Tuesday, 17 March 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: March 17, 1985

There are some songs that are so much a part of pop culture that it's hard to remember a time before they came into existence. The highest new entry on the ARIA chart this week in 1985 is one of those songs - a single that became so much more than just another hit for its rising star.

Madonna went from virgin to vamp in 1985

It wasn't the only '80s classic to hit the ARIA chart 30 years ago this week - and it's beginning to feel like each week of 1985 offered up songs that have stood the test of time. Is it just me or was it an amazing time for pop music? 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 17, 1985

Another stand-out '80s song, "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner, spent its fifth and final week at number 1 this week in 1985. What would dethrone it? Find out next week...


Off The Chart
Number 100 "When Love Breaks Down" by Prefab Sprout
Peak: number 55
This would become their first UK top 40 hit upon re-release in November 1985 - which was around the time the British band also cracked the ARIA top 50 (although with a different single).

Number 94 "Hang On To Your Love" by Sade
Peak: number 68
The Diamond Life album was a top 20 staple, but Sade couldn't match "Smooth Operator" with another hit single. "Hang On To Your Love" peaked four places lower than fellow flop "Your Love Is King".

Number 81 "Sex (I'm A...) / The Metro" by Berlin
Peak: number 81
After a couple of top 40 hits in 1984, this double A-side from August 1983 was re-released but only improved its chart peak by eight spots. "Sex (I'm A...)" is my preferred of the two synthpop classics.


New Entries
Number 50 "Lay Your Hands On Me" by Thompson Twins
Peak: number 28
I've just spent ages trying to distinguish the original British version of this Thompson Twins single from the Nile Rodgers remix, which came out in the US later in 1985. The UK version had been intended to be the first release from Here's To Future Days, but it was the US mix that would end up included on the album. I believe this music video features the UK mix - but except for a more prominent use of the backing vocals in the chorus, they don't sound that different to me. Either way, "Lay Your Hands On Me" was a return to form for the Twins, almost as good as the first three singles from their previous album, Into The Gap - even if the British and Australian record-buying public didn't seem to agree.




Number 49 "Body Rock" by Maria Vidal
Peak: number 26
There seemed to be no end to the onslaught of breakdancing films - and while that might not have been good news for fans of quality cinema, the music associated with the dance craze (both soundtrack hits and stand-alone singles) had generally been pretty good. Taken from the film of the same name, "Body Rock" followed recent top 50 hits by Irene Cara, Rock Steady Crew and Ollie & Jerry into the chart - and in my opinion should actually have gone a lot higher. Still it did better than the single released by the movie's star, Lorenzo LamasThings I didn't know about American singer Maria Vidal until now: 1) she was once in a group with songwriting machine Desmond Child, 2) she went on to co-write Belinda Carlisle's "Summer Rain", 3) she married another songwriting legend, Rick Nowels.




Number 48 "Voices" by Russ Ballard
Peak: number 46
Speaking of legendary songwriters, here's one responsible for such hits as "You Can Do Magic" (America), "God Gave Rock And Roll To You" (Argent), "So You Win Again" (Hot Chocolate) and "I Know There's Something Going On" (Frida). Good thing he had all those royalties coming in, since Russ never managed a big hit as a performer in his own right. In Australia, "Voices" was his only top 100 appearance, while in the States, the number 58 peak of 1980's "On The Rebound" was his best achievement. I don't recall this song from the time and I'm trying to put my finger on what it reminds me of.  All I keep thinking is that it sounds like the sort of rock-meets-synthpop song that would've featured in Miami Vice - and not surprisingly, it did.




Number 47 "Sussudio" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 8
Here's another artist whose music was favoured by quintessentially '80s crime series Miami Vice - and the Genesis frontman even appeared in an episode later in the year. Named after a made-up word Phil came up with during the recording process, "Sussudio" put the singer back in the ARIA top 10 after record company wrangling resulted in "Easy Lover" not getting a proper release in Australia. The single was the lead release from No Jacket Required, which would debut on the albums chart in a couple of weeks on its way to number 1. We'd be seeing a lot more of Phil in the months to come, just like our next artist...




Number 25 "Material Girl" by Madonna
Peak: number 4
Thirty years ago, Madonna really couldn't put a foot wrong - with this second single from Like A Virgin speeding up charts around the world. It's almost easy to forget now, when she can't score a hit single to save her life and gets more attention for her missteps than her music, just how massive she was in 1985. 
"Material Girl" was a crucial part of that success - a song and video (thank you, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) so iconic that they prevented the juggernaut that was "Like A Virgin" from overshadowing everything that came after it. Indeed, it seemed like just when you thought Madonna couldn't outdo herself, she'd surprise you again - a skill she put to use for the next couple of decades.
Although it's become inextricably linked with her, "Material Girl" didn't have Madonna's input before she recorded it. Instead, late '70s singer Peter Brown co-wrote it with a guy called Robert Rans. But the song fit like a long pink glove and the title became a nickname that still gets used all these years later. Produced by Nile Rodgers (him again), it became her third top 5 hit in Australia and the second of a string of nine top 10 singles that took her through until the end of 1986.




Next week: two excellent top 50 entries from Dragon and Spandau Ballet, and a bunch of curious singles that fell short.


Back to: Mar 10, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 24, 1985


7 comments:

  1. This week's new chart entries contain several tracks I quite like, but didn't hear until many years later. Namely, the Sade, Berlin (both), and Thompson Twins tracks.

    I first heard the Sade track when selecting it as an extra 'padding' track to download on (I think) Bigpond music in 2011 (you could only purchase pre-paid amounts with a minimum of $20 I think). It's now one of my favourite track of theirs (though I want to say hers).

    I can't remember where I first heard 'Sex (I'm a...)' (apparently the ... is meant to be 'slut' [can I say that here?]), which she proclaims notably during the middle breakdown in the 12" version). Possibly it was on rage. But it became a staple track for me during a period where I was catching a train to work, along with (fittingly) 'The Metro', and 'Dancing In Berlin'. A world away from MOR 'Take My Breath Away', and much better too IMO.

    I first heard 'Lay Your Hands On Me' late last year when finding it on VHS compilation I picked up. The version I've got is edited slightly differently towards the end, with more shots of the celebrity look-a-likes (Grace Jones, Billy Idol) in the audience. Probably no chance of being able to upload it though, given that the video you've embedded is on a Vevo account. Hearing it again now, I'm surprised Oil of Olay didn't use the song in an ad ("Olay your hands"). Maybe they tried but weren't granted permission? The version used in the video you've embedded is just subtly different I think (or maybe it's just my memory?) from the audio on the version I have (ripped from a UK promo compilation). But when I tried to download the song afterwards, I found a bunch of different versions that were different to this again.

    I'm surprised 'Body Rock' only peaked at #26; especially considering I didn't know the Thompson Twins song at the time (despite knowing of them) and it only peaked 2 places lower.

    I thought I heard or read somewhere that the 'Sussudio' song title came about due to some Japanese woman he was working with (or dating?) who pronounced studio as 'sudio'.

    I think I thought Madonna was singing "I am Mamma Terial girl' (?) at the time, which confused me. Given how readily the 'material girl' name for her stuck, it's surprising to see that it didn't actually top the chart in any major market (to my knowledge, without checking), and 'stalled' at #4 here. Actually, I remember when looking at her Oz chart history last year that she's never had a #2 or #3-peaking single here; her top 10 hits were either #1 or #4 or lower. How odd.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another interesting countdown Grant.

    Although it's not my favourite Madonna song by a long stretch, Material Girl started off Madonna's killer 1985 - she could do no wrong for the rest of the year.

    Shame 'When Love Breaks Down' didn't go higher - it's still an amazingly beautiful song.

    I'd forgotten about that Thompson Twins song - loved it at the time and thought it should have gone higher, but is forgotten amongst their 1983-84 releases.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd forgotten about the TT song, too - and it prompted me to give the best of I have a spin again. Oh, and it's Gavin!

      Delete
    2. Oops my bad Gavin! - wrong chart buddy. *Gavin* *Gavin*

      Delete
  3. Definitely the UK version of "hands" in the video - the US version has a sharper "hands!" in the chorus (UK version - "oh lay your haaands....lay your hands on me". US version - "oh lay your HANDS! Lay your hands on me".

    "Easy Lover" was never actually officially released in Australia - it slipped into the Top 100 well after it had been and gone at radio due to imports, I believe. I tried to buy it the whole time it was being played and the store couldn't order it for me.

    I think it's easy to look at a song's peak decades later and be surprised when something "stalls" at (e.g.) #4. In reality, a #4 hit can be just as big (if not bigger, in some instances) than a #1, if the situation is right. Madonna herself has a few examples of these ("Holiday", "Material Girl", "Express Yourself" and several others were actually much bigger than their peaks would indicate). Similarly, "Burning Up" and "Borderline", whilst peaking just outside the Top 10, would probably be remembered by people from back then as being sizeable hits.

    As always, Gavin, your work is fascinating! Thank you (even though I'm two years late ;-).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thanks for the info on Easy Lover. Yes, going by catalogue numbers, it looks like imports from New Zealand made their way over to Australia. Good to finally have an explanation for that!

      Delete
    2. Glad to heave helped! Molly Meldrum used to complain bitterly about the stupid situation that prevented the single from being released here (disagreement between the two artists' record companies, as you mentioned). I remember being extremely surprised to see that it had actually charted here when I got David Kent's chart book in the mid-90s, because I knew it definitely hadn't been released here. As you've shown, anyone looking at the situation in retrospect, though, would assume that it had flopped (even though it was a massive hit at radio here).

      P!nk's "Just Like A Pill" is a semi-related example, in that it was never released in Australia, but slipped into the chart years after release thanks to downloads (so now, to someone who wasn't aware of the situation, it looks like it flopped in Australia. Again, it was massive at radio - you just couldn't buy it as a single here at the time).

      Delete