This Week In 1987: October 25, 1987
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2012. Updated in 2017.
A friend of mine finds it quite bizarre that as much as I love pop, dance and R&B music from the 1980s, I also have a liking for Aussie pop/rock (Cold Chisel and Australian Crawl excepted) and American MOR rock from the era. To me, it's all good music - I don't mind about genre if there's a killer chorus or great chord progressions on offer, but I can see how it's a bit unusual given pop fans and rock fans were generally in completely separate camps at the time.
This week in 1987, Choirboys, who had previously been a relatively unsuccessful pub rock band, debuted on the top 50 with a song which would not only be one of the biggest hits of the subsequent few months, but would go on to become an Aussie classic. And although it was nothing like the music being released by Kylie, Janet and Madonna, or any of the British pop acts I loved, I was a big fan of the song.
In fact, all four of the songs that entered the top 50 this week were by bands who are in one sense or another Australian, with three of them having a background in that same pub rock circuit which produced so many of our greatest artists.
A very different kind of band was still at number 1 this week in 1987. Los Lobos spent a fourth week on top with "La Bamba".
Off The Chart
Number 98 "Only One" by Venetta Fields
Peak: number 97
Now the Whispering Jack campaign was all but complete, backing singer Venetta Fields stepped out of John Farnham's shadow to release this Motown-ish single which unfortunately failed to take off.
Number 48 "Oh Darling" by Models
Peak: number 48
Models had some trouble following up the juggernaut that was "Out Of Mind Out Of Sight", and this Beatles cover version would be their final single. After the band went their separate ways, founding member Sean Kelly had a brief dalliance with a solo career before forming Absent Friends and then The Dukes. Alternative vocalist James Freud embarked on a disastrous solo career before working with Martin Plaza as Beatfish. Sadly, in 2010, he committed suicide after a long struggle with alcoholism. Saxophonist James Valentine, meanwhile, moved into a TV and radio career, notably as the first host of ABC's The Afternoon Show.
Number 43 "You Win Again" by Bee Gees
Peak: number 10
Here's the group that Australia loves to claim as our own even though the Gibb brothers were born in the UK and only moved down under in the late '50s. Sure, they began their music career here, but they left the country again within a decade, shortly after their first major hit in Australia, "Spicks And Specks". I guess we've claimed acts with much more tenuous links to this country since then, so it's not a completely unreasonable claim.
Anyway, by the 1980s, the trio had racked up countless mega-hits, but were tainted by the disco backlash and had kept a very low profile since 1981's Living Eyes album. They weren't completely absent from the music scene, writing hits like "Islands In The Stream", "Heartbreaker" and "Chain Reaction", but did not release any records themselves. By 1987, enough time had passed for people to start to miss the brothers, and their E.S.P. album saw them make a triumphant return to the charts.
Lead single "You Win Again" was a huge favourite of mine at the time - returning the group to the top 10 in Australia and going all the way to the top in their other home of the UK. The return to form was, however, short-lived, with Bee Gees not scoring another ARIA chart hit for a decade - with 1997's "Alone".
Number 38 "Run To Paradise" by Choirboys
Peak: number 3
Here's the song it's almost unpatriotic not to like. Although they'd poked their noses into the top 40 with 1983's number 30 hit "Never Gonna Die", Choirboys had mostly been plugging away without success since forming in 1979. That all changed with this track, which rocketed into the top 3 and stayed on the top 100 for a whopping 36 weeks. "Run To Paradise" was classic ballsy Aussie rock, but what set this apart from, say, The Angels or Rose Tattoo, is that it had a big pop hook in amongst the crunching guitars and half-shouted, half-sung vocal. It would be, naturally, the band's biggest hit - but they'd enjoy a couple more chart appearances thanks to the newfound audience this song gave them, even if for a short period of time.
Number 28 "Hold Your Head Up" by The Party Boys
Peak: number 21
We've seen in previous posts that The Party Boys also enjoyed a massive hit, the number 1 cover of "He's Gonna Step On You Again", after years spent gigging and releasing records with little mainstream success. What I didn't mention at the time was that the group had somewhat of a floating membership. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement, with singers ranging from James Reyne and Ross Wilson to Eric Burdon and Angry Anderson being involved at different stages of the band's existence.
The same revolving door applied to other positions in the line-up, with the band's raison d'etre being that it was somewhere for musicians to go while they weren't working on other projects. Despite such a varied history, it was the line-up fronted by John Swan who secured the band their only two top 40 hits - this being the second. In truth, I doubt "Hold Your Head Up" (another cover, this time of a track by Argent) would have got as high had they not just had a chart-topping single, since it's a fairly mundane song with an extremely repetitive refrain, but a hit is a hit.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:
Next week: the year's highest selling single in the UK finally reaches Australia and makes an instant star of its performer.