Wednesday, 29 April 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: April 29, 1990

She'd ruled the charts in the second half of the '80s, but the '90s hadn't got off to a great start for Madonna with the worst performance by back-to-back singles in her career to date when both "Oh Father" and "Dear Jessie" missed the ARIA top 50.

Strike a pose - there's quite a lot to the story of "Vogue"

That all changed 25 years ago this week when the reigning Queen of Pop stormed back onto the singles chart with brand new song "Vogue" - but interestingly, the future number 1 hit wasn't always intended to be a single. And, as we'll discover, "Vogue" may also not have been intended to chart this week at all...

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 29, 1990

The present number 1 this week in 1990 was still "Opposites Attract", Paula Abdul's duet with The Wild Pair and MC Skat Kat, but its days on top were numbered. Meanwhile, the week's big new entry kind of overshadowed the return of the state top 10s to the printed ARIA top 50 for the first time since January 12, 1986. Of note, South Australia's love for "Black Betty", Western Australia leading the charge to get behind Wet Wet Wet, and the very warm welcome Victoria and Tasmania gave Madonna, which we'll get to below.


Off the chart
Number 81 "Still Got This Thing" by Alannah Myles
Peak: number 64
Harder than her two previous hits combined, this third single from the Canadian songstress saw her in full rock chick mode - with seemingly every member of her band required to be decked out not in velvet but black leather instead.

Number 73 "Deadbeat Club" by The B-52's
Peak: number 73
I like this right up until the chorus when one of the girls sings almost high enough for only dogs to hear, ruining what might have been the band's third great single in a row. Record buyers responded accordingly.


Breakers
"That Sounds Good To Me" by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers
Peak: number 66
Here's another act with two recent massive hits under their belt that was more deserving of Australia's sudden disinterest than Alannah Myles or The B-52's. The megamix masterminds behind "Swing The Mood" and "That's What I Like" returned with a new song not included on The Album that was built around "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love". As usual, a batch of rock'n'roll songs were spliced together over the repetitive beat - but while this single reached number 4 in the UK, Australia was having (almost) none of it. For anyone crazy enough to put themselves through the ordeal of listening to the clip below - skip ahead to about the one-minute mark for the song to begin. 




"Inside Out" by Rococo
Peak: number 64
Another act that'd ridden the megamix wave into the top 50 was sibling duo Rococo, whose "Italo House Mix" had at least drawn attention to some lesser known singles by Adeva and S-Express in its attempt to cash in on the success of Black Box and Technotronic. For their next trick, Elaine and Evelyn released what can best be described as an above-average Collette track - but no one bought "Italo House Mix" because they were interested in the pair as artists in their own right and, since Collette's songs were still pretty lousy at the best of times, this sent Rococo back into pop oblivion.




New entries
Number 47 "What It Takes" by Aerosmith
Peak: number 46
Looks like we have a two-hits-one-flop pattern this week. After scoring the first two ARIA top 40 placings of their career with "Love In An Elevator" and "Janie's Got A Gun", Aerosmith struck out with this third single from Pump. Co-written by the band's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry with rock power ballad supremo Desmond Child, "What It Takes" sounded like so many other American rock ballads that clogged up the Billboard top 10 around the time - and Australia maintained its ambivalence to that over-earnest style of song (see also: "Heaven" by Warrant, "Forever" by KISS and upcoming minor top 50 hit "Without You" by Mötley Crüe).




Number 19 "Vogue / Keep It Together" by Madonna
Peak: number 1
As I alluded to at the start of this post, Madonna's first new single for the '90s was originally planned only as a B-side to "Keep It Together" - an extra incentive for American fans to shell out for a fifth single from Like A Prayer. But when the collaboration between the singer and writer/producer Shep Pettibone was complete, it was obvious "Vogue" was too good to squander as a B-side. 
"Keep It Together" was duly remixed and released in the States at the start of 1990, reaching number 8 - and in Australia, it ended up as the double A-side to "Vogue". And so, "Vogue / Keep It Together" hit the ARIA chart this week in 1990 on its way to a five-week spell at number 1. 
The single's debut at number 19 was only based on sales in two states - Victoria and a handful of New South Wales stores - and from only two days in shops. I'm not sure whether sales embargoes existed in 1990, but this could be an instance of retailers from those regions putting the record on sale before its official release date. If it had been available around the country for a full week, we'd likely have seen only the third single ever to debut at number 1 on the ARIA chart.
The song itself, as we all know by now, took its inspiration from underground dance style voguing, in which dancers performed moves as if they were models posing. Voguing had already inspired one song, "Deep In Vogue" by Malcolm McLaren & The Bootzilla Orchestra - a double A-side single with "Waltz Darling" in mid-1989 - but it wasn't until Madonna jumped on the trend that voguing went mainstream.
With its iconic black-and-white, David Fincher-directed, MTV Award-winning video, "Vogue" quickly became one of Madonna's biggest hits - and despite having nothing at all to do with her upcoming role in Dick Tracy, the song was tacked on to her accompanying soundtrack album, I'm Breathless, which was released later in the year.
Like the release of "Like A Prayer" just over a year earlier, I recall the sense of excitement around "Vogue". It sounded nothing like anything Madonna had released before and, with its blend of new (dancefloor-ready house influences) and old (an imminently quotable spoken tribute to Hollywood's greats), was a sure sign her days of releasing legendary singles were not over.




Next week: two of the year's biggest power ballads - one that's a guilty pleasure of mine and one that not only I can't stand but neither can the band behind it.


Back to: Apr 22, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 6, 1990


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: April 28, 1985

Earlier in the year, we saw that, despite being a major hit around the world, "Easy Lover" by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey wasn't even released locally and only achieved its peak of number 74 from import sales. The reason? Phil's record company didn't want the single, which was released by a different label, to distract from his upcoming new album.

Their duet wasn't the hit it should've been, but how did the Phils fare individually?

These days, it's unusual for an artist not to use a strategic collaboration as a means of promoting their own work - but things were different in 1985. So did sabotaging "Easy Lover" work? We've already seen that the lead single from Phil's No Jacket Required album, "Sussudio" (which sits at number 11 on this week's chart), would become a top 10 hit, but what did it mean for Philip? Thirty years ago this week, Phil and Philip debuted side by side on the top 50 with new singles - but only one song became a massive hit. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 28, 1985

There was no hit more massive this week in 1985 than "We Are The World" by USA For Africa, which spent its third week at number 1 - only a third of its total weeks on top.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "Somebody" by Depeche Mode
Peak: number 87
In the UK, this was the double A-side of "Blasphemous Rumours", but in Australia, "Somebody" got top billing and "BR" was relegated to B-side status. One of my favourite Depeche ballads.

Number 72 "That Was Yesterday" by Foreigner
Peak: number 55
They may have spent five weeks at number 1 with mega ballad "I Want To Know What Love Is", but the title of Foreigner's disappointing follow-up pretty much says it all.


New Entries
Number 46 "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" by Don Henley
Peak: number 22
I'm the first to admit I don't always pay that much attention to song lyrics, but when it came to this follow-up to "The Boys Of Summer", it seems no one else did either. The fact that "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" was a comment on how superficial American youth culture was at the time was kind of lost - and all anyone wanted to do was dance to the song. That's what happens when you make a track so damn catchy.




Number 45 "Walking On The Chinese Wall" by Philip Bailey
Peak: number 26
Like Eagles member Don Henley, Philip Bailey was one of a couple of singers in the line-up of his band, Earth, Wind & Fire, taking the lead on singles like "Fantasy" and "I've Had Enough". Having released his first solo album, Continuation, to general disinterest in 1983, Philip's efforts away from the funk/soul group were given a huge boost thanks to "Easy Lover" - but his association with Phil Collins didn't end there. 
Phil produced the entirety of the Chinese Wall album, which featured this follow-up single. Would "Walking On The Chinese Wall" have been a bigger hit had Philip been coming off a chart smash? Maybe not. This track peaked at number 46 in the US and number 34 in the UK, where "Easy Lover" had hit number 2 and number 1 respectively - so it actually did better in Australia. This would be the only solo hit for Philip, who remains a member of EWF to this day.




Number 44 "One More Night" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 2
Rounding out our trio of new entries for vocalists from successful groups - and one place higher than his former duet partner - is Genesis singer Phil Collins with the second single from No Jacket Required, even though the first single was still climbing the top 50. "One More Night" was actually the lead release from the album in the US where it reached number 1 before being knocked off the top by "We Are The World". In Australia, it was denied the top spot by USA For Africa, spending three weeks at number 2 behind the charity hit. 
Surprisingly for me, "One More Night" is actually Phil's equal highest-charting single in Australia - performing better than the likes of "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" and "In The Air Tonight". His other single to peak at number 2 is likely his highest-selling single locally - "A Groovy Kind Of Love" spent seven weeks stuck at number 2, mostly behind "Don't Worry Be Happy", in the last couple of months of 1988.
Whether or not "One More Night" or any other Phil Collins single would have been just as big had "Easy Lover" been allowed to also be the hit it deserved to be is something we'll never know. Something tells me that it would've done his 1985 chart performance (rivalled only by Madonna's that year) no harm at all.




Next week: Kids In The Kitchen! Nik Kershaw! Frankie Goes To Hollywood! Plus, the return of a legendary Motown group, and a solo single by an original member of Duran Duran.


Back to: Apr 21, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 5, 1985


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: April 22, 1990

By 1990, it was nothing new for a soap star to try their hand at being a pop star - and quite often the songs that would take them into the ARIA top 10 were also nothing new. Aside from teaming up with Stock Aitken Waterman, cover versions were a great way for a non-songwriting actor to become a chart sensation.

Unlike Jason, Craig wisely chose an acoustic guitar for authentic outdoor strumming

Twenty-five years ago this week, a star of both Neighbours and Home And Away succeeded with a song that was over three decades old, reaching the top 10 with his remake after having failed to set the charts alight with an original track.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 22, 1990

After what seemed like an eternity - but was only eight weeks - Australia had a new number 1 single this week in 1990. Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract" toppled "Nothing Compares 2 U" for the first of two weeks at the top.


Off The Chart
Number 98 "Water" by Martika
Peak: number 98
She'd started the year with two hits simultaneously in the top 25, but this Latin-tinged fourth single from Martika's self-titled album barely dented the top 100 just a few months later.

Number 94 "This Old Heart Of Mine" by Rod Stewart featuring Ronald Isley
Peak: number 94
Both singers had performed this Motown track previously - Ronald as a member of the song's original performers, The Isley Brothers, and Rod as a 1975 cover version (which peaked in Australia at number 45).

Number 91 "Enjoy The Silence" by Depeche Mode
Peak: number 71
Reaching its peak upon re-entering the chart in September, this brilliant follow-up to "Personal Jesus" took out the BRIT Award for Best Single, hit number 6 in the UK and number 8 in the US. Shame, Australia, shame.


Breaker
"Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes On You)" by Robert Plant
Peak: number 63
I love a chart trend and the solo career of ex-Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant had so far followed this pattern - his first album yielded no top 50 hits in Australia, his second had two ("Big Log" and "In The Mood"), his third contained none, his fourth had two ("Heaven Knows" and "Tall Cool One"). True to form, his fifth album, Manic Nirvana, offered up nothing in the way of top 50 action. I might not have liked the song, but I admired his consistency.




New Entries
Number 44 "Mona" by Craig McLachlan & Check 1-2
Peak: number 3
It'd worked for former cast-mates Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, and so too did reviving a song from the rock'n'roll era do wonders for Craig McLachlan (who had by now left Neighbours and moved on to a role in Home And Away). Originally recorded by Bo Diddley and released as the B-side to his 1957 single "Hey! Bo Diddley", "Mona" catapulted Craig and his two mates into the top 3, after the disappointing performance of their debut single, "Rock The Rock"
Complete with its memorable video, which featured Craig riding around in the back of a ute wearing more clothes than he ever did in either weeknightly soap, "Mona" registered four weeks at its peak of number 3 and ended the year as 1990's highest-selling single by an Australian artist (and 15th biggest single overall). In the UK, "Mona" went one place better, reaching number 2, making Craig the fourth Neighbours star to reach the UK top 20 (a list that also included Stefan Dennis). Speaking of top 20s, Craig never returned to the ARIA one, either with Check 1-2 or as a solo artist.




Number 41 "Save Me" by Fleetwood Mac
Peak: number 41
Three years earlier, Fleetwood Mac made a triumphant return to the charts with Tango In The Night but things didn't go so well with their 1990 follow-up, Behind The Mask - which was also the band's first album without Lindsey Buckingham since 1974's Heroes Are Hard To Find. This lead single, which featured lead vocals from Christine McVie, wasn't that different in feel to songs like "Seven Wonders" and "Everywhere", but the fact that "Save Me didn't find as receptive an audience just goes to show how much music had moved on in three years. Nothing else from Behind The Mask - or any subsequent Fleetwood Mac album - made the singles top 100.




Next week: a brand new single from the Queen of Pop charges into the chart, while two megamix acts bomb out with their latest releases.


Back to: Apr 15, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 29, 1990


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: April 21, 1985

For most of the first half of the decade, Duran Duran had been one of the biggest bands in the world - and then in 1985, the five-piece literally split in two. Thirty years ago this week, one of the two side projects to emerge while Duran Duran took a break hit the ARIA top 50 with their first single.

Two-fifths of Duran Duran + one member of Chic + Robert Palmer = The Power Station

In this case, the musical offshoot was somewhat of a supergroup. Alongside the two members of Duran Duran were two other performers, each with their own chart pedigree - and working behind the scenes was a very well-known producer.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 21, 1985

A supergroup of a different kind held down the number 1 spot this week in 1985. USA For Africa's "We Are The World" was on top for a second week as "Shout" (moving down) and "I Should Have Known Better" (moving back up) swapped places below it.


Off The Chart
Number 94 "I Can't Hold Back" by Survivor
Peak: number 94
This lead single from Vital Signs was Survivor's biggest US hit since "Eye Of The Tiger" - and the band's only ARIA top 100 appearance since scoring 1982's year-end number 1 single with that Rocky III anthem. It was also the first release with new vocalist Jimi Jamison.

Number 72 "Sticky Little Bitch" by The Angels
Peak: number 72
Like previous single "Look The Other Way", this latest release from Two Minute Warning missed the top 50. I imagine the song's title made radio airplay problematic.


New Entries
Number 50 "Colour My Love" by Fun Fun Fun
Peak: number 49
On my 25 Years Ago... posts, we've seen how European dance acts Technotronic, Black Box and, of course, Milli Vanilli used models as their front people - but the practice started long before that. Despite having future solo star Spagna among their vocalists, Italian Euro disco group Fun Fun (Australia added an extra Fun) hired two female models to flounce around and mime along to songs like "Colour My Love". It seems there was no bad blood between the actual singers and the producers since after Spagna embarked on her post-Fun Fun career (which resulted in 1987 European smash "Call Me"), she continued to contribute to the writing of her former group's songs.




Number 42 "Lovergirl" by Teena Marie
Peak: number 19
Since this song was Australia's introduction to Teena Marie, I'm betting she was lumped in with established hitmakers Sheila E and the recently sex-ified Sheena Easton, whose recent records "Lovergirl" resembled. But, the singer born Mary Brockert (Tina comes from middle name Christine) had been releasing records longer than either of them. And although the funk/pop style of "Lovergirl" sounded like she'd also been spending a lot of time with Prince, it was sometime boyfriend Rick "Superfreak" James who'd helped Teena get her break in 1979 and was more of an influential force in her career.
"Lovergirl" was the peak of Teena's commercial success (and her only appearance on the Australian top 100) - although her 1980 singles "Behind The Groove" and "I Need Your Lovin'" are worth investigating. Those two tracks were released during her time signed to Motown Records, a contract she extracted herself from following a protracted and expensive legal battle. On the upside, the lawsuit resulted in the Brockert Initiative being passed, which prevented record companies keeping artists on contract while refusing to release their music.




Number 39 "Some Like It Hot" by The Power Station
Peak: number 4
While the three other members of Duran Duran were off doing their own thing - which would result in a hit single we'll see towards the very end of the year - bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor joined forces with singer Robert Palmer and drummer Tony Thompson (formerly of Chic) to form The Power Station. Named after the studios where their debut album was recorded, the supergroup received the production wizardry of Bernard Edwards - one of the masterminds (along with Nile Rodgers) behind Chic. 
Boasting a harder sound than Duran Duran's material, The Power Station made an instant impact with their first single, "Some Like It Hot". Australia was particularly taken with the track, which made it to number 6 in the US and number 14 in the UK. The song's number 4 placing locally was just one place shy of the last Duran Duran single, "The Wild Boys", while it was easily the biggest hit Robert had ever sung, with his previous Australian chart best being "Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)", which reached number 13 in 1979




Next week: new solo singles from three male artists who got their start as members of massive bands - two of whom had just duetted together.


Back to: Apr 14, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 28, 1985


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: April 15, 1990

When you think of Detroit, one of the first things that comes to mind is Motown. Seattle is synonymous with grunge music. And this week 25 years ago, the baggy sound of Manchester, UK arrived on the ARIA top 50 singles chart.

The Stone Roses: Madchester's sole success in Australia

Madchester, as the movement was dubbed, got its name from a Happy Mondays EP and mostly passed Australia by, with acts like Inspiral Carpets, James and the Mondays themselves missing the top 50 completely - usually by some margin.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 15, 1990

Meanwhile, "Nothing Compares 2 U" spent its eighth week at number 1 this week in 1990 - equalling the tally notched up by "Love Shack" over summer. To find a song that spent longer at number 1, you need to go all the way back to 1985. The good news was that Sinéad would finally be toppled from the chart summit next week by a song that couldn't be more opposite if it tried.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "No Blue Skies" by Lloyd Cole
Peak: number 86
He's everywhere! After the three singles with the Commotions we've seen on the 30 Years Ago... posts, here he is also missing the top 50 with the first release from his debut self-titled solo album.

Number 94 "Self Deceiver" by Jenny Morris
Peak: number 94
The fourth and final single from Shiver was co-written with Paul Kelly (who wrote previous single "Street Of Love") and kept up the tradition of each release from the album starting with an S.

Number 89 "Madly In Love" by Bros
Peak: number 68
It was essentially the same song as "Too Much", but better. Unfortunately for Bros, they weren't anywhere near as popular anymore and couldn't pull that kind of song-recycling off.

Number 68 "Hump Music" by No Face
Peak: number 64
The Jungle Brothers' "I'll House You" had missed the ARIA chart, but this answer record - typical lyric: "girl, I'll hump you" - was an underground hit in Australia for the New York hip-hop trio.


Breaker
"Sit And Wait" by Sydney Youngblood
Peak: number 59
Also taking out the title of this week's Single Of The Week, "Sit And Wait" was the second UK hit from American singer Sydney Youngblood (real name: Sydney Ford). His first British hit had been "If Only I Could", which did nothing in Australia, but was later covered by Wendy Matthews. Like the rest of the country, I gravitated more towards "Sit And Wait" as well, and still listen to parent album Feeling Free from time to time.




New Entries
Number 47 "Black Betty (remix)" by Ram Jam
Peak: number 17
Nearly three decades before Australian band Spiderbait took it all the way to number 1 in Australia in 2004, "Black Betty" was recorded by American rockers Ram Jam - and it's that 1977 version that's probably the best known of all the many interpretations of the tune, which originated as a work song. In 1990, remixer Ben Liebrand, who'd been involved in a number of musical resurrections over the previous few years - including Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight '88" - turned his hand to the track. Peaking 14 places lower than the original Ram Jam recording, the new "Black Betty" was also successful in the UK where it'd reached number 7 in 1977 and made number 13 this time around.




Number 46 "Hullabaloo" by Absent Friends
Peak: number 46
So far, interest in Australian supergroup Absent Friends had been about as high as that shown towards Sean Kelly's post-Models solo single, "Thank You, Goodnight". The debut single by the band which comprised members of Models, INXS and GANGgajang, as well as singer Wendy Matthews, was "Hallelujah", but that had tanked at a dismal number 100. This follow-up did better, but only spent a solitary week inside the top 50. Frankly, I'm surprised it did as well as that - it's a mess! Good thing the project had a cover version up their sleeve.




Number 42 "Summer Rain" by Belinda Carlisle
Peak: number 6
Finally! After registering only a solitary top 10 hit from each of her previous two albums, Belinda Carlisle broke the curse with this latest single from Runaway Horses. Things hadn't looked good when "La Luna" missed the mark (going no higher than number 21), but "Summer Rain" almost matched the peak of number 5 hit "Leave A Light On". Co-written by Maria Vidal (who we saw recently in my 30 Years Ago... posts), "Summer Rain" was my favourite track from the album - but not the highest charting version of the song on the ARIA chart. Criminally, the cheesy dance remake by Australian trio Slinkee Minx (who I once took to a Cold Rock Ice Cream parlour for a Smash Hits photo shoot) did peak at number 5 in 2004.





Number 37 "Fools Gold / What The World Is Waiting For" by The Stone Roses
Peak: number 13
As we saw earlier this year, "She Bangs The Drums" hadn't even registered inside the ARIA top 100, but this non-album double A-side release by the critically adored Madchester group did, as they say, the business locally. Originally, "What The World Is Waiting For" had been intended as the A-side, but record company pressure convinced the band to at least give both songs equal credit - something the ARIA chart ignored.
With its blend of indie rock, psychedelia and dance music, "Fools Gold" (and let's face it, that was the song that got all the attention) became one of the defining tracks of the baggy sound. The single took a while to really take off in Australia, hovering around the 30s until it suddenly catapulted up to its peak position in the last week of May - and ever since has been one of those songs that routinely crops up in best of... lists, and gets remixed and sampled on a regular basis. As for The Stone Roses themselves - well, they never really lived up the hype and wouldn't return to the ARIA top 50 until December 1994.




Next week: a B-side from the 1950s provides a Neighbours star with their top 5 breakthrough. Plus, one of the year's best songs bombs in Australia.


Back to: Apr 8, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 22, 1990


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: April 14, 1985

For musicians, the question of what to name their band is a crucial one to get right. After all, if you do have a hit record, the last thing you want is to be lumbered with a dud name you can't change since you're now successful. 

King's reign on the chart was a relatively short one

This week in 1985 on the ARIA singles chart, bands named after (in order) a fruit, a comic strip, a vehicle, the band's lead singer and a breakfast cereal made progress on the top 100. And finally, there was another band whose name simultaneously made no and total sense.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 14, 1985

Not surprisingly, the all-star ensemble with the full name United Support of Artists for Africa leapt from its number 5 debut position last week to the top of the chart 30 years ago this week. "We Are The World" would stay at number 1 for nine weeks. 


Off The Chart
Number 96 "All I Need" by Jack Wagner
Peak: number 93
Before Nick in The Bold And The Beautiful and Peter in Melrose Place, soap star Jack Wagner played Frisco Jones in General Hospital and his popularity helped this debut single fly to number 2 in the US. In 2013, he performed it on the show during a return stint.

Number 93 "Temptation" by Joan Armatrading
Peak: number 72
1983's The Key had yielded two top 20 hits ("Drop The Pilot" and "(I Love It When You) Call Me Names") but this lead single was the best performer from the Secret Secrets album.

Number 92 "Time Out (For Serious Fun)" by Rockmelons
Peak: number 81
A couple of years before their top 40 breakthrough, the Sydney dance/funk group gained some attention - and a Countdown appearance - with this debut single featuring Sandi Chick on vocals.

Number 82 "One Of A Kind" by V.Spy V.Spy
Peak: number 66
A fixture on the pub rock scene for a few years by this stage, V. Spy V. Spy cracked the top 100 with this lead single from what would be their debut album, Harry's Reasons


New Entries
Number 48 "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones
Peak: number 11
He shockingly hadn't reached any higher than number 16 with the singles from first album Human's Lib, but Howard Jones got ever closer to his first top 10 hit in Australia with this lead single from Dream Into Action. Things were going better for him at home, where "Things Can Only Get Better" became his fifth UK top 10 single.




Number 44 "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon
Peak: number 2
1985 was turning out to be a banner year for power ballads, with this latest single from the band named after a flatbed truck following "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "I Should Have Known Better" into the upper reaches of the chart. Like Foreigner, REO Speedwagon's last big hit had been with a power ballad released in 1981 that'd reached number 3. "Can't Fight This Feeling" improved on the performance of "Keep On Loving You" by one position, but was denied the number 1 spot by Eurythmics' "Would I Lie To You?".




Number 40 "Love & Pride" by King
Peak: number 8
He had hair that rivaled Howard Jones' for pure ridiculousness and a band named after him, but this top 10 smash was as good as it got for Paul King. Originally released in early 1984 in the UK as King's debut single, "Love & Pride" got a new lease of life after two other singles had flopped - and zoomed all the way to number 2 at home. In Britain, two other big hits following later in 1985, but in Australia, King were one-hit wonders, never seeing the inside of the ARIA top 50 again.




Number 37 "Boom Box" by Vitabeats
Peak: number 31
A website about this Australian duo suggests their breakthrough single, "Boom Box", was a top 3 hit in Australia. Not quite. Comprised of husband and wife Andrew and Lissa Barnum, Vitabeats presumably got their inspiration for their name from the Uncle Tobys cereal, while "Boom Box" reminds me of Nu Shooz's 1986 single "I Can't Wait" and probably should've done better. No doubt, radio wasn't as supportive as it could've been given they weren't a pub rock act. The couple are still together - and have a daughter - but this was their only top 50 appearance.




Number 36 "Gotta Be Wrong (Way To Love)" by Dynamic Hepnotics
Peak: number 20
Here's an Australian group that did manage a big hit on the ARIA chart - "Soul Kind Of Feeling", which had reached number 5 in 1984. This follow-up didn't peak quite as high, but Dynamic Hepnotics were definitely making a name for themselves as proponents of soulful pop music. And the band name they chose, although inherently meaningless, kind of suited their sound perfectly, don't you think? The momentum didn't last and "Gotta Be Wrong..." would be the group's last top 50 appearance - and last top 100 showing for a year.




Next week: one of the biggest groups in the world splinters into two side-projects and some fun fun fun Eurodisco.


Back to: Apr 7, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 21, 1985


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: April 8, 1990

In the 1980s, I liked the odd bit of middle-of-the-road music as much as anyone. Phil Collins, Toto, Chicago (who we saw on my 30 Years Ago post this week)... it was a great era for soft rock and power ballads. But, by 1990, either my taste had moved on or they just didn't make them like they used to.

Del Amitri brought sideburns back to the top 50

Twenty-five years ago this week, three of the new entries on the ARIA singles chart were what radio programmers would describe as MOR. I only liked one of the songs, and even that wasn't as good as the previous singles by the band in question. Talk about hard to please.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 8, 1990

I was also not that pleased that there was no change at the top of the chart this week in 1990 as "Nothing Compares 2 U" proved unassailable for a seventh week. The good news: it was the single's second last week at number 1.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)" by UB40
Peak: number 96
Labour Of Love II really wasn't off to a good start for UB40, with this cover of the 1973 single by Al Green flopping worse than "Homely Girl". It'd do much better on re-release in 1991.

Number 88 "If I Get Lucky" by Little River Band
Peak: number 75
Perhaps LRB should've gone out on a high with 1988's "Love Is A Bridge" and the Monsoon album. Instead, this almost title track from the Get Lucky album ended things with more of a whimper.

Number 79 "Alimony" by The Hummingbirds
Peak: number 79
I hadn't minded breakthrough hit "Blush", but this re-release of the jangly guitar band's 1987 debut single just served to show far they'd come in the years since. Monotonous.


Single Of The Week
"Pacific 202" by 808 State
Peak: number 82
If you click on the clip from Top Of The Pops below, you'll hear the presenter introduce this breakthrough rave hit by the Manchester dance act as "Pacific 707". So why was it listed on the ARIA chart as "Pacific 202"? And why is it also known as "Pacific State"? Well, there are actually dozens of different versions of the track, which started out as "Pacific State" on the band's debut EP, Quadrastate. Remixed for single release, the 7" version was known as "Pacific 707" and the main 12" version as "Pacific 202". It's the latter that was released - and charted - here (and you can here it by following the link in the song title above). But, although Australia had embraced the likes of Technotronic and Black Box, this piece of instrumental club music was clearly too out-there for local palates.




New Entries
Number 50 "Sweet Surrender" by Wet Wet Wet
Peak: number 7
The time's they were a-changing for Scottish quartet Wet Wet Wet as they continued their transition from perky pop pin-ups to long-haired balladeers beloved by mums the world over. "Sweet Surender", the lead single from the Holding Back The River album, was a crucial step into more adult contemporary music. The type of slick ballad that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Simply Red album, it was easily their biggest hit up until that point in Australia and their fifth top 10 hit in the UK. And, although I liked it, I missed the days of "Sweet Little Mystery" and "Wishing I Was Lucky". After "Sweet Surrender", the band's success stalled, with a string of singles following in its wake that did very little either here or at home. The next time we'd see Wet Wet Wet on the ARIA top 50, they'd be well and truly middle of the road.




Number 49 "Kiss This Thing Goodbye" by Del Amitri
Peak: number 28
More MOR music from Scotland now, with the debut single from five-piece Del Amitri, who were more Texas than Simply Red - and even hailed from the same city as Sharleen Spiteri's band: Glasgow. Even more so than with Wet Wet Wet, I couldn't help but focus on the hair on display in Del Amitri, specifically the humongous sideburns sported by singer Justin Currie. Quite the distraction. Not as big a hit as my memory would've suggested, "Kiss This Thing Goodbye" did spend quite a while on the top 50, not reaching its peak position until mid-June.




Number 46 "I Remember You" by Skid Row
Peak: number 12
Next up, another band with noteworthy hair - and although Skid Row singer (and future Gilmore Girls guest star) Sebastian Bach's lovely blond locks might have suggested that he was just the latest in a long line of pretty boy hair metal frontmen, his band's music was less Warrant or Poison and more Guns 'n' Roses. Indeed, "I Remember You" was the sound of mainstream American rock music getting more earnest and grungy - and consequently less fun.




Number 40 "Your Own Sweet Way" by The Notting Hillbillies
Peak: number 28
Wow, it really was a week for depressingly dull soft-rock, wasn't it? With Dire Straits still resting on their laurels after the all-conquering Brothers In Arms album, singer Mark Knopfler and keyboardist Guy Fletcher kept their hands in as members of this side-project. To me, The Notting Hillbillies felt like a poor man's version of The Traveling Wilburys - and I'm sure this sleepy single wouldn't have received half the attention it did without the band's high profile members.




Number 39 "Walk On The Wild Side" by Jamie J Morgan
Peak: number 25
I was about to say, "Finally, a decent song..." until I listened to this cover of the classic Lou Reed single from 1972 for the first time since 1990 and, well, this version is pretty terrible. The "Buffalo Stance"-style production works, but Jamie's delivery is kind of embarrassing. Not surprisingly, Jamie has a musical link to Neneh Cherry - he was formerly one-half of Morgan McVey (with Cameron McVey), whose single "Looking Good Diving" featured an early version of "Buffalo Stance" as its B-side. 




Number 38 "That's What I Call Love" by Kate Ceberano
Peak: number 30
Finally, a decent song! And, if I'd been making decisions about what to release from Brave, this would have followed "Bedroom Eyes" as the album's second single. I also would have got Kate to shoot a proper music video for it. Unfortunately, when "That's What I Call Love" finally did come out, it felt like a bit of an afterthought. 




Next week: one of the biggest singles to emerge from the Madchester scene hits the chart, and Belinda Carlisle finally breaks that one top 10 hit per album curse.


Back to: Apr 1, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 15, 1990


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: April 7, 1985

Even without the chartbusting debut of "We Are The World", it would've been a big week on the ARIA singles chart 30 years ago. Besides the charity single's arrival, seven other songs moved into the top 50 - the highest number of new entries on the chart so far in 1985. 

Cyndi Lauper always did know how to stand out from the crowd

But of course, all those other new hits were overshadowed by the collaboration between a whole host of music superstars (and Dan Aykroyd) on America's answer to "Do They Know It's Christmas?". Blasting straight in to the top 5 (three places lower than the Band Aid single), the song was a guaranteed chart-topper.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 7, 1985

Before USA For Africa claimed the number 1 spot, Jim Diamond sneaked in to spend a single week on top with "I Should Have Known Better", which was the third one-week number 1 in a row following "One Night In Bangkok" and "Shout" (in that order). 


Off The Chart
Number 99 "When The Rain Begins To Fall" by Jermaine Jackson / Pia Zadora
Peak: number 63
I don't normally say much about these songs, but this one is too good to summarise briefly. A duet between Jermaine Jackson, one of the only Jackson siblings not to appear on "We Are The World", and actress/singer Pia Zadora, it was a European smash that flopped in the US, the UK and Australia. The track was taken from the musical Voyage Of The Rock Aliens, a movie that was about as good as the title suggests (although that was kind of the intention) featuring future One Tree Hill star Craig Sheffer and Pia, who was notorious for the rumours surrounding her 1982 Golden Globe Award win"When The Rain Begins To Fall" is typical of the synthpop feel of the songs in the movie, which included two contributions from Australia's own Real Life.

Number 95 "Walking On A Thin Line" by Huey Lewis & The News
Peak: number 70
This fifth and final single from Sports was the only one to miss the US top 10 from the album. A more issue-driven song from the band, it was about the Vietnam War.


New Entries
Number 50 "You're The Inspiration" by Chicago
Peak: number 43
As "Hard Habit To Break" spent its final week in the top 50, the next single from Chicago 17 (deceptively, the 14th studio album by MOR champions Chicago) made its way into the chart. But despite being another collaboration between lead singer Peter Cetera and songwriter/producer David Foster (just like "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" from Chicago 16), "You're The Inspiration" was much less successful in Australia, although in the US, it reached number 3. Peter Cetera re-recorded the song in 1997 and enlisted the help of R&B vocal harmony group Az-Yet, after having made a guest appearance on their cover of "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" earlier that year.




Number 45 "I Know Him So Well" by Elaine Paige / Barbara Dickson
Peak: number 21
"One Night In Bangkok" had made it all the way to number 1, but this second single from future musical Chess didn't manage to crack the top 20 (although it did top the chart in the UK). Chosen to perform the duet were two singers who were no strangers to songs written by Tim Rice. 
Elaine not only originated the roles of Eva Perón in Evita and Grizabella in Cats, but scored a UK hit single with her recording of "Memory" in 1981 (and an Australian hit with it later in 1985). Barbara, meanwhile, had her own success with a number from Evita: "Another Suitcase In Another Hall", a UK hit in 1977. 
Elaine and Barbara's duet on "I Know Him So Well" has been covered numerous times in the years since, by artists diverse and Whitney Houston and mother Cissy Houston, Steps, Melanie C and Emma Bunton, and, in a recreation of the original music video for Comic Relief, Susan Boyle and Geraldine McQueen (aka comedian Peter Kay).




Number 44 "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips" by Eric Carmen
Peak: number 27
Besides his two periods off significant success (1976's "All By Myself"; 1988's "Hungry Eyes" and "Make Me Lose Control"), I knew nothing of Eric Carmen's other releases until now. This lead single from his 1984 self-titled album (not to be confused with his 1975 self-titled solo debut album) was his next highest charting single in Australia - and it's an OK, if somewhat unmemorable, tune. It's nice to see his mane of hair looking as fine as ever, though.




Number 43 "Respect Yourself" by Kane Gang
Peak: number 19
We saw their previous single, "Closest Thing To Heaven", just miss the top 50 earlier in the year, but British trio Kane Gang made up for it with this cover of The Staples Singers' 1971 hit, which became their one and only top 50 appearance in Australia. "Respect Yourself" actually charted higher here than in either the UK or the US, where fans of the song would have to wait until 1987 and a remake by Bruce Willis - yes, really - which entered the top 10 in both countries.




Number 39 "The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey
Peak: number 2
The second of what would be three hits in Australia (sorry, Patti LaBelle) from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, "The Heat Is On" was the biggest of them all - and one of six different songs to land at number 2 behind "We Are The World" during its run at the top. The track was also the most successful single for Glenn Frey, who, like his Eagles band-mate Don Henley, had a great year as a solo artist in 1985. One of two soundtrack hits Glenn released that year, "The Heat Is On" was co-written by Harold Faltermeyer, who we'd be seeing on the top 50 before too long in his own right, and Keith Forsey, who'd been involved with early '80s classics by Irene Cara and Billy Idol.




Number 34 "You're So Strong" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 11
After their novelty Christmas single at the tail end of 1984, it was back to business as usual for Mental As Anything with this, their first proper release since "Working For The Man" in November 1983. My favourite single by the Mentals, "You're So Strong" was the lead release from their Fundamental album and it's a good example of what the band could do when they weren't busy being all zany - even if Greedy Smith insisted on doing his best wacky dancing in the Countdown performance below.




Number 29 "I'm An Individual" by Jacko
Peak: number 15
In a week when there was so much exciting new music hitting the chart, it was a travesty that the second highest new entry was this piece of musical excrement by VFL player Mark "Jacko" Jackson. The maverick sportsman, who was playing for Geelong at this stage of his colourful career, was a polarising personality - and this single was just as divisive. Clearly enough people were amused to send it into the top 20, but I don't even think it's a good novelty record (and regular readers will know my feelings about those). Thankfully, despite releasing a follow-up, "Me Brain Hurts", Jacko remained a one-hit wonder. We did have to put up with him in ads for Energizer batteries and Nutri-Grain for the rest of the decade, however.




Number 5 "We Are The World" by USA For Africa
Peak: number 1
Mostly recorded on January 28 after the 1985 American Music Awards, "We Are The World" was, as well all know, America's contribution to the effort to fight famine in Ethiopia - a cause that had been championed by Bob Geldof, leading to the release of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in December 1984. One thing I didn't realise for all these years is that the USA in USA For Africa actually stands for United Support of Artists.
Structurally, the song, which was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, was fairly similar to the Band Aid record, with the stars of the days (except Prince, who declined to be involved, and Madonna, who wasn't invited to take part) performing a line or two each before a massed choir featuring even more artists sang the choruses at the end. 
My only criticism of the track - and it's a song I actually like a lot - would be that it does go on a bit, with all those extra choruses and ad libs from James Ingram, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen bumping it up to over seven minutes. As a fan of 7" versions, a radio edit wouldn't have gone astray. On a positive note, the best bit of "We Are The World" is clearly when Cyndi Lauper lets loose during the climactic bridge.
There's so much more to say about this song - which holed up at number 1 for a massive nine weeks in Australia (five more weeks than in the USA) - but I couldn't summarise it better than this Rolling Stone article from a few weeks back.




Next week: top 50 entries from another five songs, including two long-forgotten Australian records, a soft rock classic and the biggest hit by a member of pop royalty.


Back to: Mar 31, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 14, 1985