This Week In 1989: August 20, 1989
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2014. Updated in 2019.
This week in 1989, a duo with braided hair based in Germany finally cracked the ARIA top 50 singles chart with their second single after reaching the US and UK top 3 with their debut hit, and quickly establishing themselves as one of the world's hottest new acts.
Australia might have been late to the party, but we certainly made up for it - keeping their first local hit in the top 50 for nearly nine months, sending their next two singles into the top 5 and making their album a number 1 smash before abandoning them just as quickly.
Another chart-dominating group with a short shelf life (for a very different reason) in Australia had the highest-selling single in the country this week in 1989 - New Kids On The Block spent a second week on top with "You Got It (The Right Stuff)".
Off The Chart
Peak: number 89
After quitting Yes, who he felt had become too commercial, singer Jon Anderson gathered one of Yes's previous line-ups for a self-titled album featuring this track, shortened from its three-part 10-minute album runtime to a six-and-a-half-minute single "edit".
Number 97 "Sugar Train" by Daryl Braithwaite
Peak: number 75
This fifth and final single from Edge became the first from Daryl Braithwaite's comeback album to miss the top 30... by quite some margin.
Number 93 "Have I Told You Lately" by Van Morrison
Peak: number 93
It would take until 1993 and an Unplugged version by Rod Stewart (who first recorded the song in 1991) to turn this lead single from Van Morrison's 19th studio album into a hit.
Number 89 "It's Alright" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 70
This remake of an obscure club track by Sterling Void and Paris Brightledge became Pet Shop Boys' first single to miss the top 50 since 1987's "Rent". It was also their most socially conscious release to date.
Number 88 "Fire Down Below" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 74
Like "Sugar Train", this was the fifth single from The Black Sorrows' latest LP, Hold On To Me, but it wasn't the first track from the album to miss the top 50.
Number 65 "Long Way To Go" by Stevie Nicks
Peak: number 65
Originally recorded five years earlier, but not released at that time, this follow-up to "Rooms On Fire" has quite an interesting story that you can read here.
Single Of The Week
Peak: number 66
Before we get to the pop pretenders, some "real" artists. First up, this English group (named after a Glasgow suburb) that had undergone an almost complete line-up change since their debut album, Contenders. Only singer Andy Perry remained, backed by a new band - and, as a result, Easterhouse's style was quite different from the more indie sound that'd seen them signed to Rough Trade Records and favourably compared to label-mates The Smiths. "Come Out Fighting" was typical of their more radio-friendly second album, Waiting For The Redbird, and while the song gave them their biggest UK and US hit, the new approach wasn't well received by critics and, coincidence or otherwise, the band split soon after.
Peak: number 58
After getting things back on track with "Come Anytime", Hoodoo Gurus had another flop on their hands with this second single from the Magnum Cum Louder album - and even radio didn't want a piece of the song. It's easy to see why.
Peak: number 53
Our third under-performing rock song is this debut single by Sydney band Wildland, which featured as a Single Of The Week two months earlier and surprisingly didn't do better given its rousing feel and catchy chorus. There's not much else to say about the group, who disappeared just as quickly, although their legacy lives on in ghost-hunting circles, with rumours of an other-worldly appearance during the filming of one of their subsequent music videos.
Peak: number 17
As I mentioned at the start of this post, Australia had turned its nose up at "Girl You Know It's True", the debut single ostensibly by Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, but actually performed by session singers assembled by Boney M mastermind Frank Farian). That debut single had missed the ARIA top 50 earlier in 1989, but it was a very different story with follow-up "Baby Don't Forget My Number", which, despite only reaching number 17, stayed in the top 50 for 38 weeks and sold more copies than many higher-placed songs. It was also the first of the duo's three US number 1s and just happens to be my favourite track by Milli Vanilli. I'm not ashamed to say I still listen to their songs from time to time, since it matters little to me who was actually singing what is, undeniably, a killer pop track. We'll follow the Milli Vanilli story as it unfolded over subsequent releases in months to come.
Number 45 "Talk It Over" by Grayson Hugh
Peak: number 4
I revisited this song earlier this year when I compiled a list of one-hit wonders from the '80s - and mentioned that it had been earlier released by Olivia Newton-John (as "Can't We Talk It Over In Bed") without success before the song's arranger, pianist/singer Grayson Hugh, decided to give it a shot himself. His version was a hit both here and in the States - although the most memorable thing for me about the song is how Grayson and his backing singers popped out of suitcases. It still looks weird.
Number 41 "This Time I Know It's For Real" by Donna Summer Peak: number 40
Here's another song that's featured on this blog before - in my top 100 Stock Aitken Waterman singles, my top 100 for 1989 and recently in my top 100 for 2006, when it was covered by ex-Australian Idol collective Young Divas. Back in 1989, "This Time I Know It's For Real' prompted American and British fans to restore the Queen of Disco to the top 10 after quite an absence, but in Australia, I was clearly among the minority who shared that enthusiasm given the song's disappointing chart peak locally.
Internationally, the track was Donna's most successful single since 1983's "She Works Hard For The Money" and was taken from the Another Place And Time album. Interestingly, the album, recorded entirely with songwriters and producers Stock Aitken Waterman, almost didn't get released in the States. Indeed, Donna had had a fair bit of trouble with her US record companies over the years, but she had the last laugh when "This Time I Know It's For Real" proved the skeptics wrong and reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, her final US hit of any note.
The recording of Another Place And Time wasn't entirely straightforward, either, with Donna not seeing eye to eye with The Hit Factory on a number of fronts. As a result, a planned second collaboration was abandoned, and the songs earmarked for her were apparently passed on to Lonnie Gordon instead.
Number 39 "Communication" by John Farnham & Danni'Elle Peak: number 13
His Age Of Reason album milked for singles - including the non-top 100 release "We're No Angels" - Farnsey turned his attention to other projects, which included this anti-drug duet with Dannielle Gaha. "Communication" was recorded and released as part of The Drug Offensive, a national campaign against substance abuse that was as all-pervasive a community service initiative as the AIDS ads from the same era. The music video featured a number of vignettes relevant to the message and the whole thing smacked of government intervention rather than anything remotely to do with musical enjoyment.
Despite her jauntily styled name, Danni'Elle didn't go on to superstardom as a result of her association with The Voice. Instead, presenter/producer Eden Gaha's sister continued to work as a backing vocalist, then, after a solo record deal with Epic Records failed to provide a hit in the early '90s, she formed one half of The Nissan Cedrics on Roy & HG's Club Buggery. As for John, even the fact that he rocked up to record his part of the "Communication" video in a flannie and Akubra didn't deter the Australian public, who rewarded him with yet more top 10 hits in 1990.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1989:
Next week: one of 1989's most exciting singles and one of the year's most boring songs. Naturally, Australia all but ignored the former and made the latter into a massive hit.