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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1986: April 20, 1986

A lot can change in two years, especially when it comes to pop music. This week in 1986, four bands returned to the ARIA top 50 with their first new music since 1984, and for one reason or another, things were quite different this time around.

It was back into the top 10 for Culture Club and Van Halen in 1986

One band had a new lead singer, another experienced their first proper hit single, while yet another saw their chart fortunes restored. The fourth group found the going a little tougher this time around. Speaking of the going getting tough...

Yep, you guessed it, Billy Ocean's mega-hit "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" was still number 1 in Australia this week in 1986. The song spent its sixth and final week on top.

Off The Chart

Number 99 "Leaving Me Now" by Level 42

Peak: number 98

Surprisingly, it wasn't UK and US top 10 hit "Something About You" that became Level 42's first top 100 appearance in Australia, but this ballad follow-up. Another good song, though. 

Number 91 "On Our Way Now" by Dynamic Hepnotics

Peak: number 86

Presumably, this new single would've been intended for a second Dynamic Hepnotics studio album if the band hadn't broken up by the end of the year.

Number 85 "Think About Love" by Dolly Parton

Peak: number 74

Despite being pretty much a pop song, this third single from Real Love was yet another number 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart for Dolly - her 20th.


"Stages" by ZZ Top

Peak: number 63

Unlike the bands entering the top 50, it was business as more or less usual for ZZ Top and this second single from Afterburner. "Stages" sounded pretty much like what you'd expect a ZZ Top song to sound like and, their top 50 run with "Legs" and "Sleeping Bag" notwithstanding, it performed about as well as the band traditionally managed in Australia.

New Entries

Number 50 "Just Like Fire Would" by The Saints

Peak: number 29

Despite being widely acknowledged as one of the most influential local bands of the late '70s and early '80s, Australia's own punk rock pioneers had never made much of an impact on the charts locally - not even with landmark songs like "(I'm) Stranded" or "Know Your Product". The best they'd been able to manage had been a number 46 placing for 1984's "Ghost Ships". Something clicked in 1986, with this lead single from seventh album All Fools Day taking the band into the top 30. Later covered by Bruce Springsteen, "Just Life Fire Would" was certainly a lot mellower than their early releases, its radio-friendly sound allowing it to slot in nicely on the chart.

Number 47 "Marlene On The Wall" by Suzanne Vega

Peak: number 39

It'd originally peaked at number 91 in December 1985, but Suzanne Vega's debut single bounced back and into the top 50, just as it had in the UK following the release of two further singles from her debut self-titled album. The song title is actually quite literal - Suzanne had a framed photo of actress Marlene Dietrich, of whom she was a fan, on her wall at the time she wrote the song about the ending of a relationship.

Number 44 "Move Away" by Culture Club

Peak: number 10

The last time we'd seen Culture Club in the ARIA top 100 had been in early 1985 when "Mistake No.3", the aptly named third single from their 1984 album, Waking Up With The House On Fire, had bombed out at number 61. This glossy lead single from fourth album From Luxury To Heartache charged straight into the top 50 before making short work of its journey to the top 10, making it seem like Boy George and pals had things back on track. But, appearances can be deceiving. Behind the scenes, the band was only just holding it together, with the recording sessions for From Luxury... hampered by George's heroin addiction. We'll see in coming months just how spectacularly the wheels fell off what had been one of Australia's favourite pop bands of the decade.

Number 40 "Why Can't This Be Love" by Van Halen

Peak: number 8

The departure of a group's lead singer can spell the end for even the most successful of bands - and Van Halen had been massive in 1984 with their album of the same name and hit singles like "Jump" and "Panama". But, with David Lee Roth going off to record a series of tongue-in-cheek cover versions, Van Halen found a replacement in former Montrose frontman and moderately successful solo artist Sammy Hagar - and carried on like nothing had changed. Maintaining the synthrock sound of "Jump", "Why Can't This Be Love" returned Van Halen to the top 10 for the first time since that single in both Australia and the US. Although Sammy quickly slotted into place for the band, he wasn't the first choice to replace David - with both Daryl Hall and Scandal's Patty Smyth also approached. Can you imagine?

Number 39 "Rise" by Public Image Ltd

Peak: number 37

It wasn't good news for all our returning bands. In early 1984, PiL had reached the ARIA top 20 with "This Is Not A Love Song", but there weren't as many takers for "Rise", the lead single from the generically styled album, Album (or Casette or Compact Disc, depending on which format you bought). There also weren't as many returning band members, with this project essentially a solo album by John Lydon recorded with a group of session musicians. PiL would become a band again for the ensuing tour - and many of those new members would stick, but this would be the act's last top 50 appearance.

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

Next week: a girl band makes a big splash on the top 50, thanks to a song written by Prince, plus the Duran Duran side projects continue and a number 1 with a very distinctive music video arrives.

Back to: Apr 13, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 27, 1986

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