This Week In 1987: June 28, 1987
Rival versions of the same song are nothing new - either now or in 1987. Back in the '60s, UK stars like Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black performed their own versions of tunes that had been released in the US by other singers. And who can forget (as much as we'd all like to) when Los Del Rio went head-to-head with Los Del Mar on rival versions of "Macarena" in 1996?
This week in 1987, two versions of a song first released in 1971 appeared on the ARIA top 100 performed by different Australian groups. One moved into the top 50 this week, with the other joining it the following week - but only one would get to number 1.
The number 1 single in Australia this week in 1987 was, for the second week in a row, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston.
Off The Chart
Number 86 "Start Believing" by Uncanny X-Men
Peak: number 63
This fourth single from What You Give Is What You Get would end up being the once massively popular band's swansong - and it's actually one of their better songs.
Peak: number 64
Debuting on US TV in early 1985 - and in Australia some time after - Moonlighting quickly became the benchmark for shows with unresolved sexual tension between its leads. In this case, it was the red-hot friction between detectives Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis), who went and spoiled it all by getting together in the penultimate episode of season three. Just as that long-awaited (but ultimately show-killing) union happened, the series' theme tune was released as a single, along with a soundtrack album featuring contributions from both stars. For soul crooner Al Jarreau, "Moonlighting" was his best performance on the Australian chart.
Number 46 "Why Can't I Be You?" by The Cure
Peak: number 16
In 1986, The Cure had wrapped up their career to date with their first singles collection and a re-recording of early single "Boys Don't Cry". In 1987, they burst back onto the scene with this energetic lead single from their seventh studio album, the double LP Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Having grown up with The Cure on high rotation in my house thanks to my mega-fan sister, a new single by the band was always going to be something I was well aware of, but "Why Can't I Be You?" was probably the first time I liked one of their songs all by myself and it led me to explore some of their other material by choice. Of course, being just 12 at the time I had no idea what the lips in the dress-up music video signified.
Number 45 "Running In The Family" by Level 42
Peak: number 43
Here's another band up to their seventh studio album, but unlike The Cure, Level 42 had never reached the ARIA singles top 50. Until now. The title track of Running In The Familyfinally gave the pop/funk band the hit, such as it was, that had so far eluded them. In the UK, the story narrated by singer Mark King about a guy and his siblings, Joseph and Emily - I don't think it's autobiographical - was part of a run of top 10 hits. Locally, Level 42 never returned to the chart despite continuing to release great singles like "Guaranteed" and "Forever Now" into the mid-'90s.
Peak: number 17
It's one of their best known songs, but "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" almost wasn't the second single from U2's The Joshua Tree. The catchily named "Red Hill Mining Town" was originally planned to follow "With Or Without You", but this gospel-influenced track was decided upon instead at the last minute for a variety of reasons you can look up online if you're interested. I wasn't very interested in U2 at all at this point, but I have liked subsequent versions of this song - the Rattle & Hum revamp and the cover version by The Chimes.
Number 38 "Something So Strong" by Crowded House
Peak: number 18
The unpredictable chart career of Crowded House continued with this fifth release from the band's self-titled album bucking the trend of previous single "World Where You Live" by venturing into the top 20. And that was despite Crowded House having spent the previous 21 weeks in the albums top 10. With its unashamedly upbeat feel and much-played feel-good music video, "Something So Strong" had hit written all over it - I just wonder how much bigger it would've been if it'd been lifted from the album earlier.
Number 37 "Some Kind Of Girl" by The Cockroaches
Peak: number 32
This next Australian band were making a career out of optimistic songs, like this follow-up to top 10 smash "She's The One". Problem was: aside from that top 10 hit, The Cockroaches tended to inhabit the lower half of the top 50. The old-fashioned (even for 1987) "Some Kind Of Girl" was the first of three singles by the band to place in the 30s.
Number 35 "Nude School" by Painters & Dockers
Peak: number 29
Some bizarre mix of Hunters & Collectors and swine, the breakthrough single for Melbourne's Painters & Dockers was not that big a hit, but its mud pit-set music video was unavoidable at the time and has pretty much scarred me for life. The band got their name at one of their earliest gigs, which was held at a venue frequented by members of the shipyard union. At least "Nude School" had a kind of catchy chorus - something that couldn't be said of the band's other top 50 appearance later in the year.
Peak: number 1
The Party Boys had always (well, since 1982) been the band you were in when you weren't otherwise occupied with something else, like your normal band. With a revolving door line-up, the band gigged regularly and released a series of live covers albums. As a fun, side-project, it ticked along nicely without anything in the way of a hit single.
Everything changed in 1987 when the latest line-up fronted by John "Swanee" Swan (biggest hit: his remake of "If I Were A Carpenter", number 5 in 1981) went into the studio and recorded an album which was 60:40 covers to originals. One of those remakes - of John Kongos's number 6 hit from 1971, "He's Gonna Step On You Again" - was released as the lead single and not only out-performed a poppier version by Chantoozies, but did so by some margin, topping the ARIA chart for two weeks. Suddenly, The Party Boys was serious business.
Number 25 "Sweet Sixteen" by Billy Idol
Peak: number 9
His chart career up until this point had consisted of synth-rock tracks - mostly air-punching anthems, but the occasional slower song like "Eyes Without A Face". And so it was somewhat surprising to hear Billy Idol in acoustic mode on this third single from Whiplash Smile, which gave him his fourth top 10 hit. Even more unexpected is the story behind "Sweet Sixteen" - how a Latvian millionaire carved a structure known as Coral Castle out of limestone in Florida after being dumped by his 16-year-old fiancée. I guess people have sung about stranger things.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:
Next week: it's the 30-year anniversary of the first ARIA chart printout I ever collected. I covered that top 50 in my first blog post five years ago, but I'll write a separate post, focusing more closely on the new entries, which includes the other version of "He's Gonna Step On You Again", and cover off the usual Off The Chart, Single Of The Week and Breakers sections (which will all be featured). Five years, hey? Who'd have thought it!