soul/R&B singer Al Jarreau only reached the ARIA top 100 twice - once with this track from his Jarreau album and again in 1987 with the theme to Moonlighting

Number 85 "Ship To Shore" by Chris De Burgh
Peak: number 75
Chris De Burgh had visited the Australian top 5 earlier in the year with "Don't Pay The Ferryman" but found the waters less welcoming with his next nautically themed release. 

New Entries
Number 47 "Come Dancing" by The Kinks
Peak: number 36
Between their 1964 debut with "You Really Got Me" (an Australian number 8 hit) and 1970's "Apeman" (which reached number 5 here in early 1971), The Kinks had enjoyed a string of 11 top 50 hits locally. Despite continuing to record throughout the '70s and early '80s, nothing the band released during that time had troubled the chart. This single, which had originally flopped in the UK in November 1982, might not have charted in Australia either had it not unexpectedly become a top 10 hit in the US in mid-1983. A return to The Kinks' earlier sound, "Come Dancing" was written by Ray Davies as a tribute to his sister Rene, who'd died from a heart attack at a dance hall in the late 1950s. It'd be the band's final ARIA chart appearance. 

Number 46 "It's A Mistake" by Men At Work
Peak: number 34
They'd enjoyed a flawless start on the Australian charts - with two number 1 albums and five consecutive top 10 singles - but Men At Work's dream run came to an end with the unfortunately titled "It's A Mistake". Interestingly, the song, which is about the Cold War potentially leading to nuclear warfare, received a much warmer reception in the US, where it peaked at number 6. Men At Work would be back in the Australian top 10 later in 1983 - but with one of their previous hits.

Number 45 "(You Said) You'd Gimme Some More" by KC & The Sunshine Band
Peak: number 45
Here's another band who usually performed better on the Australian chart - well, at least they had in the late '70s when they notched up seven top 40 hits. But, it had been three-and-a-half years since they had a number 1 single with "Please Don't Go" and this track from All In A Night's Work was hardly their best effort. In fact, I'm puzzled why "(You Said) You'd Gimme Some More" was even released at this point when they had a much better song waiting in the wings - a song we'll see restore the disco/funk group to the top 5 in the coming months.

Number 39 "Rock 'N' Roll Is King" by Electric Light Orchestra
Peak: number 13
Not all previously successful bands were having a tough time of it on the Australian chart in 1983. Even though band members were starting to abandon ship, ELO landed what would be their last big hit with this lead single from the ambitious Secret Messages album. As its title suggests, "Rock 'N' Roll Is King" eschewed some of the more modern sounds the band had experimented with on previous releases for a straightforward rock feel, complete with a surf guitar intro, a boogie woogie piano and that "whamalamabamalama" lyric. The throwback track would give ELO one last hurrah on the Australian singles chart, with only one minor top 50 entry to follow.

Number 23 "Australiana" by Austen Tayshus
Peak: number 1
There was nothing novel about novelty records in 1983. Australia had even had a chart-topping comedy single as recently as the summer of 1980/81 when "Shaddap You Face" stayed at number 1 for eight long weeks for Joe Dolce Music Theatre. But there was something about the debut single from stand-up comedian Austen Tayshus (real name: Alexander "Sandy" Gutman) that really appealed to the Australian public. 
Written by Billy Birmingham, who'd become quite familiar with number 1 singles and albums in his guise as The Twelfth Man, "Australiana" took the form of a story incorporating a series of plays on words. Words like kookaburra, platypus, waratah, Nullarbor, Great Barrier Reef, Eureka Stockade and Vegemite - all true blue stuff. The puns came at a fast and furious pace, and it's interesting listening to the live audience on the record - there's everything from appreciative laughter to groans at the more on-the-nose gags to delayed reactions when it takes a second or two for the cleverer jokes to sink in.
I remember my eight-year-old self being amused by "Australiana" at the time. A lot of the more adult material went straight over my head, but it was a clever routine that actually did stand up to repeated listens. And so, people went out and bought the 12" single (the only format it was available on) in droves, and listened to it over and over again. Then quoted it to each other.
"Australiana" spent eight non-consecutive weeks at number 1 in Australia - its run at the top interrupted due to it being banned for a week in Victoria (on account of B-side "The Comedy Commando") and dipping down to number 7 for that week. The record ended 1983 as Australia's top single, but like all year-end charts before 1988, that's based on an aggregate of chart positions rather than sales. 
Nevertheless, "Australiana" is regularly cited as the best-selling Australian single of the '80s and even of all time. With reported sales of over 200,000 copies, "Australiana" was likely the highest-selling single by an Australian artist during the '80s, with "Locomotion" by Kylie Minogue its closest rival. Whether or not international hits like "We Are The World" or "Never Gonna Give You Up" outsold "Australiana" is unclear. 
Outside the '80s, many singles by local and international acts have outsold "Australiana", with the highest-selling single of all time in Australia still Elton John's 14 times platinum "Candle In The Wind '97/Something In The Way You Look Tonight".

Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:

Next week: the second big solo hit by a member of one of the top-selling bands of the 1970s, plus another hugely successful artist from the '70s scores his biggest single.

Back to: Jul 24, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 7, 1986

Thursday, 28 July 2016

This Week In 1991: July 28, 1991

There have been a number of musical collaborations between parents and children over the years. Frank and Nancy Sinatra on "Somethin' Stupid". Roseanne and Johnny Cash's duet, "September When It Comes". "Changes" by Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne. 

The multi-Grammy Award winning "Unforgettable"

This week in 1991, possibly the most poignant duet between a father and daughter burst onto the ARIA singles chart on its way to stall at number 2 behind the unstoppable Bryan Adams.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending July 28, 1991

Speaking of... last week's big new entry, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You", effortlessly moved up to number 1, where it would stay for the next 11 weeks.

Off The Chart
Number 93 "2 Weeks With A Good Man In Niagara Falls" by The Hummingbirds
Peak: number 93
With each single release, the top 20 success of "Blush" was looking more and more like a fluke, as the indie pop/rock band charted yet another song in the depths of the top 100.

Number 71 "O.G. Original Gangster" by Ice-T
Peak: number 71
Previous single "New Jack Hustle" finally exited the top 100 this week and was replaced by this title track from Ice-T's fourth studio album. 

"Slip Away" by Ian Moss
Peak: number 56
He'd slapped his knee bones right up to number 2 in 1989 with "Tucker's Daughter" and seen his debut solo album, Matchbook, top the chart and win the ARIA Award for Album Of The Year - so you might've expected better things for Ian Moss's return to the chart in 1991. Despite having a similarly upbeat feel as "Tucker's Daughter" and a chorus that was just as sing-along-able, "Slip Away" didn't even make it as far as the top 50. I'm not saying it's as good a song - I'm just surprised it flopped so monumentally.

New Entries
Number 50 "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J
Peak: number 37
LL Cool J had popped his head in and out (and in and out and in and out again) of the top 50 with "Around The Way Girl", but he had a more steady presence on the chart with this hard-edged follow-up, which won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. A shot back at the rappers who criticised him - a list which included Kool Moe Dee and, funnily enough, Ice-T - "Mama Said Knock You Out" was inspired by words of encouragement from his grandmother, who appears in the song's music video at the 4:50 mark. The track, which samples James Brown, Digital Underground, Sly & The Family Stone, his own "Rock The Bells" and about half a dozen other songs, would be LL Cool J's biggest hit on the ARIA chart as lead artist until 1997.

Number 43 "Walking In Memphis" by Marc Cohn
Peak: number 11
For me, the most interesting thing about this breakthrough (and only) hit for singer/songwriter Marc Cohn was the breakbeat version released in 1992 by British dance act Shut Up And Dance. Based substantially on 'Walking In Memphis" (especially that piano hook), "Raving I'm Raving" would likely have been a chart-topping single in the UK had it not been pulled from record stores since clearance hadn't been obtained. Four years later, irritating techno group Scooter released a similar cover - this time, with all the necessary legalities in place.
The original version had been written back in 1985 following a trip Marc made to Memphis and dealt with how he, as a Jewish man, felt a connection to the gospel music he heard there. His demo of the song resulted in him landing a major label record deal and, years later, it was the track used to launch his debut self-titled album. "Walking In Memphis" peaked just outside the Australian and US top 10, and is largely responsible for him winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in early 1992.

Number 42 "The Motown Song" by Rod Stewart
Peak: number 26
I've spoken before of my dislike for Rod Stewart's output during the late '80s and early '90s - and next to his duet with Tina Turner on "It Takes Two", this single is one of the primary offenders. Like "Rhythm Of My Heart" and "Downtown Train", it was another cover version of an obscure song, in this case a 1986 track by Larry John McNally for the soundtrack to Quicksilver. The music video for "The Motown Song" came from the same production company that'd made Elton John's "Club At The End Of The Street", and as well as a cartoon Rod, featured animated versions of Motown acts The Temptations (who perform on the track), The Supremes and Michael Jackson, and, for some reason, Vanilla Ice, Sinead O'Connor. Madonna and Elton. Rod would next be in the top 50 in 1993 with another remake.

Number 40 Train Tracks by Southern Sons
Peak: number 40
After three top 20 hits, this might seem like a lowly placing for Australia's Southern Sons - but there are a few reasons five-track EP Train Tracks didn't do better. Firstly, it was a limited edition release, although how limited I'm not sure. Secondly, lead track "Waiting For That Train" had already appeared on the band's top 5 self-titled debut album. Thirdly, the other four tracks were live recordings, which would only have appealed to hardcore Southern Sons fans. It would be more than a year before we'd hear from the band again - with the first taste of their second album.

Number 39 "It's Only The Beginning" by Deborah Conway
Peak: number 19
Except, of course, it wasn't the beginning - since Deborah Conway had featured on the ARIA chart before as lead singer of Do-Re-Mi (biggest hit: debut single "Man Overboard", number 5 in 1985). After two albums with her former band, Deborah moved on to a solo career, launching herself with a song that was uncharacteristically optimistic and cheerful. Produced by Boom Crash Opera's Richard Pleasance, "It's Only The Beginning" had a broader appeal than anything Deborah had released with Do-Re-Mi and returned her to the top 20 for the first time since "Man Overboard". Similarly, it would turn out to be her most successful solo offering - and one Deborah is herself celebrating with upcoming shows to mark the 25th anniversary of the accompanying album, String Of Pearls

Number 38 "Hey Stoopid" by Alice Cooper
Peak: number 32
Thanks to the brilliance of "Poison", the Trash album had resulted in an unexpected chart comeback for shock rocker Alice Cooper in 1989 - but could he do it again with follow-up Hey Stoopid? Seems like the novelty might have worn off with this title track and lead single falling short of the top 30 despite the presence of Slash, Ozzy Osbourne and Joe Satriani on the track and in the music video.

Number 10 "Unforgettable" by Natalie Cole with Nat "King" Cole
Peak: number 2
Since her musical debut in 1975 with number 28 hit "This Will Be", Natalie Cole had only really enjoyed one major hit single in Australia up until this point - and that was with her 1988 remake of "Pink Cadillac". But, in the US, she had seven top 20 hits to her name and so the decision to release an album of cover versions of songs previously performed by her father, Nat "King" Cole, came after she'd well and truly established herself as a singer in her own right. 
That album, Unforgettable... With Love, was the first released as part of her new deal with Elektra Records and marked a change of heart by Natalie, who'd previously avoided performing songs associated with her dad, who'd passed away shortly after her 15th birthday in 1965. What made the project truly remarkable was a duet between Natalie and Nat on the song "Unforgettable" (a number 5 hit in Australia for him in 1952). 
Achieved thanks to some recording studio wizardry, the track blended father and daughter's voices seamlessly - and was always going to be a massive hit once released. In Australia, "Unforgettable" spent three weeks stuck at number 2 behind Bryan Adams, while it and the Unforgettable... With Love album went on to win multiple Grammy Awards, including Record, Song and Album Of The Year.

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

Next week: her first solo pop album had been a huge success, but how would Kate Ceberano go second time around? Plus, a novelty record that thankfully just missed out on reaching the top 50.

Back to: Jul 21, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 4, 1991

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

This Week In 1986: July 27, 1986

There's a lot to be said about going out while you're still on top. Just ask The Beatles. Or Take That (the first time around). Yes, I just compared The Beatles to Take That. Point is, rather than dragging things out and releasing decreasingly popular music, some acts know when to call it a day.

Wham!'s "final" single almost gave them a second Australian number 1

Acts like the duo behind the highest new entry on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1986. Wham!'s split had been announced some months earlier and anticipation for their final single was huge. As we'll see, the song didn't quite get to the very top of the chart (and it wasn't actually their final Australian chart entry), but it was a last triumph for a pop act that had dominated the singles chart in recent years.

This is the second of two weeks for which I'm yet to find a scan of the large-format chart printout, so in its place below is the Kent Music Report that ARIA used for their top 50. If you do have the ARIA printout from this week, please contact me using the form on this blog or via the Chart Beats Facebook page.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending July 27, 1986

The song that would keep Wham! from landing a final number 1 moved back up to the top of the ARIA chart this week in 1986. After a week at number 2 thanks to Whitney Houston, Samantha Fox returned to the top with "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)".

Off The Chart
Number 95 "In The Shape Of A Heart" by Jackson Browne
Peak: number 95
Another top 50 miss from Jackson Browne's Live In The Balance, this track deals with the singer's relationship with his first wife and would be his final ARIA top 100 appearance.

Number 93 "Walking On Water" by Marguerite Ayshford
Peak: number 83
I can't find this one on YouTube, but Marguerite Ayshford is from Newcastle, NSW and this track is apparently a ballad.

Number 89 "Hyperactive" by Robert Palmer
Peak: number 72
Surprisingly, this follow-up to chart-topper "Addicted To Love" was a big old flop - and it's not actually that bad. Clearly, Robert needed those dancing models, who'd be back for his next single.

Number 85 "Vienna Calling" by Falco
Peak: number 75
Another song failing to live up to its predecessor, despite being quite a good track, is this follow-up to "Rock Me Amadeus". This would be the Austrian singer's final top 100 single.

Number 81 "If Somebody Loves You" by Venetians
Peak: number 67
Exactly three years after their debut single, Venetians had one major hit to their name: "So Much For Love" from earlier in 1986. This "Current Stand"-style ballad didn't give them a second.

"Fireworks" by Choirboys
Peak: number 60
Here's another band we saw in this week's 1983 recap with their debut single, "Never Gonna Die". Unlike Venetians, though, Choirboys still hadn't landed a major hit by mid-1986. In fact, the number 30 peak for "Never Gonna Die" had been the Sydney rock band's only top 100 placing up until this point. The good news for Choirboys was that they finally managed a second charting single with new track "Fireworks", which would end up on their second album, Big Bad Noise, when it came out nearly two years later in 1988. By then, they'd finally have landed their long-awaited big hit.

New Entries
Number 50 "God Thank You Woman" by Culture Club
Peak: number 48
As it would turn out, Wham! wasn't the only big pop act visiting the top 50 for the final time this week in 1986. But, the demise of Culture Club wasn't planned and came as a result of two main factors: a) the turmoil surrounding the band due to Boy George's drug habit and b) their songs just not being as good. 
Let's deal with point b) first. "God Thank You Woman" was the second single from From Luxury To Heartache and, while a pleasant enough tune, was nowhere near as good as Culture Club's big hits - or even their most recent top 10 single, "Move Away". Not even its fun music video, which featured footage of Hollywood sex symbols like Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren superimposed alongside the band's performance, could help disguise the fact that the once-great chart dominators were flagging. 
In terms of point a), news of Boy George's arrest for drug possession and the death of keyboard player Michael Rudetsky from a heroin overdose in the singer's apartment cast a dark shadow over the release of "God Thank You Woman". Those events also compounded the existing tensions within the band, who would split within a year. 
More than a decade later, Culture Club made a triumphant return to the UK top 10 with "I Just Wanna Be Loved", but that single missed the mark in Australia, peaking at number 84, leaving "God Thank You Woman" as their final ARIA top 50 appearance. Still, the band's recent Australian tour proved their local fanbase is as loyal as ever and recall a time when Culture Club were an unstoppable pop force, scoring five top 5 hits between 1982-84. Their chart career might not have ended so well, but that legacy remains.

Number 29 "Mr Big" by Icehouse
Peak: number 18
Like Culture Club, Icehouse ended their ARIA top 50 career with a whimper rather than a bang but have enjoyed a resurgence of interest in recent years thanks to some successful Australian tours and a decision to properly market their back catalogue. 1986 saw the band formerly known as Flowers enjoying top 20 success with "Baby, You're So Strange" and this just as upbeat follow-up - both taken from the Measure For Measure album. Despite such chart peaks being an improvement on what they'd managed in the previous couple of years, this period of Icehouse's career pales in comparison to their early string of hits and the massive success that was around the corner in 1987.

Number 10 "The Edge Of Heaven" by Wham!
Peak: number 2
With the exception of "Club Tropicana" (which surprisingly missed the top 50 locally) and the disavowed "Club Fantastic Megamix" (which I'm not sure was released here but, if it was, didn't make the top 100), every single Wham! had released up until this point had reached the Australian top 10. Together with "Careless Whisper" and "A Different Corner", that amounted to 10 top 10 hits in just over three years. 
With George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley having already announced their split and the release of "The Edge Of Heaven" as their final single, only a fool would've bet against the track becoming the 11th top 10 hit for the duo (either together or separately). And so it did, racing straight in to the ARIA chart at number 10. 
Despite its lyrics being about a relationship that wasn't what you'd call healthy, the upbeat nature of "The Edge Of Heaven" and the snippets of Wham's previous clips sprinkled throughout the black and white performance video gave the proceedings a celebratory feel. Combined with George and Andrew's monster farewell gig at Wembley Arena at the end of June, it was as well conceived and executed a breakup as anyone could ever hope for.
The footnote to all of this is that "The Edge Of Heaven" wasn't actually Wham!'s final appearance on the ARIA top 100. Like in the US, the duo's Australian record company turned the British B-side of "The Edge Of Heaven" into a separate single locally - and we'll see how that performed towards the end of 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 one of the most internationally successful Australasian bands of the late '80s and early '90s, plus the return of a chart-topping group we hadn't seen in the top 50 since early 1983.

Back to: Jul 20, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 3, 1986

Sunday, 24 July 2016

This Week In 1983: July 24, 1983

Boy bands. Where would pop music be without them? This week in 1983, the group that kicked off the modern era of boy bands debuted on the ARIA top 50 with their first single. 

New Edition: the template for every modern boy band

Without Ricky, Michael, Bobby, Ronnie and Ralph, there'd be no New Kids On The Block, no Take That, no Backstreet Boys, no *NSYNC and no One Direction. For some of you, that may be no bad thing.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending July 24, 1983

At number 1 for the second week this week in 1983, Irene Cara had the most popular single in the country with "Flashdance... What A Feeling" heading a static top 4.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "Snot Rap" by Kenny Everett
Peak: number 91
This novelty record by the TV comedian, performed in character(s) as Sid Snot and Cupid Stunt, had been a top 10 hit in the UK. Kenny had more of a cult following in Australia.

Number 93 "Flight Of Icarus" by Iron Maiden
Peak: number 93
"Run To The Hills" had given the British heavy metal band a top 30 hit in 1982, but this mythologically themed lead single from Peace Of Mind had much more limited appeal.

Number 85 "Sound On Sound" by Venetians
Peak: number 85
In other posts on this blog (here and here, for example), we've seen how the story played out for local synthpop band Venetians, but it all began with debut single "Sound On Sound".

Number 84 "Soweto" by Malcolm McLaren
Peak: number 53
The English impresario scored three top 20 hits in 1983-84, but not with this song, which came out between "Buffalo Gals" and "Double Dutch" from the acclaimed Duck Rock album.

New Entries
Number 50 "It Might Be You" by Stephen Bishop
Peak: number 50
The movie it came from, cross-dressing comedy Tootsie, might have been one of 1983's most successful films, but theme tune "It Might Be You" could only scrape the bottom of the top 50. The tender love song (itself nominated for an Oscar) was written by multi-Grammy Award-winning composer Dave Grusin, and three-time Academy Award-winning lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The song was performed by easy listening singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop, whose biggest US hit, "On And On", missed the Australian top 50 in 1977.

Number 49 "Never Gonna Die" by Choirboys
Peak: number 30
As with Venetians, we've seen the rise and fall of Choirboys play out on this blog, with their biggest hit, "Run To Paradise", and their final ARIA top 50 appearance (under their own steam) coming with 1991's "Rendezvous". Before all that, Sydney rock band Choirboys got their big break in 1983 when, after four years playing the pub circuit, they were signed to Albert Records. Debut single "Never Say Die" got things off to a good start by reaching the top 30, but none of the other singles from their self-titled debut album reached the top 100.

Number 48 "Nobody's Diary" by Yazoo
Peak: number 17
Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet had already announced their split by this point, with tension between the duo having got to the point where they recorded their second album pretty much separately. That didn't stop this only single from You And Me Both from reaching the Australian top 20. For me, "Nobody's Diary" is nowhere near as good as earlier hits "Only You" and "Don't Go", both of which made the top 10 locally. But, given the positive reception "Nobody's Diary" received here and in the UK, where it got to number 3, it would seem the public hadn't tired of Yazoo yet, even if Vince had.

Number 47 "She Works Hard For The Money" by Donna Summer
Peak: number 4
Between 1976 ("Love To Love You Baby") and 1980 ("The Wanderer"), Queen of Disco Donna Summer had reached the Australian top 10 with six singles - including number 1s "I Feel Love" and "Hot Stuff". But, like most acts from the disco era, Donna had found the charts not as welcoming in the '80s. None of the other singles from The Wanderer or Donna Summer went any higher than number 17 ("Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)"), with matters not helped by all the record company wrangling involved in her career at that point. 
In 1983, Donna recorded the album She Works Hard For The Money, which she owed to her old label Casablanca Records as part of the settlement after she left to become the first artist signed to Geffen Records. More in line with the style of music she'd previously been known for than her Geffen releases, the album (which actually came out on Mercury Records) featured a big hit in the form of its title track. With its music video featuring Donna playing a hard workin' waitress, "She Works Hard For The Money" went into high rotation, and propelled her back up the chart in Australia and the US.

Number 41 "Candy Girl" by New Edition
Peak: number 10
With a name and sound that harked back to The Jackson 5, New Edition were marketed to be to the '80s what Michael and his brothers had been to the '70s, just without the instruments. They may as well have been called Version 2.0. Having formed more or less organically in their Boston neighbourhood, the five-piece eventually gained the attention of songwriter and producer Maurice Starr (later, the man behind New Kids On The Block), who signed them to a record deal, and co-wrote and co-produced their debut single, "Candy Girl". 
The song, which bore more than a slight resemblance to The Jackson 5's "ABC", showed off the singing, rapping and formation dancing talents of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant, If the music video was anything was to go by, the 13- to 15-year-olds were also capable of pulling "girls" up to 10 years older than themselves. Although "Candy Girl" was a big hit in Australia and the UK, where it topped the chart, the bubblegum pop song was more of a modest success in the US, peaking at number 46. But, the New Edition story was far from over.
By the time they next visited the ARIA top 50, with reunion single "Hit Me Off" in 1996, the boy band had dumped Maurice over a contract and royalty dispute, scored two US top 10 singles (1984's "Cool It Now" and "If It Isn't Love" in 1988) under their new record deal, fired Bobby Brown, hired Johnny Gill and then split off into various side projects. Never one of my all-time favourite boy bands, New Edition's set the standard that is still imitated today.

Number 34 "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by The Human League
Peak: number 8
It'd be another 10 months before The Human League's follow-up album to Dare would see the light of day, but they kept fans appeased by releasing a second stand-alone single in the meantime. Like previous release "Mirror Man", "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" was a global hit, reaching number 8 in Australia and the US, and becoming their second number 2 in a row in the UK. Accompanied by a music video with visuals that today would be produced using CGI but in 1983 was achieved with the help of several cans of orange paint, the track suggested that whenever the synthpop band's next album did arrive, it would be a corker. As it turned out, that wasn't quite the case...

Listen to every top 50 hit (that's on Spotify) from the second half of 1983 on my playlist:

Next week: the comedy record that would end up as the year's biggest single. Plus, new hits from a bunch of bands that'd seen better days.

Back to: Jul 17, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 31, 1983

Thursday, 21 July 2016

This Week In 1991: July 21, 1991

Soundtrack hits were a chart staple during the 1980s, with many of the decade's biggest and best songs coming from movies. The 1990s saw the birth of the soundtrack mega-hit, with a series of film songs hitting the number 1 spot on the ARIA chart and staying there. And staying there.

A single so successful it had to be deleted to force it out of the number 1 spot

Yes, there'd been long-running number 1 songs from movies before - "I Just Called To Say I Love You" stayed on top for eight weeks; "La Bamba", "Unchained Melody" and "Flashdance... What A Feeling" all managed seven weeks; and "Blaze Of Glory", "Kokomo", "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" and "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" each spent six weeks as chart champ. But the soundtrack song that debuted on the top 50 this week in 1991 held down the number 1 spot for longer than any single since the summer of 1977/78.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending July 21, 1991

Before the big soundtrack song set up shop in the number 1 spot, Melissa spent a second week on top with "Read My Lips", but only a fool would suggest she'd manage a third week in the face of the new arrival in the runners-up spot.

Off The Chart
Number 97 My Special Child by Sinead O'Connor
Peak: number 97
Her first new music since exhausting I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got of singles, My Special Child was a four-track EP released to raise money for Kurdish relief.

Single Of The Week
"Hooked On You" by Sydney Youngblood
Peak: number 120
I was (and still am) quite a fan of Sydney Youngblood's debut album, particularly singles "If Only I Could" and "Sit And Wait", which both missed the ARIA top 50. But, this is the first time I've ever heard the lead single from his follow-up album, the appallingly named Passion, Grace And Serious Bass... Not much of a musical departure for the American-born, German-based singer, "Hooked On You" is pleasant enough, but if those much stronger earlier singles didn't work here, then there's no way this was going to.

New Entries
Number 50 "I Don't Wanna Cry" by Mariah Carey
Peak: number 49
And things had started off so well for her... For the second time in a row, Mariah Carey found herself peaking in the 40s in Australia with "I Don't Wanna Cry". Her dreariest ballad yet, the song was probably never going to be massive here, but was perfectly suited for the American market, where it became her fourth straight number 1. I've never liked the song that much - and have always thought there were better options on the album, like "Prisoner" or "There's Got To Be A Way" that would've worked in Australia. Although, "There's Got To..." had been chosen as the fourth single in the UK and only reached number 54 there, so maybe not. Speaking of Mariah's debut album, even if its last two singles had bombed here, it received a boost back up the chart to land at number 10 this week after sinking as low as number 50 in mid-June.

Number 47 "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)" by Hi-Five
Peak: number 47
This US chart-topper was knocked off the number 1 spot there by "I Don't Wanna Cry" - and it's another American hit that failed to do the business locally. Co-written and co-produced by Mr New Jack Swing himself, Teddy Riley, "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)" put five-piece vocal harmony group Hi-Five in the boy band big league... at least in America. A version of Hi-Five still exists today, although it contains only one original member in its line-up.

Number 23 "Baby Baby" by Ratcat
Peak: number 21
While the likes of Mariah Carey and Hi-Five topped the American singles chart during 1991, Australian indie band Ratcat had already notched up two number 1 hits on the ARIA chart - and it was only July. Unfortunately, they didn't make it a hat-trick with this latest single from Blind Love - although the fact that album had also reached number 1 might've had something to do with that. In the years since Ratcat's runaway success (which came to a grinding halt in 1992), "Baby Baby" has been completely overshadowed by "That Ain't Bad" and "Don't Go Now", but it's just as strong as those much bigger hits.

Number 2 "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams
Peak: number 1
Storming in to the chart at number 2 (and narrowly missing out on becoming only the third song to debut at the top), "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" was clearly destined for number 1. What nobody could have guessed was just how long the song, which was included on the soundtrack to Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves as well as Bryan's sixth studio album, Waking Up The Neighbours, would spend there: 11 weeks.
You had to go back to December 1977 (and the months that followed) and "Mull Of Kintyre" by Wings for a stretch at the top that long. Chances are "(Everything I Do)..." would've spent longer at number 1 had it not been deleted by Bryan's Australian record company to make way for the follow-up, the aptly named "Can't Stop This Thing We Started". After falling from the top, "(Everything I Do)..." dropped 1-6-30-69 and out of the top 100.
Although he'd achieved a number 1 in the US before (with 1985's "Heaven"), such chart domination was a new thing for Bryan in Australia, where he'd never reached higher than number 12 (also with "Heaven"). It was the same situation in the UK, where Bryan had previously progressed no further than number 11 (with "Run To You") before registering 16 weeks at number 1 with "(Everything I Do)...". He still holds the record in the UK for the longest unbroken run at the top of all time, although fellow Canadian Drake came close in 2016 with "One Dance".
After working almost exclusively with co-writer Jim Vallance on his previous five albums, Bryan also collaborated with Robert "Mutt" Lange on Waking Up The Neighbours. The two wrote "(Everything I Do)..." with Michael Kamen, the composer of the score for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. The three would reunite for two more movie themes in coming years: "All For Love" and "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?".
Meanwhile, following Bryan's lead, soundtrack mega-hits by Whitney Houston and Coolio would also stay at number 1 for a double digit total of weeks later in the decade. And, a flood of enduring movie songs from Seal, UB40, U2, Wet Wet Wet and Aerosmith remained on top for multiple weeks during the '90s as well. 


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

Next week: one of the two singles denied the number 1 spot by Bryan Adams, plus the singer of a briefly popular Australian band makes her solo debut.

Back to: Jul 14, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 28, 1991

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

This Week In 1986: July 20, 1986

Cover versions are tricky things. Get them right and they can provide you with major chart success. Get them too right and they will become such massive hits they'll overshadow anything else you ever release. 

"Spirit In The Sky": one of the most played songs at funerals

Just ask the band behind one of the new entries on the ARIA top 50 this week in 1986. Their remake of a number 1 single from 1970 scaled similar chart heights - but not even a subsequent remake could provide them with another hit.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending July 20, 1986

Scaling chart heights this week in 1986 was "Greatest Love Of All" by Whitney Houston, which stole the number 1 spot from Samantha Fox's "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" after just one week. Sam would have her revenge soon enough.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Kind Words (And A Real Good Heart)" by Joan Armatrading
Peak: number 99
Poor Joan, the singles from her 1986 album, Sleight Of Hand, had about as much luck on the ARIA chart as those from previous release Secret Secrets.

Number 88 "No Money Down" by Lou Reed
Peak: number 75
Australian singles chart success had mostly passed Lou Reed by - even "Walk On The Wild Side" only reached number 100. Thanks to its freaky animatronic video, this single from Mistrial did a little better. 

Number 78 "Like A Rock" by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Peak: number 75
A year later, he'd have two singles in the top 50 simultaneously, but the title track of the rock'n'roll band's fifth album sank like a... stone.

"Bad Boy" by Miami Sound Machine
Peak: number 55
Australia had proved to be quite partial to Miami Sound Machine's Latin-flavoured party jams, with both "Dr Beat" and "Conga" having made the top 40, but the fiesta faltered for the time being as "Bad Boy" became the first of several flops for the group locally. In the US, the second single from Primitive Love became MSM's biggest hit to date, reaching number 8.

New Entries
Number 49 "Look Away" by Big Country
Peak: number 24
It'd been a couple of years since Big Country's rousing semi-eponymous single, "In A Big Country", had reached the ARIA top 10 and, in that time, nothing the Scottish band had released had come close to matching that success. This lead single from third album The Seer still fell short, but did provide Stuart Adamson and co. with another top 30 hit to call their own. Their biggest hit on the UK chart, "Look Away" takes a while to get going before kicking into gear in the chorus, but let's face it - it's no "In A Big Country", is it?

Number 44 "Love Touch" by Rod Stewart
Peak: number 12
Apparently Rod Stewart isn't a fan of this song, which featured in the Robert Redford/Debra Winger/Daryl Hannah film Legal Eagles. That makes two of us. Although, to be fair, this isn't one of his most objectionable songs. Enough people liked the tropical pop of "Love Touch" for it to become Rod's biggest hit in Australia since 1983's "Baby Jane". While record label wrangling kept "Love Touch" off the Legal Eagles soundtrack album, this "song" by Daryl did make the LP.

Number 35 "Exotic And Erotic" by Sandy Marton
Peak: number 19
How has this Eurotrash delight been absent from my life until now? Despite this single from Croatian-born, Italian-based Sandy Marton making the ARIA top 20, I've never heard it before (although the chorus reminds me a little of Sabrina's "Sexy Girl") The synthpop track seems to have taken its time reaching Australia, having been released in 1985 in Europe.

Number 28 "Spirit In The Sky" by Doctor & The Medics
Peak: number 3
In 1970, the original version of "Spirit In The Sky" had peaked at number 1 in Australia and the UK, and reached number 3 in the US for Norman Greenbaum, who seemingly wrote the gospel rock tune on a whim. Sixteen years later, the track was the perfect song for psychedelic-influenced act Doctor & The Medics to cover. Their fairly faithful version returned the song to the UK number 1 spot for the second of its three visits to the top. The third would be a remake by Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates and TV family The Kumars for Comic Relief. In Australia, The Doctor (real name: Clive Jackson), his band and, of course, his gravity-defying hair got as far as number 3. When follow-up "Burn" flopped, the band resorted to another cover - but their take on ABBA's "Waterloo" was also not so warmly received.

Number 24 "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna
Peak: number 1
We'd already had a taste of Madonna's third album thanks to soundtrack single "Live To Tell", but the debut of "Papa Don't Preach" coincided with the actual release of True Blue, which arrived on the chart the following week at number 2 (blocked from the top spot by Whitney Houston). Accompanied by yet another image change - a bleached blonde pixie cut - "Papa Don't Preach" was Madonna's most serious single yet, dealing with the subject of teen pregnancy. 
Naturally, it was controversial, although it's interesting that Madonna's lyrical input to the track was relatively minor and only after the song had been found for her by the same A&R guy who'd pitched "Like A Virgin". Accompanied by another iconic video - the Italians Do It Better t-shirt, the dance routine in the black bustier, Danny Aiello playing her dad - the song raced to number 1 around the world, including Australia, where it was her fourth chart-topper.

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

Next week: the longest breakup in pop history finally reaches its conclusion as one of the most popular acts of the '80s debuts with their farewell single. Meanwhile, another of the decade's biggest groups falters with their latest release, bringing about their inevitable demise.

Back to: Jul 13, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 27, 1986