This Week In 1984: September 9, 1984
Some big singles were released in 1984 - songs that would sell millions of copies around the world and come to define the decade as a whole. This week that year, two such singles debuted on the ARIA top 50.
One was the solo debut of a singer who also held down the number 1 spot that week as one-half of pop's biggest duo. The other was the theme tune to one of 1984's most successful movies.
Only one of the two tracks would make it to number 1 in Australia, but both would end up among the year's top 5 biggest hits.
Another song that would end up as one of 1984's top 5 biggest hits spent its seventh and final week at number 1. Yep, it wasn't long before "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! would be gone-gone from the top spot.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 80
As "I Can Dream About You" moved up to number 3, this next single from Streets Of Fire debuted. One listen should be all you need to realise it was written by Jim Steinman, while Fire Inc. were a studio-based band put together for the film's soundtrack.
Number 76 "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" by Quiet Riot
Peak: number 59
Proving you can't always recreate chart magic, American rockers dipped into the Slade well for a second time with this remake of the 1972 song, but it fell some way short of the achievements of their cover of "Cum On Feel The Noize".
Number 50 "Missing You" by John Waite
Peak: number 5
The week's first new entry may not have reached "Careless Whisper" or "Ghostbusters" levels of success in Australia, but it did pretty well for itself, staying at number 5 locally for five weeks, as well as reaching number 1 in the US and the top 10 in the UK. The lead single from his second album, No Brakes, "Missing You" was the first solo hit for the former singer of The Babys (and future Bad English frontman) since nothing on his debut album had done very well.
It was also a last-minute addition to No Brakes, with John writing the song in record time once he came up with the opening line (which was inspired by The Babys' hit, "Every Time I Think Of You"). I always associate "Missing You" with short-lived TV series Paper Dolls - not only did John perform the song in the primetime soap, but he also appeared as himself in a number of episodes and was the love interest for Nicollette Sheridan's character.
Peak: number 44
He still had plenty of fans in Britain, with this latest single from The Bop Won't Stop reaching number 2 there, but this was Shakin' Stevens' last gasp of chart success in Australia with "A Love Worth Waiting For" proving to be his final top 50 hit. In the UK, the retro rocker still had a Christmas number 1 single (in 1985) up his sleeve and a top 5 hit as late as 1987, when his throwback sound was well and truly past its use by date.
Number 46 "I Wish" by Rose Tattoo
Peak: number 32
In 1984, a new-look Rose Tattoo returned with the Southern Stars album, three members having left and been replaced since we last saw them on the chart. Lead single "I Wish" saw Angry Anderson getting political, singing about his desire to do something more for people around the world (Ireland, Poland, Afghanistan and El Salvador are specifically mentioned) caught up in wars.
Number 44 "No Second Prize" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 12
While he was essentially absent from the music video for his former band Cold Chisel's "Flame Trees", which we saw debut last week, Jimmy Barnes was front and centre for this record: his debut solo single. The song, "No Second Prize", actually dated back to his days in Cold Chisel, who had recorded a demo of it in 1980 after Jimmy wrote it in tribute to two of the band's roadies who'd been killed in a car accident. Surprisingly, "No Second Prize" didn't make the top 10, peaking just outside, although perhaps his fans were saving their dollars for his debut album, Bodyswerve, which was released a few weeks after the single and made it to number 1 in mid-October.
Number 41 "Legs" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 6
They certainly took their time to release this song as a single, didn't they? The fifth single from Eliminator, which had come out 18 months earlier, "Legs" was far and away the biggest hit of ZZ Top's career to date (and of all time in Australia). Remixed from the more guitar-based album version, "Legs" was accompanied by the latest in the band's series of music videos featuring the Eliminator (the red car), the Eliminator girls (the trio of Playboy models who give the harried female protagonist a makeover) and ZZ Top's iconic fluffy guitars.
Number 26 "Careless Whisper" by George Michael
Peak: number 1
Wham! were at the height of their success - and would continue to be for a year or so - but that didn't stop the duo's singer and principal songwriter from launching his solo career with a song he'd written at the very start of the decade. It actually made complete sense for "Careless Whisper" to be released as a George Michael record instead of a Wham! one (except in the US and a couple of other countries, where it was credited to Wham! featuring George Michael). The moody ballad wasn't like anything Wham! had released before - both in terms of style and subject matter - but it did give a hint of the more serious and mature direction George Michael would take when he eventually went solo full-time.
Despite Andrew Ridgeley not having an artist credit on "Careless Whisper", he did receive a songwriting credit, with George explaining his band-mate contributed some lyrics and that the song was based on a chord pattern Andrew came up with. The song about a cheating partner was written when the pair were in their teens, and was one of the demos that landed them their original record and publishing deals. It had almost come out earlier, since it was recorded with legendary producer Jerry Wexler and Wham!'s original label, Innervision, wanted to release it. But that release was blocked and, after a new version was produced by George himself, it came out as the second single from the upcoming Make It Big album on Epic Records.
To say "Careless Whisper" was a big hit would be an understatement. A number 1 single in Australia, the UK (where it sold over 1.3 million copies), the US (where it sold over 2 million copies) and many other countries, the sax-driven schmaltz fest was massive. And I seem to be one of the only people in the world who doesn't really like it - too slow, too corny. Yes, the latter can also be said of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", but at least that has energy. But what do I know? As it would turn out, "Careless Whisper" would wind up one place above "Wake Me..." in the year-end chart, finishing 1984 as the year's fourth-biggest hit.
Number 17 "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr
Peak: number 2
Next up, the song that ended 1984 as the year's third-biggest hit in Australia despite never reaching number 1. The theme tune to the film of the same name, "Ghostbusters" would, however, spend 21 weeks in the top 10 - including at least one week at every position between numbers 2 and 10 (including five straight weeks at number 3).
The song was written and produced by Ray Parker Jr, who had previously reached the top of the singles chart in Australia with his debut solo single, 1982's "The Other Woman", and had landed two top 10 hits in the late '70s with his former group, Raydio. When given the assignment of coming up with the theme tune, Ray was instructed that it had to be called "Ghostbusters" to match the movie and struggled at first to get the word into the song. Once he came up with the late-night infomercial concept of the track, it quickly fell into place.
Problem was: musically, "Ghostbusters" sounded a little too similar to "I Want A New Drug" by Huey Lewis & The News. Huey, who'd actually been approached to write the theme for Ghostbusters but was already committed to working on Back To The Future, sued Ray for plagiarism and the case was settled out of court with a non-disclosure agreement. When Huey discussed the matter in 2001, revealing he'd been paid a settlement by Columbia Pictures, Ray sued for breach of the NDA. Given "Ghostbusters" was such a massive hit, I'm sure there was plenty of money to go around.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1984:
Next week: the debut solo single from one half of a hit-making synthpop duo, plus the second half of a duo of top 10 hits from a male singer's latest album.