This Week In 1988: April 17, 1988
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2013. Updated in 2018.
What the hell was going on in 1988? Hot on the heels of releases by Austen Tayshus and Morris Minor & The Majors came another novelty song this week - although calling it a "song" is a bit of a stretch.
As a music fan who buys and listens to music because I like the sound of something rather than because I find it funny or it makes some sort of statement, I could never quite understand why people would want to own comedy releases. But then, chart history is full of examples of tracks being purchased for reasons other than musical enjoyment - in fact, just this past week (in 2013), "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" from The Wizard Of Oz almost became a UK number 1 in the wake of Margaret Thatcher's death.
No change at the top of the chart this week in 1988 as Kylie Minogue clung on to number 1 with "I Should Be So Lucky" for a fifth week.
Off The Chart
Number 94 "One Step Up" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 67
Seven singles from Born In The U.S.A. reached the top 50, but this third track lifted from follow-up Brilliant Disguise became the album's first flop. The song dealt with the breakdown of Bruce Springsteen's first marriage - and featured backing vocals from second wife Patti Scialfa, who also featured on the album's fourth single (and third hit).
Number 85 "Get Rhythm" by Ry Cooder
Peak: number 62
His cover of "All Shook Up" had missed the top 50 earlier in the year (peaking one place higher at number 61), and so too did Ry Cooder's remake of the Johnny Cash B-side-turned-A-side from his album of the same name.
Peak: number 60
After reaching the top 50 (sometimes only just) with the first four singles from their debut self-titled album, Noiseworks only managed to make the top 60 (just) with this fifth release, despite it being just as good as the other tracks that came before it. The album, Noiseworks, did continue to be a solid seller, spending 61 weeks on the top 100 overall and peaking at number 6 - so at least they got some appreciation. A second album would arrive before the end of 1988.
Number 50 "I Don't Mind At All" by Bourgeois Tagg
Peak: number 43
It's amazing how you can sometimes like a song for years (or even decades) without knowing anything about the musicians behind it. Such is the case for me with this gentle pop/rock track. Getting their name from founding band members Brent Bourgeois and Larry Tagg, the American five-piece recorded two albums together (this song was taken from the second) before going their separate ways around the end of the decade. Like Danny Wilson's "Mary's Prayer", this remains an under-rated song that should have been a much bigger hit in Australia.
Number 49 "Stuck On Earth" by ALF
Peak: number 26
Here's a song that should never even have charted, let alone made it as high as it did - but it's no surprise it did, since sitcom ALF was massive in 1988. I never watched the show about the wise-cracking alien life form (yep, that's where he got his name) but there were plenty of fans willing to rush out and buy this cobbled together mess of dialogue snippets and dance music accompaniment courtesy of producer Ben Liebrand. Awful.
Number 45 "Wonderful Life" by Black
Peak: number 7
Despite the efforts of ALF, it was a good week for understated pop songs, with this track by Black joining the Bourgeois Tagg song by entering the top 50. "Wonderful Life" had been steadily climbing the top 100 since the end of February, and would continue to rise, eventually peaking in early June. The song's history was even longer than that, with Black (aka Colin Vearncombe) originally releasing it in 1986 without success. This re-recorded version finally did the business here and in the UK, where it became his second top 10 hit (following "Sweetest Smile"). "Wonderful Life" would return to the Australian top 20 in 2005 thanks to a version by pop/dance singer Tina Cousins.
Number 41 "I'm Still On Your Side" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 29
Single number three from Jimmy's chart-topping Freight Train Heart album is a track I'd completely forgotten about until now. Granted, it did only reach number 29 (compared to the number 1 and number 12 peaks of the first two singles from the album), but, like all Jimmy songs at the time, it would have been hammered on TV and radio, so there really would have been no avoiding it. Although I've never really been a fan of his, "I'm Still On Your Side" is a nice enough song, and would only have been prevented from being a bigger hit by the fact that the album had sold so many copies by that point.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1988:
Next week we have four songs to talk about - and every one of them is a winner. Before that, I'll conlude my countdown of my favourite songs from 1993.