Wednesday, 29 May 2013

25 Years Ago This Week: May 29, 1988

Music and controversy often go hand in hand, and 25 years ago this week saw the arrival on the ARIA chart of Sinead O'Connor, a female artist who'd rival Madonna for headline-grabbing antics in years to come.

She might've looked angelic in 1988, but who knew
what Sinead O'Connor had in store?

Also this week in 1988: the return of a man who'd once released a song called "Controversy" and would court it over the next few years with racy lyrics and unpredictable career choices. Little did anyone know at the time, but Prince and Sinead would go on to have much more in common in years to come, but for now, their only link was debuting new songs in the same week.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 29, 1988

At number 1 this week 25 years ago, Billy Ocean spent his fifth and final week on top with "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car". What took over? Find out next week (or look it up online).


Breakers
"Love Is Stronger Than Pride" by Sade
Peak: number 56
First up this week, a female artist (OK, technically, they're a band, but can anyone name any member other than Sade?) who's about as uncontroversial as you can get. Sade had provided dinner parties around the world with a soothing soundtrack thanks to the albums Diamond Life and Promise in 1984 and 1985 (which both went top 10 here). In 1988, she/they returned with album number three, Stronger Than Pride. This first single didn't reach the top 50, but, "Smooth Operator" aside, Sade had always been more of an albums act in Australia. In fact, it wouldn't be until 1993, that Sade would get anywhere near the number 20 peak of their best known song again.




New entries
Number 50 "Mandinka" by Sinead O'Connor
Peak: number 39
From the song's weird title (named after an African tribe) to Sinead's unique vocal delivery, "Mandinka" was like nothing else on the chart in 1988. And, although the track from her debut album, The Lion And The Cobra, only just scraped into the top 40, it made enough of an impact to get people excited about the Irish singer. Naturally, her appearance - in the image-obsessed '80s - was also a talking point, but having a buzz cut would be the least of the things for which Sinead would become known.




Number 49 "If You Let Me Stay" by Terence Trent D'Arby
Peak: number 36
Finally, TTD's debut single - and my favourite track from Introducing The Hardline... - cracked the Australian top 50. A failure on these shores first time round, the subsequent success of "Wishing Well" and "Sign Your Name" gave "If You Let Me Stay" the boost it needed, even if it couldn't become as big a hit as those two songs.




Number 47 "Alphabet St." by Prince
Peak: number 20
Possibly the most controversial thing about Prince's 1988 album, Lovesexy, was that the end of one song ran into the beginning of the next, resulting in a continuous mix and, on CD versions of the album, a single track. That sort of nonsense is a real pet hate of mine (together with hidden tracks) but I did like this first single lifted from the album. Coming in at just under two and a half minutes, the 7" edit of "Alphabet St." was great for sticking on the end of mix tapes when you didn't have quite enough room for any other song. And, it gave Prince another top 20 hit. There's a link to the music video in the song title above, but, since Prince hates YouTube, there is no video below.




Number 38 "Heart" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 18
After a brief excursion away from Actually with "Always On My Mind", PSB plucked another single from their second studio album, gave it a bit of a remix, got Ian McKellen to appear in the music video as a vampire and, hey presto!, landed themselves another UK chart-topper. "Heart" wasn't quite as big here - and would be the duo's last top 20 hit in Australia for three years. 




Next week: new songs from four acts who'd been dominating music in recent months. Plus, an underrated Australian band returned to the top 50.


Back to: May 22, 1988 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 5, 1988


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

25 Years Ago This Week: May 22, 1988

It was a real mixed bag 25 years ago this week on the Australian singles chart - and there are a lot of songs to talk about, so I'll get (more or less) straight into it.

Nat King Cole's daughter finally scored a big
Australian hit in 1988

Still holed up at number 1 in 1988 was Billy Ocean, whose "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" was unshakable, spending its fourth week on top.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 22, 1988


Single of the week
"Nothing But Flowers" by Talking Heads
Band member Jerry Harrison was still riding high in the top 10 with solo track "Rev It Up", but Talking Heads were struggling with the singles from what would be their final album together, Naked. Lead single "Blind" missed the Australian top 100, as did this second track lifted from the album, which wasn't as accessible as their mid-'80s output - a period during which the band had enjoyed three top 20 singles locally ("Road To Nowhere", "And She Was" and "Wild Wild Life"). Talking Heads wouldn't last much longer, although an official announcement about their split didn't come until 1991.




Breakers
"Tell It To The Moon" by Martha Davis
Peak: number 65
The former Motels frontwoman was still at number 31 (after reaching number 8) with her first solo hit, "Don't Tell Me The Time", this week 25 years ago, but despite being written by hitmaker Diane Warren, this follow-up couldn't manage anything like that. I don't actually recall the song from the time but it's not a bad track - even if it didn't come from Diane's top drawer (presumably her best songs were reserved for Cher and Belinda Carlisle at that point in time). Martha would squeeze another single from the Policy album, but "Don't Ask Out Loud" would perform even worse, only reaching number 93.




"Can I Play With Madness" by Iron Maiden
Peak: number 58
My enduring memory of Iron Maiden is hearing their 1982 track "Run To The Hills" being played at our local rollerdisco. So rock'n'roll! If I'd grown up in the US, I might've had quite a different experience of the heavy metal group, whose records were thought to be loaded with Satanic exhaltations and burnt by Christian groups. Naturally, the controversy didn't do the band much harm and they had a massive following throughout the decade - a fanbase that has stuck with them to this very day.
"Can I Play With Madness" was the first single from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, an album title that had its own religious connotations. The song peaked outside the top 50 in Australia, a country where the British band didn't ever make massive chart appearances, but was one of four top 10 singles from the album in the UK.




New entries
Number 49 "I Want You Back" by Bananarama
Peak: number 3
This is more like it! My favourite single of all time by my favourite girl group of all time - and it was the first to feature new band member Jacquie O'Sullivan (although, bizarrely, the girls' Australian record company still had one single featuring departed member Siobhan Fahey up their sleeve for later in the year). Their highest-charting single in Australia since "Venus", "I Want You Back" would get almost all the way to the other end of the chart. The album it was from, WOW, would even spend a single week at number 1 in June making 1988 one of the best years for Bananarama in this country.




Number 48 "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 48
The problem with having a massive selling album in the '80s (if it can, in fact, be called a problem) is that after the initial singles were released, subsequent singles often failed to register that highly in Australia. We've seen it with Michael Jackson songs like "Man In The Mirror" under-performing and here is where Whitney peaked with the fourth single from Whitney - a track that became her seventh consecutive number 1 single in the US.




Number 46 "Get It On" by Kingdom Come
Peak: number 39
You couldn't swing a cat in the late '80s without hitting an American hard rock band with lots of hair - and although they didn't all cross over in Australia (I wasn't that bothered we missed out on Cinderella, Dokken and Ratt), Kingdom Come made a small impact with this single from their self-titled debut album. I don't think I've ever heard the song before now and always assumed it was a cover of the T.Rex/Power Station hit. It's not.




Number 42 "What's It Gonna Be" by Rockmelons
Peak: number 41
Another great single from Tales Of The City. Another disappointing chart performance, with this ballad only climbing one more spot. Rockmelons would register one final top 100 placing from their debut album, with the Wendy Matthews-sung "Jump" reaching number 81 on the Australian Music Report later in the year. What's the Australian Music Report? Oh, don't worry - we'll get to that in a few weeks' time.




Number 39 "Pink Cadillac" by Natalie Cole
Peak: number 6
The daughter of music legend Nat King Cole had been releasing records since 1975, a year in which she'd scored her first Australian chart hit with debut single "This Will Be" (it reached number 28). But, that was it for Natalie until 1988 and this inspired cover of the Bruce Springsteen B-side. I was never a massive fan of the song, and especially not the extended mix video which Rage always seemed to play instead of the radio version. It wouldn't be quite as long a wait for Natalie to register another appearance on the ARIA chart, with her biggest hit of all just three years away.




Next week: the first chart appearance of a certain shaven-haired singer and the return of one of the decade's most prolific artists.


Back to: May 15, 1988 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 29, 1988


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

25 Years Ago This Week: May 15, 1988

In the digital age, the theory is that you can buy any song you want from any era in music with a couple of clicks. The reality is a little different since there are huge gaps in what's available on iTunes - but that's a topic for another post.

Louis Armstrong was 1988's most unexpected hitmaker

In 1988, however, music fans were only able to purchase what the record companies had on current release and, when it came to singles, that was a relatively small amount of tracks at any given time. So, the chances of a song from, say, 1967 entering the top 50 were pretty much zero - unless, of course, the song in question was given a timely re-release.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 15, 1988

That's what happened 25 years ago this week, when a song from 46 years ago shot up the charts to number 1. Meanwhile, still at number 1 this week in 1988 was Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car".


New entries
Number 49 "Underneath The Radar" by Underworld
Peak: number 5
Eight years before "Born Slippy", British dance act Underworld scored a top 5 hit in Australia with this track from the album of the same name. "Underneath The Radar" wasn't successful anywhere else in the world, which is odd since it's a great song that still sounds fantastic today, but the good times were short-lived, with nothing else from the group charting until the Trainspotting soundtrack hit reached the top 20 in 1996. In those intervening years, band members came and went, and Underworld's sound developed from pop/dance to a harder techno-based sound... so at least they kept busy.




Number 47 "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong
Peak: number 1
Here's the arrival of the song from 1967 I was talking about above, by an artist who'd passed away in 1971. A four-week UK number 1 in 1968, the track hadn't originally been successful in the US but its appearance on the soundtrack of the Robin Williams film, Good Morning Vietnam, changed that - with the song finally cracking the top 40 there.
In Australia, "What A Wonderful World" would go on to reach number 1 for one week in July 1988 - a vast improvement on its original number 22 placing in 1968. It wasn't the first time (and it wouldn't be the last) that a posthumous release charted in Australia. As recently as 1987, Jackie Wilson's "Reet Petite" had hit the top 20 here after it topped the UK charts at Christmas 1986.
Meanwhile, the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack also hit the number 1 spot on the Australian album chart and was soon joined in the upper reaches by the first of several soundtrack albums for the TV series, Tour Of Duty, which was set during the Vietnam War as well.




Number 41 "Cars And Girls" by Prefab Sprout
Peak: number 41
Debuting where it would peak is this track by a British band I always group in with bands like Aztec Camera and Deacon Blue - they released a lot of sweet pop tracks but never really gained much traction in Australia. They're all also groups I own greatest hits albums by - but only ever listen to about two or three songs on them. "Cars And Girls" was the first single from the From Langley Park To Memphis album, which also included their biggest UK single (and only top 10 hit), "The King Of Rock 'n' Roll".




Number 40 "You're Not Alone" by Australian Olympians
Peak: number 18
It had become a tried and true method for raising money in the 1980s - get a group of musicians together, record a single, watch it fly up the charts and donate the proceeds to the good cause. In this case, the inspirational "You're Not Alone" was released to raise money for the Australian Olympics team, since sending them all the way to Seoul for that year's games was a pretty costly affair in a year when the government had spent a huge wad of cash on the Bicentenary.
Soloing on the track (in order of appearance) are Redgum's John Schumann, Keren Minshull (who'd be part of Euphoria a few years later), Ross Wilson, Kate Ceberano, Rick Price (who wouldn't release a record until 1992), Angry Anderson, Jon English, Brian Mannix, Richard Wilkins (yes, really), Paul Field, Grace Knight and Bernie Lynch from Eurogliders, Daryl Braithwaite and Julie Anthony. For some reason, comedian Vince Sorrenti, and presenters Jono (the one behaving like a dick down the front) & Dano and Michael Horrocks were also among the chorus.
The name of the female trio with the big hair escapes me - but I do seem to remember them popping up on shows like Midday and Good Morning Australia at the time. Anyone?




Next week: eight songs to recap - spanning the full range of musical genres from heavy metal to pure pop.


Back to: May 8, 1988 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 22, 1988


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

25 Years Ago This Week: May 8, 1988

As exciting a year as 1988 was for new music and emerging genres, there would still be weeks like the one 25 years ago in which two bands from the '70s and one new artist debuted songs that were about as middle of the road as it gets.

Cheap Trick scored their biggest Australian hit in 1988

I like a bit of soft rock as much as the next senior citizen, but in some ways, Australia was stuck in a timewarp and still had a long way to go to catch up with the US and UK, where house, R&B and rap were dominating.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 8, 1988

At least there was some pure pop on top of the Australian chart 25 years ago this week, with Billy Ocean hanging on for a second week with "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car".


Single Of The Week
"Heart Of Gold" by Johnny Hates Jazz
Peak: number 87
Before we get to the new entries, here's another single by the British group who'd scored big with "Shattered Dreams" but proved unable to follow it up with another hit in this country. "Heart Of Gold" was the lowest charting track from Johnny Hates Jazz, performing even worse than previous single "I Don't Want To Be A Hero" (which reached number 76).
In the UK, "Turn Back The Clock" had come out between "I Don't Want To Be A Hero" and "Heart Of Gold", but it was skipped over here. If it was eventually released - I'm not sure whether it was or not - it didn't crack the top 100.
Lead singer Clark Datchler quit the group after promotion of the Turn Back The Clock album was complete and replaced by Phil Thornalley, but none of the releases by Johnny Hates Jazz version 2.0 were successful here or in the UK.




New Entries
Number 49 "Love Is A Bridge" by Little River Band
Peak: number 6
Despite having more line-up changes than your average girl group, Australia's own LRB had been chart regulars since 1975, hitting a peak two years later with the number 1 single, "Help Is On Its Way", before racking up a string of hits like "Reminiscing" and "Lonesome Loser" that were bigger in the US than back home.
In 1988, former vocalist Glenn Shorrock, who had been replaced for a couple of years by John Farnham, returned to the fold and "Love Is A Bridge" became LRB's biggest Australian single since "Help Is On Its Way". The track was the first single from the album, Monsoon, and would be something of a last hurrah for the band, who never troubled the top 50 again.




Number 40 "Endless Summer Nights" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 16
With his debut hit, "Should've Known Better", on its last legs in the top 50, mullet-haired wonder Richard Marx wasted no time following it up with this track. What became evident from this song was that Richard loved a bit of a ballad - something that hadn't been evident until now, but something he'd establish over and over again with hits like "Right Here Waiting", "Hazard" and "Now And Forever". I mostly preferred Richard's faster tracks, since his ballads were a little on the wimpy side for me - but I was a bit of a minority voice on that front.




Number 27 "The Flame" by Cheap Trick
Peak: number 1
Speaking of rock ballads, they didn't get bigger than this - a four-week number 1 hit for Cheap Trick in 1988. The band hadn't had a hit single in years - six years, in fact, since "If You Want My Love" had taken them to number 2 in Australia. It hadn't been for want of trying, with three albums released since 1982's One On One, but it wasn't until 1988's Lap Of Luxury that they struck platinum again. I wasn't a fan of "The Flame", but again, I was completely outnumbered on that score with the single serving as a career reboot for the band - well, for a couple of years anyway.




Next week: some of the oddest new entries in a while, with a future number 1, a long-forgotten charity record and a song that was only successful in Australia by a group who'd be briefly huge around the world in the mid-'90s.


Back to: May 1, 1988 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 15, 1988


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

25 Years Ago This Week: May 1, 1988

You couldn't have asked for two songs more diametrically opposed than a couple of the new entries on the ARIA chart this week 25 years ago. One was the debut solo single by the former vocalist of an '80s band known for its politically-charged music, the other was the breakthrough hit for an Italian singer famed for her large breasts.

Morrissey: keeping music miserable for decades

We'll get to those and the other debuts in a bit, but with five songs going into the top 50, one of last week's new tunes slipped back out for the time being. Despite "Sweet Little Mystery" by Wet Wet Wet descending the chart, it registers as one of this week's breakers - a somewhat curious status to give to a song going the wrong way (the track would re-enter the top 50 in a couple of weeks' time).

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 1, 1988

One song going the right way was the week's new number 1 single. Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams Get Into My Car" knocked "I Should Be So Lucky" from the summit and would go on to spend five weeks in the top spot.


Single of the week
"When You Dance" by Catfish
The career of his former bandmate, Jimmy Barnes, was firing on all cylinders, but it was a much more modest start to life after Cold Chisel for keyboardist Don Walker, who recorded under the name Catfish. This track, which didn't crack the top 100, was the first single from the project, but it would take until November and the release of "Early Hours" for Catfish to break into the top 100 - and then, with only a number 77 hit. The album, Unlimited Address, which also surfaced in November, grazed the top 50 at number 49. 




New entries
Number 49 "Shake Your Love" by Debbie Gibson
Peak: number 27
She'd been landing hits in the US throughout 1987, and finally Australia caught up and gave 17-year-old singer Debbie Gibson her first chart entry. Her second single, "Shake Your Love" would be the only song from debut album Out Of The Blue to make the top 50, but bigger things were around the corner for her locally...




Number 48 "Boys (Summertime Love)" by Sabrina
Peak: number 11
Speaking of big things... I know, it's a cheap gag, but come on, Sabrina Salerno knew exactly what she was doing when she donned a too-tight white bikini and struggled to keep it on in the clip for this big pop hit. "Boys (Summertime Love)" quickly climbed into the top 20 and, just like the model/singer did in that swimming pool, spent weeks bouncing around the top half of the chart. The music video was probably the major reason the song became a hit in this country - who didn't record it off Rage or MTV and press pause at just right the moment? - with continued plays ensuring the track stayed in the top 100 for over half a year.




Number 47 "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" by Michael Bolton
Peak: number 3
It's interesting that a singer/songwriter who'd already penned hits for Laura Branigan and Cher (and recorded four albums of his own) made his first chart appearance with a cover version - but it was indeed this song, originally recorded by Otis Redding, that turned mullet-loving Michael Bolton into a star in his own right. Michael's version of the 1968 track was particularly big in Australia, where it held the number 3 spot for three weeks. He soon made up for his slow start and would dominate mainstream music over the coming years.




Number 46 "Suedehead" by Morrissey
Peak: number 45
Here he is - the musical antithesis to Sabrina (I'm sure that's how he'd describe his role in music history as well!). With The Smiths having disbanded in late 1987, Steven Morrissey wasted no time cracking on with a solo career - and this debut single did something his band had never managed: it made the top 50. 1984's "This Charming Man" had narrowly missed (it peaked at number 52) but "Suedehead" managed to climb one more spot.
I was never a fan of The Smiths (although I eventually warmed to "This Charming Man" and "How Soon Is Now" many years later), and the only things I knew about Morrissey were that I found his music pretty depressing and that he'd once appeared on the cover of Smash Hits with Dead Or Alive's Pete Burns. Despite the latter to recommend him, I wasn't interested at all in "Suedehead" and I can't say the song has grown on me since 1988.




Number 26 "When I Fall In Love / My Arms Keep Missing You" by Rick Astley
Peak: number 5
When it comes to the guys, it really is all about the hair this week! From one British singer with a distinctive quiff to another... the week's biggest debut was the latest hit from Rick Astley, which had been a Christmas release back in the UK. The double A-side paired Rick's cover of Nat King Cole's "When I Fall In Love" with a brand new track not available on Whenever You Need Somebody.
For me, "My Arms Keep Missing You" was the much better song, but since it didn't have a video, many people only ever heard the dreary "When I Fall In Love", which came with a clip featuring Rick mostly standing around like a lemon in the snow. Despite his unwillingness to get indoors, Rick could do no wrong in the eyes of the public and the single returned him to the top 5 for a third time in a row.




Next week: it's not as eclectic a line-up as this week, but we will remember two hit singles from bands who'd been around since the '70s.


Back to: Apr 24, 1988 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 8, 1988