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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1987: January 18, 1987

Welcome back to 1987. When I started this blog in mid-2012, I wrote my first posts about the ARIA charts from July 1987. Why? Well, it was to coincide with the 25th anniversary of my decision to start collecting ARIA top 50 printouts. Now, I'm finally going to cover off January to June from one of the best years in music.

My, what big lips you have, Debbie. All the better to French kiss you with...

As I return to 1987, it's kind of fitting that the first chart for the year featured another musical comeback - the return of a singer who'd visited the Australian top 5 on five occasions as part of Blondie. Her solo career hadn't been as stellar, but that changed thanks to a song which made its debut this week.

The biggest hit in the country this week in 1987 was still "Funky Town" by Pseudo Echo, which held off INXS and Jimmy Barnes to register its second, third and fourth weeks on top. 

Although the chart you can see above covered the three-week festive period, individual top 100s were calculated (but not printed) for each of those weeks. Before we get to the songs on the top 50, we'll look at the entries between 51 and 100 for those three weeks.

Off The Chart - week one

Number 99 "Love Will Conquer All" by Lionel Richie

Peak: number 71

Previous single "Dancing On The Ceiling" had been a number 2 smash, but this cruisy follow-up, although a top 10 hit in the US, didn't... conquer the Australian chart. Sorry!

Number 79 "Rock 'N' Roll To The Rescue" by The Beach Boys

Peak: number 79

Sounding like no time had passed since their 1960s heyday, this was a new track included on Made In U.S.A., a compilation of songs mostlyfrom The Beach Boys' first decade.

Off The Chart - week two

Number 86 "Slow Rivers" by Elton John / Cliff Richard

Peak: number 82

The footage is taken from a Cliff Richard show, but this ballad duet by the showbiz legends was originally found on Elton John's Leather Jackets album.

Off The Chart - week three

Number 100 "Get It Right" by Rose Tattoo

Peak: number 100

"Calling" had given hard rockers Rose Tattoo one of their biggest hits, but the next single lifted from Beats From A Single Drum only just made the top 100.

Number 99 "Blood And Roses" by The Smithereens

Peak: number 99

Also just sneaking into the chart was this debut single by American college rock band The Smithereens. They wouldn't be seen back on the top 100 until 1992.

Number 97 "Nothing Touches My World" by Uncanny X-Men

Peak: number 97

A pretty clear sign the party was almost over for Uncanny X-Men, this moody track from What You Give Is What You Get! became the band's least successful single.


"Western Girls" by Dragon

Peak: number 58

Besides their trio of massive hits ("April Sun In Cuba", "Are You Old Enough?", "Rain"), the rest of Dragon's catalogue really deserved to do much better. Take this third single from Dreams Of Ordinary Men. It's a perfectly pleasant pop/rock tune (co-written by Sharon O'Neill) with a sing-alongable chorus, and yet it was relegated to outside the top 50.  

New Entries

Number 47 "Open Your Heart" by Madonna

Peak: number 16

It would give her a fifth US number 1 in February, but Madonna didn't have as much luck on the Australian chart with what I consider to be her best single of all time. In fact, it broke a run of consecutive top 10 hits dating all the way back to "Like A Virgin". Originally demoed as "Follow Your Heart" and intended for Cyndi Lauper, the song's writers ended up submitting it, as "Open Your Heart", to Madonna, who added her own input and recorded it for her then-upcoming album, True Blue

The fact that "Open Your Heart" was the fourth single lifted from the already successful album may have worked against it in Australia, although fifth release "La Isla Bonita" managed to peak 10 places higher, so maybe not. Fun fact: the little kid who appeared in the peep show music video, Felix Howard, went on to become a songwriter, co-writing, among other tracks, "Overload" and "Stronger" for Sugababes.

Number 42 "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House

Peak: number 8

From a singer falling short of her previous successes, we move to a band who finally landed a big hit (with a pretty apt title) after two singles that deserved to do much better. And as if to over-compensate for the lacklustre performance of "Mean To Me" and the complete failure of "Now We're Getting Somewhere", "Don't Dream It's Over" reached the ARIA top 10 and came close to topping the Billboard Hot 100. 

Crowded House's signature song - although not their biggest hit locally - "Don't Dream It's Over" had a slow start in Australia, taking its time to climb the chart before being spurred into life at the start of February, just as the song started to explode in the US. There was an immediate effect on the trio's self-titled debut album as well, which had languished in the lower reaches of the chart since release, but suddenly shot into the top 10 on its way to number 1. 

Number 36 "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis

Peak: number 21

Genesis went all out with the music video for "Land Of Confusion", the third single from Invisible Touch. Well, the puppeteers from Spitting Image did, anyway. Having previously been sent up by the British satire series, the band commissioned the makers of Spitting Image to produce the clip, which features puppet versions of the band as well as prominent political and entertainment figures of the time. A protest song of sorts, "Land Of Confusion" pointed the finger at world leaders for making a mess of the "world we live in". Seventeen years later, the hook of the song was used by Alcazar in "This Is The World We Live In", which reached number 31.

Number 22 "French Kissin' In The USA" by Debbie Harry

Peak: number 4

Here's something I didn't know until now - "French Kissin' In The USA" was written by Chuck Lorre, the creator of inescapable sitcoms Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. The poppy lead single from Debbie Harry's Rockbird album, it marked her return to a full-time solo career after she'd taken time to look after her ill partner, fellow Blondie co-founder Chris Stein. 

In the US, "French Kissin'" (as it was called there) continued Debbie's notable lack of solo success on the chart, only managing to crawl to number 57. In Australia, however, the tune blitzed Debbie's previous best, "Backfired" (number 23 in 1981), and flew into the top 5. The success was short-lived and the two additional singles from Rockbird (including the Stock Aitken Waterman remixed "In Love With Love") missed the top 100 completely. It'd take until late 1989 for Debbie to score another big hit locally.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:

Next week: it flopped in the UK, but a British synthpop band's best single becomes a top 5 smash in Australia. Plus, the band with one big single who went up against fellow one-hit wonders Nu Shooz and Glass Tiger for the Best New Artist Grammy in 1987.

Back to: Dec 28, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 25, 1987

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