Sunday, 26 February 2017

This Week In 1984: February 26, 1984

Nothing helps a single sell a truckload of copies more than controversy. From Elvis to Eamon, artists that've caused a stir have frequently found themselves at the top of the chart.

Frankie says: the way to have a hit is to have your song banned

This week in 1984, a song that'd been banned by the BBC (but still reached number 1 in the UK) made its debut on the ARIA singles chart. The controversy surrounding the single can only have helped its chances here.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 26, 1984

There was nothing controversial about the number 1 song in Australia this week in 1984 - unless you count the fact that rock singer Pat Benatar danced in the music video for "Love Is A Battlefield", which spent a second week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "Got A Hold On Me" by Christine McVie
Peak: number 55
Taking advantage of Fleetwood Mac's hiatus, Christine McVie released her first solo album since 1970 and scored her biggest hit with "Got A Hold On Me", which reached number 10 in the US.

Number 96 "Holdin' Out / Public Man" by The Shifters
Peak: number 86
I can't tell you much about this debut single by The Shifters other than the fact the band hailed from Hobart and were apparently on the harder end of the rock spectrum.

New Entries
Number 48 "Kiss The Bride" by Elton John
Peak: number 25
And that's exactly what Elton John had just done when he married sound engineer Renate Blauel on Valentine's Day, 1984 in Sydney. Despite the timely release of "Kiss The Bride", the fourth single from Too Low For Zero became the first to miss the ARIA top 20. Still, a number 25 peak was not bad given the album had been the third-biggest LP of 1983. "Kiss The Bride" also helped Too Low For Zero remain firmly lodged inside the top 10 until late May. Unfortunately for Elton and Renate, their marriage wouldn't turn out to have much longevity, ending amicably after four-and-a-half years.

Number 45 "Pipes Of Peace / So Bad" by Paul McCartney
Peak: number 36
Over the previous couple of years, all three of Paul McCartney's top 5 hits had been duets with other singers - "Ebony And Ivory" with Stevie Wonder, and "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say Say Say" with Michael Jackson. He didn't have the same success back on his own again with this title track from Pipes Of Peace. A UK number 1 with a music video depicting the ceasefire between British and German troops at Christmas 1914, "Pipes Of Peace" may well have done better locally had it been released a couple of months earlier. In the US, the single was flipped and B-side "So Bad" (featuring Ringo Starr on drums) was the lead track, while in Australia, we got both as a double A-side.

Number 41 "An Innocent Man" by Billy Joel
Peak: number 23
Billy Joel's homage to the music of his youth continued with this latest release from An Innocent Man. After two upbeat singles, the soul ballad title track was influenced by the music of The Drifters and one-time member Ben E King. Despite no video being made for "An Innocent Man", the song became Billy's latest US top 10 hit. It performed more modestly in Australia, but the project wasn't about to run out of steam - that wouldn't happen for the longest time...

Number 37 "Jump" by Van Halen
Peak: number 2
Before we get to the week's big controversial record, we have two more singles that caused a stir in their own way. First up, it's the lead single from Van Halen's 1984 album - a song that featured prominent use of synthesizers. Not unusual for the era, but certainly a break with tradition for the hard rock band. As it would turn out, the song's synth hook was less of a problem for Van Halen's fans - who sent it to number 1 in the US and number 2 locally - than it was for the band itself. 
Singer David Lee Roth had long resisted guitarist Eddie Van Halen's attempts to introduce keyboards into their sound. In fact, the main riff in "Jump" had been written by Eddie years earlier but it wasn't until he'd built his own recording studio that he was able to turn it into a song - one to which David would reluctantly contribute. Although "Jump" ushered in a period of great success for the band, the tension between the two founding members would lead to David's decision to leave the band the following year.

Number 35 "Calling Your Name" by Marilyn
Peak: number 3
Given the runaway success of Culture Club, the idea of a gender-bending pop star wasn't as revolutionary as it might otherwise have been. Nevertheless, Boy George's frenemy Marilyn still managed to make waves in Australia with his androgynous look - especially with the older generation. The novelty of his appearance aside, Marilyn's debut single, "Calling Your Name", generated its own fuss by being a terrific pop song that had hit written all over it. We'll see how the rest of 1984 panned out for the singer born Peter Robinson in coming months, but you can skip ahead to Marilyn's final top 50 appearance in 1985 here.

Number 31 "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Peak: number 5
It was almost as if they wanted their single to be banned. Featuring lyrics that could only have been about sex (specifically, masturbation) and a marketing campaign that pushed the buttons of conservative Britain, "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was duly banned by the BBC in mid-January. The restriction on the record, which included Radio 1 and Top Of The Pops, came just as the single was jumping up the UK chart after languishing in the lower reaches of the top 100 since its release in October 1983. 
As these things so often go, the ban only made "Relax" even more of a hit than it was shaping up to be, with other stations playing the song more as a result. The single went on to spend five weeks at number 1 in the UK. Then, as it was heading down the chart, it about faced and returned for a stint at number 2 in July, behind the band's chart-topping second single, "Two Tribes". In the process, "Relax" sold over two million copies in the UK alone.
In Australia, "Relax" made the top 5 and also enjoyed two runs in the top 50, spending 40 weeks in total inside the top 100 and winding up as 1984's 16th biggest single. Not bad for a band that was on the brink of breaking up when producer Trevor Horn signed them to ZTT. Trevor transformed "Relax", which had been turned down by at least two other record companies in its demo form, into the hit it became, spending tens of thousands of pounds getting the production just right and eliminating any input from the band except that of singer Holly Johnson. 
At least the members of Frankie Goes To Hollywood got to appear in the music video for "Relax". Or, I should say "videos", since there were at least four. Below are the two most famous clips - the first one set in a leather bar, which was - surprise, surprise - banned. And the second, tamer British video. There was also one that featured footage from film Body Double, in which the song appeared, and a "live" video that was used in the US.

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

Next week: the debut of the singer officially named 1984's Best New Artist with one of the year's biggest number 1 hits, plus a recent chart-topper follows up his big summer smash.

Back to: Feb 19, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 4, 1984

Thursday, 23 February 2017

This Week In 1992: February 23, 1992

There are some voices you recognise as soon as you hear them - and this week in 1992, a British female singer with an unmistakable tone made her debut on the ARIA top 50. Yep, I'm talking about Des'ree.

Des'ree's first single hit the chart. In the video she did some art.
Her voice really stands apart. Ooh I get the shivers.

Her first single wasn't the biggest of hits, but for those of us who enjoyed it - I bought the cassingle! - it was just a taste of her soulful sound. More successful singles would follow in the years to come.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 23, 1992

The most successful single in Australia this week in 1992 was "Love You Right" by Euphoria, which became the first homegrown chart-topper since Melissa's "Read My Lips". It would be the first of two weeks at number 1 for the dance track.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Nothing To Lose" by Daryl Braithwaite
Peak: number 100
I actually think this was one of the best singles from Rise - even, dare I say it, better than "The Horses". But, it was the fifth single from 1991's top-selling album, so no one could've been expecting too much.

Number 94 "Take You Higher" by Noiseworks
Peak: number 84
This was also the fifth single from an album that'd done pretty well on the chart, but in this case, "Take You Higher" probably deserved to become Noiseworks' worst performing single ever.

Number 70 "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." by M DJ Mad
Peak: number 70
This Eurodance track couldn't be more 1992 if it tried. Based around the hook from "Respect" and featuring a typically early '90s rap, "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." came from Italo house artist Ubaldo Zambelli.

Number 66 "Colour Of Love" by Snap!
Peak: number 66
They really should've gone with "Rhythm Is A Dancer" instead of this unusually downbeat song, shouldn't they? "Colour Of Love" was the lead single from Snap!'s second album, The Madman's Return.

"Release Me" by Deborah Conway
Peak: number 58
After two uptempo pop/rock tunes, it made sense to lift a ballad as the next single from String Of Pearls - and it was another song with a perfectly crafted chorus from Ms Conway. Although it might seem like "Release Me" wasn't successful, it did spur people on to buy the album instead, with String Of Pearls re-entering the top 50 in a week and progressing into the top 20 for the first time. Although, perhaps the fact that Deborah won the ARIA Award for Best Female Artist in early March also had a little something to do with that.

New Entries
Number 47 "Feel So High" by Des'ree
Peak: number 28
The music career of the singer born DesirĂ©e Weeks got off to a flying start. She was snapped up by Sony Music on the strength of a demo and released one of its tracks, "Feel So High", in the UK just 12 weeks later in August 1991. Things came to a crashing halt as the single stiffed at number 51 there. Her label tried again in early 1992 and, complete with a new video, the soulful ballad became a top 20 hit. 
Australia also took to the song, which, thanks to Des'ree's deep voice and the song's understated production, stood apart from everything else on the chart at the time. Her career back on track, Des'ree released her debut album, Mind Adventures, and spent much of the year touring as support act for the band behind our next new entry...

Number 46 "Stars" by Simply Red
Peak: number 29
Simply Red were an unstoppable chart force in the UK at this point in their career, racking up four top 20 hits from Stars, which topped the British albums chart for 12 weeks, and was the year-end number 1 album for both 1991 and 1992. "Stars" was the biggest hit of all, reaching number 8 in the UK, while in Australia, it peaked just inside the top 30 at exactly the same position as previous single "Something Got Me Started". As with Deborah Conway's single, the easy listening track did push its parent album back up the ARIA albums chart, with Stars returning to the top 10 and reaching a new high of number 7.

Number 43 "Mustang Sally" by The Commitments
Peak: number 43
Achieving what they hadn't been able to do with "Try A Little Tenderness", film band The Commitments breached the top 50 with "Mustang Sally". Made famous by Wilson Pickett in 1966 (a year after it was first released by Sir Mack Rice), the R&B song is one I'd happily never hear again thanks to it being inescapable in the wake of the film's success. Although it wasn't a big chart hit in its own right, it was another case of a single being responsible for a lot of people buying the album, on which it was the first track. This week, the soundtrack spent its 20th week inside the top 10, while next week, a second volume would join it in the top 20.

Number 42 "Cool Jesus" by Maybe Dolls
Peak: number 31
Nothing if not consistent, Maybe Dolls peaked just one place higher with their second chart hit than they had with their far superior debut single, "Nervous Kid". Featuring E Street's Marcus Graham and future Red Dog star Loene Carmen in the music video, the song set up the band's debut album, Propaganda, which debuted in mid-March. Two more singles were lifted from the album, but neither "Never Look Back" nor "Only Love" reached the top 100, and that was pretty much that for Maybe Dolls.

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

Next week: the arrival of two game-changing acts - one, a hot new grunge band and the other, a techno duo that ushered in a new era of Eurodance. Plus, a chart-topping song from 1970 finally provides a British band with the hit that'd eluded them for so long.

Back to: Feb 16, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 1, 1992

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

This Week In 1987: February 22, 1987

A few weeks back, I talked about how "If You Were With Me Now" by Kylie Minogue and Keith Washington shattered most of the illusions I'd had about duets. If any song had given me those illusions then it's the collaboration that debuted on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1987.

Aretha + George = pop perfection

The song featured two of the best vocalists in the world, who looked like they'd been friends for years and thought it'd be fun to sing together. I know now the duet wasn't quite what it seemed but my 12-year-old self had no idea of the record company machinations going on behind the scenes.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 22, 1987

At number 1 this week in 1987, "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Kim Wilde took over from "Walk Like An Egyptian" after just one week - but the chart battle between those two singles wasn't over yet.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Back In The High Life Again" by Steve Winwood
Peak: number 87
Fresh from his Grammys success, Steve Winwood continued to make the US top 20 with ease, but this almost title track from Back In The High Life was nowhere near as big locally as "Higher Love".

Number 92 "The Rain" by Oran "Juice" Jones
Peak: number 85
This genre-blending track with an extended spoken tirade towards a cheating girlfriend had made the US top 10 and been one of the first big hits on the fledgling Def Jam record label.

"You Know I Love You... Don't You?" by Howard Jones
Peak: number 61
After the disappointment of "All I Want", this second single from One To One was a step in the right direction for Howard Jones - both musically and in terms of chart success. But even though it was a much stronger track, it still didn't return Howard to the ARIA top 50. "You Know I Love You... Don't You?" did much better in the US, where Howard still had a handful of hits left up his sleeve. In the UK, it was his first single to miss the top 40 - a sign of things to come.

New Entries
Number 48 "Weirdo Libido" by Lime Spiders
Peak: number 48
1987 was a good year for Lime Spiders. After years of playing on the live circuit, the on-again, off-again rock band broke through with their first single for Virgin Records. "Weirdo Libido" was also the very first music video to be played on Rage when it premiered in April 1987 - a testament to their status as one of the hottest bands on the local music scene. Commercially, this was the pinnacle for Lime Spiders, who are ingrained in my musical memories of 1987, since they appeared in the Single Of The Week slot on the very first chart I collected.

Number 47 "Deep River Woman / Ballerina Girl" by Lionel Richie
Peak: number 43
If one smooth ballad, "Love Will Conquer All", hadn't worked on the ARIA chart, then how about a double whammy? This double A-side single did venture into the top 50, but the country-tinged "Deep River Woman" (featuring Alabama on guest vocals) and the sentimental "Ballerina Girl" felt like the musical equivalent of cruise control. In the US, where they went for that sort of thing, "Ballerina Girl" was Lionel Richie's final top 10 single.

Number 45 "Cry Wolf" by a-ha
Peak: number 45
As much as I love a-ha, even I was a bit underwhelmed by this second single from Scoundrel Days. A big hit in Europe, "Cry Wolf" was, for me, the Norwegian trio's weakest release to date - and charted accordingly in Australia. Follow-up "Manhattan Skyline" was also a bit of a disappointment and missed the ARIA top 100 completely. The band would be back on track later in 1987 when they became the latest act to record the official single for a James Bond movie

Number 37 "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" by Aretha Franklin / George Michael
Peak: number 1
So far in 1987, some great singles had entered the ARIA top 50 - but they'd all been hangovers from 1986. This duet between Aretha Franklin and George Michael was the first fantastic song released in 1987 - and it was flawless. Unlike most A-list pairings of the time, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" wasn't a big ballad taken from a film soundtrack. Instead, it was a perfect pop concoction that'd made an under-the-radar debut on Aretha's 1986 album, Aretha, where it remained while she released "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Jimmy Lee".
No doubt, the delay was partly to allow a decent gap between George's final Wham! releases and his first single as a fully fledged solo artist. And the duet was obviously lined up to ease him into his post-Wham! career instead of jumping straight into his own album. Of course, he already had solo hits "Careless Whisper" and "A Different Corner" to his name, but this was the first time he'd put out a song without Wham! to go back to afterwards. 
If any singer was going to make the transition to solo stardom effortlessly, it was George, who held his own against Aretha on "I Knew You Were...", even towards the end of the song during some of the most memorable ad libs in pop music history. Not written as a duet originally, the song, which was pitched to Tina Turner as well, was turned into one at the suggestion of Arista record exec Clive Davis. George and Aretha recorded in the studio together - except for those ad libs - and by all accounts got on famously, something that comes through in the music video. 
That positivity - both from the song and the chemistry between the performers - made it irresistible to music fans the world over, with the single topping the Australian, UK and US charts. It was George's third career chart-topper locally - and it would by no means be his last. For Aretha, it was her first stint at number 1 in Australia and would also be her final appearance on the ARIA top 50.

Number 33 "The Final Countdown" by Europe
Peak: number 2
Can you listen to this song now and hear anything but a world-conquering smash hit? Swedish hair metal band Europe didn't think their signature track would be successful and only had in mind that it would make a good opening song for their concerts. The title track of their third album - their first release on Epic Records - "The Final Countdown" was based on a keyboard riff singer Joey Tempest had written years earlier and filed away. Thankfully, the band listened to sense and were convinced it should be a single, one that would go on to top charts around the world - except in Australia, where it spent four weeks stuck at number 2.

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

Next week: want more hair metal? How about the chart debut of the biggest band in the genre. Plus, the latest hits from Dead Or Alive and Eurythmics.

Back to: Feb 15, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 1, 1987

Sunday, 19 February 2017

This Week In 1984: February 19, 1984

It'd been around for years, but 1984 was the year breakdancing went mainstream. There were films, songs, stories on kids' shows like Simon Townsend's Wonder World! and Wombat... In fact, my mum had probably heard of it.

Rock Steady Crew: the Justice Crew of the '80s

The best known crew associated with the craze was signed to a record deal and, this week in 1984, entered the ARIA top 50 with their debut single. It would be followed by even more breakdancing-related hits. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending February 19, 1984

There was a new number 1 in Australia this week in 1984 as Pat Benatar charged to the top with "Love Is A Battlefield". There she would remain for five weeks. 

Off The Chart
Number 96 "Why" by Randy Crawford
Peak: number 92
She had two top 40 singles to her name - one of which was a live cover of "Imagine" - but this single from Nightline didn't become soul singer Randy Crawford's third hit.

Number 95 "Never Never" by The Assembly
Peak: number 95
This post-Yazoo, pre-Erasure single from Vince Clarke (and Eric Radcliffe) featured a post-Undertones, pre-solo fame Feargal Sharkey on vocals. It had also been a UK top 5 hit.

Number 87 "Hooked On Australia" by Louis Clark & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Peak: number 87
The Hooked On Classics series of albums (and one top 10 single) had been an early '80s phenomenon, but there was little interest in this symphonic medley of local standards like "Click Go The Shears" and "Waltzing Matilda".

Number 81 "Middle Of The Road" by The Pretenders
Peak: number 52
After festive ballad "2000 Miles", The Pretenders kicked things up a gear with this rock track from Learning To Crawl. It'd be the band's last appearance on the ARIA chart for two-and-a-half years

New Entries
Number 48 "New Moon On Monday" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 48
Well, this was a surprise. Duran Duran's previous two singles, "Is There Something I Should Know?" and "Union Of The Snake", had debuted on the ARIA chart at number 6 and 8 respectively. "New Moon On Monday" had entered the top 100 at number 70 before spending the next eight weeks going 48-50-49-50-50-49-48-51. Of course, the big difference was that both those earlier releases had been unavailable on an album at that point and "New Moon On Monday" was included on Seven And The Ragged Tiger, which had been out since November. 
It wasn't the first time Duran Duran had experienced a flop single in Australia, with "Careless Memories" (number 60), "Rio" (number 60) and "Save A Prayer" (number 56) all having under-performed - so maybe it's not that big a surprise. I like "New Moon On Monday", but I've never watched the music video before, which is apparently the band's least favourite and features some pretty hilarious dancing at the end.

Number 43 "(Hey You) Rock Steady Crew" by Rock Steady Crew
Peak: number 33
You can just imagine the meeting at the record company: "How can we jump on this breakdancing thing all the kids are into?" For Charisma Records, it was to snap up America's preeminent b-boy crew, who already had some exposure thanks to their appearances in Flashdance and Malcolm McLaren's "Buffalo Gals" music video. The young dancers were signed to a record deal they didn't understand, and given a song co-written and co-produced by Stephen Hague (who'd go on to become one of my favourite producers) that didn't exactly challenge their limited vocal abilities. Sometimes such cynical cash-ins can fall flat, but "(Hey You) Rock Steady Crew" was a great pop song that was brought to life in the music video, which allowed the Crew to show off their real talents.

Number 42 "In The Mood" by Robert Plant
Peak: number 37
In late 1983, Robert Plant had scored his first solo hit with a song that wasn't actually about a large piece of wood. In early 1984, he was back in the chart with a song that wasn't a remake of the Glenn Miller big band classic, although I'm kind of intrigued what that might have sounded like. Probably more interesting than this "In The Mood", which isn't much of a song at all and I'll no doubt have forgotten by the time I get to the end of this sentence. The next time we'd see Robert in the top 50 it would be with a cover version - The Honeydrippers' version of "Sea Of Love" would arrive in the final weeks of the year. 

Number 38 "Talking In Your Sleep" by The Romantics
Peak: number 14
Just when it looked like The Romantics' hit-making days - or should that be day? - were behind them, they pulled another big single out of the bag. Not quite as huge as "What I Like About You" in Australia, "Talking In Your Sleep" was far and away the band's biggest hit in the US, where it reached number 3 (compared with number 49 for "What I Like..."). The song also reached the UK top 20, but not for The Romantics. A quickie cover version by Bucks Fizz charted there.

Number 35 "Sticky Music" by Sandii And The Sunsetz
Peak: number 11
Someone might have to explain "Sticky Music" to me. I have no recollection of it from the time, which is odd given it almost made the top 10. And listening to it now, I don't quite understand how it was such a big hit. I expect Countdown played some part in that. It's a pleasant enough tune, but also sounds a little like a chewing gum jingle. Fronted by the half-American, half-Japanese singer Sandra O'Neale, Sandii And The Sunsetz never returned to the ARIA chart after this.

Number 21 "Radio Ga Ga" by Queen
Peak: number 2
The week's highest new entry came from a band that were making their return to the ARIA chart after two years away. Last seen on the top 50 with 1982's "Body Language", Queen sped up the rankings with this first single from The Works, proving they'd lost none of their popularity in their absence. "Radio Ga Ga" was written by Queen drummer Roger Taylor after he heard his son say "radio caca" and is a comment on music video taking over from increasingly predictable radio playlists as the dominant medium in music. It's also classic Queen, with its audience participation handclaps and anthemic quality. The song, from which Lady Gaga took her stage name, almost gave Queen their third chart-topper, but thanks to Pat Benatar, they had to settle for number 2 instead.

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

Next week: two of the most-talked about hits of 1984 - one, a record that'd been banned in the UK and the other, a hit from the latest gender-bending star. Plus, a hard rock act discover synths. 

Back to: Feb 12, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 26, 1984

Thursday, 16 February 2017

This Week In 1992: February 16, 1992

It was a bit of slow week on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1992, and so I'm forced to talk about a subject regular readers will know is near and dear to my heart: one-hit wonders.

Right Said Fred and The Wonder Stuff's second hits arrived in 1992

Or, in this case - two acts that are often wrongly described as 1HWs. Both were British groups that had been on the chart already, making this their second hit each in Australia. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 16, 1992

At the top of the chart this week in 1992 was an act that'd reached number 1 with their fourth hit. "Let's Talk About Sex" by Salt 'n' Pepa was the highest-selling single in the country for a fourth and final week.

"Summer Of Love" by Tall Tales & True
Peak: number 51
Australian indie label rooArt had enjoyed a considerable amount of success in the previous couple of years with acts like Ratcat, The Hummingbirds and Absent Friends - but so far not Tall Tales & True. I always associate the Sydney band with Weddings Parties Anything and Things Of Stone And Wood, probably because they all had long names and all finally made their breakthrough in 1992. Unlike those other two bands, the extent of Tall Tales & True's breakthrough consisted of them almost reaching the top 50 with this breezy bit of jangly pop/rock. Still, after years of slogging away, it was a start. Question was: could they improve on it?

New Entries
Number 49 "It's Only Natural" by Crowded House
Peak: number 15
Our first new entry of the week came from a band that'd had mixed fortunes when it came to making the top 50. Three of the five singles from previous album Temple Of Low Men had peaked between numbers 51 and 100, but this third release from Crowded House's current album, Woodface, made it three from three. In fact, the perfectly pleasant "It's Only Natural" would end up being the biggest of the five singles released from Woodface. Now, if only the recently reunited band could sort out their YouTube presence, that'd be great.

Number 40 "Don't Talk Just Kiss" by Right Said Fred
Peak: number 18
It was always going to be impossible to live up to the global phenomenon that was "I'm Too Sexy", but Right Said Fred gave it their best shot with this cheeky follow-up with the unforgettable line: "let your tongue fool around". Featuring Jocelyn Brown on guest vocals and in the music video, "Don't Talk Just Kiss" returned the Fairbrass brothers (and guitarist Rob Manzoli) to the top 20 - a fact that compilers of one-hit wonder lists often overlook. Yes, the song is fairly forgettable - and most people have done just that - but a hit is a hit. In fact, Right Said Fred would manage one more in Australia before the year was out.

Number 35 "Dizzy" by Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff
Peak: number 3
This remake of the Tommy Roe smash from 1969 (number 2 in Australia, number 1 in the UK and US) could be included on a list of one-hit wonders if you were referring to comedian Vic Reeves. But his collaborators, The Wonder Stuff, had already visited the ARIA top 30 with "Caught In My Shadow". The duet was included on Vic's debut album, I Will Cure You, which also featured his previous UK top 10 single, a cover of "Born Free". Vic and his comedy partner, Bob Mortimer, would team up with EMF in 1995 for yet another remake - their version of "I'm A Believer" reached number 3 in the UK. In Australia, "Dizzy" was the last time either Vic or The Wonder Stuff would visit the ARIA top 50.

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

Next week: the debut of a singer who now has a Twitter parody account based on one of her later hits, plus the title track of the album that was the biggest seller for two years running in the UK.

Back to: Feb 9, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 23, 1992

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

This Week In 1987: February 15, 1987

As long as there'd been pop music, there have been love songs. But love songs in the '80s were pretty different than they are now - more heartfelt and romantic, less hooking up in the club.

These romantic tunes made the ARIA chart just in time for Valentine's Day 

This week in 1987, two quintessentially '80s love songs made their debut on the ARIA singles chart. Both would become the biggest hits by the singers behind them - in one case, it'd be his only top 50 appearance.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 15, 1987

After seven weeks, there was a new number 1 in Australia 30 years ago this week. "Walk Like An Egyptian" by The Bangles dislodged Pseudo Echo from the top spot, but could they hold onto it?

Off The Chart
Number 100 "True To You" by Ric Ocasek
Peak: number 100
Number 100? C'mon, this follow-up to "Emotion In Motion" deserved better than that. I actually prefer this Cars-like bop to Ric Ocasek's top 10 ballad hit, but seems I might be alone on that.

Number 95 "The Big Heat" by Stan Ridgway
Peak: number 91
This was actually the first single released from the album of the same name back in 1985. In 1987, "The Big Heat" became Stan Ridgway's third consecutive top 50 miss.

Number 94 "Home By The Sea" by Genesis
Peak: number 80
Here's another re-release, although I'm not sure why this single from Genesis's previous album (originally released in 1983) was available again while they were still releasing songs from Invisible Touch

Number 93 "Same Old Story" by Ultravox
Peak: number 93
Kind of an apt song name as Ultravox still couldn't achieve a second top 50 hit to join 1981's "Vienna". "Same Old Story" came from U-Vox, the band's first album since Midge Ure's solo detour in 1985.

New Entries
Number 50 "Cry For Love" by Iggy Pop
Peak: number 50
It always surprises me to discover that a music legend has less of a chart career than I would've expected. It happened just the other day when I was looking back into Tina Turner's Australian chart history prior to her 1984 comeback. Similarly, punk pioneer Iggy Pop hadn't ever reach the top 50 locally (solo or with The Stooges) before his mid-'80s return with the Blah-Blah-Blah album. 
The closest he'd ever come was in 1979 when "I'm Bored" got to number 68 thanks in part to his notorious appearance on Countdown. In 1987, he finally cracked the top 50 - just! - with "Cry For Love", which was co-written by The Sex Pistols' Steve Jones and co-produced, like the rest of the album, by David Bowie. This single might not have been the biggest hit in the world but another track on the synth-rock album was about to explode...

Number 47 "Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott
Peak: number 12
You can picture the scene that must've played out in countless bachelor pads around the world in early 1987 - a guy hoping to get lucky goes all out with a romantic, candlelit dinner for two, invites his lady over, pops on this seductive R&B jam, and proceeds to try and shake her down. Who could resist? When it came to Gregory Abbott's debut single, few could resist the smooth groove of "Shake You Down", which topped the US chart, reached the UK top 10 and just missed ours. 
I'll never understand why this super-sexy single wasn't as big as the sappy "I Wanna Wake Up With You", which was still making its way up the chart this week. But, like Boris Gardiner, Gregory would end up being a one-hit wonder locally as follow-up "I Got The Feelin' (It's Over)" missed the top 100 completely. Fun fact: in the late '70s Gregory was married to another one-hit wonder, Freda Payne, whose big single, "Band Of Gold", reached number 5 in 1971.

Number 46 "Heartbreak Beat" by The Psychedelic Furs
Peak: number 26
It's amazing what having a movie named after one of your songs can do for your profile. Fresh from the exposure afforded them by 1986's Pretty In Pink, for which they re-recorded their 1981 single of the same name, The Psychedelic Furs were suddenly a big priority for Columbia Records. With some not-too-gentle prodding, the British band went into the studio and came up with Midnight To Midnight, their most commercial album to date. The result: "Heartbreak Beat" gave them their first top 50 hit since 1982's "Love My Way" and their first ever US top 40 single. As these things so often go, frontman Richard Butler wasn't happy with the album - saying, "There's nothing lyrically I'm proud of" - and the Furs went back to a more alternative sound (and less chart success) for their next release, 1989's Book Of Days

Number 33 "Is This Love?" by Alison Moyet
Peak: number 13
Alison Moyet was no stranger to the top half of the Australian chart, having visited six times either as a solo performer or as the vocalist of Yazoo. More often than not, she'd scored hits with songs about relationships - but usually about the sadder, more dramatic side of love. Songs like "All Cried Out" or "Invisible". Not the type of tunes you'd bust out for Valentine's Day unless you were spending it on your own with a bottle of wine. Fast forward to February 1987 and Alison changed her tune with the buoyant "Is This Love?", the first single from Alison's second solo album, Raindancing. Co-written and co-produced by Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, it edged out "Love Resurrection" and "All Cried Out" to become Alison's biggest single in Australia.    

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

Next week: two of the biggest hits of 1987 debut - one, a superstar duet and the other, a huge hair metal track.

Back to: Feb 8, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 22, 1987

Sunday, 12 February 2017

This Week In 1984: February 12, 1984

Music history is littered with stories of how one record company exec or another didn't think a song would become a hit before being proved wrong when it did just that. This week in 1984, one such song debuted on the ARIA singles chart on its way to the top 10.

"Break My Stride" became a top 10 hit for the first time in 1984

The artist was proved right and his decision to leave the label that didn't believe in the track paid off. Not only that, but the song has actually been a top 10 hit in Australia twice - for the original artist in 1984 and for another one-hit wonder 13 years later.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending February 12, 1984

Speaking of doing things twice, "Original Sin" by INXS spent its second and final week at number 1 this week in 1984.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Another Day In The Big World" by Eurogliders
Peak: number 66
It was an improvement on the performance of previous single "No Action", but this more upbeat track from forthcoming album This Island couldn't quite make it happen for Eurogliders. 

Number 99 "Sierra Leone" by Coconut Rough
Peak: number 99
I only discovered this NZ top 5 hit thanks to one of Rage's recent Countdown repeats. It's a shame it didn't do better locally - and isn't available on the Australian iTunes store.

Number 98 "Soul Kissing" by David Knopfler
Peak: number 80
He'd formed Dire Straits with brother Mark and was involved with the band's first three albums before going it alone. Sounding like his former band at their dreariest, "Soul Kissing" was David's debut single.

Number 85 "Chance" by Big Country
Peak: number 85
This follow-up to "In A Big Country" did better than its predecessor in the UK, reaching the top 10. Not so in Australia, and I have to say I think we got it right with this pretty dull song.

Number 83 "Sunshine Reggae" by Laid Back
Peak: number 56
Before Ace Of Base fused reggae and dance a decade later, fellow Scandi act Laid Back visited the Caribbean - musically - on this European smash. You might also be familiar with the single's much-sampled B-side.

New Entries
Number 47 "Break My Stride" by Matthew Wilder
Peak: number 6
After paying his dues as a backing singer and vocalist for TV ads, singer/songwriter Matthew Wilder landed his own record deal with Arista Records, but his one and only single for them, "Work So Hard", wasn't a hit. Written out of frustration at not being able to please Arista head honcho Clive Davis with any of his subsequent material, "Break My Stride" was also rejected by his label. As a result, Matthew asked to be released from his record deal. 
His new label at Epic Records had no issue with the reggae-lite song and label owner Joe Isgro was able to turn it into a hit. The much-covered and -sampled tune was Matthew's only hit in Australia, and was also the sole hit for dance act Unique II, who covered it in 1996. Matthew did have a couple of other top 100 entries in the US, like "The Kid's American", which was also taken from his debut album, I Don't Speak The Language. There was no music video made for "Break My Stride", but you can enjoy Matthew's appearance on Solid Gold below - complete with interruption from host Marilyn McCoo.

Number 45 "Catch Me I'm Falling" by Real Life
Peak: number 8
After the temporary setback that was their second single, "Openhearted", synthpop band Real Life were back in the top 10 with the latest track lifted from debut album Heartland. Almost as brilliant as "Send Me An Angel", "Catch Me I'm Falling" also gave them a second top 40 hit in the US, but that's where the good times ended. The album's final single, "Always", wasn't released in Australia (but came out in Germany) and by the time Real Life returned in 1985, they only managed one minor hit from second album Flame.

Number 42 "Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idol
Peak: number 42
Billy Idol was certainly a persistent guy. Not one to take no for an answer, he (or, at least, his record company) routinely re-released his songs, hoping to eventually turn them into hits. That practice started with "Dancing With Myself", which had been the final single by Billy's former band, Generation X, in 1980 and then his debut solo release the following year. In the gap between his first two albums, Billy Idol and Rebel Yell, "Dancing With Myself" came out again - and finally reached the ARIA top 50. It didn't get very high, but it did hang around, spending 16 weeks between the 40s and 60s. Other early singles like "Mony Mony" and "Hot In The City" would also get the re-release treatment in Australia, while in the UK, "White Wedding" and "Catch My Fall" came out more than once.

Number 39 "Let's Stay Together" by Tina Turner
Peak: number 19
Tina Turner's solo career hadn't offered up much in the way of chart action up until this point, but a new manager, a new record deal and a collaboration with the guys behind Heaven 17 changed all that. Having not released any music since 1979's Love Explosion album, Tina was one of the singers who provided guest vocals on an album of covers by British Electric Foundation (aka Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware). 
The track she performed on was a remake of "Ball Of Confusion", and while not a hit, it did prompt Tina to work on another cover with the duo - a version of Al Green's 1971 single "Let's Stay Together". The synth-laden update of the song, which had been a US chart-topper for Al, was just what her career needed, and also reached the UK top 10 and US top 30. Suddenly, it was full steam ahead, with Tina given two weeks to record what would end up as Private Dancer.

Number 38 "Cry Just A Little Bit" by Shakin' Stevens
Peak: number 31
You don't hear much about him anymore, but in the early '80s, Shakin' Stevens (real name: Michael Barratt) was massive. Among his four top 10 hits were two consecutive number 1s, "This Ole House" and "You Drive Me Crazy". The fervour had died down - in Australia, at least - by 1984, with this less rock'n'roll and more pop-influenced single just missing the top 30. In the UK, "Cry Just A Little Bit" reached number 3 and Shakey would continue to score top 10 singles there until 1987.

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

Next week: breakdancing reaches the ARIA chart, plus the biggest hit in four years for one British band and a surprisingly disappointing performance by another UK group.

Back to: Feb 5, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 19, 1984