Tuesday, 30 June 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: June 30, 1985

When people talk about Madonna's image changes, they're usually referring to how she'd routinely go from blonde to brunette and back again. But there's been another way in which the Queen of Pop has kept fans on their toes - and that's by changing her sound.

Australia went crazy for Madonna's first ballad single

Thirty years ago this week, Madonna debuted on the Australian top 50 with a song that sounded like none of her previous singles. Not only that but it became her second single in three weeks to fly into the top 20 on its way to number 1, signalling the fact that she'd be able to have a more diverse musical output than many might have expected.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 30, 1985

As well as landing the week's highest new entry, Madonna also ascended to the number 1 spot with that earlier single, "Angel", which now had "Into The Groove" officially noted as its double A-side.


Off the chart
Number 83 "Little By Little" by Robert Plant
Peak: number 83
Fresh off his success as part of The Honeydrippers, Robert Plant issued his third studio album, Shaken 'n' Stirred, but this lead single did not follow "Sea Of Love" up the chart. Easy to see why.


New entries
Number 50 "Paisley Park" by Prince
Peak: number 38
Prince had enjoyed a pretty good previous couple of years on the ARIA charts, with four consecutive top 10 singles between 1983-84 and his first number 1 album thanks to the soundtrack to Purple Rain. Although later singles from Purple Rain were chart failures, anticipation for a brand new song from a new studio album would've been higher than at most other points in the diminutive singer's career. So it's a little odd that Australia (following the UK's lead) released "Paisley Park" as the first single from Around The World In A Day instead of going with the US choice, "Raspberry Beret", which would be the follow-up here. Sharing its name with Prince's recently launched record label and his recording studios just outside Minneapolis, "Paisley Park" gave an indication of what to expect from the psychedelically influenced album (which sat just inside this week's top 20) but is one of The Artist Eventually To Be Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince's less memorable singles.




Number 44 "Slave To Love" by Bryan Ferry
Peak: number 29
Between 1972 and 1982, Bryan Ferry had maintained a release schedule that Rihanna would be proud of, churning out eight studio albums with Roxy Music as well as five solo albums - making the fact that there'd been no new music featuring Bryan's smooth-as-silk vocals for three years pretty remarkable. Order was restored in 1985 with the release of Boys And Girls and lead single "Slave To Love", a lush and sophisticated piece of pop by the most stylish man in music. The only thing wrong with this song, which sounds as good today as it did 30 years ago, is that it didn't do better on the ARIA chart. 




Number 37 "Get It On" by The Power Station
Peak: number 8
Next up, it's a band whose singer went to the Bryan Ferry school of sartorial elegance. Fronted by the sharp-suited Robert Palmer, supergroup The Power Station returned to the chart with their cover of the 1971 UK chart-topper (and Australian number 14) from T. Rex. There seems to be some confusion between the single and album as to whether this remake was called "Get It On" or "Get It On (Bang A Gong)", but there was no mistaking that this was a second straight smash for the Duran Duran side-project. In fact, by reaching the top 10 for a second time (but landing no further top 50 hits), The Power Station joined a select group of two-hit wonders on the ARIA chart.




Number 16 "Crazy For You" by Madonna
Peak: number 1 
Proving the Australian public - especially the people of Victoria - couldn't get enough of Madonna in 1985, this brand new offering from the soundtrack to forgotten '80s film Vision Quest became an instant top 20 smash just three weeks after "Angel/Into The Groove" achieved the same chart milestone. It also became Madonna's first ballad to hit the chart.
Almost not released as a single due to concerns by Warner Bros that "Crazy For You" would deflect attention away from her current studio album, the movie love theme became one of five singles Madonna released in 1985 in Australia - and Like A Virgin (which it did not appear on) still managed to clock up 55 weeks inside the top 50 by the end of the year.
Although it sounded nothing like "Into The Groove" (which, let's face it, was the main reason people were buying "Angel"), "Crazy For You" did share one thing in common with her other concurrent hit - it featured in a movie in which Madonna also appeared. Admittedly, her role in Vision Quest, which was retitled as Crazy For You in Australia, wasn't that much of a stretch - she played a singer in a bar (as seen in the music video).
As it turned out, the very fact that "Crazy For You" didn't bear any resemblance to her previous singles worked in its favour. Not only did it show that the flood of Madonna singles to hit the chart were all unique, it established the fact that she was not to be pigeonholed into a specific music style. As Madonna's fame soared, "Crazy For You" became touted as evidence that she could "actually sing", contrary to the claims of her detractors.




Next week: a single disowned by its singer for decades, a second hit for a duo that debuted just eight weeks earlier and the vocalist of one of the previous decade's biggest bands starts his solo career in earnest.


Back to: June 23, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 7, 1985


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: June 24, 1990

Over the previous decade, there had been the odd rap hit on the Australian chart. From Blondie's "Rapture" (number 5) and "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five (number 21) in the early '80s to Run-DMC's rap/rock hybrid, "Walk This Way" (number 9), in 1986 to "Push It" by Salt 'n' Pepa (number 3) and Tone Lōc's double whammy, "Wild Thing" (number 15) and "Funky Cold Medina" (number 8), later in the decade.

For five weeks in 1990, this was the song no one else could touch

But, what had so far eluded the genre was a chart-topping record. The closest a rap song had come to reaching number 1 on the ARIA top 50 was in 1988, when Morris Minor & The Majors' novelty hit, "Stutter Rap", peaked at number 2. In 1990, a rapper with a penchant for baggy pants released the song that would finally take the genre to the very top - and it debuted 25 years ago this week.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending June 24, 1990

Before "U Can't Touch This" could climb to number 1, we were still stuck with Heart at the top of the singles chart, as "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You" maintained its position for a third week.


Off The Chart
Number 94 "Rok The Nation" by Rob 'n' Raz featuring Leila K
Peak: number 79
Their big European hit, "Got To Get", had been bouncing around the ARIA top 100 since April (and will eventually turn up as a breaker), but this follow-up from the Swedish duo - although a bigger hit at home for them - was no more than a chart footnote locally.

Number 92 "Big Picture" by The Makers
Peak: number 82
In my 30 Years Ago... posts, we recently saw a top 50 miss by F.A.B. which had been produced by Eddie Rayner. Here's the band the ex-Split Enz keyboardist went on to actually be a member of - but despite having a big sound (and video budget), it also tanked.

Number 75 "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Sydney Youngblood
Peak: number 71
Not even a cover of this Etta James classic could change Sydney's chart fortunes in Australia, with it becoming his third European hit to miss the local top 50. 


Breaker
"Straight Up (Ultimix Mix)" by Paula Abdul
Peak: number 55
The original version of her breakthrough single had only managed a peak of number 27 in Australia, which in theory meant there was plenty of room for improvement. And so, a reswizzled version of "Straight Up", taken from Paula's remix album, Shut Up And Dance, was released in the hopes that it'd benefit from her raised profile in the wake of "Opposites Attract" and storm the top 50. More a light drizzle, as it turned out.




New Entries
Number 48 "Still Got The Blues (For You)" by Gary Moore
Peak: number 18
While previous single "Oh Pretty Woman" had been slowly making its way up the top 100, registering as a breaker again this week, follow-up "Still Got The Blues (For You)" crashed straight into the top 50 on its way to give the singer/guitarist the biggest single of his career in Australia. Beating the number 25 peak of his 1987 remake of "Friday On My Mind", "Still Got The Blues..." was also the (kind of) title track of the most successful album of his lengthy career, which reached number 5 in Australia. Some of the cash he earnt from this release would end up having to be paid to German band Jud's Gallery, who won a plagiarism case against Gary when they successful claimed the riff of this song was too similar to one found in their 1974 track "Nordach". Can't hear it? Try this comparison.




Number 42 "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer
Peak: number 1
By 1990, MC Hammer (real name: Stanley Burrell) was already a big deal in America - the two American Music Awards you see him winning at the start of the "U Can't Touch This" video are for his 1988 album, Let's Get It Started. But in Australia, he was an unknown. That all changed with the release of the first single from the all-conquering Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em. Taking its hook from "Superfreak" by Rick James (which reached number 26 in Australia in May 1982) - and actually giving credit for the sample - "U Can't Touch This" quickly became the first rap song to top the Australian chart.
Of course, only a few weeks earlier, a short rap had featured on a number 1 single, pop smash "Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul - and "U Can't Touch This" shared more in common with that than, say, the singles by Public Enemy or N.W.A. that had infiltrated the lower end of the top 100 so far in 1990. With its recognisable hook and quotable lyrics, not to mention Hammer's instantly iconic dance routine and trend-starting trousers in the accompanying music video, there was no way the song wasn't going to be massive. 




Number 40 "Unskinny Bop" by Poison
Peak: number 7
Last seen on the top 50 just over a year earlier, Australia's second favourite hair metal band (after Bon Jovi, of course) returned to the chart with this first taste of their third album, Flesh & Blood. Eclipsing anything they'd released before, "Unskinny Bop" became Poison's highest charting single in Australia - even if the chorus lyrics were nonsensical. But the times, they were a-changin' and as rock took a more serious turn in the '90s, the days were numbered for a band that released meaningless party anthems. Good time-lovin' Poison would never see such chart heights again.




Number 31 "The Power" by Snap!
Peak: number 13
Besides landing themselves a big Australian hit with their debut single, German act Snap! shared another thing in common with other dance success stories Technotronic and Black Box - the female singer in the video did not perform on "The Power". Yep, Jackie Harris (who you can see in the screen grab below) was miming to the vocals of Penny Ford, who would eventually become a permanent member of Snap! along with rapper Turbo B (real name: Durron Butler). 
Speaking of Turbo B - although he can be heard in this version of "The Power", the song was first released in Europe by Power Jam featuring Chill Rob G, since the original rap was taken from the American MC's song "Let The Words Flow". Like the "I've got the power!" hook (lifted from Jocelyn Brown's "Love's Gonna Get You"), the sample wasn't cleared and so Turbo B was hired to perform an updated rap for worldwide release.
Not complicated enough? The two men credited as being the masterminds of Snap! (which is what Power Jam morphed into), Benito Benites and John "Virgo" Garrett III, don't actually exist. Instead, Benito and John are the pseudonyms of Michael Münzing and Luca Anzilotti respectively. That all settled, Snap! would go on to become one of the biggest dance acts of the early '90s.




Next week: the UK's best ever soccer anthem manages to cross over in Australia, plus the hairiest band in rock return and one of this week's new entries is joined by a second track by the same artist.


Back to: Jun 17, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jul 1, 1990


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


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: June 17, 1990

Nancy Sinatra. Natalie Cole. Miley Cyrus. Daughters of musicians themselves becoming hit artists has been going on for decades, but in 1990, a female trio whose parents were members of seminal 1960s groups banded together to form an unstoppable pop force - at least initially here in Australia. 

Chynna, Carnie and Wendy marched in to the top 50 this week in 1990

The novelty of their combined musical lineage together with one of the year's catchiest singles made them instant stars in their own right - and their debut single shot straight into the ARIA singles chart as the week's highest new entry 25 years ago this week.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending June 17, 1990

Also unstoppable this week in 1990: Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You", which spent a second week at number 1.


Off the chart
Number 97 "My Boy Lollipop" by Serena
Peak: number 83
Britain gave the world Samantha Fox, Italy brought us Sabrina and Australia's contribution to the pin-up model-turned-singer brigade was Serena Sandel, whose abominable cover of the 1956 song by Barbie Gaye thankfully found few takers.

Number 86 "This And That" by Michael Penn
Peak: number 86
It has that same jaunty guitar pop sound as debut single "No Myth", but this follow-up just wasn't quite as catchy - and consequently wasn't as big a hit. 


New entries
Number 50 "Show No Mercy" by Mark Williams
Peak: number 8
After a string of hits - including two chart-toppers - in his home of New Zealand during the second half of the '70s, Mark Williams had come to Australia hoping to launch a similarly successful recording career here. But, neither his debut local release, Life After Dark, nor his time as the singer for Boy Rocking yielded any chart appearances. Despite being an in-demand session singer, the main thing Mark had to show for his decade here was being one of the performers of the original Home And Away theme tune. In 1990, his fortunes changed. After working with famed songwriters/producers Vanda and Young, Mark's top 10 hit, "Show No Mercy", became the year's fifth biggest single by an Australian-based artist.




Number 48 "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by The Chimes
Peak: number 26
Having missed the top 50 in the UK and Australia with their excellent first two singles, "1-2-3" and "Heaven", Scotland's The Chimes came up with a sure-fire way to get some attention - remaking a modern rock classic from one of the world's biggest bands. Of course, the soul/dance trio's take on "I Still Haven't..." wasn't as revolutionary as it would've been if U2 hadn't already given the song from The Joshua Tree a gospel makeover on Rattle & Hum, but The Chimes' beat-driven cover was still enough of a musical departure to earn the disdain of the Irish band's devoted following - which made me love it even more. Unfortunately, despite their previous two singles as well as upcoming tracks "True Love" and "Love Comes To Mind" all being great songs, The Chimes never saw the inside of the ARIA top 50 again.




Number 46 Live! (EP) by Roxus
Peak: number 33
Containing live versions of their previous two top 100 singles, "Stand Back" (number 44) and "Body Heat" (number 60), this four-song EP saw the Australian hard rock band achieve their highest chart position to date. Two previously unreleased tunes were included on Live! - "That Girl" and "Morning Light" (below), with the latter serving as the EP's lead track (despite being third in the running order) and receiving play on music video shows. Of the four songs, only "Stand Back" would end up appearing on Roxus' debut album, Nightstreet, which wouldn't see the light of day until August 1991.




Number 37 "Spin That Wheel" by Hi Tek 3 featuring Ya Kid K
Peak: number 5
She'd already performed on two Australian top 10 singles with Technotronic - without receiving an official featuring credit for either - but finally, Ya Kid K got her dues on this one-off single with Hi Tek 3. A collaboration between the Belgian trio and Technotronic's main man, Jo Bogaert, "Spin That Wheel" got an extra push when it was used in the original film adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is why there are two videos for the track - one linked to in the song title above and one below - and why it's sometimes referred to as "Spin That Wheel (Turtles Get Real)". Even though Ya Kid K would appear on several more Technotronic singles in the coming years, she never returned to the ARIA top 50 - she was again unbilled for the dance act's inevitable "Megamix" single - meaning she has the unfortunate honour of technically being a one-hit wonder, as were Hi Tek 3.




Number 26 "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips
Peak: number 2
In the US, the groups their parents were members of managed a combined total of four number 1 singles in the 1960s, while the trio featuring Carnie and Wendy Wilson (the daughters of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Marilyn Rovell of little-known '60s girl group The Honeys), and Chynna Phillips (the daughter of John and Michelle Phillips from The Mamas & The Papas) clocked up three chart-toppers Stateside in less than a year. 
In Australia, the going wasn't quite as good for the second-generation music stars. Debut single "Hold On" almost reached number 1 - it was denied the top spot by Roxette - but neither their other two American chart-toppers ("Release Me" and "You're In Love") nor US top 5 hit "Impulsive" managed to dent the ARIA top 50. But then, none of those other songs were anywhere near as good as "Hold On", a slice of perfectly harmonised pop that hooks you in within seconds and still sounds great all these years later.
Of course, Wilson Phillips' sweet voices were matched by their pure and innocent image. No half-naked gyrating or suggestive lyrics here. Instead, Carnie, Wendy and Chynna, who were all in their early 20s at the time, were the kind of gals who liked spending time in the brisk mountain air (while wearing sensible outdoor clothing) and strolls (OK, marches) along the boardwalk. 
Although ripe for parody, the wholesomeness of the trio goes a long way to explaining that staggering US success - and why it was so relatively short-lived. As music became increasingly sexualised in the '90s, there was little room for a group that didn't have half as much fun as their parents did three decades earlier. But, as demonstrated by Bridesmaidsas daggy as Wilson Phillips and "Hold On" might have been, there's never been any use trying to pretend you don't know every word.




Next week: Stop, Hammer time! Yep, the rapper with the baggiest pants (that's trousers, for you UK readers) invades the chart. Plus, one of the biggest dance acts of the early '90s arrives and Australia's second favourite hair metal band returns.

And, as I mentioned on my 30 Years Ago... post for this week, if you enjoy reading this trip back to the music of 1990 each week, I'd love it if you would share, tweet, post or otherwise spread the word about my blog. I appreciate all the support!


Back to: Jun 10, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 24, 1990


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: June 16, 1985

Gay rights might have made leaps and bounds in the three decades since 1985 (when same-sex relations were still illegal in half of Australia), but the music charts were just as inclusive 30 years ago - if not more so - than they are now.

A love of hair gel wasn't the only thing Jimmy and Marc had in common

This week in 1985, three back-to-back new entries came from acts that today would fall under the all-encompassing acronym LGBTQI - and unlike some music superstars (Elton John, George Michael), who kept their sexuality wrapped up at that point, none of the three artists made any secret of their preferences. Indeed, in some cases, it was a big part of their public image.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 16, 1985

Meanwhile, USA For Africa was denied a 10th week at number 1 as "We Are The World" was replaced by Eurythmics' "Would I Lie To You?", which stole two weeks at the summit before Madonna took up residency at the top of the ARIA chart.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "Piece Of The Action" by Meatloaf
Peak: number 98
He endured a top 50 drought from 1978's "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" until his big comeback in 1993, with songs like this final single from Bad Attitude barely denting the top 100 in the meantime.

Number 91 "Dangerous Dancing" by Goanna
Peak: number 91
Another act unable to muster the chart action they'd enjoyed previously is the Australian rock band behind 1982's number 3 smash "Solid Rock", with this second single from Oceania becoming their final top 100 showing.

Number 89 "Won't You Hold My Hand Now" by King
Peak: number 86
In the UK, they enjoyed further big hits with "Alone With You" and "The Taste Of Your Tears" from their second album, Bitter Sweet, but this follow-up to "Love & Pride" was King's only other ARIA top 100 appearance.


New entries
Number 46 "Suddenly" by Billy Ocean
Peak: number 15
Suddenly is the right word. After a chart dry spell to rival Meatloaf's - going without a hit from 1977 to 1984 - Billy Ocean was suddenly one of the most consistently successful male artists in the world. This ballad and title track of his fifth album became the British singer's third big hit in a row, following the more upbeat "Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)" and "Loverboy", which had both made the ARIA top 10. A slush-fest along the lines of Lionel Richie's "Hello", "Suddenly" is the type of heartfelt ballad that just doesn't get made anymore - although I reckon if someone did release a song like this, it'd be massive.




Number 44 "My Heart's On Fire" by Machinations
Peak: number 27
Guess who'd been listening to a bit of Frankie Goes To Hollywood? Sounding more than a little like "Welcome To The Pleasuredome", the latest release from one of Australia's best synthpop bands was the follow-up to their biggest hit, "No Say In It", and the second single from their Big Music album. Despite its top 30 placing, I don't actually remember "My Heart's On Fire" from the time but, having familiarised myself with it now, I don't rate it as highly as either its predecessor or the group's later singles from 1987/88 - there's not enough of a song for me.




Number 38 "Baby U Left Me (In The Cold)" by Marilyn
Peak: number 34
It might have been a more conservative time in 1985, but the charts were actually pretty diverse - and, as this next trio of new entries demonstrates, all sorts of queer acts were able to score hit records on the strength of their music. Sure, the novelty of their sexuality or gender identification sometimes played a part in their initial fame, but acts like Culture Club and Frankie Goes To Hollywood proved that the hits continued as long as the songs were good enough. 
For Boy George's sometime bestie, Marilyn, chart success wasn't what it once was. Granted "Baby U Left Me..." did return the singer born Peter Robinson to the ARIA top 50 after previous single "You Don't Love Me" had only reached number 57 (despite its video featuring scenes from his promo visit to Australia), but it was a long way from the heady days of "Calling Your Name" peaking at number 3 in early 1984. 
Despite it being well over a year since that smash debut single, Marilyn had still to release his first album - but Despite Straight Lines would finally surface in the next few weeks. Produced by Was (Not Was) member Don Was, fourth single "Baby U Left Me..." was fairly consistent with Marilyn's earlier pop/soul tracks, but there was one significant difference with this release - the singer had been through a complete image overhaul, with his long blond locks cut short. Unfortunately that wasn't enough to turn what was a pretty average song into a big hit - and after this brief foray back into the top 50, Marilyn was never seen on the charts again.




Number 37 "I Feel Love (Medley)" by Bronski Beat & Marc Almond
Peak: number 34
It was a match made in camp heaven as two of the most prominent gay singers in the world took on the Queen of Disco. This astonishing medley of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and "Love To Love You Baby" also contained a bit of 1961 single "Johnny Remember Me" by John Leyton for good measure - and would be Jimmy Somerville's final release with Bronski Beat before he left the trio and went on to form Communards. 
Despite making his name with original songs like "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?", from this point on, Jimmy's biggest hits - both with Communards and as a solo act - would be with remakes. Joining Jimmy on lead vocals was Marc Almond, who had himself moved on from his former group, Soft Cell, and also did quite well with covers. 
Intended for Bronski Beat's second album, "I Feel Love (Medley)" ended up on remix album Hundreds And Thousands, along with a version of what would have been Bronski Beat's next single, "Run From Love", a song Jimmy later revived as a solo artist in 1991.




Number 36 "Lover Come Back To Me" by Dead Or Alive
Peak: number 13
Concluding our LGBTQI triple play is this follow-up to "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)", another Stock Aitken Waterman production for the band led by an eye-patch-wearing Pete Burns. "Love Come Back To Me" was taken from Dead Or Alive's Youthquake album, which jumped into the top 20 on the ARIA chart this week in 1985 and was completely produced by the Hit Factory - an experience that Pete Waterman recalls in his book, I Wish I Was Me: "Pete [Burns] wanted thirty different sorts of song on one album, so one minute it would sound like Dead Or Alive, and the next like Michael Jackson, and the next like Wham! It just wasn't working out for us, so we stopped working with them. I've worked with a lot of artists in my life, but the one person that I think I could really have done amazing things with is Pete Burns. If he'd given me more control over the direction the band went in, I think we could have taken Dead Or Alive onto a whole new level."




Number 24 "A View To A Kill" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 6
In 1983-84, Duran Duran had been unstoppable. In Australia alone, four of their six singles released here in those years reached the top 5. And then, one of the biggest bands in the world split in two, with the Arcadia and The Power Station projects keeping the members busy between Duran Duran albums. 
There was, however, the small matter of a single the quintet had recorded for the latest James Bond film, A View To A Kill. Released to coincide with the movie reaching cinemas in mid-1985, the theme song would turn out to be the last release from the line-up of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor until their 2004 reunion album, Astronaut. 
"A View To A Kill" was the first Bond theme to be recorded by a band since 1973's "Live And Let Die" by Paul McCartney & Wings, with the previous five title songs performed by female singers like Rita Coolidge, Shirley Bassey and Lulu. Bass player John Taylor has confirmed he's responsible for the band getting the gig, after a drunken discussion with 007 producer Cubby Broccoli in which he asked, "When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?"
Turns out John's arrogance was warranted, with "A View To A Kill" becoming the first - and, to this day, the only - Bond theme to reach number 1 in the US, no doubt helped along by the song's Eiffel Tower-set music video, a Bond-style spectacle that maintained Duran Duran's popularity on MTV.




Next week: it's out with the old and in with the new as one of the most successful Australian bands of the '80s lands their final top 50 hit, while an up-and-coming local group hit the top 5 with their debut single. Plus, The Style Council, Animotion and China Crisis debut. 

Finally, before I go, if you enjoy reading this trip back to the music of 1985 each week, I'd love it if you would share, tweet, post or otherwise spread the word about my blog. I appreciate all the support!


Back to: Jun 9, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 23, 1985


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


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: June 9, 1985

When is a hit song not a single? It happens all the time in 2015 - for example, when album tracks flood the singles chart upon the release of a new album. But, in 1985, one of the biggest hits of the year was actually the B-side of the extended version of another song.



Yep, 30 years ago this week, Madonna was so massive that she didn't even have to issue "Into The Groove" as a 7" single for it to make short work of its journey to the top of the charts in Australia.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending June 9, 1985

At the top of the ARIA singles chart this week in 1985, "We Are The World" spent its ninth and final week at number 1 - making it the longest-running chart-topper since "Mull Of Kintyre/Girls' School" by Wings, which ruled the roost for 11 weeks in 1977/78.

Meanwhile, another enduring single spent its final week in the Australian top 50. Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark/Pink Cadillac" registered its 53rd week on the chart - which, together with an additional 11 weeks spent between numbers 50 and 100, equalled the top 100 chart run of "Chariots Of Fire" by Vangelis in 1981/82, although that movie theme only spent 35 of its 64 weeks in the top 50. In the pre-download era, when it wasn't so easy to amass "Riptide"-like numbers of weeks on the chart, Bruce's top 50 tally was an impressive feat.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "New Attitude" by Patti LaBelle,
Peak: number 84
"The Heat Is On" and "Neutron Dance" had hit the top 10 - and one more song from Beverly Hills Cop would do so - but there was no such luck for this track from the soundtrack, performed by the singer behind the original version of "Lady Marmalade". 

Number 95 "Send My Heart" by The Adventures
Peak: number 92
Taken from the first album by the Belfast band whose 1988 single "Broken Land" became a minor top 50 hit, "Send My Heart" was used in the soundtrack to Italian horror film Demons, although the scenes in the music video don't look that scary.

Number 67 "Whose Side Are You On?" by Matt Bianco
Peak: number 57
To me, it's one of their best known songs but this title track from the debut album by the British sophisti-pop group (the lead singer's name was Mark) was a flop at home, while all four other singles from the LP reaching the UK top 50.


New Entries
Number 50 "The Drover's Dog" by Redgum
Peak: number 20
One last hurrah for Redgum with its original trio of John Schumann, Michael Atkinson and Verity Truman intact, before the former member went off on a solo career. "The Drover's Dog" was found on the Australian folk rock group's first best of album, Everything's Legal, Anything Goes - Redgum's Greatest, and became their third and final top 20 hit (following 1983's chart-topper "I Was Only Nineteen" and "I've Been To Bali Too", which made number 16 in 1984). As you'd expect with Redgum, "The Drover's Dog" had a political bent - the lyrics were a version of Bob Hawke's life story set to the melody of "When I Was A Lad" from HMS Pinafore, with the title taken from a quote made by former Labor leader Bill Hayden about Hawke that "a drover's dog could lead the Labor Party to victory".




Number 49 "Live It Up" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 2
After releasing my favourite ever single of theirs ("You're So Strong"), Mental As Anything proved as unreliable as ever in my books by following it up with one of my least favourite songs from them. Of course, "Live It Up", the second single from Fundamental, was a runaway smash and became the kooky band's biggest ever hit, but I found it too nursery rhyme-like - if you can have a nursery rhyme about going back to someone's place (hey, "Ring A Ring O' Roses" was said to be about dying from the Great Plague, so why not?). The song even broke into the UK charts (reaching number 3) a couple of years later after it was featured on the soundtrack to Crocodile Dundee




Number 46 "That Ole Devil Called Love" by Alison Moyet
Peak: number 46
Having run out of singles to lift from debut album Alf, Alison Moyet released this cover of a Billie Holiday B-side from 1945. In the UK, it became far and away her biggest hit to date, reaching number 2 and equalling the peak attained by Yazoo's "Only You". Australia wasn't so taken with her interpretation of the jazz standard, and it progressed no further. Alison would be back with a new pop album in 1986 - and repeated the trick of releasing a remake of a classic song between her second and third albums, but 1987's "Love Letters", while making number 4 in the UK, didn't register on the ARIA top 100.




Number 42 "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina & The Waves
Peak: number 4
While I can't stand "Live It Up", here's another polarising top 5 single I am in favour of. Despite the fact that it's been completely overplayed in the past three decades and rubs some people up the wrong way, I still like "Walking On Sunshine" and the fact that it never fails to put a bounce in my step. One of the most exuberant songs of all time, it actually started out in a slightly different form on Katrina & The Waves' debut album of the same name in 1983. Two years on and the band were the proud owners of a major label record deal - and "Walking On Sunshine" was, like the majority of the tracks on the band's self-titled album, given a bit of a polish up. The revamp worked a treat, as the song hit top 10s around the world - and would prove impossible to better.




Number 18 "19" by Paul Hardcastle
Peak: number 10
Katrina & The Waves are often wrongly accredited as having only had one hit in Australia, but here's an artist who is a genuine one-hit wonder: British musician Paul Hardcastle, whose UK number 1, "19", was also unique in being one of the first chart hits to make extensive use of sampling. Like the aforementioned Redgum chart-topper, "I Was Only Nineteen", the title of "19" refers to the average age of soldiers in the Vietnam War - well, that was the statistic given by a documentary that inspired Paul to record the song, with snippets of its commentary interspersed with clips from news coverage and electronic beats. 
The release of the record coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the conclusion of the Vietnam War, but despite a decade having passed, the conflict was still incredibly contentious, particularly in the US, where radio airplay for the track was limited. Even so, sales of the single in America and all around the world were massive, so much so that Paul's then-manager was able to keep his fledgling business afloat. That company was 19 Entertainment and Paul's manager was Simon Fuller, making "19" responsible for Spice Girls, S Club 7 and Pop Idol.




Number 17 "Angel / Into The Groove" by Madonna
Peak: number 1
"Material Girl" had spent its 12th and final week on the top 50 seven days earlier, but as we'll see as 1985 progresses, Madonna had no shortage of singles up her sleeve - including the third release from Like A Virgin, "Angel", which leapt into the top 20 (from an entry position of number 99) on its way to number 1. 
It didn't get double A-side billing on the ARIA chart for another three weeks, but a key component of the success of "Angel" was the song tucked away on the B-side of the 12" version - a little track you might have heard of called "Into The Groove". As good a song as "Angel" is, "Into The Groove" is not only one of Madonna's all-time best records, but at this point in time was a never-before-released track from the world's hottest female artist. It was also taken from the soundtrack to Desperately Seeking Susan, in which the singer made her feature film debut as an actress. In short: the single sold so well because of "Into The Groove".
The double A-side status of the single in Australia mirrors the decision to give joint credit to "Vogue/Keep It Together" five years later, and it meant that "Into The Groove" was able to rank as one of Madonna's 11 (to date) chart-toppers - even if it had to share that honour. 
In the US, however, chart rules meant that "Into The Groove" was ineligible to register at all on the Billboard Hot 100, while "Angel" reached a peak on number 5 on its own - which is not bad going given it didn't even have a music video. Meanwhile, over in the UK, "Into The Groove" was released as a stand-alone single and it duly reached number 1, with a re-release of "Holiday" coming in at number 2 behind it during its reign at the top.
By the time the combined might of "Angel" and "Into The Groove" had made it to number 1 in Australia, Madonna had yet another song debut in the top 20... but we'll get to that in a few weeks.




Next week: they may have been off doing different things, but the five members of one of the world's biggest bands still managed to reunite for a massive soundtrack hit. Plus, the top 50 welcomes a LGBTQI triple play (decades before that acronym even existed).


Back to: Jun 2, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 16, 1985