This Week In 1986: September 14, 1986
Every pop music story has a beginning, and this week in 1986, a man synonymous with the modern era of reality TV singing competitions landed a hit on the ARIA top 50 with the first artist he'd signed.
Unlike some of his later projects, the record wasn't an immediate success, but it would end up selling enough copies internationally to keep him in business. From there, he'd mastermind some of the best and worst pop music had to offer over the next three decades.
Meanwhile, at number 1 this week in 1986, Madonna spent her sixth and final week on top with "Papa Don't Preach".
Off The Chart
Number 100 "Fire On The Water" by Chris De Burgh
Peak: number 100
It's pleasant enough, but this wasn't a great start to the Into The Light album. Luckily for Chris, another track from the album would debut on the top 100 the following week and go on to almost top the chart.
Peak: number 78
It might not sound like him, but this was the solo debut of Stray Cats singer Brian Setzer, who put aside the rockabilly sound of his band for a more John Cougar Mellencamp-style rock feel.
Number 79 "The Living Kind" by Ups And Downs
Peak: number 75
Ahead of their time, Brisbane's Ups And Downs would no doubt have had a bigger hit with this slice of jangly guitar indie pop if it'd been released in 1989-1991.
Number 50 "Hanging On A Heart Attack" by Device
Peak: number 46
Last week on my 1991 post, we saw hit songwriter Desmond Child struggle to match the success of his compositions for other singers with something he performed himself. Five years earlier, Holly Knight had the same problem. Partially responsible for hits by Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, Divinyls and Animotion, Holly was one of the most successful songwriters in the world at the time - but her band Device could only manage to scrape into the ARIA top 50 and US top 40 with debut single "Hanging On A Heart Attack". Produced by Mike Chapman (who co-wrote "Love Is A Battlefield" and "Better Be Good To Me" with Holly), synth-rock track "Hanging On A Heart Attack" certainly sounded like a million bucks, but it's not actually as good a song as some of the pair's other compositions.
Number 48 "Dreams Of Ordinary Men" by Dragon
Peak: number 17
It'd been a year and a half since we'd last seen Dragon on the top 50 with "Speak No Evil". After some line-up changes and a recording trip to America, the band finally got around to following that top 20 single up with this title track from their second album since their 1983 comeback. Despite being another perfect power pop/rock track, "Dreams Of Ordinary Men" could only equal the number 17 peak of 1984's "Cry", the best chart position they'd managed since number 2 smash "Rain".
Number 43 "Evolution" by Models
Peak: number 21
Here's another Aussie band that was having trouble matching the chart highs of previous releases (notably 1985's top 2 double, "Barbados" and "Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight"). As the lead single from new album Models' Media, the band must have hoped "Evolution" would be a bigger hit, and while it did much better than the two final singles from Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight, "Cold Fever" and "King Of Kings", it just wasn't a good enough song to justify going any higher. Maybe if the far superior "Hold On", or even next single "Let's Kiss", had launched the album, the band might've found themselves in a better position than just scraping into the top 30 with the album when it was released in December.
Number 41 "So Macho" by Sinitta
Peak: number 14
It might seem like an obvious hit single now - a tongue-in-cheek, made-for-the-gays disco anthem that harked back to the days of "It's Raining Men" and her mother's own club classic, "So Many Men, So Little Time", but it took a long time for "So Macho" to become a hit for Sinitta Malone. A former singer for TV dance troupe Hot Gossip, Sinitta became the first recording artist signed by future impresario Simon Cowell. So strongly did Simon believe in the potential of "So Macho" that he staked everything on it. If it failed, his record label, Fanfare, was done. And, at first, it did fail - flopping on the UK chart in mid-1985. Slowly but surely, the song's popularity increased, and a second release in 1986 saw "So Macho" go all the way to number 2 in Britain and end up among the year's top 10 biggest selling singles. In Australia, the song reached the top 20 - somewhere it'd take Sinitta another three years to return to.
Peak: number 31
I've never understood why The Bangles had such a patchy track record on the ARIA chart. Here they were, fresh off top 10 smash "Manic Monday" with another supremely catchy pop tune, but for some reason "If She Knew What She Wants" was a relative failure. What I didn't know until now is that the song was a remake - originally recorded (with slightly different lyrics) by Jules Shear, who, like Holly Knight, had much more success when other people sang his songs. Another of his compositions, "All Through The Night", had been turned into a hit by Cyndi Lauper - just one of the many links between The Bangles and Cyndi. Two music videos exist for "If She Knew What She Wants" - the American version below and a UK clip.
Number 30 "Part Time Love Affair" by Geisha
Peak: number 24
While former chart-toppers Dragon and Models might have been disappointed with a brand new single placing around the number 20 mark, Melbourne's Geisha would have been ecstatic to finally reach so high on the chart after a string of misses (including the twice-released "Rainy Day"). And it was fitting that the song to finally breach the top 30 was their best release yet. "Part Time Love Affair" was the first taste of the band's second album, which wouldn't see the light of day for another year. There's a link to the music video in the song title above and a Countdown performance below.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:
Next week: a solo hit from one half of the biggest American duo of the decade. Plus, a top 50 single spawned by a talent segment on Australia's most popular variety program.