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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1986: June 15, 1986

Music videos really were inventive in the 1980s - and a key component of many clips that are now considered classics was the use of then-revolutionary animation techniques. With such innovative videos assured high rotation on music television, the accompanying singles were almost always massive hits.

A landmark music video helped "Sledgehammer" become Peter Gabriel's greatest success

This week in 1986, a song that came with one of the most acclaimed and visually amazing music videos of all time made its debut on the ARIA singles chart. True to form, the single it supported shot into the top 3, easily becoming the singer's biggest hit.

The only amazing thing about the song at number 1 this week in 1986 was that people were still buying "Living Doll" by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones, which took its tally to five weeks on top.

Off The Chart

Number 74 "Right And Wrong" by Joe Jackson

Peak: number 64

You wouldn't know it to listen to it, but this single was the first from a live album. Big World was recorded in front of an audience who were told to keep quiet until after each song was finished.

Number 83 "Stars" by Hear 'n' Aid

Peak: number 65

Recorded back in May 1985, this was the heavy metal fraternity's version of USA For Africa, with members of Dio, W.A.S.P., Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and more involved.

Number 89 "Seventy Times Seven" by David Meece

Peak: number 77

Here's the only ARIA top 100 appearance by Christian music performer David Meece. This single from Chronology was co-written with Gino Vannelli of "Wild Horses" fame.

Number 90 "Lonely Dreamer" by Itchy Feet

Peak: number 90

Before there was The Whitlams, there was Itchy Feet, a ska band fronted by Tim Freedman that'd competed on the Australian version of talent quest Star Search.

Number 97 "Language Is A Virus" by Laurie Anderson

Peak: number 93

"O Superman" had been a top 30 hit for the future Mrs Lou Reed, but this Nile Rodgers-produced single from Home Of The Brave wasn't infectious enough for Australian listeners.

New Entries

Number 47 "Train Of Thought" by a-ha

Peak: number 47

Here's a band who'd found fame thanks to the animated genius that was "Take On Me", and two singles later, a-ha were still combining live action footage with pencil-drawn animation to great effect. As it turns out, "Train Of Thought" actually features older animation that had served as the inspiration for the memorable "Take On Me" artwork. The "Train Of Thought" single also took something old and made it new, with the album version given a remix - but despite boasting quite a good chorus, it was still significantly less catchy than either of a-ha's big hits to date and barely made the top 50.

Number 41 "You Are Soul" by Doug Mulray & The Rude Band

Peak: number 34

He'd released a couple of Rude albums earlier in the decade, but this was Doug Mulray's first foray into the singles chart (under his own name, as opposed to the Tremble Ms record) - and naturally, it was also rude. So rude, that it was banned. Why the fuss? Say the name of the single quickly or listen to the clip below and it should all become clear. I'm not sure who the Triple M DJ is calling out (Prince, perhaps? Anyone who wasn't a traditionally minded Aussie bloke like Rex Mossop, John Laws, Richie Benaud and Ross Symonds, who all make cameos in the video?). Whoever was the target, enough people were amused to turn "You Are Soul" into a top 40 hit even without airplay.

Number 31 "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel

Peak: number 3

This song got plenty of airplay, especially from MTV in America, where it's the most played music video of all time - a record that's unlikely to be broken now the channel doesn't actually play music anymore. The high rotation was justified - the video for "Sledgehammer" was a revelation and is still pretty damn impressive. 

Featuring all sorts of animation and special effects, the clip was painstakinglyfilmed frame by frame over a period of 16 hours, much of which Peter spent laying under a sheet of glass and having a huge variety of things (including dancing chickens, bumper cars and, of course, sledgehammers being swung) happen around and to him.

"Sledgehammer" was the first single from Peter's fifth solo album, So (which was his first LP not to be self-titled), and its big brassy sound came courtesy of the Memphis Horns. It was also his most mainstream release to date, with his previous ARIA top 100 entries, like "Shock The Monkey" (number 25 in early 1983), having a much more experimental sound. By reaching number 3 in Australia and number 1 in the US, the single easily eclipsed everything he'd released before.

Then, there were the awards - notably, nine wins from 10 nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards (a record that still stands) and a BRIT Award. Go on, you know you want to watch it again... 

Number 20 "Greatest Love Of All" by Whitney Houston

Peak: number 1

As huge a single as "Sledgehammer" was, it wasn't the biggest of this week's new entries. That honour goes to the first chart-topper for Whitney Houston - although she wasn't the first person to record "Greatest Love Of All" (and it wasn't actually the first time she'd released it, either). The big ballad was originally recorded by George Benson and released (with a "The" at the start of the title) in 1977 as the theme to Muhammad Ali autobiopic The Greatest.

Almost a decade later, Whitney Houston recorded the track for her debut album and it was initially relegated to the B-side of early single "You Give Good Love" in both the US and Australia. But with her career going from strength to strength and more singles needed, "Greatest Love Of All" wound up as a hit in its own right, even in the US, where "You Give Good Love" had already reached number 3.

Although songs like "You Give Good Love" and "Saving All My Love For You" had demonstrated Whitney's ability to handle a ballad, "Greatest Love Of All" really allowed her to let rip and establish her diva credentials. Interestingly, despite releasing a series of just as emotive ballads over the next few years, Whitney wouldn't score another substantial hit with one in Australia until 1992.

If you feel like part of the song sounds familiar, you're not alone - Gordon Lightfoot believed a section of "Greatest Love Of All" bore too close a resemblance to his track "If You Could Read My Mind" and started legal proceedings against co-writer Michael Masser (who'd composed the music) in 1987 - but later dropped them. Tragically, the other writer of "Greatest Love Of All", Linda Creed (who'd penned the lyrics), passed away in April 1986, just as Whitney's version was becoming a hit.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:

Next week: two songs from the soundtrack of an essential '80s movie, plus the return of the band Peter Gabriel used to front with the song that "Sledgehammer" knocked off the US number 1 spot.

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