This Week In 1984: February 26, 1984
Nothing helps a single sell a truckload of copies more than controversy. From Elvis to Eamon, artists that've caused a stir have frequently found themselves at the top of the chart.
This week in 1984, a song that'd been banned by the BBC (but still reached number 1 in the UK) made its debut on the ARIA singles chart. The controversy surrounding the single can only have helped its chances here.
There was nothing controversial about the number 1 song in Australia this week in 1984 - unless you count the fact that rock singer Pat Benatar danced in the music video for "Love Is A Battlefield", which spent a second week on top.
Off The Chart
Number 98 "Got A Hold On Me" by Christine McVie
Peak: number 55
Taking advantage of Fleetwood Mac's hiatus, Christine McVie released her first solo album since 1970 and scored her biggest hit with "Got A Hold On Me", which reached number 10 in the US.
Number 96 "Holdin' Out / Public Man" by The Shifters
Peak: number 86
I can't tell you much about this debut single by The Shifters other than the fact the band hailed from Hobart and were apparently on the harder end of the rock spectrum.
Number 48 "Kiss The Bride" by Elton John
Peak: number 25
And that's exactly what Elton John had just done when he married sound engineer Renate Blauel on Valentine's Day, 1984 in Sydney. Despite the timely release of "Kiss The Bride", the fourth single from Too Low For Zero became the first to miss the ARIA top 20. Still, a number 25 peak was not bad given the album had been the third-biggest LP of 1983. "Kiss The Bride" also helped Too Low For Zero remain firmly lodged inside the top 10 until late May. Unfortunately for Elton and Renate, their marriage wouldn't turn out to have much longevity, ending amicably after four-and-a-half years.
Peak: number 36
Over the previous couple of years, all three of Paul McCartney's top 5 hits had been duets with other singers - "Ebony And Ivory" with Stevie Wonder, and "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say Say Say" with Michael Jackson. He didn't have the same success back on his own again with this title track from Pipes Of Peace. A UK number 1 with a music video depicting the ceasefire between British and German troops at Christmas 1914, "Pipes Of Peace" may well have done better locally had it been released a couple of months earlier. In the US, the single was flipped and B-side "So Bad" (featuring Ringo Starr on drums) was the lead track, while in Australia, we got both as a double A-side.
Number 41 "An Innocent Man" by Billy Joel
Peak: number 23
Billy Joel's homage to the music of his youth continued with this latest release from An Innocent Man. After two upbeat singles, the soul ballad title track was influenced by the music of The Drifters and one-time member Ben E King. Despite no video being made for "An Innocent Man", the song became Billy's latest US top 10 hit. It performed more modestly in Australia, but the project wasn't about to run out of steam - that wouldn't happen for the longest time...
Number 37 "Jump" by Van Halen
Peak: number 2
Before we get to the week's big controversial record, we have two more singles that caused a stir in their own way. First up, it's the lead single from Van Halen's 1984 album - a song that featured prominent use of synthesizers. Not unusual for the era, but certainly a break with tradition for the hard rock band. As it would turn out, the song's synth hook was less of a problem for Van Halen's fans - who sent it to number 1 in the US and number 2 locally - than it was for the band itself.
Singer David Lee Roth had long resisted guitarist Eddie Van Halen's attempts to introduce keyboards into their sound. In fact, the main riff in "Jump" had been written by Eddie years earlier but it wasn't until he'd built his own recording studio that he was able to turn it into a song - one to which David would reluctantly contribute. Although "Jump" ushered in a period of great success for the band, the tension between the two founding members would lead to David's decision to leave the band the following year.
Number 35 "Calling Your Name" by Marilyn
Peak: number 3
Given the runaway success of Culture Club, the idea of a gender-bending pop star wasn't as revolutionary as it might otherwise have been. Nevertheless, Boy George's frenemy Marilyn still managed to make waves in Australia with his androgynous look - especially with the older generation. The novelty of his appearance aside, Marilyn's debut single, "Calling Your Name", generated its own fuss by being a terrific pop song that had hit written all over it. We'll see how the rest of 1984 panned out for the singer born Peter Robinson in coming months, but you can skip ahead to Marilyn's final top 50 appearance in 1985 here.
Number 31 "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Peak: number 5
It was almost as if they wanted their single to be banned. Featuring lyrics that could only have been about sex (specifically, masturbation) and a marketing campaign that pushed the buttons of conservative Britain, "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was duly banned by the BBC in mid-January. The restriction on the record, which included Radio 1 and Top Of The Pops, came just as the single was jumping up the UK chart after languishing in the lower reaches of the top 100 since its release in October 1983.
As these things so often go, the ban only made "Relax" even more of a hit than it was shaping up to be, with other stations playing the song more as a result. The single went on to spend five weeks at number 1 in the UK. Then, as it was heading down the chart, it about faced and returned for a stint at number 2 in July, behind the band's chart-topping second single, "Two Tribes". In the process, "Relax" sold over two million copies in the UK alone.
In Australia, "Relax" made the top 5 and also enjoyed two runs in the top 50, spending 40 weeks in total inside the top 100 and winding up as 1984's 16th biggest single. Not bad for a band that was on the brink of breaking up when producer Trevor Horn signed them to ZTT. Trevor transformed "Relax", which had been turned down by at least two other record companies in its demo form, into the hit it became, spending tens of thousands of pounds getting the production just right and eliminating any input from the band except that of singer Holly Johnson.
At least the members of Frankie Goes To Hollywood got to appear in the music video for "Relax". Or, I should say "videos", since there were at least four. Below are the two most famous clips - the first one set in a leather bar, which was - surprise, surprise - banned. And the second, tamer British video. There was also one that featured footage from film Body Double, in which the song appeared, and a "live" video that was used in the US.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:
Next week: the debut of the singer officially named 1984's Best New Artist with one of the year's biggest number 1 hits, plus a recent chart-topper follows up his big summer smash.