This Week In 1986: June 8, 1986
What a year 1986 was for music and what a week it was this week that year, when eight new songs entered the ARIA top 50 - and I love every one of them.
Of the eight debuts, two singles were by 20-year-old female performers born a month apart who were both making their first top 50 appearance. One had actually been famous since she was a toddler, while the other had shot to fame in the UK for something other than singing in the previous three years.
Meanwhile, it seemed Australia couldn't get enough of the joke, with "Living Doll" remaining at number 1 for a fourth week for Cliff Richard & The Young Ones.
Off The Chart
Number 91 "Is It Love" by Mr Mister
Peak: number 91
Although their hit streak continued in America with this Billboard number 8 hit, Mr Mister had to make do with just the two hits in Australia.
Number 89 "Stick Around" by Julian Lennon
Peak: number 79
This lead single from second album The Secret Value Of Daydreaming did about as well as Julian's contribution to the Time soundtrack. He wouldn't return to the top 100 until 1989.
Number 85 "Rough Boy" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 85
They're not the sort of band you normally associate with power ballads - and that may be why this third single from Afterburner didn't find many takers. That, and it's a bit dull.
Number 82 "Right Between The Eyes" by Wax
Peak: number 68
The duo comprised of singer Andrew Gold and 10cc's Graham Gouldman edged closer to the ARIA top 50. The bouncy "Right Between The Eyes" did make the top 50 in America - and on my year-end list.
Peak: number 46
Here's another song that was a big hit with me in 1986 - but not so successful on the ARIA chart, matching the lousy number 46 peak of previous single "Sanctify Yourself". I'm not sure exactly whatSimple Minds had to do to score a bigger hit in Australia at this point - it's not as if they were releasing bad singles and album Once Upon A Time had only spent two weeks in the top 10 so it's not like everyone already owned the songs. The going was better for them in the UK, where "All The Things...", "Sanctify Yourself" and Once Upon A Time's other single to date, "Alive And Kicking", all reached the top 10 - part of the band's best chart run at home.
Peak: number 8
The Scots might have been struggling, but English band Mike + The Mechanics (who couldn't seem to decide if they styled their name with a + or an &) improved on the peak of debut single "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" by achieving their first Australian top 10 hit with the less moody "All I Need Is A Miracle". The track came with one of those story-telling music videos in which the band's manager gets into all manner of scrapes trying to raise money to pay off the nasty owner of the venue where Mike and pals are performing. The oblivious band play "All I Need Is A Miracle" while all that's going on. The manager (played by actor Roy Kinnear, aka Veruca Salt's dad) returned in the video for next single "Taken In", which missed the ARIA top 100.
Number 45 "Stimulation" by Wa Wa Nee
Peak: number 2
Time for some local fare - and there was no bigger home-grown hit in 1986 than this debut single by synthpop/funk band Wa Wa Nee. Even though it didn't reach number 1, "Stimulation" enjoyed a impressive 12-week run inside the top 10 run that went 6-5-3-2-3-4-3-6-5-7-6-10. As a result, the song wound up as the year's fifth biggest single. As we'll see in coming months, it was the start of a great 12 months for the mulleted foursome fronted by singer Paul Gray, who had been a regular in '80s concert line-ups in the years prior to his death in 2018. In fact, I think I saw Paul play more gigs than any other artist thanks to his support act/music director role for Belinda Carlisle, 1927, Rick Astley and those combo shows like the 2016 Totally 80s tour (which of course I attended).
Peak: number 6
You wouldn't have thought it would be so hard for a member of the Jackson family to sell records - especially one who'd also starred in three popular TV series between 1977 and 1985. But for Janet Jackson, a hit song had so far eluded her. The best she'd done up until this point had been the number 58 peak of "Come Give Your Love To Me" on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.
But that was all before Janet took matters into her own hands, sacking her father as manager and hiring John McClain, who lined up Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis to produce her third album, aptly titled Control. Former members of The Time, Jam & Lewis were establishing themselves as the go-to guys for R&B/funk hits, having worked their magic for The S.O.S. Band, Cherrelle and Cheryl Lynn, among others.
Together with Janet, who had a lot to get off her chest, the team crafted a string of hit singles, a musical partnership that would continue to yield chart smashes well into the 2000s. First up was "What Have You Done For Me Lately", with lyrics aimed squarely at her no-good ex, short-lived husband James DeBarge. The sound of a 20-year-old taking charge of her life, the song, with its hypnotic beat and feisty attitude, became the first of five straight US top 5 hits from Control, establishing Janet as a chart dominator to rival her brother Michael. "What Have You..." also burst into the ARIA top 10 - somewhere Janet wouldn't see again until 1990's "Black Cat".
Part of the success of "What Have You..." was down to its music video, which was choreographed by Paula Abdul, who'll you notice asking Janet the song's title at the start of the clip. Janet and Paula would work together on her next three promos, a partnership which was just as key to Janet's emergence as one of the world's top pop stars as anything else.
Number 36 "C'mon C'mon" by Bronski Beat
Peak: number 27
With "Hit That Perfect Beat", Bronski Beat established they could do just fine without Jimmy Somerville - and the trio now fronted by John Foster landed another (albeit much smaller) hit with this fiesta-themed follow-up. I can't help but think that, given Australia was headed into winter, "C'mon C'mon" and its summery music video may have had a warmer reception here later in the year, but a top 30 placement is not too bad. It would turn out to be the group's final chart appearance, with John departing Bronski Beat in 1987 and new music (with replacement singer Jonathan Hellyer) not surfacing until 1990.
Number 34 "Pistol In My Pocket" by Lana Pellay
Peak: number 17
While Bronski Beat went all Latin on us, Lana Pellay came out of nowhere (well, the UK equivalent of the RSL circuit) to fly the flag for camp-tastic hi-nrg music. And it didn't get much camper than "Pistol In My Pocket". With its double entendre lyrics and thumping disco beat, the song was performed by transgender pop star Lana (an alter ego of actor Alan Pellay). Although it sounds like it, "Pistol In My Pocket" wasn't actually a Stock Aitken Waterman production, but was written and produced by PWL's Daize Washbourn and Willi Morrison, who gave the song the requisite Hit Factory touch. Fun fact: The Three Degrees member Sheila Ferguson can be heard on backing vocals.
Number 33 "Let's Go All The Way" by Sly Fox
Peak: number 18
Next up, another one-hit wonder: American duo Sly Fox, which was comprised of singers Michael Camacho and Gary "Mudbone" Cooper. Not quite as big a single here as it was in the US (number 7) or the UK (number 3), "Let's Go All The Way" is still one of those songs most Australians who were growing up in 1986 recognise the second they hear its distinctive driving beat. Despite its title, "Let's Go..." probably isn't about "taking things to the next level", "reaching home base" or any other sex-related euphemism, since the rest of the songs lyrics and the track's music video suggest it has an anti-war bent.
Peak: number 1
The week's highest new entry was definitely all about sex. From the suggestive song itself to its voluptuous singer, who'd found fame in the UK at age 16 as a topless pin-up girl, "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" got pulses racing as it stormed into the chart on its way to number 1.
The track was the musical debut of 20-year-old Samantha Fox, who'd been appearing on page three of The Sun in the UK for years and hoped her mostly male fanbase would follow her next career pathjust as avidly. As it turned out, they - and quite a few new fans - would.
Everything about "Touch Me..." and its accompanying music video screamed sex. There was the orgasmic "ah touch me" intro, the rip in Sam's jeans in just the right spot, the raunchy cavorting with a horny young fan and that "like a tramp in the night..." line. Nope, there was no subtlety at play here, not that anyone seemed to mind one bit.
Despite often being billed as one, Samantha wasn't a one-hit wonder, with three more of her singles achieving respectable chart positions in Australia over the next three years.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:
Next week: a single with one of the most memorable music videos of the '80s debuts, as does a long-forgotten track by a band also known for their film clips. Plus, one of the biggest ballads of 1986 shoots straight into the top 20.