Saturday, 24 June 2017

This Week In 1984: June 24, 1984

Hands up who would've thought "What Is Love?" by Howard Jones was a big hit in Australia? Maybe I'm biased - we had a copy of his debut album, Human's Lib, in our house - but it seemed to get plenty of attention at the time and it's certainly one of those songs that has lived on since the mid-'80s, suggesting it did well originally.

What is love, indeed? Howard Jones got little from Australia at this point

But no, as we'll see, it didn't even reach the top 30 - and is part of a list of songs, including "When I Think Of You", "Save A Prayer" and "Club Tropicana", that all weren't as successful as you (or maybe just I) would've thought.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 24, 1984

A song that was certainly successful was still number 1 this week in 1984. "Hello" by Lionel Richie registered its third week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Lebanon" by Innocent Bystanders
Peak: number 98
The Human League's "The Lebanon" climbed to number 24 this week, while this debut single by the Perth band which featured Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) on guitar covered similar topical terrain.

Number 99 "Love Somebody" by Rick Springfield
Peak: number 83
Rick's biggest US hit since 1982's "Don't Talk To Strangers" was taken from Hard To Hold - the album and film of the same name. Rick starred in the movie as a rock star/ladies' man.

Number 98 "Party" by Le Club Foote
Peak: number 56
Featuring Kym Gyngell (aka Col'n Carpenter) on keyboard, this Melbourne band almost made the top 50 with their debut single, but never progressed any further, dissolving after one album.

Number 93 "Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA
Peak: number 66
The band otherwise known as The Specials had never been as big in Australia as in the UK - a form they maintained with this anti-apartheid anthem, a number 9 hit in Britain.

Number 85 "Head Over Heels" by The Go-Go's
Peak: number 60
The fourth and smallest of the girl band's charting singles in Australia was the lead release from third album Talk Show. It was also their last major hit in the US, where it reached number 11.

New Entries
Number 50 "Breakdance" by Irene Cara
Peak: number 19
She'd already released singles from Fame, Flashdance and D.C. Cab, and so you'd be forgiven for assuming (as I did) that the latest hit from Irene Cara was another soundtrack song, given it seemed custom-made for any number of breakdance movies that were out around the time. But "Breakdance", which was once again produced by Giorgio Moroder, appears to have been a missed opportunity on that front. Even without a soundtrack tie-in, the song became another top 20 single for Irene, but it would also be her final hit in Australia.

Number 45 "What Is Love?" by Howard Jones
Peak: number 31
His debut single, "New Song", missing the top 50 was regrettable, but there really was no excuse for follow-up "What Is Love?" to peak outside the top 30 on the ARIA chart. A much more deserving number 2 hit in the UK, the synthpop classic was one of the best songs of 1983 (released in Australia a few months later) and established Howard Jones as one of music's most exciting new pop talents. Australia eventually got with the program, although it took until 1986's "No One Is To Blame" for him to reach our top 10. 

Number 44 "Run Runaway" by Slade
Peak: number 17
We saw them return to the Australian chart earlier in 1984, but English glam rockers Slade really made their presence felt with this highland fling-meets-rock anthem. With its bagpipes, fiddle and thundering drums, "Run Runaway" is probably the most Scottish a band south of the border has ever sounded, while its call and response lyrics make it the ultimate sing-along standard. The rousing track enjoyed a 19-week stay on the top 50, becoming Slade's eighth (and final) top 20 hit locally, while in the US, it was their first (and only) single to reach the same section of the chart.

Number 38 "Automatic" by The Pointer Sisters
Peak: number 15
Like Slade, The Pointer Sisters had charted earlier in 1984 with a song that'd return following the success of this week's new hit. Unlike Slade's "My Oh My", which didn't do any better second time around, "Jump (For My Love)" would end up being huge. Before that happened, "Automatic" was the song to bring Anita, June and Ruth back to the top 50 for the first time since "I'm So Excited" reached number 9 in early 1983. 
The last track added to the trio's Breakout album, "Automatic" was chosen as a single ahead of "Jump (For My Love)" in the US and became their biggest hit there since 1981's "Slow Hand". A slinky synth jam, "Automatic" featured some deep vocals from oldest sister Ruth and, in the Soul Train performance below, some of the puffiest, shiniest dresses ever known to man.

Number 19 "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" by Elton John
Peak: number 4
So while Howard Jones struggled to get people to buy one of the best songs of the decade, his fellow countryman Elton John stormed back into the chart with what I have to say is a pretty average tune. One of his biggest hits of the decade, "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" did also happen to be Elton's first new release after he'd finished mining his excellent Too Low For Zero album for singles, which probably explains the fervour with which the song was snapped up. Fun fact: the music video for "Sad Songs..." was filmed in Sydney.

Next week: the world's hottest duo make it even bigger with the lead single of their second album, plus a promising debut from a new Australian band.

Back to: Jun 17, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 1, 1984

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: June 21, 1992

"A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)". "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?". "Let It Go". Disney animated films have been responsible for some sizable chart hits in the past few decades - and it's all thanks to the song that debuted on the ARIA top 50 this week in 1992.

Sick of that Frozen song? Blame these two

The first Disney song to be transformed into a pop version, the track was also the international launchpad for a singer with a decade's worth of releases already under her belt.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 21, 1992

Meanwhile, for the second and final week, the number 1 single in Australia this week in 1992 was "Take It From Me" by Girlfriend.

Off The Chart
Number 71 Blink by Def FX
Peak: number 71
A slight chart improvement, but nevertheless still a minor entry for the genre-blurring band with their third EP, which was led by the track "Sex Game Sucker".

Single Of The Week
"What Are We Gonna Do?" by Dramarama
Peak: number 60
Another band making their second appearance on the ARIA top 100 was American rock act Dramarama, with this single from their major label debut, Vinyl. The lyrics of "What Are We Gonna Do?" refer to Earth Day, although they're off by a day, apparently because the band played an Earth Day gig on April 21, 1991 (when the environmental awareness day is actually April 22). Whether or not it was intended to be one, the song has been adopted as an environmentalist anthem.

New Entries
Number 50 "Too Funky" by George Michael
Peak: number 3
George Michael had intended to follow Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 with a second volume, but then things became messy with his record label, Sony Music, who he sued later in 1992 claiming an unreasonable restraint of trade. Rather than waste the music he'd already been working on, he donated "Too Funky" to the Red Hot + Dance album, a follow-up to 1990's Red Hot + Blue collection. 
Lyrically, it was his sexiest release since, not surprisingly, "I Want Your Sex", while musically, it was his most upbeat single "Freedom '90" - and came with another supermodel-featuring music video. The funky track matched the peak of his most recent stand-alone single, "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" (with Elton John), and proved yet again that, despite contractual issues causing his releases to slow to a trickle, he had as many fans as ever.

Number 46 "Beauty And The Beast" by Celine Dion / Peabo Bryson
Peak: number 17
Disney decided to do something they'd never done before with the soundtrack of their 1991 animated film, Beauty And The Beast - they released a pop version of its theme tune. In the movie, Angela Lansbury performed the title song, but while her sweet rendition worked perfectly in that context, it was never going to fly on radio. 
And so up-and-coming singer Celine Dion (who'd only had one US top 10 hit at that point) and soul star Peabo Bryson (best known in Australia for "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love" and sharing a name with a fly spray) were recruited to turn the song into a soaring power ballad. With lush production courtesy of frequent Mariah Carey collaborator Walter Afanasieff, "Beauty And The Beast" was transformed into a belt-it-out anthem - and set the standard for those other Disney tunes I mentioned at the start and so many more. 
A Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe winner, "Beauty And The Beast" was an unmitigated success story. It also gave Celine some much-needed exposure to bring her one step closer to becoming the chart-hogging behemoth she'd be throughout the rest of the decade. As for Peabo... well, he wasn't done with Disney ballads just yet.

Number 44 "Just Take My Heart" by Mr Big
Peak: number 27
As we've seen numerous times over the past few years, American rock power ballads had incredibly mixed fortunes on the ARIA chart - and I doubt this pretty pedestrian example would've been anywhere near as successful locally if it wasn't following up number 1 smash "To Be With You". Written by singer Eric Martin about the breakdown of his first marriage, "Just Take My Heart" was Mr Big's final appearance on the top 50, although we'll see them come close with a remake in 1993.

Next week: regular readers know about my obsession with one-hit wonders - well, how about a bunch of one-week wonders? And they're all by acts that had other much more successful singles.

Back to: Jun 14, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 28, 1992

30 Years Ago This Week: June 21, 1987

It really did take ages for some songs from overseas to become successful in Australia in the '80s. For starters, there was no such thing as New Music Friday - the current global release date for new music. Local release dates could be months after a song came out overseas. Also, new artists often took a while to catch on here, with radio and TV sometimes reluctant to champion unknown acts.

Swing Out Sister finally broke out in Australia in mid-1987

This week in 1987, a new group's debut single, which had been a top 5 hit in the UK in November 1986, finally entered the ARIA top 50 after a 12-week climb up the top 100. It wouldn't reach its ultimate peak here until the final week of July.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending June 21, 1987

A song that had become an immediate hit took its final step up the chart this week in 1987. "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston moved into the number 1 position for the first in a five-week run.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Hot For Love" by The Technicians
Peak: number 90
This second single by the Brisbane-based pop band was released on Powderworks, who'd released Midnight Oil and Allniters' early records. Unfortunately for The Technicians, they weren't as successful and then the label went into liquidation shortly after.

Number 94 "You Ain't So Tough" by Dance Like A Mother
Peak: number 94
The new project for ex-Belle Star Jennie Matthias (alongside guitarist Melissa Ritter), DLAM got their Janet Jackson-ish pop/funk courtesy of US producers Preston Glass and Randy Jackson - and aped Robert Palmer in the music video.

"Body And Soul" by Jenny Morris
Peak: number 55
It was a case of one step forwards, two steps back for Jenny Morris, who followed up her first ever top 50 hit with a chart disappointment for the title track of her upcoming debut album. Luckily for Jenny, the Body And Soul album was better received than this self-penned single, with the LP reaching its number 13 peak in September - the same position achieved by its biggest hit, "You I Know"

New Entries
Number 44 "Big Time" by Peter Gabriel
Peak: number 37
It'd done the trick for the lead single from So and an animated video once again worked a treat for the album's fourth release, "Big Time", which quickly became a music TV favourite. A song about the quest for success, "Big Time" wasn't that, er, big a hit in Australia, but it did spur the album back up the chart for another stint inside the top 10. This would be the last we'd see of Peter on the singles chart for five years, when he returned with the lead single from Us - and its animated music video 

Number 43 "Dominoes" by Robbie Nevil
Peak: number 38
Like Europe's "Rock The Night", this second chart hit for Robbie Nevil has always been a favourite of mine despite being completely overshadowed by its predecessor, "C'est La Vie", which was still inside the top 40 this week. Another catchy pop/funk track, "Dominoes" would be the final hit from Robbie's self-titled debut album and he wouldn't return to the ARIA chart until 1991, when his third album, Day 1, yielded a single to rival the success of "C'est La Vie".

Number 42 "Breakout" by Swing Out Sister
Peak: number 12
Here's the song that took forever to find its way into the Australian top 50 - after weeks hovering around the 50s and 60s, Swing Out Sister's breakthrough single finally gained enough momentum to make some serious headway up the chart. A joyful burst of sophisti-pop, "Breakout" teamed singer (and fashion designer) Corinne Drewery's resonant vocals with a buoyant horn-drenched track on one of the year's best songs. 
Unfortunately, despite other great tracks on debut album It's Better To Travel like "Fooled By A Smile" and "Twilight World", and 1989's excellent "You On My Mind", this would be SOS's only top 50 appearance in Australia. I'm not sure why the black and white version of the music video (below) has been chosen over the colour one for the band's Vevo channel - it just doesn't have the same impact, especially at the all-important key change/fashion show reveal towards the end.

Next week: we reach the end of the first half of 1987 with eight new entries, including the more succesful of two rival cover versions of the same song and the long-awaited (for me) top 50 debut of a British band I was quite a fan of.

Back to: Jun 14, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 28, 1987

Saturday, 17 June 2017

This Week In 1984: June 17, 1984

A number 1 single. Another single which entered the top 10 this week. A top 5 album. The Footloose soundtrack was an unstoppable force on the ARIA chart. Until it wasn't.

Another big hit from Footloose? Not so much

This week in 1984, the film's third single entered the top 50 but wouldn't breach the top 40, while two more tracks from the movie debuted on the top 100, destined never to make it to the top 50. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 17, 1984

The song that knocked "Footloose" off the top of the singles chart remained at number 1 again this week in 1984. "Hello" by Lionel Richie spent a second week as Australia's biggest single.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "Never" by Moving Pictures
Peak: number 80
Two years earlier, they'd topped the chart with "What About Me", but this Footloose track, which wasn't released as a single in the US, couldn't turn Moving Pictures declining chart fortunes around.

Number 74 "Just A Dream" by Nena
Peak: number 71
Two months earlier, they'd topped the chart with "99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons" but this peppy follow-up by German band Nena faltered, resulting in them becoming a one-hit wonder.

Number 70 "Dancing In The Sheets" by Shalamar
Peak: number 68
Another new entry from Footloose (not that you'd know it from the video) was the first single by the post-Jody Watley (and Jeffery Daniel) line-up of Shalamar. "Dancing In The Sheets" was a US top 20 hit.

New Entries
Number 49 "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" by Scritti Politti
Peak: number 25
Scritti Politti's second album, Cupid & Psyche 85, was still a year away, but with "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)", frontman Green Gartside (real name: Paul Strohmeyer) gave an indication of the new direction his band would take. And it was his band, with the former line-up responsible for 1982's debut album, Something To Remember, having been disbanded as a result of Green's desire for a more mainstream, major label approach. A slick blend of synthpop and funk that referenced Aretha Franklin's "I Say A Little Prayer", "Wood Beez..." gave Scritti Politti their first UK top 10 single and their only Australian top 50 hit, but even better music was still to come - including big US hit "Perfect Way" and 1988's "First Boy In This Town (Lovesick)".

Number 47 "Holding Out For A Hero" by Bonnie Tyler
Peak: number 44
Jumping 50 places this week, "Holding Out For A Hero" looked like it was going to become the third high-flying hit from Footloose, but it quickly ground to a halt, spending the next three weeks at 47-44-44, before falling out of the top 50. The melodramatic song courtesy of - who else? - songwriter and producer Jim Steinman (who was behind "Total Eclipse Of The Heart") is more memorable than its lowly chart performance would suggest. Not only did "Holding..." play during Footloose's pivotal tractor chicken scene, but it has been used countless times in the decades since in TV shows, movies and ads. 
When approached by the movie's screenwriter and soundtrack co-writer, Dean Pitchford, to write the song for Bonnie, Jim lifted the opening riff from his own track "Stark Raving Love", which had appeared on his 1981 album, Bad For Good, and incorporated it into "Holding...". We'd see Bonnie on the top 100 just one more time after this, with 1986's "If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)", which itself was recycled later that year for Bon Jovi.

Number 44 "Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung
Peak: number 7
Because I've already covered the ARIA charts from 1986, I delved into the background of Wang Chung previously, but it was this week in 1984 that the British band landed their first hit with "Dance Hall Days". A track they'd recorded in 1982 in their previous guise as Huang Chung, the song was reworked for their first album as Wang Chung, Points On The Curve, and this time became a worldwide hit. Two videos were made for "Dance Hall Days" - the one below, directed by Derek Jarman, and another you can check out (with bonus Pop-Up Video facts) here. The song's inspiration came from the dance hall band that singer Jack Hues' father used to play in - and which Jack himself played for when he was starting out.

Next week: one of music's most reliable hit-makers returns with one of his biggest singles of the '80s. Plus, another British male artist scores his first top 50 single.

Back to: Jun 10, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 24, 1984

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: June 14, 1992

"Relax". "Smalltown Boy". "Male Stripper". There had been quite a few hit songs in the '80s that dealt with the lives and loves of gay men, but not so many - possibly none? - about lesbian relationships. 

Sophie B Hawkins made a damn impressive debut in 1992

That changed this week in 1992, when the debut single by an American artist who describes herself as omnisexual arrived on the ARIA singles chart. Although I did not realise until this very moment that it was written about one woman's feelings for another.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums - week ending June 14, 1992

At the top of the chart this week in 1992, a group of five young women ascended to number 1. "Take It From Me" by Girlfriend began a two-week stint as the country's best-selling single.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Black Bandages" by Falling Joys
Peak: number 100
They continued releasing music into 1995, but this uncharacteristically brash lead single from second album Psychohum was the last one to feature on the top 100 for Falling Joys.

Number 92 "Drive Me Crazy" by Peter Andre
Peak: number 72
Molly Meldrum's latest musical project made an understated debut with this new jack swing-lite single, which he co-wrote with the PWL B-team, Phil Harding and Ian Curnow. 

Number 76 "Outshined" by Soundgarden
Peak: number 76
In a couple of years' time, they'd have one of the biggest hits of the grunge era, but for now, Soundgarden slipped into the top 100 with this single from Badmotorfinger.

Number 75 "Better Days" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 75
In the US, this charted as a double A-side with "Human Touch", but in Australia, this track from Bruce Springsteen's other current album, Lucky Town, went it alone.

Number 71 "Head Above Water" by Hunters & Collectors
Peak: number 64
Previous release "Where Do You Go" had been pretty much what you'd expect from the Hunters, but this next single from upcoming album Cut gave a good indication of their new musical direction. 

"Will You Marry Me?" by Paula Abdul
Peak: number 54
Back in December, Australia had broken away from Paula Abdul's US release schedule by opting to go with "Vibeology" (which reached number 63) instead of "Blowing Kisses In The Wind" (which missed the top 100 when it was eventually released earlier in 1992). For the fifth single from Spellbound, we fell back in line with America and went with "Will You Marry Me?", which returned Paula to the top 100 (and almost the top 50), no doubt picking up some interest due to the fact the singer had actually just got married - to Emilio Estevez. 

"Now More Than Ever" by John Mellencamp
Peak: number 61
Like "Again Tonight", the third single from John Mellencamp's Whenever We Wanted album feels familiar, but perhaps it's just its back-to-basics rock sound. I really don't have anything else to say about "Now More Than Ever" other than there are some cute scenes of kids dancing in the music video.

New Entries
Number 50 "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" by Sophie B Hawkins
Peak: number 7
And here I was thinking the only revolutionary thing about the debut single for singer/songwriter Sophie B Hawkins was that it had the word "damn" in its title. Turns out, the song is from the perspective of a woman who sees the object of her desire - another woman - in an abusive relationship. Shows how much attention I pay to lyrics. But then again, I don't think I was the only one to miss the meaning of the song, since any stir there was about "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" actually related to its initial video, which was rejected by MTV for being too racy. A top 10 hit in Australia and the UK, it was a great start to Sophie's career, but it would be another three years before she'd be back on the top 50 - with another song that peaked at number 7.

Number 48 "It Must Be Love" by Madness
Peak: number 48 (original peak 6)
It'd been Madness's first massive Australian hit in early 1982 and their eighth consecutive top 10 single back home in the UK. A decade on, "It Must Be Love" was re-released to support the band's greatest hits collection, Divine Madness, which was the first compilation (and there had already been quite a few) to include all 22 of their singles - in chronological order (just how it should be). A cover of a 1971 song by Labi Siffre (which reached number 46 in Australia), "It Must Be Love" only grazed the ARIA top 50 this time around, but in the UK, where re-releases, remixes and re-recordings of old songs to promote new best ofs was commonplace, the song returned to the top 10.

Number 46 "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" by Kiss
Peak: number 18
Here's another song that was first recorded back in 1971 (although not released by Argent until 1973), and covered by both Christian rockers Petra (twice) and British band The Truth before KISS had a go at it. Included on the soundtrack to Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, the slightly renamed "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" gave the band their most successful single in Australia since their 1980 heyday and the number 5 peak of "Shandi".

Number 38 "This Road" by James Blundell
Peak: number 26
What a good move that collaboration with James Reyne had been. "Way Out West", which fell out of the top 10 this week, had ignited huge mainstream interest in country star James Blundell, so much so that his album This Road had debuted in the top 5 in May. And now, the title track gave him his first - and, as it would turn out, last - solo hit single.

Number 32 "The One" by Elton John
Peak: number 15
Since the arrival of his debut album, Elton John had kept up a remarkably consistent release schedule - issuing at least one studio album nearly every year between 1969 and 1989 (the exceptions: 1977 and 1987, when a compilation and live album respectively kept things ticking along). And so the gap between 1989's Sleeping With The Past and 1992's The One was longer than Elton had ever left before. The reason for the break was down to the music legend having checked himself into rehab in 1990 after years of drugs and debauchery. His musical return, however, was pretty much business as usual, with The One's lead single and title track about as typical an Elton John ballad as you could hope for - and another top 20 hit to add to the 27 he'd already achieved.

Number 30 "Smells Like Nirvana" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
Peak: number 24
His previous visits to the Australian chart had been with parodies of Michael Jackson and Madonna songs, but in 1992, despite recent releases by both superstars to poke fun at, "Weird Al" Yankovic turned his attention to music's newest big thing: grunge. Actually, he was going to send up "Black Or White", but his attempt, "Snack All Night", was, for once, not something Michael was thrilled by, given the more serious subject matter of the source material. 
And so, "Weird Al" made fun of the fact that Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain is almost incomprehensible on "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and released his spoof with a music video that showed the comedian's typical attention to detail. The parody restored Al to the chart, following the complete failure of his previous project, the movie UHF and its soundtrack. It would, however, be his last visit to the ARIA top 50.

Next week: a music megastar breaks his musical silence, plus the dawn of the modern era of Disney theme tunes.

Back to: Jun 7, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 21, 1992

30 Years Ago This Week: June 14, 1987

In my time as a music journalist, I've read countless bios for new artists, hoping to find an interesting fact or two I can ask them about in an interview. The more interesting the angle, the more readers are going to care.

There was more to Breakfast Club than having a famous ex-drummer

This week in 1987 saw the ARIA chart debut of a band with one especially exciting fact about them: Madonna used to be a member. No doubt, they were asked about that in every interview they ever did. It would've also gained them way more attention than most other new groups. Would they have been as successful without such a famous ex-member? Who's to say, but I'd like to think their song would've been just as big - since it was one of the year's best.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending June 14, 1987

The biggest song in Australia 30 years ago this week was still "Slice Of Heaven" by Dave Dobbyn with Herbs. It kept Whitney Houston in the runners-up spot for a second week as it spent its fourth and final week at number 1. 

New Entries
Number 50 "Leave Me" by Cattletruck
Peak: number 39
If I was reading the bio for Melbourne band Cattletruck, I might learn that their name used to be the just-as-awful Caught In A Cattletruck and their debut single had been the self-released "Never Is" in 1985. "Leave Me" was their second single through their deal with Regular Records and their first to enter the top 50. Sounding like a cross between Boom Crash Opera and Big Pig, it's a song I liked at the time and wished I owned a copy of now - last time I checked it wasn't on iTunes. Cattletruck would release a couple more singles - "Rain" and "Resurrection Shuffle" - throughout 1987, but never quite took off like those other local bands.

Number 49 "Reet Petite" by Jackie Wilson
Peak: number 20
It had originally been a number 10 hit in Australia in 1958, and almost three decades later, soul singer Jackie Wilson's debut single returned to the chart thanks to a wildly popular claymation music video which prompted its re-release. In the UK, where the animation was used to advertise Miller beer, "Reet Petite" had been the 1986 Christmas number 1, almost three years after Jackie had passed away. Locally, it only ventured as far as number 20, but it did spend just over half a year on the top 100. Fun fact: "Reet Petite" was co-written by Berry Gordy, who used his proceeds from the song's success to set up Motown Records. 

Number 47 "Sonic Boom Boy" by Westworld
Peak: number 27
Named after the same movie that inspired last year's HBO series starring Anthony Hopkins and a bunch of robots, three-piece British band Westworld just missed the UK top 10 with their debut single, "Sonic Boom Boy". The track, which gave rockabilly a modern (for 1987) twist was easily Westworld's biggest hit, with a string of much less successful releases following it.

Number 41 "Wanted Dead Or Alive" by Bon Jovi
Peak: number 13
They were still riding high with "Livin' On A Prayer", which sat at number 9 this week, but the onslaught of Bon Jovi hits continued as the third single from Slippery When Wet entered the top 50. Originally intended as the album's title, "Wanted Dead Or Alive" compared the life of a touring band to that of cowboys in the Wild West and was accompanied by a music video that showed them on the road. A lighters-in-the-air rock ballad, the track was a departure for the Bon Jovi and spawned a trend for late '80s hair metal bands to show their softer, acoustic side. A fully acoustic performance of the song, along with "Livin'...", at the 1989 MTV Music Video Awards was also the inspiration for the MTV Unplugged series, which debuted later that same year and would be responsible for some huge hits in the early '90s.

Number 24 "Right On Track" by Breakfast Club
Peak: number 4
Back in 1979, Breakfast Club was formed by brothers Dan and Ed Gilroy in New York, and featured NYC newcomer (and Dan's girlfriend) Madonna as drummer. Eight years, several line-up changes and the phenomenal success of their one-time drummer later, Breakfast Club finally hit the chart with "Right On Track". The song was co-written by the band's current drummer, Stephen Bray, who just happened to be another of Madonna's exes, not to mention the co-writer of some of her biggest hits. 
Naturally, the connection to the Queen of Pop worked in Breakfast Club's favour, but I doubt the song would've been quite as big a hit - top 10 in Australia and the US - if that's the only thing it had going for it. A slick dance-pop tune, "Right On Track" was produced by Jimmy Iovine and came with a zany dancing chicken-featuring music video directed by Jeff Stein, who'd also directed The Cars' MTV VMA Video Of The Year winner, "You Might Think". 

Next week: a song that finally makes the top 50 after being Single Of The Week twice. Plus, another song with an inventive animated music video.

Back to: Jun 7, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 21, 1987

Saturday, 10 June 2017

This Week In 1984: June 10, 1984

Some of music's biggest songs have come about when artists are pressured to deliver a hit single. Pop history is littered with numerous examples of one more song being written for an album - and that hastily added track going on to be massive.

Courteney Cox and Bruce Springsteen were dancing in the charts in 1984... and 1985

This week in 1984, the final song completed for a soon-to-be-huge album (at the behest of the singer's manager) debuted on the ARIA singles chart. It would end up as the year's number 1 song... without ever reaching the top of the chart. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 10, 1984

At the top of the chart this week in 1984, "Hello" by Lionel Richie took over from "Footloose" as Australia's most popular song. It was the first of a three-week run at number 1.

Off The Chart
Number 96 "Authority Song" by John Cougar Mellencamp
Peak: number 93
Another big hit in the US, another flop in Australia from JCM's Uh-huh album. John would get his local chart career back on track with 1985's Scarecrow album.

Number 76 "Civilized Man" by Joe Cocker
Peak: number 51
A year-and-a-half after he topped the chart with Jennifer Warnes, Joe Cocker peaked 50 places lower with the lead single and title track of Civilized Man

New Entries
Number 50 "Not The Loving Kind" by The Twins
Peak: number 24
Not to be confused with Thompson Twins (who jumped up to number 27 this week), this German synthpop act was actually comprised of two people: singer Ronny Schreinzer and keyboardist Sven Dohrow. They weren't, however, related, but got their name from the fact that they were dressed and styled similarly in an early photo shoot. Taken from the duo's third album, A Wild Romance, "Not The Loving Kind" doesn't appear to have been a hit at home in Germany - although two other tracks from the album were. 

Number 47 "Cry" by Dragon
Peak: number 17
After the disappointing chart performance of "Magic", Dragon rallied and delivered yet another solid pop/rock track ahead of their Body And The Beat album, which would debut in the top 10 in a few weeks. "Cry" at least returned them to the top 20 of the singles chart but I can't quite work out why the band's songs weren't being better received. Perhaps number 2 smash "Rain" was proving too big a hit to live up to.

Number 46 "Heaven (Must Be There)" by Eurogliders
Peak: number 2
Like Dragon, Eurogliders were up to their third single from their (just-released) new album, This Island - but in this case it was "Heaven (Must Be There)" that would give them their number 2 hit after the LP's two previous singles hadn't even dented the top 50. The sound of a band hitting their stride, "Heaven..." built from its subdued verses to explode into one of the year's catchiest choruses. And while Eurogliders would never better this chart peak, they did, unlike Dragon, have a couple more top 10 hits to come.

Number 45 "Dancing In The Dark" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 5
If at the start of 1984, you'd tried to predict who would turn out to be one of the year's biggest artists, you probably wouldn't have named the man who'd only ever enjoyed two minor top 40 hits (five years apart) in his already lengthy music career. Even in the US, Bruce Springsteen had only had one top 10 hit up until this point - 1980's "Hungry Heart" (number 33 here). 
But that was exactly why his manager, Jon Landau, pushed him for one last song to add to his upcoming album, Born In The U.S.A. Yes, Bruce did just fine on the live circuit and sold albums - his last four had gone top 10 in Australia - but a massive hit single would turn him into a true superstar. And so Bruce wrote "Dancing In The Dark"... about the challenge of writing a "hit single" and it became a monster.
A textbook case of a slow burn, "Dancing In The Dark" didn't reach the top 10 until its 11th week on the top 100 in mid-August. Then, it didn't make it to its final peak of number 5 until its 17th week in late September. It was still in the top 10 in early November and, thanks to a second wind in early 1985 when B-side "Pink Cadillac" was given double A-side status, didn't exit the top 50 until a year after it entered. Despite never progressing higher than number 5, its consistent chart performance resulted in it being crowned 1984's number 1 song.
So why was "Dancing In The Dark" so popular? Basically, because it's a great pop song. The most upbeat, accessible single he'd ever released - it even featured a synth line - it appealed to people who would never have dreamed of buying a Bruce Springsteen song, while its raw energy kept his existing fans onside. Then there was the Courteney Cox-featuring music video in which Bruce looked like he was having the time of his life - simple but effective.
The single was the perfect set-up for Born In The U.S.A., which became his first number 1 album locally (in its 19th week in October) and contained six more hit singles - all of them top 10 hits in the US and top 50 hits in Australia. Two of them ("Cover Me" and the title track) would come and go from the top 50 while "Dancing..." enjoyed its lengthy run, and a third ("I'm On Fire") wasn't far behind it.

Number 39 "One Love/People Get Ready" by Bob Marley And The Wailers
Peak: number 24
It's the go-to album for anyone wanting to introduce themselves to reggae and since its release in 1984, the Bob Marley And The Wailers career retrospective Legend has been one of the world's highest sellers of all time. In Australia, it was 1984's 21st biggest album and has been a steady performer ever since, with the odd sales spike over the years. Released as a single to promote the album, "One Love/People Get Ready" was a medley originally recorded by The Wailers in 1965 (as "One Love") that gave proper credit to its use of the Curtis Mayfield-penned "People Get Ready" when it was re-recorded for 1977's Exodus album. It's the latter version that appears on Legend and gave the group their final top 50 credit in Australia.

Next week: the only top 50 appearance by one of my favourite British bands of the '80s, and the first chart hit for a UK act I always thought was American. Plus, the third, fourth and fifth singles from Footloose fall some way short of matching the first two.

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