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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1987: August 9, 1987

Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2012. Updated in 2017.

In the past week, I attended my high school's 20 year reunion - it being (almost) two decades since I completed Year 12 in November 1992. On the night, schoolmates I haven't seen in years commented that they recall me always having an ARIA chart or issue of Smash Hits on hand. I guess it's nice to be remembered for something other than being crap at rugby.

Who's That Girl: great song, terrible movie

Something I would've been very excited about this week in 1987 is that two of the new entries on the ARIA top 50 were brand new songs by a couple of my favourite music acts - then and of all time. One was a new soundtrack single and the other was the lead release from an all-important second album.

Something I would've been less excited about was that The Party Boys were spending a second week at number 1 with "He's Gonna Step On You Again", but Kylie Minogue was closing in fast.

Off The Chart

Number 100 "Your Song (live)" by Elton John with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Peak: number 100

Elton took a rare break from his one studio album per year turnover and released a live album instead in 1987, recorded during his 1986 Australian tour. This concert recording of his 1971 number 11 single scraped in to the singles chart, but the album went top 5.

Number 97 "Ready Or Not" by Lou Gramm

Peak: number 97

A bit heavier than "Midnight Blue", this second single from the Foreigner singer's album of the same name didn't give him another hit. He'd have to wait until 1990 for that.

Number 96 "One For The Mockingbird" by Cutting Crew

Peak: number 96

Also not getting a second hit were the British band behind "(I Just) Died In Your Arms". At least "One For The Mockingbird", which I quite like, reached the top 100. Previous single "I've Been In Love Before" peaked just outside.

New Entries

Number 41 "Rhymes" by Rockmelons

Peak: number 26

I always feel like Rockmelons are one of Australia's most under-appreciated groups, probably because, like fellow funk/dance acts I'm Talking and Wa Wa Nee, they did not come from the pub rock scene which ruled Australian music at the time. A cover of an Al Green album track from 1975, "Rhymes" was the band's third single and first success. One of their previous attempts, "Sweat It Out", featured lead vocalist Peter Blakeley, who'd go on to have a major hit with "Crying In The Chapel" in 1990, but this track featured John Kenny. John would also sing their next two singles - one of which, "New Groove", is my personal favourite (and, coincidentally, has just come up on my iPod as I write).

Number 29 "It's A Sin" by Pet Shop Boys

Peak: number 10

Speaking of personal favourites, Pet Shop Boys are my top group of all time - and this is my favourite song by the British duo, which was the lead single from their second album, Actually, actually. It was also their return to the ARIA top 50 (and top 10) for the first time since breakthrough hit "West End Girls" and their second UK number 1. The melodramatic track was inspired by singer Neil Tennant's Catholic upbringing, the song's video features depictions of the seven deadly sins - sloth, avarice, pride, etc. - and I remember that info coming in handy in a Religion class at school when I could correctly name all seven. But that's Pet Shop Boys for you: educational as well as entertaining.

Number 17 "Who's That Girl" by Madonna

Peak: number 7

After three massive studio albums in a row - not to mention the odd soundtrack single as well - Madonna could easily have rested on her laurels in the second half of 1987, but she had a new film to promote and released this title single from the accompanying soundtrack. I'm pretty sure I've seen Who's That Girl, but all I can remember is that it features a cougar and Madonna wears a tutu at one point - although, to be honest, I could probably have got that from the song's music video. Long story short: it's not a great film, but this single, which followed "La Isla Bonita" by having a smattering of Spanish lyrics, was another pop classic.

Albums Chart

As promised last week, let's take a look at what was going on over on the albums chart in August 1987 and compare it to what's happening on the same chart in 2012.

1. This week in 1987, there were eight albums by Australian (or close enough) artists in the top 50, including LPs by Jenny Morris, Noiseworks, Crowded House and John Farnham (whose Whispering Jack would be the year's biggest seller). In 2012, there are 14, which includes one each from the four finalists from The Voice.

2. There were also eight albums by female solo artists - two of which were by Whitney Houston and one which was by the combined forces of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris (which I'm counting anyway). Today, there are 11, three of which are by the aforementioned contestants from The Voice.

3. Six compilations or soundtracks were on 1987's top 50, including the greatest compilation of the 1980s: '87 Right On Track. Today, multi-artist compilations like the So Fresh and Now series have their own chart, however the soundtrack to The Sapphires and an Olympics compilation qualify, through ARIA's technical chart rules, for the main top 50.

4. Groups made up the vast majority of albums entries in 1987, with 27 bands featuring in the top 50, including the biggest groups of the day - Bon Jovi (who had the week's number one album) and U2 - and the biggest group of all time: The Beatles. In 2012, only 16 top 50 albums are by groups, including Coldplay, Maroon 5 and, once again, The Beatles.

5. Mega successful albums hung around the top 50 for a long time in 1987, with eight different titles clocking up more than 40 weeks on the chart - the longest running being Whitney Houston's self-titled debut album, which was in its 88th week. Today, it's a similar story, with seven albums registering over 40 weeks.

If you're wondering what the squiggles on the albums chart are, there's an explanation. From memory, the ticks are albums I owned at the time and the circled titles were ones I was thinking about buying - although it looks like I decided against getting Swing Out Sister's It's Better To Travel (even though I now have it on CD).

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1987:

Next week, there still won't be any breakers to talk about - but there will be more than enough new entries to keep us busy, with seven songs cracking the top 50. Before then, I'll take a trip back to 1983 for my own favourites from that year.

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