This Week In 1985: March 31, 1985
Good use of backing vocalists can make all the difference in a pop song. Just ask Jason Donovan, whose voice was practically drowned out by Stock Aitken Waterman's in-house backing singers in order for his records to be listenable. Also, songs like Cyndi Lauper's "Change Of Heart" (featuring The Bangles), Diana Ross's "Chain Reaction" (featuring Bee Gees) and anything with a massed choir for the final choruses wouldn't be the same without the background performers adding that certain something to the track.
This week in 1985, an Australian band finally achieved a top 10 hit with a track that owed a lot to the female singers who joined in on the chorus. And not just any backing singers - but the vocalists for another group that was also on the chart with the first of a string of hit singles. The collaboration clearly didn't do either act any harm at all.
A band who would go on to make a star out of one of their backing singers moved into the number 1 spot this week in 1985. Tears For Fears bumped Murray Head's "One Night In Bangkok" out of the top spot after only one week - the same amount of time "Shout" would manage at the summit.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 59
For the second week in a row - and the third time since the start of the year - a single from Lloyd Cole's album, also called Rattlesnakes, hit the top 100.
Peak: number 83
At the start of the month we saw Joe Cocker's contribution to the Teachers soundtrack, and now fellow hoary old rocker Bob Seger released his own - his second film song in a row.
Number 97 "Nellie The Elephant" by Toy Dolls
Peak: number 97
With the punk scene all but extinguished, it took a cover of a children's song from the 1950s for this British band to land a hit back home. Thankfully, Australia wasn't as convinced.
Number 83 "Ooh Ooh Song" by Pat Benatar
Peak: number 78
Australia had welcomed the new, gentler-sounding Pat on top 10 hit "We Belong", but this similarly poppy follow-up was deservedly ignored.
Number 46 "I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 12
"Born In The U.S.A." only just fell out of the top 10 this week in 1985 and, bizarrely, "Dancing In The Dark" bulleted back up into the top 30 in its 43rd week on the chart, but none of that prevented the latest single from The Boss joining those two songs on the top 50. At only two-and-a-half minutes long, "I'm On Fire" was easily the shortest of the four singles released from Born In The U.S.A. so far ("Cover Me" had reached number 17 in October 1984) and its subtlety made a nice contrast to the swinging-for-the-fences feel of the album's title track. Interestingly, Bruce didn't feel the uptown girl meets average guy mechanic theme of the video hadn't been covered by Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" a couple of years earlier.
Number 40 "Barbados" by Models
Peak: number 2
Around since 1978, Models had so far managed to place one single in each of the top 40 ("Cut Lunch", number 38 in 1981), top 30 ("Big On Love", number 24 in 1984) and top 20 ("I Hear Motion", number 16 in 1983). In what was a great year for the band, this second single from the upcoming Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight album finally gave them their top 10 breakthrough.
"Barbados", which referenced singer/bassist James Freud's battle with alcoholism, was denied the number 1 spot by "We Are The World" and likely wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful without the prominent vocals of backing singers Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne (aka, the vocalists for I'm Talking) in the chorus.
These days, it's not unusual for singers to promote their own releases via a guest vocal on another artist's track, but it wasn't common in 1985 for the singers of one group - who were sitting at number 18 with former top 10 hit "Trust Me" - to loan themselves out for a song by another band. As we'll see, it wouldn't be the only time the I'm Talking ladies would add that certain something to a big Models hit.
Peak: number 33
I'm only a very occasional David Bowie fan and while I mostly understand the rabid devotion he provokes, there are only a handful of songs of his that I can say I truly love ("Modern Love" and "Let's Dance" among them). This collaboration with jazz fusion act Pat Metheny Group is not one of them. Recorded for the spy movie The Falcon And The Snowman, "This Is Not America" certainly has a filmic quality to it and actually sounds a little like a Pet Shop Boys B-side (which should work in its favour as far as I'm concerned) - but at a time when soundtrack songs clogged up the chart, this just didn't stand out enough.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1985:
Next week: eight new entries in the top 50, including a novelty record by an AFL (then VFL) player, another track from Beverly Hills Cop, the second hit from Chess and a top 5 debut from an all-star charity ensemble.