Thursday, 28 April 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: April 28, 1991

Having back-to-back number 1 hits is not unusual - plenty of acts have done it over the years. An artist having two consecutive number 1 songs in the top 10 at the same time has also happened more than once - we saw it in my 30 Years Ago... posts last year when Madonna replaced herself at the top.

Ratcat broke all the singles chart rules in 1991
But, 25 years ago this week, something rare happened on the ARIA singles chart (not even Justin Bieber did it recently with his chart-hogging slew of singles). A band had two songs simultaneously in the top 10 - and although both would be number 1 hits, neither had yet reached the top.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 28, 1991

There was only a week in it, since the earlier of the two singles was just seven days away from being number 1. Until then, Roxette spent their third week on top with "Joyride" this week in 1991.


Off the chart
Number 98 "Hold You Tight" by Tara Kemp
Peak: number 68
This debut single, which features samples from tracks by Lyn Collins, Bill Withers and Orange Crush, was a top 3 smash in the US, but flew under the radar in Australia.

Number 87 "A Little Time" by Beautiful South
Peak: number 72
Their one-time bandmate Norman Cook did it with Beats International, and former Housemartins Paul Heaton and Dave Hemmingway also topped the UK chart with this lead single from second album Choke. The song's clip won the BRIT Award for Best Video. 

Number 86 "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)" by Ice-T
Peak: number 73
This track from New Jack City spent three months in the lower end of the ARIA top 100. Actor/rapper Ice-T appeared in the movie as a detective out to stop Nino Brown, the drug dealer played by Wesley Snipes mentioned in the title.

Number 73 "If A Vow" by The Hummingbirds
Peak: number 73
It was beginning to look a lot like 1989's top 20 hit "Blush" had been a fluke for indie band The Hummingbirds, who placed their third consecutive single in the 70s, despite "If A Vow" being the first track lifted from second album Va Va Voom


Breaker
"Been Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction
Peak: number 56
The story of Jane's Addiction is a fascinating one - and one that's bound to end up as a book and/or film some day. With '80s rock on the wane, the band comprised of singer Perry Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Eric Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins were at the forefront of '90s alternative rock, launching and headlining the first Lollapalooza festival, releasing their breakthrough album, Ritual De Lo Habitual, amid a sea of drug abuse and in-fighting, and spectacularly self-destructing while on the road. "Been Caught Stealing" is easily the band's best-known track, and despite not making much of a mark on mainstream charts, it was a number 1 hit on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart, while its shoplifting-themed music video was an MTV staple. By the end of the year, however, the band had broken up.




New entries
Number 48 "Love The One You're With" by Chantoozies
Peak: number 21
Following their string of hits in 1987-88, Chantoozies had been finding it hard to return to the top 50 - and even more of a challenge hanging onto band members, with the initial line-up of eight reduced to just three singers: Ally Fowler, Angie La Bozzetta and Eve von Bibra. Solution: release a cover version. The trio's pop take on the much-covered "Love The One You're With" (originally recorded by Stephen Stills) was a return to form and narrowly missed out on becoming Chantoozies' third top 20 hit. Unfortunately, second album Gild The Lily didn't reach the top 50, a follow-up remake of The Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" bombed out completely and three became zero by the end of the year. That wasn't quite the end of the story, with the female members reuniting every so often to release a new song or, as they did earlier in 2016, support Bananarama on a national tour.




Number 45 "Rhythm Of My Heart" by Rod Stewart
Peak: number 2
I've spoken before (here and here) about my hatred for Rod Stewart's musical output in the late '80s and early '90s - but this was the song that was the final nail in the coffin. "Rhythm Of My Heart" was his fifth cover version in a row - this time of an album track by Dutch performer René Shuman - with a melody based on traditional Scottish song "Loch Lamond". Sounding like an overblown national anthem, the track was the first single proper from Rod's Vagabond Heart album and was mercifully kept from the top of the ARIA chart by "The Grease Megamix".




Number 8 "Don't Go Now" by Ratcat
Peak: number 1
Here's the band responsible for two future chart-toppers on this week's ARIA top 50, with "Don't Go Now" joining the incredibly persistent Tingles EP in the top 10. In just a few months, the Sydney band had gone from virtual unknowns to one of the most popular acts in the country - and nothing summed that up more than the number 8 debut of "Don't Go Now" in its first week in the entire top 100. Decidedly poppier than Tingles lead track "That Ain't Bad", "Don't Go Now" maintained the band's jangly guitar sound - and suggested the band had found the perfect marriage between indie cred and mainstream sensibility. For the time being, anyway. Providing backing vocals on "Don't Go Now" was Margaret Urlich, who could be heard on another future number 1 single, "The Horses", which was also sitting inside the top 10 this week in 1991.




Next week: Pet Shop Boys commit sacrilege - and I loved it. Plus, two new rap hits reach the top 50.


Back to: Apr 21, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 5, 1991


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: April 27, 1986

Michael Jackson turning into a zombie, Madonna kissing an African-American Jesus, a-ha's Morten Harket pulling a woman into an animated world... The '80s were full of memorable music videos with striking visuals. Thirty years ago this week, a single with a film clip that boasted one of the decade's most iconic images debuted on the ARIA singles chart. 

Robert Palmer became addicted to recreating this memorable visual

Not only was the video that featured Robert Palmer performing in front of a five-piece band of identically dressed women incredibly striking in and of itself, but it has been imitated and parodied ever since. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 27, 1986

Another single with a visually memorable music video rose to the number 1 spot this week in 1986. Diana Ross and her multiple costume changes took "Chain Reaction" to the top for the first of a three-week run.


Off the chart
Number 100 "System Addict" by Five Star
Peak: number 66
Despite a string of hits in Britain (many of which made my personal year-end charts for 1986, 1987 and 1988), this UK number 3 was the only top 100 entry for the Pearson siblings in Australia.

Number 88 "Another Night" by Aretha Franklin
Peak: number 67
It was another solid single from Who's Zoomin' Who, but "Another Night" couldn't follow the three previous cuts from the album into the ARIA top 50.


Breaker
"Rainy Day" by Geisha
Peak: number 59
It poked its head inside the top 100 in October 1985 but Geisha's second single received a new lease of life in the wake of their top 50 debut with "Kabuki" earlier in 1986. Unfortunately, "Rainy Day" still couldn't quite manage to reach the top 50 - but their biggest singles success was only a few short months away.


New entries
Number 49 "Absolutely" by Eurogliders
Peak: number 29
It almost looked like this fourth single from and title track of Eurogliders' Absolutely album wasn't ever going to make the top 50, having spent the previous four weeks stuck in the 50s, but the bouncy track ended up becoming another top 30 hit for the band.




Number 46 "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown" by The Johnnys
Peak: number 46
They were really sticking with this Western theme, weren't they? Hot on the (cowboy boot) heels of "Injun Joe", Sydney band The Johnnys landed a second top 50 hit with another fusion of country and pub rock. "...Showdown", however, wasn't as good a song, and it performed accordingly.




Number 43 "Addicted To Love" by Robert Palmer
Peak: number 1
Supergroup The Power Station might've been a runaway success in 1985, but vocalist Robert Palmer jumped ship early on to return to his solo career. Turned out to be a wise move. Having never reached higher than number 13 on the Australian chart - with 1979's "Doctor Doctor (Bad Case Of Loving You)" - Robert found himself with a number 1 hit in the form of this third single from his 1985 album, Riptide
Without a doubt, a huge factor in the success of "Addicted To Love" was its music video. A simple enough concept, it featured a suited Robert Palmer giving a pretty straightforward performance of the song direct to camera. But, behind him, was a band of female clones - all dressed and made up the same, and pouting like their lives depended on it. Given they were models, I guess they did. 
What the women weren't able to do was play their instruments, with each moving to their own beat and out of sync with the others. The distinctive concept would be revisited by Robert in the clips for subsequent singles "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" and "Simply Irresistible", while everyone from "Weird Al" Yankovic to Shania Twain parodied the video in the ensuing decades. 
Fun fact: "Addicted To Love" was originally recorded as a duet between Robert and Chaka Khan, but her record company blocked the release of that version, resulting in Robert having to go it alone. It didn't turn out so bad for him, with the song also reaching number 1 in the US and number 5 in the UK.




Number 42 "I Do What I Do" by John Taylor
Peak: number 35
Here's one of Robert's bandmates from The Power Station: bassist John Taylor with his first solo project. The theme to erotic drama 9½ Weeks, "I Do What I Do" saw the Duran Duran member try his hand at singing for the first time - and it wasn't bad at all, even if it did get nominated for a Razzie. The film song that was deemed worse? "Love Or Money" by Prince, from Under The Cherry Moon. "I Do What I Do" was the only solo effort released by John at the time, although more tracks from the recording sessions surfaced in 1999 during his five-year break from Duran Duran in which he released six studio albums as well as a handful of live albums and EPs.




Number 29 "Manic Monday" by The Bangles
Peak: number 3
Here's one of Prince's more successful compositions, although at the time it was released under the pseudonym Christopher (the name of his character from Under The Cherry Moon). The first hit single for The Bangles, "Manic Monday" had almost found its way onto Apollonia 6's self-titled album in 1984 but ended up with the girl band and became the lead single from their second album, Different Light. It did the trick, and transformed the four-piece into chart stars overnight. "Manic Monday" spent eight weeks in the Australian top 5, winding up as the year's 16th biggest single. In the US, the song did one better, peaking at number 2 and being denied the top spot by another Prince composition: "Kiss".




Next week: the birth of Comic Relief with a charity cover version of a '50s classic, plus three big ballads - two I love and one that puts me to sleep.


Back to: Apr 20, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 4, 1986


Thursday, 21 April 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: April 21, 1991

Some artists make a huge splash with their debut single (and then sometimes struggle to live up to it), while others take a while to fulfil their potential. Twenty-five years ago this week, the act behind the week's highest new entry on the ARIA top 50 singles chart and one of the artists in the Breakers section demonstrated the more gradual approach.

In 1991, a 23-year-old Celine Dion was about to make the leap into the big time

The former was a British dance duo that exploded with their eighth single (although they had enjoyed one-off chart success three years previously under a different name). The latter was a French-Canadian diva-in-waiting, whose big ballads would help define the decade.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 21, 1991

A band that'd also taken its time to break through - at least internationally - held down the number 1 spot this week in 1991. "Joyride" by Roxette spent a second week on top.


Off The Chart
Number 78 "Night Fever Megamix" by The Mixmasters
Peak: number 78
Not to be confused with Jive Bunny's Mastermixers, the different set of Mixmasters involved in the Megabass track or "Grand Piano" by Mixmaster, this hideous re-sung medley of songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack pre-empted the imminent arrival of "The Grease Megamix" (which had actually come out first in the UK) in Australia.


Breaker
"Where Does My Heart Beat Now" by Celine Dion
Peak: number 62
Almost two years after she first performed it at 1989's Eurovision Song Contest in Switzerland (having won for that country the previous year with "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi"), Celine Dion's first big international English-language hit finally made its way to Australia. It didn't get very far locally, but "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" was a sign of things to come for the Quebec-born singer who'd been releasing French-language albums since 1981. An epic ballad that showcased Celine's monster vocal style, the US top 5 hit was the first step in her eventual world domination. The song was taken from her debut English-language album, Unison, which was released following a major overhaul of Celine's image - including her teeth being fixed and elocution classes. It would turn out to be money well spent.




New Entries
Number 49 "In Days To Come" by John Farnham
Peak: number 49
Possibly as a result of his rapid singles release schedule in 1990, John Farnham had achieved with the Chain Reaction what he hadn't managed with either Whispering Jack or Age Of Reason - three top 10 hits. And, by reaching the top 50 - just! - fourth single "In Days To Come" achieved what neither "Reasons" nor "We're No Angels" could. The socially conscious ballad which references "Imagine" by John Lennon, Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Blowin' In The Wind", and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech was co-written with Ross Fraser and David Hirschfelder, who he'd worked with on "Going, Going, Gone" on Whispering Jack.




Number 48 "Let's Kiss (Like Angels Do)" by Wendy Matthews
Peak: number 14
"Token Angels" and "Women's Gotta Have It" had established Wendy Matthews' solo artist credentials, but if we're being honest, they were a bit ho-hum. With third single "Let's Kiss (Like Angels Do)", the former Absent Friends vocalist finally released a song that excited me - and a good deal of the Australian public, it would seem, since the upbeat pop track became her biggest hit to date. "Let's Kiss..." also had a knock-on effect on album Émigré, which had been puttering around the lower 30s and 40s on the albums chart and suddenly sputtered back to life.




Number 43 "Love School" by Divinyls
Peak: number 43
"I Touch Myself" had put Divinyls on the world stage, but the pair squandered their new-found success by releasing this track as the follow-up single. A song that would've made a great album track, "Love School" never really amounts to very much and, as a result, missed the ARIA top 40. Things went even further downhill with the third single from Divinyls, "Make Out Alright", which missed the top 100 altogether.




Number 42 "Let There Be Love" by Simple Minds
Peak: number 15
The last time we'd heard from stadium-fillers Simple Minds, they'd gotten all political with the Street Fighting Years album, which included UK number 1 and ARIA top 20 hit "Belfast Child". On ninth album Real Life, the band, which was now a trio comprised of singer Jim Kerr, guitarist Charlie Burchill and drummer Mel Gaynor, kept things simple. Lead single "Let There Be Love" was about as straightforward a song as you could hope for, and while it lacked the oomph of some of Simple Minds' best '80s anthems, it gave them their best chart showing since "Belfast Child". 




Number 36 "3 A.M. Eternal" by The KLF featuring The Children Of The Revolution
Peak: number 3
From stadium rock we move now to stadium house and the duo who'd been releasing singles since 1987, including 1988's "Doctorin' The Tardis" (as The Timelords). But, up until 1990's UK top 5 "What Time Is Love?", The KLF had been very much a cult act. While that single received scant attention in Australia, the follow-up, "3 A.M. Eternal", catapulted Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond into the top 3. 
Originally released in a "Pure Trance" version in 1989, the radically reworked "3 A.M. Eternal" was subtitled "Live At The S.S.L." - but that was deceptive. Despite featuring crowd noise behind Ricardo Da Force's rap and the "aha aha aha aha" female vocals, the track was a studio production, with S.S.L. standing for Solid State Logic, a type of mixing desk. 
Unlike the deluge of megamixes, and cheesy novelty songs like "How To Dance" and "Sucker DJ" that'd infiltrated the Australia chart in recent months, "3 A.M. Eternal" was quality dance music that pushed the genre forward in new and inventive ways. And the bizarre KLF (also known as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, furthermore known as The JAMs) were possibly 1991's most exciting new chart stars.




Next week: a future chart-topper from a band that still hadn't reached number 1 with their previous single, plus a greatly diminished Australian pop group resort to another cover version to make it back into the top 50.


Back to: Apr 14, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 28, 1991


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: April 20, 1986

A lot can change in two years, especially when it comes to pop music. Thirty years ago this week, four bands returned to the ARIA top 50 with their first new music since 1984, and for one reason or another, things were quite different this time around.

It was back into the top 10 for Culture Club and Van Halen in 1986

One band had a new lead singer, another experienced their first proper hit single, while yet another saw their chart fortunes restored. The fourth group found the going a little tougher this time around. Speaking of the going getting tough...

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 20, 1986
Yep, you guessed it, Billy Ocean's mega-hit "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" was still number 1 in Australia this week in 1986. The song spent its sixth and final week on top.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "Leaving Me Now" by Level 42
Peak: number 98
Surprisingly, it wasn't UK and US top 10 hit "Something About You" that became Level 42's first top 100 appearance in Australia, but this ballad follow-up. Another good song, though. 

Number 91 "On Our Way Now" by Dynamic Hepnotics
Peak: number 86
Presumably, this new single would've been intended for a second Dynamic Hepnotics studio album if the band hadn't broken up by the end of the year.

Number 85 "Think About Love" by Dolly Parton
Peak: number 74
Despite being pretty much a pop song, this third single from Real Love was yet another number 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart for Dolly - her 20th.


Breaker
"Stages" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 63
Unlike the bands entering the top 50, it was business as more or less usual for ZZ Top and this second single from Afterburner. "Stages" sounded pretty much like what you'd expect a ZZ Top song to sound like and, their top 50 run with "Legs" and "Sleeping Bag" notwithstanding, it performed about as well as the band traditionally managed in Australia.




New Entries
Number 50 "Just Like Fire Would" by The Saints
Peak: number 29
Despite being widely acknowledged as one of the most influential local bands of the late '70s and early '80s, Australia's own punk rock pioneers had never made much of an impact on the charts locally - not even with landmark songs like "(I'm) Stranded" or "Know Your Product". The best they'd been able to manage had been a number 48 placing for 1984's "Ghost Ships". Something clicked in 1986, with this lead single from seventh album All Fools Day taking the band into the top 30. Later covered by Bruce Springsteen, "Just Life Fire Would" was certainly a lot mellower than their early releases, its radio-friendly sound allowing it to slot in nicely on the chart.




Number 47 "Marlene On The Wall" by Suzanne Vega
Peak: number 39
It'd originally peaked at number 91 in December 1985, but Suzanne Vega's debut single bounced back and into the top 50, just as it had in the UK following the release of two further singles from her debut self-titled album. The song title is actually quite literal - Suzanne had a framed photo of actress Marlene Dietrich, of whom she was a fan, on her wall at the time she wrote the song about the ending of a relationship.




Number 44 "Move Away" by Culture Club
Peak: number 10
The last time we'd seen Culture Club in the ARIA top 100 had been in early 1985 when "Mistake No.3", the aptly named third single from their 1984 album, Waking Up With The House On Fire, had bombed out at number 61. This glossy lead single from fourth album From Luxury To Heartache charged straight into the top 50 before making short work of its journey to the top 10, making it seem like Boy George and pals had things back on track. But, appearances can be deceiving. Behind the scenes, the band was only just holding it together, with the recording sessions for From Luxury... hampered by George's heroin addiction. We'll see in coming months just how spectacularly the wheels fell off what had been one of Australia's favourite pop bands of the decade.




Number 40 "Why Can't This Be Love" by Van Halen
Peak: number 8
The departure of a group's lead singer can spell the end for even the most successful of bands - and Van Halen had been massive in 1984 with their album of the same name and hit singles like "Jump" and "Panama". But, with David Lee Roth going off to record a series of tongue-in-cheek cover versions, Van Halen found a replacement in former Montrose frontman and moderately successful solo artist Sammy Hagar - and carried on like nothing had changed. Maintaining the synthrock sound of "Jump", "Why Can't This Be Love" returned Van Halen to the top 10 for the first time since that single in both Australia and the US. Although Sammy quickly slotted into place for the band, he wasn't the first choice to replace David - with both Daryl Hall and Scandal's Patty Smyth also approached. Can you imagine?




Number 39 "Rise" by Public Image Ltd
Peak: number 37
It wasn't good news for all our returning bands. In early 1984, PiL had reached the ARIA top 20 with "This Is Not A Love Song", but there weren't as many takers for "Rise", the lead single from the generically styled album, Album (or Casette or Compact Disc, depending on which format you bought). There also weren't as many returning band members, with this project essentially a solo album by John Lydon recorded with a group of session musicians. PiL would become a band again for the ensuing tour - and many of those new members would stick, but this would be the act's last top 50 appearance.




Next week: a girl band makes a big splash on the top 50, thanks to a song written by Prince, plus the Duran Duran side projects continue and a number 1 with a very distinctive music video arrives.


Back to: Apr 13, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 27, 1986


Thursday, 14 April 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: April 14, 1991

As great as it was that Australia was so readily embracing dance music by 1991, it was often disappointing to me which club tracks made the cut locally and which were completely ignored. Wouldn't you know it, the ARIA top 50 chart from 25 years ago this week demonstrates my point perfectly!

When it came to dance tracks, Australia often chose novelty over quality

This week in 1991, three of the five new entries on the singles chart were dance releases, but none of them excited me as much as the plethora of club-oriented tunes that missed the top 50 in 1990-91. As a side (but maybe related?) point, although dance music was doing well, it was not a good week for Aussie rock.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 14, 1991

Up at the top of the chart, Roxette were also doing well as they leapt from number 4 to number 1 with "Joyride", while Tingles by Ratcat reached a new peak of number 2 in its 17th week on the top 50.


Off The Chart
Number 94 "Call It Poison" by The Escape Club
Peak: number 82
It was looking increasingly unlikely that the band behind "Wild, Wild West" would ever manage another top 50 hit - especially with songs like this lead single from their album Dollars & Sex.

Number 83 "Come Back To Me" by Janet Jackson
Peak: number 79
Given she'd been on a bit of a roll lately, Janet's record company obviously thought this previous US single (released between "Alright" and "Black Cat") was worth a shot here.


Breakers
"One Country" by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 51
Here's our first under-performing Aussie rock track. Although, I doubt anyone would've had very high hopes for this fifth single from Blue Sky Mining, especially since fourth single "Bedlam Bridge" had only just scraped into the top 50 and "One Country" is hardly the most commercial of tunes. And so, maybe a number 51 peak and a small bump back up the chart for the parent album is not bad going.




"High Enough" by Damn Yankees
Peak: number 57
Ugh. Thank goodness Australia had the good sense not to send this schlocky power ballad any higher up the chart than this. Comprising members of groups like Styx and Night Ranger, Damn Yankees clung onto that bigger-is-better '80s hard rock sensibility that, even by 1991, sounded incredibly dated. Naturally, this was massive in America - a number 3 hit.




"Won't Get You Loved" by Nick Barker & The Reptiles
Peak: number 53
It'd taken a cover version for this hard-working pub rock outfit to see any serious chart action from their debut album, Goin' To Pieces. This lead single from second album After The Show didn't change matters for Nick Barker & The Reptiles, whose original material continued to have only a limited following.




New Entries
Number 49 "Rendezvous" by Choirboys
Peak: number 40
It'd been almost a year-and-a-half since their last new single, "Empire", so you might've expected Choirboys to have spent all that time coming up with another "Run To Paradise". Not quite. There's certainly a hook in there, but just when it feels like the chorus is going to explode, "Rendezvous" pulls back and never quite gets there. The single also never quite got there on the chart, bouncing around the 40s for the next couple of months and setting up the Midnight Sun album to have a similarly understated chart run. Funnily enough, the only time we'd see Choirboys in the ARIA top 50 after this would be thanks to a dance remix of "Run To Paradise" in 2004.




Number 48 "16 (Into The Night)" by Junior Tucker
Peak: number 46
For some reason, I thought this reggae remake of the Benny Mardones song from 1980 - then called simply "Into The Night" - had been a bigger hit in Australia. Perhaps that's due to the fact that "16..." spent around half a year in the top 100. And, although its chart peak didn't come close to rivalling that of Benny's original - its longevity did. For Junior, its 25 weeks in the top 100 were mostly spent bouncing around the 50s and 60s. Benny's version, meanwhile, stayed on the chart from October 1980 to May 1981, rising initially to a peak of number 31 and then dropping out of the top 50 before reversing all the way to its eventual high of number 19. These days, Junior has set aside his pop/reggae career for a series of Christian music releases.




Number 46 "How To Dance" by Bingoboys featuring Princessa
Peak: number 3
I believe the word is "basic". Despite this single from Austrian trio Bingoboys being one of the year's biggest dance hits, I've always found "How To Dance" to be a bit simplistic. Yes, it samples a bunch of credible disco, house and soul tracks (from the likes of Chic, Mantronix and The Whispers) but its repeated use of a snippet from a 1970s instructional record make it feel a bit like a novelty record (and you know how I hate those). For me, "How To Dance" is to dance music what "Sucker DJ" is to rap music - an extremely commercial track that ends up a bit like fast food (i.e. briefly satisfying but lacking in any substantive value). 




Number 42 "Time To Make The Floor Burn" by Megabass
Peak: number 40
The ironic thing about this latest multi-artist megamix is that despite it being a lazy, uninspired bandwagon-jumping medley, by reaching number 40, it brought many of the songs I did think highly of onto the top 50 for the first time, so at least that was something. Songs like "Big Fun", "Street Tuff" and "Don't Miss The Partyline" had all been big hits in their own right in the UK and deserved to be better locally, but their presence on "Time To Make The Floor Burn" was better than nothing, I guess. 
Megabass was comprised of Darren Ash and Martin Smith, who, rather unsurprisingly, had a connection to the Jive Bunny records - and their unquestionable mixing skills were on display. The track even features some early mash-ups with the vocals from one song playing out over the backing track from another. Still, give me the original tracks (of which there is a full list on the YouTube link below) any time.




Number 37 "Here We Go" by C&C Music Factory presents Freedom Williams & Zelma Davis
Peak: number 20
Even though this was much more like it - a credible, original dance track - I have to say I didn't consider this follow-up to "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" to be anywhere near as good as its predecessor. Once again, "Here We Go", which had "Let's Rock & Roll" tacked on to the end of its title on the album, combined Freedom Williams' machine gun rap delivery with vocal bursts from Zelma Davis (and it was actually her this time). But not even a cheeky play on the hook from Chic's "Le Freak" - "Aaaah, Freedom!" - made it feel like any less of a slog to get through the whole song.






Next week: the dance act behind a novelty track from 1988 return to "rock ya", while the Aussie rock band responsible for one of 1991's most controversial chart-toppers struggles with their follow-up single. Plus, Wendy Matthews, John Farnham, Simple Minds and the under-the-radar arrival of one of the decade's highest-selling singers.


Back to: Apr 7, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 21, 1991


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: April 13, 1986

This week in 1986, my favourite group of all time entered the ARIA top 50 with their debut single. Of course, they weren't yet my favourite group of all time - that'd take a few more years and several more singles. But it was a promising start.

It was second time lucky for Pet Shop Boys with "West End Girls"

Except, of course, this wasn't really the start. The song dated back to 1984 and had already been released once. And, the pop duo had charted in the ARIA top 100 with their third single earlier in 1986. But, this was when things really got going.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 13, 1986

Speaking of going... "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" by Billy Ocean was starting to make a nuisance of itself at number 1, spending its fifth straight week on top, much to the chagrin of Martin Plaza stuck behind at number 2 yet again.


Off The Chart
Number 97 Love Will Grow - Rosebud Volume 1 by The Stems
Peak: number 72
An improvement on their debut top 100 appearance with "Tears Me In Two", this EP by the Perth indie band doesn't ever seem to have been followed by a second volume.

Number 96 "Is That It?" by Katrina & The Waves
Peak: number 82
Since you ask, Katrina... yes, it pretty much is. There were no more top 50 hits for the almost one-hit wonders, with this lead single from Waves the first of three further top 100 entries. You can read about the other two here and here.

Number 91 "For America" by Jackson Browne
Peak: number 84
After the sunny duet with Clarence Clemons, "You're A Friend Of Mine", Jackson Browne took a turn for the serious with this socio-political first single from Lives In The Balance

Number 86 "Give Blood" by Pete Townshend
Peak: number 77
Here's another act following up a top 10 single with a flop. Featuring Toto's drummer, Paul Young's bassist and Pink Floyd's singer/guitarist, the track is OK but understandably not the hit "Face The Face" was.

Number 78 "Somebody" by Bryan Adams
Peak: number 76
I seem to write about a non-top 50 single from Bryan Adams every few weeks. This time, it's a song that was originally released between "Run To You" and "Heaven" that either didn't come out locally or, if it did, missed the top 100 entirely.


New Entries
Number 48 "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. (A Salute To 60's Rock) / Under The Boardwalk" by John Cougar Mellencamp
Peak: number 18
After the surprising failure of "Small Town" in Australia, John Cougar Mellencamp was back in the top 50 - and achieving his best placing since "Jack & Diane" (number 7 in 1982) - with the third single from Scarecrow. As its subtitle suggests, "R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A." is inspired by music from the '60s and the good-time, throwback feel of the song jarred with the more earnest, political feel of the rest of the album, so much so that it almost didn't make it on. The single didn't come completely without social commentary, however, with the music video depicting an African-American vocal group collaborating with a Caucasian band. On the single's double A-side, JCM gave his salute to '60s soul, with a remake of "Under The Boardwalk" by The Drifters.




Number 49 "Calling America" by Electric Light Orchestra
Peak: number 47
They'd been scoring big hits in Australia since "Livin' Thing" (number 2 in early 1977), but it'd been three years since the world had heard any new material from Electric Light Orchestra and it would seem that music had moved on in their absence. This lead single from Balance Of Power, which also just scraped into the top 50 albums chart, sounded like vintage ELO - and that was exactly the problem, since that sound had become dated by 1986. "Calling America" would be the band's final top 100 appearance in both Australia and, ironically, the US.




Number 42 "Far Side Of Crazy" by Wall Of Voodoo
Peak: number 23
Here's another band last seen on the ARIA chart in 1983, but in the case of Wall Of Voodoo, that had been only their first top 50 appearance. Like breakthrough hit "Mexican Radio", "Far Side Of Crazy" blended new wave sounds with spaghetti Western guitar riffs, but there was a major difference in the group's sound: they had a new lead singer. Following the departure of Stan Ridgway (along with a couple of other members), the remainder of Wall Of Voodoo hired Andy Prieboy and carried on as (more or less) normal. 




Number 40 "Eloise" by The Damned
Peak: number 8
Punk legends The Damned had been releasing music almost as long as ELO, but only hit their commercial stride in the mid-'80s. Their biggest hit of all was this remake of the 1968 single by Barry Ryan, a three-week number 1 in Australia in early 1969. With singer Dave Vanian's vampire-like stylings and the song's tendency for the melodramatic, "Eloise" was certainly the most flamboyant song on the top 50. Unfortunately, it was a one-off thing in Australia, with none of The Damned's six other UK top 40 hits from 1985-1987 making any impact locally. 




Number 36 "West End Girls" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 5
Of the many groups to hit the ARIA top 50 this week, only one would go on to become my all-time favourite. That's right, Pet Shop Boys have pride of place as my top group thanks to a decades-long career of intelligent synthpop. It all began with "West End Girls", an early version of which had been given a limited release in 1984. Then came the first version of "One More Chance" and the original version of "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)", which reached the Australian top 100 earlier in 1986.
In 1985, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe signed a major label record deal, and their early singles were remixed and given a full promotional push by Parlophone. The result: "West End Girls" reached number 1 in both the UK and the US. The half-spoken, half-sung track established Pet Shop Boys' deadpan delivery - both in terms of Neil's vocal and, in the music video, Chris's tendency to stand around in the background looking surly.
In Australia, the track was a top 5 hit and remains to this day as Pet Shop Boys' highest charting single locally under their own name (although "Absolutely Fabulous" by Absolutely Fabulous, which was essentially PSB with dialogue snippets from the TV comedy, reached number 2). I like "West End Girls" - and it's one of the rare songs I know all the words for - but it's not my favourite single by the pair. Not even close.




Number 29 "Baby, You're So Strange" by Icehouse
Peak: number 14
As I mentioned when we saw "No Promises" debut last year, it'd been a long time since Icehouse had seen the inside of the Australian top 20 (after landing there with their first six singles). But with "Baby, You're So Strange", the band managed what they hadn't been able to do with such under-rated songs as "Don't Believe Anymore", "Taking The Town" and "Dusty Pages". In theory the second single from Measure For Measure, since "No Promises" was also included on their fourth LP, "Baby, You're So Strange" was the most raucous the band had sounded - and the song certainly made people sit up, take notice, and go out and buy the album. Measure For Measure duly became Icehouse's fourth top 10 album - a strike rate they managed up until 1990's Code Blue




Next week: two bands return with their first new music in two years - one, a headline-grabbing pop outfit from the UK and the other, an American hard rock group testing out their new lead singer. Plus, two more bands punk roots debut with their first new songs in two years.


Back to: Apr 6, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 20, 1986


Thursday, 7 April 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: April 7, 1991

There's a British quiz show called Pointless, which is kind of like the anti-Family Feud. Instead of contestants coming up with the most popular answers to a survey question, they have to think of the most obscure ones. I'll give you an example - a recent question asked for hits by The Bangles. Naturally, songs like "Walk An Egyptian" and "Manic Monday" scored highly, while "In Your Room" and "Walking Down Your Street" didn't. So, if a contestant could come up with one of the singles everyone had forgotten about, they were doing better than a contestant who could only think of the girl band's biggest hits. Here's a clip of a Manic Street Preachers jackpot question.


Why am I telling you all this? Well, the two new entries on the ARIA singles top 50 from this week in 1991 are over-looked songs by big-name artists - singles that would probably be great answers on Pointless. One was a top 10 single by one of Australia's favourite male singers, and the other wasn't a big hit locally but was the latest American chart-topper for a new female star. For added fun, the three songs that peaked between numbers 51 and 100 are also lesser-known singles by acts with much bigger releases.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 7, 1991 

A number 1 single that would probably also be quite a good Pointless answer rose to the top of the ARIA singles chart 25 years ago this week. Twin Peaks theme "Falling" by Julee Cruise spent a single week on top and is probably not the first song that comes to mind when you think of '90s chart-toppers.


Off The Chart
Number 95 "She's Got Me Going Crazy" by 2 In A Room
Peak: number 72
"Wiggle It" was still at number 14 this week in 1991, but this average follow-up was never more than a chart also-ran, unable to prevent 2 In A Room from becoming 1 Hit Wonders.

Number 84 "Night And Day" by Bette Midler
Peak: number 84
Another song unable to overcome the shadow of its predecessor was this second single from Some People's Lives, which got no further than this debut position, while "From A Distance" spent its 21st week on the top 50 - holding steady at number 21.

Number 60 "Never Say Die" by Jon Bon Jovi
Peak: number 60
I don't think I even knew Jon Bon Jovi released more than two singles from Blaze Of Glory. After two rock ballads, this upbeat number failed to progress any further - but it least it did better than fourth single "Dyin' Ain't Much Of A Livin'", which was a top 100 miss.


New Entries
Number 49 "Someday" by Mariah Carey
Peak: number 44
It's understandable that, out of all of Mariah Carey's ARIA top 50 singles, "Someday" would fly under the radar - it didn't do very well in Australia despite being, for me, one of her all-time best songs. After establishing herself with big ballads "Vision Of Love" and "Love Takes Time", perhaps the change of pace and attitude was too jarring, although the American public (and US radio programmers) had no problem awarding Mariah her third consecutive number 1. 
The upbeat track directed at a clueless ex-boyfriend was one of the songs included on the demo Mariah shopped around to record labels and was given a glossy makeover by producer Ric Wake for her debut album. When it came time for "Someday" to be released as a single, two new 7" mixes were made - one that was pretty similar to the album version (which is the one I prefer) and a new jack swing-influenced mix, which you can hear below.
Another likely reason that "Someday" under-performed locally is that Mariah's debut self-titled album had been bouncing around between numbers 6 and 11 on the albums chart since late January. The success of Mariah Carey would also mean her fourth American number 1 hit, which we'll see in a few months, barely scraped into the ARIA top 50.




Number 45 "When Your Love Is Gone" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 7
If you were to ask someone to list off Jimmy Barnes's top 10 hits, it's likely that songs such as "Working Class Man", "I'd Die To Be With You Tonight" and "Too Much Ain't Enough Love" would all rate a mention before this fourth single from Two Fires. Given its chart placing, "When Your Love Is Gone" is obviously one of Jimmy's more popular singles, but it's not a song you hear a lot about or see much on music TV these days. At the time, the rock ballad's chart success was a dramatic turnaround after "Little Darling" had flopped earlier in the year. A big part of the appeal of "When Your Love Is Gone" was the appearance in the music video of Jimmy's kids - then known as The Tin Lids - and some equally cute pals to join in on the choruses at the end of the song while wearing jumbo headphones. As I've mentioned before, there's nothing like a kiddy choir. 




Next week: the top 50 return of an Aussie rock band is overshadowed by three new dance hits - one of which was the latest megamix to hit the chart, while another was a cheesy track sampling an old instructional record.


Back to: Mar 31, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 14, 1991