Tuesday, 8 December 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: December 8, 1985

Thirty years ago this week, something happened on the Australian singles chart that had never happened before: a new release debuted at number 1. I say "release" instead of "single" or "song" since the chart-topper in question was actually an EP and it'd be another three years before a 7" single debuted at the top. But you've got to start somewhere.

Two number 1 hits with very different stories debuted as 1985 drew to a close

Also this week in 1985, another new entry would go on to reach number 1 - not just on the ARIA chart but in numerous polls conducted that crowned it one of the worst songs of all time. Fair? You be the judge.

Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending December 8, 1985

With a brand new number 1, last week's chart-topping single, "The Power Of Love" by Jennifer Rush, moved down to number 2 - although it wasn't quite finished with the top spot yet.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Big Wheel" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 75
Not even a novelty historically themed music video could help this fourth single from Fundamental matching the chart achievements of its three predecessors.

Number 98 "Sunset Grill" by Don Henley
Peak: number 98
Here's another fourth single - this time from Don Henley's Building The Perfect Beast album. The video is a live performance from the inaugural Farm Aid, a charity concert which has been held pretty much every year since.

Number 72 "Warnings Moving Clockwise" by Do-Re-Mi
Peak: number 72
Peaking here where it entered is this dark and ominous-sounding third single from Do-Re-Mi, which became the last release from the Domestic Harmony album.


New Entries
Number 49 "Separate Lives" by Phil Collins / Marilyn Martin
Peak: number 14
The only artist who came anywhere near rivalling Madonna for chart ubiquity in 1985 was Phil Collins, and here he is with his fifth single to make the ARIA top 100 that year. We'll see a sixth in the next couple of weeks. 
Like his first chart entry for 1985, "Easy Lover", "Separate Lives" was a duet - this time with American singer Marilyn Martin, who was otherwise hit-less in Australia, but enjoyed another US top 30 hit with 1986's "Night Moves". Less successful was Marilyn's 1988 single "Possessive Love", which was co-written by... Madonna (and had been demoed for the Who's That Girl soundtrack).
"Separate Lives" was the second single in as many weeks taken from the soundtrack to White Nights to hit the top 50, but although it followed in the footsteps of "Say You Say Me" and reached number 1 in America, the ballad had to make do with a number 14 peak in Australia. 




Number 45 "Can't Wait To See You" by Eurogliders
Peak: number 8
After the doom and gloom of "The City Of Soul", Eurogliders returned with the best track from their recently released Absolutely album, which held at number 12 on the albums chart this week in 1985. Joyous pop single "Can't Wait To See You" returned the Perth band to the Australian top 10 but despite another two singles being lifted from Absolutely in 1986 and another album in 1988, this would be their final top 10 hit.




Number 42 "We Built This City" by Starship
Peak: number 1
While another of this week's new entries hit number 1 immediately, this single by Starship wouldn't reach the top until late January. "We Built This City" was technically the debut single by Starship, although they weren't really a new band. Indeed, Starship initially featured the same members as the final line-up of Jefferson Starship - but with one major exception: Paul Katner was absent.
So why did one member leaving the band require a name change? Because Paul was also the last remaining original member of Jefferson Airplane, the psychedelic rock band that'd formed in the mid-1960s before splitting in two in 1972. Jefferson Starship was one of the splinter groups, but with Paul's departure, legal proceedings were brought to restrict the use of the words "Jefferson" and "Airplane". Simple solution: Starship was born.
Right, that's the history lesson out of the way. "We Built This City" continued the increasingly commercial rock sound the band had been pursuing throughout the early '80s - but pushed it into overdrive. A big, bold, ultra-radio-friendly track, it was the perfect introduction to the revamped band. It also came with some pretty ridiculous lyrics, which have resulted in the song appearing on numerous worst singles lists over the years. 
Interestingly, the song didn't start out so commercial, with its writers (including Elton John's songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin) having created a more issue-driven swipe at consumerism. Transformed by its producers and given a cheery DJ voiceover courtesy of MTV co-founder Les Garland (which obviously helped with airplay), "We Built This City" ended up fitting in to the corporate rock movement it was, theoretically, speaking out against.
Of course for most of us, none of that really matters since "We Built This City" became bigger than its backstory. Pretty much inescapable at the time, the song is now either a massive '80s hit that still prompts us to sing along (to terrible lines like "Marconi plays the mamba") or it's an overplayed song we never, ever want to hear again. I'm currently sitting in the former camp - what about you?




Number 1 Species Deceases by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 1
While "We Built This City" climbed the chart over the summer, this brand-new EP by one of Australia's biggest bands wasted no time storming onto the chart at the very top - the first time there'd been a new entry at number 1 in Australian chart history. Such was the demand for new music from Midnight Oil, the 12" release would end up spending six non-consecutive weeks on top.
Comprising four tracks (which you can hear back-to-back by clicking the link above), Species Deceases was the Oils' first top 50 appearance in two-and-a-half years - they'd last reached number 8 with 1983's "Power And The Passion"In the intervening period, the band's first chart-topping album, Red Sails In The Sunset, had been released in October 1984, but from what I can determine, neither "When The Generals Talk" nor "Best Of Both Worlds" were released as singles in Australia (although they did come out overseas).
Issued to mark the 40th anniversary of bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Species Deceases' four songs all had a political bent - "Blossom And Blood" specifically referred to that topic, while the other tracks were about other topics important to the band. The EP's second track, "Hercules", named after the military aircraft, is the song I remember getting the most attention at the time, but all four tracks received airplay.
It would take until 1991 for another EP to top the ARIA singles chart - and we'll see that in my 25 Years Ago... posts in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, a regular 7" release wouldn't debut at number until 1988 when Kylie Minogue's "Got To Be Certain" achieved the feat. And if you're wondering whether Species Deceases would still register on the singles chart if it was released today, the answer is that it would. 
ARIA's chart rules specify that EPs with no more than five songs that run for a total of less than 25 minutes* qualify for the singles chart, which is why the six-track EP Wild by Troye Sivan appeared on the albums chart earlier in 2015 - and became the first EP to ever debut on top of that chart. Right, I need to have a nap after that onslaught of chart stats.

* There's another complicated rule concerning remix EPs, but I won't go into it here since it's not relevant.




Next week: the second-last chart for 1985, with the overlooked follow-up to one of the year's best debut singles. Plus, the musical reunion of a pair of singers who'd reached number 1 together in 1983.


Back to: Dec 1, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 15, 1985


2 comments:

  1. Many acts, such as the Mentals, seemed quite prolific in the 80s.

    I didn't know 'Warnings Moving Clockwise', but it's good and quite haunting. Doesn't sound very single-like though. Do charting artists these days take such 'risks' with their single releases?

    Despite being a radio-staple artist and the song being a hit, I don't remember hearing 'Separate Lives' before. It sounds like a typical ultra-safe MOR US #1 of the 80s, and I'm not surprised to see that it was.

    The Eurogliders track was good.

    I remember hearing 'We Built This City' on a wireless radio just before returning to school in '86. It's the kind of song you just listen to and don't bother analysing the lyrics, so it probably unfairly cops some flack.

    For an EP that debuted at #1 on the singles chart, it's odd that it contains none of their well-known hits. Well, I don't know any of the songs from it. That ARIA rule for what qualifies as a single mustn't have been in place for some time, as the 'Tingles' EP had 6 tracks on it.

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    1. I'll be writing about Tingles very soon, so I'll check how long the rule has been in place for (I almost did for this post!).

      Separate Lives is no Against All Odds, but the big ballad fan in me still likes it.

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