Sunday, 29 January 2017

This Week In 1984: January 29, 1984

I have mixed feelings about posthumous releases. On the one hand, a song or album completed after an artist has passed away may not necessarily be what they would ever have released if still living. On the other hand, it does give fans a chance to hear projects that, in many cases, were close to completion. 

Had John Lennon not been killed, this single would likely never have been released (by him)

This week in 1984, a singer who'd already appeared on the Australian chart several times since his death returned yet again. The difference this time was that he charted with a song that hadn't been released while he was alive - and it became one of his highest-charting solo singles.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending January 29, 1984

Lionel Richie was still enjoying his highest-charting solo single as "All Night Long (All Night)" clung on to number 1 for a sixth - and final - week.


New Entries
Number 49 "Favorite Waste Of Time" by Bette Midler
Peak: number 44
It'd been almost four years since Bette Midler had enjoyed a big hit in Australia. And although her version of the song written and first recorded by Marshall Crenshaw wasn't that successful a single, it did put her back on the top 50 for the first time since 1980's "The Rose". Bette would have more luck with the next track she released from her No Frills album, while Owen Paul would turn "My Favourite Waste Of Time" (as he called it) into the hit it deserved to be in 1986




Number 48 "One Thing Leads To Another" by The Fixx
Peak: number 38
In Thursday's flashback to 1992, I mentioned that Blue Train was one of those British bands I always thought were American since they a) sounded American and b) had their greatest success there. Here's another - London's The Fixx, with their US top 5 single, "One Thing Leads To Another". The song about deceitful politicians was the band's biggest hit in America, but in Australia, it fell five places short of the position achieved by 1982's "Stand Or Fall"




Number 47 "Everywhere I Go" by QED
Peak: number 19
Jenny Morris hadn't had a great start to her solo career, with her first two singles flopping on the Australian chart in 1982. And so while that was put onto the backburner for the time being, she continued her work as a session singer and formed QED instead. A song originally recorded by her former band, The Crocodiles, on their album Looking At Ourselves, "Everywhere I Go" succeeded where "Puberty Blues" and "Little By Little" hadn't. One of those songs that skilfully combined elements of new wave and synthpop with Aussie rock, "Everywhere I Go" probably deserved to do even better than number 19 - but it was a start.




Number 46 "Heart And Soul" by Huey Lewis And The News
Peak: number 25
In mid-1982, Huey Lewis And The News kicked off their Australian chart career with number 18 single "Do You Believe In Love" but had been unable to lift another hit from the Picture This album. Fair enough, follow-ups "Hope You Love Me Like You Say You Do" and "Workin' For A Living" had only been minor hits in the US. But this week in 1984, the MOR rockers returned with the first of three singles they'd place in the 20s throughout the year from Sports. Unlike the two singles that were to come, "Heart And Soul" was actually a cover version of a song first released by Exile in 1981 and also recorded by The BusBoys the following year. Even though Huey and band's version wasn't that different from Exile's, they still managed to make it sound, in the words of every reality show judge ever, completely their own.




Number 35 "Nobody Told Me" by John Lennon
Peak: number 6
Following John Lennon's murder on December 8, 1980, his then-current single, "(Just Like) Starting Over", which looked like it might've peaked at number 6, shot back up the chart and spent four weeks at number 1 in early 1981. It was followed by two more top 50 hits from his and wife Yoko Ono's recently released album, Double Fantasy. Various other tracks by or featuring John also ventured into the top 100 up until January 1983 when old album track "Love" reached number 93 as part of the promotion for The John Lennon Collection
A year later, the ex-Beatle was back again, only this time it was with a brand new release rather than a re-release of a former hit or a track from an album that came out during his lifetime. The Milk And Honey album contained material John had worked on during and following the sessions for Double Fantasy, while Yoko's portion of the album was mostly recorded during 1983. The track "Nobody Told Me" was actually intended for Ringo Starr, but he decided not to record it in the wake of his former band-mate's death. And so John's rough demo version was scrubbed up, included on Milk And Honey and released as its lead single, becoming his sixth and final Australian top 10 hit.




Number 29 "Victims" by Culture Club
Peak: number 4
After back-to-back party starters "Church Of The Poison Mind" and "Karma Chameleon", Culture Club brought the tempo right down for this third single from Colour By Numbers. In fact, "Victims" was such a change of pace that the band's American record company decided not to release it there. Australia followed Europe's lead and went with the song about - what else? - Boy George and Jon Moss's clandestine relationship. Turned out to be a good move, with the emotional ballad becoming Culture Club's third consecutive top 5 single locally.




Next week: a British band known for its gloominess shows it can be just as poppy as anyone else. Plus, a New Zealand group recaptures its more commercial side.


Back to: Jan 22, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 5, 1984


Thursday, 26 January 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: January 26, 1992

There are some songs you just know are going to be massive. Then there are those singles that climb all the way up the chart, defying any and all expectations.

Kate Bush continued the Elton John appreciation in 1992

This week in 1992, a remake of a song first released 20 years earlier was a much bigger hit than I would've thought. In fact, it almost reached number 1.


A song I always knew was going to be big - it had the word "sex" in the title, after all - reached number 1 this week in 1992. "Let's Talk About Sex" by Salt 'n' Pepa leapfrogged Prince's "Cream" to knock Michael Jackson off the top spot.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "All I Need Is You" by Blue Train
Peak: number 91
Like Wang Chung and The Escape Club, Blue Train were a British band that sounded American and had more success in the US than at home. Unlike those other groups, they didn't cross over in Australia with this catchy track.

Number 97 "Pop That Pussy" by 2 Live Crew
Peak: number 97
With the exception of a Jason Nevins remix of "We Want Some Pussy" in 1998, this was the only charting single by the controversial hip-hop group in Australia. It was released here with its original title as opposed to the "clean" version, "Pop That Coochie". 

Number 91 "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" by The Revelators
Peak: number 81
In between albums, The Black Sorrows renamed themselves The Revelators for a covers side-project. This version of the Jr Walker & The All Stars track was the first single from the album, Amazing Stories

Number 77 "Every Road Leads Back To You" by Bette Midler
Peak: number 74
Unlike previous efforts The Rose and Beaches, Bette Midler's latest musical vehicle, For The Boys, proved as much of a commercial disappointment as this ballad from the soundtrack.


Breaker
"Ring My Bell" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Peak: number 58
Will Smith and Jeffery Townes couldn't catch a break in Australia. Their early comic records had been ahead of their time as far as this country's acceptance of rap music went. I've no doubt that the likes of "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" would've done far better had they been released in 1990 alongside hits by Young MC and MC Hammer. As for this single, which samples the Anita Ward disco classic, "Ring My Bell", the hip-hop duo were a few years too late, since Collette's 1989 cover version had stolen their thunder. When their time did come on the ARIA chart, they'd make it worth the wait...




New Entries
Number 49 "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)" by Kate Bush
Peak: number 2
It still surprises me that this single was as big as it was. For one thing, the tribute album it was taken from, Two Rooms: Celebrating The Songs Of Elton John & Bernie Taupin, had come and gone at the end of 1991, peaking at number 15. It probably didn't help that the lead single chosen was Oleta Adams's version of "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", which had the misfortune to come out around the same time as the George Michael and Elton John duet version
But then, Kate Bush's typically quirky take on "Rocket Man" emerged and almost topped the chart - her biggest hit since "Babooshka" did the same in 1980. Besides it being a while since Kate had enjoyed such a presence on the top 50, her reggae-influenced cover of Elton's number 13 hit from 1972 didn't sound like the kind of song that would be successful in 1992. Perhaps that's what worked in its favour. Kate went all out for the single release, including another Elton remake, "Candle In The Wind", on the flip side.




Number 46 "I Adore Mi Amor" by Color Me Badd
Peak: number 27
Years before the Spanglish explosion in the late '90s and early '00s thanks to global hits by Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, Color Me Badd landed their first number 1 single in the US with a song that blended the two languages in its title and lyrics. In America, silky ballad "I Adore Mi Amor" had been the follow-up to CMB's debut single, "I Wanna Sex You Up", but in Australia, it came out third after "All 4 Love"
The switcheroo was probably a good move. America had a built-in audience for "I Adore Mi Amor" with the country's significant Latino community, while in Australia, it made sense to play it safe with the pop confection of "All 4 Love". Spanish lyrics aside, sensual ballads like "I Adore Mi Amor" weren't generally as successful locally - something that was borne out by this single's chart peak. Speaking of "sensual", try getting through the video for "I Adore Mi Amor" without bursting out laughing at the vocal group's attempts to smoulder. 




Next week: another U2 classic receives a radical makeover, plus under-appreciated ballads from a pop singer and a boy band who'd seen better chart days.


Back to: Dec 19, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 2, 1992

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

30 Years Ago This Week: January 25, 1987

A lot can change in 30 years - but it's funny how some things never do. In 1987, the Cold War hung like a dark cloud over the world. Today, that war may have ended but apprehension about global conflict is increasing by the tweet. 

And donkey makes 3

Typically, musicians have a unique way of approaching political developments. Last week, we saw Genesis's "Land On Confusion" enter the ARIA top 50. Thirty years ago this week, another song dealing with the spectre of nuclear war made its debut. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending January 25, 1987

Things were a little lighter at the top of the singles chart this week in 1987. Pseudo Echo's "Funky Town" held on to the number 1 spot for a fifth week, but The Bangles were closing in.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "Stay The Night" by Benjamin Orr
Peak: number 66
Ric Ocasek's "Emotion In Motion" had been a top 10 hit in November, but The Cars' other lead vocalist wasn't as lucky with his rock ballad. "Stay The Night" was, at least, a US top 30 hit.

Number 95 "Goldmine" by The Pointer Sisters
Peak: number 79
The lead single from previous album Contact had been "Dare Me", but this first release from Hot Together ended The Pointer Sisters' ARIA chart career with a whimper rather than a top 10 bang.

Number 94 "So Cold The Night" by Communards
Peak: number 90
In a pattern that would repeat itself throughout Communards' brief career, this original tune was nowhere near as successful as their Hi-NRG cover of "Don't Leave Me This Way".


New Entries
Number 50 "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order
Peak: number 5
There were many instances in the '80s and '90s where Australia didn't get it right and ignored a brilliant song from an international act. This wasn't one of those occasions. In fact, this single from New Order's Brotherhood album not only became the band's biggest hit locally but did so despite having been a resounding flop in the UK. "Bizarre Love Triangle" was easily New Order's most commercial offering to date, with everything from the catchy chorus melody to Peter Hook's bassline to that bit in the video (at the 2:40 mark) where the woman bangs on about reincarnation working together to form synthpop perfection. Why the UK didn't take to the song has always baffled me, but well done, Australia.




Number 40 "Welcome To The Boomtown" by David & David
Peak: number 27
From a song I never get tired of we move now to a song I can never remember, even when I've just listened to it. The debut single by the duo of David Baerwald and David Ricketts, "Welcome To The Boomtown" is about life in Los Angeles - drugs, money, crime... it's quite the cheery little number. Wrapped up in radio-ready rock production, the song briefly made David & David a hotly tipped new act, but after two more singles, the project was dissolved. The Davids continued to make music behind the scenes, both contributing to Sheryl Crow's debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club. David Ricketts also worked on albums by Toni Childs and Meredith Brooks, while David Baerwald has written songs for everyone from Susanna Hoffs to Ashlee Simpson.




Number 29 "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades" by Timbuk3
Peak: number 18
The week's highest debut came from another duo that was in the spotlight for a very short period of time, even being nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist shortly after the release of this debut single. In early 1987, the future did look extremely bright for husband-and-wife team Pat and Barbara MacDonald, but they would end up as one-hit wonders thanks to "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades". The indie rock/new wave track isn't as optimistic as its title would suggest, however. Instead, it's about the prospect of nuclear war, with the song's protagonist destined for a job as a nuclear physicist after getting good grades in college. His bright future would be to help bring about the end of the world. Thankfully, we all dodged a bullet as the Cold War defrosted in the late '80s. Wonder what songs people will write about the current political climate...




Next week: the male singer of one of Australia's biggest bands goes solo... briefly. Plus, a band that was basically just a male solo artist.


Back to: Jan 18, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Feb 1, 1987


Sunday, 22 January 2017

This Week In 1984: January 22, 1984

Who doesn't love formation dancing? From Bobby Brown to Backstreet Boys to OK Go, Janet Jackson to Britney Spears to Beyoncé, music clips are approximately 50 percent better when they feature a group of people all doing the same routine.


This week in 1984, two songs with music videos featuring the ultimate in formation dancing debuted on the ARIA top 50. The routines have been imitated and emulated ever since, setting the standard for all those other artists I mentioned above.


I won't even bother teasing what the two songs were - the stills above give it away. Suffice it to say, they were both massive hits in Australia, with one going all the way to number 1. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending January 22, 1984

At number 1 this week in 1984 was a song which featured a small amount of formation dancing (and lots of general partying in the street) in its music video. "All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie remained on top for a fifth week.


Off The Chart
Number 97 "Waterloo" by Jon English
Peak: number 96
Not, unfortunately, a cover of the ABBA song, this "Waterloo" is a fairly earnest rock tune that contains the line "before the Prussians ran him through". It was Jon English's final top 100 appearance.

Number 96 "Louie Louie / Unpublished Critics" by Australian Crawl
Peak: number 81
Taken from their recent live album, Phalanx, this double A-side teamed Australian Crawl's concert versions of rock standard "Louie Louie" and "Unpublished Critics", originally on 1981's Sirocco.

Number 94 "Till I Can't Take Love No More" by Eddy Grant
Peak: number 94
He'd had great success in 1983, but 1984 wasn't as good to Eddy Grant, with this lead single from Going For Broke failing to find many takers.

Number 93 "Till You Come Back To Me" by Leo Sayer
Peak: number 81
Seemed to be the week for former chart champions having it tough, with this cover of the song made famous by Aretha Franklin in 1973 a flop for Leo Sayer despite not being that bad.

Number 89 "Dolce Vita" by Ryan Paris
Peak: number 85
A massive hit across Europe (Continental and the UK) in 1983, this catchy ditty by the Italian singer born Fabio Roscioli went surprisingly unappreciated in Australia. 

Number 75 "No One Can Love You More Than Me" by Melissa Manchester
Peak: number 75
Also failing to make an impact locally was this excellent synthpop single from Melissa Manchester's Emergency album. This would be the Grammy winner's final visit to the ARIA chart.


New Entries
Number 46 "Crumblin' Down" by John Cougar Mellencamp
Peak: number 42
The slow transformation of John Cougar to John Mellencamp took an important step forward with the release of the singer's seventh album, Uh-huh, which was the first credited to John Cougar Mellencamp. Otherwise, it was business as usual with lead single "Crumblin' Down" everything you'd expect from the blue collar rock star. Everything, that is, except a bigger hit. The song was even composed with regular collaborator George Green, who'd also co-written "Hurts So Good". "Crumblin' Down" was the first of a string of chart disappointments and JCM wouldn't be back in the top 50 until late 1985.




Number 45 "Love And Affection" by Allniters
Peak: number 45
Their ska cover of "Montego Bay" had taken them into the top 20 in 1983 so it was no surprise that Allniters followed that up with another remake. Slowing the tempo down, the band took on no less a figure than reggae legend Bob Marley with this cover of a track that'd appeared on The Wailers' debut album, The Wailing Wailers, in 1965. But what seemed like a great idea on paper didn't work out so well, with "Love And Affection" progressing no further up the chart.




Number 37 "2000 Miles" by The Pretenders
Peak: number 30
When I did my write-up on The Pretenders' 1986 comeback hit, "Don't Get Me Wrong", I was fascinated to read about all the drama that had played out in the couple of years prior. And now here I am again, learning about even more hirings and firings, as well as drug problems and band member deaths in the lead-up to the band's 1984 album, Learning To Crawl. A year after stop-gap single "Back On The Chain Gang" came out in late 1982, the latest line-up of The Pretenders readied themselves to release Learning To Crawl and previewed it with this Christmas-themed single. "2000 Miles" hit the ARIA top 50 slightly after the fact and didn't become the biggest of hits, but it has become something of a festive classic in the decades since.




Number 31 "Just Be Good To Me" by The S.O.S. Band
Peak: number 17
Here's another song that has taken on legendary status in the years since its release, thanks to it being covered and sampled by numerous artists, most prominently Beats International, Deborah Cox and Professor Green featuring Lily Allen. One of the earliest singles written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, "Just Be Good To Me" was significantly more successful in Australia and the UK, reaching the top 20 in both countries, than in the US. In America, the band's debut single, "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" (number 40 in Australia in 1980), would remain their only big mainstream hit. 




Number 29 "Right By Your Side" by Eurythmics
Peak: number 15
Decades before tropical house took a stranglehold on pop music, Eurythmics discovered the joys of steel drums, marimbas and calypso rhythms on this second single from the Touch album. Quite a shift from their trademark clinical synthpop sound, "Right By Your Side" hinted at a versatility that would be further explored as the decade wore on. Like most of those other musical detours, it was one the Australian public embraced, rewarding the duo with their fourth consecutive top 20 hit.




Number 22 "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 4
It's hard to believe that for an artist who was so instrumental in the emergence of the music video as an art form that Michael Jackson didn't produce as many clips as you'd think. From his landmark Thriller album, only three of the seven singles released came with music videos. And he had to fight for the third video - the one for the title track - to be made at all. With his record company reluctant to foot the bill for a promo for "Thriller", Michael paid for it himself (and later made deals with TV and video companies to recoup the costs). 
Directed by John Landis (An American Werewolf In London), the extended video for "Thriller" ran for almost 14 minutes and heralded in the concept of the long-form music video. In keeping with the horror theme of the song, the clip climaxed with Michael and a bunch of zombies performing a tightly choreographed routine - a dance sequence that has been imitated, parodied and referenced ever since. 
Despite being the seventh single released from an already incredibly successful album - although only the sixth in Australia, since "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" would follow - "Thriller" was a massive hit around the world. Sales of not only the single but also the music video, which was sold with a behind-the-scenes documentary included, proved there was still life in Thriller, which was by now over a year old.
In Australia, "Thriller" returned Michael to the top 5 after the video-less "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Human Nature" had fallen short. The album, which had already spent three weeks at number 1 in mid-1983 and was the year's overall number 1, charged back up to number 2 this week. It would go on to rack up another eight weeks on top, finishing 1984 as the year's second biggest album. Imagine how different things would be if Michael had been convinced not to bother making the video...




Number 17 "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar
Peak: number 1
While it wasn't unusual at all for Michael Jackson to pull off a slick dance routine, Pat Benatar was probably the last person anyone - herself included - expected to bust out some moves in a music video. And yet that's exactly what she did in the clip for "Love Is A Battlefield" - and the song became her first top 10 hit and only chart-topper in Australia as a result. 
Written for her by Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, the song was originally intended as a downtempo track, but Pat's producer and husband, Neil Giraldo, re-conceived it as the slice of power pop/rock we now know. Teamed with that feisty ensemble dance towards the end of the video, it became an anthem of female empowerment ("no one can tell us we're wrong").
Awesome formation dancing isn't the only link between "Thriller" and "Love Is A Battlefield". Both were early examples of storyline music videos featuring dialogue. And both were also paid tribute to in Jennifer Garner rom-com Suddenly 30 (aka 13 Going On 30).




Next week: a posthumous hit that was completed by the singer's widow following his death, a version of a song that'd be a bigger hit for another artist in 1986 and an Australasian trio fronted by a female singer we saw on Thursday's 25 Years Ago... post.


Back to: Jan 15, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 29, 1984


Thursday, 19 January 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: January 19, 1992

In recent years, when famous musicians have passed away, many of their songs have re-entered the ARIA top 50, sometimes bettering their original peaks. But back in 1991, it took an official re-release for an old single to chart again.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" returned to the chart in the wake of Freddie Mercury's death

That's what happened 25 years ago this week, when a former number 1 hit returned to the singles chart. It didn't quite make it back to to the top, but it came close.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending January 19, 1992

At number 1 this week in 1992 was a singer whose death 17 years later prompted tracks from throughout his career to flood back into the top 50. Michael Jackson spent his eighth and final week on top with "Black Or White", a song which re-entered the chart at number 6 in July 2009.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Used To Be" by Violent Femmes
Peak: number 90
Nearly six years after their cover of "Children Of The Revolution" gave them their first chart appearance, Violent Femmes returned to the top 100 with this track from Why Do Birds Sing? Perhaps their version of "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?" might've done better...  


Breakers
"Can't Let Go" by Mariah Carey
Peak: number 63
Not for the first time, I like the Breakers we'll look at this week better than any of the new entries, starting with this big ballad from Mariah Carey's Emotions. The album's title track had put her back in the upper reaches of the chart after a couple of flops ("Someday" and "I Don't Wanna Cry"), but Mariah found herself not only with another under-performing single on her hands, but one which became her first to miss the top 50 in Australia. In the US, "Can't Let Go" became her first single not to reach number 1, although a peak of number 2 is not so shabby. 
Co-written and co-produced with Walter Afanasieff, who'd produced "Love Takes Time", "Can't Let Go" sounds very similar to "Make It Last Forever" by Keith Sweat, although I'm not sure if there was any dispute over that fact or not. Mariah's track did face a lawsuit from another source - a pair of songwriters claimed "Can't Let Go" plagiarised their unreleased song, but the matter was resolved.




"Crucified" by Army Of Lovers
Peak: number 56
All these years later, the music video for this Scandipop classic still astounds me. From its gratuitous close-ups of La Camilla's breasts to the camp cavorting of Alexander Bard and Jean-Pierre Barda, it could only have come from Europe - and that's where Army Of Lovers had their success, never quite crossing over to Australia, the US or the UK. "Crucified" was, er, resurrected in 2013 by a new line-up of the trio, with Dominika Peczynski replacing La Camilla.




"Pandora's Box" by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Peak: number 53
The first 40 seconds of the video for this follow-up to "Sailing On The Seven Seas" explain the story behind the song, which gets its inspiration - and name - from the 1929 silent film starring Louise Brooks. A glossy synthpop tune reminiscent of late '80s OMD, "Pandora's Box" was the seventh and final UK top 10 hit for the band, which was essentially just singer Andy McCluskey during this period.




New Entries
Number 50 "O.P.P." by Naughty By Nature
Peak: number 31
This is certainly one way to make a first impression. Hip-hop trio Naughty By Nature landed a US top 10 hit straight out of the gate with this Jackson 5-sampling ode to cheating. "O.P.P." stands for other people's property, although the third word can also be "another way to call a cat a kitten" or "a five-letter word rhyming with cleanest", depending on the gender referred to in each verse. With its call and response chorus - "You down with O.P.P.?"/"Yeah, you know me" - and cheeky subject matter, "O.P.P." was clearly always going to be a hit. I'm a little surprised it wasn't a bigger one in Australia, but Naughty By Nature's time would eventually come.




Number 47 "I've Had You" by Jenny Morris
Peak: number 39
Number 2 hit "Break In The Weather" had given Jenny Morris the biggest hit of her career in 1991, but this follow-up was a dramatic change - both in terms of song style and chart success. A bit of a strange choice for a single, understated ballad "I've Had You" didn't connect with the record-buying public and also didn't have the alternate effect of provoking sales of parent album Honeychild, which slid out of the top 50 in two weeks' time. This would turn out to be Jenny's final top 50 appearance and I can't help but wonder what would've happened if a more commercial track, like upcoming single "Zero", had been released at this point instead.




Number 46 "Spill The Wine" by Freaked Out Flower Children
Peak: number 31
What a tedious single this was - not least because, like the original version, it takes more than two minutes to get to the actual chorus. A cover version of Eric Burdon And War's debut release (a number 2 hit in 1970), "Spill The Wine" was also the first offering by Freaked Out Flower Children. Featuring TV personality Sophie Lee - the sex object host of The Bugs Bunny Show and, more appropriately, Sex - the retro-styled band felt like a poor man's Deee-Lite, with FOFC channelling that same psychedelic vibe. But in more of a try-hard and less of a kitsch way.




Number 45 "Bohemian Rhapsody" / "These Are The Days Of Our Lives" by Queen
Peak: number 5 (original peak: number 1)
Another song from the '70s now, but in this case, it was the original recording of chart-topper "Bohemian Rhapsody" (a number 1 in March 1976 in Australia). Re-released following Queen frontman Freddie Mercury's death, the six-minute epic returned to the top 5 accompanied by Innuendo track "These Are The Days Of Our Lives". In the UK, the double A-side had been the 1991 Christmas number 1, just as "Bohemian Rhapsody" had been in 1975 - the first time a song had returned to number 1 in the UK and still the only time the same song has been Christmas number 1 twice. 
1992 would be quite the year for "Bohemian Rhapsody" - the song also provided the soundtrack for a memorable scene in comedy film Wayne's World, which was released in July in Australia. Meanwhile, it wasn't just on the singles chart that Queen enjoyed a resurgence, with both of the band's two Greatest Hits volumes remaining in the upper reaches of the albums chart for the next few months.




Number 44 "One Word" by Baby Animals
Peak: number 15
Everything finally started to fall into place for Baby Animals this week as their debut, self-titled album catapulted back into the top 5 for the first time since September - and stayed there. In February, it would start a six-week run at number 1. At the same time, their fourth single, "One Word", became their biggest hit as the band ventured into the top 20 for the first - and, as it would turn out, last - time. I'm not sure why "One Word" outperformed the superior "Early Warning" and "Rush You", but the band clearly benefitted from the accumulated effect of four singles that'd been hammered by FM radio - and no doubt a healthy amount of TV advertising.




Number 30 "Addams Groove" by Hammer
Peak: number 12
It was the song that effectively killed his career, but the theme tune to the big-screen version of The Addams Family at least allowed (MC) Hammer to venture back towards the top of the chart after bombs "Here Comes The Hammer" and "2 Legit 2 Quit". The latter would be listed as a double A-side to "Addams Groove" from its fourth week on the chart - I suspect as a result of a two-for-one offer that allowed his record company to get rid of all the excess copies of "2 Legit 2 Quit" they had sitting in the warehouse. A deserving winner of the Razzie Award for Worst Original Song, "Addams Groove" was out of the top 50 after just nine weeks. At least it looks like he had fun making the music video alongside the cast of the film, which was successful enough to spawn a sequel two years later.




Next week: another song from the '70s returns to the top 50 - this time, thanks to a cover version. Plus, a new hit with a Spanglish title.


Back to: Jan 12, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 26, 1992


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

30 Years Ago This Week: January 18, 1987

Welcome back to 1987. When I started this blog in mid-2012, I wrote my first posts about the ARIA charts from July 1987. Why? Well, it was to coincide with the 25th anniversary of my decision to start collecting ARIA top 50 printouts. My 25 Years Ago... posts have now reached 1992.

From 2015 on, I've travelled even further back in time with my 30 Years Ago... posts, starting with 1985. These posts have now reached the beginning of 1987. So finally, I'll cover off January to June from one of the best years in music. Confused? Stick with me.

My, what big lips you have, Debbie. All the better to French kiss you with...

As I return to 1987, it's kind of fitting that the first chart for the year featured another musical comeback - the return of a singer who'd visited the Australian top 5 on five occasions as part of Blondie. Her solo career hadn't been as stellar, but that changed thanks to a song which made its debut 30 years ago this week.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - three weeks ending January 18, 1987

The biggest hit in the country this week in 1987 was still "Funky Town" by Pseudo Echo, which held off INXS and Jimmy Barnes to register its second, third and fourth weeks on top. 

Although the chart you can see above covered the three-week festive period, individual top 100s were calculated (but not printed) for each of those weeks. Before we get to the songs on the top 50, we'll look at the entries between 51 and 100 for those three weeks.


Off The Chart - week one
Number 99 "Love Will Conquer All" by Lionel Richie
Peak: number 71
Previous single "Dancing On The Ceiling" had been a number 2 smash, but this cruisy follow-up, although a top 10 hit in the US, didn't... conquer the Australian chart. Sorry!

Number 79 "Rock 'N' Roll To The Rescue" by The Beach Boys
Peak: number 79
Sounding like no time had passed since their 1960s heyday, this was a new track included on Made In U.S.A., a compilation of songs mostly from The Beach Boys' first decade.

Off The Chart - week two
Number 86 "Slow Rivers" by Elton John / Cliff Richard
Peak: number 82
The footage is taken from a Cliff Richard show, but this ballad duet by the showbiz legends was originally found on Elton John's Leather Jackets album.

Off The Chart - week three
Number 100 "Get It Right" by Rose Tattoo
Peak: number 100
"Calling" had given hard rockers Rose Tattoo one of their biggest hits, but the next single lifted from Beats From A Single Drum only just made the top 100.

Number 99 "Blood And Roses" by The Smithereens
Peak: number 99
Also just sneaking into the chart was this debut single by American college rock band The Smithereens. They wouldn't be seen back on the top 100 until 1992.

Number 97 "Nothing Touches My World" by Uncanny X-Men
Peak: number 97
A pretty clear sign the party was almost over for Uncanny X-Men, this moody track from What You Give Is What You Get! became the band's least successful single.


Breaker
"Western Girls" by Dragon
Peak: number 58
Besides their trio of massive hits ("April Sun In Cuba", "Are You Old Enough?", "Rain"), the rest of Dragon's catalogue really deserved to do much better. Take this third single from Dreams Of Ordinary Men. It's a perfectly pleasant pop/rock tune (co-written by Sharon O'Neill) with a sing-alongable chorus, and yet it was relegated to outside the top 50.  




New Entries
Number 47 "Open Your Heart" by Madonna
Peak: number 16
It would give her a fifth US number 1 in February, but Madonna didn't have as much luck on the Australian chart with what I consider to be her best single of all time. In fact, it broke a run of consecutive top 10 hits dating all the way back to "Like A Virgin". Originally demoed as "Follow Your Heart" and intended for Cyndi Lauper, the song's writers ended up submitting it, as "Open Your Heart", to Madonna, who added her own input and recorded it for her then-upcoming album, True Blue
The fact that "Open Your Heart" was the fourth single lifted from the already successful album may have worked against it in Australia, although fifth release "La Isla Bonita" managed to peak 10 places higher, so maybe not. Fun fact: the little kid who appeared in the peep show music video, Felix Howard, went on to become a songwriter, co-writing, among other tracks, "Overload" and "Stronger" for Sugababes.




Number 42 "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House
Peak: number 8
From a singer falling short of her previous successes, we move to a band who finally landed a big hit (with a pretty apt title) after two singles that deserved to do much better. And as if to over-compensate for the lacklustre performance of "Mean To Me" and the complete failure of "Now We're Getting Somewhere", "Don't Dream It's Over" reached the ARIA top 10 and came close to topping the Billboard Hot 100. 
Crowded House's signature song - although not their biggest hit locally - "Don't Dream It's Over" had a slow start in Australia, taking its time to climb the chart before being spurred into life at the start of February, just as the song started to explode in the US. There was an immediate effect on the trio's self-titled debut album as well, which had languished in the lower reaches of the chart since release, but suddenly shot into the top 10 on its way to number 1. 




Number 36 "Land Of Confusion" by Genesis
Peak: number 21
Genesis went all out with the music video for "Land Of Confusion", the third single from Invisible Touch. Well, the puppeteers from Spitting Image did, anyway. Having previously been sent up by the British satire series, the band commissioned the makers of Spitting Image to produce the clip, which features puppet versions of the band as well as prominent political and entertainment figures of the time. A protest song of sorts, "Land Of Confusion" pointed the finger at world leaders for making a mess of the "world we live in". Seventeen years later, the hook of the song was used by Alcazar in "This Is The World We Live In", which reached number 31.




Number 22 "French Kissin' In The USA" by Debbie Harry
Peak: number 4
Here's something I didn't know until now - "French Kissin' In The USA" was written by Chuck Lorre, the creator of inescapable sitcoms Two And A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. The poppy lead single from Debbie Harry's Rockbird album, it marked her return to a full-time solo career after she'd taken time to look after her ill partner, fellow Blondie co-founder Chris Stein. 
In the US, "French Kissin'" (as it was called there) continued Debbie's notable lack of solo success on the chart, only managing to crawl to number 57. In Australia, however, the tune blitzed Debbie's previous best, "Backfired" (number 23 in 1981), and flew into the top 5. The success was short-lived and the two additional singles from Rockbird (including the Stock Aitken Waterman remixed "In Love With Love") missed the top 100 completely. It'd take until late 1989 for Debbie to score another big hit locally.




Next week: it flopped in the UK, but a British synthpop band's best single becomes a top 5 smash in Australia. Plus, the band with one big single who went up against fellow one-hit wonders Nu Shooz and Glass Tiger for the Best New Artist Grammy in 1987.


Back to: Dec 28, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 25, 1987


Sunday, 15 January 2017

This Week In 1984: January 15, 1984

Music acts can pretty much be divided into innovators and imitators, and as our look back at the ARIA charts from years past finally reaches 1984, we're going to see plenty of both. 

Susan Ballion And The Banshees definitely wouldn't have had the same ring to it

In fact, the very first chart for 1984 features a new entry by a band whose music and image have been incredibly influential, even if the group themselves weren't ever the biggest of chart stars.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - three weeks ending January 15, 1984

The biggest chart star in Australia this week in 1984 was still Lionel Richie, who remained at number 1 with "All Night Long (All Night)". With this chart covering the three-week Christmas shutdown period, the track spent its second, third and fourth weeks on top.


Off The Chart
Number 98 "A Little Good News" by Anne Murray
Peak: number 92
Unfortunately for Anne, it was only more bad news as this title track from her 1983 album became her latest single to peak in the 90s. Her biggest hit remained her 1978 number 2, "You Needed Me".

Number 96 "Sweetheart Like You" by Bob Dylan
Peak: number 74
Bob Dylan's last two singles to chart in Australia had also peaked in the 90s, so it was a slightly improvement for this track from the Mark Knopfler co-produced Infidels album.

Number 87 "What's New" by Linda Ronstadt with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra
Peak: number 87
What's new? How about a fresh musical direction for the singer last seen on the top 50 in early 1983 with rock ballad "I Knew You When". "What's New" was the title track of Linda's first album with big band legend Nelson Riddle - two more covers collections would follow, but Linda wouldn't return to the chart until she was back making pop in a few years' time.


New Entries
Number 50 "Waterfront" by Simple Minds
Peak: number 19
New year, new sound for the band known for the new wave feel of top 10 hits "Promised You A Miracle" and "Glittering Prize". With its throbbing bass and anthemic feel, "Waterfront" was a sign of things to come as Simple Minds transitioned into the stadium rock sound they'd perfect in 1985. Singer Jim Kerr even adopted a less stylised image for the occasion, and the band's fans seemed to respond favourably, with this first single from sixth album Sparkle In The Rain returning Simple Minds to the top 50 after "Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)" was a near miss in early 1983.




Number 47 "Backstabbers" by Stephen Cummings
Peak: number 40
In my posts covering 1985 and 1986, we've seen some of the many singles by Stephen Cummings that missed the top 50, but here's one that made it! The first hit for the former frontman of The Sports, "Backstabbers" only just scraped into the top 40, but it was more than "We All Make Mistakes" (number 89) or "Stuck On Love" (number 76) had managed in 1983.




Number 45 "Dear Prudence" by Siouxsie And The Banshees
Peak: number 44
Critics salute them and other artists adore them, but like many unique acts that carve out new musical terrain, Siouxsie And The Banshees didn't have the most illustrious of chart careers. In fact, this cover of the 1968 album track by The Beatles is one of only three top 50 entries the post-punk, pre-goth band had in Australia between 1979 and 1991. The first - and biggest - was debut single "Hong Kong Garden", which reached number 38, and the other was their big American hit, "Kiss Them For Me".
Released between the band's fifth and sixth albums as a stand-alone single, the remake of "Dear Prudence" was actually prompted by sometime member Robert Smith (yes, the one from The Cure), who'd fill in for live performances from time to time but wanted to be involved in an actual recording as well. Robert is one of the many artists to have been influenced by the band's incomparable singer, Siouxsie Sioux. With her distinctive vocal delivery, inimitable performance style, cutting-edge fashion sense, left-of-centre songwriting and, of course, her trademark cat's eye makeup, she was like no-one else - either in 1984 or today.




Number 38 "Say It Isn't So" by Hall & Oates
Peak: number 24
From a beloved British band we move now to the most successful American duo of all time. Nothing demonstrated how big Hall & Oates had been in the States than their 1983 greatest hits album, Rock 'n Soul Part 1, which contained no fewer than five Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping singles. New track, the effortlessly catchy "Say It Isn't So", almost became the pair's sixth number 1, held off the top spot for four weeks by "Say Say Say" by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. In Australia, "Say It Isn't So" was only a moderate hit and their biggest single here remained "Maneater", which reached number 4 in 1982.




Next week: the new year really gets underway with seven new entries, including debuts by a future chart-topper, a much covered and sampled funk track, and a single that was also available to buy as a music video. 


Back to: Dec 25, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 22, 1984