|Martin Plaza was the first Mental As Anything member to go solo|
Thirty years ago this week, one of the singers from one of the most popular bands in Australia debuted on the ARIA top 50 with his first solo single. The cover version shot up the singles chart and ended up peaking at number 2, the same position reached by his band's biggest hit.
|ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 9, 1986|
The biggest hit in Australia this week in 1986 was "That's What Friends Are For", which dethroned "A Good Heart". Dionne Warwick and friends would only last a single week at number 1, with the next chart-topper racing into the top 10.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "Undecided" by Plan 8
Peak: number 100
First up, a nice bit of Australian synthpop from the Sydney duo comprised of singer Cat Critch and keyboardist Phil Colville. Never heard this before, but I quite like it.
Number 99 "What Can I Do" by Spaniards
Peak: number 99
A third and final top 100 appearance for the Australian pop/rock group whose Locked In A Dance album came out in 1986.
Number 98 "Blue Kiss" by Jane Wiedlin
Peak: number 98
Beating her band-mates to the punch, Jane Wiedlin became the first ex-Go-Go to release a solo single, although this wasn't as well received as Belinda Carlisle's debut later in the year.
Number 94 "Didn't You Kill My Brother?" by Alexei Sayle
Peak: number 86
Best known to Australian viewers from his appearances in The Young Ones, comedian Alexei Sayle recorded this song for an episode of The Comic Strip Presents....
"Children Of The Revolution" by Violent Femmes
Peak: number 54
A couple of weeks back, we saw "Sounds Of Then" by GANGgajang peak much lower than you would've expected a classic song like that to have done. At least that made the chart. Here's another band with a now iconic track that was never a hit. Taken from Violent Femmes' debut self-titled album, 1983's "Blister In The Sun" is a bona fide classic, but since it wasn't released as a single until 1997, it never featured on the ARIA top 100. And so, it wasn't until their cover of T. Rex's "Children Of The Revolution" that the Femmes made their first appearance on the Australian singles chart. The lead single from third album The Blind Leading The Naked, "Children..." peaked 41 places lower than the original and would end up as the band's highest charting single.
Number 49 "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock 'n' Roll)" by Nick Lowe
Peak: number 26
This track may as well have been credited to Nick Lowe & The News, since not only did Huey Lewis's backing band play on this version of the much-covered song, but it was produced by Huey himself. Nick had actually written the song way back in the 1970s, with Dave Edmunds the first artist to record it, his version reaching number 32 in Australia in 1978.
After some notable live performances and recordings of the track by Nick himself since then, he finally included the song on a studio album, 1985's The Rose Of England. The single release of "I Knew The Bridge..." returned Nick to the Australian top 50 for the first time since "Cruel To Be Kind" (number 12 in 1979). In 1987, comedian Kevin "Bloody" Wilson reinterpreted the song as "I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Be A Moll)" on his Born Again Piss Tank album.
Number 42 "Russians" by Sting
Peak: number 11
Just when it looked like interest in Sting's debut solo album, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, had petered out, fourth single "Russians" turned things around in a big way. The overtly political track eclipsed all three previous singles to peak just outside the top 10 and, in turn, helped push the album back up the chart to enjoy a three-week run at number 1 in April/May. I understand why "Russians" received a lot of attention - it made a bold statement, name-checking both US president Ronald Reagan and USSR premier Nikita Krushchev in its condemnation of the Cold War. But for me, the song, which incorporates a melody by Russian composer Prokofiev, was my least favourite of Sting's singles up until that point - too dark, too dour.
Number 14 "Concrete And Clay" by Martin Plaza
Peak: number 2
Blame it on "Live It Up". Thanks to Mental As Anything's biggest hit single, I considered Greedy Smith to be the band's main lead singer and Martin Plaza to be the guy who occasionally got to have a go. But, that wasn't actually the case. Martin provided vocals for (and wrote) many of the band's best known songs, including "If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?" and "The Nips Are Getting Bigger". So at the time I was a little surprised when it was Martin - and not Greedy - who found himself with a solo smash hit on his hands in 1986. Originally released in 1965 by Unit 4 + 2, "Concrete And Clay" had been a number 21 hit in Australia. Martin's fairly faithful version spent three weeks at number 2, stuck behind Billy Ocean's "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going". Unfortunately for Martin, the chart success wasn't a sign of things to come, with "Concrete And Clay" winding up as his only top 50 appearance.
Next week: one of the world's most popular actors tries his hand at a pop music career - and it wasn't awful. Plus, a song that flopped the first time round returns and finally turns its performer into a major chart force.
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