This Week In 1989: December 3, 1989
Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2014. Updated in 2019.
As the world headed towards the 1990s, Australia found itself at a different type of crossroads - between the music the country had traditionally championed (i.e. pub rock), and new trends and genres (dance and R&B).
That was especially evident this week in 1989, with the ARIA top 50 singles chart looking like it was a case of "out with the old, in with the new"...
...except at the very top of the countdown, where Cher continued to reign supreme at number 1 with "If I Could Turn Back Time", while fellow 40-something performer Billy Joel crept up to number 2 with his homage to all things historical, "We Didn't Start The Fire".
Meanwhile, Single Of The Week made a comeback this week, after weeks of competitions occupying that spot - but we'll talk about "Woman In Chains" when it hits the top 50.
Off The Chart
Number 92 "Word Gets Around" by The Hummingbirds
Peak: number 72
It wasn't quite as catchy as "Blush", but this second single from loveBUZZ deserved better, perhaps getting lost in the pre-Christmas rush of big releases.
Number 81 "Love On A Mountain Top" by Sinitta
Peak: number 81
Like "Right Back Where We Started From", this latest single from Sinitta's Wicked album was another cover version (of a track previously recorded by Robert Knight). It just wasn't as good as her top 10 smash.
Number 79 "Baby You're Wild" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 79
Our third act in a row falling short with the follow-up to a top 20 hit, Mental As Anything at least made the top 100 with this third single from Cyclone Raymond. The album's fourth cut, "Overwhelmed", missed the chart completely.
Peak: number 65
In 1987, Choirboys released one of the biggest Aussie rock singles of the decade in "Run To Paradise", and went on to land a top 5 album, Big Bad Noise, which contained a couple more chart hits. Two years later, the pub band couldn't even crack the top 50 with the first single from what would be their next album, Midnight Sun. Obviously, "Empire" is no "Run To Paradise" (even I liked the latter), but for a brand new song by a band that'd been pretty successful to so spectacularly bomb indicates just how much musical tastes had changed in a relatively short space of time.
Peak: number 59
Another band with roots in the pub circuit whose best (charting) days seemed to be behind them was V. Spy V. Spy, who were also launching a new album - in this case, fourth LP Trash The Planet. Seems the band's record company had faith that the album was worth investing in, with recording taking place in the UK with big-name producer Craig Leon, but the title of this lead single would turn out to be rather apt.
Number 50 "Just Like Jesse James" by Cher
Peak: number 14
Not only did Cher hold down the top spot on the top 50 this week in 1989, but she also occupied the chart's bottom rung with the follow-up to "If I Could Turn Back Time". Like the reigning number 1 single, "Just Like Jesse James" was written by A-list songwriter Diane Warren, this time in collaboration with fellow in-demand tunesmith Desmond Child. The track that compared a guy to the 19th century American outlaw was also another single Cher wasn't that keen on. She didn't even make a video for the track, with clips from prior music videos cobbled together with footage of the Wild West. None of that, however, prevented it being another big hit.
Peak: number 4
I didn't quite know what to make of this song when I first heard it - an unrelenting dance track with a pushy rap and a chorus that sounded like it was being sung out of tune. And the video! Featured "vocalist" Felly dancing around wearing a bum bag in front of an epileptic fit-inducing series of flashing lights and colourful patterns. In a twist straight out of the Milli Vanilli/Black Box playbook, model Felly Kilingi didn't actually perform on the track, chosen to front the group since real rapper Ya Kid K was obviously not deemed attractive enough. That would change soon enough, but not before "Pump Up The Jam" became a worldwide smash, even reaching as high as number 2 in the US.
Number 34 "On Our Own" by Bobby Brown Peak: number 22
Last week, we saw Run DMC fail to make the top 50 with their take on Ray Parker Jr's theme from the original Ghostbusters and I mentioned there was a bigger hit from the sequel's soundtrack. Well, here it is - and it comes from the new jack swing star finally on a roll in Australia. As usual, it was co-written and produced by LaFace (LA Reid and Babyface), and like the original "Ghostbusters", it came with a celebrity-packed video, with the likes of Donald Trump and Christopher Reeve making cameo appearances. "On Our Own" didn't appear on Bobby's Don't Be Cruel album - from which he continued to release singles afterwards. Of course, these days, there'd be a deluxe edition rushed out to include the new hit as a bonus track.
Number 21 "Bed Of Nails" by Alice Cooper Peak: number 13
Here's a second new entry written by Desmond Child (who'd also composed "Poison" and the majority of the Trash album) and Diane Warren, this time with a songwriting credit for performer Alice Cooper as well. Despite its musical pedigree and American hard rock sound, "Bed Of Nails" wasn't released in the US - "House Of Fire" came out there as the follow-up to "Poison" instead.
Number 4 "That's What I Like" by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers Peak: number 4
Here we go again... "Swing The Mood" hadn't even been on the top 50 for two full months before this indentikit follow-up crashed into the chart. "That's What I Like" was only the fourth single in 1989 to debut in the top 5 (following "Especially For You", "Like A Prayer" and "Hand On Your Heart"), but despite such an impressive start, it didn't progress any further.
Slightly more tolerable than "Swing The Mood" - thanks to its liberal use of the awesome theme tune from Hawaii Five-O - "That's What I Like" mashed together rock era classics by the usual suspects: Chuck Berry, Bill Haley & The Comets, Chubby Checker, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and so on.
Thankfully, Australia tired of Jive Bunny after this release (which had been a second chart-topper for the cartoon rabbit in the UK) and the act was never seen on the top 50 again. In the UK, however, they had one more chart-topper ("Let's Party"), two more top 10 hits and released singles into 1992. Suckers.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1989:
Next week: Rival singles from two Neighbours stars debut, and a handful of new entries by artists who'd seen much better days.