Wednesday, 30 September 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: September 30, 1990

It's the rare backing singer who makes the transition to becoming a star in their own right. Luther Vandross, Sheryl Crow and Whitney Houston all did it - and this week in 1990, the ARIA singles chart welcomed another former session singer.

Wendy Matthews' time in the spotlight came in 1990

After years in the background and collaborating with other performers, one of Australia's (via Canada) most popular female artists finally released her debut solo single. It'd be the start of an incredibly successful few years for the singer who'd come to this country as a backing singer for Little River Band frontman Glenn Shorrock.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending September 30, 1990

Twenty-five years ago this week, "Blaze Of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi was still holed up at number 1. The Young Guns II soundtrack hit spent its third week on top.


Off the chart
Number 100 "Get On Your Feet" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 98
Almost a year after its original release (and two decades before its hilarious use in Parks And Recreation), the best song on Cuts Both Ways finally poked its head inside the top 100. 

Number 90 "Heart Like A Wheel" by The Human League
Peak: number 64
Not only was this track taken from the synthpop band's first album in four years, but it was also their first record produced by Martin Rushent since 1983's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination".  


Single of the week
"OK Alright A Huh Oh Yeah" by Schnell Fenster
Peak: number 88
While Crowded House had gone from strength to strength over the previous few years, this group featuring three of Neil Finn's former bandmates from Split Enz didn't have anywhere near as much mainstream success. Listening to this title track from the band's second album, it's pretty easy to see why - it's not the most commercial of songs. Sounding more than a little bit influenced by Talking Heads (at their quirkiest), "OK Alright..." didn't exactly win people over to the Schnell Fenster cause and it would be their last top 100 appearance, with the band splitting by 1992.




Breaker
"Rub You The Right Way" by Johnny Gill
Peak: number 59
He'd been hired to replace Bobby Brown in New Edition in 1987, but by the end of the decade, the boy band had disintegrated and Johnny Gill went back to the solo career he'd been pursuing - mostly unsuccessfully - throughout the '80s. With a much higher profile than previously, Johnny's first post-New Edition single became a huge hit in the US, reaching number 3. The success of "Rub You The Right Way" also had a little to do with the fact that it was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis - the team behind Janet Jackson. In Australia, the single just missed the top 50 - a chart performance no doubt aided by its appearance on nationally syndicated radio show American Top 40




New entries
Number 50 "Stone Cold Sober" by Del Amitri
Peak: number 50
Just when it looked like this latest single from the Scottish rockers - which actually preceded "Nothing Ever Happens" in the UK - was on its way out of the top 100, it rebounded from number 91 to number 50. As Del Amitri songs go, "Stone Cold Sober" is not so bad, but it would only spend a solitary week on the top 50 before working its way back down the listings again. After a succession of minor hits throughout 1990, the band would disappear from the chart for another couple of years - and return in 1992 with one of their best known tracks.




Number 48 "Caroline" by Concrete Blonde
Peak: number 39
I think it's safe to say this single would never have made the top 50 had it not been released as the follow-up to runaway hit "Joey". One of those songs that doesn't seem to ever get anywhere, "Caroline" ensured Concrete Blonde wouldn't be a one-hit wonder, even if most people would be hard pushed to remember it these days.




Number 45 "Token Angels" by Wendy Matthews
Peak: number 18
Here she is - the singer who'd provided backing vocals on albums by Models, Jimmy Barnes and Icehouse; appeared on the soundtracks for ABC series Dancing Daze (with Jenny Morris) and You've Always Got The Blues (with Kate Ceberano); guested on a track by Rockmelons; and, most recently, been the voice of Absent Friends. It was this last gig more than anything else which paved the way for Wendy Matthews to embark on a solo career - her voice now familiar to mainstream audiences thanks to top 5 smash "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You". Keeping things downbeat, this lead single (written by Roger Mason from Models and Absent Friends) from debut album Émigré was an understated way to launch her solo career. The sort of song that creeps up on you rather than hits you in the face, it would contribute to Wendy receiving the first two of six career ARIA Awards.




Number 44 "I'll Be Your Shelter" by Taylor Dayne
Peak: number 4
This is where Taylor Dayne lost me. I'd been a big fan of everything she'd released since debut single "Tell It To My Heart", but her decision to trade pop/dance for generic pop/rock was not one I supported. Seems like I was on my own - not only did "I'll Be Your Shelter" return her to the top 10 for the first time since her first single, but it became her highest-charting single up until that point in Australia. Like previous single "Love Will Lead You Back", "I'll Be Your Shelter" was written by Diane Warren, but had been offered to Tina Turner ahead of Taylor.




Number 40 "Falling To Pieces" by Faith No More
Peak: number 26
Like Concrete Blonde, Faith No More were riding on a wave of success thanks to a massive breakthrough hit - in this case, number 1 single "Epic" - and were pretty much guaranteed further chart action. Unlike Concrete Blonde, Faith No More's follow-up was a reasonably memorable song - even if the band have done everything they can to erase "Falling To Pieces" from their repertoire, performing it rarely in the years since. Once again combining catchy hooks with heavy rock, the track was also accompanied by another visually arresting music video.




Number 36 "That's Freedom" by John Farnham
Peak: number 6
As we saw just six weeks ago, the lead single and title track from Farnsey's Chain Reaction album wasn't the type of tune we'd come to expect from him, but order was restored with second single "That's Freedom". An anthemic pop/rock track tailor made for John, it swiftly jumped up the top 50 to join "Chain Reaction" (this week's number 9) in the top 10. In just eight weeks, a third single from the album would be welcomed onto the top 100 - nothing like flooding the market in time for Christmas!




Number 19 "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC
Peak: number 4
For a few years in the early '80s, AC/DC hadn't been able to land a hit single no matter how hard they tried. By 1990, times had changed and the pattern seemed to be that a new album from the Australian rock group would at least yield one top 10 single if nothing else. True to recent form, this lead single from The Razors Edge - the band were so rock they didn't need apostrophes - not only followed "Who Made Who" and "Heatseeker" into the top 10 but gave AC/DC the highest-charting single of their career. As a sign that things were really changing for the band, "Thunderstruck" actually hung around the chart well into 1991. The shocking developments didn't end there, as we'll see when we get to the subsequent singles from the album, which became their biggest worldwide success since 1981's For Those About To Rock We Salute You




Next week: solo chart hits from the lead singers of two very different bands - one, an Aussie rock institution and the other, an Irish group from the punk era. Plus, another US R&B track that deserved better.


Back to: Sep 23, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Oct 7, 1990


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: September 29, 1985

I'm sure it's happened on several occasions, but the ARIA singles chart 30 years ago this week was notable for featuring the simultaneous debuts of three future number 1 singles.

And just like that, Morten Harket became an international heartthrob

One was a duet by two of the biggest names in music, another was a collaboration between reggae's premier outfit and the frontwoman of a rock band, and the third was a song by three guys from Norway no one had ever heard of.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 29, 1985

Before any of those song got to number 1, Huey Lewis & The News defied expectations that INXS would claim their second chart-topper with "The Power Of Love" leaping to the top this week in 1985. Although, the Back To The Future theme was only number 1 in New South Wales, with a whole host of other songs - including this week's highest new entry - claiming the top spot in other states.


Off the chart
Number 89 "Every Day Of The Week" by Renée Geyer
Peak: number 88
The first single from Sing To Me had done OK, but this just-as-commercial follow-up peaked 60 places lower. At least Renée got to play dress-up in the video...

Number 83 "Fortress Around Your Heart" by Sting
Peak: number 72
Another single not doing as well as its predecessor, "Fortress..." was released ahead of "Love Is The Seventh Wave" in Australia and is my favourite Sting song. Also, nice guns, Gordon.

Number 73 "Screams Of Passion" by The Family
Peak: number 73
Best known for originally recording "Nothing Compares 2 U", this Prince offshoot only released the one album and this sole single before disbanding.


New entries
Number 47 "Missing Me" by Electric Pandas
Peak: number 41
More than a year after their debut single hit the top 20, Electric Pandas finally got around to releasing a second 7". Granted, in the meantime, they had issued an EP (1984's Let's Gamble) and singer Lin Buckfield duetted with James Reyne on the godawful "R.O.C.K. Rock", but neither of those projects made anywhere near as much impact. The lead single from their first full-length album, Point Blank, "Missing Me" also missed the mark - possibly because it was a surprisingly downbeat track from the band best known for "Big Girls". Then again, other than Lin, Electric Pandas had completely changed line-up since then - and seemingly lost its vibrancy somewhere in the shuffle.




Number 45 "I Got You Babe" by UB40 (guest vocals by Chrissie Hynde)
Peak: number 1
In 1983, reggae collective UB40 had made an important discovery - cover versions really worked for them. And so whenever the hits dried up with their original material, the eight-piece delved back into the past and had their way with someone else's song. Two years earlier, it'd been Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine", the first of a string of remakes lifted from covers album Labour Of Love
In 1985, UB40 kicked off their sixth album, Baggariddim, with a version of Sonny & Cher's debut single from 1965. Joining the band on guest vocals was Chrissie Hynde, who'd given UB40 one of their first big breaks - inviting them to tour with her band, The Pretenders, during the (European) summer of 1980, the year the band's first three singles reached the UK top 10.
The result of the collaboration: UB40's first chart-topper in Australia and their second in the UK. Their only other number 1 in Australia was also a cover - 1993's "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" - while a reunion with Chrissie in 1988 fared less well locally.




Number 44 "Take On Me" by a-ha
Peak: number 1
Our next number 1 took a couple of goes to become a big hit - three in the UK. Outside Norway, where it reached number 3 in 1984, the original version of "Take On Me" had been a resounding flop. But, thanks to interest in the band from the US, money was poured into making "Take On Me" a hit. And so, following a much more dynamic remix and - more importantly - a new, cutting-edge music video, the version of the song we all now know started climbing charts around the world. 
Using the same rotoscoping technique featured in the clip for "What You Need" by INXS, the video for "Take On Me" played a huge part in the song's success. Even though many artists were really starting to push the boundaries with their music videos, the blend of live action and animation in the a-ha clip was like nothing else on TV - and it didn't hurt that singer Morten Harket was pretty easy on the eye.
But, the reason why "Take On Me" has endured is that it was always much more than just a tricksy music video. A slice of synthpop so infectious it's almost impossible not to like, the track has been covered and sampled ever since - with the keyboard riff one of music's most recognisable. Often mistakenly referred to as one-hit wonders, a-ha would struggle to match the success of "Take On Me" in Australia, but would land a good number of chart hits in the years to come.




Number 42 "Summer Of '69" by Bryan Adams
Peak: number 14
Next up, an artist whose time at number 1 would come - but not for another six years. In 1985, Bryan Adams fell just short of the top 10 for a second time in a row as "Summer Of '69" peaked two places lower than big ballad "Heaven". A return to ultra-commercial pop/rock, "Summer Of '69" was another collaboration between Bryan and long-time writing partner Jim Vallance, who disagree about the exact meaning of the number in the title - is it a reference to the year (as the apostrophe would suggest) or the sexual position. Bryan wouldn't see a chart peak this high until his all-conquering number 1 smash in 1991, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You".




Number 32 "Part-time Lover" by Stevie Wonder
Peak: number 3
From a male singer who had a long-running number 1 hit in his future to one who'd recently scored one - Stevie Wonder was, in 1985, coming off his marathon eight-week stretch at the top with "I Just Called To Say I Love You". What better time to release his 20th studio album, In Square Circle, which featured this lead single? As it turned out, despite the risks associated with a song as massive as "I Just Called...", Stevie hadn't managed to kill off the public's good will towards him and the upbeat "Part-time Lover" duly became his fourth top 5 hit of the decade - and his career - in Australia. Featuring Luther Vandross on backing vocals (and hums), the song would be his last major hit under his own steam, although he provided vocals on Babyface's number 5 hit, "How Come How Long", in 1997.




Number 3 "Dancing In The Street" by David Bowie / Mick Jagger
Peak: number 1
With an entry position like this (beaten only by Band Aid up until that point in 1985), it's no surprise this superstar duet was the first of our three future number 1s to reach the top. But what is surprising is how long it took David Bowie and Mick Jagger's cover of the Martha And The Vandellas classic to actually be released. 
The record had first been played during Live Aid back in mid-July (since a satellite-linked live performance was technically impossible) - but the charity collaboration didn't debut on the US or UK chart until the end of August/start of September, and reached Australia a few weeks later. I guess in those days, that was considered a speedy release. Everything else about this update of "Dancing In The Street" had been put together incredibly quickly, from the initial four-hour recording session to the half a day it took to make the music video. 
Although they didn't manage to actually perform the track together at Live Aid, David and Mick would eventually share the stage  - unexpectedly - the following year at the Prince's Trust concert. The song remains the only time Mick has reached number 1 in Australia as a solo artist (although he hit the top six times as a member of The Rolling Stones), while it was David's second and final chart-topper, following 1973's "Sorrow"




Next week: another brilliant example of European synthpop enters the top 50 alongside three Australian bands that broke down the barriers of the male-dominated pub rock scene.


Back to: Sep 22, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Oct 6, 1985


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: September 23, 1990

As the latest seasons of The X Factor continue in both Australia and the UK, a new batch of contestants prepare for what seems to be an increasingly short stint on the charts. And if anyone knows how quickly you can go from being a top 10 performer to an artist that struggles to hit the top 50, it's current Australian and former UK judge Dannii Minogue.

Dannii went and jinxed it with the title of her second single

Twenty-five years ago this week, the former Young Talent Time star reached the ARIA singles chart with her second single - and was already finding the going tough. She wasn't the only act we'll see this week that struggled to live up to prior chart glories.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending September 23, 1990

Reigning supreme for a second week at the top of the chart was a singer who was having no trouble going from lead singer to solo star. At number 1 again this week in 1990 was "Blaze Of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi.


Off the chart
Number 95 "God Tonight" by Real Life
Peak: number 83
Spurred on by the warm reception the 1989 remix of "Send Me An Angel" received, Australian synthpop band Real Life channelled The Beloved for this first new single in four years.

Number 75 "The Only One I Know" by The Charlatans
Peak: number 75
They would long outlive Madchester, but with this track, British indie group The Charlatans released one of the scene's best singles - and scored their first UK top 10 hit in the process.

Number 71 "Hold On" by En Vogue
Peak: number 64
The second girl group song called "Hold On" in three months, this debut single  - and US number 2 hit - from the R&B vocal harmony group didn't win Australia over, but En Vogue's time would come.


Singles of the week
"Why Fight It" by Mondo Rock
Peak: number 96
One of three singles spruiked by BMG this week, "Why Fight It" was the return of '80s hitmakers Mondo Rock, who were newly signed to the label. The first new music from the band in three years - and from singer Ross Wilson since his solo album, Dark Side Of The Man, the year earlier - it was the lead single from the upcoming album of the same name. Unfortunately for Mondo Rock, which at this stage consisted of Ross, long-time guitarist Eric McCusker and some ring-ins, it seemed the Australian public had moved on and interest in the band's return was limited.




"If The Well Runs Dry" by Shane Howard
Peak: number 85
Former Goanna singer Shane Howard was also finding few takers for his solo material, with "If The Well Runs Dry" performing even worse than previous single "Walk On Fire". At least BMG also had Southern Sons' "Heart In Danger" - the third Single of the Week, which moved into the top 30 this week - on their hands to make a decent show of things.




Breaker
"Rockin' Over The Beat" by Technotronic featuring Ya Kid K
Peak: number 53
Poor Ya Kid K. Just when the rapper finally received a featuring credit on a Technotronic single, it went and flopped in Australia - and that was despite the excellent remix by Bernard Sumner from New Order being the main version on the single locally. Having found "This Beat Is Technotronic" a bit underwhelming - and as its ARIA chart peak suggested, I wasn't alone - I was disappointed this return-to-form follow-up didn't get a better reception.




New entries
Number 41 "Miss Divine" by Icehouse
Peak: number 16
I don't know what Icehouse had been thinking with "Jimmy Dean" and "Big Fun", but the band fronted by Iva Davies finally got it right with this second single from Code Blue, which returned them to the top 20 for the first time since "Touch The Fire". Debuting just eight weeks after "Big Fun" (and one week after that single's inglorious fall out of the top 100), "Miss Divine" still wasn't anywhere near approaching Icehouse's best single - it's about as good as a "Nothing Too Serious" or "Street Cafe" - but it was such a relief they released a non-dreadful single, that hardly mattered at this point. It would turn out to be a short-lived respite from the doldrums for Icehouse, who never returned to the top 40 hereafter. 




Number 37 "Wild Women Do" by Natalie Cole
Peak: number 37
While Icehouse singles were flying in and out of the chart, Natalie Cole's "Wild Women Do" had been a top 100 fixture since mid-May and finally burst into the top 50 this week, no doubt boosted by the runaway success of Pretty Woman, and its two soundtrack hits from Roxette and Go West. Of course, the film soundtrack had been on the albums chart just as long and already enjoyed four weeks at number 1 - so it's little surprise Natalie's single only spent three weeks in the top 50 and didn't get any higher than number 37, but at least she got there in the end.




Number 36 "Success" by Dannii
Peak: number 28
Things had got off to a flying start for Dannii Minogue as she embarked on her pop career, with debut single "Love And Kisses" peaking at number 4 just months before sister Kylie reached the same position with her latest single, "Better The Devil You Know". But Dannii was really tempting fate by calling her second single "Success" - or "$ucce$$", to give the song its stylised title. Like "Love And Kisses", "Success" was produced by Alvin Moody and Vincent Bell, but this time around Dannii achieved something with her second single that Kylie wouldn't until her 15th - a songwriting credit. 
The truth of the matter was "Success" wasn't as good a song as "Love And Kisses", which I hadn't like that much to begin with - and the single struggled on the chart, peaking just inside the top 30. Like her debut effort, "Success" was eventually released in 1991 in the UK - this time with a new video and a much-needed remix by Bruce Forest - and fared much better there, peaking at number 11. In Australia, things were going to get even worse for Dannii before they got better.




Next week: an Absent Friend goes solo, John Farnham reverts to formula and one of this country's all-time biggest bands charge onto the chart. Plus, the follow-ups to two big chart hits from an American band and female singer.


Back to: Sep 16, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 30, 1990


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: September 22, 1985

Saxaphone solos, key changes, keytars... there are some things that will forever be associated with '80s music. Add to that list the kiddy choir, which had featured on recent charts hits "We Belong" by Pat Benatar and Tina Turner's number 1 single, "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)".

Two Australian bands discovered the power of the kiddy choir in 1985

Thirty years ago this week, two new entries on the ARIA top 50 singles chart came complete with a choir of children for the final choruses. And both singles were a change of pace for the Australian bands responsible.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 22, 1985

Another local band held down the number 1 spot this week in 1985 for a second week. Models stayed on top with "Out Of Mind Out Of Sight", with fellow Aussies INXS right behind them with "What You Need".


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Day By Day" by Doug & The Slugs
Peak: number 62
It wasn't even one of their hits at home in Canada, but some reason this lead single from fourth album Popaganda became the only top 100 appearance by the band fronted by Doug Bennett.

Number 88 "Goodbye Girl" by Go West
Peak: number 55
After two big singles, Go West slowed down the pace - and, as a result, their chart success - with this latest release from their debut self-titled album.

Number 85 "What Am I Going To Do" by Stephen Cummings
Peak: number 80
His former band, The Sports, never reached the top 20 and it looked like singer Stephen Cummings was going to share that fate, with this stand-alone single between his first two solo albums not climbing much higher.

Number 84 "Smokin' In The Boys Room" by Mōtley Crüe
Peak: number 61
This lead single from third album Theatre Of Pain was their first major hit in the US, but it'd be another couple of years before the decadent rockers saw the inside of the ARIA top 50.


New Entries
Number 45 "The City Of Soul" by Eurogliders
Peak: number 19
There were a lot of joyful pop moments on Eurogliders' third album, Absolutely, but the Perth band made the curious decision to release the moody "The City Of Soul" as its second single. Maybe they had to get it out of the way before the references to 1985 in the lyrics became dated or maybe it was felt that a song like "The City Of Soul", with its kiddy choir and post-apocalyptic video, would tie in nicely with the popularity of Mad Max and Tina Turner's recent number 1. Whatever the reason, it's pretty telling that the singles released either side of it went top 10 while "The City Of Soul" just slipped in to the top 20. Don't get me wrong, I like the song and it does show the band could do more than just get off with each other in music videos - but I much prefer the other singles from Absolutely.  




Number 43 "The Garden" by Australia Too
Peak: number 38
Nine months after Band Aid started the ball rolling on the music industry's support of famine relief efforts, a bunch of Australian artists banded together for this single to raise funds for local charity Australian Freedom From Hunger Campaign, which had been in operation since 1960. Despite the presence of well-known voices like Doug Parkinson, Renee Geyer and John Swan, "The Garden" didn't follow "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and "We Are The World" to the top of the chart - in fact, it got nowhere near number 1 and this is the first time I've ever heard the hymn-like track. Was Australia all charity-ed out? It didn't seem that way later in 1985 when another local fundraising record hit the top 10. Perhaps "The Garden" just wasn't a good enough song.




Number 42 "Current Stand" by Kids In The Kitchen
Peak: number 12
Like Eurogliders, Kids In The Kitchen departed from the formula that had provided them with their biggest hits, trading in synthpop for a more straightforward pop ballad as the fifth single from debut LP Shine, which was working its way back up the albums listings. In this case, it was the best decision they could've made. After the disappointment that was the album's title track, "Current Stand" returned the band to the ARIA top 20 - and also just happened to be their best single to date. As good as "Bitter Desire" and "Something That You Said" had been, "Current Stand" felt like a band seizing their big pop moment - kiddy choir and all. 




Number 41 "Spanish Eddie" by Laura Branigan
Peak: number 24
This odd (but awesome) little number, which features lyrics about gang warfare in the 1970s set to a jazzercise beat, got things off to an OK start for Laura Branigan's fourth album, Hold Me. However, "Spanish Eddie" would turn out to be the American singer's seventh and final top 50 appearance in Australia. This was despite the presence on Hold Me of her version of Alphaville's "Forever Young" and the original recording of "I Found Someone", later covered with great success by Cher - neither of which became hits for Laura. Not even a union with Stock Aitken Waterman on 1987's "Shattered Glass" did the trick for her locally, which was a bit of an oversight on our collective part.




Number 36 "Dress You Up" by Madonna
Peak: number 5
She was still at numbers 10 and 12 with her two recent chart-toppers, but the relentless Madonna release schedule continued apace with this fourth and final single from Like A Virgin making short work of its journey to the top 5. Like "Angel", "Dress You Up" didn't come with a proper music video - concert footage from the Virgin Tour was used instead - but that hardly mattered at this point as everything Madonna touched turned into a chart smash. It's even more remarkable that "Dress You Up" did so well in Australia given Like A Virgin was now in its 42nd week on the albums top 50 and still as high as number 11, and most artists just didn't have the fans to sustain that many top 5 hits from one album. 




Next week: three future number 1s debut in the same week, including a song that had its premiere back in July at Live Aid, a reggae cover of a classic duet and possibly the best synthpop track of all time.


Back to: Sep 15, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 29, 1985


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: September 16, 1990

In yesterday's 30 Years Ago... post looking back at the ARIA singles chart from September 15, 1985, we saw INXS debut at number 5 with "What You Need", the lead single from their Listen Like Thieves album. Almost exactly five years later, they were at it again.

INXS were pipped at the post again in 1990

This week in 1990, the band debuted inside the top 10 with the first release from their seventh studio album. As we'll see, that wasn't the only similarity between two of the band's best known singles. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending September 16, 1990

On top of the chart 25 years ago this week, the song that would end up denying INXS a second chart-topper started its reign at number 1. Jon Bon Jovi knocked Faith No More off the top spot with "Blaze Of Glory", which began a six-week stretch at the summit.


Off the chart
Number 98 "Flying Under Radar" by Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods
Peak: number 98
Australia had been one of the only countries to take to the Talking Heads member's previous solo album, but this lead single from Walk On Water didn't repeat the success of "Rev It Up".

Number 95 "Brother's Gonna Work It" by Public Enemy
Peak: number 95
A third brief chart run for a track from the Fear Of A Black Planet album for Chuck D, Flavor Flav et al, who were still very much a niche band in Australia.

Number 90 "Do The Turtle Thing" by Crime Fighters Inc. featuring Chuck McKinney
Peak: number 74
In 1989, they jumped on the Batman bandwagon, so it was only logical that in 1990, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would inspire the Australian act's second top 100 appearance. So obscure it doesn't appear on YouTube.

Number 89 "All I Want To Do" by Scott Carne
Peak: number 77
He'd fronted one of my favourite Australian synthpop bands in the '80s, but the former Kids In The Kitchen singer had obviously been listening to a lot of Madchester records before releasing his debut solo single.


Single of the week
"Everytime You Leave" by Conspiracy
Peak: Didn't chart
What can I tell you about this song? Not a lot, actually, since it missed the top 100 completely and also didn't chart in the UK, where four-piece Conspiracy are from. The first of two singles the band released, "Everytime You Leave", which I've never heard before, sounds kind of like "Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie Fisher meets John Waites' "Missing You" - without being as good as either. Also not great: the band's mission statement, according to the ad at the bottom of the chart. "Conspiracy is the union of musical forces in the spirit of subversion." OK, then.





New entries
Number 48 "Have You Seen Her" by MC Hammer
Peak: number 42
One of the worst follow-up singles of all time, this cover of the 1971 song by The Chi-Lites was probably about the last thing anyone would have been expecting from the man who was still at number 7 with "U Can't Touch This". A slow groove track that sounded more than a little like Milli Vanilli's "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You", "Have You Seen Her" was the second single from Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em and at least made sense in the US and the UK where the original recording had been a number 3 hit. Thankfully, the rapper born Stanley Burrell had something much better up his sleeve for his next release.




Number 42 "Black Cat" by Janet Jackson
Peak: number 6
Six songs into her record-breaking run of singles from Rhythm Nation 1814 and Janet Jackson had still to score a top 10 hit from the album in Australia (compared to the five she'd already racked up in the US). And it looked like the self-penned "Black Cat" wasn't about to change that when it debuted in the 70s back at the end of July. Slowly but surely, the only single released from the album not produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis made its way up the listings, eventually reaching the top 10 in November. 
While some of the album's previous singles had been a bit too R&B for Australia at that point in time, the harder stylings of "Black Cat" were perfect for a market that still preferred rock music over all else. The genre jump also went down well in the US, where "Black Cat" became Janet's fourth number 1 single and earnt her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance - one of a record-breaking five genres in which Janet has been recognised. 




Number 38 "Five More In A Row" by The D-Generation
Peak: number 37
The Melbourne comedy troupe joked their way into the top 20 in 1989 with previous single "Five In A Row", so it was kind of inevitable there'd be a sequel. This time, INXS (too try-hard), Dragon (too fat), Daryl Braithwaite (too old), Kate Ceberano (too curvaceous) and Midnight Oil (too political) were the objects of some particularly nasty derision. Despite getting their timing spot-on for a joke at INXS's expense, very little else worked for The D-Generation this time around - and "Five More In A Row" was a resounding flop. Even so, in between this single and the series of Fast Forward parodies that aired through the year, 1990 was a tough time to be a pop act in Australia. 




Number 6 "Suicide Blonde" by INXS
Peak: number 2
Following up Kick was never going to be easy. If 1985's The Swing had opened the door for the band internationally, Kick set it flying off its hinges as single after single climbed charts around the world. In Australia, it may not have reached number 1 on the albums chart but it did spend 11 non-consecutive weeks at number 2 and 71 weeks in the top 50, yielding four top 20 hits and selling around half-a-million copies in the process.
After taking 1989 off - during which time singer Michael Hutchence scored another top 10 hit with side-project Max Q and started dating Kylie Minogue - the band reconvened to record X, with the Roman numeral signifying the band's 10th year releasing music (as opposed to when Kylie used it as the title of her 10th album). The lead single from X also had a link to Michael's girlfriend, who'd used the phrase "suicide blonde" to describe her bleached hair in The Delinquents
Otherwise, "Suicide Blonde" was pure INXS - a mix of rock, funk and dance with a sampled harmonica thrown in that stormed into the top 100 at number 6, just one place lower than the debut of "What You Need" five years earlier. Frustratingly, it would become their third single to peak at number 2 (following "What You Need" and "Good Times" with Jimmy Barnes), leaving "Original Sin" as the band's only chart-topper. What few probably saw coming at this stage is that "Suicide Blonde" would also be INXS's last top 10 single during the lifespan of the original line-up. As we'll see when second single "Disappear" appears on the chart before the end of the year, things took a sudden turn for the once-unstoppable band.




Next week: a soundtrack hit that took four months to reach the top 50, a return to form for an Australian band that'd disappointed with their previous couple of singles and the second release from a future reality show judge.


Back to: Sep 9, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 23, 1990


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: September 15, 1985

If you ever needed any proof that Australian music was in a pretty healthy state in the mid-'80s, you need look no further than the ARIA top 50 singles chart from this week in 1985. All five of the new entries were from homegrown acts, while another held down the number 1 spot.

What did INXS need in 1985? Not more leather, clearly

The week's highest debut came from an act that was already Australia's biggest band and was on the verge of international superstardom. The lead single from their fifth album would change everything for the Sydney six-piece.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 15, 1985

At number 1, Models scored their first - and only - chart-topper as "Out Of Mind Out Of Sight" nudged Tina Turner aside for week one of a two-week stint on top.


Off the chart
Number 100 "Kayleigh" by Marillion
Peak: number 88
The first - and biggest - of four UK top 10 hits for the prog rock band, the success of this single prompted the sudden uptake of the name for baby girls in Britain.

Number 98 "Highwayman" by The Highwaymen
Peak: number 98
Originally recorded by writer Jimmy Webb and later covered by Glen Campbell, this country classic also provided the name for the supergroup comprised of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson.

Number 92 "If This Is Love" by Australian Crawl
Peak: number 87
It's almost like they were taking the piss at this point, with this horrendous second single from Oz Crawl's ill-fated Between A Rock And A Hard Place album hard to take seriously.


New entries
Number 50 "Idiot Grin" by Do-Re-Mi
Peak: number 43
I didn't say that all the new songs were the most memorable of Australian singles - with this follow-up to "Man Overboard" a sudden comedown for the band that'd hit the top 5 on their last outing. Despite actually having a chorus and, arguably, a better hook than its predecessor, "Idiot Grin" was possibly a little too hard-edged to be anything more than a minor top 50 entry.




Number 48 "Giver Of Life" by GANGgajang
Peak: number 48
Meanwhile, despite being perfectly hummable, this latest GANGgajang single became the band's third straight release to peak between number 45 and 48 - no doubt a massive source of frustration for the band. Listen out for a guitar riff that sounds almost identical to one heard in their next single - the one that'd finally breach the top 40 and become an iconic Aussie classic in the process.




Number 42 "Date With Destiny" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 25
After the biggest hit of their career, Mental As Anything also suffered a bit of a setback with this latest single. In fairness, "Date With Destiny" was the third release from Fundamental, an album that'd already spent 23 weeks on the chart - but it was also nowhere near as good a song as "You're So Strong" or "Live It Up" (which fell out of the top 10 this week). Taking all that into consideration - number 25 is not such a bad effort. 




Number 40 "I'd Die To Be With You Tonight" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 7
Now, we get to the big guns - and our first of two new entries from big-name Australian acts with their eye firmly on the US market. Ex-Cold Chisel singer Jimmy Barnes was so intent on breaking America that his second album, For The Working Class Man, was conceived with the States in mind and was what these days would be called a deluxe edition of his debut, Bodyswerve
Seven of the tracks on Bodyswerve - including that album's three singles, "No Second Prize", "Promise Me You'll Call" and "Daylight" - were remixed and repackaged as For The Working Class Man alongside five new tracks. "I'd Die To Be With You Tonight" was one of those new songs and it became Jimmy's most successful single in Australia yet - and also his first solo top 10 hit.
Despite the effort - and a US deal with Geffen Records - Jimmy never did land that big American hit. In fact, his only appearance inside the US top 50 would come thanks to "Good Times", his 1986 collaboration with the band up next...




Number 5 "What You Need" by INXS
Peak: number 2
The INXS story so far: with each of their first four albums, the Aussie band's chart fortunes had improved markedly, culminating in the chart-topping The Swing, which yielded a number 1 single, "Original Sin". Clearly, INXS had conquered Australia. If it made sense for Jimmy Barnes to tackle the world's biggest music market, then that was especially the case for Australia's top band, who'd already made some inroads into the Billboard Hot 100, most notably with 1982's "The One Thing", which peaked at number 30.
The last track recorded for fifth album Listen Like Thieves, "What You Need", which the band had played back in July at the Oz For Africa concert, sounded like exactly the right song with which to take on the world. Bold, brash and accompanied by a partly-animated Richard Lowenstein-directed music video custom-made for MTV, the track stormed the Australian chart at number 5 (equalling the debut of USA For Africa's "We Are The World") but was denied the number 1 spot first by Models and then by Huey Lewis & The News's "The Power Of Love". 
"What You Need" also became INXS's first truly big hit in the US, reaching number 5 when it was eventually released as the album's second single - "This Time" was chosen instead as the lead single in America. Surely, there was no stopping the band now.




Tomorrow: INXS will also feature prominently in my regular 25 Years Ago... post with another big single in their catalogue.
Next week: three more Australian singles enter the top 50, including a charity release I never knew existed until now. Plus, the latest hit from the year's biggest star.


Back to: Sep 8, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 22, 1985


Monday, 14 September 2015

Two-Hit Wonders On The Australian Charts - The 00s

JUMP TO: Part 1 II Part 2 II Part 3


What would a look back at a decade's one-hit wonders be without a list of those acts that managed two top 10 singles and no further top 50 appearances? Joining the ranks of Feargal Sharkey, The Hooters, The Proclaimers, Sonia Dada and Gabrielle, these seven performers were at least consistent with their chart hits - even if they could only register two of them.

In the 2000s, it seemed like just about anyone could score a couple of hits

And, it's a pretty eclectic bunch we have in the list for the 2000s - with everyone from a Hollywood actress to a kids' character visiting the top 10 on two separate occasions. And kicking us off, the first singer I did a photo shoot with when I worked at TV Hits magazine. 


Vitamin C
Her first Australian hit was a genius idea - a song released to coincide with the end of school that could be wheeled out year after year. And the graduation theme wasn't the only savvy decision the singer born Colleen Fitzpatrick made, with a Vitamin C lipstick, doll and video game character all part of her brand-building efforts. But just as her music career was picking up steam, with the lead single from second album More also hitting the top 10 (with a little help from "Friends Forever...", which was included on the CD single of "The Itch"), the hits - and, presumably, the marketing spin-offs - dried up.

Hit 1: "Friends Forever (Graduation)"
Entered the Australian chart: September 11, 2000
Peak position: number 2




Hit 2: "The Itch"
Entered the Australian chart: December 11, 2000
Peak position: number 6






Nicole Kidman
If it weren't for her featured artist credit on a few Glee releases, Gwyneth Paltrow would also be on this list. But we'll have to content ourselves with Nicole Kidman, who hit the ARIA chart shortly after Gwyneth's double whammy from Duets ("Cruisin'" and "Bette Davis Eyes") - a reversal from the more common trend of singers turning to acting. Nicole's first top 10 hit was her ballad duet with Ewan McGregor from Moulin Rouge - which was remixed by Josh Abrahams for the single release. Bolstered by the positive reception her singing received, she next teamed up with Robbie Williams for a remake of "Somethin' Stupid", the song made famous by Frank and Nancy Sinatra - inspiring all sorts of tabloid rumours about a steamy affair between the two.

Hit 1: "Come What May" (with Ewan McGregor)
Entered the Australian chart: July 2, 2001
Peak position: number 10




Hit 2: "Somethin' Stupid" (with Robbie Williams)
Entered the Australian chart: February 4, 2002
Peak position: number 8






Bob The Builder
If actors turning to singing wasn't enough for genuine musicians to contend with, 2001 also saw the arrival on the chart of cartoon character Bob The Builder with the theme tune from his animated series, which had been the UK's Christmas number 1 and highest selling single of the year in 2000. Voiced by Neil Morrissey, Bob almost made it to number 1 twice in Australia when a lyrically adjusted update of "Mambo No. 5" reached number 2 just two years after the version by Lou Bega topped the ARIA chart. Bob also scored a number 1 album, but thankfully the craze for the cartoon tradesman - at least in terms of music releases - ended as quickly as it began. 

Hit 1: "Can We Fix It?"
Entered the Australian chart: August 20, 2001
Peak position: number 1




Hit 2: "Mambo No. 5"
Entered the Australian chart: October 29, 2001
Peak position: number 2






Blu Cantrell
Right, back to a real singer - albeit one with a made-up name. Born Tiffany Cobb, Blu Cantrell was one of a number of female performers who succeeded in the early '00s with strongly worded R&B tracks telling men exactly what they thought of them. Like Kandi's "Don't Think I'm Not" and "Case Of The Ex (Whatcha Gonna Do)" by Mya, "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" dealt frankly with men who cheat - in this case, Blu advised leaving him with nothing. Album number two, Bittersweet, included Blu's second hit, "Breathe", a UK chart-topper which was slightly more mellow in terms of its lyrical content.

Hit 1: "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)"
Entered the Australian chart: September 24, 2001
Peak position: number 3




Hit 2: "Breathe" (featuring Sean Paul)
Entered the Australian chart: July 28, 2003
Peak position: number 8






Kate DeAraugo
Our look back at one-hit wonders from the '00s featured a number of former Australian Idol contestants - including the reality show's least successful winner, Natalie Gauci. Of Idol's seven victors, season three champ Kate DeAraugo comes in fifth in terms of solo chart success. Her two top 10 hits and no further top 50 appearances mean she did better than Natalie, Casey Donovan and Damien Leith on the singles chart, but Damien's six top 20 albums push him ahead of Kate - and probably one or two others - overall. Kate, of course, left her solo career behind when she teamed up with three other ex-contestants to form Young Divas.

Hit 1: "Maybe Tonight"
Entered the Australian chart: December 5, 2005
Peak position: number 1




Hit 2: "Faded"
Entered the Australian chart: February 27, 2006
Peak position: number 8






Sara Bareilles
Had I compiled the list of one-hit wonders in the '00s at any point between the start of 2010 and the end of 2013, singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles would have featured on it. Her breakthrough hit, "Love Song" - which, ironically, was about how she didn't want to do as her record company asked and write a hit single - was her only top 50 appearance until... six years later when "Brave" finally hit the ARIA chart months after its initial release. At this rate, we should expect a number 2 hit from Sara in 2020 (and I reserve the right to edit this post and remove her if she comes through with the goods again at any point).

Hit 1: "Love Song"
Entered the Australian chart: April 7, 2008
Peak position: number 4




Hit 2: "Brave"
Entered the Australian chart: February 3, 2014
Peak position: number 3






Cobra Starship
Likewise, here's one more act that could potentially manage another hit single. Signed by Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz back in the mid-'00s, Cobra Starship released a couple of under-the-radar albums before teaming up with Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester on the lead single for their third album, Hot Mess. Co-written by Kevin Rudolf and one-time American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, "Good Girls Go Bad" gave the band's electro-rock sound a pop spin - and flew up charts around the world as a result. It took until their next album, Night Shades, for them to repeat the feat, with lead track "You Make Me Feel...". Unfortunately, the pattern of first singles from Cobra Starship albums becoming hits didn't continue as 2014's "Never Been In Love" (featuring Icona Pop) missed the top 50 (and a fifth album has yet to materialise).

Hit 1: "Good Girls Go Bad" (featuring Leighton Meester)
Entered the Australian chart: August 3, 2009
Peak position: number 5




Hit 2: "You Make Me Feel..." (featuring Sabi)
Entered the Australian chart: August 22, 2011
Peak position: number 3






Honourable mentions
As usual, here's a list of the artists who were almost two-hit wonders - if only that second hit had charted a few places higher.
  • Alice Deejay ("Better Off Alone" - number 4, "Back In My Life" - number 19)
  • The All-American Rejects ("Gives You Hell" - number 3, "I Wanna" - number 15)
  • The Androids ("Do It With Madonna" - number 4, "Here She Comes" - number 15)
  • Dixie Chicks ("Landslide" - number 6, "Not Ready To Make Nice" - number 18)
  • Casey Donovan ("Listen With Your Heart" - number 1, "What's Going On?" - number 18)
  • Hinder ("Lips Of An Angel" - number 1, "Better Than Me" - number 11)
  • The Ian Carey Project ("Get Shaky" - number 2, "Last Night" - number 15)
  • Damien Leith ("Night Of My Life" - number 1, "22 Steps" - number 11)
  • James Morrison ("You Give Me Something" - number 7, "I Won't Let You Go" - number 13)
  • Nitty ("Nasty Girl" - number 1, "Hey Bitty" - number 11)
  • Eric Prydz ("Call On Me" - number 2, "Proper Education" - number 20)

I guess that means I'll be doing a list of the one-hit wonders for the 2010s in about a decade's time. Until then, I'll continue my weekly look back at the chart hits from 25 and 30 years ago, and a few other one-off posts.