Wednesday, 20 August 2014

25 Years Ago This Week: August 20, 1989

Twenty-five years ago this week, a duo with braided hair based in Germany finally cracked the ARIA top 50 singles chart with their second single after reaching the US and UK top 3 with their debut hit, and quickly establishing themselves as one of the world's hottest new acts. 

Australia finally got on board the Milli Vanilli bandwagon in 1989

Australia might have been late to the party, but we certainly made up for it - keeping their first local hit in the top 50 for nearly nine months, sending their next two singles into the top 5 and making their album a number 1 smash before abandoning them just as quickly.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 20, 1989

Another chart-dominating group with a short shelf life (for a very different reason) in Australia had the highest-selling single in the country this week in 1989 - New Kids On The Block spent a second week on top with "You Got It (The Right Stuff)".


Single of the week
"Come Out Fighting" by Easterhouse
Peak: number 66
Before we get to the pop pretenders, some "real" artists. First up, this English group (named after a Glasgow suburb) that had undergone an almost complete line-up change since their debut album, Contenders. Only singer Andy Perry remained, backed by a new band - and, as a result, Easterhouse's style was quite different from the more indie sound that'd seen them signed to Rough Trade Records and favourably compared to label-mates The Smiths. "Come Out Fighting" was typical of their more radio-friendly second album, Waiting For The Redbird, and while the song gave them their biggest UK and US hit, the new approach wasn't well received by critics and, coincidence or otherwise, the band split soon after.




Breakers
"Axegrinder" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 58
After getting things back on track with "Come Anytime", Hoodoo Gurus had another flop on their hands with this second single from the Magnum Cum Louder album - and even radio didn't want a piece of the song. It's easy to see why.




"One For Unity" by Wildland
Peak: number 53
Our third under-performing rock song is this debut single by Sydney band Wildland, which featured as a Single of the Week two months earlier and surprisingly didn't do better given its rousing feel and catchy chorus. There's not much else to say about the group, who disappeared just as quickly, although their legacy lives on in ghost-hunting circles, with rumours of an other-worldly appearance during the filming of one of their subsequent music videos. 




New entries
Number 47 "Baby Don't Forget My Number" by Milli Vanilli
Peak: number 17 
As I mentioned at the start of this post, Australia had turned its nose up at "Girl You Know It's True", the debut single ostensibly by Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, but actually performed by session singers assembled by Boney M mastermind Frank Farian). That debut single had missed the ARIA top 50 earlier in 1989, but it was a very different story with follow-up "Baby Don't Forget My Number", which, despite only reaching number 17, stayed in the top 50 for 38 weeks and sold more copies than many higher-placed songs. It was also the first of the duo's three US number 1s and just happens to be my favourite track by Milli Vanilli. I'm not ashamed to say I still listen to their songs from time to time, since it matters little to me who was actually singing what is, undeniably, a killer pop track. We'll follow the Milli Vanilli story as it unfolded over subsequent releases in months to come.




Number 45 "Talk It Over" by Grayson Hugh
Peak: number 4
I revisited this song earlier this year when I compiled a list of one-hit wonders from the '80s - and mentioned that it had been earlier released by Olivia Newton-John (as "Can't We Talk It Over In Bed") without success before the song's arranger, pianist/singer Grayson Hugh, decided to give it a shot himself. His version was a hit both here and in the States - although the most memorable thing for me about the song is how Grayson and his backing singers popped out of suitcases. It still looks weird.




Number 41 "This Time I Know It's For Real" by Donna Summer
Peak: number 40

Here's another song that's featured on this blog before - in my top 100 Stock Aitken Waterman singles, my top 100 for 1989 and recently in my top 100 for 2006, when it was covered by ex-Australian Idol collective Young Divas. Back in 1989, "This Time I Know It's For Real' prompted American and British fans to restore the Queen of Disco to the top 10 after quite an absence, but in Australia, I was clearly among the minority who shared that enthusiasm given the song's disappointing chart peak locally. 
Internationally, the track was Donna's most successful single since 1983's "She Works Hard For The Money" and was taken from the Another Place And Time album. Interestingly, the album, recorded entirely with songwriters and producers Stock Aitken Waterman, almost didn't get released in the States. Indeed, Donna had had a fair bit of trouble with her US record companies over the years, but she had the last laugh when "This Time I Know It's For Real" proved the skeptics wrong and reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, her final US hit of any note.
The recording of Another Place And Time wasn't entirely straightforward, either, with Donna not seeing eye to eye with The Hit Factory on a number of fronts. As a result, a planned second collaboration was abandoned, and the songs earmarked for her were passed on to Lonnie Gordon instead. 




Number 39 "Communication" by John Farnham & Danni'Elle
Peak: number 13

His Age Of Reason album milked for singles - including the non-top 50 release "We're No Angels" - Farnsey turned his attention to other projects, which included this anti-drug duet with Dannielle Gaha. "Communication" was recorded and released as part of The Drug Offensive, a national campaign against substance abuse that was as all-pervasive a community service initiative as the AIDS ads from the same era. The music video featured a number of vignettes relevant to the message and the whole thing smacked of government intervention rather than anything remotely to do with musical enjoyment. 
Despite her jauntily styled name, Danni'Elle didn't go on to superstardom as a result of her association with The Voice. Instead, presenter/producer Eden Gaha's sister continued to work as a backing vocalist, then, after a solo record deal with Epic Records failed to provide a hit in the early '90s, she formed one half of The Nissan Cedrics on Roy & HG's Club Buggery. As for John, even the fact that he rocked up to record his part of the "Communication" video in a flannie and Akubra didn't deter the Australian public - who rewarded him with yet more top 10 hits in 1990.




Next week: one of 1989's most exciting singles and one of the year's most boring songs. Naturally, Australia all but ignored the former and made the latter into a massive hit. Before then, I'll conclude my countdown of my top 100 for 2007.




Back to: Aug 13, 1989 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 27, 1989


6 comments:

  1. I read about Milli Vanilli earlier in the year in Smash Hits, but hadn't actually heard one of their songs until 'Baby...' debuted in the rage top 50. At first I wasn't sold on it, but it quickly grew on me, and eventually I bought the 'All or Nothing (US remix)' album. I would have preferred the original 'All or Nothing' album, as I much preferred the single versions to the longer remixes. It's interesting that their debut album charted under 3 different titles in the UK, US and Australia.

    Was the video version of 'Baby...' released anywhere? A different version (presumably the single mix) aired on Take 40 Australia, and appeared on the 1989 The Right Stuff compilation. I haven't found the video version on mp3 anywhere, but recently downloaded an mp3 rip of it from youtube. This was my favourite version of the track. The earlier European video from 1988 was edited slightly differently to this one, and also uses a slightly different mix of the track again! BTW, the single spent 38 weeks in the top 50 (the australiancharts.com website neglects to include the 1-2 week Xmas breaks existing prior to 1997). I'm surprised it wasn't deleted during its long chart run.

    I have no recollection of Easterhouse's 'Come Out Fighting' and probably didn't hear it at the time.

    'Axegrinder' almost sounds like another 'Wild Thing' rip off. That riff sure was popular in '89.

    How bizarre about the supposed ghost sighting in the Wildland video. I remember seeing 'One For Unity' a few times on Countdown Revolution, but obviously that wasn't enough for it to crack the top 50.

    Grayson Hugh came out of nowhere to hit the top 50. I hadn't heard or even heard of the song when it debuted on rage. As Grayson doesn't appear singing until after 40 seconds into the video, I at first thought that 'Grayson Hugh' was the group name (like 2 surnames) of the black guys in the suitcases.

    I remember thinking it took ages for 'This Time...' to crack the top 50. I thought its chance of cracking the top 50 had well and truly passed by the time it finally broke through, so I was quite surprised to see it at #41 on rage. Although looking now, I see it was only on its 6th week in the AMR top 100. 'This Time...'s top 50 chart run was quite interesting too, or so I thought. Two weeks at 41, two weeks at 42, two weeks at 43, back to 41 for a week, then down to 42 for a week, before finally breaking the pattern and inching up to #40. All 10 weeks in the top 50 spent between #40 and #43. I see that it was granted a bullet after climbing to 41 from 64... which makes me wonder why Bangles 'In Your Room' wasn't given a bullet when it climbed from #63 (at the highest) to #41 in December '88.

    I thought the Akubra looked ridiculous on John Farnham. I would have thought he was seen as pretty uncool by teens/tweens by this time, surely, so it's puzzling they decided to use him for this project. As with similar things of this nature, I wonder if it actually stopped anyone from taking up drugs. I suspect not.

    Cyndi Lauper's 'My First Night Without You' must have been at #60 this week, as I noted down (from Countdown Revolution, but didn't note the date) that it debuted at #60, then dropped to #66, before cracking the top 50 a few weeks later.

    Also this week, Soul II Soul's 'Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)' was at #73, again noted down from Countdown Revolution.

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    1. There were so many different mixes of Baby Don't Forget My Number. That video mix is probably my least favourite of the 7" versions. I have the one that appeared on All Or Nothing - my sister brought me that back from the UK - but there was another mix with a bouncier bassline as well.

      Thanks for the heads up about the 36 vs 38 weeks thing. I've amended after checking my printed charts - will keep that in mind about australian-charts.com in future.

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  2. I must admit, it's been a long time that I've looked at my Aria charts and for some reason, always thought that "This Time....." went Top 30. I thought it was a great pop song and was going to be a big hit, but once again, we didn't catch on. Maybe around this time we were over SAW singles? except for Kylie's offerings. I can imagine Donna singing Lonnie's "Happenin' All Over Again".

    I still listen to Milli Vanilli's singles on the compilations that were released around this time. My two faves are the Top 5's here, with "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" coming out on top. It's just one of those songs that i can play over and over again and not get sick of it. I just couldn't get into their other songs. It would have been interesting to see what they could have delivered on a second album if they didn't get caught out so early. Didn't their Grammy for Best New Artist get handed over to Roxette?

    Nathan, Easterhouse's "Come Out Fighting" is on the compilation "Hits of '89 Vol.3". You must have known the track back then? Assuming, like me, you picked up or listened to this comp. in the day?

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    1. I didn't buy any of the Hits of '89 series at the time, instead opting for the Hits Now '89 compilations and 1989 The Right Stuff. I usually only bought one of the two compilations released at the same time.

      'Girl I'm Gonna Miss You' is great, though my favourite would be 'Girl You Know It's True', of course the flop one here. They did actually release a second album, but it was credited to 'The Real Milli Vanilli', shortly after the lip syncing scandal broke. 'Keep On Running' got some airplay in Melbourne on Fox FM's top/hot 30 countdown (supposedly voted for by listeners) on weeknights and charted at #62 here in March 1991. There's a couple of European TV appearances where Rob & Fab mimed this track on TV on youtube, obviously before the truth was revealed.

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  3. I hope you now have a copy of the compilation? Like you, i would always purchase one of the two compilations that came out or maybe none if i thought the songs were too old and had repeatedly played them to death on audio cassette recording off the rage Top 50. I did complete the collection, scooping them up on record and CD in the late 90's.

    LoL, The Real Milli Vanilli, i thought it could work, but they just came across as ordinary muso's with no appeal. I didn't think of it as Rob & Fab's music, if you know what i mean.




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  4. Milli Vanilli "Baby, don't forget my Number" is one of my favourite tracks that I will always listen to. Bought the album back in 1989 and relished that the song spent so long in the top 50. Even liked the longer remixed version on the album. There is an even longer version on the US promo CD that I tracked down. Unfortunately I have never liked their 'Girl, I'm gonna miss you' and always cringed everytime I heard it. Funnily enough, that song was playing in a JB HiFi store in Adelaide the other day while I was browsing. Finn

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