Wednesday, 8 February 2017

This Week In 1987: February 8, 1987

You may not remember his name or what his group is called, but if you recall anything about the singer of top 10 hit "Word Up" it'd be the fact that he wore a bright red codpiece.

Pop's most famous codpiece, as worn by Cameo's Larry Blackmon

Up there with Madonna's pointy bras and Michael Jackson's sparkly glove, the accessory is one of the most distinctive items of clothing in music. Luckily, the band's one Australian hit was also pretty memorable. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending February 8, 1987

Meanwhile, another memorable track, "Funky Town" by Pseudo Echo, spent its seventh and final week at number 1 this week in 1987.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Each Time You Break My Heart" by Nick Kamen
Peak: number 84
Model Nick Kamen had featured in a famous UK ad for Levi's 501s before turning his hand to singing. This debut single was co-written by Madonna, who also featured on backing vocals.

Number 98 "Thin Red Line" by Glass Tiger
Peak: number 91
After reaching the top 10 with debut single "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)", Canada's Glass Tiger found themselves in the bottom 10 with this follow-up. Perhaps Australia should've followed America's lead and gone with "Someday" instead.

Number 94 "Initiation" by GANGgajang
Peak: number 69
Like most of GANGgajang's previous releases, this lead single from upcoming album gangAGAIN deserved to do better. Sydney residents might be interested to see what Sydney Park looked like in the mid-'80s in the music video.

"Bring On The Crazy" by The Radiators
Peak: number 65
How much does the intro to this song sound like Eurythmics' "Thorn In My Side"? That aside, this was a fairly unremarkable single, which preceded The Radiators' fifth album, Nasty Habits In Nice Children. Unremarkable in that it wasn't as memorable as songs like "Comin' Home" or "No Tragedy", and unremarkable in that it, as a result, wasn't a hit.

New Entries
Number 45 "Don't Tear It Down" by V. Spy V. Spy
Peak: number 31
First entering the top 100 in early December, it looked like the latest from V. Spy V. Spy was destined to do about as well as their singles normally managed. Whether it was the promotional might of new record label WEA or the fact that it was their strongest song yet, slowly but surely "Don't Tear It Down" ventured into the top 50. As usual, the track had a topical theme, written about the demolition of squats in Sydney to make way for a freeway. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Number 44 "Shelter" by Lone Justice
Peak: number 38
She's already written a number 1 single - Feargal Sharkey's "A Good Heart" - and would go on to have a massive solo hit in the form of "Show Me Heaven", but Maria McKee's band never really got off the ground. The lead single and title track of Lone Justice's second album, "Shelter" reminds me a little of solo Stevie Nicks - when she's in rock mode as opposed to dance/pop mode - but it's ultimately a bit bland for my taste. With the band finding only limited success with "Shelter", they split up shortly after.

Number 43 "We Love You" by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Peak: number 18
OMD were on a bit of a hit streak in Australia at this point in their career, with "We Love You" giving the synthpop band their third consecutive top 20 hit. The story wasn't the same in the UK or the US, with the second single from The Pacific Age flopping in both those countries despite being one of their most commercial singles to date. In fact, their more mainstream direction was a point of contention for the band that would ultimately result in a rift between founding members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys.

Number 39 "Always The Sun" by The Stranglers
Peak: number 21
Next up, a band that'd only done well in Australia with their more commercial songs - tracks like "Golden Brown" (number 10 in 1982) and "Skin Deep" (number 11 in early 1985). This week in 1987, "Always To The Sun" became the final entry on that short but excellent list. The version in the official music video below seems to be an edit of the 1990 remix, while there's a link to the original 1986 version in the song title above.

Number 38 "Word Up!" by Cameo
Peak: number 6
After a decade of releasing music, two things changed for funk band Cameo in 1986: 1) they released "Word Up!" and 2) frontman Larry Blackmon wore his trademark red codpiece for the first time in the song's music video. I'm not saying the second fact had anything to do with the song becoming a hit in Australia in early 1987, but it was certainly a talking point, as in "what the hell is he wearing?" Even without the sartorial gimmick, which Larry was hesitant about at first, "Word Up!" would have been massive. 
With its nagging hook, infinitely quotable lyrics and Larry's nasal vocal style, it sounded like nothing else on the chart - and at the time, I remember it taking me a while to get into the song because it was so different from the type of thing I was used to hearing. Despite a couple of further US hits, "Word Up!" would prove to be too big to live up to for Cameo in Australia. The much-covered song - everyone from Mel B (as Melanie G) to Korn to Little Mix has had a crack at it - has returned to the ARIA top 50 on two occasions, although my favourite remake is the one by British rock band Gun.

Number 28 "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" by The Angels
Peak: number 7
The highest new entry 30 years ago this week was also another frequently remade song, although this time it was a cover version rather than the original that made its debut. Originally released in 1965 by The Animals, "We Gotta Get Outta This Place" was a pretty good fit for The Angels and was an unsurprisingly large hit for them. In fact, the remake is the biggest of the 20 top 50 hits they achieved throughout their career, edging out 1980's "No Secret" (their only other top 10 single) by one spot.

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

Next week: a female singer returns with her first new music since 1985, a new wave band breaks a four-year chart drought and a singer who'd been recording since the late '60s finally pops his head into the top 50.

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


  1. I don't think I've actually heard the Nick Kamen song before. It sounds a bit like the Breakfast Club musically.

    The Angels and Stranglers tracks were the only ones among this week's new entries I was aware of at the time, but I think I would have heard the OMD and Cameo tracks then. 'Always the Sun' is a classic, and I'm surprised it didn't do much better both here and in the UK. I thought the song was by another artist at the time, but now can't remember who (possibly Sting). I much prefer the original to the 1990 remix.

    1. Not surprising the Nick Kamen song sounds like the Breakfast Club, with Madonna's co-write and involvement. It's not a bad track at all really.

    2. "Each Time..." was co-written by Madonna and Stephen Bray. Stephen was in The Breakfast Club with Madonna in the late 70s and was still with them when they released their album in 1987 (he co-wrote all of their songs, including "Right On Track").