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. Naturally, it can't be found on YouTube (not for very long anyway), but I trust you've all heard this one before.


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


10 comments:

  1. Never heard (or heard of) 'My Toot Toot' before. One of those song titles where the presumable euphemism is probably worse than if they'd been more direct.

    I wouldn't know 'Vicious Games' if not for its appearance on several rage Mardi Gras specials in the late 90s/early 00s. I was surprised to see they had some pre-'Oh Yeah' success here.

    Several youtube users commented on my upload of Brilliant's 'It's a Man's Man's Man's World' that Stock/Aitken/Waterman must have been going for a 'World Girl' sound, and, after hearing it, I'm inclined to agree.

    I didn't know who sang 'Too Young For Promises' for years. I thought it might have even been Madonna at the time. I uploaded a much better quality rip of the video here (which doesn't show up when you search for it by artist/title): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvqQtUp5u64 . Tina went on to record the original closing theme for NZ soap 'Shortland Street', which has recently been dropped from airing locally. Leon Berger, who co-produced Melissa (Tkautz)'s 90's hits was also in the group.

    I didn't really like the Talking Heads tracks from this era at the time, but they've grown on me since.

    I'm not sure whether I knew the Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart track at the time, but I prefer this kind of vaguely 'electro' Rod Stewart to his usual stuff.

    I'm pretty sure I was watching the Richard Wilkins-hosted MTV (instead of socialising with my cousins) at my grandma's 70th (when Eurythmics' 'Missionary Man' was a new release video), which would have been August 1986; so the local version started airing by then. I'm surprised that Europe didn't have its own version until later. It didn't click that Sting sang that "I want my MTV line" for me until just a few years ago, surprisingly, until I read about it online. I remember debating with a cousin's friend at the time whether it was "your CHICKS for free" or "your CHEQUES for free" - I argued it was the latter, but was obviously wrong.

    'Raspberry Beret' certainly is an interesting/unique song title.

    'All You Zombies' is another song I knew at the time, but didn't know what it was called, or who sung it until many years later. I think I worked it out only 5 or so years ago. It's very different to 'And We Danced'.

    Good idea re: the Facebook page.

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    1. Don't know about the MTV start date - Wikipedia says April 1987, but you know how unreliable that can be! I do remember them airing those US "I want my MTV" promos from much earlier in the decade with Billy Idol and Cyndi Lauper even though they were quite dated.

      Yep, I mentioned the Shortland Street theme - never realised before now she did it (not that I ever heard the theme song before now either) and I was keeping the Melissa connection to discuss for their next single (or else I'd have nothing to say - there's so little about them online), but I also didn't know that until now.

      I much prefer And We Danced, in the same way as I prefer Kyrie over Broken Wings.

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    2. I am more reliable than wikipedia ;-)

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    3. In this case, I think Wikipedia (and the others who have commented below) are right.

      Richard Wilkins celebrated 25 years in TV in April 2012, and there are other references online to MTV starting in April 1987 (including this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8WWz-02rDs). MTV and Rage started in the same week, it seems.

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    4. Indeed they are... This archived news article, dated 12th April 1987, settles it once and for all - http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/118184618?searchTerm=mtv%20australia&searchLimits= . Now I'm left wondering what show it was that I saw instead.

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  2. PS I've always assumed the "faggot" in question in the Dire Straits track was Prince, with the hair/earring (and his own jet?) references.

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    1. They would never get away with a line like that today - even if the lyrics are in the voice of a character.

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  3. MTV Australia started around April 87. I remember a lot of the videos that were getting played at the time were from '87 Right On Track! Perhaps 'Missionary Man' was a flashback? as Eurythmics did the Revenge tour in Oz in February.

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    1. I'm reasonably certain it was MTV I saw 'Missionary Man' on in August '86. I looked up a 1986 calendar online, and my grandma's birthday that year was a Saturday, so it could fit. I don't think it was one of the other music video shows from that time, as there was definitely a host (and I'm pretty sure it was Richard Wilkins). It wasn't a flashback either, as it was the first time I saw the video.

      If you're the Michael I think you are, Guru could probably confirm or deny it with his old TV week stash, ha ha.

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  4. I reckon the first clip MTV aired was Lets Go by Wang Chung which would make it 1987

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