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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1986: November 23, 1986

As great as it is when artists move with the times and develop their sound and/or image, it's sometimes nice to be able to rely on those acts that find their niche and stick with it.

I'm guessing Billy Idol got to be a lover pretty much whenever he wanted

This week in 1986, a male singer returned to the ARIA top 50 with a song that he could have released at any stage in his career. The sound of the track, its subject matter, his look in the music video... it was everything we'd come to expect from him.

Something many people didn't expect John Farnham to ever do again was to top the singles chart, but "You're The Voice" continued to prove the doubters wrong, remaining at number 1 for a third week this week in 1986.

Off The Chart

Number 99 "Nobody Knows" by Nik Kershaw

Peak: number 73

Things hadn't been going well for Nik Kershaw on the ARIA chart for over a year, and this return-to-form single, released along with third album Radio Musicola, would end up as his final top 100 showing.

Number 73 "A Girl Like You" by Geisha

Peak: number 62

Now a three-piece, Geisha only released this single on 12" and didn't include it on upcoming album Midnight To Dawn. I feel like it was catchy enough that it might've done better with a full release.

New Entries

Number 49 "I've Been Losing You" by a-ha

Peak: number 21

The last couple of singles from a-ha's debut album, Hunting High And Low, hadn't made that much impact on the ARIA chart, but the Norwegian trio experienced a lift with this lead single from second album Scoundrel Days. With its raw and rockier sound, "I've Been Losing You" showed a different side of the band than the synthpop of "Take On Me" and "The Sun Always Shines On TV", but the sweet melody of the chorus was undeniably a-ha. "I've Been Losing You" peaked two places lower than "The Sun Always...", but it would be the last time a-ha would get as high in Australia, coming closest with their 1987 Bond theme.

Number 47 "Don't Waste My Time" by The Angels

Peak: number 40

Having recapped over a dozen singles by The Angels so far while writing this blog, I've kind of run out of things to say about the Australian rock band - often it's been a variation of "another single by The Angels that didn't do that well on the chart", which is also the case here. It's curious the band chose to release "Don't Waste My Time" as the second single from Howling when they had their cover of "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" up their sleeve. Perhaps they believed that remake would be massive regardless and felt there was no rush to issue it as a single. Were they right? We'll see early next year when I start my recaps of the first half of 1987.

Number 39 "Amanda" by Boston

Peak: number 25

Now this is how you make a comeback. Boston had actually begun work on their third album in 1980 but songwriter/guitarist Tom Scholz's desire to make the record at his own pace, which led to legal troubles with label Epic Records, resulted in an eight-year gap between albums. 

Third Stage finally surfaced - on a new label - in 1986, and lead single "Amanda" became the band's biggest hit in the US, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. The power ballad, which had been written early in the process, had actually leaked in 1984, with radio stations in a handful of markets playing a demo of the track... until they were issued with a cease and desist letter when Epic caught wind of what was going on. 

Two years later, the official release became the hit it was always destined to be, despite not being accompanied by a music video, which was standard for Boston singles. In Australia, "Amanda" wasn't as big as Boston's debut single, "More Than A Feeling" (number 11 in early 1977), and even peaked one place lower than the identically named single by Craig McLachlan & Check 1-2.

Number 38 "Hungry Town" by Big Pig

Peak: number 18

And now for something completely different - literally, since new Australian group Big Pig were unlike most other bands in that they didn't have any guitarists. Instead, they had multiple drummers, a harmonica player and aprons. Formed by singer/drummer Oleh Witer, Big Pig also boasted Sherine Abeyratne, the twin sister of I'm Talking's Zan, on vocals. Debut single "Hungry Town" - not "Hungry Now", as printed on this chart - sounded like nothing else being produced in Australia, but its stark, percussion-heavy sound was reminiscent of recent hits "Missionary Man" and "What's The Colour Of Money". 

Number 37 "Don't Get Me Wrong" by The Pretenders

Peak: number 8

A lot can happen in two years. In the case of The Pretenders, there had been major line-up changes and a solo chart-topping single for singer Chrissie Hynde (as guest vocalist on UB40's "I Got You Babe"). Once again settled as a four-piece, The Pretenders released their fourth album, Get Close, with Chrissie's status as sole remaining original member and main decision maker (about who to fire and hire) solidified by her being the only person pictured on the album's cover. 

Despite the drama going on behind the scenes, lead single "Don't Get Me Wrong" was a jaunty, jangly number, with a fun music video inspired by British spy series The Avengers (not to be confused with the superhero franchise). The song became The Pretenders' second top 10 hit in Australia - the first since breakthrough single "Brass In Pocket" reached number 2 in 1980.

Number 24 "To Be A Lover" by Billy Idol

Peak: number 3

It'd also been a couple of years since we'd seen Billy Idol on the ARIA chart - his last top 50 appearance had been with "Flesh For Fantasy" (number 28 in November 1984). In Billy's case, not much had changed in two years. His snarling, sneering, leather-clad, platinum blond rock god image was intact, and musically, he continued to work with producer Keith Forsey and guitarist/songwriter Steve Stevens. 

The first taste of his third album, Whiplash Smile, was a remake of a song that'd been recorded twice previously - once as a soul ballad by co-writer William Bell and once as a reggae track by George Faith. Billy took "To Be A Lover" in a completely different direction again, turning it into a sexed up, gospel-tinged dance/rock anthem and putting in a frankly quite astonishing, floor-humping performance in the song's music video. The result: the biggest hit of his career, beating the peak of 1984's "Rebel Yell" by four spots.

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

Next week: when five became three - one of the biggest bands of the early '80s returns as a trio. Plus, a future chart-topper that took its time working its way up to number 1.

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