This Week In 1985: November 24, 1985
It must be pretty frustrating for artists that record the original version of a song when someone else comes along, does a pretty faithful rendition of the same tune and turns it into a hit single. Clearly, the song had potential, so why didn't their original record become the popular version?
This week in 1985, a singer who'd make a habit of having her way with other people's little-known songs debuted on the ARIA singles chart with her first big record in Australia - a track that had done absolutely nothing for its original performer. It wasn't the only remake that improved on the chart performance of the original to enter the top 50 this week, either.
A song that was successful for its original artist - and for one or two other performers over the years - held down the number 1 spot this week in 1985. "Take On Me" by a-ha spent its second and final week on top.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "Already Yesterday" by The Church
Peak: number 100
I'm stunned this single - the first from fourth album Heyday - did so badly. It's just as good as The Church's two major hits up until that point, "The Unguarded Moment" (number 22 in 1981) and "Almost With You" (number 21 in 1982).
Number 98 "Loving You" by Feargal Sharkey
Peak: number 97
Bigger things were just around the corner for the former vocalist for The Undertones, but this single co-written with The Human League's Jo Callis became his second in a row to flop.
Number 97 "Born In East LA" by Cheech & Chong
Peak: number 53
A parody of "Born In The USA", this comedy record was about a Mexican-American mistaken as an illegal immigrant. In 1987, it was turned into a film, written and directed by and starring Cheech Marin.
Number 90 "Italian Boys" by Electric Pandas
Peak: number 90
This final single for the Sydney band feels like a song in search of a decent hook and became Electric Pandas' lowest charting release. They broke up a year-and-a-half later.
Number 75 "Love Is The Seventh Wave" by Sting
Peak: number 57
A slight improvement on "Fortress Around Your Heart" but still not a great chart performance. Parent album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles was doing better - still in the top 30 after 20 weeks.
Number 50 "Who's Zoomin' Who" by Aretha Franklin
Peak: number 38
Having been restored to the top 50 for the first time in 14 years with "Freeway Of Love", the Queen of Soul made it two from two with this follow-up and the title track from her highest-charting album in the US since 1972's Young, Gifted And Black. A more understated song that its predecessor, "Who's Zoomin' Who" did manage to make the top 10 in the US - her first back-to-back top 10 hits there for just as long. Once again, the song was co-written and produced by Narada Michael Walden, who'd come to be associated with one of the other artists debuting on the top 50 this week - a performer who just happened to call Aretha "aunty".
Number 46 "Sleeping Bag" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 36
Here's another song that made the US top 10 - peaking at number 8 like previous single "Legs" - but didn't do anywhere near as well in Australia. I think Australia got it right, since although "Sleeping Bag" shares the same synthrock sound as "Legs", it's not as good a song. But, it was the lead single from a brand new album, Afterburner, whereas "Legs" had been the final single from Eliminator - which always counts for a lot.
Number 45 "Appetite" by Prefab Sprout
Peak: number 45
They just missed the top 50 earlier in the year with "When Love Breaks Down", but this just as sleek follow-up sneaked onto the chart for a brief stay in the lower 40s. "Appetite" was also taken from the Steve McQueen album, which was released in the US under alternative title Two Wheels Good following legal issues with the Hollywood star's estate. Fun fact: Steve McQueen was produced by Thomas Dolby.
Number 44 "Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo)" by Red Box
Peak: number 29
More long-forgotten (by many) British synthpop now, with this breakthrough hit by the band fronted by Simon Toulson-Clarke. A number 3 hit in the UK, "Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo)" was notable for its music video featuring a sign language interpreter in the corner. At home, the band had a second top 10 hit with "For America", but this was their sole top 100 appearance in Australia.
Peak: number 20
Things hadn't got off to a great start for Whitney Houston in Australia, with the original release of "How Will I Know" and her breakthrough US hit "You Give Good Love" failing to find their way into the top 50. But third time was the charm, with Whitney's cover of "Saving All My Love For You" providing her with her first ARIA top 20 single. First recorded by Solid Gold host Marilyn McCoo back in 1978 and included on her album with husband Billy Davis Jr, Marilyn & Billy, the song's lyrics told the tale of a woman involved in an affair with a married man. The theme of infidelity in the song and video caused a bit of a stir, but not enough to prevent it from becoming her first US and UK number 1. In Australia, she'd have to wait a bit longer to top the chart. Oh, and obviously, Whitney is the singer with the link to Aretha, who was her "honorary" aunt, since Whitney's backing singer mother, Cissy, was a close friend.
Number 33 "Born To Be Wild" by Rose Tattoo
Peak: number 25
Of all the artists to have tried their hand at this song over the years, few have been as suited as Australia's own Rose Tattoo. Originally released by Steppenwolf in 1968, "Born To Be Wild" had never charted in Australia up until this point, making this remake by Angry Anderson and mates the first top 50 appearance by the classic rock track - a title it still holds. Released as the first single by the band through their new deal with Mushroom Records, it served as a stop gap between the Southern Stars and Beats From A Single Drum albums.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1985:
Next week: one of the most iconic songs in Australian music history and another debut from one of this week's new entries. Plus, the other half of Duran Duran arrive with their side-project, and a song that would go on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award.