Tuesday, 31 March 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: March 31, 1985

Good use of backing vocalists can make all the difference in a pop song. Just ask Jason Donovan - whose voice was practically drowned out by Stock Aitken Waterman's in-house backing singers in order for his records to be listenable. Also, songs like Cyndi Lauper's "Change Of Heart" (featuring The Bangles), Diana Ross' "Chain Reaction" (featuring Bee Gees) and anything with a massed choir for the final choruses wouldn't be the same without the background performers adding that certain something to the track.

Zan and Kate were just what Models needed

Thirty years ago this week, an Australian band finally achieved a top 10 hit with a track that owed a lot to the female singers who joined in on the chorus. And not just any backing singers - but the vocalists for another group that was also on the chart with the first of a string of hit singles. The collaboration clearly didn't do either act any harm at all.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 31, 1985

A band who would go on to make a star out of one of their backing singers moved into the number 1 spot this week in 1985. Tears For Fears bumped Murray Head's "One Night In Bangkok" out of the top spot after only one week - the same amount of time "Shout" would manage at the summit. 


Off the chart
Number 100 "Rattlesnakes" by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Peak: number 59
For the second week in a row - and the third time since the start of the year - a single from Lloyd Cole's album, also called Rattlesnakes, hit the top 100.

Number 98 "Understanding" by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Peak: number 83
At the start of the month we saw Joe Cocker's contribution to the Teachers soundtrack, and now fellow hoary old rocker Bob Seger released his own - his second film song in a row.

Number 97 "Nellie The Elephant" by Toy Dolls
Peak: number 97
With the punk scene all but extinguished, it took a cover of a children's song from the 1950s for this British band to land a hit back home. Thankfully, Australia wasn't as convinced.

Number 83 "Ooh Ooh Song" by Pat Benatar
Peak: number 78
Australia had welcomed the new, gentler-sounding Pat on top 10 hit "We Belong", but this similarly poppy follow-up was deservedly ignored.


New entries
Number 46 "I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 12
"Born In The U.S.A." only just fell out of the top 10 this week in 1985 and, bizarrely, "Dancing In The Dark" bulleted back up into the top 30 in its 43rd week on the chart, but none of that prevented the latest single from The Boss joining those two songs on the top 50. At only two-and-a-half minutes long, "I'm On Fire" was easily the shortest of the four singles released from Born In The U.S.A. so far ("Cover Me" had reached number 17 in October 1984) and its subtlety made a nice contrast to the swinging-for-the-fences feel of the album's title track. Interestingly, Bruce didn't feel the uptown girl meets average guy mechanic theme of the video hadn't been covered by Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" a couple of years earlier.




Number 40 "Barbados" by Models
Peak: number 2
Around since 1978, Models had so far managed to place one single in each of the top 40 ("Cut Lunch" - number 38 in 1981), top 30 ("Big On Love" - number 24 in 1984) and top 20 ("I Hear Motion" - number 16 in 1983). In what was a great year for the band, this second single from the upcoming Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight album finally gave them their top 10 breakthrough. 
"Barbados", which referenced singer/bassist James Freud's battle with alcoholism, was denied the number 1 spot by "We Are The World" and likely wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful without the prominent vocals of backing singers Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne (aka, the vocalists for I'm Talking) in the chorus. 
These days, it's not unusual for singers to promote their own releases via a guest vocal on another artist's track, but it was rather unusual in 1985 for the singers of one group - who were sitting at number 18 with former top 10 hit "Trust Me" - to loan themselves out for a song by another band. As we'll see, it wouldn't be the only time the I'm Talking ladies would add that certain something to a big Models hit.




Number 38 "This Is Not America" by David Bowie & Pat Metheny Group
Peak: number 33
I'm only a very occasional David Bowie fan and while I mostly understand the rabid devotion he provokes, there are only a handful of songs of his that I can say I truly love ("Modern Love" and "Let's Dance" among them). This collaboration with jazz fusion act Pat Metheny Group is not one of them. Recorded for the spy movie The Falcon And The Snowman, "This Is Not America" certainly has a filmic quality to it and actually sounds a little like a Pet Shop Boys B-side (which should work in its favour as far as I'm concerned) - but at a time when soundtrack songs clogged up the chart, this just didn't stand out enough.




Next week: eight new entries in the top 50, including a novelty record by an AFL (then VFL) player, another track from Beverly Hills Cop, the second hit from Chess and a top 5 debut from an all-star charity ensemble.


Back to: Mar 24, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 7, 1985


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: March 25, 1990

When it came to using other musicians' works, it was still a bit of a free-for-all in 1990. Record companies and, more importantly, the courts had yet to get their heads around sampling, and no one really knew what the rules should be for lifting material from someone else's song.

You may not know Martha Wash's face, but you certainly know her voice

Twenty-five years ago this week, the highest new entry on the ARIA singles chart was a single that featured a different type of uncredited usage - and the track in question would result in a lawsuit that'd literally change the face of popular music.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 25, 1990

Meanwhile, an old-fashioned cover version was still holding down the top spot on the Australian top 50, with Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" at number 1 for a fifth week.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "World's On Fire" by The Bombers
Peak: number 93
Here's the only top 100 entry by a short-lived band from Sydney that featured ex-Status Quo member Alan Lancaster and John Brewster from The Angels among its line-up.

Number 76 "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" by Jimmy Somerville
Peak: number 76
This cover of the Sylvester disco classic actually ended up as my favourite song for 1990 amid stiff competition, but the rest of Australia was less interested in this solo offering from the former Communards and Bronski Beat singer.

Number 72 "King And Queen Of America" by Eurythmics
Peak: number 72
Not even the fact that Annie and Dave raided the dress-up box for its accompanying music video (which isn't online) could provoke much interest in this third single from We Too Are One.


Breaker
"Dear Jessie" by Madonna
Peak: number 51 
Although this was a slight improvement on the chart peak of "Oh Father", an animated pink elephant (and lemonade) wasn't enough to stop Like A Prayer's cutesy fifth single from getting stuck just outside the top 50 for three weeks (two at number 51, one at number 53). Actually, the shoddy music video - produced for the UK release - probably did more to hurt the song's chances than help it, since it's by far Madonna's worst clip of all time. The song itself has its charms and made perfect sense as a British Christmas single, but I'd have opted for US single "Keep It Together" or even album track "Till Death Do Us Part" instead for Australia. 




New Entries
Number 48 "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by Megadeth
Peak: number 48
Until now, I would've been hard pushed to name a single song of theirs, but Megadeth are certainly one of the first bands that come to mind when I think of '80s heavy metal (not something I'm in the habit of doing very often, I might add). Along with Metallica and Anthrax, the American band's name conjures up memories of long-haired headbanging fans; angry, shouted lyrics and accusations of devil worship by America's Christian conservatives. 
Since Megadeth were never a mainstream concern locally, I was surprised to find they'd actually landed a top 50 entry in Australia, and nearly wrote about this song last week when it was a breaker. A cover of the 1973 hit (except in Australia) by Alice Cooper, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" was a stand-alone single from the band, recorded for horror film Shocker




Number 40 "Only You" by Bang The Drum
Peak: number 31
With 1927 having exhausted their ...ish album for singles, there was a gap in the market for an inoffensive pop/rock outfit. Bang The Drum seemed to fit the bill, but debut single "Only You" was no "That's When I Think Of You", sounding instead like a Daryl Braithwaite album track. Nice, but average.




Number 20 "I Don't Know Anybody Else" by Black Box
Peak: number 6
You'd think Black Box would've learnt their lesson after "Ride On Time". Well, I guess they did to an extent. Instead of just lifting another line from Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation" for their follow-up to "Ride On Time", they actually re-recorded the hook they wanted from the outset. Well, when I saw "they", I mean "Martha Wash". 
Of course, Black Box didn't actually give the former Weather Girl any credit for her performance, with Katrin Quinol once again flouncing around and lip syncing in the music video. Martha sued, seeking credit for her vocal contribution to "I Don't Know Anybody Else" and other songs on Black Box's debut album, Dreamland, as well as royalties. 
Although the matter (and another against C+C Music Factory) was settled out of court, Martha received her due credit (and financial recompense). Moreover, her legal actions provoked new legislation in the US requiring proper credit be given on albums and music videos for vocalists.
All that aside, "I Don't Know Anybody Else" was a worthy follow-up to "Ride On Time" and quickly shot into the UK and Australian top 10, spending three weeks at number 6 here. The Italo house classic also became Black Box's second of three hits (after "Everybody Everybody") in America, reaching number 23 Stateside.




Next week: the best single by Janet Jackson, the highest-charting single by The Church and the second charting single by Bad English.


Back to: Mar 18, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 1, 1990


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: March 24, 1985

Most bands will forever be associated with one or two key songs - and unfortunately that means their other singles become sidelined as the years go by. Cases in point: the two new entries on the ARIA top 50 singles chart this week in 1985. Although reasonably successful in their own right, the two songs have become completely overshadowed by the bands' mega-hits.

There was more to Spandau Ballet than nice suits and two big singles

One band was an Australasian group that'd managed three top 2 placings since the mid-'70s and had trouble living up to those in the mid-'80s. The other was a British five-piece best known for a pair of top 10 hits in 1983, but also responsible for excellent singles either side of those.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 24, 1985

Climbing to number 1 this week 30 years ago is a chart-topping track that's also become somewhat forgotten in the decades since. "One Night In Bangkok" by two-hit wonder Murray Head brought Foreigner's stranglehold of the chart summit to an end.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Break Down The Walls" by Full Marks
Peak: number 67
This debut single by Adelaide's Full Marks had the makings of a much bigger hit - but not even a Countdown appearance could push it into the top 50. Unfortunately, it's no longer on YouTube.

Number 96 "Let Me Be" by Cats Under Pressure
Peak: number 76
Whereas this debut single by the Melbourne trio performed about as well as it should have - and not even the presence of a Reyne (David) in the line-up could convince people otherwise.

Number 93 "Teardrops" by Shakin' Stevens
Peak: number 71
He was still racking up top 10 hits in the UK with ease, but Australia had turned its back on Shakey - as demonstrated by the chart position for this new song from Greatest Hits, his final top 100 appearance.

Number 88 "Soul Deep" by Council Collective
Peak: number 85
Another charity record from December 1984 - but unlike Band Aid, this collaboration between The Style Council and soul acts like Junior Giscombe and Jimmy Ruffin raised money for a cause closer to home: Britain's striking miners. 

Number 72 "Foolish Heart" by Steve Perry
Peak: number 52
On his second most successful single as a solo act in the US, the Journey singer trading in his usual rock sound for more of a hotel lounge feel.

Number 58 "Perfect Skin" by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Peak: number 54
We saw the second single from Rattlesnakes six weeks ago, and now the album's lead single made a belated charge towards to the top 50... but never ended up getting there.


New Entries
Number 50 "Speak No Evil" by Dragon
Peak: number 19
Here's the New Zealand-spawned, Australian-based band responsible for three massive hits: "April Sun In Cuba" (number 2 in 1977), "Are You Old Enough?" (number 1 in 1978) and "Rain" (number 2 in 1983). But that's not all there is to the Dragon catalogue.
By the time 1985 came around, the band led by the Hunter brothers was smack bang in the middle of a run of great, but less successful singles. "Speak No Evil" followed Body And The Beat tracks "Magic", "Cry" and "Wilderworld" - and at least managed to restore Dragon to the top 20 after the last of those three had peaked at number 42.
This new song, which would eventually appear on their eighth album, 1986's Dreams Of Ordinary Men, was also the first single released by the band following the death of keyboardist Paul Hewson (who'd written "April Sun..." and "Are You...") from a drug overdose at the start of 1985, shortly after he quit the band.




Number 49 "Round And Round" by Spandau Ballet
Peak: number 16
They might've reached the UK top 10 on eight other occasions, but New Romantic pretty boys Spandau Ballet will always be best remembered for their pair of 1983 smash hits, "True" and "Gold" - incidentally, their only two singles to reach the top 10 in Australia (and their two biggest singles in the US). But this fourth and final single from the Parade album did pretty well locally, peaking just four places lower than the first and biggest single from the LP, "Only When You Leave". For me, "Round And Round" marks the end of Spandau Ballet's truly great era. They had a couple more hits up their immaculately tailored sleeves - but nothing that really connected with me.




Next week: an Australian band cracks the big time, the latest single from Born In The USA debuts and yet another Lloyd Cole track makes the top 100.


Back to: Mar 17, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 31, 1985


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: March 18, 1990

Guess it would've been too much to expect another week like 25 years ago last week on the ARIA chart. After a flood of new entries into the top 50, only one single debuted this week in 1990. Oh, and three songs re-entered the chart as well. 

D*A*D: the Danish rock band that almost crossed over in Australia

At least the song that did breach the top 50 has some interesting things to say about it, otherwise this might be a very short post. In fact, given it was a double A-side release, there are double the amount of fun facts to mention!

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 18, 1990

There was nothing new to report at the top of the ARIA chart 25 years ago this week as "Nothing Compares 2 U" kept Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" stuck at number 2 for the second of what would be four weeks. Thank goodness for small mercies.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Heart" by Neneh Cherry
Peak: number 91
The UK went with "Inna City Mama", but Australia (and the US) chose this track as Raw Like Sushi's fourth single. Unfortunately, neither option was very successful in its respective market.

Number 99 "Steady On" by Shawn Colvin
Peak: number 99
It would be six years before she'd crack the ARIA top 50, but in 1990, the American singer/songwriter poked her head into the top 100 with this debut single.

Number 93 "Can't Be Sure" by The Sundays
Peak: number 74
Another act - British indie band The Sundays - that'd finally crack the top 50 at the other end of the decade (in 1997) makes an appearance here with their debut single as well. 


Breaker
"Girl Nation" by D*A*D
Peak: number 52
Here is one of those chart oddities - an act that does reasonably well in Australia seemingly out of nowhere. Actually, hard rock band D*A*D came from Denmark, and had been called Disneyland After Dark until the House Of Mouse got litigious. What made Australia's sudden interest in the four-piece - who were up to their third album, No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims, by this stage - all the more unusual was that "Girl Nation" was only one of two singles by the band on the top 100 at this point. Both it and "Sleeping The Day Away" (which was sitting at number 77 this week) bounced around the top 100 for months, neither managing to crack the top 50. But, you'll have to wait until July to see "Sleeping..." register as a breaker - and then with a bit of a surprise twist. Hopefully the anticipation won't prove too much!




New Entry
Number 44 "Sweet And Low / Kiss It Better" by Deborah Harry
Peak: number 30
Looked like Deborah Harry was suffering from a severe case of the Belinda Carlisles - that is, not being able to land more than one hit off any of her solo albums. Indeed, 1981's "Backfired" and 1986's "French Kissin' In The USA" had been the sole top 100 entries from their respective albums, KooKoo and Rockbird. Granted, this follow-up to "I Want That Man" did at least sneak into the top 30, but it was nowhere near as big a single (kind of like "I Get Weak" compared to "Heaven Is A Place On Earth"). 
Deborah co-wrote the first half of the double A-side single with Toni C (who'd also penned Whitney Houston's "Love Will Save The Day") and it was remixed for the single release by PWL's Phil Harding, which should've got me excited, but didn't really. On the flip side, "Kiss It Better" was another track from Def, Dumb & Blonde written by two-thirds of Thompson Twins (who, coincidentally, we saw on this week's 30 Years Ago... post).




Next week: yet another lip-synced dance track hits the chart in a big way, plus a song from a hotly tipped new Aussie pop/rock band... that didn't quite live up to expectations.


Back to: Mar 11, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 25, 1990


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: March 17, 1985

There are some songs that are so much a part of pop culture that it's hard to remember a time before they came into existence. The highest new entry on the ARIA chart this week in 1985 is one of those songs - a single that became so much more than just another hit for its rising star.

Madonna went from virgin to vamp in 1985

It wasn't the only '80s classic to hit the ARIA chart 30 years ago this week - and it's beginning to feel like each week of 1985 offered up songs that have stood the test of time. Is it just me or was it an amazing time for pop music? 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 17, 1985

Another stand-out '80s song, "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner, spent its fifth and final week at number 1 this week in 1985. What would dethrone it? Find out next week...


Off The Chart
Number 100 "When Love Breaks Down" by Prefab Sprout
Peak: number 55
This would become their first UK top 40 hit upon re-release in November 1985 - which was around the time the British band also cracked the ARIA top 50 (although with a different single).

Number 94 "Hang On To Your Love" by Sade
Peak: number 68
The Diamond Life album was a top 20 staple, but Sade couldn't match "Smooth Operator" with another hit single. "Hang On To Your Love" peaked four places lower than fellow flop "Your Love Is King".

Number 81 "Sex (I'm A...) / The Metro" by Berlin
Peak: number 81
After a couple of top 40 hits in 1984, this double A-side from August 1983 was re-released but only improved its chart peak by eight spots. "Sex (I'm A...)" is my preferred of the two synthpop classics.


New Entries
Number 50 "Lay Your Hands On Me" by Thompson Twins
Peak: number 28
I've just spent ages trying to distinguish the original British version of this Thompson Twins single from the Nile Rodgers remix, which came out in the US later in 1985. The UK version had been intended to be the first release from Here's To Future Days, but it was the US mix that would end up included on the album. I believe this music video features the UK mix - but except for a more prominent use of the backing vocals in the chorus, they don't sound that different to me. Either way, "Lay Your Hands On Me" was a return to form for the Twins, almost as good as the first three singles from their previous album, Into The Gap - even if the British and Australian record-buying public didn't seem to agree.




Number 49 "Body Rock" by Maria Vidal
Peak: number 26
There seemed to be no end to the onslaught of breakdancing films - and while that might not have been good news for fans of quality cinema, the music associated with the dance craze (both soundtrack hits and stand-alone singles) had generally been pretty good. Taken from the film of the same name, "Body Rock" followed recent top 50 hits by Irene Cara, Rock Steady Crew and Ollie & Jerry into the chart - and in my opinion should actually have gone a lot higher. Still it did better than the single released by the movie's star, Lorenzo LamasThings I didn't know about American singer Maria Vidal until now: 1) she was once in a group with songwriting machine Desmond Child, 2) she went on to co-write Belinda Carlisle's "Summer Rain", 3) she married another songwriting legend, Rick Nowels.




Number 48 "Voices" by Russ Ballard
Peak: number 46
Speaking of legendary songwriters, here's one responsible for such hits as "You Can Do Magic" (America), "God Gave Rock And Roll To You" (Argent), "So You Win Again" (Hot Chocolate) and "I Know There's Something Going On" (Frida). Good thing he had all those royalties coming in, since Russ never managed a big hit as a performer in his own right. In Australia, "Voices" was his only top 100 appearance, while in the States, the number 58 peak of 1980's "On The Rebound" was his best achievement. I don't recall this song from the time and I'm trying to put my finger on what it reminds me of.  All I keep thinking is that it sounds like the sort of rock-meets-synthpop song that would've featured in Miami Vice - and not surprisingly, it did.




Number 47 "Sussudio" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 8
Here's another artist whose music was favoured by quintessentially '80s crime series Miami Vice - and the Genesis frontman even appeared in an episode later in the year. Named after a made-up word Phil came up with during the recording process, "Sussudio" put the singer back in the ARIA top 10 after record company wrangling resulted in "Easy Lover" not getting a proper release in Australia. The single was the lead release from No Jacket Required, which would debut on the albums chart in a couple of weeks on its way to number 1. We'd be seeing a lot more of Phil in the months to come, just like our next artist...




Number 25 "Material Girl" by Madonna
Peak: number 4
Thirty years ago, Madonna really couldn't put a foot wrong - with this second single from Like A Virgin speeding up charts around the world. It's almost easy to forget now, when she can't score a hit single to save her life and gets more attention for her missteps than her music, just how massive she was in 1985. 
"Material Girl" was a crucial part of that success - a song and video (thank you, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) so iconic that they prevented the juggernaut that was "Like A Virgin" from overshadowing everything that came after it. Indeed, it seemed like just when you thought Madonna couldn't outdo herself, she'd surprise you again - a skill she put to use for the next couple of decades.
Although it's become inextricably linked with her, "Material Girl" didn't have Madonna's input before she recorded it. Instead, late '70s singer Peter Brown co-wrote it with a guy called Robert Rans. But the song fit like a long pink glove and the title became a nickname that still gets used all these years later. Produced by Nile Rodgers (him again), it became her third top 5 hit in Australia and the second of a string of nine top 10 singles that took her through until the end of 1986.




Next week: two excellent top 50 entries from Dragon and Spandau Ballet, and a bunch of curious singles that fell short.


Back to: Mar 10, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 24, 1985


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: March 11, 1990

After the terrible effort we saw last tme, the ARIA top 50 singles chart more than made up for it 25 years ago this week. With eight new entries - most of which I liked - it was an exciting time for chart-watchers like me. Even the new entries I wasn't that fussed about weren't that objectionable.

So famous she didn't need a surname? Pretty much

Far and away the biggest music news of the week came with the ARIA debut of the sister of Australia's biggest pop star. Could the younger Minogue live up to the chart efforts of her older sister? Interestingly, she wasn't the only artist with a well-known sibling to enter the top 50 this week.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 11, 1990

Despite all the action lower down the top 50, there was no change at the top as "Nothing Compares 2 U" spent a third week at number 1. Where would it end? Not for a good few weeks.


Off the chart
Number 80 "Let Me Go" by Melissa Etheridge
Peak: number 70
"No Souvenirs" had peaked a full 40 places higher, so the disappointing performance of this subsequent single effectively brought an end to the Brave And Crazy album campaign.


Breaker
"Homely Girl" by UB40
Peak: number 52
Their 1983 covers album, Labour Of Love, had done wonders for their career - so it was pretty much inevitable that reggae combo UB40 would produce a sequel. Released in late 1989, Labour Of Love II contained another batch of songs originally recorded or previously reinterpreted by their musical inspirations. Lead single "Homely Girl" fell into the latter category - originally by soul group The Chi-Lites, it was reggae-fied by Inner Circle and it's the latter version that UB40 remade. Given the other tracks on the album - some of which would go on to be significant worldwide hits - it's a little surprising that "Homely Girl" was chosen to launch the project, since it's a bit on the understated side. Nevertheless, it gave the band another UK top 10 hit (charting one place lower than the original, which reached number 5 there in 1974).




New Entries
Number 48 "No Myth" by Michael Penn
Peak: number 24
Here's our first entry by an act with a famous sibling - in this case, the older brother of two entertainers: actors Sean and Chris Penn. The first single from Michael's debut album, March, "No Myth" hooked you in from the first second with its catchy guitar riff then proceeded to deliver a chorus that got stuck in your head for days. It was a promising start, but one Michael never lived up to.




Number 41 "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Peter Blakeley
Peak: number 21
"Crying In The Chapel" had given Peter's chart career a great start, and for the follow-up, he decided to tackle a song made most famous by Roberta Flack. I say "made most famous" since Roberta is one of dozens of artists to interpret "First Time Ever...", which started life in the late 1950s as a folk tune. But since the soul singer's 1969 recording (an edited version of which belatedly became a US number 1 hit in 1972) won Grammy Awards for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, it's fair to say hers is the definitive version. Anyway, back to Peter - and his synth-laden take on the song (which kind of reminds me of Bros's "Cat Among The Pigeons") was the last time ever his face was seen in the ARIA top 50.




Number 40 "Love And Kisses" by Dannii
Peak: number 4
She'd performed on Australian TV each week for six years when she was known as Danielle Minogue, but two years after she left Young Talent Time and almost three years after big sister Kylie released her debut single, the newly monikered Dannii finally got around to putting out her first record. 
"Love And Kisses" wasn't what a lot of people were expecting, especially since Dannii was signed to the same record label as Kylie and Jason Donovan - but the Home And Away star didn't go running to Stock Aitken Waterman, eschewing a pure pop approach for an edgier American R&B-influenced sound, courtesy of little-known producers Alvin Moody and Vincent Bell.
I wasn't blown away by "Love And Kisses" at the time - and even the UK remix in 1991 courtesy of D-Mob's Dancin' Danny D didn't completely win me over - but Australia sent the single souring into the top 5. It remains Dannii's only top 10 hit locally despite her going on to release far superior songs. Naturally, the single received the obligatory Fast Forward treatment at the time. Easy target, really.




Number 38 "I Wish It Would Rain Down" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 15
It was two boring singles in a row from Phil Collins as far as I was concerned - and if "Another Day In Paradise" had put me to sleep, then this follow-up rendered me comatose. I didn't always feel this way about Phil - I'd actually liked the majority of his '80s discography, including mega-ballads "Against All Odds", "A Groovy Kind Of Love" and "Separate Lives". But this FM radio staple, which featured Eric Clapton on guitar (and in the overly long music video), was way too dreary for me.




Number 33 "Escaping" by Margaret Urlich
Peak: number 17
Time for a game of musical connections. This New Zealand chart-topping single was performed by the former member of Kiwi groups Peking Man and When The Cat's Away. Branching out as a solo artist, Margaret released "Escaping" as her debut single - a song that had been written by Robyn Smith and Barry Blue, the latter of whom had been a recording artist in his own right in the mid-'70s. The track would later be covered by British acts Asia Blue (unsuccessfully) and Dina Carroll (who took it to number 3 in the UK after "changing a few words and taking a third" - actually, it was a quarter, since her producer also got a look-in). We'll be seeing more of Margaret in the coming months, although she didn't ever beat the number 17 peak of "Escaping".




Number 24 "Get Up! (Before The Night Is Over)" by Technotronic
Peak: number 7
The pretense that Felly was anything more than a lipsyncing model was abandoned, but poor Ya Kid K still didn't get a credit for her vocals on this follow-up to "Pump Up The Jam" - at least, not in Australia. She did, however, get to appear in the music video. Baby steps. In my opinion, "Get Up!" is actually a better song than "Pump Up The Jam" and gave the Belgian dance act a second successive top 10 hit in Australia.




Number 20 "Blame It On The Rain" by Milli Vanilli
Peak: number 5
While Technotronic were making an effort to be more authentic, Milli Vanilli were in too deep to do anything but keep up the charade, with recent Grammy Award recipients Rob and Fab bursting into the top 20 with their third (and final) big Australian hit. Like all their singles, "Blame It On The Rain" was produced by group mastermind Frank Farian, but this time the songwriter was none other than power ballad queen Diane Warren. The duo would sneak into the top 50 once more later in the year, so we'll pick their story up then.




Number 19 "Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul
Peak: number 1
Here's proof that you didn't actually need to be the best singer in the world to be a star. After dominating the US chart throughout 1989, choreographer-turned-singer Paula Abdul finally landed a major hit in Australia - with a little help from a cartoon cat. The sixth and final release from Forever Your Girl, "Opposites Attract" had been a monster single waiting to happen - a she says, he says tale of an unlikely romantic pairing, actually performed as a duet between Paula and The Wild Pair (Tony Christian - aka Bruce DeShazer - and Marv Gunn). MC Skat Cat entered the picture for the single version, with the animated character responsible for a couple of raps (actually performed by Derrick "Delite" Stevens) incorporated into the song. The result: a chart-topping smash.




Next week: the top 50 settles down somewhat with the follow-up to one of the biggest hits of the summer. Plus, chart also-rans from a Danish rock back, a half-Swedish singer/rapper and a British indie group.


Back to: Mar 4, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 18, 1990


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: March 10, 1985

Lady Gaga excepted, they just don't make pop stars like they did in the '80s anymore. Flamboyant fashion sense, overblown egos, outrageous antics... these were the key ingredients for a music star. Oh, and vocal ability - although that wasn't always crucial.

Watch out, here Pete Burns comes!

This week in 1985, three larger-then-life performers who could only have come to fame in the '80s hit the ARIA singles chart with their latest offerings. All three were frontmen for bands and completely overshadowed pretty much everyone else in the line-ups - although one of them was charting with his debut solo single.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 10, 1985

There were no OTT stars in the band at number 1 this week in 1985 - with the term MOR describing pretty much everything about Foreigner, who clung on at the top for a fourth week with "I Want To Know What Love Is". But who needs gimmicks and flashy showmanship when you have a power ballad that good?


Off The Chart
Number 95 "Some Guys Have All The Luck" by Rod Stewart
Peak: number 95
In this case, it was Robert Palmer who'd had the luck with this remake of The Persuaders' 1973 song. Robert took it to number 41 in 1982, while Rod didn't get anywhere near as far.

Number 92 "A Sense Of Wonder" by Van Morrison
Peak: number 92
Also not very lucky was Irish singer Van Morrison with this lead single and title track from his 15th studio album - but then he'd never actually managed a top 50 hit in Australia despite his albums success.

Number 84 "Method Of Modern Love" by Daryl Hall & John Oates
Peak: number 56
I loved Hall & Oates' output in the first half of the decade, but even I couldn't get into this follow-up to their best ever single, "Out Of Touch". Seems I wasn't alone.


New Entries
Number 50 "Tenderness" by General Public
Peak: number 50
It only spent this one week in the top 50, but the third single by the duo comprised of Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling from The (British) Beat would hover outside the top 50 for another couple of months afterwards. The track was featured in the film Weird Science at the time and included on the soundtrack LP, but I didn't become familiar with it for another decade when it was used in Clueless, but annoyingly didn't appear on that soundtrack CD. Although now available in the US iTunes store, it's still unavailable in Australia. Around the same time at "Tenderness" was being resurrected for Clueless, the pair contributed a cover version of The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" to another memorable '90s film: Threesome




Number 47 "The Party" by Uncanny X-Men
Peak: number 18
Brian Mannix still has a remarkably high profile for the singer of a band that only had one top 10 single. But the cheeky Uncanny X-Men frontman was always a bit of a limelight hogger - and this, er, party anthem allowed him to really let loose, strutting about and hamming it up for the camera like his life depended on it. The lead single from debut album Cos Life Hurts, "The Party" became the band's first real hit, eclipsing the number 32 peak of their previous biggest release, EP Beach Party, which contained "Everybody Wants To Work".




Number 43 "California Girls" by David Lee Roth
Peak: number 6
When it comes to rock singers with loud hair and an even louder personality, David Lee Roth wrote the book - and this cover of The Beach Boys single from 1965 was the Van Halen vocalist's debut offering shortly before he left the hard rock band. Despite the fact that Van Halen had hit their commercial peak the previous year with the 1984 album, and singles like "Jump" and "Panama", a rift between David and guitarist Eddie Van Halen over the band's direction would ultimately lead to the singer making his solo career a permanent thing. For the time being, he got to satisfy his craving for more lighthearted fare (Eddie wanted the band to release more serious music) with this remake - which was taken from an EP of four cover versions, Crazy From The Heat - and its surprisingly camp music video. 




Number 35 "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" by Dead Or Alive
Peak: number 3
It takes a pretty remarkable singer to outdo both David Lee Roth and Brian Mannix, but then remarkable is a good word to sum up Dead Or Alive's Pete Burns. With his gender-bending image, unique vocal style and penchant for an eye patch, he was unlike anyone else on the chart.
After sneaking into the ARIA chart earlier in the year with a cover of "That's The Way (I Like It)", Pete and his group really made an impression with this song which had just reached its number 1 peak in the UK by this point (after taking months to get there). 
The often remixed, re-released and sampled "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" was Dead Or Alive's first collaboration with producers Stock Aitken Waterman, who were starting to make a name for themselves thanks to high-energy hits by Divine and Hazell Dean. The combination was electric - and despite DOA's record company thinking the song was a flop, they were proved wrong when it became a hit not just in the UK and Australia, but also in America.




Next week: Madonna was back - with the single that provided her most enduring nickname. Plus, a classic single from yet another breakdancing film.


Back to: Mar 3, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 17, 1985


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: March 4, 1990

I'm just going to get this out of the way at the start - this week 25 years ago was a terrible one on the ARIA chart as far as I was concerned. I'm talking really awful.

The best-known (and least dressed) line-up of Red Hot Chili Peppers 

Why so bad? In between the horrendous novelty track that was the week's highest new entry on the top 50 and the cavalcade of dreariness arriving lower down the chart, it's no wonder I was focusing more and more on what was going on in the UK and the US at this stage.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 4, 1990

What's more, still firmly lodged at number 1 this week in 1990 was a song I'd quickly grown very sick of. "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinéad O'Connor spent a second week on top, and even earnt itself a bullet for a significant sales increase despite not shifting position.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "Heaven And Earth" by Tania Bowra
Peak: number 99
I'd forgotten all about this Australian singer/songwriter, who kind of sounds like Toni Childs doing a Melissa Etheridge song.

Number 94 "Welcome To The Terrordome" by Public Enemy
Peak: number 81
Released between rap classics "Fight The Power" and "911 Is A Joke", this second single from Fear Of A Black Planet slipped into the top 100, probably thanks to Triple J play.

Number 93 "Black Wedding Ring" by Gyan
Peak: number 93
This third and final single from Gyan's self-titled album certainly didn't have the mass appeal of "Wait" - and duly performed much worse as a result. 


Breaker
"Working Man" by Rita MacNeil
Peak: number 56
This single had been bouncing around the top 100 all year, but it actually dated back even further - to 1988, when Canadian folk singer Rita MacNeil released her fifth album, Reason To Believe. Written about the difficult conditions faced by coal miners, "Working Man" became a bit of a working class anthem and almost cracked the UK top 10. And since I have nothing that could be considered nice to say about the song, I'll move on...




New Entries
Number 49 "Higher Ground" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Peak: number 45
There are a couple of reasons why, after releasing three albums that passed most music fans by, Red Hot Chili Peppers suddenly jumped into the mainstream in 1990. Clearly, the band's decision to release a cover of Stevie Wonder's 1973 single to launch their Mother's Milk album played an important part. By turning the soul classic into a furious blast of funk-infused hard rock, RHCP made an instant impact.
The other main reason behind the band's new-found success was the settling of the line-up, after years of member changes, drug addictions and even a death in their ranks. RHCP now consisted of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith, and clearly the new roster gelled. Their true commercial crossover would come with album number five, but "Higher Ground" was a start, as it and Mother's Milk performed better than anything released by any previous incarnation of the band.




Number 42 "Turn A Blind Eye" by Hunters & Collectors
Peak: number 42
Here's my favourite song this week - but it pretty much earns that title by default since it's the best of a bad bunch for me. Furthermore, as far as singles by Hunters & Collectors go (and I'm a fan of quite a few), this follow-up to "When The River Runs Dry" is a bit on the dull side. 




Number 36 "Check Out The Chicken" by Grandmaster Chicken & DJ Duck
Peak: number 16
As if "The Birdie Song" (or "The Chicken Dance") wasn't already bad enough - this travesty, which combined the novelty song with a dodgy rap performed by cheaply animated characters, was the worst thing to hit the ARIA top 50 all year. Coming out of the Netherlands, the track was masterminded by Dutch performer and producer Eddy Ouwens, who'd previously co-written the winning entry of the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest, "Ding-a-dong" by Teach-In. If only "Check Out The Chicken" were half as good as that song.




Next week: my faith in the ARIA chart was restored with eight new entries, none of which I despised. In fact, I liked quite a lot of them - including the single that finally gave Paula Abdul a smash hit and the pop debut of Australia's favourite younger sister.


Back to: Feb 25, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 11, 1990