This Week In 1984: November 11, 1984
Up until the last month of 1989, every Madonna single released in the '80s except one had reached the top 20 (and most had gone top 10) in Australia. And if the name of the song that spoiled that hit streak wasn't jumping out at you below, you probably wouldn't automatically pick it as the unlucky track.
This week in 1984, the single that would ruin the Queen of Pop's track record debuted on the ARIA top 50 and fall 20 places short of her next least successful single of the decade (1986's "Open Your Heart"). And yet "Lucky Star" is one of her most famous songs.
One of Stevie Wonder's most famous songs was having a grand old time on the chart this week in 1984. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" stayed at number 1 for a fourth week.
Off The Chart
Number 99 "Penny Lover" by Lionel Richie
Peak: number 73
It was one single — and ballad — too many for Lionel Richie with this fifth release from Can't Slow Down falling short of the charts highs climbed by the other four. The album still had another year on the top 100 left in it, though.
Number 98 "High Energy" by Evelyn Thomas
Peak: number 98
Disco may have been dead, but the similarly club-oriented Hi-NRG was thriving, although this European hit of the (almost) same name didn't cross over in Australia.
Number 92 "War Baby" by Tom Robinson
Peak: number 73
He'd reached number 13 in 1978 with "2-4-6-8 Motorway" with his former group, Tom Robinson Band, but this was the British singer's only solo appearance on the Australian chart.
Peak: number 9
A year after it became their third top 10 hit at home in the Netherlands, synthpop band Time Bandits found success in Australia with this slightly retitled single (it was called "I'm Only..." originally). I'm assuming Countdown played a part in the belated local success of this single, which would be followed in almost a year's time by a second top 10 smash. Before that, however, one of the group's earlier Dutch hits, "Listen To The Man With The Golden Voice", didn't fare so well here but is worth a listen, as is their biggest hit at home, 1982's "I'm Specialized In You".
Number 46 "Between The Eyes" by The Angels
Peak: number 44
Earlier in the year, I was pleased to reach the last song in The Angels' impressively long string of top 50 singles, 1992's "Tear Me Apart". I've never been a fan of the Australian rock band and so having to recap 18 different songs by them over the past five years hasn't come easily. But I wasn't quite done. Thanks to the roundabout way I've approached covering the charts from years gone past, I hadn't yet touched this lead single from Two Minute Warning. Peaking a place lower than their last chart single, 1983's "Live Lady Live" (itself the third single from Watch The Red), it wasn't the most auspicious of starts for Two Minute Warning. And as we've already seen in my 1985 posts, none of the other singles from the LP ("Look The Other Way", "Sticky Little Bitch" and "Underground") reached the top 50. The album itself was The Angels' third to peak at number 5, however, so it wasn't all bad news for them.
Number 37 "Phantom Shuffle" by Austen Tayshus
Peak: number 16
Speaking of things I'm not a fan of, here's the second release from the man responsible for 1983's biggest single. But even though "Australiana" wasn't for me, I could completely understand why it was so massive. "Phantom Shuffle", on the other hand, I didn't get at all at the time and still don't. A departure from the stand-up routine format of his first single, the part-spoken, part-rapped, part-sung parody of the comic strip character seemed like an odd choice of subject matter. Was The Phantom that popular in 1984? And given Paul Hogan had been satirising the character on his own show, wasn't it territory that had already been covered? Perhaps I'm forgetting something about this track all these years later, but its chart position and short chart life suggest not many people got the joke.
Number 36 "Lucky Star" by Madonna
Peak: number 36
It's a legitimate classic, but for the first six years of Madonna's chart career in Australia, "Lucky Star" was her lowest-charting single — and the only one to peak below number 16. So what went wrong? I'd say it's a combination of factors, none of which have to do with the strength of the song itself, which is among her best ever singles (according to me).
For one thing, her self-titled debut album had been on the top 50 since April and spent a lot of that time in the top 20. For another, it should probably have been released a month or two earlier to continue the momentum from "Holiday", "Burning Up" and "Borderline". Instead, "Lucky Star" didn't crack the top 50 until its fifth week on the chart — weeks after "Borderline" had left the top 50.
Possibly most importantly is that "Lucky Star", which spent three weeks locked at this peak position before falling back down, was quickly overshadowed by her next release, which would shoot straight into the top 40 on its way to give Madonna her first number 1 hit. It would take until 1989's "Oh Father" for one of her singles to perform worse on the chart.
In the UK, it was a similar story, with "Lucky Star" her only song not to reach the top 10 all the way until 1994's "Take A Bow", although it must be noted that "Borderline" only reached its number 2 peak there on re-release in 1986, having bombed out at number 56 first time around. There was better news in the US, where "Lucky Star" became Madonna's first top 5 hit and the biggest hit from her debut album.
Number 21 "Freedom" by Wham!
Peak: number 3
Our final new entry for the week comes from another massive pop act that had their string of hits broken by one under-performing track. Up until this point, everything Wham! had released had made the top 10 except for 1983's "Club Tropicana" — a streak they continued up until their final single also flopped. The follow-up to both "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (in terms of Wham! singles) and "Careless Whisper" (in terms of songs performed by George Michael), "Freedom" had a lot to live up to. Although it didn't top the chart like those two singles, it did spend nine weeks in the top 10 (three at number 3) and, unlike those number 1 hits, had to compete with the duo's second album, Make It Big, also being in stores. Another perfectly formed pop nugget, "Freedom" didn't even have a music video during its chart life here — the one below was put together for the song's mid-1985 American release from footage of George and Andrew Ridgeley making their historical visit to China.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:
Next week: a song by a pint-sized superstar that wasn't massive at the time but was his highest-charting hit immediately following his death over three decades later. Plus, a novelty single by a one-hit wonder stand-up comedian.