Wednesday, 13 December 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: December 13, 1992

It's the part of the year record shops used to live for: the pre-Christmas period, during which all the biggest albums would hit stores. Many superstar acts would release their latest studio albums in the final three months of the year, while plenty of others would put out greatest hits collections, covers albums, live albums or something else to cash in on the period of biggest music sales.

You couldn't half tell it was almost Christmas...

It's not quite the same in the digital age - do best ofs even exist anymore for current artists? - but this week in 1992, that seasonal release schedule was in full effect. All five of the new entries on the singles chart came from big Christmas priorities.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending December 13, 1992

It wasn't always big new releases that did well at Christmas time. For Boyz II Men, their recent surge in success meant their year-old debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, was among the season's big sellers as it moved in to the top 10 for the first time this week. It was, however, the end of the road for them as singles chart-toppers as "End Of The Road" spent its fourth and final week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop" by N93
Peak: number 71
First released back in 1988, this update of the Fatback Band club classic (itself remixed in 1987) was revisited locally in 1992, but failed to reignite the dance craze.

Number 81 "It Will Make Me Crazy" by Felix
Peak: number 55
"Don't You Want Me" had been a crossover success in Australia (and was still just inside the top 40 this week), but DJ/producer Francis Wright wasn't as lucky second time around.

Single Of The Week
"Tell Me Why" by Genesis
Peak: number 110
Even though Genesis's latest live collection, The Way We Walk, Vol I: The Shorts, made its debut on the albums chart this week, the band weren't quite done milking previous studio album We Can Dance of singles. One of two tracks chosen for release as the fifth single in different parts of the world, "Tell Me Why" was another issue-driven song from the band, who addressed hunger and homelessness in the lyrics and accompanying music video. The surprisingly upbeat tune (given its subject matter) was released in Europe - in the UK it came out following a live version of "Invisible Touch" from The Way We Walk. In the US, "Never A Time" was released instead. Whatever the choice, it marked the final Genesis single to be performed by Phil Collins.

New Entries
Number 50 "To Love Somebody" by Michael Bolton
Peak: number 39
For his Christmas contribution, Mr Mullet unleashed covers album Timeless: The Classics, which shot up to number 11 on the albums chart this week. Alongside remakes of tracks like "Yesterday", "Knock On Wood" and token festive favourite "White Christmas" was Michael Bolton's version of Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody", a number 6 hit here in 1967. The much-covered track (a UK top 10 hit for Jimmy Somerville as recently as 1990) broke Michael's ARIA top 50 drought stretching back to "Love Is A Wonderful Thing", but it was even longer since he'd had a major hit in Australia. Fear not, 1993 would deliver one of those... and that's no lie.

Number 49 "Celebration" by Kylie Minogue
Peak: number 21
On the one hand, it felt way to soon for Kylie Minogue to be up to releasing an album called Greatest Hits, but on the other, she'd amassed 17 top 30 singles taken from four studio albums in a little over five years. And with her contract with PWL Records in the UK coming to an end, it was the perfect time to take stock (no pun intended). Her remake of the Kool & The Gang party anthem was the second single released from the best of and had actually been intended for previous album Let's Get To It, but ended up being left off. 
The song and its suitably celebratory Rio de Janeiro-shot music video - in which Kylie looked pretty stunning - came out at the perfect time of year, but surprisingly stalled just shot of the top 20. Interestingly, as her final single for PWL, "Celebration" was produced not by Stock Aitken Waterman (or Stock Waterman, since Aitken had now left the Hit Factory) but by B Team Harding & Curnow, although SW were credited with additional production. As we all know, Kylie took a well-earned rest in 1993 and returned the following year with a whole new sound.

Number 25 "7" by Prince & The New Power Generation
Peak: number 25
In 1991-92, Prince had enjoyed his most consistent hit streak ever in Australia, with six consecutive top 20 hits (four of them top 10). That came to a halt with this third single from the Love Symbol Album, which progressed no further than this debut position. The Middle Eastern-tinged "7" showcased the belly dancing of NPG member and the future Mrs Prince, Mayte, in the music video - and one thing I didn't know until now was that she would go on to choreograph the clip for Britney Spears's "I'm A Slave 4 U".

Number 13 "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" by U2
Peak: number 9
While Prince's top 20 run came to an end, there was no stopping U2's, with the fifth single from Achtung Baby giving them yet another top 10. It's not a bad song, but perhaps the real reason fans rushed out to buy "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" was that they all wanted to complete the picture formed by the covers of the album's singles (except "One"). The chart feat would've been even more impressive if the five Achtung Baby tracks had all reached the top 10, but previous single "Even Better Than The Real Thing" had let the side down by peaking at an unlucky number 11.

Number 11 "Deeper And Deeper" by Madonna
Peak: number 11
This second single from Erotica was also pretty unlucky not to become another top 10 hit for Madonna, stranded at number 11 for five straight weeks (thanks partly to the ARIA chart shutting down for three weeks). The disco-flavoured and "Vogue"-referencing "Deeper And Deeper" was, however, the first single of hers I'd really loved since that 1990 chart-topper. After a series of sexual or snoozy singles over the past couple of years, she was back in dancefloor form. In the decade-hopping, homage-laden music video, she also traded in her Mistress Dita persona to channel Andy Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick instead.

Next week: a double dose of Australian pop, including the top 50 debut of a man who'd go on to become a glossy mag favourite in the UK.

Back to: Dec 6, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 20, 1992

Saturday, 9 December 2017

This Week In 1984: December 9, 1984

After the deluge of debuts over the previous few weeks, things quietened down on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1984 as those new songs settled in. And so while there's only one new entry this week, it's the biggest hit from a group fronted by a man who's now been making music for over 40 years.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending December 9, 1984

Interestingly, six other songs missed the top 50 this week - and they're all by acts who'd landed hits before. Meanwhile, at number 1 this week in 1984, Stevie Wonder registered his eighth and final week on top with "I Just Called To Say I Love You".

Off The Chart
Number 97 "East Of Eden" by Big Country
Peak: number 93
It was second album time for Scotland's Big Country, but this lead single from Steeltown didn't give them another hit locally. They'd have to wait until 1986 for one.

Number 96 "Master And Servant" by Depeche Mode
Peak: number 89
Another UK band failing to live up to earlier successes was one of my favourite groups with the controversial, BDSM-themed second single from Some Great Reward

Number 95 "Highly Strung" by Spandau Ballet
Peak: number 69
Now this was a surprise - although not really, since this is what you get when you don't release the best singles from your album. Spandau Ballet would put things right in 1985.

Number 94 "Promise Me You'll Call" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 86
You know things are rough when even Jimmy Barnes misses the top 50 - and by some margin. Of course, this was the second single from Bodyswerve, which had already been to number 1 by this point.

Number 92 "Let's Gamble" by Electric Pandas
Peak: number 81
I wonder how different things would've been if Electric Pandas had released this follow-up to "Big Girls" as a 7" single instead of a 12" EP. The two-minute "Let's Gamble" certainly had a catchy enough chorus to have been a bigger hit.

Number 55 "If It Happens Again" by UB40
Peak: number 55
More than a year after they reached number 2 with their cover of "Red Red Wine", UB40 returned to the top 100 with this original track - an anti-Thatcher protest song from the Geffery Morgan album.

New Entry
Number 48 "Shout To The Top!" by The Style Council
Peak: number 8
While six previously successful acts faltered with their latest singles, The Style Council went from strength to strength, debuting on the top 50 with the song that'd give them their highest chart placement locally. The band led by Paul Weller had been building up to this moment over the previous year-and-a-half - going from landing top 30 hits with "Speak Like A Child" and "Long Hot Summer" to moving in to the top 20 with "You're The Best Thing / The Big Boss Groove" a couple of months earlier. 
Unlike those more languid singles, "Shout To The Top!" was a jolt of energy. From its opening piano stab, the song positively cracks along - a little reminiscent of the biggest single by Paul's previous group, The Jam, "Town Called Malice" (number 15 in 1982). By out-performing that track, "Shout To The Top!" became the biggest hit of Paul's career in Australia - and remains so to this day, with nothing released subsequently by The Style Council or Paul during his solo career able to match it.

Next week: a few more new entries, including the latest from two women who both topped the chart earlier in 1984, and a top 10 single by a one-hit wonder supergroup.

Back to: Dec 2, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 16, 1984

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: December 6, 1992

If you're going to release a cover version, it's always a good idea to choose a song not many people are familiar with. That way, it feels like a brand new song, and doesn't have to compete with the original in people's minds and hearts.

And I-ee-I-ee-I will never give up the number 1 spot

This week in 1992, a singer who'd already remade a couple of obscure songs to great effect released the definitive version of a tune that was already quite good to begin with (not that many Australians were familiar with it at that stage, myself included). It was a much bigger hit than the two other covers debuting on the ARIA chart that week - in fact, it was much more successful than most songs the entire decade.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending December 6, 1992

Before long, it would replace the song that held down the number 1 spot this week in 1992. Until that happened, "End Of The Road" by Boyz II Men spent its third week (of four) on top.

Off The Chart
Number 96 "I Had A Dream, Joe" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Peak: number 75
An improvement of 21 places for this second single from Henry's Dream, but for the time being Nick Cave was still very much a niche concern - and with songs like this, it's not hard to see why.

Number 90 "Queen Of Rain" by Roxette
Peak: number 66
The last time they'd been relegated to outside the top 50 had been with the fifth single from Joyride. The Swedish duo found themselves there again with only the second release from Tourism - a kind of boring ballad that was no "Listen To Your Heart". 

New Entries
Number 42 "Good Enough" by Bobby Brown
Peak: number 39
I couldn't have put it better myself - this follow-up to chart-topper "Humpin' Around" was exactly as its title described: good enough. Not a great song, but a decent LaFace production all the same, which returned Bobby to the top 50 for what would be the last time as a solo artist (although a featuring slot in 2002 would give him a final gasp of chart glory). I actually preferred "Good Enough" to Bobby's number 1 hit, but even so, it was no "Don't Be Cruel" or "Every Little Step" - and that was the problem for me with the entirety of the Bobby album.

Number 38 "I Don't Know How To Love Him" by Kate Ceberano
Peak: number 38
Just over two decades earlier, Jesus Christ Superstar cast member Yvonne Elliman had been beaten to the punch with her recording of Mary Magdalene's big ballad when Helen Reddy released a rival version in early 1971 and took it all the way to number 2 in Australia. Yvonne's eventually released single peaked 70 places lower. Kate Ceberano had no such spoiler to contend with, but the cast album's massive sales did stand in the way of her having a major hit with her take on "I Don't Know How To Love Him". 

Number 37 "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)" by Norman Gunston / Effie
Peak: number 27
Until a few months ago, when I recapped the debut of Sarah Brightman and José Carreras's original version of "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)", I hadn't spared a thought for this parody rendition since 1992. And I can't say I was happy to be reminded of its existence. The musical equivalent of alley cats fighting, the send-up by Norman Gunston (aka Garry McDonald) and Effie (Mary Coustas) from the recently ended Acropolis Now took advantage of the Olympics anthem being eminently send-up-able. Still, listening to it was pure torture. The song's short run on the ARIA chart broke a 12-year absence for Norman, who'd last charted in 1980 with "Kiss Army / Normdrum", which reached number 12, and had his biggest hit four years before that when 1976's "Salute To ABBA" peaked at number 9.

Number 16 "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 1
There are big singles and then there's "I Will Always Love You". Chart-wise, the track taken from Whitney Houston's film debut, Bodyguard, spent 10 weeks at number 1 (the longest stretch since Bryan Adams's soundtrack behemoth the year earlier), and ended both 1992 and 1993 among the year's top 20 biggest hits. Music-wise, songs don't get much bigger than this. 
From its risky a cappella intro to its booming climax, "I Will Always Love You" blew every power ballad before it out of the water. It was a vocal triumph for Whitney, who'd never sounded better, and nothing at all like the understated 1974 original by songwriter Dolly Parton, whose version only charted in Australia following its use in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas and re-release in late 1982.
Whitney has intended to record a remake of "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" for The Bodyguard, but that plan was nixed when Paul Young recorded it for the Fried Green Tomatoes soundtrack in 1991. Her co-star Kevin Costner came up with the idea of covering the Dolly song and steamrolled resistance from Whitney's record label to the idea. Turns out he knew best.
What made "I Will Always Love You" so essential, in Kevin's mind, were its lyrics. Written by Dolly about her former musical partner Porter Wagoner, the song tells the tale of someone moving on from a person they've loved, amicably and respectfully. Kind of casts its regular use at weddings in a new light, doesn't it?
As well as its achievements in Australia, "I Will Always Love You" spent a then-record-breaking 14 weeks on top in the US, won two Grammy Awards, set up The Bodyguard soundtrack to be a phenomenal success and was the first of a string of singles for Whitney from the movie. Also, in 2012, following her death, it returned to both the ARIA and Billboard top 10, and is arguably her defining moment as a performer.

Next week: five new entries - everyone of them by a music megastar. Among them, the end of an era for a pop princess, and Madonna and Prince's release schedules sync up once more.

Back to: Nov 29, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 13, 1992

Saturday, 2 December 2017

This Week In 1984: December 2, 1984

It's not something you see very often - especially in the '80s - so when all the new entries on the ARIA singles chart come from female (or female-fronted) performers, it's worth celebrating it. 

Sade Adu: the lead singer of smooth operators Sade

Interestingly, two of the new songs arriving on the top 50 this week in 1984 were cover versions of songs written by and originally performed by men. Their versions had been unsuccessful, but both turned out to be just what the female singers needed to bring them back to the top 50 following lengthy absences.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending December 2, 1984

A male singer who featured on one of the new entries was also enjoying his biggest ever hit, which remained at number 1 again this week in 1984. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder stayed on top for a seventh week.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "All You Pretty Girls" by XTC
Peak: number 76
Their last chart appearances - including "Senses Working Overtime" - had come from 1982's English Settlement. After striking out with 1983's Mummer, XTC at least made the top 100 with this lead single from The Big Express.

Number 92 "Gimme All Your Lovin'" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 82
Australia was working its way backwards through the singles from ZZ Top's Eliminator album. This lead single belatedly followed "Legs" and "Sharp Dressed Man" onto the chart.

New Entries
Number 50 "Left In The Dark" by Barbra Streisand
Peak: number 27
The last time Barbra Streisand had been seen on the top 50 had been back in 1980, with the two hits from her Guilty album: chart-topper "Woman In Love" and the title track. Both of those - as well as the entire album - had been written or co-written by at least one Gibb brother. Four years and a few assorted projects later, Babs returned with her next studio album, Emotion, and kicked it off with this song written and first performed by Jim Steinman. As you'd expect from the man who also wrote "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" and many a Meatloaf song, "Left In The Dark" was fairly dramatic, telling the story of someone discovering their partner has been cheating on them. It'd be another four years before we'd see Barbra back on the top 50, duetting with Don Johnson.

Number 49 "I Feel For You" by Chaka Khan
Peak: number 4
It had been slightly longer since Chaka Khan had visited the top 50 - with or without Rufus. In fact, her only previous hit had been with debut solo single "I'm Every Woman" in 1979. That song had reached a disappointingly low number 37, a peak she blew out of the water with the lead single and title track of fifth album I Feel For You. The song was written and produced by Prince, who'd originally recorded it himself on his self-titled album, released, coincidentally, in 1979. Since then, both The Pointer Sisters and Rebbie Jackson had recorded the song, but it was Chaka who turned it into a hit. And she did so by incorporating elements no one else had thought to, including a rap (by Melle Mel) and harmonica (performed by Stevie Wonder). Well, producer Arif Mardin did, since it was his idea to include the rap - rare for a pop song at the time - and recorded it without telling Chaka, who was resistant to the idea at first. She came around and the song became a much-needed hit after a series of less than successful solo efforts. 

Number 48 "Smooth Operator" by Sade
Peak: number 20
When is a female artist not a female artist? When she's the singer in a band named after her. Ever since Sade made themselves at home in the CD collection of every self-respecting mid-'80s yuppie, they've confounded listeners who assumed Sade referred simply to vocalist Sade Adu rather than the group she fronts. The act for whom the term sophisti-pop could not have been more appropriate, Sade's music combined elements of soul, jazz and pop into a silky smooth package, so it was somewhat appropriate that the band's breakthrough single was "Smooth Operator". 
Succeeding when earlier UK hit "Your Love Is King" (which was saw last week) hadn't, the song about a fashion-conscious, jet-setting ladykiller was actually Sade's only top 50 hit for almost a decade in Australia, with their upwardly mobile fans opting for the band's albums instead. Diamond Life, which contained (and gets its title from the lyrics of) "Smooth Operator", reached number 6 and stayed on the top 100 for 40 weeks.

Number 42 "All Cried Out" by Alison Moyet
Peak: number 21
A female singer with a voice that's just as recognisable as Sade's returned with her second solo single this week in 1984. Not quite as big a hit as "Love Resurrection", "All Cried Out" was another emotive performance from the former Yazoo singer. In the UK, it gave Alison her second (of six) top 10 hit, but in Australia, she had to be satisfied with hovering around the top 20, with later singles "Invisible" and "Is This Love?" also failing to match the earlier success of her two top 10 hits with Yazoo.

Next week: just the one new entry, but what a belter it is! Plus, some very popular acts do very poorly with their latest singles.

Back to: Nov 25, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 9, 1984