Tuesday, 23 June 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: June 23, 1985

Many of the bands that have featured in my look back at the Australian charts of the late '80s had careers that extended well beyond that era. But 30 years ago this week, the five groups responsible for the new entries on the ARIA singles top 50 had all run out of steam by the end of the decade.

Everyone get the teased hair and eyeliner memo? Good.

Later reunions notwithstanding, the bands - two Australian rock groups, two British New Wave bands and an American synthpop act - had mostly gone their separate ways by the time the '90s began, with only one of the five managing a studio album after 1989 (not that it did anything).

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 23, 1985

Another '80s band that had more or less wound up (for the time being) by the conclusion of the decade was at number 1 this week in 1985. British duo Eurythmics held strong with "Would I Lie To You?", but its days at the top were numbered.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Over The Rainbow" by Sam Harris
Peak: number 65
Before Idol and The X Factor, there was Star Search - and this guy won the first ever American season (which I assume aired in Australia) thanks to this OTT version of the tune from The Wizard Of Oz. Makes Mariah sound like a stickler for melody.

Number 87 "Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton
Peak: number 87
If people thought "Strut" was racy, then this follow-up, written by Prince (under the pseudonym Alexander Nevermind), pushed the sexual envelope even further - the walls in question are those of Sheena's vagina.

Number 83 "Underground" by The Angels
Peak: number 55
Fourth single from Two Minute Warning - and the third in a row to miss the top 50. A change in fortune for the Australian band wouldn't come until 1986.

Number 74 "Cannonball" by Supertramp
Peak: number 63
Former member Roger Hodgson almost cracked the top 20 earlier in 1985, but Supertramp missed the mark with this single from Brother Where You Bound - a long way from the number 11 peak of their last hit, "It's Raining Again", at the end of 1982.


New Entries
Number 49 "Man Overboard" by Do-Re-Mi
Peak: number 5
Forming in 1981 and splitting in 1988, Do-Re-Mi might have sounded familiar to music fans for two reasons. Firstly, even though "Man Overboard" was their debut single, the song had been previously released (on The Waiting Room EP from 1983). Secondly and more likely, singer Deborah Conway had provided the vocals for the character of Carol (played by Tracy Mann) in ABC's rock series Sweet & Sour
One of those odd songs that doesn't have an actual chorus, "Man Overboard" was different to the rest of the songs on the top 50 in another way - it was the only one with lines like: "your pubic hairs are on my pillow" and "you talk about penis envy". After this promising and unique start, however, the Melbourne band never came close to a top 5 single again.




Number 47 "Black Man Ray" by China Crisis
Peak: number 30
Yes, they released an album in 1994 and another one two decades later in 2014, but as far as chart success goes, China Crisis' was limited to their five studio albums released between 1982 and 1989. Taken from the middle on those, Flaunt The Imperfection, "Black Man Ray" easily became their biggest Australian hit - although it's a song that's never really struck a chord with me. It's a pleasant enough tune with a typically '80s sounding vocal from Gary Daly, so I should like it, but it's always failed to really grab my attention. I also find the fact that it just kind of drifts off at the end problematic - like no one knew how to finish the song properly.




Number 42 "Everything I Need" by Men At Work
Peak: number 37
With great success so often comes great turmoil - and by 1985, Men At Work were a band in disarray. Their third album, Two Hearts (which also debuted on the albums top 50 this week), was recorded without two-fifths of the group's line-up (with bassist John Rees and drummer Jerry Speiser having been sacked), and was nowhere near as well received as Business As Usual and Cargo
Two Hearts would peak at number 16 at the end of the month - a massive comedown after two consecutive chart-toppers - while this first single was also a disappointment given those previous two albums had been led by "Who Can It Be Now?" (number 2) and "Dr Heckyll & Mr Jive" (number 6). 
I actually like "Everything I Need" and am surprised it didn't keep Men At Work near the top of the charts, but with members being fired or quitting at a rapid rate, it was no shock when the band ceased to exist early the next year, this single becoming the once world-conquering band's final top 100 appearance.




Number 40 "Obsession" by Animotion
Peak: number 12
Here's another band that would be beset by internal problems - with a series of decisions made by or on behalf of Animotion that brought about their eventual demise. Top of the list of things that caused waves within the synthpop group was the decision to record a cover of "Obsession", which had originally been released a couple of years earlier, performed by its writers, Michael Des Barres and Holly Knight. 
Since Animotion mostly performed original songs written by singer/guitarist Bill Wadhams, the fact that their breakthrough hit came from a remake didn't sit well with everyone in the band (especially Bill). Naturally, the success of "Obsession" (which reached number 6 in the US) prompted Animotion's record label to foist more externally composed music on them, including "I Engineer", the lead single from second album Strange Behavior
By the time third album Room To Move came around, Bill and original female singer Astrid Plane weren't in the group anymore - and Richard Marx's wife, actress/singer Cynthia Rhodes, was one of two new vocalists. That second, short-lived incarnation of the group landed another US top 10 hit, "Room To Move" (which was itself a remake of a Climie Fisher song), but in Australia, the band wasn't heard from again after "Obsession". 




Number 33 "Walls Come Tumbling Down!" by The Style Council
Peak: number 19
Earlier in the year, we saw "Soul Deep" by The Council Collective miss the top 50, but Paul Weller had more luck with this just-as-political track released by The Style Council on their own. The lead single from Our Favourite Shop (renamed Internationalists in the US), "Walls Come Tumbling Down!" is a call to action for people dissatisfied with the British government - and there were plenty of those. Listeners were told: "You don't have to take this crap/you don't have to sit back and relax/you can actually try changing it". At the time, I didn't focus on the lyrics too much and just thought it was a good song - at 10 years of age, international politics was hardly high on my list of interests.




Next week: not content with ascending to number 1, Madonna also lands a new song in the top 20. Plus, the singer of a stylish '70s band returns with his first solo work in seven years and a long-forgotten Prince single.


Back to: Jun 16, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 30, 1985


2 comments:

  1. I don't remember Sugar Walls but seeing what it was about, that may not be surprising, don't think it would have gotten much radio airplay. Looks like Sheena was really trying to shake that mumsy 'Morning Train' image once and for all.

    I only know the Supertramp song because it was the last (and least) track on a Supertramp compilation LP that my Dad bought and played a lot - it really didn't measure up to their earlier work.

    Man Overboard remains an amazing song in so many ways; as mentioned, no chorus, it has 'penis' and 'pubic hair' in the lyrics and it's so biting (makes Alanis Morissette look tame), yet it still made the Top 5. Domestic Harmony is a fine album too. Do Re Mi would have a few more charting hits after this one up until early 1988, but as mentioned didn't get near the top 10 even. Of course, Deborah Conway would go solo and have several more hits in the 90s. Didn't realise she did the Sweet and Sour theme song or voice Tracy Mann's character's songs until many years later. I didn't hear the Waiting Room EP either until about 10 years ago, but they have another amazing song on there 'Standing On Wires', worth checking out.

    Loved the 'Animotion' song, another one that takes me straight back to Winter 1985. I didn't realise it was a cover, and never knew what happened to them afterwards, thanks, was quite interesting.

    Never really got into any of China Crisis's songs unfortunately. Nor do I remember that last Men At Work song, they really disappeared from my view in 1983 after they sacked those two band members. Colin Hay would come out with a solo single in early 1987, that's the next I heard of any of them.

    I liked 'Walls Come Tumbling Down' but like you, aged 11 I didn't really understand what it was about or what was happening under Thatcherism in the UK at the time. I do now.




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  2. Interesting to see F.A.B.'s 'Happy People' in one of the state top 10's when it didn't break the top 50 nationally.

    Awful oversinging on the Sam Harris track.

    I don't think I heard 'Sugar Walls' until about 5 years ago, but somehow I knew of its title - probably read something about it in Smash Hits years later, such was its notoriety. It also made the 'dirty 30' list in America.

    'Obsession' is a song I forget how it goes no matter how many times I hear it. I confuse Animotion with Arcadia (another song I always forget how it goes) for some reason.

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