Wednesday, 29 July 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: July 29, 1990

Of all the musical oddities I've recapped while writing this blog, few singles are as random as the ballad duet that debuted on the ARIA chart 25 years ago this week. Simultaneously, the first solo record from a member of a massive boy band and the English-language debut for a big Japanese singing star, it was an unlikely pairing.

There was nothing right about this musical combination in 1990

And while the boy bander escaped the release relatively unscathed, going on to enjoy some final hits with his group before their inevitable demise (and eventual resurrection) and later pursuing an acting career in which he's mostly played a detective, the Asian celebrity was never heard from on these shores again. As I said: random.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending July 29, 1990

Meanwhile, at number 1 this week in 1990, MC Hammer continued his stay at the chart summit with "U Can't Touch This" and solidified his position by snaring the top slot on each of the state charts as well. Seemed Hammer time wasn't going to be over for a while.


Off The Chart
Number 77 "I Didn't Want To Need You" by Heart
Peak: number 64
Following up a chart-topping smash with a power ballad penned by Diane Warren made perfect sense - pity this second single from Brigade wasn't one of Ms Warren's best.


Breaker
"Don't You Love Me" by 49ers
Peak: number 61
49ers frontwoman Dawn Mitchell sure had something to smile about in the video for this follow-up to "Touch Me". Unlike last time, when she valiantly did her best to sell herself as the singer of the Italo house track, the vocals heard in "Don't You Love Me" are hers. That's not to say the song is all original. Far from it. In between a vocal hook stolen (well, the writers weren't credited) from Jody Watley's "Don't You Want Me" and just about everything else lifted from "You Make Me Funky" by MC Magic Max, there was very little that was not taken from other tracks here. Not quite as great a song as "Touch Me", "Don't You Love Me" was still a solid dance tune that seemed to suffer from the sudden disinterest in Italo house that had befallen Black Box's "Everybody Everybody" as well.




New Entries
Number 48 "Happenin' All Over Again" by Lonnie Gordon
Peak: number 33
Intended for Donna Summer, given instead to club favourite Lonnie Gordon, "Happenin' All Over Again" was the only Stock Aitken Waterman-produced release not by Kylie Minogue or Jason Donovan to reach the UK top 10 in 1990. It was a massive comedown for the songwriting and production trio, who had dominated the British chart for the previous few years, landing seven UK number 1 singles in 1989 alone. 
The thing was - it was also one of their only decent songs from that year, with the Hit Factory churning out some absolute rubbish by the likes of Kakko, Romi & Jazz, LA Mood and Grand Plaz in 1990. Who? Exactly. But SAW had done some of their best work for Donna Summer's Another Place And Time album in 1989, so they clearly made more of an effort for "Happenin' All Over Again" than the rest of their 1990 output. In Australia, the song followed the pattern set by Donna's "This Time I Know It's For Real" by being a minor hit here until it was covered 16 years later by post-Australian Idol girl group Young Divas.




Number 46 "The Right Combination" by Seiko / Donnie Wahlberg
Peak: number 11
The aforementioned Kakko (real name: Kakuko Yamagata) wasn't the only Japanese singer trying to break into the English-speaking market in 1990 - and while she turned to British producers Stock Aitken Waterman in the hopes of landing a Western hit single, Seiko Matsuda went one better: convincing a member of the biggest boy band in the world to duet with her. And not just any member of New Kids On The Block - no, Seiko bagged bad boy Donnie Wahlberg. 
But despite Donnie's vocal ability being better than, say, Danny Wood's or Jon Knight's - even he couldn't prevent this most saccharine of ballads from being a complete mess. For one thing, Donnie and Seiko's voices didn't blend together well at all - in fact, at times "The Right Combination" (a misnomer if ever there was one) sounds more like cats fighting in an alleyway than music (case in point: the "for love" shrieking match at the 1:04 mark). 
Then there was Seiko's stilted delivery (case in point: the "ooh-ooh" at the 2:21 mark) and heavy accent, which made this seem more like a Fast Forward parody than an actual pop single. Astonishingly, "The Right Combination" was lapped up by Australian NKOTB fans - let's face it, that's who we have to thank for this almost making the top 10. By reaching number 11, the song did better here than in the UK by 33 spots and in the US by 43 positions. Well done. Australia.




Number 44 "Back Street Pick Up" by The Angels
Peak: number 23
I'm going to keep this brief since I feel like all I ever do is try to find something interesting to say about lesser-known singles by The Angels - and the only thing of note (as far as I can tell anyway) about this follow-up to "Dogs Are Talking" is it would end up being the band's final top 30 appearance in Australia. Correct me if I'm missing something.




Number 33 "Every Little Thing" by Jeff Lynne
Peak: number 31
It had certainly been a busy few years for Mr Lynne. As well as being one-fifth of The Traveling Wilburys, he'd co-produced albums for three of his band-mates (George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty) and also worked on his debut solo record, Armchair Theatre. Given how successful all those other projects had been and the fact that Electric Light Orchestra had been a pretty popular band in Australia in their time, it's a little surprising how little impact this ELO-esque lead single and the album itself had. It wasn't just in Australia that Jeff struggled - the album was almost universally ignored. Perhaps that omnipresence in the previous couple of years worked against him?




Number 18 "Hanky Panky" by Madonna
Peak: number 6
Next up, an artist whose omnipresence didn't seem to work against her one little bit - with yet another single from Madonna flying towards the upper reaches of the ARIA top 50. It was also yet another risque release from the Queen of Pop, although her ode to spanking may have raised more eyebrows had it not all been so tongue in cheek. The second single from Madonna's Dick Tracy soundtrack, I'm Breathless - and the first to actually showcase the jazz and swing elements heard throughout most of the album - "Hanky Panky" became her 18th top 10 hit in Australia. It's also one of my least favourite of her singles - feeling more like a novelty record than a pop song. Knowing when to move on to the next thing, Madonna quickly shifted to her next project after "Hanky Panky", with her final single release for 1990 really getting critics hot under the collar. 




Number 9 "Lay Down Your Guns" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 4
He may not have been as consistent as Madonna on the singles chart, but when it came to albums, there were few artists with as good a track record as Jimmy Barnes, whose four solo efforts up until this point had all peaked at number 1. A couple of months before the release of his fifth album, Two Fires, its lead single returned him to the ARIA top 5 for the fifth time in his career (following "Working Class Man", "Good Times", "Too Much Ain't Enough Love" and "When A Man Loves A Woman"). 
If it'd been sung by almost anyone else, I would've quite liked "Lay Down Your Guns" which had an incredibly catchy verse and bridge that unfortunately just felt like they were being tortured by Jimmy's shouting vocal style. The pop sensibility of the song was no doubt down to co-writer Rick Nowels, who'd been behind Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" and "Leave A Light On", and was one of a number of big-name American writers recruited to contribute to Two Fires
After working with the likes of Desmond Child and Jim Vallance on Freight Train Heart, Jimmy also collaborated with Diane Warren and Holly Knight this time around, likely a result of his new US deal with Atlantic Records. It might not have performed so well in the States, but Two Fires duly became Jimmy's fifth number 1 album in Australia when it debuted at the top in September.




Next week: two male singers who each enjoyed a top 10 hit in 1988 return - one with a radically different sound. Plus, two very different soundtrack singles debut, and a long overdue chart hit finally arrives on the top 50.


Back to: Jul 22, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 5, 1990


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: July 28, 1985

There came a point in time where I went from being a music fan who had never heard the original versions of cover songs or the old tracks that had been sampled in new releases to someone who had lived through those earlier records.

It might've been Dream Academy's only hit, but what a hit to have

I can't pinpoint the exact moment that happened, but it was definitely by the time the highest new entry from this week in 1985 was later sampled in a 1997 dance track - then, I was old enough to remember the single that first featured the riff and young enough to be in clubs when the new song was played. Thirty years ago this week, I doubt few people would have expected the one to lead to the other.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending July 28, 1985

Speaking of one thing leading to another, this week in 1985, an outgoing Madonna number 1 made way for a brand new Madonna chart-topper as "Angel/Into The Groove" stepped down and allowed "Crazy For You" to ascend to the top. The chart feat made Madonna the first act to replace themselves at number 1 since ABBA had done it twice a decade earlier (with "I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do" followed by "Mamma Mia" followed by "SOS") in late 1975/early 1976.


Off the chart
Number 93 "Baby Please Don't Go" by Willie And The Poor Boys
Peak: number 92
From an album of remakes by yet another rock supergroup - this time masterminded by The Rolling Stones' Bill Wyman - came this cover of the blues standard originally recorded by Big Joe Williams.


New entries
Number 50 "Cry" by Godley & Creme
Peak: number 43
After splitting from 10cc (with whom they recorded the much-covered "I'm Not In Love", number 3 in 1975), Lol Creme and Kevin Godley launched themselves as a duo in 1977 and soon became as famous - if not more so - for directing other artists' music videos as they were for their own music. 
Already in 1985, we'd seen their handiwork on Go West's "We Close Our Eyes", Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill" and "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" by Sting, whose future single "Englishman In New York" was not a remake of Godley & Creme's biggest Australian hit (and their music video directorial debut), "An Englishman In New York", which had reached number 17 in 1980.
"Cry", the first single from the pair's sixth album, The History Mix Volume 1, wasn't a massive hit in Australia - but its video was certainly groundbreaking for the time. Years before Michael Jackson utilised the same face-morphing technique in his promo for "Black Or White", Godley & Creme made more primitive use - in black and white - of analogue cross-fading. The song itself would eventually reach the ARIA top 10 when it was covered in 1992 by one of John Farnham's best known backing singers, Lisa Edwards.




Number 46 "(Billy) Don't Lose My Number" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 10
Speaking of music videos, Phil Collins just didn't know what to do about the clip for "Don't Lose My Number" (which got a slight title tweak for its single release in Australia) - or so the premise of the actual video would have you believe. As the latest hit from No Jacket Required (his third straight top 10) played in the background, the star of the recent Live Aid concerts considered pitches from various directors about what kind of video to make. With concepts ranging from Western to martial arts to Mad Max-inspired to spoofs of famous clips by The Police, David Lee Roth and The Cars, Phil got to show his funny side for once. For me, "(Billy) Don't Lose My Number" is Phil's best single - but it seems to have become overlooked in the years since, not even included on his ...Hits retrospective despite also being a sizable US hit, reaching number 4.




Number 39 "It's It's... The Sweet Mix" by Sweet
Peak: number 36
Massive in the mid-'70s, British glam rockers Sweet had topped the Australian chart with 1975's "Fox On The Run" and reached number 2 with "The Ballroom Blitz" two years before that, but by 1978, the band had fractured and weren't attaining the level of success they'd been used to. That year, "Love Is Like Oxygen" became their last top 10 hit - and chart appearance of any kind - in Australia, and by 1982, Sweet had called it a day. 
But, thanks to this megamix by DMC DJ Sanny X of "Blockbuster", "Hell Raiser" and "Teenage Rampage" on the 7" single, and those songs plus "Fox" and "Ballroom" on the 12" single, Sweet not only returned to the chart with the release - which served to promote the latest in a long line of compilation albums - but the band actually reformed. In fact, in the mid-'80s, there were two rival versions of Sweet - one centred around guitarist/keyboardist Andy Scott which retained the original band name and one launched by former lead singer Brian Connolly dubbed The New Sweet. RSLs in Australia and working men's clubs in the UK beckoned.




Number 37 "Life In A Northern Town" by Dream Academy
Peak: number 4
With names like Nick Laird-Clowes, Kate St John and Gilbert Gabriel, the three members of Dream Academy sound like a posh lot - and, whether or not that was the case, their art school background and proficiency with instruments like the cor anglais, oboe and clarinet certainly made them one of the more refined bands in the chart in 1985. Then there was debut single "Life In A Northern Town", which, with its orchestral feel and references to influential folk singer/songwriter Nick Drake, had a certain intellectual feel to it. 
A bigger success in Australia than in the UK (number 15) or the US (number 7), the song would turn out to be their only hit, despite a three-album career. Then, just when it seemed like Dream Academy and "Life In A Northern Town" had been relegated to their place in musical history, the song was resurrected in 1997 when Dario G sampled the "Ah hey, ma ma ma" hook for dance track "Sunchyme" - a move that was as genius as it was unexpected. 




Next week: one of the biggest Australian bands of the first half of the decade bomb out in a big way, while an up-and-coming local band scores their first big hit. Plus, a massive soundtrack single blasts straight into the top 10.


Back to: Jul 21, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 4, 1985


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: July 22, 1990

Rock music was changing in 1990 - and there was no greater proof of that than the highest new entry on the ARIA singles chart 25 years ago this week. As hair metal gave way to grunge as the most favoured rock style in the US and indie rock blended with psychedelic and/or dance music in the UK, it seemed that anything was possible: even a rock anthem that featured a rap.

Faith No More took their mismatch approach seriously

It wasn't the first time we'd seen such genre blurring - Run-DMC's take on Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" had hit the top 10 in 1986 - but that was the exception rather than the rule. Four years later, the band behind this week's top debut - a future number 1 hit, no less - turned the tables, incorporating hip-hop elements into their metal sound and helping tear down the restrictive genre boundaries of old in the process.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending July 22, 1990

Before this week's highest debut reached number 1, however, a more traditional rap record jumped to the top of the ARIA top 50. "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer spent its first of five weeks at the summit this week in 1990.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "That's The Way Of The World" by D Mob featuring Cathy Dennis
Peak: number 98
Even the return of Cathy Dennis couldn't give D Mob another hit to match the resilient "C'mon And Get My Love", which was into its fourth month on the chart and would outstay its two follow-ups on the top 100.

Number 96 "I Just Want My Fun" by Exploding White Mice
Peak: number 96
About a decade ahead (or after, depending which way you look at it) of their time, Australian pop/punk band Exploding White Mice never saw the inside of the top 100 again.

Number 95 "You're Still Beautiful" by The Church
Peak: number 95
After achieving a career-best peak with previous single "Metropolis", the second release from Gold Afternoon Fix didn't progress any further.

Number 93 "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" by Was (Not Was)
Peak: number 75
Previously recorded by The Undisputed Truth and, more famously, as a 12-minute epic by The Temptations, this soul classic (with the 'g' in Rolling reinstated) was the first single from Are You Okay?, the fourth album by Was (Not Was).

Number 77 "When I'm Back On My Feet Again" by Michael Bolton
Peak: number 77
Not so quick there, Michael. After two of 1990's biggest hits, the long-haired balladeer lost his chart footing with this fourth single from Soul Provider advancing no further.


New Entries
Number 46 "Only My Heart Calling" by Margaret Urlich
Peak: number 46
Looking more and more like Lisa Stansfield every day, New Zealand's Margaret Urlich followed up her enduring top 20 single, "Escaping", with this piano ballad. Although nowhere near as big a hit, "Only My Heart Calling" did hang around on the top 100 for nearly six months and helped the album Safety In Numbers, which had also been languishing at the lower end of the top 50, go on to become a top 5, triple platinum smash.




Number 39 "Amanda" by Craig McLachlan & Check 1-2
Peak: number 24
Craig McLachlan is no fool. Since "Mona" had turned out to be an astronomical success, 1990's Gold Logie winner decided to follow it up with another song named after a girl - and despite the risk of seeming a little fickle in jumping from one love interest to another so quickly, he and his band notched up another chart hit. Small problem: although "Amanda" was about as lyrically complex as "Mona" and the music video saw Craig do what he did best - take his shirt off - the single was nowhere near as well received as the Bo Diddley cover. When a fourth single, "I Almost Felt Like Crying", generated even less interest, it was obvious some bold decisions had to be made concerning Craig's music career.




Number 35 "Talk About It" by Boom Crash Opera
Peak: number 35
As we've seen, remix albums were all the rage in 1990 (a time when the phrase "all the rage" might well have still been used unironically). But, they were normally released by dance or R&B acts like Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul and Black Box, not Australian rock bands - and yet Boom Crash Opera joined the remix album craze with Look! Listen!! The album featured this new take on These Here Are Crazy Times track "Talk About It" as well as extended mixes of some of their biggest singles and various other oddities. As a big fan of the band, I didn't much see the point of the album, but I did really like this new version of "Talk About It", which sped out of the top 50 almost as quickly as it flew into it.




Number 31 "Epic" by Faith No More
Peak: number 1
Perhaps, though, Boom Crash Opera were onto something by utilising a marketing ploy traditionally reserved for more club-friendly acts. Rock bands were increasingly experimenting with genres and formats - and nothing summed up that movement more than this breakthrough hit for Faith No More. 
The genre-defying band had been around in one form or another since 1981, but it wasn't until the recruitment of new singer and lyricist Mike Patton, and the release of third album The Real Thing that Faith No More really took off. After a slow start with the album's lead single, "From Out Of Nowhere" - which would be subsequently re-released - "Epic" really grabbed people's attention. 
From the blending of sounds not usually heard together to Mike's manic performance in the music video to that dying fish, "Epic" was like nothing else on the chart - and, as is usually the case with a song like that, that meant it was destined to be massive. In fact, in five weeks' time, it would knock MC Hammer off the number 1 spot and stay there for three weeks.




Next week: the return of Barnesy, Madonna gets a little naughty (again), another Traveling Wilbury has a solo hit - as does one of the New Kids, plus Stock Aitken Waterman's last big non-Kylie UK hit disappoints in Australia.


Back to: Jul 15, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 29, 1990


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: July 21, 1985

You can probably count the instrumental hit singles of the '80s on the fingers of one hand. Maybe two. And songs released in 1985 would make up a good chunk of those, with easily the most famous instrumental single of that year debuting on the ARIA chart 30 years ago this week.

Harold Faltermeyer's instrumental hit was OK with me, too

Like the two other big instrumental tracks from 1985, the song in question was taken from a movie - a film that had already spawned two major hit singles. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending July 21, 1985

Another song from a film was at number 1 this week in 1985. "Into The Groove" from Desperately Seeking Susan - along with non-soundtrack release "Angel" - held down the top spot for a fourth and final week.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "So In Love" by Orchestral Manouevres In The Dark
Peak: number 56
This lead single from the Crush album didn't add to OMD's tally of two ARIA top 50 hits (1980's "Enola Gay" and "Locomotion" from 1984) - but the synthpop duo would have a much better 1986.

Number 97 "Thinking Man" by Joan Armatrading
Peak: number 97
Like "Temptation", this second single from Secret Secrets missed the top 50 - and a video for the song has finally been put up on YouTube.

Number 96 "Remember I Love You" by Jim Diamond
Peak: number 96
His last single, "I Should Have Known Better", peaked right at the other end of the chart, but this follow-up barely grazed the top 100 despite being another syrupy ballad co-written with Graham Lyle.

Number 90 "Honey B" by Flying Fonzarellis
Peak: number 72
Some true blue Aussie pub music with this first of two minor top 100 appearances from the short-lived Perth band who still maintain an active website where you can download "Honey B".

Number 88 "Shall We Go" by Dropbears
Peak: number 61
Another local band - this time from Sydney - that never cracked the top 50 but placed two singles inside the top 100 during 1985.

Number 64 "I Write The News" by Beargarden
Peak: number 56
Down to Melbourne now for the only top 100 charting single from tumultuous synthpop band Beargarden, who were the first signing to the Australian arm of Virgin Records. 


New Entries
Number 50 "Baby Come And Get It" by The Pointer Sisters
Peak: number 29
They'd become known for fun songs like "I'm So Excited", "Jump (For My Love)" and "Neutron Dance", but Anita, June and Ruth Pointer got all moody and sexy with this final single from the Break Out album. With their best (matching) party frocks on and their most sultry stares at the ready, the trio did well to squeeze another top 30 hit out of the album - but they'd be back up towards the top of the chart when they moved on to their next LP.




Number 48 "All My Love" by Renée Geyer
Peak: number 28
I've always thought Renée Geyer must have been more successful than it turns out she actually was on the charts - after all, she was inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2005 (only the second female pop singer to achieve that honour at that stage). 
And while there's no denying Renée's vocal talent, her only single to reach the top 10 was 1981's "Say I Love You" and this first release from her new record deal with WEA was only her fourth top 30 hit in a recording career dating back to 1974. 
As well as changing labels in the mid-'80s, Renée also switched countries, leaving Australia to base herself in Los Angeles and try to crack America - a move that would ultimately prove unsuccessful. Her absence didn't do her any favours locally, with album Sing To Me only just making the top 40 and no further top 50 singles chart action.




Number 39 "Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer
Peak: number 6
After Patti LaBelle let the side down with her Beverly Hills Cop single "New Attitude" missing the top 50, order was restored when the film's instrumental theme became the latest top 10 hit from the soundtrack (following "The Heat Is On" and "Neutron Dance"). 
Performed by German artist Harold Faltermeyer (who also composed the movie's score), "Axel F" got its name from Eddie Murphy's character, Axel Foley, and became one of the most successful instrumental releases of all time, reaching number 3 in the US and number 2 in the UK. 
Of course, these days its reputation has been tarnished thanks to that godawful ringtone-inspired rendition by Crazy Frog, which, despite being a complete travesty, ended up as the fourth highest-selling single of 2005 in Australia.
As for classically trained Harold, despite also working on the soundtracks to subsequent box office smashes Fletch and Top Gun, and being an in-demand producer away from movies, "Axel F" would end up being his only singles chart success.




Number 37 "Heaven" by Bryan Adams
Peak: number 12
Here's another song that received a new lease of life in the '00s thanks to a dance remake, but at least DJ Sammy's cover of "Heaven" was perfectly enjoyable in its own right. In 1985, the power ballad original was the song that really put Bryan Adams on the world stage - becoming the Canadian singer's biggest hit to date in Australia and his first US chart-topper. Interestingly, "Heaven" had also started out on a movie soundtrack - featuring in 1983 Razzie Award-winning dance film A Night In Heaven (along with the original version of Animotion's "Obsession"). The following year, the song turned up on Bryan's fourth album, Reckless, before finally being issued as its third single in 1985.




Number 33 "Lead The Way" by I'm Talking
Peak: number 25
They'd hit the top 10 on their first attempt, but I'm Talking didn't have as much luck with this follow-up to "Trust Me". I don't even recall "Lead The Way" from the time and, since it wasn't included on I'm Talking's eventual debut album, I didn't come across it until the last few years when I downloaded it on iTunes. ("Trust Me" also wasn't on Bear Witness, but it did feature on Kate Ceberano's 1999 greatest hits album - and had made a bigger impression originally.) Fairly similar in feel to their debut release, "Lead The Way" maintained the band's pop/funk sound - and its relatively disappointing chart performance may well have influenced the decision to go in a completely different direction next time around.




Number 19 "Out Of Mind Out Of Sight" by Models
Peak: number 1
Next up, the band for whom Kate Ceberano and Zan Abeyratne from I'm Talking routinely performed backing vocals (with both groups touring Australia together in July 1985). Models had almost topped the chart with previous single "Barbados" but were unable to overcome the might of "We Are The World" but ironically, it may well have been the band's appearance at the Oz For Africa concert which contributed to the rapid ascent to the top of "Out Of Mind Out Of Sight", which they performed at the gig. 
The title track of their fourth album, the future number 1 hit was as energetic as "Barbados" had been laidback - with its driving beat and use of horns reminiscent of recent chart-topper "Would I Lie To You". The song became Models' first and only US hit, reaching number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 - and it was easily their biggest and best known single in Australia.




Next week: the debut of my favourite of the many singles Phil Collins released in 1985, a song that would provide the hook for a massive dance hit in 12 years' time and the original version of a track that would be covered by one of John Farnham's backing singers in 1992.


Back to: Jul 14, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 28, 1985


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: July 15, 1990

The Honeydrippers, The Power Station, The Travelling Wilburys... so far in our look back at the ARIA charts of the late '80s and early '90s we've come across a number of supergroups of the rock variety.

Electronic's Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner were a match made in synthpop heaven

Twenty-five years ago this week, a synthpop supergroup finally reached the singles top 50 with their debut release - a song that had come out overseas in December 1989. In fact, many of the songs to feature this week took their time reaching us in Australia.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending July 15, 1990

Yet another song with a long legacy spent its second week at number 1 this week in 1990. But Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" - which, if you remember, was originally released back in 1987 in Sweden - would lose the top spot the following week to a song that was closing in fast.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "Eye Know" by De La Soul
Peak: number 78
A belated top 100 entry for this hip-hop single that was first released in 1989 (in some countries as early as the start of that year). It'd take another year - and a quotable song with an answering machine hook - for Australia to get on board the De La Soul train.

Number 86 "Elephant Stone" by The Stone Roses
Peak: number 86
Next, a song that dates back even further - to October 1988, but this early single by The Stone Roses was also a flop first time around in the UK, and this ARIA chart run came following its re-release overseas.


Single Of The Week
"Put The Message In The Box" by World Party
Peak: number 86
Australia had been the only country to get behind British band World Party's debut album, Private Revolution, sending it to number 13 and the single "Ship Of Fools" to number 4 in 1987. Second time around, there was less interest in Karl Wallinger's musical project, with this second single from Goodbye Jumbo the only track to make any impression on the top 100.




Breakers
"Got To Get" by Rob 'n' Raz featuring Leila K
Peak: number 57
We saw "Rok The Nation", the follow-up to "Got To Get", a few weeks back. And, after debuting on the top 100 back in mid-April, this European top 10 dance smash from late 1989 finally surged up the chart enough to register as a breaker for the Swedish duo of Robert "Rob" Wåtz and Rasmus "Raz" Lindwall, who were joined by rapper Leila K (real name: Laila El Khalifi) for their debut album. 
The hits continued in Europe for both Rob 'n' Raz and Leila K, who parted ways the following year, although Leila became better known for a couple of shocking incidents in her homeland. In 1996, she was accused of peeing on the floor at the Swedish Grammis after losing the Album Of The Year award. By 2003, it was reported that Leila was homeless, having spent what money she made on drugs, and stealing food to survive.




"Do The Right Thing / Pump It Hottie" by Redhead Kingpin & The F.B.I.
Peak: number 56
Here's another act that charted two songs outside the top 50 in 1990. We saw one, "Pump It Hottie", back in February - and that track was also included on the double A-side of this re-release of debut single "Do The Right Thing" (a UK top 20 hit in mid-1989). The reissue also came with a remix of "Do The Right Thing" by Soul II Soul's Jazzie B and producer Nellie Hooper, who incorporated elements of BBG's "Snappiness". Despite all that effort, Redhead Kingpin and his crew remained hit-less in Australia.




New Entries
Number 49 "Getting Away With It" by Electronic
Peak: number 40
Comprising New Order frontman Bernard Sumner and ex-The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, with input on this first single from Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant, Electronic was always destined to be my new favourite band, especially since their sound took its cue more from New Order and PSB than The Smiths (who I'd never really been that keen on). 
Released in the last few weeks of 1989 in the UK, "Getting Away With It" was everything I'd hoped it would be - a perfectly crafted synthpop song with a sound that teeters between despair and jubilation, bolstered by Neil's backing vocals and a full orchestra conducted by Anne Dudley of Art Of Noise fame. And despite an 18-month wait for a follow-up, Electronic soon became one of my favourite acts. In Australia, however, the number 40 peak of this single was as good as it got.




Number 46 "The Message Is Love" by Arthur Baker & The Backbeat Disciples featuring Al Green
Peak: number 46
Our second and final new entry for the week is from an American producer/DJ who had worked with New Order in the mid '80s, as well as Hall & Oates, Bob Dylan and Freeez, among other artists. Arthur Baker also released his own music every once in a while, and in 1989 (yes, this was another release that took its time to translate to Australia), he teamed up with soul legend Al Green for this track from his Merge album. Like Al's last appearance on the ARIA chart - his duet with Annie Lennox on "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" - I found "The Message Is Love" a bit under-cooked. At a time when harder-sounding house and other forms of dance music were taking off, the production felt a bit light, which is possibly why the song didn't get any further than this entry position.




Next week: a raucous future number 1 charges into the top 50, plus Craig McLachlan follows up his hit named after a girl with... another song named after a girl. Also, Boom Crash Opera and Margaret Urlich register new entries, and a stack of top 50 misses.


Back to: Jul 8, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 22, 1990


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: July 14, 1985

Thirty years ago this week, the global music industry united in an unprecedented show of force. The event: Live Aid, which I looked back at in a separate post yesterday.

Can you guess which Mary Jane Girl played the dominatrix?

Otherwise, it was business as usual on the ARIA singles chart, with a batch of new entries - including a song by a one-hit wonder girl group with an image that might just have influenced a different girl power act a decade later.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending July 14, 1985

A singer who influenced just about every female pop star to follow held on at number 1 for a third week this week in 1985. Yep, Madonna was still on top with "Angel/Into The Groove"


Off The Chart
Number 97 "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 97
"Saving All My Love For You" would be her breakthrough hit, but Whitney released a bunch of singles before that in different countries - including this future number 2 complete with early budget video.

Number 96 "Getcha Back" by The Beach Boys
Peak: number 81
The lead single from the surf rock band's 25th studio album was also their first release since the death of founding member Dennis Wilson.

Number 71 "Loving The Alien" by David Bowie
Peak: number 65
Coming seven months after the previous single (and title track) from Tonight, this remixed release made about as much impact as you'd expect for a song that old.


New Entries
Number 49 "Look Mama" by Howard Jones
Peak: number 20
He'd come oh so close to landing his first ARIA top 10 hit with "Things Can Only Get Better", but this second single from Dream Into Action set Howard Jones's chart campaign back as it became stuck for three weeks at its number 20 peak. Another slice of synthpop perfection, "Look Mama" uses sampled dialogue from the Oscar-winning film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore in its first few seconds (I always wondered where that came from!). Meanwhile, that top 10 single was coming - but it wouldn't be for almost another year.




Number 48 "Shine" by Kids In The Kitchen
Peak: number 40
Next up, an Australian synthpop act that had landed a top 10 single (1983's "Change In Mood") straight out of the gate but spent the rest of their career chasing - and failing to score - a second one. They'd come close with their previous two efforts, "Bitter Desire" and "Something That You Said", which both reached the top 20, but this title track from their newly released debut album was their first misstep - a song nowhere near as good as their previous singles. Speaking of putting a foot wrong, singer Scott Carne might have done a little too much skipping about on stage in this Countdown performance. Not long after, he turned up on Hey Hey It's Saturday to perform the un-remixed version of "Shine" on crutches.




Number 45 "In My House" by Mary Jane Girls
Peak: number 19
They'd started out as backing singers for Rick James and got their name from his song "Mary Jane" (which in turn was a reference to the funk star's love for dope), but in 1983 four-piece girl group Mary Jane Girls were launched as a rival outfit to Prince's Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6. 
More than a decade before Spice Girls would use the same marketing technique, each of the four members, Joanna "JoJo" McDuffie, Cheryl "Cheri" Bailey, Candice "Candi" Ghant and Kimberly "Maxi" Wuletich, not only had a cute nickname but was given a separate identity ranging from Valley girl to dominatrix. Lead singer JoJo was the real star - the Nicole Scherzinger of the group, if you like. 
After early singles, including the much-sampled "All Night Long", failed to take off (except in the UK, where it reached number 13), the girls (with Cheri replaced by Yvette "Corvette" Marine) had more success with "In My House". The lead release from second album Only Four You, the song became their sole US top 10 hit and only ARIA chart entry. 
By 1986, after a stand-alone cover of "Walk Like A Man" (which we saw remade by Divine last week) flopped, the group dissolved. The most noteworthy thing any of the members did post-Mary Jane Girls was when Yvette sued Paula Abdul, claiming her vocals had been used (and not credited) on some of the tracks on Forever Your Girl. She lost the case.




Number 44 "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 29
Rectifying the fact that Bruce hadn't had a song on the top 50 for a couple of weeks, the fifth single from Born In The USA duly became the album's fifth chart entry this week in 1985, but compared to the extended run of "Dancing In The Dark", these later singles were much more short-lived affairs. Stylistically, "Glory Days" had most in common with "Dancing In The Dark" - another feel-good song after the more intense "I'm On Fire" and "Born In The USA". The video is worth a watch if for nothing other than to see future The Sopranos star Steven Van Zandt in his other role as E Street Band member.




Next week: two linked Aussie bands burst onto the top 50, while a synthpop instrumental that would be ruined by a cartoon frog decades later makes its first appearance. Plus, Bryan Adams, Renee Geyer and The Pointer Sisters.


Back to: Jul 7, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 21, 1985


Monday, 13 July 2015

30 Years Ago Today: The Best of Live Aid

Three decades ago today, on Saturday July 13, 1985, the charity movement that had started with "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and "We Are The World" (which both topped the Australian chart for a combined total of 13 weeks) reached its history-making climax as some of the world's biggest music acts (and a few ring-ins) united for concerts on either side of the Atlantic.

Almost two billion people around the world watched Live Aid on July 13, 1985

Behind the scenes, there were all sorts of logistical nightmares and rock star egos to contend with, while on stage, performances varied greatly in quality - 
but for everyone at the stadiums in London and Philadelphia, and the millions more watching around the world, none of that mattered. We all just got to enjoy an international music event like nothing that had ever been seen before and know that it was all in aid of an incredibly worthy cause.


Wembley Arena, London

Status Quo might not have been the most obvious band to kick off Live Aid, but their choice of first song, "Rockin' All Over The World", was certainly appropriate and set the tone for the event.
Indeed, most of the acts taking part in Live Aid chose crowd-pleasers or event-relevant material over promoting new releases, while some superstar collaborations (Sting and Phil Collins, Paul Young and Alison Moyet) gave the proceedings an added sense of excitement. Who knew what would happen on stage next? 
For me, earlier performers like Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet (certainly, the event's most fashion-conscious act) were highlights, but when it comes to historical significance, these were some of the more momentous performances:

The Style Council
Decked out in their best resort wear, Paul Weller's post-The Jam project finished off their four-song set with anti-establishment anthem "Wall Come Tumbling Down!" - in front of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who attended the proceedings at Wembley Arena.





The Boomtown Rats
It may have been a while since the Irish band had graced the UK top 10, but given the fact that without singer Bob Geldof there would be no Live Aid, The Boomtown Rats were always going to appear on the bill - and receive a huge response, which they did, especially during the extra-long pause in the middle of "I Don't Like Mondays".




U2
Talk about a game-changer. Until recently, it was hard to imagine a time when U2 weren't one of the biggest bands in the world, but in mid-1985, they were still very much on the rise outside Ireland. With a couple of hits under their belts in the UK and Australia, they were also starting to make inroads into America, but the all-conquering The Joshua Tree was still a couple of years away. The band's set at Live Aid, which consisted of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and a super-sized version of "Bad" (during which Bono pulled a fan out of the audience), resulted in them, in turn, standing out from the crowd. 





Queen

From the roar Freddie Mercury got when he took to the stage, it was clear Queen were one of the more anticipated acts on the UK lineup - and the band's charismatic frontman whipped the sea of fans into a frenzy of audience participation in a set that consisted of songs like "Bohemian Rhamsody", "We Will Rock You" and "Radio Ga-Ga". Pretty much unanimously viewed as the best slot of the whole event.





David Bowie

Looking incredibly civilised, David Bowie chose a set more heavily weighted towards his '70s output, but it was 1983 single "Modern Love" that got the crowd most fired up. He also earnt respect for giving up one of his songs to allow time for a short film showing the drastic situation in Ethiopia to be screened.





The Who

Notable more for the fact that they got through their set without punching each other than because it was a good performance, The Who hadn't played together since their breakup three years earlier - and may not even have appeared at Live Aid had Bob Geldof not announced them as part of the lineup before they'd agreed to it.





Elton John
With the exception of "I'm Still Standing", Elton and his technicolour dreamcoat followed David Bowie's lead and also eschewed his more recent output for '70s hits like "Rocket Man", "Bennie And The Jets" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Kiki Dee, his only backing singer not dressed in the tiniest shorts known to man. Elton even invited George Michael on stage to perform "Don't Let The Go Down On Me" in what was quite possibly the best vocal performance of the show.





Band Aid
After Bob Geldof, Pete Townshend, Alison Moyet and David Bowie joined Paul McCartney on stage for the end of "Let It Be" and Bob came in at the wrong point, the stage was set for a version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" which is best described as a shambles. As Bob said in his preamble, "It might be a bit of a cock-up, but if you're going to cock it up you may as well do it with two billion people watching you." But what a glorious mess it was - with those acts that had stuck around backstage throughout the concert trooping out on stage to crowd round microphones as Bob, George Michael, Sting and Bono led the enthusiastic rendition.





JFK Stadium, Philadelphia

While the UK line-up was a pretty good representation of the biggest British music acts of the previous decade, the American concert consisted of a more diverse assortment of performers, including: 
When it came to America's current music heavyweights, although some of the big bands of the day (REO Speedwagon, The Cars) were on the bill, there were notable absences. Where were Foreigner, Huey Lewis & The News and Van Halen? 
That was especially the case when it came to solo stars like Diana Ross, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen, all of whom had appeared on "We Are The World". In terms of male artists, we got Kenny Loggins, Rick Springfield and Bryan Adams instead, and, representing the current soul and R&B scene, Patti LaBelle, with one of those performances of "Imagine" in which she was constantly racing to catch up to the music. Then there was...

The Beach Boys
These guys sure had a blast. How could they not in those outfits - although Carl Wilson didn't seem to get the garish shirt memo. Besides being dressed to party, the surf rock band really looked like they were enjoying busting out classics like "Good Vibrations", "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Surfin' USA" as much as the crowd enjoyed hearing them.





Madonna
She'd been left out of the "We Are The World' recording session, but the world's newest superstar made her mark at the Philadelphia show with a burst of dance/pop amid a sea of old rockers. Performing "Holiday", "Into The Groove" and future album track "Love Makes The World Go Round", Madonna and her tightly choreographed tambourine dance routine established her live credentials. 





Phil Collins
Famously the only artist to perform at both the UK and the US shows, Phil had jetted by Concorde from one gig to the other, only to perform the exact same two solo hits ("Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" and "In The Air Tonight") at each venue. Of course, he was also put to work as a guest musician with Sting in London, and Eric Clapton and, somewhat awkwardly, the ex-Led Zeppelin members in Philadelphia, making him one of the more prominent performers of the whole event.





Duran Duran
Momentous more for the fact that it would turn out to be the final live appearance by the full lineup of the band for almost two decades than the performance itself - with critics quick to pounce on Simon Le Bon's vocal slip during "A View To A Kill". Simon recovered to give solid renditions of "Union Of The Snake", "Save A Prayer" and "The Reflex", while two-fifths of the band wouldn't play those songs again until 2003.





Hall & Oates
Besides singing their own hits like "Out Of Touch" and "Maneater", Hall & Oates combined with The Temptations' Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin for a soul medley featuring "Ain't Too Proud To Beg", "Get Ready", "My Girl" and "The Way You Do The Things You Do". They all then stuck around on stage for...





Mick Jagger and Tina Turner
The image of The Rolling Stones frontman performing alongside a stilettoed, short skirt-sporting, spiky-haired Tina Turner is one of the most enduring from the whole of Live Aid - it even made the cover of Life magazine. It was also a far better idea than trying to sync up Mick in the US and David Bowie in the UK for a cross-continent duet - the video of "Dancing In The Streets" was debuted at the concert instead. Mick and Tina's electric double act on "State Of Shock" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)" went a little bit off the rails when Tina's skirt came off and Mick had an inexplicable mid-song costume change, but neither of them seemed to mind one bit.





USA For Africa
Watch Lionel Richie try to keep "We Are The World" from getting completely out of hand. Watch Harry Belafonte stand in for about half a dozen singers who didn't bother to show up. Watch Sheena Easton refuse to give up the microphone. Watch Patti LaBelle out-crazy Cyndi Lauper's performance from the single. Watch for Cher in the background. Watch Chevy Chase look like a safari park tour guide. Watch a choir of kids storm the stage.





Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney
Living in Australia made watching the entire telecast tricky since the London gig would've begun around 9pm in Sydney. But a show we could tune in to from start to finish more easily was screened on Australian TV earlier that day. 
Featuring big names from our local music scene like Mental As Anything, Models, Men At Work and Little River Band (and some band called Party Girls I've never heard of), Oz For Africa took place the night before, on July 12 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre - with parts of the set by headline act INXS included in overseas broadcasts.





Tomorrow, I'll stay in 1985, for my weekly look back at the ARIA top 50 from 1985 - and in coming weeks, we'll be able to see the impact Live Aid had on the local charts.