This Week In 1988: September 11, 1988
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2013. Updated in 2018.
In the world of TV, shows are said to have "jumped the shark" when they're past their best. But, in music, there's no similar term for an artist who goes from pop star to flop star.
This week in 1988, an artist who'd ruled the charts at the start of the decade, struggled with her first single from a new album, while possibly the biggest music act in the world barely made an impression on the top 50 with his latest single. For one singer, it was more of a problem than for the other.
There were no such problems facing Fairground Attraction this week in 1988, with "Perfect" still sitting at number 1. But, it wouldn't be very long at all before they, too, passed their used by date.
Off The Chart
Number 99 "Reptile" by The Church
Peak: number 94
"Under The Milky Way" had given them their biggest hit in years, but this more upbeat second single from Starfish wasn't able to capitalise on that momentum.
Number 70 "Hold On To The Nights" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 70
In the US, it became the first of his three number 1 hits, but this power ballad didn't follow "Should've Known Better" and "Endless Summer Nights" into the top 50.
Number 48 "Somewhere In My Heart" by Aztec Camera
Peak: number 34
Like Simply Red and Jamiroquai, Aztec Camera is a band that essentially revolved around its frontman, Roddy Frame, with all other members kept in the background (and regularly replaced). This was the Scottish act's biggest hit (a number 3 smash in the UK), and it's one of my favourite songs from 1988, which makes its lowly Australian chart position somewhat of a disappointment. Always guaranteed to put a smile on my face, no matter how many times I've listened to it before.
Number 45 "Dark Age" by The Hippos
Peak: number 45
Not to be confused with an identically named American band from the '90s, The Hippos were one of those obscure Australian pub bands that never quite broke through to major success. I don't really recall listening to the song at the time - and, if I'm honest, I didn't make it through the entire YouTube clip below, but here it is, for posterity's sake.
Number 44 "Another Part Of Me" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 44
Bad had confirmed his status as one of the world's top recording artists, but this latest single (the sixth) from the album didn't get any further than this debut position. Still, for a sixth single from an album to get anywhere near the top 50 in the first place was impressive enough. For me, there were much better songs that could have been released before "Another Part Of Me", such as the duet with Stevie Wonder, "Just Good Friends". More singles would come, since Michael wasn't done mining Bad for potential hits yet - not by a long shot. In fact, "Just Good Friends" would end up as one of only two song not released as a single. The other: "Speed Demon".
Number 40 "The Rumour" by Olivia Newton-John
Peak: number 35
There was no bigger pop star in the first two years of the '80s than ONJ. Off the back of her megastar-making turn in Grease, Australia's sweetheart released a string of worldwide hit singles, none bigger than 1981's "Physical". In a pre-Madonna world, "Physical" was deemed controversial, but it's probably no coincidence that Livvy's "shark-jumping" moment came in 1985, when Madonna redefined what it took to shock the world.
1985's "Soul Kiss", the title track of ONJ's first studio album since Physical, was moderately successful, but not the type of hit she'd become accustomed to - and nothing else from that album fared any better. Three years later, she enlisted the help of Elton John and his regular co-writer, Bernie Taupin, for her next album's title track. The result was even more disappointing - from a chart perspective, that is, since I think "The Rumour" is a much better song than "Soul Kiss", but by 1988, Olivia's time had definitely passed.
Number 32 "Perfect World" by Huey Lewis & The News
Peak: number 22
Here's another act who would have some difficulty living up to a massive album - although for Huey and pals, their efforts didn't go as unappreciated as Olivia's. "Perfect World" was the lead single from Small World, the follow-up to Fore!, an album so associated with the '80s it featured prominently in Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. Released in 1986, Fore! had yielded a string of hit singles (and included 1985 soundtrack hit "The Power Of Love" for good measure). Two years later, "Perfect World" was another US top 5 hit for the band and performed reasonably well in Australia, but Small World sold a fraction of what Fore! had, and subsequent hits were hard to come by.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1988:
Next week: anything Farnsey could do, another Aussie music legend thought he could do, too. Plus, the arrival of one of the biggest rock acts of the late '80s and early '90s, and my favourite single of the entire decade.