This Week In 1984: January 22, 1984
Who doesn't love formation dancing? From Bobby Brown to Backstreet Boys to OK Go, Janet Jackson to Britney Spears to Beyoncé, music clips are approximately 50 percent better when they feature a group of people all doing the same routine.
This week in 1984, two songs with music videos featuring the ultimate in formation dancing debuted on the ARIA top 50. The routines have been imitated and emulated ever since, setting the standard for all those other artists I mentioned above.
I won't even bother teasing what the two songs were - the stills above give it away. Suffice it to say, they were both massive hits in Australia, with one going all the way to number 1.
At number 1 this week in 1984 was a song which featured a small amount of formation dancing (and lots of general partying in the street) in its music video. "All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie remained on top for a fifth week.
Off The Chart
Number 97 "Waterloo" by Jon English
Peak: number 96
Not, unfortunately, a cover of the ABBA song, this "Waterloo" is a fairly earnest rock tune that contains the line "before the Prussians ran him through". It was Jon English's final top 100 appearance.
Peak: number 81
Taken from their recent live album, Phalanx, this double A-side teamed Australian Crawl's concert versions of rock standard "Louie Louie" and "Unpublished Critics", originally on 1981's Sirocco.
Peak: number 94
He'd had great success in 1983, but 1984 wasn't as good to Eddy Grant, with this lead single from Going For Broke failing to find many takers.
Number 93 "Till You Come Back To Me" by Leo Sayer
Peak: number 81
Seemed to be the week for former chart champions having it tough, with this cover of the song made famous by Aretha Franklin in 1973 a flop for Leo Sayer despite not being that bad.
Number 89 "Dolce Vita" by Ryan Paris
Peak: number 85
A massive hit across Europe (Continental and the UK) in 1983, this catchy ditty by the Italian singer born Fabio Roscioli went surprisingly unappreciated in Australia.
Peak: number 75
Also failing to make an impact locally was this excellent synthpop single from Melissa Manchester's Emergency album. This would be the Grammy winner's final visit to the ARIA chart.
Peak: number 42
The slow transformation of John Cougar to John Mellencamp took an important step forward with the release of the singer's seventh album, Uh-huh, which was the first credited to John Cougar Mellencamp. Otherwise, it was business as usual with lead single "Crumblin' Down" everything you'd expect from the blue collar rock star. Everything, that is, except a bigger hit. The song was even composed with regular collaborator George Green, who'd also co-written "Hurts So Good". "Crumblin' Down" was the first of a string of chart disappointments and JCM wouldn't be back in the top 50 until late 1985.
Number 45 "Love And Affection" by Allniters
Peak: number 45
Their ska cover of "Montego Bay" had taken them into the top 20 in 1983 so it was no surprise that Allniters followed that up with another remake. Slowing the tempo down, the band took on no less a figure than reggae legend Bob Marley with this cover of a track that'd appeared on The Wailers' debut album, The Wailing Wailers, in 1965. But what seemed like a great idea on paper didn't work out so well, with "Love And Affection" progressing no further up the chart.
Number 37 "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders
Peak: number 30
When I did my write-up on The Pretenders' 1986 comeback hit, "Don't Get Me Wrong", I was fascinated to read about all the drama that had played out in the couple of years prior. And now here I am again, learning about even more hirings and firings, as well as drug problems and band member deaths in the lead-up to the band's 1984 album, Learning To Crawl. A year after stop-gap single "Back On The Chain Gang" came out in late 1982, the latest line-up of The Pretenders readied themselves to release Learning To Crawl and previewed it with this Christmas-themed single. "2000 Miles" hit the ARIA top 50 slightly after the fact and didn't become the biggest of hits, but it has become something of a festive classic in the decades since.
Number 31 "Just Be Good To Me" by The S.O.S. Band
Peak: number 17
Here's another song that has taken on legendary status in the years since its release, thanks to it being covered and sampled by numerous artists, most prominently Beats International, Deborah Cox and Professor Green featuring Lily Allen. One of the earliest singles written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, "Just Be Good To Me" was significantly more successful in Australia and the UK, reaching the top 20 in both countries, than in the US. In America, the band's debut single, "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" (number 40 in Australia in 1980), would remain their only big mainstream hit.
Number 29 "Right By Your Side" by Eurythmics
Peak: number 15
Decades before tropical house took a stranglehold on pop music, Eurythmics discovered the joys of steel drums, marimbas and calypso rhythms on this second single from the Touch album. Quite a shift from their trademark clinical synthpop sound, "Right By Your Side" hinted at a versatility that would be further explored as the decade wore on. Like most of those other musical detours, it was one the Australian public embraced, rewarding the duo with their fourth consecutive top 20 hit.
Number 22 "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 4
It's hard to believe that for an artist who was so instrumental in the emergence of the music video as an art form that Michael Jackson didn't produce as many clips as you'd think. From his landmark Thriller album, only three of the seven singles released came with music videos. And he had to fight for the third video - the one for the title track - to be made at all. With his record company reluctant to foot the bill for a promo for "Thriller", Michael paid for it himself (and later made deals with TV and video companies to recoup the costs).
Directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf In London), the extended video for "Thriller" ran for almost 14 minutes and heralded in the concept of the long-form music video. In keeping with the horror theme of the song, the clip climaxed with Michael and a bunch of zombies performing a tightly choreographed routine - a dance sequence that has been imitated, parodied and referenced ever since.
Despite being the seventh single released from an already incredibly successful album - although only the sixth in Australia, since "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" would follow - "Thriller" was a massive hit around the world. Sales of not only the single but also the music video, which was sold with a behind-the-scenes documentary included, proved there was still life in Thriller, which was by now over a year old.
In Australia, "Thriller" returned Michael to the top 5 after the video-less "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Human Nature" had fallen short. The album, which had already spent three weeks at number 1 in mid-1983 and was the year's overall number 1, charged back up to number 2 this week. It would go on to rack up another eight weeks on top, finishing 1984 as the year's second biggest album. Imagine how different things would be if Michael had been convinced not to bother making the video...
Number 17 "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar
Peak: number 1
While it wasn't unusual at all for Michael Jackson to pull off a slick dance routine, Pat Benatar was probably the last person anyone - herself included - expected to bust out some moves in a music video. And yet that's exactly what she did in the clip for "Love Is A Battlefield" - and the song became her first top 10 hit and only chart-topper in Australia as a result.
Written for her by Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, the song was originally intended as a downtempo track, but Pat's producer and husband, Neil Giraldo, re-conceived it as the slice of power pop/rock we now know. Teamed with that feisty ensemble dance towards the end of the video, it became an anthem of female empowerment ("no one can tell us we're wrong").
Awesome formation dancing isn't the only link between "Thriller" and "Love Is A Battlefield". Both were early examples of storyline music videos featuring dialogue. And both were also paid tribute to in Jennifer Garner rom-com Suddenly 30 (aka 13 Going On 30).
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:
Next week: a posthumous hit that was completed by the singer's widow following his death, a version of a song that'd be a bigger hit for another artist in 1986 and an Australasian trio fronted by a female singer we saw on Thursday's 1992 recap.