|New face, even bigger hair: Pseudo Echo v2.0|
Unfortunately, despite a string of hits in Australia - including five other songs that made the top 15 - that one big single has tended to define them. Thirty years ago this week, my favourite song by the band in question debuted on the top 50 - and it's a tune worth revisiting.
|ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 3, 1985|
Another band defined by its cover versions rather than its original songs - and with good reason, in this case - held down the number 1 spot in Australia this week in 1985. UB40's remake of "I Got You Babe" with Chrissie Hynde spent a second week on top.
Off the chart
Number 98 "When Your Heart Is Weak" by Cock Robin
Peak: number 96
From America, big in Europe, Cock Robin didn't garner much interest in Australia with this smooth rock debut single.
Number 49 "Like Wow - Wipeout" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 15
"Biitersweet" had given the Hoodoo Gurus their first top 20 single and follow-up "Like Wow - Wipeout" repeated the feat, peaking one place higher and ensuring the Mars Needs Guitars album pretty much remained a top 20 fixture until the end of the year. I was surprised to learn that the song was originally only intended as a B-side - but producer Charles Fisher saw its hit potential.
Number 48 "Road To Nowhere" by Talking Heads
Peak: number 16
Here's another band achieving their best-ever chart position (up until that point) with the second single from their latest album. An improvement on the peak of "The Lady Don't Mind", the top 20 placing of "Road To Nowhere" was a first for Talking Heads, whose Australian breakthrough had come with 1981's "Once In A Lifetime". Although the band's distinctive quirkiness was still intact, "Road To Nowhere" was certainly their most commercial single to date, even managing to sound pretty upbeat about the concept of oblivion.
Number 46 "I'm Goin' Down / Janey, Don't You Lose Heart" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 41
With this sixth single from Born In The USA, it finally seemed as though the Bruce Springsteen juggernaut had run out of steam in Australia - although in the US, "I'm Goin' Down" was yet another top 10 hit for The Boss. Not even the double A-side billing of non-album track "Janey, Don't You Lose Heart" could breathe life into the single like "Pink Cadillac" had done for "Dancing In The Dark" towards the end of its marathon chart run. Still, six top 50 singles is a lot more than most artists manage from one album - and the chart performance of this fairly unmemorable track is testament to the fact that Bruce could do no wrong at this point in his career. In fact, there was still enough good will for a seventh single to be lifted from Born In The USA, which we'll see before the end of the year.
Number 43 "Lonely Ol' Night" by John Cougar Mellencamp
Peak: number 32
Johnny Cougar, as he was then called, had enjoyed early success in Australia - hitting the top 5 here with "I Need A Lover" more than a year ahead of his US breakthrough with the same song. Since then, the tables had turned. 1983's Uh Huh - released under new moniker John Cougar Mellencamp - failed to generate much interest locally but delivered two top 10 singles ("Crumblin' Down" and "Pink Houses") in America. Australia got back on board with the Scarecrow album, which was kicked off by this lead single, another US top 10 hit and JCM's first ARIA top 40 single since 1982's "Jack And Diane". Although Scarecrow saw a shift to more political subject matters, that wasn't evident on "Lonely Ol' Night", which was another good ol' rock'n'roll love song.
Number 42 "Alive And Kicking" by Simple Minds
Peak: number 21
Putting their worldwide smash "Don't You (Forget About Me)" behind them, Simple Minds got back to releasing their own songs with this lead single from the Once Upon A Time album (which didn't even include their monster soundtrack hit). Of course, had it not been for the song from The Breakfast Club, there probably wouldn't have been quite the same level of interest in the Scottish band - especially in America, where they'd previously been unknowns. A perfect example of their mid-'80s stadium sound (which, granted, wasn't for everyone), "Alive And Kicking" is rousing, sing-along synth-rock at its best, swapping the "la, la, la" refrain of "Don't You..." for a "ba, da, da, da" outro.
Number 37 "One Of The Living" by Tina Turner
Peak: number 34
Just as the number 1 smash "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" had seen Tina re-team with the writers of "What's Love Got To Do With It", this second single from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was penned by Holly Knight, the writer of another of Tina's hits from 1984, "Better Be Good To Me" (as well as Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield"). Unfortunately for all concerned, "One Of The Living" didn't follow its predecessor up the chart and had to settle for being a minor hit - and one I'd completely forgotten about until it appeared on a Countdown repeat at the start of the year. In the US, the song made a solid number 15 and also won a Grammy.
Number 35 "Don't Go" by Pseudo Echo
Peak: number 4
It might not have looked it to casual observer, but since they'd last been on the top 50, Melbourne synthpop band Pseudo Echo had undergone something of a transformation - with original member Tony Lugton (the blond one) replaced by the more impressively coiffed James Leigh. Whether it was the fresh blood or, more likely, the fact that "Don't Go" was their best single to date, the four-piece found themselves back in the top 5, peaking at the exact same position reached by debut single "Listening" two years earlier. Annoyingly, the band are justifiably considered one-hit wonders overseas since their 1986 cover of "Funky Town" achieved what songs like "Don't Go" didn't and that remake even tends to overshadow all their other hits here in Australia, but it is worth rediscovering the back catalogue of possibly Australia's best '80s synthpop band.
Next week: a homegrown international superstar follows up the biggest album of her career with... well, you'll see. Plus, a band whose 1990 single I despised but whose 1985 single I quite liked.
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