Thursday, 26 May 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: May 26, 1991

Ray Parker Jr vs Huey Lewis & The News. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams vs Marvin Gaye's estate. Vanilla Ice vs Queen and David Bowie. Music history is filled with major plagiarism cases - and one of the biggest concerned a song that debuted on the ARIA top 50 this week in 1991.

This single turned out to be not such a wonderful thing for Michael Bolton

In this case, the new song even had the same title as the old song, which seems kind of an obvious thing to do... unless the musical borrowing wasn't intentional, which is what the singer/songwriter who was hauled off to court claimed.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 26, 1991

Why steal from someone else's song when you can just cover it, as Daryl Braithwaite had done on the number 1 single 25 years ago this week. His remake of "The Horses" held on to the top spot for its second and final week.


Off The Chart
Number 98 "Can't Hold On" by Nick Barker & The Reptiles
Peak: number 84
The only version of this rock ballad, the second single from After The Show, on YouTube is a live performance from 2012 - but you get the drift.

Number 97 "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" by Definition Of Sound
Peak: number 77
The first of a trio of songs I would've loved to have seen do better, "Wear Your Love..." made the top 20 in the UK, but it'd be another four years before the British dance act reached the ARIA top 50.

Number 83 "Stone Cold Gentleman" by Ralph Tresvant
Peak: number  83
One of the half a dozen songs I still own on cassette single, this matched Ralph's previous effort, "Sensitivity", by missing the top 50 despite a guest rap by Bobby Brown. 

Number 79 "Get The Message" by Electronic
Peak: number 71
It took almost a year-and-a-half to follow up "Getting Away With It", but the wait was worth it, with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr delivering another instant classic.


New Entries
Number 50 "What Comes Naturally" by Sheena Easton
Peak: number 4
Six years previously, she underwent the type of makeover Madonna would be proud of, and although Australia had been right on board for Sheena Easton's revamp single, "Strut", there'd been significantly less interest in her material after that. Her work with Prince on tracks like "Sugar Walls" and "U Got The Look" just scraped into the top 100, while her mostly LA Reid & Babyface-produced album, The Lover In Me, didn't yield any hits here either, despite the title track being a big success in the US and the UK.
Whether it was because "What Comes Naturally" was playfully sexual without being as raunchy as those other singles (and therefore more accessible) or whether it was just a better song, the title track from her 10th studio album became her biggest Australian hit since "9 To 5 (Morning Train)" reached number 1 in 1981. The return to favour would be short-lived, however, and "What Comes Naturally" would end up being Sheena's last major hit single.




Number 43 "Word Of Mouth" by Mike & The Mechanics
Peak: number 33
I don't quite know why I find parts of Mike & The Mechanics' back catalogue so forgettable. Not their initial couple of singles from 1986, which I've always loved. And obviously not "The Living Years", which I've never liked but is hard to wipe from my memory - but the other, less successful hits.
A couple of years ago, when I recapped "Nobody's Perfect", I was pleased to be reminded of the song and ended up downloading it - but it was a track I hadn't thought of since 1989. And here we are again. The title track of the third album by Mike Rutherford's Genesis side-project, "Word Of Mouth" is another single I haven't heard since it was out. 
Sung by Paul Young (not the "Love Of The Common People" guy), "Word Of Mouth" reminds me a little bit of Queen, but also of the type of song you'd hear at one of those newfangled churches where they play electric guitars in an effort to appeal to "the youth". It would end up being Mike & The Mechanics' final top 50 hit in Australia, since we inexplicably turned our noses up at one of their lesser known songs I do recall - 1995's "Over My Shoulder".




Number 39 "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" by Michael Bolton
Peak: number 25
Just when things had been going so well for Michael Bolton. After years spent plugging away, having success as a songwriter but not as a singer, he finally became a star himself with a string of power ballad hits in the late '80s and early '90s. Taken from his first album of the '90s, Time, Love & Tenderness, "Love Is A Wonderful Thing" upped the tempo. A gospel-tinged ditty, it was another track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in church. One of those happy clappy ones.
Not his biggest hit in Australia, the song reached number 4 in the US and helped send the album to number 1. And, that's when the problems started for Michael. Ronald Isley heard the track and decided it bore a resemblance to an old single with the same title that he and his brothers had released in 1966. And so, The Isley Brothers took Michael and co-writer Andrew Goldmark to court. 
The jury found in favour of the Isleys, awarding them 66% of the profits of Michael's single and 28% of the profits of the album - a sum of over $5 million. Michael appealed the decision, having always stated he'd never heard the original - which is quite likely given it wasn't a hit - and arguing that the jury didn't have the musical knowledge to adequately decide the case. Proceedings dragged out for years, but apart from a slightly reduced compensation figure, he was unsuccessful. I don't know about you, but I kind of side with Michael on this one. Thoughts?




Next week: seven new entries, including the return of a singer most famous for dancing with a cartoon cat, the pop breakthrough of a Christian music performer and a second generation boy band.


Back to: May 19, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 2, 1991


1 comment:

  1. 'Wear Your Love Like Heaven' was catchy, but I preferred their later stuff. Seems like it should have done better than #77.

    I don't remember 'Stone Cold Gentleman'. I've still got about 50 cassingles.

    'Get the Message' isn't on the same par as 'Getting Away With It' for me.

    'What Comes Naturally' sounds very Prince-esque to me, from the sound down to the the theme. Maybe that was the intention? Its local success was a big surprise after the complete floppage of the previous album, but its chart run seemed brief for a #4 hit. On a radio interview I heard with her earlier this year, she seemed unaware/surprised that 'What Comes Naturally' was a big hit for her here.

    I loved 'Word of Mouth', and thought it would have been a top 10 hit at least, if not top 5. When I first heard it, I thought it was by Queen. I thought it did marginally better than #33 here.

    'Love Is a Wonderful Thing' was pleasant, but forgettable. It's the kind of song I could imagine being broadcast at a car wash. I wasn't aware of the legal issues involving the song. Not knowing the Isley Brothers song, I can hear a similarity in how the title is sung, but I wouldn't say the whole song was plagiarised. Granting them 28% (or slightly less) of the album royalties was a bit excessive, I think; but maybe 20% of the single's royalties and 5-10% of the album's wouldn't have been too unreasonable.

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