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  • Gavin Scott

This Week In 1986: February 9, 1986

It hasn't been often that a foreign language song has penetrated the Australian top 50, but it happened a few times in the '80s. Most notably, German band Nena took "99 Luftballons" all the way to number 1, although it was backed by an English version, "99 Red Balloons", on the B-side.

Only in the '80s could a song in German about a dead classical composer reach the chart

This week in 1986, another German language single hit the ARIA top 50 - and although it was also a chart-topper in both the US and the UK, it had to settle for a top 20 berth locally.

For the third of four weeks, the number 1 spot in Australia this week in 1986 was held by "We Built This City" by Starship.

Off The Chart

Number 100 "When A Heart Beats" by Nik Kershaw

Peak: number 92

If "Don Quixote" couldn't make the top 50, there was no way this good but not great lead single from Radio Musicola was going to turn Nik's ARIA chart fortunes around.

Number 98 "Ball And Chain" by Wax

Peak: number 89

They might've gone on to release one of my favourite songs of 1986 and, in 1987, the first 7" record I ever bought - but I didn't know this single existed until now. Not as good as those others, but still not bad.

Number 89 "Bring On The Dancing Horses" by Echo & The Bunnymen

Peak: number 78

The sole new track from the UK band's Songs To Learn & Sing best of, which included their two other top 100 singles: "The Cutter" (number 67 in 1983) and "The Killing Moon" (number 96 in 1984).

New Entries

Number 49 "Heroes" by Debbie Byrne

Peak: number 37

Fifteen years earlier, she'd been one of the six original cast members of Young Talent Time, her popularity so immense that she had two top 30 singles in 1974 and even won a Logie Award. But, it'd been a good few years since much had been heard from Debbie Bryne- a drug addiction derailing her career for the early '80s. That all changed with the release of film Rebel. Co-starring Matt Dillon and featuring Debbie as a singer (so no real stretch there), the movie put her back in the public eye and returned her to the chart for the first time in 12 years. Acting roles - both on screen and on stage - continued to come her way, but Debbie never returned to the ARIA top 50, coming closest with 1989's "Nature's Lament".

Number 45 "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco

Peak: number 15

Here's our German-language hit single, although at least some of the many versions of "Rock Me Amadeus" (including what looks to have been two separate releases in Australia) contained English lyrics. Delivered in a muttered style that made it difficult to discern exactly what language Austrian performer Falco was signing in, the synthpop tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was so unique that it was always going to be massive, especially coming in the wake of Oscar-winning film Amadeus. Falco is yet another one of those performers wrongly identified as a one-hit wonder. In fact, "Rock Me Amadeus" was only his second biggest hit in Australia, with his version of "Der Kommissar" peaking 10 places higher than the After The Fire remake when both simultaneously charted here in mid-1983.

Number 43 "The Whole Of The Moon" by The Waterboys

Peak: number 12

It's always nice to see when Australia got it right - often before anywhere else in the world. That was the case with this classic from Celtic rock band The Waterboys, which almost made our top 10, but got no further than number 26 in the UK. "The Whole Of The Moon" would later reach number 3 in Britain following its re-release in 1991 to promote a greatest hits album. Fronted by the song's writer and producer Mike Scott, The Waterboys also included among their number a future hit-maker in the form of World Party's Karl Wallinger, best known for his 1987 hit, "Ship Of Fools". 

Number 42 "Men Without Shame" by Phantom, Rocker & Slick

Peak: number 36

Every so often, I'll come across a song of which I have no recollection. This debut single from Stray Cats spin-off project Phantom, Rocker & Slick is one of those tunes. With their former band split for the time being - Stray Cats would reform later in 1986 - drummer Slim Jim Phantom and bassist Lee Rocker teamed up with guitarist Earl Slick for this hard rock meets rockabilly project.

Number 29 "Love An Adventure" by Pseudo Echo

Peak: number 6

Despite another member change since we last saw them with "Don't Go" - Anthony Argiro was out, Vince Leigh was in - Pseudo Echo were on a bit of a hit streak at this stage of their career. The title track of their second album, "Love An Adventure" gave the Australian synthpop band their fourth big hit single. They seemingly had the world at their feet - although it would take a song not included on Love An Adventure to provide that global hit later in the year.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1986:

Next week: the debut of a new band fronted by one of punk's most popular performers, George Michael appears on a second single in a row by Elton John, new entries from Heart, Fine Young Cannibals and Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - and an actual ARIA chart printout.

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