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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1986: June 1, 1986

So far in our trip back to the hits from the mid-'80s, we've seen a number of songs with a conscience - charity records, political protests and singles making some sort of social commentary. This week in 1986, the first* hit written about the AIDS epidemic debuted on the ARIA chart.

The Blow Monkeys: social commentary with a sophisticated style

The thing was, I didn't know until very recently that the record in question was even about AIDS. I was only 11, so that's my excuse, but I bet my ignorance was shared by many people at the time.

The number 1 single in Australia this week in 1986 was still "Living Doll" by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones, who were settling in for an extended stay at the top.

Off The Chart

Number 100 "Innocent Eyes" by Graham Nash

Peak: number 98

He'd only ever managed one solo hit on the Australian chart - "Military Madness" (number 17 in 1971) - and the Crosby Still Nash & Young member didn't add to it with the title track of his fourth album.

Number 99 "Heart Telegraph" by Divinyls

Peak: number 90

One last effort to squeeze another hit out of What A Life! resulted in the album's lowest charting single yet (not including "Casual Encounter", which first appeared on Desperate). 

Number 96 "If You Were A Woman And I Was A Man" by Bonnie Tyler

Peak: number 77

Not even the dream team of songwriter Desmond Child and producer Jim Steinman could propel this very far up the chart. Sound familiar? Desmond reworked it into "You Give Love A Bad Name".

New Entries

Number 46 "No Thunder, No Fire, No Rain" by Tim Finn

Peak: number 46

His solo career had got off to a great start, but the mid-'80s weren't too kind to Tim Finn, who'd last been seen in the top 50 with "Staring At The Embers/Through The Years" in the dying weeks of 1983. "No Thunder..." was the lead single single from Tim's second album, Big Canoe, and it certainly lacked the pop appeal of early tracks like "Made My Day" and "Fraction Too Much Fiction". That's understandable given it's about the Bhopal disaster - a 1984 gas leak in India that killed thousands. 

"No Thunder..." was the only single from the album to reach the top 100, and it'd be another three years before Tim would return to the top 50. I've found two videos for "No Thunder..." - the one below, which was played on a Network Ten show imaginatively titled Music Video, and an alternate video, which aired on Rock Arena.

Number 35 "Great Gosh A'Mighty! (It's A Matter Of Time)" by Little Richard

Peak: number 35

Next up, we have an artist who'd last seen the inside of the Australian top 50 a whopping 27 years earlier, when he reached number 28 with "Kansas City". That 1959 single came at the end of a fruitful (or should that be frutti?) few years for Little Richard, who'd landed hits with a series of rock'n'roll classics mostly named after women ("Lucille", "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and so on). 

"Great Gosh..." sounded like it could well have come from that era, but, as the video below suggests, it was actually written for the 1986 comedy Down And Out In Beverly Hills, in which Reverend Little Richard made an appearance. The track was also taken from his album Lifetime Friend, on which he blended his traditional rock'n'roll sound with gospel lyrics. And he hasn't been seen on the chart again since...

Number 31 "Digging Your Scene" by The Blow Monkeys

Peak: number 16

The week's highest new entry - and a future top 20 hit - was the breakthrough single for British band The Blow Monkeys, who'd released their debut in 1984 to little fanfare. It was also a landmark in that the sophisti-pop classic was the first big hit single (*as far as I can determine) about the AIDS epidemic. 

Like the similarly smooth and sartorially slick The Style Council, The Blow Monkeys could be enjoyed on two levels (especially by naive 11-year-olds): one, as purveyors of glossy pop tunes, and two, as a band with something to say. I'll leave it to lead singer Dr Robert (real name: Bruce Robert Howard) to explain the song in his own words: 

"There was a little bit of hysteria about AIDS in the early days here in the tabloids. People were using it in order to slag off the gay scene and the gay culture. What I wanted to do was redress the balance in my own way."

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

Next week: get ready for it - we have eight new entries, including a number 1 hit from a page 3 girl, the biggest single of the year not to reach number 1, the debut hit from a future music superstar and a couple of one-hit wonders. Excited? You should be.

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