This Week In 1986: March 30, 1986
It wasn't that unusual for a song that reached number 1 in Australia during the 1980s not to do so well in the US. But, it was rare when it was a single released by an American artist that topped our chart but did little back at home. Nevertheless, that's exactly what happened to one of the new entries on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1986.
Even more unusual: the female singer in question was no stranger to the number 1 spot on the Billboard chart, having visited there six times as a solo artist and another dozen times as a member of arguably the biggest girl group of all time.
The number 1 single in Australia this week in 1986 was still "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" - and, in fact, Billy Ocean would stay at the top until Diana Ross knocked him off.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 75
A remixed version of a five-year-old track from 1981's Shake It Up and the title track from The Cars' previous studio album received equal billing on this latest single promoting Greatest Hits.
Number 95 "Unchained Melody" by Leo Sayer
Peak: number 77
Having never heard this version before, I was pleasantly surprised - not because I liked it, but because it was at least different to all the other turgid renditions. Seems to have been a stand-alone single release for Leo.
Number 94 "In A Lifetime" by Clannad
Peak: number 72
No doubt the presence of U2's Bono on guest vocals helped this single from the Irish family group's eighth studio album, Macalla, become their first - and only - ARIA top 100 appearance.
Number 37 "Talk To Me" by Stevie Nicks
Peak: number 22
Released as the first single from Rock A Little in the US, "Talk To Me" quickly followed "I Can't Wait" in Australia - and for me, we got the order right. Whereas "I Can't Wait" was electrifying and exciting, I've always found "Talk To Me" to be sluggish and dull by comparison. Even so, Stevie gives another committed performance in the music video, clearly aided by whatever it was she'd taken during the "I Can't Wait" video shoot. This is the last we'd see of Stevie so high on the chart (at least, as a solo artist) until 1989's "Rooms On Fire", which peaked just one place lower than "Talk To Me".
Number 35 "Kyrie" by Mr Mister
Peak: number 11
Like Stevie Nicks, Mr Mister had one song I loved and one song I thought was only OK in 1986 - but the American band got theirs the other way round. Following up the top 5 smash "Broken Wings" (the one I found a bit snooze-inducing) was the anthemic "Kyrie". Not that many of us realised it as we say along at the tops of our voices, but the lyric "Kyrie eleison" is Greek for "Lord, have mercy" and the song is essentially a prayer. In the US, "Kyrie" matched "Broken Wings" and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, while in Australia, it fell just short of giving the band a second top 10 hit.
Mr Mister actually had a third top 10 hit in the US, but as we'll see in the next few months, "Is It Love" didn't do so well locally, leaving the band as two-hit wonders. Fun anecdote: the video for "Kyrie" was shot while the band was on tour in Florida, but the British director wasn't aware he needed a signed release from anyone whose face was shown - meaning a production assistant had to be dispatched to get the old guys seen around the 2:20 mark to OK their inclusion in the clip. Luckily, they were locals who frequented the beach and were easy to locate.
Number 33 "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 1
From a song that made number 1 in the US, we come now to a song that topped the Australian and UK chart but was a flop in Diana Ross's home country of America. Yep, the unstoppable "Chain Reaction", which spent 10 weeks in the ARIA top 3 (including three at number 1), originally peaked at number 95 in the US before improving slightly to number 66 when a not-very-remixed-at-all remix was released later in 1986.
In Australia, it was a dramatic turn around following the disappointing peak of Diana's previous single, "Eaten Alive". "Chain Reaction' was her biggest hit of any kind since "All Of You" with Julio Iglesias (number 19 in mid-1984) and her first solo top 20 appearance since 1981's "Why Do Fools Fall In Love". By reaching number 1, the single became her first chart-topper since "Endless Love" and first solo number 1 since "Upside Down" in 1980.
The brains behind her chart comeback were the brothers Gibb, with Barry, Maurice and Robin gifting Diana with a ready-made number 1 hit just as they had earlier in the decade for Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton with "Islands In The Stream" and Barbra Streisand with "Woman In Love", and almost did for Dionne Warwick with "Heartbreaker", which stalled at number 2.
With its bouncy Motown-inspired beat, unmistakable backing vocals (from the Bee Gees themselves) and a video featuring no less than seven increasingly spangly costume changes, "Chain Reaction" had hit written all over it - so I'm not sure what America's problem with the song was. Their loss.
Peak: number 15
Our final new entry comes from an Australian band whose only local number 1 single ("Original Sin") had actually managed to reach the American chart in 1984. Since then, things had snowballed and this week in 1986, INXS were sitting at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their breakthrough US hit, "What You Need". Meanwhile in Australia, the song that probably should've been released as the follow-up to "What You Need" jumped into the ARIA top 30.
"Kiss The Dirt..." improved slightly on the chart peak of "This Time", but I can't help but think it would've been an even bigger record had it been the second track lifted from Listen Like Thieves, which had by this point spent almost half a year on the albums chart. Belated as it may have been, the release did at least come with a decent music video - and one that I always picture when I think of mid-'80s INXS. The iconically Australian clip was filmed at two locations in South Australia - the salt lake scenes were filmed on Lake Hart, while the red earth scenes were shot up the highway at Moon Plains, Coober Pedy. And, apparently, it was all done in a day, with the band flying in from and back to America for the shoot.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:
Next week: a song later covered by Tom Jones, a cover of a song made famous by Elvis Presley and a spoken word track by an Oscar-winning actor.