Wednesday, 10 June 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: June 10, 1990

Periodic reinventions are a necessary part of any pop act's career - and no one knows that more than the singer who went through her first major makeover 25 years ago this week.

That's one way to revamp your image

This week in 1990, the artist formerly known as the Singing Budgie sexed up her image - and it couldn't have come at a better time, with interest in her squeaky clean pop star style starting to wane.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending June 10, 1990

Meanwhile, without a doubt the best practitioner of career reinventions, Madonna, gave up the number 1 spot after five weeks as "Vogue/Keep It Together" made way for Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You", which began what felt like (for me) an interminable four-week stint at the top.


Breaker
"Something Happened On The Way To Heaven" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 58
Finally! After back-to-back singles that'd bored me to death, Phil Collins came up with the goods with this third release from "...But Seriously" - and, of course, it had to go and flop in Australia. Picking up the tempo from "Another Day In Paradise" and "I Wish It Would Rain Down", the horn-laden "Something Happened On The Way To Heaven" was one of two upbeat singles from the album - the other, "Hang In Long Enough", didn't chart in Australia.




New entries
Number 48 "Don't Shut Me Out" by Kevin Paige
Peak: number 43
After entering the top 100 in mid-April - and with some strong support from Western Australia, where it was in the top 10 - this slice of pop/funk finally dented the national top 50. Alas, "Don't Shut Me Out", which had peaked at number 18 in the US, didn't get much further. And, after one more Michael Jackson-influenced hit in the States, "Anything I Want" (which didn't chart in Australia), Kevin's pop career was over. These days, he's a Christian music performer alongside his wife, Bethany.




Number 47 "Here We Are" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 20
Here's another song that took its sweet time to breach the top 50, but unlike "Don't Shut Me Out", once Gloria Estefan's latest ballad got going, it went all the way to the top 20. The success of "Here We Are" when "1-2-3", "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" and "Get On Your Feet" all failed to ignite any interest locally proved yet again that Australia was more interested in Love Song Dedications-style tunes than Latin party hits from the former face of Miami Sound Machine. Although it's not my favourite ballad performed by Gloria (that'd be "Anything For You"), "Here We Are" was easily the best of the slowies taken from Cuts Both Ways - an album which took even longer to peak on the ARIA chart, finally spending two weeks at number 1 in August 1990.




Number 44 "Strawberry Fields Forever" by Candy Flip
Peak: number 29
How appropriate for one of the key songs of the psychedelic rock era to be revisited as Britain was still in the throes of an ecstasy-fuelled music explosion? UK trio Candy Flip brought The Beatles' 1967 hit (the double A-side to "Penny Lane") right up to date, adding synths and sampled drums (from James Brown's "Funky Drummer") to the dreamy ditty about a kids' home in Liverpool, England. In the UK, the cover peaked one place lower than the Fab Four's version (which reached number 2, ending a run of seven consecutive chart-toppers) - but Candy Flip came nowhere near that position with any of their original songs (next biggest single "This Can Be Real" reached number 60).




Number 36 "Tell Me A Story" by 1927
Peak: number 17
You'd have to think the chart performance of this lead single from 1927's second album, The Other Side, must have been somewhat of a disappointment. After finishing 1989 with the year's second biggest album, ...ish, which had spawned four consecutive top 20 hits (including two top 10s), hopes must have been high for a top 5 peak at least. With its choir of backing singers, "Tell Me A Story" certainly had the potential to be rousing enough, but even so, it left me cold - and it would seem that 1927's legion of Australian fans weren't entirely convinced either. Still, a number 17 hit is not too shabby - there would be plenty of time to panic following the performance of the band's next release.




Number 5 "Better The Devil You Know" by Kylie Minogue
Peak: number 4
It would've been very easy for Kylie Minogue to have kept churning out the same type of perky pop tunes courtesy of Stock Aitken Waterman and released a third album that was in no way a musical step forward from Kylie or Enjoy Yourself. After all, that's what ex-boyfriend Jason Donovan did with his SAW-produced second album, Between The Lines, which was also released in 1990 and tread water musically. But that's not what Kylie did. Not at all. 
Yes, she continued to work with the Hit Factory, but "Better The Devil You Know" - the lead single from the upcoming Rhythm Of Love album -  was like nothing Kylie had released before. And, as far as SAW were concerned, it harked back to a time several years earlier when the output of the songwriting and production trio didn't all sound the same (and I say that as a massive fan).
The first of four singles that are still regarded by many as the pinnacle of Kylie's pop career, "Better The Devil You Know" still had the glossy sheen of a SAW track, but it also had more complexity than, say, "Never Too Late" or "Got To Be Certain". The vocals were stronger, the production had more depth and, with its harder-edged, pulsating beat, the track felt more exciting and music-forward than anything she'd put her name to up until that point.
Clearly a few things were going on here. For one, thanks to Kylie's massive UK record sales over the previous couple of years, SAW (especially Pete Waterman, I'd wager) realised she was a guaranteed hit-maker and that it was worth spending that little bit extra time on her records. Hell, it was even worth letting her go off to America to record with the likes of Stephen Bray (Madonna) and Michael Jay (Martika) for Rhythm Of Love if it meant keeping her happy.
Then, there's the impact the singer's romance with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence had on her. The Kylie of "Better The Devil You Know" was a more adventurous and in control performer, and, as evidenced by the song's image-redefining music video, totally in touch with her sexuality and willing to use it in a way the public had never seen before. While the sexual overtones of some later-era Kylie clips might have the whiff of desperation about them - cough, "Sexercize", cough - there was an unforced vitality on display in "Better The Devil You Know". Everything from the little black dress to the big black man in whose arms Kylie snuggled worked perfectly - and in my opinion she's never bettered this music video.
Chart-wise, the track returned Kylie to the ARIA top 5 for the first time since "Hand On Your Heart" - a sure sign that a fantastic song can overcome any tall poppy backlash.




Next week: a classic U2 single gets a revelatory makeover, while a second generation musical trio march straight towards the top of the chart.


Back to: Jun 3, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 17, 1990


2 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I enjoyed reading it!

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Phil Collins track was played to death on Melbourne's Fox FM for months before its release as a single, though I could never figure out what it was called ('You Can Run (But You Can't Hide)' seemed the obvious title) until seeing the video for the first time on rage. No doubt that was part of the reason it flopped here - no-one knew what the song was called. The other reason being that anyone who liked it probably had (or bought) the album instead. I don't remember 'Hang In Long Enough' getting a local single release, but it may have.

    The Kevin Paige track seems very Robbie Nevil-esque to me.

    I liked 'Here We Are', but it's a tad bland compared to some of her earlier ballads (though not as bland as some that were to come).

    I think the Candy Flip track topped the not-the-'official' UK chart printed in Number One, so I thought it was a UK #1 for years.

    The new 1927 image (Eric's awful semi-mullet)/rockier sound was a step in the wrong direction from their previous album. I guess they really needed Garry Frost, who'd quit the band by now.

    Kylie's early song titles were surprisingly educational. I'd never heard the expressions 'I Should Be So Lucky' or 'Better the Devil You Know' (and didn't figure out their meanings for several years later) when she released those tracks, and also the French 'Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi', which I learned how to pronounce and the meaning of thanks to her. When I first heard BTDYK on the radio, I thought it might have been called 'Better Than Ever You Know' (i.e. singing about how great her current relationship is going), even though it didn't seem a likely song title. The video was quite a bold step for her at the time, but one she needed to take. The 'I'll take you back again' middle 8 was the highlight of the song for me, and more interesting than any previous one she'd had.

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