This Week In 1986: February 23, 1986
Some bands never recover from the departure or demise of their lead singer. Others do just fine with a new vocalist in place.
This week in 1986, a British synthpop group known for their upfront tunes debuted on the ARIA singles chart with the first release with a new frontman. The song would also wind up being their biggest hit.
The biggest hit in Australia this week in 1986 was "A Good Heart" by Feargal Sharkey, who brought an end to Starship's run at the top.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "It's All In The Game" by Nena
Peak: number 95
It'd worked before with "99 Luftballons / 99 Red Balloons", but Nena had no success turning previous German single "Haus Der Drei Sonnen" into an English-language hit.
Number 94 "Perfect Way" by Scritti Politti
Peak: number 75
Although it missed the UK top 40, this single from Cupid & Psyche 85 became the British band's first US hit, reaching number 11 there. Australia remained as disinterested as ever.
Number 88 "Something" by V. Spy V. Spy
Peak: number 65
The final single from Harry's Reasons gave the pub rock band their best placement up until that point - but things would get even better later in 1986 once they changed record label.
Peak: number 53
Last time around, they'd reached the top 50 pretty much on the strength on sales in Western Australia alone and Perth band V-Capri had their home state to thank once again for this follow-up coming close to repeating that feat. Quite why V-Capri couldn't convert the rest of the country to their cause, I don't know. "That's The Way" was a catchy enough song and with their mullet and singlet combo, the band certainly looked the part, but regional success was clearly all they were destined for.
Peak: number 55
In 1982, they'd had the year's number 1 song with "Eye Of The Tiger", the theme from Rocky III. Four years later, Survivor came nowhere close to matching that with "Burning Heart", which was taken from Rocky IV. Written by the two same band members, although performed by new lead singer Jimi Jamison (instead of Dave Bickler), the song was another inspirational power rock anthem that almost topped the US chart. Australia wasn't as easily impressed by "Burning Heart" and opted instead for another track from the Rocky IV soundtrack, which we'll see arrive next week.
Number 50 "Sleeping Beauty" by Divinyls
Peak: number 50
"Pleasure And Pain" had given Divinyls one of the biggest hits of their career, but it was back down to the lower reaches of the top 50 for this follow-up. One of the sweetest sounding singles released by the band, "Sleeping Beauty" is also one of my favourites of theirs, but given the What A Life! album was still sitting in the top 10 after 15 weeks on the chart, it's likely that most fans were opting for that instead of the single.
Number 46 "Sex And Fame" by Jump Incorporated
Peak: number 32
Here's the debut single by a band that'd morphed out of late '70s/early '80s outfit Moving Parts (not to be confused with the way more successful Moving Pictures from the same era). For some reason I thought "Sex And Fame", which was produced by ARIA Award winner Mark Optiz and had his trademark big pop/rock sound, had charted higher. At least it did better than any of the other singles released by the band, which all missed the top 100.
Number 45 "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo
Peak: number 39
They'd been releasing music since the late '70s but this theme song from the film of the same name became the first chart hit for Oingo Boingo. It was also the first soundtrack project for the band's singer, who wrote and co-produced the track. You might have heard of some of his later projects - the theme tunes to TV series like The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives, and scores for a whole bunch of films, including most of Tim Burton's movies. Yep, the singer/songwriter for Oingo Boingo was none other than Danny Elfman.
Number 44 "Sounds Of Then" by GANGgajang
Peak: number 35
Some songs don't have to be particularly big chart hits to wind up as classics. Here's a case in point - a tune that has become an iconic Australian pop/rock anthem despite only being a minor top 40 hit at the time of its original release. Granted, a peak of number 35 was an improvement on GANGgajang's previous efforts, but it seems incredibly low for a song that is such an essential part of this country's soundtrack.
Like "Throw Your Arms Around Me" - another classic track that was never a big hit - "Sounds Of Then" was released more than once, but even the addition of the "This Is Australia" subtitle in 1995 didn't see it improve on this initial chart position. Still, it's a song that most people who grew up in the '80s and '90s would know, even if they didn't buy it, thanks in no small part to the track's use in a memorable Coke ad from 1988, which at least would have provided the band with some cash for their troubles.
Peak: number 9
With the Born In The USA album finally exhausted of singles and the tie-in world tour having come to an end, E Street Band saxophonist Clarence took advantage of both his new-found downtime and his never-been-higher profile to release solo album Hero. Lead single "You're A Friend Of Mine" featured both Jackson Browne on co-lead vocals and Jackson's then-girlfriend, Daryl Hannah, on backing vocals - and never fails to put me in a good mood when I hear it.
The type of song they just don't make anymore, the track would be Clarence's only chart appearance as a singer, although his saxophone playing featured on many other hits. Besides tunes by Bruce Springsteen, Clarence can also be heard on Aretha Franklin's "Freeway Of Love" and Lady Gaga's "The Edge Of Glory", filming the music video for the latter shortly before passing away in 2011. For Jackson, "You're A Friend Of Mine" was his first Australian chart appearance since "Lawyers In Love" (number 28 in 1983) and would easily be the biggest hit of his career in Australia.
Number 41 "And She Was" by Talking Heads
Peak: number 10
It usually goes the other way - the first single from an album charts highest then each subsequent single peaks slightly lower, but Talking Heads continued to buck the trend with the releases from Little Creatures. Third single "And She Was" not only became the biggest hit from the album, but it also gave the band their first - and only - Australian top 10 single. Since the bouncy track is also their best song, that all worked out rather nicely, don't you think? The video was directed by Jim Blashfield, whose distinctive animated style was also seen in the clips for "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz, "Leave Me Alone" by Michael Jackson and "Sowing The Seeds Of Love" by Tears For Fears.
Number 23 "Hit That Perfect Beat" by Bronski Beat
Peak: number 3
British trio Bronski Beat had done pretty well for themselves on the ARIA chart with singer Jimmy Somerville out in front, scoring two top 10 hits out of four singles. But then, just as the band were poised to release fifth single "Run From Love", Jimmy quit the band. Bronski Beat bounced back - and how! - with this single featuring sound-alike new vocalist John Foster. Not only did it return the group to the top 10, but it spent six consecutive weeks at number 3, stuck behind a combination of "That's What Friends Are For", and future hits "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" and "Concrete And Clay". "Hit That Perfect Beat" was also included in the British film Letter To Brezhnev, thus the scenes from the movie in the music video, while the song's lyrics were as sexually suggestive as those of "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?" had been issue-driven. But like those earlier hits, the meaning passed many listeners by (myself included) and "Hit That Perfect Beat" became a hit without a whiff of controversy. As for Jimmy... well, we'd be hearing from him later in 1986.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:
Next week: the second hit by a two-hit wonder, a massive soundtrack single that'd top the chart, that other tune from Rocky IV and a song that previously appeared on the top 50 as a double A-side returns in its own right - and peaks higher!