This Week In 1989: March 26, 1989
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2014. Updated in 2019.
There's no doubt rock was the favoured genre in Australia throughout the '80s. Cold Chisel, Australian Crawl, The Angels, Midnight Oil, The Choirboys... the list of pub rock groups that enjoyed a stranglehold on the charts and radio play is endless. But this week in 1989, Aussie pop made a strong showing, with four of the ARIA singles chart's new entries.
The other two debuts were by international pop acts - a sign that music tastes were changing locally. Sure, we weren't quite at the stage of R&B and dance tracks flooding into the top 50, but songs were no longer dependant on FM radio play or pub rock cred to become hits in this country.
At the top of the ARIA singles chart was the Queen of Pop herself. Madonna resumed her throne, ousting The Proclaimers in the process, with "Like A Prayer" spending its first week at number 1.
Off The Chart
Number 98 "The Lover In Me" by Sheena Easton
Peak: number 91
Five years earlier, the Scottish singer had embraced a sexier image and new sound. In 1989, that continued as she teamed up with the hottest US production duo in the business, LA Reid & Babyface, on this US number 2 hit.
Peak: number 80
Last seen peaking in the 80s in 1986, Stephen Cummings broke a string of top 100 misses by returning to that section of the chart with this catchy single from A New Kind Of Blue.
Peak: number 68
This non-album single was the former Smiths frontman's first new music since the Viva Hate album and was inspired by legendary East End London crime figures The Kray brothers.
Number 90 "It's Your Move" by Zan
Peak: number 82
Her former singing partner, Kate Ceberano, would have a huge 1989 with the release of her debut pop album, Brave, but Zan Abeyratne wasn't as successful with her first effort away from I'm Talking.
Peak: number 52
Last week, we saw Inner City's "Big Fun" as a breaker, and this week in 1989, it was the turn of follow-up single "Good Life" to just miss the top 50. It wasn't the first (or last) time that two singles by an act would simultaneously become hits (or, in this case, almost hits). With Australia notoriously slow to catch on to new international music in the '80s, it was often the case that by the time an artist landed their first hit here, they had a second single waiting in the wings and the two would chart alongside each other (see also: Mel & Kim, Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge).
Number 50 "Over Tomorrow" by Pseudo Echo
Peak: number 40
What a fitting title this would turn out to be - and it's interesting that arguably Australia's most successful synthpop act (six top 15 hits, including number 1 "Funky Town") would falter when they tried to inject a bit of rock into their sound (big power chords, albeit played on the keytar) and their look (shirtless drummer, stupidly long hair). The second single from Race, "Over Tomorrow" was hardly "Run To Paradise" and it wasn't enough to sway the rock-loving public to start listening to Pseudo Echo. Plus, by leaving the sound that made them a success behind, the band also alienated their existing fans, with this song becoming their final top 50 appearance.
Number 47 "Lost In Your Eyes" by Debbie Gibson
Peak: number 7
Only one of the five singles from Debbie's debut album, Out Of The Blue, had breached the ARIA top 50 ("Shake Your Love" reached number 27), but piano ballad "Lost In Your Eyes" started the teen singer/songwriter/producer's second album campaign on the right note. The lead single from Electric Youth, "Lost In Your Eyes" became her first big Australian hit and as well as giving her a second US chart-topper. It was a song I could actually play on the piano at the time. Yep, my Debbie obsession prompted me to shell out for the sheet music to this song.
Number 46 "Celebrate The World" by Womack & Womack
Peak: number 37
Often wrongly considered to be a one-hit wonder in Australia, husband-and-wife duo Womack & Womack did indeed score a second top 40 hit with this follow-up to "Teardrops" - even if it performed nowhere near as well. While I've grown to love "Teardrops" over the years, I can't say the same about "Celebrate The World", although the chorus has that annoyingly hummable quality to it. This would be the last time we'd see Linda and Cecil on the Australian chart, with the couple going on to perform under the name The House of Zekkariyas... as you do.
Number 45 "So Good" by Wa Wa Nee
Peak: number 35
While Pseudo Echo abandoned their roots and stumbled, Wa Wa Nee were also having trouble landing a decent hit - and they were still releasing synth-based funk tracks. "So Good" became the group's second single in a row to stall outside the top 30 and would be their final top 50 appearance. For me, the singles from second album Blush (like this and previous release "Can't Control Myself") were nowhere near as good as those from Wa Wa Nee's debut album, so they probably didn't warrant higher chart positions - but it was nevertheless a shame to see a band that'd shown such promise crashing and burning.
Number 39 "Ring My Bell" by Collette
Peak: number 5
If bands like Pseudo Echo and Wa Wa Nee that wrote their own music, played their own instruments and had some international success couldn't cut it with the narrow-minded Australian industry, what hope did a bicycle short-wearing model have of gaining any respect? Pretty much zero. Of course, who needs credibility when the top 5 beckons, right?
Performing a vaguely house-inspired cover of the Anita Ward 1979 disco classic, Collette Roberts was clearly Australia's answer to Yazz. She even had smiley face badges pinned on her outfit to prove how down with house music she was. "Ring My Bell" spent three weeks at its peak position, but Collette quickly became even more derided than Kylie Minogue was at that point in her career in Australia - and Kylie had a pretty rough time of it in 1989. I wasn't a fan of "Ring My Bell" or the obvious way Collette was styled. It all came off as trying just a little bit too hard - but at this stage, at least, it worked.
Peak: number 7
Speaking of a lack of credibility... Also spending three weeks at its peak position, Jason's second single on his own was a vast improvement on debut hit "Nothing Can Divide Us". Instead of giving the Neighbours star (he was in his last two months on air) a Rick Astley cast-off, songwriters/producers Stock Aitken Waterman provided Jason with what would be the best single of his career and it rushed to number 1 in the UK.
In Australia, "Too Many Broken Hearts" became Jason's third top 10 appearance in a row. Nevertheless, the local industry was even more savage on Jason than on his girlfriend and record label-mate. The fact that he walked around the tourist advertisement-style music video playing an electric guitar that wasn't plugged in to anything didn't help.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1989:
Next week: new entries are a bit thin on the ground, so I'll also take a look at what was happening on the albums chart in 1989.