Wednesday, 22 March 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: March 22, 1992

The ARIA chart loved a makeover. Since its debut in 1983, the top 50 printout had been through four major format changes, with a few tweaks here and there along the way. This week in 1992, a five look made it national debut, having been trialled in at least one state already.

So. Much. Hair.

The singles and albums top 50s were back on the same side of the chart for the first time since mid-1986, and the respective state listings could be found on the other side - the first time a full regional top 50 had been included. Big news, huh? Meanwhile, a new Aussie male singer with a mane of hair debuted with what would turn out to be a big hit song.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 22, 1992

The biggest hit song in the country this week in 1992 was still Julian Lennon's "Saltwater", which enjoyed a third week at number 1.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "Heart Of Soul" by The Cult
Peak: number 92
"Wild Hearted Son" had returned them to the top 30, but the next single from Ceremony, while boasting another big chorus, made a more modest impact for Brit rockers The Cult.

Number 95 "Get The Funk Out" by Extreme
Peak: number 95
Would Australia's enthusiasm for Extreme extend to a single that actually pre-dated "More Than Words" and "Hole Hearted"? In short: no. Although it made sense to give it a try. 

Number 94 "Visions Of You" by Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart
Peak: number 94
The first UK top 40 hit for the artist otherwise known as John Wardle no doubt received a boost from the appearance of Sinéad O'Connor on guest vocals.

Number 87 "Cruel" by Public Image Ltd.
Peak: number 87
The band Jah Wobble was once the bass player for returned to the top 100 for the first time in six years with this lead single from That What Is Not. It would be PiL's last album for 20 years.

Number 80 "Friendship" by Sabrina Johnston
Peak: number 64
"Peace", "Friendship"... Sabrina Johnston was all about positivity, wasn't she? I'm more shocked by her bike shorts in the video three years after Yazz and Collette than this song's chart failure.

Where The Wild Things Are by Hard-Ons & The Celibate Rifles
Peak: number 51
Hard-Ons' previous top 100 appearance had been in collaboration with Henry Rollins and here they were again on the chart alongside another act. The difference was that instead of performing on the same track with The Celibate Rifles, the two bands contributed two songs each to EP Where The Wild Things Are. From Hard-Ons, we got the minute-and-a-half blast of punk pop "Sorry" and "Lose It"; from The Celibate Rifles, it was the slightly longer and grungier "5 Lamps" as well as "Electric Flowers". This was the closest either band would come to a hit single.

New Entries
Number 41 "Not A Day Goes By" by Rick Price
Peak: number 5
This might have been the debut single by Rick Price, but we'd already been hearing his voice for a number of years. In 1988, he performed the official bicentennial theme song, "Celebration Of A Nation" (a duet with future Euphora vocalist Keren Minshull), and also appeared as part of the ensemble on charity single "You're Not Alone". A year later, he provided vocals for a Home And Away storyline that involved characters Lance, Martin and Marilyn recording a single
Having finally landed his own record deal, Rick was the latest addition to the John Farnham/Southern Sons school of long haired soft rock balladeers. "Not A Day Goes By" quickly became an FM radio staple, sending the track into the top 5 and establishing Rick as one of 1992's biggest new local artists. And as we'll see, it didn't end there...

Number 34 "You Showed Me" by Salt 'n' Pepa
Peak: number 24
The last time Salt 'n' Pepa reinterpreted a song from the '60s - The Beatles' "Twist And Shout" - it hadn't taken off here. But the rap trio were coming off a number 1 hit single and a somewhat premature (but pretty successful) greatest hits album when their version of The Turtles' "You Showed Me" was released. Having first appeared on their Black's Magic album, the song was radically remixed by Ben Liebrand, who'd transformed their previous two hits, although an alternate mix closer in sound to the album version also did the rounds.

Number 19 "Human Touch" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 17
With Guns 'n Roses proving it was possible to release two albums at once and have them both do well, it opened the door for other acts to do the same thing. Enter Bruce Springsteen with Human Touch and Lucky Town, which, like the Use Your Illusions albums, were released on the same day and would both enter the top 10 in a few weeks' time. It hadn't been his intention to release two albums, but he ended up with another album's worth of songs while he was trying to complete Human TouchThe first single released from the pair was the title track of Human Touch and despite another five songs being lifted from the albums, it was the only one to reach the top 50.

Next week: four massive downtempo top 10 hits - the latest from the biggest band in the world, a long-running UK chart-topper, a duet between two guys with the same first name and the song that'd wind up as 1992's second highest-selling single. Joining them were another four new entries!

Back to: Mar 15, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 29, 1992

30 Years Ago This Week: March 22, 1987

As well as being a big year in music, 1987 saw significant developments in music TV in Australia. While Countdown was just months away from airing its final episode, Video Hits had recently started on Channel 10, and rage and MTV were about to launch.

The song that would define three decades of late-night music TV viewing

This week in 1987, a song that would end up being used as the theme song for one of the new music shows made its debut on the ARIA singles chart. It was also the first major hit for an artist who'd only recently broken into the top 50 for the first time in his lengthy career.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 22, 1987

Two artists who'd had no shortage of hits in their careers were together at number 1 this week in 1987. Aretha Franklin and George Michael jumped to the top with "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)", which would spend four weeks there.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Over The Hills And Far Away" by Gary Moore
Peak: number 94
The Wild Frontier album would finally provide Gary Moore with his long-awaited solo hit in Australia, but it wasn't with this Celtic-sounding lead single.

Number 98 "Don't Walk" by Big Supreme
Peak: number 79
British band Big Supreme never really got off the ground here or at home despite releasing great pop singles like this and follow-up "Please Yourself".

Number 89 "Victory" by Kool & The Gang
Peak: number 89
After a decade-and-a-half of releasing fantastic funk singles, Kool & The Gang finally landed a big hit in 1985... with a ballad. It was back to the chart doldrums with this lead single from Victory

Also this week, "Blue Monday" by New Order returned to the top 100, no doubt thanks to the runaway success of "Bizarre Love Triangle". It added nine more weeks to its tally, but didn't get any higher than number 69 this time around.

"My Baby" by The Pretenders
Peak: number 56
Over the years, Australian record companies have often found themselves with a choice of what to release locally - the US single or the UK single. In the case of The Pretenders, there was a choice between "My Baby", which reached number 64 at the start of the month in America, and UK top 10 hit "Hymn To Her". Australia went with the former, which sounded like the type of radio-friendly song that would do well here. Unfortunately, "My Baby" would prove to be a disappointing follow-up to "Don't Get Me Wrong", placing The Pretenders outside the top 50 once again. As for "Hymn To Her", well, it would get a much better reception in a few months' time.

"Leaps And Bounds / Bradman" by Paul Kelly And The Coloured Girls
Peak: number 51
Here's another single you'd expect to have done better on the chart - if not for one reason then certainly for another. Like "Before Too Long" and "Darling It Hurts", "Leaps And Bounds" is one of those songs you only have to hear once before you're singing along. A classic Paul Kelly composition, it dated back to his days with The Dots alongside co-writer Chris Langman. Years later, it wound up on the Gossip album, which had been a top 50 fixture since September - a fact that possibly explains why the single didn't do so well.
The other reason why the single peaked surprisingly low is because it featured a previously unreleased double A-side - and it was a song about an Australian sports legend to boot. Yes, with its spoken verses and lengthy running time, "Bradman" didn't have hit written all over it in the way that "Leaps And Bounds" did. But surely it was unpatriotic of Australians not to have bought it in droves.

New Entries
Number 50 "Sometimes" by Erasure
Peak: number 45
Australia may have been one of the countries to give Erasure their first hit with "Oh L'amour" in 1986, but just as the synthpop duo finally started having some success at home in the UK, we lost interest. "Oh L'amour" and the other two singles from debut album Wonderland had flopped in Britain, but Vince Clarke and Andy Bell completely turned things around with "Sometimes", which almost topped the UK chart. Locally, the pop gem - which was one of my favourite songs for 1986 - scraped into the top 50, somewhere Erasure wouldn't return until they helped bring about the ABBA revival in 1992. 

Number 49 "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" by Iggy Pop
Peak: number 11
He'd recently skirted the very bottom of the top 50 with "Cry For Love", but Iggy Pop really made his presence felt on the chart with the second single from Blah-Blah-Blah. A synth-rock cover of "Wild One", the 1958 song by Johnny O'Keefe that became the first Australian rock'n'roll hit, "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" was always going to have special resonance locally. But when the track was used in the theme for ABC's all-night music program, rage, it became a permanent part of Aussie pop culture. Thirty years later and not only is rage still on air, but "Real Wild Child (Wild One)" continues to be heard mixed in with someone screaming "Rage!" every Friday and Saturday night. 

Number 48 "Words Get In The Way" by Miami Sound Machine
Peak: number 44
From an artist who took ages to land his first big hit single, we come now to a song that took its sweet time to reach the top 50. The first ballad hit by Miami Sound Machine, "Words Get In The Way" had debuted in the top 100 in mid-October, spent a couple of weeks on the chart then disappeared until mid-January. Nine weeks later, it enjoyed a three-week run in the top 50 before just as slowly making its way out of the top 100. Unlike in the US, where it reached the top 5, "Words Get In The Way" may not have done as well as "Dr Beat" and "Conga" in Australia, but its ultimate tally of 27 weeks on the top 100 was not too shabby. 

Number 47 "Hold Me" by Colin James Hay
Peak: number 40
With the dramatic decline in success for Men At Work's third album, Two Hearts, it was little surprise the world-conquering band went their separate ways at the end of 1985. For singer Colin Hay, that meant embarking on a solo career. Released under his full name, Colin James Hay, debut single "Hold Me" certainly sounded like a hit waiting to happen, with its busy production courtesy of Robin Millar (Fine Young Cannibals and Sade's Diamond Life) and on-trend world music backing vocals. Alas, it was not meant to be, with "Hold Me" scraping the bottom of the top 40 and accompanying album Looking For Jack missing the top 50 altogether. The song remains Colin's only top 50 single despite a solo output that continues until this day.

Number 44 "Livin' On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi
Peak: number 3
As we saw a few weeks ago, "You Give Love A Bad Name" nudged open the door for Bon Jovi in Australia (and this week sat at its peak of number 32). Well, follow-up "Livin' On A Prayer" kicked the door off its hinges, zooming into the top 10 by the end of April, spending eight weeks among the 10 highest selling singles in Australia and winding up as the year's 17th biggest record.
Once again, the track was co-written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora with Desmond Child, who brought some of his life history to the table. Tommy and Gina, the working class couple described in the song's lyrics, were partly based on his pre-success experience with his girlfriend at the time, Maria Vidal (of "Body Rock" fame). The characters were also representative of the band's fans - hard working people trying to make ends meet. With a subject matter as relatable as that, it unsurprisingly became Bon Jovi's second US number 1 on the trot.
Musically, "Livin' On A Prayer" upped the ante set by "You Give Love A Bad Name". From its dramatic opening featuring Richie Sambora on talkbox, the song built and built until that key change at the end - a climax represented visually by Jon flying through the air in the music video, reaching notes it's best not to try at karaoke (yep, I've had a hoarse voice the next day after attempting it, too). Rock rarely gets more pop than this.

Next week: the year's sleaziest number 1 single arrives, as well as another single from the unstoppable Whispering Jack and two soundtrack hits.

Back to: Mar 15, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 29, 1987

Saturday, 18 March 2017

This Week In 1984: March 18, 1984

The ARIA singles chart was a bit of a funny one this week in 1984. Three of the songs that entered lower down the top 100 would re-enter later - two going on to much greater success next time around. The other two top 50 misses were minor hits by male singers who'd seen much better days on the chart and would do so again.

As for the debuts in the top 50 - I've never heard any of the three songs until now, and I don't feel like I was missing out on too much. But hey, not every chart features a flood of future top 10 singles.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 18, 1984

There wasn't even a new number 1 single this week in 1984, with "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar holding firm for a fifth and final week.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "I Still Can't Get Over Loving You" by Ray Parker Jr
Peak: number 89
1984 would be a big year for the man behind 1982 chart-topper "The Other Woman" - but it wasn't because of this synth ballad, the lead single from his Woman Out Of Control album.

Number 99 "My Oh My" by Slade
Peak: number 65
It'd been almost a decade since Slade's last top 100 visit with "Far Far Away" (number 17 in 1975). Ballad "My Oh My" returned for seven weeks in September, but didn't beat this initial peak.

Number 98 "Old Time Rock And Roll" by Bob Seger
Peak: number 53
This 1979 single by Bob Seger finally charted in Australia thanks to its use in Risky Business, but it'd really take off three years later, climbing all the way to number 3.

Number 91 "Pink Houses" by John Cougar Mellencamp
Peak: number 69
Like "Crumblin' Down", this second single from Uh-huh was a US top 10 hit that didn't connect locally. It was inspired by a literal pink house and was another of JCM's comments on the state of the US.

Also this week, "Jump (For My Love)" by The Pointer Sisters debuted for a six-week run, peaking at number 79. But, we'll look at it when it re-enters the chart in August.

New Entries
Number 49 "Baby I Lied" by Deborah Allen
Peak: number 31
When I saw this listed as a new entry on this week's chart, I got excited. "I didn't realise Lydia from Fame had a chart hit," I said to myself. Well, Debbie Allen didn't. Country singer Deborah Allen did - and performed especially well in South Australia, where it was the week's number 1. "Baby I Lied" was also Deborah's only mainstream hit in the US, where it peaked five places higher. The ballad is pretty unremarkable - the start of the chorus reminds kind of reminds me of "Don't Turn Around", but that's about all I've got.

Number 47 "The Curly Shuffle" by The Knuckleheads
Peak: number 43
I warned you a couple of weeks ago there'd be another version of this novelty song coming and here it is. Canada's The Knuckleheads took on the original by Jump 'n The Saddle (which rose to number 34 this week) and came off second best - although music was the real loser here.

Number 46 "Love In A Box" by Sunnyboys
Peak: number 46
We started with Ray Parker Jr, who'd have a huge 1984, and we finish with a band for whom it would also be a significant year - but for all the wrong reasons. "Love In A Box" was released just ahead of Sunnyboys' third album, Get Some Fun, which had been recorded in the UK. Unfortunately, the single peaked two places lower than 1983's "Show Me Some Discipline", which was also included on the album, and the album only reached number 36. The downturn in their chart fortunes can only have exacerbated the conflict already present in the band and that, together with singer Jeremy Oxley's personal problems, led Sunnyboys to break up in the middle of the year. Of course, they'd be back in 1988 and every so often ever since, including for a series of shows last month.

Next week: after a couple of weeks of pretty average new entries, four big hits make their debut - including a cover version that featured the original performer in the video, the biggest hit by a misleadingly named new wave band and a local one-hit wonder.

Back to: Mar 11, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 25, 1984

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: March 15, 1992

Number 1 singles and albums are pretty hard to achieve. Even harder - a career made up entirely of chart-toppers. Although, it must be said, the odds of managing that are somewhat increased by not releasing that many records.

Eight years later, The 12th Man was back on the singles chart

In 1992, an Australian comedian maintained his flawless (up until that point) chart record by sending a second single to the top of the ARIA chart. Yes, there'd been an eight-year gap between singles, but in that time, he'd also notched up two number 1 albums. He'd add a third chart-topping album to his tally by the end of the year.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 15, 1992

This week in 1992, the song that would eventually make way for Mr Consistent held on to the number 1 spot. "Saltwater" by Julian Lennon remained on top for a second week.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Kiss You Back" by Digital Underground
Peak: number 97
Their first - and biggest - US hit, "The Humpty Dance", hadn't registered in Australia, but the ever-evolving hip-hop group's second Billboard top 40 single sneaked into our top 100.

Number 96 "In My Heart" by Texas
Peak: number 92
Another Texas single, another woeful chart position in Australia. This second release from Mothers Heaven also became the band's lowest peaking song in the UK - a record it held until 2013.

New Entries
Number 47 "Anthem" by The Clouds
Peak: number 47
Peaking two places lower than previous single "Hieronymous", The Clouds seemed to have run out of steam - but not in my house. One of my sisters was a massive fan of The Clouds and since she had Penny Century on pretty high rotation, I'd often hear "Anthem" emanating from her room in the gaps between whatever songs I was playing in my room - probably Euphoria and 2 Unlimited at this point in time. Whether or not it was because I was worn down by the repeated exposure, I actually quite enjoyed the melodic indie-pop of The Clouds, but unfortunately for the Sydney band, they'd never be seen on the top 50 again.

Number 18 "Marvellous!" by The 12th Man featuring M.C.G. Hammer
Peak: number 1
Because I'm only just recapping the ARIA charts from 1984 this year, I'm yet to cover "It's Just Not Cricket", which I'll get to in June. But suffice it to say that the chart-topping comedy release had been a monster record, ending 1984 as the second biggest single of the year. Since then, The 12th Man (aka comedian Billy Birmingham) had scored two number 1 albums with 1987's Wired World Of Sports and 12th Man Again! in 1990. And so by 1992, Australia was more than ready for him to pay another visit to the singles chart.
"It's Just Not Cricket" had been a comedy routine in the vein of "Australiana" (which Billy had written) - except with racist jokes about Pakistani team members' names instead of gags about koalas and pavlovas. "Marvellous", however, was another type of record altogether. Essentially a rap song by Billy as Richie Benaud and various other members of the Channel 9 cricket commentary team, it seems more than a little inspired by "Do The Bartman". Helping Billy out on backing vocals were some big names - John Farnham, Diesel, Jimmy Barnes and Glenn Shorrock, as well as other local musos like Graham Bidstrup and Dave Steel. 
Since I watch about as much cricket as I listen to comedy records, I'd never been swept up in The 12th Man craze and so you can probably guess what I thought of this track. But true to form, "Marvellous" maintained Billy's perfect track record of number 1 releases - and I could certainly admire that.

Next week: the latest revamp of the ARIA chart finally goes national, while one of the week's new entries comes from the male singer who gave Southern Sons' Jack Jones a run for his money in the hair and power ballad stakes.

Back to: Mar 8, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 22, 1992

30 Years Ago This Week: March 15, 1987

I love a chart week like this one. Four future top 10 singles - three of them top 5 hits. And I actually like all of them!

A slew of big new hits debuted on the top 50 this week in 1987

From a Stock Aitken Waterman-sounding cover version to an emotional duet by two of Britain's most respected singers; the debut single by a songwriter-turned-vocalist to the second hit for a two-hit wonder, the new songs covered most bases and would quickly be among the biggest sellers in the country.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 15, 1987

After four weeks of The Bangles and Kim Wilde playing swapsies at the top of the chart, the biggest selling single this week in 1987 was "I Wanna Wake Up With You" by Boris Gardiner. The slushy ballad spent a solitary week at number 1 after a 19-week climb up the top 100.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Rock Me Baby" by Johnny Nash
Peak: number 99
I'm not sure why this 1985 single from the man who'd recorded the original version of "I Can See Clearly Now" (number 3 in 1972) took so long to reach the top 100, but it didn't get any further.

Number 82 "Fire" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 82
A number 7 hit in 1979 for The Pointer Sisters - their first single as a trio - "Fire" had never been released by its writer until this concert version from Live/1975-85.

Single Of The Week
"Every Little Kiss" by Bruce Hornsby And The Range
Peak: number 75
I've never understood why this follow-up to top 20 hit "The Way It Is" performed so dismally in Australia. Yes, it'd also flopped in the US when released as Bruce Hornsby And The Range's debut single in 1986. But "Every Little Kiss" ended up reaching number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 when re-released in 1987 (after "Mandolin Rain") - a case of a good song just needing a receptive audience. In Australia, the song about a long-distance relationship didn't find that audience. Or maybe people just bought the album instead. Although it only reached number 20 on the albums chart, The Way It Is was a solid seller until August.

"Arizona Sky" by China Crisis
Peak: number 52
I've mentioned before that China Crisis is one of those bands I probably should like, but whose music has always passed me by. The first single from the British synthpop band's fourth album, What Price Paradise, "Arizona Sky" is the song that comes closest to exciting me, but I feel like there's something missing. The single also came close to giving China Crisis a third top 50 hit, spending six weeks just outside in the 50s instead.

New Entries
Number 49 "Coming Around Again" by Carly Simon
Peak: number 28
In a case of life imitating song title, Carly Simon came back around to the Australian top 50 for the first time in seven years with the title track from her 13th studio album. After a short-lived deal with Epic Records, which produced one album in 1985, the '70s hitmaker signed to Arista with much more success. Synth ballad "Coming Around Again", which was featured in the Meryl Streep/Jack Nicholson film Heartburn, made the US top 20 and UK top 10. In Australia, the song advanced to number 34 before dropping back and then, er, coming around again to rise to its eventual peak. 

Number 48 "True Blue" by John Williamson
Peak: number 43
It shouldn't surprise me by now to recall that many bona fide Australian classics weren't actually that commercially successful. Just like "Throw Your Arms Around Me" and "Sounds Of Then (This Is Australia)" in 1986, arguably the most famous song by country singer John Williamson was a chart disappointment, not even making the top 40. And like the Hunters & Collectors song, "True Blue" had more than one chance to become a hit. 
Originally released in 1982 on the best of album of the same name - and apparently issued as a single - "True Blue" was re-recorded in late 1986 and included on the Mallee Boy album. This time, it picked up some momentum, aided by its use in a series of ads promoting the Australian Made initiative, but fell short of becoming a hit single. Mallee Boy, meanwhile, was doing much better. This week, it spent its second week inside the albums top 10 and finished 1987 as the year's 24th biggest LP.

Number 45 "Witch Queen" by Chantoozies
Peak: number 4
It's obvious what Mushroom Records saw in Chantoozies, who'd formed to perform at member Tottie Goldsmith's 25th birthday party. The band, with four female singers sharing the lead, could be Australia's answer to Bananarama. And their remake of Redbone's 1971 song "The Witch Queen Of New Orleans" (number 17 in Australia) would be their "Venus", right down to the drum patterns and unison vocals. 
It didn't hurt one bit that the singers - Tottie, Ally Fowler, Eve Von Bibra and Angie La Bozzetta - were already familiar thanks to having appeared in one Australian drama or another. Or that one of the four guys who completed the eight-piece was David Reyne, brother of Australian Crawl's frontman, James. "Witch Queen" wasn't quite as big as Bananarama's remake, but it was a start. And surely the song they chose to cover as the follow-up would go all the way to number 1...

Number 34 "We Connect" by Stacey Q
Peak: number 7
More frothy pop now and the second top 10 hit for Stacey Q. Like "Two Of Hearts", the just-as-infectious "We Connect" reached number 7 in Australia. The single did way better here than in America, where it crawled to number 35 (compared to the number 3 peak of "Two Of Hearts") - and that was even after Stacey made a return appearance as Cinnamon on sitcom The Facts Of Life to perform the song (towards the end of the episode). In Australia, the number seven had proved to be lucky for Stacey so far, but subsequent singles peaked instead in the 70s, making her a two-hit wonder.

Number 21 "C'est La Vie" by Robbie Nevil
Peak: number 4
Just before I wrote this week's post, I was finishing off transcribing my interview with songwriter-turned-singer Julia Michaels (who's written a stack of massive singles for other performers in recent years). What I didn't realise was that before he reached the top 5 in Australia, the US and the UK, Robbie Nevil had also worked as a songwriter (although I did know that's what he did when the hits dried up for him a few years later). "C'est La Vie" was actually one of the songs he'd earlier handed off to another singer to perform, recorded by R&B artist Beau Williams in 1984. When he landed his own record deal, Robbie included his version of the song (with a little help from some fantastic backing singers) on his debut album - and it got his career off to a flying start.

Number 20 "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel / Kate Bush
Peak: number 5
His last single, the excellent "In Your Eyes", had barely registered on the top 100, but Peter Gabriel soon found himself back in the ARIA top 5 with this tender duet with Kate Bush. About as far removed from the exuberance of "Sledgehammer" (both musically and visually) as you could get, the understated "Don't Give Up" told the story of a husband's unemployment from two perspectives - the man's anguish and his wife's resilience. 
Peter had originally approached Dolly Parton to perform alongside him, but when she declined, he enlisted fellow Brit Kate, who'd last been seen on the chart two years earlier with top 10 hit "Running Up That Hill". According to Peter, he asked the permission of his then-wife, JiIl, to embrace Kate for the duration of the video due to the rocky state of his marriage at the time. I can't say "Don't Give Up" is one of my favourite songs, but I do like it - and certainly a lot more than the 2006 remake by Shannon Noll and Natalie Bassingthwaighte (which actually peaked higher, reaching number 2).

Next week: the song that would serve as the theme to a new music show... for the next 30 years, plus one of the year's biggest hits not to reach number 1 and the solo debut of a singer who'd reached number 1 with his former band.

Back to: Mar 8, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 22, 1987

Saturday, 11 March 2017

This Week In 1984: March 11, 1984

I'm sure no band ever sets out to be a one-hit wonder. But if you had to be one, then best to have your sole smash single in the '80s.

They looked the part and got off to a good start, but Re-Flex were just another short-lived '80s band

Why? Well, as we all know, '80s one-hit wonders are far superior to those from any other decade. And with music videos widespread by then, your big hit song - and the crazy fashion that went with it - is preserved for posterity (i.e. regular rotation on Max).

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 11, 1984

A song that's never far away from being played on Max was still number 1 this week in 1984. "Love Is A Battlefield" by Pat Benatar ruled the roost for a fourth week.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "So Many Men, So Little Time" by Miquel Brown
Peak: number 94
Camp classic #1: if anyone tried to sing this now, they'd be slut-shamed out of the industry. But in 1984, Sinitta's mother's seminal Hi-NRG track was a gay club smash, if not a chart hit.

Number 93 "Only For You" by Louise Tucker
Peak: number 80
"Midnight Blue" had reached the top 30, but this next slice of synthpopera from the mezzo-soprano didn't connect. "Only For You" is based on Ronald Binge's composition "Elizabethan Serenade".

Number 83 "Where's My Man" by Eartha Kitt
Peak: number 70
Camp classic #2: it'd been almost 30 years since her last top 40 hit, "Nothin' For Christmas", and unfortunately for the one-time Catwoman, this seductive song didn't change that. 

Number 82 "That's All" by Genesis
Peak: number 62
It was one of their poppiest songs to date, but "That's All" didn't match "Mama" by making the top 50. This was the last we'd see of Genesis until their 1986-87 success. During that period, the actual follow-up to "Mama", "Home By The Sea", would make a belated visit to the chart. 

New Entries
Number 48 "King Of Pain" by The Police
Peak: number 44
As The Police headed off on the hiatus they'd never fully come back from, a fourth and final single from Synchronicity slipped into the top 50. What no one could've known at the time was that "King Of Pain", which was written about Sting's breakup with first wife Frances Tomelty, would be the final new song by the band to make the ARIA chart. Although a peak of number 44 is certainly an anti-climactic way for the reigning biggest band in the world to conclude their chart run, "King Of Pain" did much better than the album's third single, "Synchronicity II", which missed the top 100 in late 1983. Of course, this wasn't quite the last we'd see of The Police in the top 50, with a re-recording of "Don't Stand So Close To Me" charting in 1986 as the band well and truly split.

Number 46 "Baby You're Dynamite" by Cliff Richard
Peak: number 46
Cliff Richard celebrated his 25th anniversary as a recording artist in 1983 and released the appropriately titled Silver album to mark the milestone. Unfortunately, it wasn't the most momentous of occasions from a chart point of view. The album's first single, "Never Say Die (Give A Little Bit More)" had proved to be a fizzler and this follow-up barely made the top 50. It was one of those periods in Cliff's career - like most of the '70s - where he was out of step with what was popular with the Australian record buying public. And although he still had the odd hit single to come, chart success would be more of a novelty - sometimes literally - than as part of a resurgence, like he'd enjoyed between 1979 and 1982.

Number 45 "The Politics Of Dancing" by Re-Flex
Peak: number 12
At the very end of the music video for "The Politics Of Dancing", a caption comes up on the screen saying "to be continued...". Unfortunately for Britain's Re-Flex, their chart career came to an abrupt end following this new wave hit, with no further singles from the album of the same name reaching the top 100. It wasn't for want of trying, with another five songs lifted from The Politics Of Dancing in various parts of the world - songs like "Hurt", "Praying To The Beat" and "Hitline". Did Re-Flex deserve to never have another hit? Well, at least they got as high as number 12 locally. In the UK and the US, "The Politics Of Dancing" was only a minor top 30 success.

Next week: another quiet week on the ARIA chart, with the arrival of the other version of "The Curly Shuffle" and a single that's not, as I'd hoped, by Lydia from Fame

Back to: Mar 4, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 18, 1984

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: March 8, 1992

Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers... If I was a rock music fan, I'd be loving delving back to when all those bands had their first big hits in Australia. But, I'm not. Still, no one forced me to do these chart flashbacks, so I guess I'll take the rock with the pop. 

The Gus Van Sant-directed video for "Under The Bridge"

This week in 1992, two of the bands I just mentioned returned to the ARIA top 50 with new singles. For one of the groups, it'd be their first major hit - a song that would go all the way to number 1. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 8, 1992

The number 1 single in Australia 25 years ago this week was "Saltwater" by Julian Lennon, which ascended to the top in its 23rd week on the top 100.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt
Peak: number 77
One of Bonnie Raitt's best known songs - a top 20 hit in the US - has been memorably covered by George Michael and Adele, among others. This was Bonnie's last top 100 appearance.

Number 98 "Zero" by Jenny Morris
Peak: number 89
As I've remarked before, I'd have thought this would've been a much stronger follow-up to "Break In The Weather" - even if it sounded a little similar. Surprisingly, a fourth single was released from Honeychild, but "Crackerjack Man" missed the top 100.

Number 76 "Hit" by The Sugarcubes
Peak: number 76
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, this lead release from Stick Around For Joy became the Icelandic band's only chart "hit" in Australia. Singer Björk would have much more luck on her own.

"From A Million Miles" by Single Gun Theory
Peak: number 64
Doing for electronic music what rooArt did for indie bands, Volition Records was responsible for signing and cultivating excellent - and under-appreciated - acts like Boxcar, Southend and Itch-E And Scratch-E. Also on the Volition roster was Sydney's Single Gun Theory, who specialised in dreamy, floaty synthpop like "From A Million Miles", their equal most successful single. They returned to the dizzy heights of number 64 in 1994 with "Fall", which was among my favourite songs for that year.

"All Woman" by Lisa Stansfield
Peak: number 52
Just when she'd got her chart career back on track in Australia with second top 50 hit "Change", Lisa Stansfield went and released the deathly slow "All Woman" as its follow-up. The type of sophisticated, beautifully performed and produced ballad that was never going to work in Australia, it was the closest Lisa ever got to the top 50 for the rest of her career despite continuing to rack up UK top 10s like "In All The Right Places" and "The Real Thing" until 1997.

New Entries
Number 49 "Ghost Of A Texas Ladies' Man" by Concrete Blonde
Peak: number 31
OK, bring on the rock... Making a return to the top 50 is the band behind one of my least favourite singles of 1990. This Wild West-themed lead single from the Walking In London album didn't do anything to alter my thoughts on Concrete Blonde and, if anything, felt a little bit like a novelty record. This would be the band's final top 50 appearance in Australia.

Number 45 "Thought I'd Died And Gone To Heaven" by Bryan Adams
Peak: number 13
The only interesting thing I have to say about this latest soft rock power ballad from singles machine Bryan Adams is that it provoked a dramatic turnaround in his chart fortunes. After the lacklustre number 30 placing for "There Will Never Be Another Tonight", "Thought I'd Died And Gone To Heaven" restored him to back up near the top 10 - a chart roller-coaster that was almost the mirror image of how the two songs placed in the US. Of course, all that revival did was prompt Bryan's record company to release even more singles from the album...

Number 43 "Under The Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Peak: number 1
What do you do when your funk-meets-hard rock singles aren't quite cutting through? For Red Hot Chili Peppers, you pull an Extreme and release a ballad instead. And just like "More Than Words", "Under The Bridge" changed everything for RHCP. Having peaked in the 40s with both "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away", the LA band suddenly found themselves with a chart-topper on their hands. 
With lyrics written by singer Anthony Kiedis about the impact his drug use had on his life, the song still had the edge the Chili Peppers were known for, but it didn't smack you in the face like their previous two top 50 appearances had done. As these things so often go, it was producer Rick Rubin who convinced Anthony to share his lyrics and could see the potential of the song as it developed way before the band could.
Unlike Extreme, who found it difficult to parlay their pop success into increased fandom for their regular material, "Under The Bridge" served as an introduction to RHCP that many people followed up by getting into their earlier stuff. As Blood Sugar Sex Magik headed towards the top of the albums chart, previous album Mother's Milk entered the top 40. Later in the year, a compilation of songs from their first four albums (with "Under The Bridge" tacked on) reached the top 10.
Personally, I found "Under The Bridge" to be the band's least objectionable single yet, but yes, I do prefer the All Saints version, even if its lyrical changes completely alter the song's meaning.

Number 41 "Come As You Are" by Nirvana
Peak: number 25
While Red Hot Chili Peppers were on the way up, Nirvana were already there. This week in 1992, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" reached its peak position of number 5, while Nevermind spent its 10th week in the top 10. Next came the song everyone assumed would give the band their commercial breakthrough - only thing was, that'd happened thanks to "Smells...". In fact, it was the mainstream appeal of "Come As You Are" that had convinced the band to release the song, despite misgivings about the fact its intro was incredibly similar to "Eighties" by Killing Joke. Potential plagiarism aside, "Come As You Are" maintained the soft verse/loud chorus approach of Nirvana's previous single, while its blurry, watery music video allowed Kurt Cobain to shy away from the direct spotlight, something he was already struggling with.

Next week: the return of an act that'd topped the chart eight years earlier with another number 1 single. 

Back to: Mar 1, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 15, 1992