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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1986: May 18, 1986

The great thing about the charts in the '80s was that you really didn't know what was going to crack the top 50 next. Pop acts were incredibly diverse - as demonstrated by the new entries on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1986.

Fright wigs ahoy. Sigue Sigue Sputnik shot up the ARIA chart in 1986

From a glammed up synth-punk band to a rockabilly singer, an art pop collective to a couple of pop/rock groups with flamboyant frontmen, there really was something for everyone. And, it wasn't a given which act would have the most successful single out of that bunch.

This week in 1986, the most successful single in Australia was "Living Doll" by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones, which knocked Diana Ross off her pedestal to commence a six-week run at the top.

Off The Chart

Number 94 "Someone To Somebody" by Feargal Sharkey

Peak: number 64

It was third time unlucky for Feargal as this ballad failed to perform as well as his two big hits. Not sure what's more off-putting - his microphone technique or the song itself.

Number 74 "Indian Summer" by Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers

Peak: number 60

No doubt the presence of the unmistakable vocals of Roy Orbison on this track helped it become the only top 100 appearance by the country group in Australia.

New Entries

Number 48 "Peter Gunn" by The Art Of Noise featuring Duane Eddy

Peak: number 11

By 1986, The Art Of Noise had already been responsible for some of the most innovative synthpop releases thanks to their pioneering use of sampling. But, tracks like "Moments In Love" and "Close (To The Edit)" had failed to make an impact on the local charts. It took this reworking of the theme to 1950s cop show Peter Gunn for the group headed by producer Trevor Horn to make a dent on our top 50. 

Composed by Henry Mancini and first released as a single by trumpet player Ray Anthony (a number 15 single in 1959), it was guitarist Duane Eddy's version which had been the biggest hit, reaching number 2 in Australia in 1960. This new take brought the theme right up to date with a modern soundscape of synths, drums and other samples - and although it didn't beat Duane's original chart peak, it was the highest charting of this week's batch of new singles.

Number 47 "Love Missile F1-11" by Sigue Sigue Sputnik

Peak: number 32

The Art Of Noise might have been tinkering with the sound of tomorrow with their sample-heavy releases, but this group formed by ex-Generation X bass player Tony James looked like they came from the future. With their brightly coloured fright wigs, fishnet stockinged faces and outrageous wardrobes, Sigue Sigue Sputnik wore their dystopian influences, well, all over their bodies. 

They were more than just an edgy image, however. The British group took their post-punk aesthetic and gave it a slick Giorgio Moroder-produced soundtrack on debut single "Love Missile F1-11". Packed with vocal effects and other studio wizardry, the song sounded like the most awesome video game soundtrack and tapped into the mid-'80s fascination with all things outer space. But, the flurry of attention Sigue Sigue Sputnik initially received quickly faded as follow-ups bombed and not even the intervention of Stock Aitken Waterman in 1988 could help matters.

Number 46 "Dancin'" by Chris Isaak

Peak: number 46

From the futuristic synth-punk of Sigue Sigue Sputnik we turn now to the throwback sounds of Chris Isaak, who we've seen making his 1991 breakthrough on my recent flashbacks to that year. His first top 50 appearance, however, came in 1986 with this single from debut album Silvertone, which had actually been released back in January 1985. Both "Dancin'" and Silvertone had gone under the radar at first, but thanks to Chris's music being included on the soundtracks to films like Blue Velvet and Modern Girls, attention slowly but surely came the crooner's way.

Number 37 "A Kind Of Magic" by Queen

Peak: number 25

We last saw them with their first post-Live Aid single, "One Vision", back in January - and although that song was included on Queen's 12th studio set, A Kind Of Magic, this title track was the first proper single from the album, which serves as the quasi soundtrack to the movie Highlander. Many of the album's tracks feature in the Russell Mulcahy-directed fantasy film, with "A Kind Of Magic" playing over the end credits. Well, a version of the song, anyway. Russell returned the favour, and directed the music videos for this and upcoming single "Princes Of The Universe".

Number 34 "I Am" by Uncanny X-Men

Peak: number 18

Things had been going pretty well for Uncanny X-Men, with the band racking up a couple of decent-sized chart hits with "The Party" and "50 Years". What better time to sign to a new, bigger record company and really take flight? Nice idea in theory, but this was as good as it got for the band under their new deal with CBS Records. The first single from second album What You Give Is What You Get!, "I Am" became the band's final top 20 single. Fun fact: decades before there were Little Monsters, Beliebers or Directioners, Uncanny X-Men fans were known as Xmaniacs.

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

Next week: two of the biggest pop bands in Australia debut with excellent new singles. Plus, a slice of American soul.

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