This Week In 1986: October 19, 1986
Some weeks in music are bigger than others. For every chart with only a couple of minor hits debuting, there are ones like the ARIA top 50 from this week in 1986. Two singles that would have a huge impact on music for years to come quickly made their presence felt.
One song was a major comeback by a singer whose first hit was way back in 1967. His latest chart-topping single would not only kick-start his career, but provide encouragement for other former stars to revive their careers.
The other was a landmark hip-hop single that helped the genre cross over like never before. Around the world, it opened the door to rap music in a way that previous hits hadn't managed and brought Australia one step closer to its first rap number 1.
At number 1 this week in 1986, Bananarama still held strong with "Venus". The cover version spent its fifth week on top.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 75
In countries where this was a hit, the biggest single by funk singer/songwriter Gwen Guthrie and its "you got to have a J-O-B if you wanna be with me" message became a catchcry for female empowerment.
Number 99 "Imperial Hotel" by Stevie Nicks
Peak: number 99
Previous single "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?" missed the top 100 — a fate that almost befell this Australia-only release, presumably not named after the pub in The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.
Number 98 "Candybar Express" by Love And Money
Peak: number 96
Produced by Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, "Candybar Express" was the debut single for Love And Money, whose more polished offering "Halleluiah Man" was a minor top 50 entry in 1989.
Number 97 "Poison Pen" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 76
Given the chart placement of "Death Defying" back in March, a fourth single from Mars Needs Guitars! was always going to struggle — which is exactly what "Poison Pen" did on the chart.
Peak: number 80
Not even an expensive-looking storyline music video featuring actors that look familiar (although I'm not sure they are) could help this follow-up to "Your Wildest Dreams".
Number 88 "Don't You Want My Love" by Nicole
Peak: number 84
Not to be confused with German singer Nicole (Seibert), who won Eurovision in 1982 with "A Little Peace", American Nicole (McCloud) featured on the Ruthless People soundtrack.
Peak: number 69
The Monkees were back — well, two of them anyway — with their first new music since 1971. This appropriately named song was included on a new best of, while variations of the original lineup toured over the next few years.
Single Of The Week
Peak: number 69
Their first two singles had been flawless pieces of sophisticated synthpop, and while this Eastern-influenced third single from Koo De Tah wasn't quite as good as "Too Young For Promises" or the under-appreciated "Body Talk", it still deserved better than to miss the top 50. The Australasian act's debut self-titled album also faltered, peaking at number 54, which is probably why it's still not on iTunes. This would be the last we'd see of Koo De Tah on the top 100 — fourth single "Missed You All Along" flopped completely — but keyboardist/producer Leon Berger would work on Melissa's early singles. Meanwhile, singer Tina Cross moved back to New Zealand in the '90s and worked extensively in musical theatre there.
Peak: number 37
This week is full of dance/pop songs that should've done better on the chart. Unlike Gwen Guthrie, Nicole and Koo De Tah, this breakthrough single for American singer Jermaine Stewart at least made the top 40. In the US, where it was released with its full title of "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off", and the UK, however, it was a top 5 smash. Jermaine would manage a few more hits over the next few years in both those countries, with the PWL team remixing and producing a number of his singles. In Australia, he didn't breach the top 100 again, but "We Don't Have To..." did provide the hook for Gym Class Heroes' "Clothes Off!!!", a number 11 hit in 2007.
Number 48 "Stay" by Oingo Boingo
Peak: number 30
Stay is the operative word for this second and final hit for new wave band Oingo Boingo. The final single from Dead Man's Party, "Stay" entered the top 50 in its 14th week in the top 100, having registered as a breaker for nine of those weeks. Although it never got any higher than number 30, "Stay" remained in the top 50 for 20 more weeks. We'd never see them on the ARIA chart again, but Oingo Boingo continued to record until the mid-'90s, when singer Danny Elfman transitioned into pursuing soundtrack work full-time.
Number 47 "Heartbeat" by Don Johnson
Peak: number 26
Music had played a major part in the success of Miami Vice, and so it was kind of inevitable that star Don Johnson would branch out and release an album of his own. As it turned out, he could actually hold a tune and "Heartbeat" (a remake of a Helen Reddy album track from 1983) was exactly the kind of power-pop/rock that featured on the soundtrack of the hit crime series. Naturally, Don couldn't resist the chance to go all out with the song's music video, with scenes that seem like they're taken from a movie featuring Don as a cameraman interspersed throughout. A US top 5 hit, "Heartbeat" performed more modestly here, but wouldn't be the actor's only chart appearance.
Peak: number 26
When all else fails, as previous single "Hyperactive" had, why not go with something that had worked in the past? And so, Robert Palmer wheeled out his all-female faux-backing band once again and, hey presto, he had another hit on his hands. Written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and originally recorded by Cherrelle, "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" is yet another song that reached both the US and UK top 10, but was a mid-table hit in Australia. The song would later be covered by Mariah Carey for her ill-fated movie debut, Glitter.
Number 45 "Rage Hard" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Peak: number 45
They'd started their career with a number 5 and two number 4s on the ARIA chart, and so expectations must have been higher than this for Frankie Goes To Hollywood's comeback after a year-and-a-half away. Unfortunately, "Rage Hard" did no better (well, one place) than "Welcome To The Pleasuredome". Superficially, the lead single from second album Liverpool was in the same vein as the band's previous singles, but "Rage Hard" lacked that certain something (a stronger hook, perhaps?) than the likes of "Relax" and "Two Tribes". This was the end of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood story in Australia, where Liverpool bombed out at number 72, while in the UK, a couple more decreasingly successful singles reached the top 40 before singer Holly Johnson abandoned ship for a delayed-by-legal-wrangling solo career.
Number 40 "You're The Voice" by John Farnham
Peak: number 1
Speaking of solo careers, here's an Australian singer who got his one back on track. John Farnham had last staged a musical comeback in 1980, but despite hitting the top 10 with his radical reworking of The Beatles' "Help!", it didn't lead to a renewed string of chart hits such as he'd enjoyed in his late '60s/early '70s heyday. Then followed a stint fronting Little River Band that was less successful than you would've thought given his chart pedigree and the strength of songs like "Playing To Win".
Having completed his commitment to LRB, John began work on another solo album, with manager Glenn Wheatley famously mortgaging his house to fund it. At first, it looked like the gamble might not pay off, with radio reluctant to play lead single "You're The Voice". Public pressure prevailed and the song quickly became a hit, debuting on the top 100 at number 40 and reaching number 1 within three weeks. Suddenly, you couldn't escape hearing John Farnham on the radio — a situation that would continue for years to come.
"You're The Voice", which featured then-husband and wife Derryn Hinch and Jacki Weaver as a squabbling couple in the music video, stayed at number 1 for seven weeks and was the first of a stream of hits over the next decade. As for the album, Whispering Jack also dominated the top spot — spending 25 weeks at number 1 and selling well over a million copies, second only on the all-time sales list to Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell.
Number 37 "Walk This Way" by Run-DMC
Peak: number 9
Like hip-hop itself, Run-DMC had been very much a niche concern so far in their career, having never reached the Australian or US top 100 with any of the singles from their first two albums. That changed when the rap trio took on one of Aerosmith's best known singles.
With a little (uncredited) help from the band's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (who did feature in the iconic wall-bursting music video), Run-DMC turned "Walk This Way" into a rap anthem. Championed by MTV, it became the first hip-hop track to reach the US top 5. By fusing rock and rap, the group showed how well hip-hop worked with other genres — something that'd become commonplace before long.
In Australia, a number of rap songs had previously reached the top 10, but many of them had come from pop groups like Blondie and Wham! making use of the genre or been one-off oddities like "To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)", "One Night In Bangkok" and "Rock Me Amadeus". When it came to actual hip-hop acts, Run-DMC became the second to reach the top 10, following "Up Rock" by Rock Steady Crew from 1984.
Run-DMC did manage a first in Australia — turning "Walk This Way" into a hit for the first time. Aerosmith's original recording had progressed no further than number 85 in early 1977. Run-DMC's success in Australia was short-lived, however. Were it not for a chart-topping remix of their debut single, "It's Like That", in 1997, the group would've been a one-hit wonder on the ARIA chart. Rap music, on the other hand, was just getting started.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:
Next week: two music superstars debut with singles that, although top 10 hits, are among their most over-looked releases of the '80s.