This Week In 1988: December 11, 1988
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2013. Updated in 2018.
I have good news and bad news. The good news: this week in 1988, there were 10 new entries on the ARIA top 50 singles chart. As regular readers will know, that was pretty unusual for the slow-moving Australian chart, so it means we have lots to talk about (also including two breakers that didn't make the top 50).
The bad news: despite such an avalanche of new tracks, only one of them would go on to be a major hit - the rest would get stuck between numbers 50 and 31. And, interestingly, it wasn't unknowns failing to hit chart highs - it was established stars, often with brand new recordings.
One song that was shaping up to be one of the biggest hits of 1988 was the song still firmly lodged at number 1: Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" - and you should know by now how I felt about that.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 83
Another sample-ridden track to follow up "Doctorin' The House", but this time production duo Coldcut threw some reggae into the mix with vocals from Black Uhuru singer Junior Reid.
Peak: number 73
Here's a song I was a big fan of around the time, although at this stage, the debut release by British pop/soul act Roachford had been a flop in the UK (it peaked at number 61 there earlier in the year) and didn't do much here either. That would change a few short weeks later when "Cuddly Toy" received a re-release back home and stormed into the UK top 10. Would it have made any difference for the Australian record company to wait until it was a hit in the UK before promoting it here? Probably not, but it does seem like an unusual release strategy. Andrew Roachford and band would end up having greater success in Australia, but not for another five-and-a-half years.
Peak: number 58
It feels like I'm constantly writing about Bruce Springsteen, with yet another single from the Tunnel Of Love album making its mark here. It wasn't much of a mark - and in the US, it wasn't even released as a single - but it was the fifth track lifted from an album that had been out for over a year, so expectations can't have been that high. This is the first time I've ever listened to the song, and while I can see the appeal of previous single "Tougher Than The Rest", this does nothing for me.
Number 50 "The Generation Gap" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 50
Another song that holds little appeal for me is this cover of a 1970 track by country singer Jeannie C Riley. Given this was a brand new recording by Hoodoo Gurus, who were coming off their most successful album to date (1987's Blow Your Cool!), its performance must have been disappointing. Whether or not that was the reason why "The Generation Gap" was left off the band's next album, Magnum Cum Louder, I don't know - but I'm glad there was less of this racket and more melodic songs like "Come Anytime" when they returned in mid-1989.
Number 49 "Can't Control Myself" by Wa Wa Nee
Peak: number 31
It had been the ARIA chart Single Of The Week two weeks earlier, and, this week, the first cut from Wa Wa Nee's second album, Blush, cracked the top 50 - with a bullet, I might add (which was something the new entries either side of it didn't have). The upward trajectory of "Can't Control Myself" continued over the next two weeks, but then, just as quickly, the song stalled, unable to break into the top 30. It was a bit of a comedown for the act who'd placed three tracks inside the top 10 from their debut album and even landed a moderate US hit with the third ("Sugar Free"). Even though I was a fan, I didn't feel that "Can't Control Myself" was as good as their previous efforts - and subsequent singles didn't improve things.
Number 48 "Finger On The Trigger" by The Angels
Peak: number 34
And, back to the Aussie rock... Like "The Generation Gap", this is another single that didn't appear on a studio album. Instead, it bridged the gap between 1987's concert album, Live Line, and the upcoming Beyond Salvation, and was the type of grungy pub rock anthem The Angels were known for. Listening to it now, it's vaguely familiar, but would certainly have been something I'd have fast-forwarded through while watching Rage.
Number 47 "Beyond The Call" by John Farnham
Peak: number 40
Bringing our foursome of long-forgotten Australian singles to a close is this track from Age Of Reason, which I had, indeed, forgotten was released in its own right. At least "Beyond The Call" made the top 50 - fourth single "We're No Angels" didn't even reach the top 100. But, unlike the Hoodoos, The Angels and, er, the Wa's, John wasn't really in any position to complain about this song's lowly chart peak since Age Of Reason had been a massively successful album and he'd already landed two top 10 singles from it. This song, which I haven't heard since the late '80s, is classic Farnsey - rousing chorus, uplifting lyrics and an impressive mane of hair showcased in the music video.
Peak: number 38
The song had been a hit many times over - an Australian number 1 for Bryan in 1976, as well as a success in the States for its songwriter Wilbert Harrison and rock band Canned Heat as "Let's Work Together". In 1988, Bryan's version received a remix to coincide with the release of compilation The Ultimate Collection - but unlike other 1988 makeovers, such as Petula Clark's "Downtown '88", the new version of "Let's Stick Together" wasn't that different.
Number 43 "Love, Truth & Honesty" by Bananarama
Peak: number 32
Here's another track released to promote a best of - although unlike "Let's Stick Together", "Love, Truth & Honesty" was a brand new song by the British girl group. In fact, it was the first all-new single featuring replacement member Jacquie O'Sullivan (previous release "I Want You Back" had originally been recorded with Siobhan Fahey). Although it wasn't one of Bananarama's biggest hits, it's always been one of my favourites.
Number 41 "In Your Room" by The Bangles
Peak: number 41
From the biggest pop girl group on the scene to the most successful girl band in the world... this was the first single from The Bangles' third album, Everything. "In Your Room" was another top 5 hit back home in the States for Vicki, Debbi, Michael and Susannah, but the song got no further than this peak position in Australia - continuing the hit-flop-hit-flop trend of their singles here. They redeemed themselves (and continued that trend) with the second single from Everything, which we'll see next year when we look back at the charts from 1989.
Peak: number 37
From "Beat It" to "Sweet Child O' Mine", the '80s were filled with memorable rock guitar solos - and here's another song that features an instantly familiar hook. In fact, it's about all there is to the track since Joe was an instrumental artist whose Surfing With The Alien album had been out for a year by the time "Always With Me..." took off. Clearly talented, but about as interesting to me as Kenny G had been a year earlier with "Songbird". And, on that note, we'll move right along.
Number 36 "Domino Dancing" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 36
The third of three singles in a row to peak where it debuted, "Domino Dancing" was, like many of the songs we've seen so far, a new track from a group used to having much bigger hits. Combining PSB's trademark synthpop with the sound of Latin freestyle (it was even co-produced with Lewis A Martinée), it was the latest in a string of classic pop tracks by the duo and even came with a glossy homoerotic clip. But, despite being another smash hit back home in Britian, Australians were about as interested in "Domino Dancing" as they were in "In Your Room". Like, The Bangles, Pet Shop Boys would have more big hits in Australia - but the wait for those would be much longer.
Peak: number 3
Supergroups had been around since the 1960s, but never before had there been a band whose members were all as individually successful and widely known as the five men who comprised The Traveling Wilburys.
George Harrison (The Beatles) had previously collaborated with ELO's Jeff Lynne on his 1987 solo album, Cloud 9, and, in fact, "Handle With Care" was originally intended to be a B-side to that album's third single, "This Is Love", with Roy Orbison roped in to contribute. The track was recorded at Bob Dylan's house (so he joined in), while Tom Petty was an unexpected addition to proceedings.
The finished track was deemed too good to waste as a B-side (although, in the end, it was a much bigger hit in Australia than in either the US or UK) and led to a whole album from the quintet. That album, imaginatively titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, was a massive success and, in turn, gave Roy and Tom's solo careers a shot in the arm.
Fun fact: Joe Satriani is also a member of supergroup Chickenfoot, whose second album was deceptively called Chickenfoot III - just as the second album by the Wilburys was titled Vol 3.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1988:
Next week: the second last chart for 1998, which unfortunately is nowhere near as exciting as this week's top 50.