This Week In 1984: September 30, 1984
It seems kind of appropriate with everything that's going on in Australia in 2017 for this week's flashback to the ARIA chart of 1984 to include the debut of a top 10 smash by drag queen-turned-pop star Divine. It's a reminder that the '80s were a pretty progressive time in many ways, and that for every step forward in diversity and tolerance, there's always someone wanting to drag us backwards.
On a lighter note, Divine's hit marked the chart debut of a trio of producers who would come to define pop music over the next five years and be responsible for chart-topping singles by four different artists (none of whom were Divine).
The chart-topping single this week in 1984 was still "Careless Whisper" by George Michael, which spent a second week on top and looked set to stay there for a while as it made a clean sweep of the state charts.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "She's Fresh" by Rock Steady Crew
Peak: number 85
Not to be confused with Kool & The Gang's "Fresh", this follow-up to "Up Rock" traded in the street beats for a more straightforward pop tune. Not the best idea.
Number 90 "Half A Boy And Half A Man" by Nick Lowe
Peak: number 66
Returning to the top 100 exactly five years to the day since his 1979 hit, "Cruel To Be Kind", debuted, Nick Lowe brought a bit of Tex Mex flavour to the chart. He'd do better with straight out rock'n'roll in 1986.
Number 48 "Blue Jean" by David Bowie
Peak: number 12
More popular than ever, David Bowie had enjoyed the best chart run of his career with the singles from Let's Dance, so expectations were high for his next album, Tonight. David didn't stray too far from the sound that'd gained him a legion of new fans, with lead single "Blue Jean" a natural musical successor to the likes of "Modern Love". A bunch of music videos were made for the track, including a 20-minute Grammy-winning mini-film, Jazzin' For Blue Jean. Although "Blue Jean" gave David another top 15 hit, it would be his only major success from the album.
Number 45 "Torture" by The Jacksons
Peak: number 32
What do you do when the two lead singers on your latest single won't feature in its music video? Carry on without them - and rent a wax dummy to take the place of one of them. With Michael Jackson unavailable to film "Torture" and Jermaine refusing to appear, the other Jackson brothers soldiered on and worked around them, which involved borrowing the Madame Tussaud's statue of Michael to be included in a few scenes. The expensive, horror-themed video was the first choreographed by Lakers cheerleader Paula Abdul, who'd quickly become one of the most in-demand choreographers for music videos (especially by Jackson sister Janet) and film. For The Jacksons, the future wasn't so bright and "Torture" would end up being their final top 50 appearance in Australia.
Number 41 "Agadoo" by Black Lace
Peak: number 16
If there's a radio station in Hell, chances are it has this novelty record on repeat. Originally recorded in the early '70s as "Agadou" and at one point used as the theme tune for Club Med - which says it all, really - "Agadoo" was the first English-language version of the song and became a Brits abroad summer holiday smash during the European summer of 1984. Performed by the latest incarnation of lineup-shifting former Eurovision contestants Black Lace, the song thankfully wasn't as huge in Australia as it was in the UK, where it was only blocked from number 1 by George Michael and ended up as the year's eighth highest-selling single.
Number 39 "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper
Peak: number 6
To completely contradict my opening statement about the mid-'80s being a progressive time, here's one of the songs that wound up on the Filthy Fifteen, a list of tracks deemed the most offensive in pop music by the Parents Music Resource Center, who were responsible for the institution of parental advisory stickers on music releases. Of course, America has always been more conservative than some parts of the Western world and even a song like "She Bop", which makes no direct references to its female masturbation subject matter, was found to be objectionable. Cyndi Lauper, who landed her third top 10 hit in a row with the song, deliberately kept its true meaning implied so younger listeners (like nine-year-old me) could assume the lyrics referred to dancing and enjoy it on that level - something she carried over to the innuendo-laden music video.
Number 38 "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart
Peak: number 16
Featuring one of the most iconic synth riffs of the '80s, "Sunglasses At Night" was the debut single by then-22-year-old Canadian singer Corey Hart. Signed a couple of years earlier after recording demos with Billy Joel's backing band, Corey had his debut album, First Offense, ready to go... except for "Sunglasses At Night". At home in Canada when the inspiration for the song struck, Corey was sent back to the UK, where he'd recorded the album, to cut the track and add it to the LP. Issued as its lead single, the song became a US top 10 hit (although a more modest number 24 single in Canada) and was the first of Corey's three top 40 appearances in Australia.
Number 33 "You Think You're A Man" by Divine
Peak: number 8
1984 had already given us Marilyn, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Bronski Beat, but one of music's most diverse years still had another queer mega-hit up its sleeve in the form of this top 10 smash by drag queen Divine. A frequent collaborator of movie director John Waters, Divine (real name: Harris Milstead) snarled into the top 10 with "You Think You're A Man", the first chart hit for producers Stock Aitken Waterman.
Although not written by SAW - the song was penned by Geoff Deane, who'd go on to write the screenplay for the film Kinky Boots - the track established the template for the Hit Factory's Hi-NRG-meets-pop sound. The song was especially successful in Australia, where it eclipsed the number 16 peak of the tune in the UK, resulting in Divine making a memorable and well-received appearance on Countdown. It would turn out to be the only hit for the larger-than-life drag star, despite a string of singles between 1981 and 1987, including another SAW production, "I'm So Beautiful" - but what a hit it was.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:
Next week: the longest-running number 1 of 1984 debuts, plus a rebellious anthem from a briefly huge hair metal band.