This Week In 1986: October 12, 1986
I've always thought that if you're going to do a cover version, you should really do something different with the song. Otherwise, people may as well just listen to the original. Either that, or choose an obscure song to remake so, when you have a hit, yours becomes the definitive version.
This week in 1986, two cover versions debuted on the ARIA singles chart — and both took the songs in different directions than the recordings that had come before. In one case, the update was radically different.
Another cover version was at number 1 this week in 1986. Bananarama's remake of "Venus" spent its fourth week on top.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 63
Except they weren't getting anywhere! After the middling performance of their debut single, Crowded House bombed out completely with what was another strong single.
Number 95 "Sinful" by Pete Wylie
Peak: number 69
His former band, The Mighty Wah! (or just Wah!), missed the Australian chart with their UK top 3 hit, "The Story Of The Blues (Part 1)", but singer Pete Wylie made some waves with this solo sing-along.
Number 84 "Camouflage" by Stan Ridgway
Peak: number 76
The Vietnam War continued to provide inspiration for artists, including ex-Wall Of Voodoo singer Stan Ridgway on this European top 5 hit.
Peak: number 58
Mondo Rock's last studio album, 1984's The Modern Bop, had equalled the number 2 placing of 1981's Chemistry and provided them with their highest-charting single to date with "Come Said The Boy". Next, came the requisite best of album, Up To The Moment, before the band led by former Daddy Cool singer Ross Wilson returned with 1986's Boom Baby Boom. I'd imagine Ross and friends would've hoped for a better showing than number 58 with lead single "Rule Of Threes". Yes, "Good Advice", had charted similarly in early 1985, but that was a new song on a top 5 greatest hits album, not the first taste of a whole new project. Perhaps if they'd led with "Primitive Love Rites" instead of the adequate but ultimately forgettable "Rule Of Threes", things might've turned out differently for the band.
Number 50 "Wait Up" by The Cockroaches
Peak: number 28
Since the start of the decade, they'd released a string of singles on a variety of labels, and even poked their noses onto the ARIA top 100 with 1984's "See You In Spain", but things really started to come together for The Cockroaches in 1986. Signed to Regular Records, they began work on their debut album, which would come out in early 1987, and landed their first hit with "Wait Up". An energetic burst of rock'n'roll-influenced pop with shared lead vocals from brothers Paul and John Field, it was an indication of why the band had earnt themselves a popular live following even if they hadn't enjoyed chart success before.
Number 46 "Feel The Heat" by Jean Beauvoir
Peak: number 46
So far in the '80s, he'd been a member of shock punk band Plasmatics and played with Little Steven (Van Zandt), but 1986 also marked a time of change for blond mohawked singer/bassist Jean Beauvoir. He released his debut solo album, Drums Along The Mohawk, and had his song "Feel The Heat" included in the Sylvester Stallone action film (is there any other kind?) Cobra. Given its lowly chart placing both here and in the US, "Feel The Heat" has never really caught my attention before, but it's the type of inspirational soundtrack tune you only got in the '80s and I might just have to check if it's on the iTunes store.
Number 38 "You Can Call Me Al" by Paul Simon
Peak: number 2
A couple of weeks ago, we saw Paul Simon's Graceland album enter the top 50 — and by now, it was up to number 17 just as its lead single started to take off. Easily the most commercial song on the album, "You Can Call Me Al" provided a useful introduction to the Graceland project, explaining, as it did, the experience Paul had travelling from his "hard" life in America to South Africa to work with the musicians there.
Although he would go on to tour the world with musicians from South Africa, Paul chose a collaborator who had nothing to do with "You Can Call Me Al" (other than the fact that Paul had performed the song on Saturday Night Live) for the song's music video. Comedian Chevy Chase lip synced Paul's part in the simple but effective clip that probably had as much to do with the single's success as the song itself.
And the single was a huge success in Australia, spending 13 weeks in the top 10, including two non-consecutive weeks at number 2 stuck behind "You're The Voice". Despite all the acclaim — and some controversy — that came Graceland's way, "You Can Call Me Al" was never a big hit in America, despite two chart runs. In 1986, it reached a lowly number 44. Then, a Grammy Award for Album Of The Year later, the single was re-released in the States and climbed to a slightly more respectable number 23.
Number 37 "Typical Male" by Tina Turner
Peak: number 20
Next up is a song that, conversely, was a major hit in the US, spending three weeks at number 2 there, but was much more modestly received in Australia and the UK (where it peaked at number 33). The first single from Tina Turner's Break Every Rule album, "Typical Male" was co-written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, and produced by the latter — the same team who'd been behind her comeback hit, "What's Love Got To Do With It". For me, "Typical Male" marked the turning point in Tina's career where I went from quite liking some of her songs to not being able to stand her. Tucked away on the B-side of "Typical Male" was a song we'd be hearing a lot more of in years to come: "Don't Turn Around", which was turned into a hit by both Aswad and Ace Of Base.
Number 33 "Bad Moon Rising" by The Reels
Peak: number 11
Speaking of cover versions, here's one by an act that was last been seen on the top 100 in 1982... with another remake. In fact, The Reels' only two significant hits up until this point had been with covers. 1982's number 7 single "This Guy's In Love (With You)" had originally been recorded by Herb Alpert, while the Dubbo-formed, Sydney-based band had earlier reached number 12 in 1981 with their version of Jim Reeves' "According To My Heart" (which was included on the mostly remakes EP 5 Great Gift Ideas From The Reels).
With the band re-emerging in 1986 after a couple of years off the scene while singer David Mason recovered from illness, they were signed to Regular Records (them again!) and opted to release another remake: Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising". But The Reels' version of the late '60s classic (a number 3 hit in Australia) was nothing like the jingly jangly original. This new synths and strings version completely reinvented the track for the '80s — and the public loved what they heard, awarding The Reels with their second biggest hit.
Number 23 "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Communards
Peak: number 2
Like "Bad Moon Rising", "Don't Leave Me This Way" had already been a top 10 hit in Australia — but not by the original artist. Thelma Houston's 1976 remake of the song that had been originally recorded the previous year by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes reached number 6 locally in 1977 (as opposed to the number 78 peak achieved by Harold's version the same year). Almost a decade later, Communards gave the disco favourite a Hi-NRG update and achieved the song's highest chart placement in Australia (and became the number 1 single of the year in the UK).
Communards singer Jimmy Somerville was no stranger to reinterpreting disco tracks, having recorded a medley of "I Feel Love", "Love To Love You Baby" and "Johnny Remember Me" with his former band, Bronski Beat, and Marc Almond. I wasn't that keen on that single, but I thought "Don't Leave Me This Way" was flawless. Like that medley, "Don't Leave Me This Way" was performed as a duet, this time alongside Sarah Jane Morris, who accessed the lower section of her four-octave range to contrast with Jimmy's piercing falsetto. The remake gave Communards the hit they desperately needed, with two previous singles having missed the top 100 completely.
Number 20 "Wild Wild Life" by Talking Heads
Peak: number 13
In the previous 12 months, Talking Heads had really hit their stride in Australia, registering two top 20 hits with "Road To Nowhere" and "And She Was". They made it a hat trick with this lead single from True Stories, which became their second number 2 album in a row locally. So commercially successful was the once alternative band at this point that a film co-written and directed by David Byrne also called True Stories was released this week in 1986 in the US — and the album of the same name was its quasi soundtrack. The MTV VMA-winning clip for "Wild Wild Life" basically consisted of the scene in the movie in which the song played — with the actors miming along in a karaoke bar setting. The mainstream success didn't last, however, and this would be the band's final top 50 appearance in Australia.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:
Next week: one of Australia's favourite voices returned to the top 50 with his first solo hit in six years, alongside one of the most popular TV stars of recent years, a hip-hop act covering a rock classic and a song that finally reached the top 50 after three months on the chart.