Thursday, 6 September 2012

25 Years Ago This Week: September 6, 1987

I don't know what was going on 25 years ago in the first week of September, but if the week's ARIA chart new entries are anything to judge by, every senior citizen in the country must have rushed to their local record store and bought up big. As we'll see, six of the seven songs I'll talk about had some sort of blue rinse appeal.

Whitney Houston almost had it all... except another smash hit in 1987

In 1987, buying music was still very much a cross-generational thing. Although CDs were starting to increase their market share, vinyl and casette tapes were still selling strongly - meaning it didn't matter how old you were, there was still a format you would be familiar with at your local record store.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending September 6, 1987

In 2012, with it only a matter of time until CDs are phased out, I suspect that the chart will skew ever younger as older music fans who don't know how to download are left out in the cold. But there was no fear of that in 1987, as you'll see with this week's new songs...

"My Pretty One" by Cliff Richard
Peak: number 56
This was the lead single from Always Guaranteed, Cliff's first studio album in a number of years, and although it missed the top 50, the follow-up, "Some People", would be a much bigger hit in the coming months. But, at 47 years of age, Cliff's days as a relevant artist were numbered, with his squeaky clean brand of pop losing favour in Australia. He'd keep scoring hits in the UK for a few more years, but after 1987, we'd only see him on the Australian top 50 on two more occasions: Christmas 1988 and 1999. There's a link to the music video in the song title, and a studio performance below, which features some amazing interpretive dance moves.

New entries
Number 50 "Diamonds" by Herb Alpert
Peak: number 47
Legendary trumpeter and band leader Herb Alpert is five years older than Cliff Richard (so, he was 52 years old in 1987), but this track from his Keep Your Eye On Me album was given a dose of cool by featuring the vocals of Janet Jackson and the production skills of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Despite the fact that "Diamonds" had the potential to appeal to two generations, it didn't do so well in Australia - but was a massive hit in the States. The full video (the song doesn't get going for a couple of minutes) is below, a link to an edited clip is in the song title.

Number 49 "Myfanwy" by David Essex
Peak: number 40
He was a teen sensation in the '70s, with massive singles like "Rock On" and "Hold Me Close", but by 1987, 40-year-old David Essex was struggling to spark much interest beyond his faithful fans, with this dreary little ditty just scraping in to the top 40. The lyrics were from a poem written by John Betjeman about his friend, Myfanwy Piper, who had been a regular collaborator of somposer Benjamin Britten's - but just try to get to the end of the clip without nodding off.

Number 47 "Do It Again" by Wall Of Voodoo
Peak: number 40
A band who surfaced every now and again to score a minor hit, Wall Of Voodoo had previously charted in 1983 with "Mexican Radio" and in 1986 with "Far Side Of Crazy", even though the line-up on both tracks was quite different. For their latest offering, the newer incarnation of the band tackled the 1968 Beach Boys classic and gave it a modern twist. Like the Herb Alpert song, the potential for cross-generational appeal was there, but it failed to capitalise on that.

Number 45 "Didn't We Almost Have It All" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 27
At home in America, this was another in her record-breaking streak of number 1 singles, but the follow-up to "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" was a relative flop in Australia. Two possible reasons why the big ballad (which would've appealed more to older fans) failed to go any higher are that most people had the Whitney album by now and this track did not have a music video. Instead a live clip was used, and it's one of those performances where Whitney does that annoying thing of not keeping in time with the music - holding on some words as long as she can before rushing to catch up for the end of sentences. Give me the album version any day.

Number 44 "Heart And Soul" by T'Pau
Peak: number 18
The only track that didn't have some link to an older demographic is this new entry by the British group led by Carol Decker. Named after a Star Trek character, T'Pau would only score this one top 50 hit in Australia, but in the UK, they'd have several more, including number 1 smash "China In Your Hand". I loved "Heart And Soul" and it's part-spoken, part-sung arrangement, but many of the group's other songs tended towards a more predictable pop/rock sound, so, "China In Your Hand" aside, Australia didn't miss out on too much.

Number 40 "Let's Dance" by Chris Rea
Peak: number 9
Chris might have only been 36 at the time this future top 10 hit charted, but he sounded much older, and "Let's Dance" was definitely middle-of-the-road pop/rock at its best. It's another song I liked in 1987, but may well have turned my nose up at a few years later when I started to realise that just because something was in the top 50, didn't mean I needed to like it.

What an odd collection of songs! Next Thursday, our look back at the ARIA charts will feature new songs from two of the biggest bands of the year. Before that, I'll be counting down my favourite singles and albums by Pet Shop Boys to coincide with the release of their latest studio album, Elysium.

Back to: Aug 30, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 13, 1987

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