Wednesday, 26 August 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: August 26, 1990

It can happen without warning. One minute, a music act has the world at its feet, racking up hit singles and multi-platinum albums seemingly with little effort. Suddenly, the hits dry up, the albums flop and no one is interested in them anymore. Sometimes it's because the songs stop being up to standard, other times it's because a newer, younger model emerges.

Southern Sons were the hair apparents to 1927

Twenty-five years ago this week, it was a bit of both as one of the biggest bands of the previous couple of years bombed with their latest single - a pretty average track. The same week, a new Australian rock band debuted with the song that'd become their first top 10 hit, stepping in to the void left behind by the one-time chart champs.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 26, 1990

Meanwhile, another rock band rose to the top of the ARIA singles chart this week in 1990. Faith No More hit number 1 for the first time in their career with "Epic", which began a three-week stretch at the top.


Off The Chart
It's always nice when there's a pattern - and six of the seven songs to talk about in this section are by acts that'd also once been massive and now found themselves with a flop on their hands.

Number 100 "Treat Me Good" by Yazz
Peak: number 100
Two years after "The Only Way Is Up", Yazz barely scraped in to the top 100 with this brand new, but forgettable, single. No doubt as a result, her second album was delayed... until 1994.

Number 92 "Do-Wah-Diddy" by The Party Boys
Peak: number 81
They'd scored with covers of "He's Gonna Step On You Again" and "Hold Your Head Up", but just about no-one was interested in this pedestrian remake of the song made famous by Manfred Mann.

Number 89 "Kissing Gate" by Sam Brown
Peak: number 89
April Moon had got off to an OK start as "With A Little Love" reached the top 30, but this follow-up, which I always found rather painful to listen to, brought Sam's hit streak to an end.

Number 84 "Vision Of You" by Belinda Carlisle
Peak: number 84
She'd enjoyed a career-best chart run by avoiding releasing ballads like this as singles from Runaway Horses. And then she had to go and spoil it all.

Number 83 "Labour Of Love" by Martin Plaza
Peak: number 78
In 1986, his version of "Concrete And Clay" almost hit number 1. Four years later, I wasn't even aware the Mental As Anything singer/guitarist released this single, which was a precursor to the more successful Beatfish project.

Number 82 "Drop The Gun" by Kings Of The Sun
Peak: number 82
The exception to the rule - Aussie rockers Kings Of The Sun maintained their hit-less track record with this lead single from the Full Frontal Attack album.

Number 64 "Whose Law (Is It Anyway)?" by Guru Josh
Peak: number 64
"Infinity (1990s: Time For The Guru)" was one of the year's best dance tracks. This follow-up was one of the worst. Enough said.


Breaker
"Colour Of Money / (Running From) Another Man's Gun" by Ray Lyell & The Storm
Peak: number 57
After a few false starts when it dropped in and out of the top 100, this double A-side release from the Canadian singer/songwriter and his band finally picked up enough steam to venture towards to top 50. Despite sounding like a cross between Melissa Etheridge, The Black Sorrows and John Mellencamp (all of whom Australians loved), it never got there. Although "Colour Of Money" was theoretically the lead track in Australia, it doesn't seem to have had a video made for it, unlike overseas single "(Running From) Another Man's Gun".




New Entries
Number 49 "Heart In Danger" by Southern Sons
Peak: number 5
We'll get to the Australian band that abruptly found themselves on the outs shortly. Before that, here's the top 50 debut of the group that just as quickly became FM radio favourites with their easily palatable brand of sing-along pop/rock. 
Fronted by the lusciously locked Jack Jones (aka Jack Goode, aka Irwin Thomas), Southern Sons had previously been known as The State - although Jack wasn't part of that line-up. Songwriter Phil Buckle was the singer of The State, whose songs like previous ARIA chart Single of the Week "Real Love" were nice but unmemorable.
With his band going nowhere, Phil found gainful employment as a contributor to John Farnham's Chain Reaction album (co-writing "Burn For You", among other tracks) and it's then that inspiration struck. What The State needed was a singer like Farnsey and a bit of oomph - and so big-voiced, long-haired Jack, who was also part of John's backing band, was recruited and The State became Southern Sons.
The first of a handful of big commercial singles, "Heart In Danger" was one of the few songs performed by a man to receive the Fast Forward parody treatment (it's at the 35:30 minute mark) - but with hair like that, Jack was pretty much asking for it.




Number 42 "Don't Forget Me" by 1927
Peak: number 42
While Southern Sons were in the ascendant, 1927 were having real trouble with their second album, The Other Side. This week, the album fell out of the top 10 after only four weeks on release - and would never return there. Second single "Don't Forget Me" performed even worse, with this appearance at number 42 the song's only showing within the top 50. 
And it's not like it was an understated track, what with its flashy outback video - which can't have come cheap - and the rather random "glory, glory hallelujah" refrain in the middle. But, as with previous single "Tell Me A Story", although "Don't Forget Me" was designed to be a rousing hit single, it left me - and presumably other people - cold. Side note: it's interesting that the longer singer Eric Weideman's hair got, the worse 1927 did on the charts, whereas it was the converse of that for Jack Jones.




Next week: two of the biggest male solo artists in the world return with new projects, plus tracks from Snap!, New Kids On The Block and Cheap Trick debut.


Back to: Aug 19, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 2, 1990


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: August 25, 1985

Nine new entries! This week in 1985 saw the highest number of debuts on the ARIA singles chart for that entire year. Together with the week's one re-entry, that meant a rarely seen changeover of one-fifth of the top 50 singles from the previous week.

Comeback or not, "Freeway Of Love" put Aretha back in the driver's seat

Naturally, there's a lot to discuss this week, so I'll get on with it rather than blathering on about some overarching theme or a milestone in chart history. But, if I had to pick a topic to focus on this week it would be comebacks.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 25, 1985

A singer who'd made a major comeback a couple of years earlier continued her renewed chart success by climbing to the top of the chart 30 years ago this week. "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" by Tina Turner brought an end to Madonna's eight-week dominance of the number spot.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "Imagination" by Belouis Some
Peak: number 90
Also a flop in the UK in 1985, this single by the performer born Neville Keighley would end up reaching the top 20 there in 1986, no doubt aided by its nudity-riddled music video.

Number 98 "Made In Heaven" by Freddie Mercury
Peak: number 98
A downturn in chart fortunes after "I Was Born To Love You", this solo ballad ended up becoming the (reworked) title track of Queen's first album released after Freddie's death.

Number 87 "Injustice" by V. Spy V. Spy
Peak: number 87
A second top 100 appearance from the Aussie band. The YouTube clip says the particular injustice being sung about is the "plight of Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples".

Number 85 "My Toot Toot" by Jean Knight
Peak: number 62
We saw Denise LaSalle's version enter the top 100 last week, and hot on its heels (and outperforming it) came this cover by a female singer with just as lengthy a recording career. In fact, this was taken from Jean's first album in - comeback alert! - 14 years.


New entries
Number 48 "Tomb Of Memories" by Paul Young
Peak: number 44
I didn't even know this single existed until it popped up earlier this year on one of those Countdown re-runs that Rage airs every January. Not a massive hit in Australia, it was also the first single by Paul to miss the UK top 10 and, no doubt as a result, was left off his first best of release, From Time To Time - The Singles Collection (which is the only album of his I own). I actually prefer "Tomb Of Memories", the fourth and final single from The Secret Of Association, to some of Paul's bigger hits - and even though it is one of his lesser-known singles, the song title has just been revived as the name of a four-CD box-set released last week.




Number 47 "Forever Young" by Alphaville
Peak: number 47
Next up, we have a song that's had more comebacks than Cher, John Farnham and Dame Nellie Melba combined. Originally released in late 1984, "Forever Young" became a top 5 hit in Alphaville's home country of Germany and did well across Europe. Elsewhere, the song missed the mark, while another single, "Big In Japan", became big in the UK instead. 
Re-released in 1985 following Laura Branigan's remake on her Hold Me album, "Forever Young" broke into the US top 100 and, 30 years ago this week, made a brief appearance in the ARIA top 50. But that's not the end of the story - not by a long shot.
Another re-release in 1988 did slightly better for the synthpop band in America, while in Australia, a happy hardcore cover by Interactive in 1995 finally took the song into the ARIA top 20. But it was in 2006 that "Forever Young" finally achieved its full potential - topping the Australian chart in an indie rock version by Youth Group. In the wake of Youth Group's success, a new remix of the Alphaville version climbed as high as number 31 locally.




Number 46 "Icing On The Cake" by Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy
Peak: number 46
After finally turning "Kiss Me" into a hit, Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy released his next single from debut solo album The Ups And Downs. A modest top 20 hit in the UK, "Icing On The Cake" only spent this one week in the ARIA top 50 - and while it's not as good a song as "Kiss Me", its sweet bridge and catchy chorus should have seen it do better than that.




Number 45 "Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes)" by Kim Carnes
Peak: number 21
Time for another comeback - this time by the singer who hit number 1 in 1981 with "Bette Davis Eyes" and had last been on the Australian top 50 as a solo artist in 1982 with the title track from her Voyeur album. Three years on and fresh from appearances on "What About Me?" by Kenny Rogers and "We Are The World", Kim Carnes was back with what would be her final (and second biggest) solo chart hit. If you're wondering where the "Barking At Airplanes" bit of the title fits in - since it's not part of the lyrics - it just happened to be the name of Kim's accompanying album.




Number 44 "In Too Deep" by Dead Or Alive
Peak: number 31
A change of pace for hi-NRG pop act Dead Or Alive now, who slowed things down slightly with this third single from the Youthquake album. In both Australia and the UK, "In Too Deep" was a smaller hit than either "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" or "Lover Come Back To Me", which might explain why the group never released another single this subdued during their time with producers Stock Aitken Waterman.




Number 41 "Like A Surgeon" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
Peak: number 19
He'd been releasing parody versions of big hit singles since 1979 when the original version of "My Bologna" poked fun at The Knack's "My Sharona", but Australia hadn't welcomed any of "Weird Al" Yankovic's records onto the chart until he took on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" in 1984. And what a welcome it was. "Eat It" managed to achieve what "Beat It" (a number 2 hit in Australia) hadn't, spending a single week at number 1. 
Follow-up singles that took a shot at The Police ("King Of Suede") and The Greg Kihn Band ("I Lost On Jeopardy") didn't follow "Eat It" onto the chart, but if there was one artist who could guarantee the American comedian some traction, it was Madonna. And so this piss-take of "Like A Virgin" - a song and video that was just asking to be parodied - became the second ARIA chart hit for "Weird Al".
"Like A Surgeon" might not have matched the highs of Madonna's chart-topper, but it did reconfirm Al's razor-sharp comic talents. Even I was amused by his recreation of Madonna's gondola routine in a hospital corridor, his use of a random lion, and the nods to the videos for "Burning Up" and "Lucky Star" - and this is coming from someone who hates novelty records.




Number 40 "Freeway Of Love" by Aretha Franklin
Peak: number 6
It wasn't really a comeback, since she hadn't stopped releasing albums over the past two-and-a-half decades, but both "Freeway Of Love" and the Who's Zoomin' Who? album saw a major turnaround in Aretha Franklin's chart fortunes. In Australia, the Queen of Soul hadn't cracked the top 50 since 1971, when "Spanish Harlem" reached number 16, and in the US it was a similar story, with "Freeway Of Love" becoming her first top 10 hit since 1973's "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)".
So what changed? For one thing, Who's Zoomin' Who? was a more straight-out pop album than the soul/R&B LPs Aretha had been releasing in recent years. Mostly produced by Narada Michael Walden - who was also behind Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" as well as the majority of her second album, Whitney - it was packed with upbeat, radio-friendly singles. Featuring Clarence Clemons on saxophone, "Freeway Of Love" is the quintessential mid-'80s hit.




Number 36 "Goodbye Bad Times" by Giorgio Moroder / Phil Oakey
Peak: number 26
Aside from having the honour of being my favourite single from 1984, "Together In Electric Dreams" had been a top 5 smash in Australia and the UK - and so The Human League vocalist Phil Oakey and producer Giorgio Moroder continued their collaboration for an entire album, the imaginatively titled Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder. But despite second single "Goodbye Bad Times" being another brilliant synthpop single (and having a lot of money thrown at its music video), the song came nowhere near achieving the same level of success as its predecessor. In the UK, the track missed the top 40 entirely and a third release, "Be My Lover Now", performed even worse (although in that case, its chart failure was probably justified). While Phil dutifully returned to The Human League - who went on to score a second US chart-topper in 1986 - Giorgio didn't release another studio album until June 2015.




Number 29 "Frankie" by Sister Sledge
Peak: number 10
Like Aretha Franklin, Sister Sledge had continued to make music since their disco-era breakthrough - but gone were the days of chart hits like "We Are Family" (number 19) or "He's The Greatest Dancer" (number 22). This week in 1985, three years after reaching number 50 with a remake of "My Guy", Debbie, Joni, Kathy and Kim Sledge debuted with what would turn out to be their biggest Australian and UK single. The lead track from When The Boys Meet The Girls, "Frankie" was a chart-topper in Britain and the sisters' only top 10 hit in Australia. Written by future tax haven maven Denise Rich, the song has always been a bit cutesy for my liking - although I do like enough other singles by Sister Sledge for them to rank among my top 20 girl groups of all time.




Next week: the theme song from one of the year's best movies powers onto the chart, plus Phyllis Nelson, V Capri and The Motels.


Back to: Aug 18, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 1, 1985


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: August 19, 1990

It's a question every singer in a group must ask themselves - when's the right time to go solo? Step out on your own too early and fans might be unhappy about you deserting a band they love. Leave it too long and by the time you release your own music, people might no longer care.

Turns out going solo was a good move for Jon Bon Jovi

Twenty-five years ago this week, the singer of arguably the world's biggest rock band at the time charted in Australia with his first solo single - and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Not only did it reach the very top of the ARIA singles top 50, but it opened the door for future solo work and even a foray into acting.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 19, 1990

Spending his final week at number 1 this week in 1990 was MC Hammer, whose mega-hit "U Can't Touch This" kicked the door wide open for rap in the Australian charts, with four more rap number 1s following in the next seven months.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Harmony" by Absent Friends
Peak: number 92
You'd think they'd have learnt not to release songs with single-word titles starting with the letter H. Apparently not, as "Harmony" followed the pattern established by "Hallelujah" and "Hullabaloo" by charting in the 90s.

Number 85 "Poison" by Bell Biv DeVoe
Peak: number 64
Had it been released just a couple of years later, this US smash hit from the three "other" guys in New Edition would probably have been massive in Australia. A new jack swing classic.

Number 75 "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" by Mötley Crüe
Peak: number 72
Since "Without You" had done so well for them in the US, the glam metal band made it back-to-back power ballads. Australia continued to show very little interest.


Single Of The Week
"Strung Out" by Wendy & Lisa
Peak: number 133
In yesterday's 30 Years Ago... post, we saw them as part of The Revolution on one of Prince's finest: "Raspberry Beret". By 1990, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman were up to their third album as a duo in their own right - and "Strung Out' was the lead single from that LP, Eroica. Despite their obvious contributions to Prince's mid-'80s output, Wendy & Lisa weren't able to attain the same level of success away from His Purpleness. Indeed, despite the plug on this week's chart, "Strung Out" was the pair's latest single to miss the ARIA top 100 completely. Meanwhile, is it just me or is the intro to this song a little reminiscent of the start of "Raspberry Beret"?




Breakers
"Release Me" by Wilson Phillips
Peak: number 57
In America, second generation hitmakers Wilson Phillips made it two from two as they eased back in to the number 1 slot with this follow-up to "Hold On". It was quite a different story in Australia as "Release Me" yoyo-ed up and down the top 100 for weeks, never quite managing to break into the top 50 despite regularly making the breakers section between mid-August and mid-November. After the joyous pop perfection of "Hold On", I found "Release Me" a little on the bland side - a nice enough tune but with none of the oomph of its predecessor. In this case, I think Australia got it right by not rewarding the trio with another hit - but the unfortunate by-product of that was that the far superior "Impulsive" and "You're In Love" (both US top 5 hits) also failed to connect locally. 




"I Wanna Be Rich" by Calloway
Peak: number 60
I was never a massive fan of this US number 2 hit - the only major single released by Reggie and Vincent Calloway in their guise as Calloway - but I was an admirer of the performers/songwriters/producers' work in the previous decade. As members of Midnight Star, the brothers had been involved in one of the seminal funk tracks of the '80s: "Midas Touch". Then, as songwriters and producers, they'd been responsible for songs like "Casanova" by LeVert and Natalie Cole's "Jump Start", but "I Wanna Be Rich" felt too much like a novelty record. 
Fun fact: about this time, a friend of mine and I discovered that if you called record companies, you could find out when songs were going to be released locally. At his request, we called Sony Music (which was then called CBS Records) and asked when "I Wanna Be Rich", which we'd heard on American Top 40, would be coming out. The guy at CBS we spoke to was so impressed by our ingenuity - had no one really thought to do that before? - that he gave us each a promo copy of the album. And so began a lifetime of harrassing record companies.




New Entries
Number 47 "The Machine's Breaking Down" by Tina Arena
Peak: number 23
If "I Need Your Body" had been a textbook example of how to launch a music career after leaving a hit TV show, then "The Machine's Breaking Down" is a classic case of how not to squander that start. From its incredibly dated Aussie rock-meets-dance sound to its terrible lyrics ("Lebanon, Irag, Iran/Ethiopia and Afghanistan/religion and politics, plunder and rape/while the weak cow down and pray for escape"), it really was an awful song. 
Clearly, someone thought it would score Tina huge points to sing a pop tune that "meant something", but no one deserved this to be inflicted onto them. Unfortunately, Australia was still quite ill at ease with out-and-out pop, but all those references to drug addicts and bloody news footage just served to alienate Tina's existing audience, never mind luring in potential new fans. Even though "The Machine's Breaking Down" did well to reach number 23, not even the release of a perfectly good pop single later in 1990 would be enough to restore her to chart glory... but that's a story for another post.




Number 42 "LA Woman" by Billy Idol
Peak: number 34
And now here's a song that proves that even when an artist gets everything pretty much right, they're not guaranteed a big hit. Unlike Tina Arena, Billy Idol followed up his top 10 single ("Cradle Of Love") with a single that, on paper, made perfect sense. Sounding like a sequel to 1986's "To Be A Lover", Billy's cover of The Doors' "LA Woman" was exactly the sort of record he should've been making. 
Not only did the song lend itself perfectly to his synth-laden brand of rock, but interest in The Doors had been building to a crescendo since the mid-'80s, with the release of best of and live albums in the previous few years winning over a new generation of fans. Billy's appearance, with the assistance of a cane, in the music video for "LA Woman" following his accident earlier in 1990 should also have made the release all the more noteworthy. 
But a minor chart hit was all this single turned out to be - here in Australia and overseas as well. Perhaps Billy was a year too early with his Doors remake, since The Doors biopic, in which Billy had a small part, wouldn't be released until 1991.




Number 15 "Chain Reaction" by John Farnham
Peak: number 6
In 1988, John Farnham proved his comeback album, Whispering Jack, had been no fluke as follow-up Age Of Reason was another huge success in terms of hit singles and album sales. But could he do it again in 1990? He got off to an OK start with the lead single and title track from his 14th studio album, Chain Reaction. Something of a change of pace from previous lead singles "You're The Voice" and "Age Of Reason", "Chain Reaction" switched out big production and rousing choruses for a more understated, acoustic feel - and fell five places short of topping the chart. 
Whether or not those two things are related, I don't know, but the rapid arrival of the more typically Farnsey-sounding "That's Freedom" in just six weeks' time (and one week before the release of the album) suggests John's record company might just have wished they hadn't been so adventurous. Still, a number 6 chart placing is nothing to be sniffed at - and the lack of a number 1 single didn't stop Chain Reaction from storming to the top of the albums chart upon release and logging five weeks on top.




Number 5 "Blaze Of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi
Peak: number 1
Here was a risk of a different kind - stepping away from a massively successful rock band for a solo record, but if anyone was going to be able to pull it off, it was Jon Bon Jovi, who'd developed a god-like status among fans over the past five years. Plus, since people seemed to use his name and the band's name interchangeably (as in: "I love Bon Jovi, he's so hot!"), there were probably a lot of people who didn't realise "Blaze Of Glory" wasn't the band's new single. 
It certainly sounded like Bon Jovi - especially "Wanted Dead Or Alive", which had been used by Young Guns II screenwriter John Fusco as mood music while he penned the script for the Western film. Jon, who'd got a hold of the script from star Emilio Estevez, didn't feel the Slippery When Wet track was appropriate for the movie and wrote "Blaze Of Glory" instead and recorded it on his own since Bon Jovi was on hiatus... so the story goes. So inspired was Jon by the sequel's screenplay that he ended up writing a whole album, which served as the movie's soundtrack - and he even got to make a cameo in the film as well. 
The risk, such as it was, paid off and "Blaze Of Glory" stormed into the top 100 at number 5 (the year's highest debut, shared with "Better The Devil You Know"). The song went on to reach number 1 and stay there for six weeks, surpassing "Livin' On A Prayer" (a number 3 hit in 1987) as the biggest hit Jon had been - and ever would be - involved with in Australia. The song was also a number 1 in the US, where it was knocked from the top by Wilson Phillips' "Release Me".




Next week: as one Australian band finds itself going down the dumper, another makes a good start to its similarly short-lived chart career.


Back to: Aug 12, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 26, 1990


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: August 18, 1985

Remember when MTV actually played music videos? The channel might now focus on reality shows about teen mothers and drunken skanks from the north of England, but 30 years ago, it played a massive role in the making or breaking of pop stars' careers in the US. 

Nothing like a bit of cross-promotion

In 1985, MTV was still a couple of years away from launching in Australia, but given the great influence American music had on our charts, the power of the cable channel had a flow-on effect here. If MTV helped an act up the Billboard Hot 100, chances are it'd repeat the feat here in Australia. Why is any of this relevant? Well, 30 years ago this week, a song that became inextricably linked with MTV debuted on the ARIA top 50. That's why.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 18, 1985

A singer who benefitted greatly from MTV play was still at number 1 in Australia this week in 1985. Madonna's "Crazy For You" spent a fourth and final week at the top (her eighth in a row in total, including the run of "Angel/Into The Groove").


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Out In The Fields" by Gary Moore / Phil Lynott
Peak: number 62
Two years after the disbanding of Thin Lizzy, the hard rock group's guitarist and singer/bassist reunited for this one-off anti-war single.

Number 98 "My Toot Toot" by Denise LaSalle
Peak: number 76
One of a number of versions of the track written and originally recorded by Rockin' Sydney in 1984, this cover by soul singer Denise LaSalle had been a top 10 hit in the UK. We'll see another take on "My Toot Toot" next week.

Number 97 "Crazy" by Kenny Rogers
Peak: number 56
He'd just slipped in to the top 50 at the start of the year with previous single "What About Me?", but follow-up "Crazy", which was co-written by Richard Marx, fell just short.

Number 95 "Vicious Games" by Yello
Peak: number 51
Getting even closer to the top 50 was this track from Swiss electronic band Yello's fourth album, Stella. Another track on the album, "Oh Yeah", would become a belated hit for the duo in 1988.

Number 79 "The Word Girl" by Scritti Politti
Peak: number 70
Months after their previous single, "Hypnotize", this fourth track from Cupid & Psyche 85 hit stores, its reggae sound more in line with Scritti Politti's output at the start of the decade than their recent releases.


New Entries
Number 45 "Too Young For Promises" by Koo De Tah
Peak: number 6
Thanks to the success of acts like Real Life, Pseudo Echo, Machinations and I'm Talking, Australian bands that didn't have the typical pub rock sound had scored some big hits in recent years - and Koo De Tah would become the latest local synthpop act to reach the top 10. The debut single by the group fronted by New Zealand-born singer (and future Shortland Street theme tune performer) Tina Cross, "Too Young For Promises" would also end up being the band's only major hit, which was a shame since the follow-up was even better.




Number 42 "The Lady Don't Mind" by Talking Heads
Peak: number 24
It'd been four years since Talking Heads had charted a single inside the top 50, but after a brief detour with 1984's concert album Stop Making Sense, the American new wave band made up for lost time with a string of hits from 1985's Little Creatures. Given that album also boasted future hits "Road To Nowhere" and "And She Was", "The Lady Don't Mind" wouldn't have been my first choice as lead single, but it performed moderately well in Australia - even if that wasn't the case in the US and the UK.




Number 38 "People Get Ready" by Jeff Beck / Rod Stewart
Peak: number 23
More successful than the reunion of Thin Lizzy members mentioned above was this collaboration between the former guitarist and singer of the first incarnation of The Jeff Beck Group - who hadn't appeared together on record, I believe, since 1969. Taken from Jeff's album, Flash, this cover of the Curtis Mayfield-penned hit for The Impressions (a US top 20 hit in 1965) was one of several tracks on the LP with a featured vocal - an unusual move for the normally instrumental performer, who even sang on a couple of songs himself. 




Number 36 "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits
Peak: number 4
It was inspired by the things Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler overheard a guy in an electronics store saying about rock stars while watching music videos and even utilised the cable channel's catchphrase in its lyrics. Yep, "Money For Nothing" is - obviously - the song I was talking about at the start that went hand-in-hand with MTV in 1985. 
The second single released from Brothers In Arms, it was seemingly custom-made for the music channel. Beyond the lyrics, the song came with a (for the time) cutting edge animated video that ended up winning the MTV Award for Video Of The Year and was the first clip played when MTV launched in Europe a couple of years later. 
The track features guest vocals from Sting, who also received a co-writing credit for the "I want my MTV" line (which took its melody from The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me") and had performed the song with Dire Straits at Live Aid a month earlier. Throw in some controversy, thanks to the in-character use of the word "faggot" and it's little surprise that "Money For Nothing" received a lot of attention.
In Australia, the lack of MTV didn't stand in the song's way as it bounded into the top 10 in no time, ultimately spending 10 weeks there, including three non-consecutive weeks at its number 4 peak - ending up as the biggest hit from the unstoppable Brothers In Arms




Number 28 "Raspberry Beret" by Prince & The Revolution
Peak: number 13
Like Talking Heads, Prince hadn't chosen an obvious lead single from his 1985 album, Around The World In A Day - at least in Australia and the UK. As we saw back in June, "Paisley Park" had performed about as well as you would expect, but order was restored with the release of follow-up "Raspberry Beret". One of the poppiest - and cleanest - singles of his early career, the track, which had originally been recorded without The Revolution in 1982, returned Prince to the upper reaches of the ARIA chart for the first time since "Let's Go Crazy" reached number 10.




Number 25 "All You Zombies" by The Hooters
Peak: number 8
It'd been three years since The Hooters had released a live recording of "All You Zombies" as their debut single and included it on their first album, Amore. That might have been that, but a collaboration with Cyndi Lauper - singer Rob Hyman co-wrote "Time After Time" - led to the band being offered a record deal with her label, Columbia. A new album, Nervous Night, was recorded and a revised version of "All You Zombies" was released as its lead single. Although it missed the US top 50, the track became the first of two Australian top 10 hits for the band that'd kicked off the American leg of Live Aid in their hometown of Philadelphia. Despite all its religious references and a title shared with a sci-fi story by Robert A Heinlein, the band claim there's no deeper meaning to the song, which was thrown together in a couple of hours.




Next week: the highest number of top 50 debuts all year - including a parody of one of the biggest hits of the previous 12 months, the return of the Queen of Soul and a UK number 1 by a girl group best known for their hits from the disco era.

Oh, and I've finally got around to setting up a Facebook page for this blog so you can be notified when there's a new post and so on. The link is here.


Back to: Aug 11, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 25, 1985


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: August 12, 1990

And then a new artist comes along, with the vocal range to carry on... right up the chart - but who could have predicted that the female singer who debuted on the ARIA singles top 50 this week in 1990 would go on to become one of the world's all-time most successful music acts?

The look might've changed over the years, but Mariah Carey's voice hasn't

Twenty-five years before she received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Mariah Carey was just another fresh-faced young female singer trying to make a name for herself. And while that face, along with her wardrobe and grasp on reality might have altered over the years, that spectacular vocal style, which was like nothing that'd been heard before, has remained the same, generating dozens of hits and spawning countless imitators in the years since.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 12, 1990

An artist whose influence on the world turned out to be much more limited than Mariah's held down the number 1 spot this week in 1990. "U Can't Touch This" by the running man-dancing, baggy pants-wearing MC Hammer stayed on top for a fourth week.


Off The Chart
Number 95 "Home" by Iggy Pop
Peak: number 95
He'd had an unexpected smash with future Rage theme "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" in 1986, and legendary performer Iggy Pop would strike again with a song from 1990's Brick By Brick album - but not this lead single.


Breaker
"Give It Up" by Hothouse Flowers
Peak: number 53
Like Iggy, Hothouse Flowers would find success with a song from their 1990 album, Home - but once again it wasn't the lead single that did the business for them. Despite treading a fairly similar piano-led folk/rock path to their two minor hits, "Don't Go" and "I'm Sorry""Give It Up" narrowly missed the top 50, while Home bounced in and out of the albums top 50, never reaching higher than number 40. Things would change - dramatically - after the release of the album's second single and Home would end up topping the albums chart in March 1991.




New Entries
Number 48 "Harley & Rose" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 24
Fifth album Hold On To Me had proved to be the long-awaited breakthrough for Jo Camilleri's latest musical project, with the LP reaching number 7 and one single, "Chained To The Wheel", also making the top 10. While "Harley & Rose" the single didn't perform quite as well, the tale of two lovers did become the blues/rock band's second biggest hit, while the album of the same name outperformed its predecessor, peaking at number 3. 




Number 47 "Big Fun" by Icehouse
Peak: number 47
What a difference a couple of years makes. In 1987/88, Icehouse could do no wrong, with a string of five top 30 singles (including two top 5 hits) from the Man Of Colours album, which spent 11 straight weeks at number 1 in late 1987. In 1990, "Big Fun" became the band's second single in row to peak at number 47. The truth of the matter is that "Big Fun" (like earlier flop "Jimmy Dean") just wasn't up to scratch. Seriously, "yo ho ho ho, big fun"? You've got to try harder than that, Iva. And while "Jimmy Dean" was the second new track from a greatest hits collection and could be excused for being under par, "Big Fun" was the lead single from new album Code Blue - the follow-up to Man Of Colours - so expectations were high. Big disappointment, more like it.




Number 45 "Vision Of Love" by Mariah Carey
Peak: number 9
When she burst onto the scene in 1990, she was dubbed "the new Whitney Houston" thanks to her penchant for big ballads sung with her just as big voice, but Mariah Carey quickly became appreciated as an artist in her own right and forged her own significant musical legacy - changing forever the way pop songs were performed. And it all started with her debut single, "Vision Of Love". 
The song starts off normally - if slightly dramatically - enough, before we're gently led through a sweet verse and chorus. So far, so unremarkable. But if the octave jumps and initial vocal tricks in the second verse and chorus don't make you sit up and take notice, then the bridge really amps up the excitement as Mariah sings with what we think is her full voice. Oh no, not by a long shot. 
Verse three pushes things further with its call and response vocals, but then, coming into the third chorus, Mariah lets rip with what will become her trademark special talent. At the 2:45 mark, she hits a note that sounds like an old school kettle boiling - then takes it a couple of notes higher. I remember hearing that for the first time and knowing this was truly something new - and it all seemed so effortless. 
Then, just when you think you've heard all her tricks, Mariah uses about 37 notes to sing the word "all" in the song's final line - and a superstar is born. For better or worse, that melisma vocal style would likely not be as much a part of modern singing as it is were it not for Mariah and "Vision Of Love".
A four-week number 1 in the US (the first of 18 to date there), "Vision Of Love" did well to hit the top 10 in Australia, where hyper-emotional ballads (especially ones by Whitney) had often under-performed. As we'll see in the coming months, while she continued to make the ARIA top 50 with subsequent releases, it would be another three years before she bettered the chart peak of her debut hit.




Number 40 "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Sinéad O'Connor
Peak: number 20
From an artist who would notch up several worldwide number 1 hits in the years to come, we move now to a singer following up her one and only global chart-topper with a song that was about as different to "Nothing Compares 2 U" as you could get. More in line with the rockier feel of her only other previous top 50 appearance, "Mandinka", "The Emperor's New Clothes" deals with Sinéad's relationship with drummer and producer John Reynolds, the father of her son, Jake.




Number 38 "Cuts Both Ways" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 38
I've never liked this Gloria Estefan ballad - the fifth and final single from the album of the same name - and listening to it again now just after I've played "Vision Of Love", it sounds as dull as ever. I don't know what's worse - the sleep-inducing chorus that starts the song or the bizarre shift to a more upbeat verse (or bridge, or whatever it is) which just accentuates how boring the main part of the song is when it shifts back down a gear. Not surprisingly, it wasn't a great success here, in the US (where it reached number 44) or the UK (number 49). The next time we'd hear from Gloria, it would be with her return to the stage following months spent in physical rehabilitation after her tour bus was hit by a truck earlier in 1990.




Number 37 "Southern Sky" by Paul Norton
Peak: number 37
OK, so last single "I Got You" hadn't worked. What to do to try and score another big hit like "Stuck On You"... How about something with a bit of nationalistic theme? Starting off with the line: "It was Australia Day, 1985", this third single from Paul's Under A Southern Sky had all the ingredients of an Aussie rock classic - except maybe a hook that didn't sound like a dirge. I'm guessing the prominent female vocal on the track is Paul's wife, Wendy Stapleton of Wendy & The Rocketts fame (biggest hit: "Play The Game", number 28 in 1983), who had joined her husband's band - a reversal of the situation several years earlier when Paul had played guitar for her. It'd be a couple more years before new music would emerge from Paul - but this would be his final top 50 appearance.




Next week: the solo debut from the lead singer of one of the biggest bands in the world, plus the return of one of the biggest male artists in Australia. And, after a great start, a local female artist loses all her chart momentum with a dud follow-up single.


Back to: Aug 5, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 19, 1990


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: August 11, 1985

It's something we've seen on my 25 Years Ago... posts time and time again - later singles from a big album not being able to manage chart positions as high as the first couple of tracks lifted. Sometimes, it's because the third or fourth single just wasn't very good. But when you're talking about hit-laden albums like Bad, Faith, New Jersey and Whitney - which all boasted several big international hits - it was more usually the case that Australia didn't have the population to generate healthy album sales and multiple hit singles.

Australia wasn't as head over heels for Tears For Fears latest single

Thirty years ago this week, the fourth single from an album that'd already peaked at number 5 and spent 19 weeks on the albums chart faltered outside the singles top 20 - and it was a song that was another huge success for the band in question overseas. Not only that, but the song has endured as a bona fide '80s classic that I'm sure most people would now assume performed much better in Australia.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 11, 1985

An artist who had no problem notching up one top 5 smash after another (probably because she didn't limit herself to releasing singles from her then-available studio album) was Madonna, who held strong for a third week at number 1 with "Crazy For You" and number 2 with former chart-topper "Angel/Into The Groove"


Off The Chart
Number 98 "Hey" by Hillary Kanter
Peak: number 74
This American country singer didn't ever cross over to the Billboard Hot 100, so it's interesting she achieved a top 100 placing here. Hillary has since found gainful employment as a songwriter for other artists and an author.

Number 96 "Audrey" by Vitabeats
Peak: number 81
Previous single "Boom Box" made the top 40, but this follow-up named after actress Audrey Hepburn didn't find as receptive an audience for the local synthpop act who were never seen on the top 100 again.

Entries
Number 50 "Act Of War" by Elton John / Millie Jackson
Peak: number 50
Elton John has recorded a lot of duets in his decades-long career - he even released a whole album of them at one point - but this single is probably one of the least remembered of his many collaborations. In fact, I don't think I'd ever heard it until now. 
Released between the Breaking Hearts and Ice On Fire albums (and included as a bonus track of the CD version of the latter), "Act Of War" isn't exactly "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart". It's not even as good as "Flames Of Paradise", but probably compares favourably with "Through The Storm"
Reportedly offered to Tina Turner first, the rather aggressive-sounding song ended up being recorded with Millie Jackson, who'd been releasing music to little fanfare since the early '70s and was no relation to the famous music family, although her daughter, Keisha, released a couple of albums between 1989-1991. 
Despite the exposure offered by appearing on an Elton John single, Millie probably has the lowest profile of any of his duet partners - although some of her '80s album covers have provided her with a certain infamy.




Number 42 "Head Over Heels" by Tears For Fears
Peak: number 21
So far in 1985, they'd had a number 1 ("Shout") and a number 2 ("Everybody Wants To Rule The World", which was kept from the top by "We Are The World") - but thanks to the pattern I mentioned at the start of this post (aka the law of diminishing returns), the next single by Tears For Fears was a relative failure.
The fourth track lifted from Songs From The Big Chair (first single "Mothers Talk" didn't make the top 100 locally), "Head Over Heels" peaked outside the ARIA top 20 despite reaching number 3 in the US and number 12 in the UK. 
It's certainly a good enough song and would've been all over the radio at the time, but it would appear that a good number of people already owned it on the album or were prompted to buy Songs From The Big Chair, which returned to its number 5 peak in September and stayed on the albums top 50 until December.
After the issue-driven "Shout" and "Everybody...", "Head Over Heels" was something completely different from the band - a love song, which was brought to life in the memorable library-set music video. Also memorable: the keyboard hook, which had first appeared in "Broken", the B-side to Tears For Fears' earlier single "Pale Shelter", and would be utilised 21 years later by Rogue Traders in "In Love Again".




Next week: the song that was synonymous with MTV in the '80s, plus Prince makes up for his previous single and the debut of a promising Australasian synthpop act.


Back to: Aug 4, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 18, 1985