This Week In 1987: April 5, 1987
There are many reasons why a band's lead singer might decide to go solo, but usually somewhere in the mix is tension within the group. Why keep fighting with your band-mates when you can go it alone and call all the shots yourself?
This week in 1987, two singers of bands that'd topped the ARIA chart earlier in the decade made their solo debut. And in both cases, internal strife was a factor that prompted them to record by themselves.
Another singer of a chart-topping band was enjoying (kind of) solo success 30 years ago this week. George Michael was once again at number 1 alongside Aretha Franklin with "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)".
Off The Chart
Peak: number 86
Everything about this - apart from singer Nick Whitecross's distractingly manic performance in the video (no longer on YouTube) - is sophisti-pop perfection. Pity it was a resounding flop both here and in the UK.
Peak: number 64
After finally scoring with "Don't Tear It Down", it was back to outside the top 50 with this double A-side release. The lead track was about murdered prostitute/drug addict-turned-police corruption whistleblower Sallie-Anne Huckstepp.
Peak: number 54
Last week, Linda Ronstadt debuted on the top 50 with her duet with James Ingram, "Somewhere Out There", and here she was again with another ballad collaboration which, this time, just missed the top 50. Recorded with fellow genre-hoppers Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, "To Know Him Is To Love Him" was taken from their joint album Trio, which was nominated for Album Of The Year at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Originally recorded by The Teddy Bears in 1958, the gentle ballad was the first of many big hits for its writer, Teddy Bears member and future super producer/convicted murderer Phil Spector.
Number 50 "Midnight Blue" by Lou Gramm
Peak: number 8
In 1985, Foreigner had the fifth-biggest single of the year with "I Want To Know What Love Is", but despite the band's continued success, lead singer Lou Gramm wasn't entirely satisfied. In a situation similar to the one that drove David Lee Roth from Van Halen, Lou and band-mate Mick Jones disagreed about whether Foreigner should be making pure rock music or utilise synths and modern production techniques.
And so while his band was between albums, Lou went off and recorded Ready Or Not. As evidence by lead single "Midnight Blue", it allowed Lou to hark back to the rock sound of "Hot Blooded" and "Jukebox Hero" rather than Foreigner's slick power ballads, and score an Australian and US top 10 hit for his troubles. That out of his system, Lou rejoined Foreigner soon enough for the Inside Information album (which featured hit "Say You Will"), before taking some time out again in 1989-90.
Number 45 "Hold On" by Models
Peak: number 21
Next up, a band with two lead singers who would both embark on solo careers before long. For the time being, however, Models were still a going concern - and one that finally got around to releasing the best song off Models' Media. With a video filmed during the Australian Made concerts, "Hold On" did better than you'd expect a third single from an already released album would do and equalled the peak of lead single "Evolution". The upswing wouldn't last - Models would only release one more single, their barely-a-hit cover of The Beatles' "Oh! Darling", before calling it a day.
Number 42 "What's My Scene" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 3
While Models were soon to be no more, fellow Aussie rockers Hoodoo Gurus were just reaching their commercial peak. Far and away the biggest hit of their lengthy career, "What's My Scene" spent nine weeks inside the top 10, peaking at number 3 and winding up as the 25th biggest single of the year. Although it's now become somewhat sullied by its 2003 reworking as rugby league advertising jingle "That's My Team", back in 1987 the song was an energetic burst of pop/rock with pretty much across-the-board appeal.
Number 35 "The Right Thing" by Simply Red
Peak: number 17
The last time we'd seen Simply Red on the top 50 it'd been with the slow-burn top 20 hit "Holding Back The Years". In 1987, the British soul/funk band released their second album, Men And Women, which debuted at number 8 on this week's albums chart. Lead single "The Right Thing" was exactly the type of Simply Red song I liked. More "Money's Too Tight (To Mention)" than "Holding...", its feel-good sound was indicative of the album's less serious tone.
Number 34 "Everything I Own" by Boy George
Peak: number 5
Two number 1 singles, six more top 20 hits, a chart-topping album and a number 2 follow-up - Culture Club had amassed some impressive chart stats in the four-and-a-bit years since their breakthrough with "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me". But behind the music there'd been drug problems, legal issues, internal strife, a cancelled tour and decreasing sales. It was inevitable the four-piece would fall apart.
Out of the ashes of both his hugely popular group and his numerous personal problems, Boy George arose to launch a solo career with this cover of the 1972 song by Bread, which had beena number 12 hit in Australia. Modelled on the 1974 Ken Boothe reggae remake, George's version of "Everything I Own" was eagerly snapped up by his legions of fans, sending him back into the top 5 for the first time since "The War Song" and giving him another UK number 1. The renewed success would be short-lived in Australia. It'd take six more years - and another cover version - for Boy George to return to the ARIA top 50.
Peak: number 3
As "Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room)" rocketed into the top 10, it was joined on the chart by another sleazy Hi-NRG club smash. "Male Stripper" was a collaboration between American duo Man 2 Man, which was comprised of brothers Miki and Paul Zone, and electro producer Man Parrish. And as the title suggests, it told the reasonably straightforward tale of an exotic dancer working in a go-go bar. With a subject matter like that, it was always going to be massive, reaching the top 3 despite only being released locally on 12". There is a tragic twist to the song's success, however. First released in August 1986, "Male Stripper" took a few months to cross over in the UK and then Australia, and by the time it had become a hit single in both countries, Miki had died from an AIDS-related illness. Paul continued with the act, but Man 2 Man remained a one-hit wonder in Australia. Despite the appearance of the screen grab below, the video does play.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:
Next week: three big bands but only one big hit - which two formerly successful groups struggle with their latest singles?