This Week In 1989: June 25, 1989
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2014. Updated in 2019.
A few months ago, I looked at politics in music, and while overseas artists and communities concerned themselves with apartheid and world hunger, conservation of the environment was a big issue in Australia. Part of that was down to the discovery of a hole in the ozone layer over the southern hemisphere in 1985 - something which directly impacted our way of life. Plus, in between the Franklin Dam stand-off earlier in the decade and the Clean Up Australia movement, which launched in 1989, activism was becoming a national pastime.
That said, concern for the environment didn't necessarily make people rush out and buy records on the topic. This week in 1989, two songs dealing with conservation cropped up as breakers on the ARIA chart. One, we'll look at next week when it briefly enters the top 50, while the other didn't even get that far. A third single will also venture into the lower reaches of the top 50 in the coming weeks.
A song that people were rushing out and buying this week in 1989 - once again - was "Eternal Flame" by The Bangles, which returned to number 1 for a third and final week.
Off The Chart
Number 98 "Old Beach Road" by Martha's Vineyard
Peak: number 70
Together since 1986, this Perth folk/rock band signed to rooArt released their self-titled debut album in 1989, which featured this single. By 1990, Martha's Vineyard had broken up.
Number 94 "Pop Song '89" by R.E.M.
Peak: number 94
A couple of years later, this would have been massive, but if previous single "Stand" couldn't make the top 50, then this just as jangly follow-up stood no chance, not even with a video feauring topless dancing.
Peak: number 88
Released in select territories (and a promotional track in the US), this third single by the supergroup fell some way short of their two earlier huge hits despite being just as catchy. Perhaps a music video might have helped?
Peak: number 52
Here's the environmentally themed song which didn't make it as far as the top 50, performed by former Young Talent Time cast member and reformed drug addict Debbie Byrne. Her career back on track, Debbie was starring as Fantine in the local production of Les Misérables, and it was with the cast of the stage show that she recorded "Nature's Lament". Despite the good intentions of the song, it's a pretty dull track - which may explain its chart peak.
Peak: number 53
Before their record company won the services of Stock Aitken Waterman in a charity auction, Brother Beyond were just another pop band whose highest UK chart position was number 56 with the original version of "Can You Keep A Secret?". Their first SAW single, "The Harder I Try", improved that by some 54 spots, reaching number 2 in mid-'88.
Naturally, Australia was a bit late to the Brother Beyond party - in fact, we never really joined in, with this second SAW track (a number 6 hit the previous November in Britain) missing our top 50 despite a promo trip by the group and a 2-for-1 offer on "The Harder I Try" and "He Ain't No Competition". I actually bought one of the two 7" singles in one store (which didn't have the offer running) before noticing the deal elsewhere, going back to the original store to return my purchase and returning to the second shop to get both.
Peak: number 51
Yet another of Virgin Records' Singles Of The Week from a couple of weeks ago shows up in the breakers section - and Paula came agonisingly close to scoring a second top 50 hit from her album of the same name. While the singer/choreographer was on a hot streak in the States - "Forever Your Girl" became the second of her six US chart-toppers - she'd have to wait until 1990 and the album's seventh single (including one re-release) for more Australian top 50 action. Fun fact: that's a young Elijah Wood you can see in the music video below.
Number 47 "Onion Skin" by Boom Crash Opera
Peak: number 11
Blasting back onto the scene with the first single from second album These Here Are Crazy Times, my second-favourite Australian band of the '80s enjoyed their biggest hit since debut single "Great Wall" cracked the top 5. I always felt like BCO weren't as successful as they deserved to be - and I've never quite understood why. Songs like "Onion Skin", "Great Wall", "Hands Up In The Air" and "Her Charity" had all been incredibly catchy and radio-friendly without being cheesy. But, the band never made it into the big league - despite, as we'll see when the rest of the singles from These Here... make their debuts, having the material to do so.
Number 40 "Telephone Booth" by Ian Moss
Peak: number 7
This song made it two top 10 hits in a row for former (at the time) Cold Chisel guitarist and sometime vocalist Ian Moss, with "Telephone Booth" a worthy follow-up to the Aussie classic "Tucker's Daughter". The album both those tracks were taken from, Matchbook, also hit number 1, suggesting Ian had a bright solo career ahead of him - although, as we'll discover in a couple of months' time, appearances can often be deceiving.
Number 39 "My Brave Face" by Paul McCartney
Peak: number 30
At the start of the decade, he'd been a regular in the top 10 in Australia, the US and the UK - but by 1989, the former Beatle's days of chart glory were behind him. This lead single from his first studio album in three years, Flowers In The Dirt, was co-written with Elvis Costello but only became a middling hit around the world. It wasn't the last we'd see of Paul on the ARIA top 50 - in fact, he appeared on another track around the same time as "My Brave Face" which made its debut the very next week.
Number 12 "Sealed With A Kiss" by Jason Donovan
Peak: number 8
This may have been the single that tipped Australia over the edge when it came to Jason Donovan's music career - since he never managed a chart peak anywhere near this high with any of his subsequent singles. Plus, his version of "Sealed With A Kiss", which had already been a hit for four different artists (Brian Hyland, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, The Toys and Bobby Vinton) was insipid to say the least. But, that was the MO of producers Stock Aitken Waterman when it came to cover versions - choose a deathly slow jukebox hit of the '50s or '60s (see also: "Tears On My Pillow", "End Of The World", "Hey There Lonely Girl") in the hopes that grannies would buy it out of nostalgia along with the young kids who bought it because they were fans of the act in question.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1989:
Next week: the albums chart changes forever. We'll also remember another conservation-themed single as well as a UK chart-topping charity record.