This Week In 1989: May 14, 1989
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2014. Updated in 2019.
In the pre-internet dark ages, it was not unusual for Australia to be quite behind the times when it came to songs hitting our singles chart. But since there was no quick and easy way to access international charts, and no YouTube to listen to songs in the US or UK top 10 anyway, music fans were often none the wiser about the delay. By way of contrast, these days, thanks to Australia's instant release system, it's more usual for songs to hit the ARIA top 10 before they're even released in the US or UK. (EDIT: in 2019, the whole world tends to get new music at the same time on New Music Friday.)
Sometimes back in the '80s, however, there were additional reasons why a particular song was delayed in becoming a hit in Australia or why an act's music took its time to reach our shores. This week in 1989, there were a few examples of situations where other factors than just the normal lag were at play.
Also taking its time was the number 1 single this week in 1989, with Mike + The Mechanics' "The Living Years" ascending to the top spot in its 11th week on the top 50, and in the process knocking off "Like A Prayer". But, it would be a fool who thought Madonna would give up number 1 without a fight.
Off The Chart
Number 99 "New Day For You" by Basia
Peak: number 69
Polish sophisti-pop singer Basia was one of those well-promoted acts that never seemed to take off in Australia or the UK. She did make the US top 40 - although not with this track.
Number 97 "Strange Kind Of Love" by Love And Money
Peak: number 76
More smooth sophisti-pop now from the band who'd briefly visited the top 50 a month earlier with previous single "Halleluiah Man". This follow-up gave the Scottish band their biggest UK hit (although it only peaked there at number 45).
Number 77 "Hold Me In Your Arms" by Rick Astley
Peak: number 77
Rick Astley was certainly out of favour in Australia at this point, with this third release from the album of the same name his worst performing single by some margin locally. He'd be back in the top 20 in a couple of years' time.
Peak: number 60
Miami Sound Machine (with and without Gloria Estefan as named vocalist) had never been as big in Australia as they were in the US. Only 1984's "Dr Beat" and 1988's "Anything For You" had done that well locally, both just missing the top 10. "Can't Stay Away From You" was one of many top 10 hits the band enjoyed Stateside - but it had been released way back in November 1987, peaking at number 6 in the US in March 1988.
So why the delay in it charting in Australia? Well, the song had actually been released here in early 1988 and managed to creep to number 98 in May that year, but here it was again a year later making further progress up the top 100. Presumably, since upbeat track "1-2-3" had failed to follow "Anything For You" into the ARIA top 50, Epic Records thought re-releasing another ballad would do the trick. They were kind of on the right track, but it would take another year for Gloria, who'd then gone solo, to return to the Australian top 20 - yes, with a ballad.
Peak: number 57 (original peak: number 15)
Here's a second song that had originally been released in 1987 - but in this case, "What You Get Is What You See" had been successful in Australia first time around. One of eight singles from the Break Every Rule album (although not all tracks were released in every territory), it was re-released locally in 1989 off the back of its use in a rugby league advertisement (which you can watch below) that was clearly aimed at making the sport more appealing to women. It was the first TV commercial in what would end up being a long association between Tina and the NRL. The song's reappearance in the top 60 was likely down to sales in only a certain percentage of the country, and so was probably a bigger hit in those NRL-friendly states than it would appear from its peak of number 57.
Number 47 "This Is Your Land" by Simple Minds
Peak: number 38
This was getting a bit boring now. Previously one of the more interesting bands of the '80s, Simple Minds were still in serious mode for this second release from their Street Fighting Years album, which was released this month in 1989. Listen out for input from Lou Reed, who doesn't put in an appearance in the clip below, about midway through the song.
Number 45 "The Look" by Roxette
Peak: number 1
Australia wasn't too far behind the US in embracing Swedish duo Roxette, who had debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 back in February 1989 with the song famously brought to the attention of American radio stations by a foreign exchange student. But, the international community in general were latecomers to the Roxette phenomenon - Look Sharp! was actually the band's second album.
As for "The Look", it had been passed over as a single in Sweden for two other tracks, "Dressed For Success" and "Listen To Your Heart", while a third, "Chances", had been released in other parts of Europe. When the time finally came to give "The Look" a Swedish release, the rest of the world was ready to pounce and the song topped the chart in Australia and the US, among more than 20 other countries.
Number 40 "Leave Me Alone" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 37
Here's yet another song that dated back to 1987, but in this case, it was one that had only appeared on the CD version of Bad, so its release as a single almost two years after the album came out makes sense. Why not give non-CD owning fans (which included myself at that point in time) a chance to buy the track? Despite that fact and a Grammy Award-winning music video that poked fun at all the stories of Michael's increasingly bizarre behaviour (his pet chimp, Bubbles, his purchase of The Elephant Man's bones, his obsession with Elizabeth Taylor), Australian record buyers were mostly unmoved. The song did, however, hit number 2 in the UK, the second highest position of any single from Bad there. Meanwhile, in the States, "Leave Me Alone" was not released as a single at all.
Number 37 "Iko Iko" by The Belle Stars
Peak: number 7
We go back even further now - in fact, it was almost seven years since this cover of The Dixie Cups' 1965 single had just scraped into the UK top 40 (while a rival version by Natasha hit the top 10 there at the same time).
The revival of The Belle Stars' version of "Iko Iko" was yet another chart hit of the '80s that owed its success to its use in a Tom Cruise film - in this case, Rainman. By that stage, however, the band had long since broken up, although lead vocalist Jennie Matthias promoted the track and appeared in a new music video for the release.
The song itself, which originated in New Orleans and is filled with locally relevant lyrical content, has been the subject of a number of legal disputes over the decades concerning songwriting credits, and has been covered even more frequently.
Number 25 "Bedroom Eyes" by Kate Ceberano
Peak: number 2
So far in the '80s, Kate Ceberano had been the lead singer of mid-'80s pop/funk band I'm Talking, performed as a backing vocalist for Models, released a live jazz album and, together with Wendy Matthews, recorded the soundtrack to TV series Stingers. One thing remained for her to achieve - and with "Bedroom Eyes", Kate landed her first solo hit single. And, what a hit it would turn out to be, spending six non-consecutive weeks stuck at number 2 (behind Bette Midler, The Bangles and Roxette) and going on to become the highest-selling single by an Australian artist in 1989.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1989:
Next week: a massively popular heavy metal band land their first top 50 hit, a mid-'80s superstar returns and five more songs debut on the singles chart.