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


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: May 25, 1986

A couple of weeks ago, we saw the chart arrival of one of my all-time top 5 Australian bands. Thirty years ago this week, another of my favourite local groups debuted on the ARIA chart with their latest single.

Pseudo Echo were living at the top end of the chart in 1986

The band in question seemed to have really found their groove by this point, with their sound bridging the gap between Aussie pub rock and electronic music. And, their first chart-topping single wasn't too far away.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 25, 1986

At the top of the chart this week in 1986, "Living Doll" by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones maintained an easy lead over the rest of the pack in its second week at number 1.


Off the chart
Number 91 "Le Bel Age" by Pat Benatar
Peak: number 86
Unlike "Invincible" and "Sex As A Weapon", this third cut from Seven The Hard Way fizzled out. If you want to actually hear the song, here's a dialogue-less version of the music video.

Number 79 "Never As Good As The First Time" by Sade
Peak: number 70
Here's another third single, this time from Sade's second album, Promise. It became yet another top 50 miss for the group whose only hit to date was still "Smooth Operator"


Breakers
"Best Foot Forward" by Martin Plaza
Peak: number 51
So close... and yet so far. The second solo single from Mental As Anything's Martin Plaza fell agonizingly short of the top 50, and at the same time missed by some margin the chart highs of "Concrete And Clay", which was still sitting (just) inside the top 20. While not as catchy as that remake had been, "Best Food Forward" is not a bad song at all - and better than many a Mentals single. I can only guess that the track was overshadowed by its massive predecessor - I certainly don't recall hearing it at the time - because on its own merits "Best Food Forward" should've done much better.




"The Bigger They Are" by GANGgajang
Peak: number 60
Next up, an act that should've done much better on the chart with all their singles so far: "House Of Cards", "Gimme Some Loving", "Giver Of Life" and, of course, "Sounds Of Then". This time, however, "The Bigger They Are" was about as big as it deserved, since it wasn't as good as any of the other singles from the band's self-titled album.




"After The Love Has Gone" by Princess
Peak: number 57
"Say I'm Your Number One" hadn't quite done what it said on the label, but at least it ended up in the right vicinity, reaching number 8 in February. Unfortunately for Princess, the title of her follow-up, "After The Love Has Gone", turned out to be more appropriate, with her fans deserting her in droves. I didn't actually hear the song until almost a decade later, when I filled many of the gaps in my Stock Aitken Waterman collection, but a loyal few kept the song bouncing around the 50s and 60s long enough for it to register as a breaker three times over the coming weeks.




New entries
Number 50 "Do You Wanna Be?" by I'm Talking
Peak: number 8
From a song produced by the Hit Factory, we come to a track that received a SAW remix. "Do You Wanna Be?" was the fourth single by Melbourne's I'm Talking (fifth, if you include initial EP Someday) - and their last three singles had all charted inside the ARIA top 25. But, despite all that success, "Trust Me", "Lead The Way" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" weren't included on the band's debut album, Bear Witness, later in 1986. "Do You Wanna Be?", which became the highest charting single for I'm Talking, was featured on the album but, surprisingly, was left off Kate Cebrano's just-released career retrospective, Anthology.




Number 47 "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr
Peak: number 31
It was the song that finally gave them a big US hit after a decade together, and quiet storm classic "Secret Lovers" also did good business in Australia for R&B band Atlantic Starr. The "secret" in the title refers to the illicit affair described in the lyrics - with Atlantic Starr singers David Lewis and Barbara Weathers playing the roles of lovers cheating on their spouses to be together. Racy! Atlantic Starr did even better in America in 1987 with the more traditionally themed big ballad "Always", which topped the Billboard Hot 100 but surprisingly didn't crack the ARIA top 50.




Number 28 "Living In A Dream" by Pseudo Echo
Peak: number 15
Pseudo Echo really hadn't put a foot wrong with their singles to date - even if the chart positions for "Dancing Until Midnight" (number 53) and "Stranger In Me" (number 58) had been less than stellar. With "Living In A Dream", they scored their third top 20 smash in a row - the band seemingly having perfected their blend of synthpop and rock.




Next week: a song that couldn't have been more topical if it tried, plus a rock'n'roll legend returns to the top 50 for the first time in 27 years.


Back to: May 18, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 1, 1986


Thursday, 19 May 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: May 19, 1991

It was a great week for rock bands with female singers this week in 1991, with three new entries on the ARIA singles chart coming from groups fronted by women. A fourth new entry was by another act with a female vocalist (even if that wasn't the woman we saw in the track's music video).

Baby Animals became Australia's favourite new rock band in 1991

It was particularly good news for Australian bands with female singers, with a hot new rock group from Perth debuting along with a Sydney indie band that featured two female vocalists in its line-up.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 19, 1991
Up at the top of the chart, there was a female singer featured on the new number 1 single - with "The Horses" by Daryl Braithwaite (and uncredited backing vocalist Margaret Urlich) finally reaching the summit after 15 weeks inside the top 100. In fact, Margaret also appeared on this week's number 2 single, "Don't Go Now" by Ratcat - surely a chart rarity.


Off The Chart
Number 97 "Biscuit's In The House" by Biscuit
Peak: number 97
Had he launched his rap career a year earlier when NKOTB were still white hot, things might have gone better for the boy band's former bodyguard and his "All Right Now"-sampling track.

Number 93 "Rico Suave" by Gerardo
Peak: number 87
A top 10 hit in the US, this James Brown-sampling debut single by Ecuadorian rapper Gerardo Mejia didn't do the business here. Nice Bobby Brown-meets-Milli Vanilli moves in the video, though.


Breaker
"Deeper Shade Of Soul" by Urban Dance Squad
Peak: number 56
You wouldn't think it to listen to this chilled out soul/hip-hop debut single from Dutch band Urban Dance Squad, but much of their output sounded more like Red Hot Chili Peppers or Faith No More on a heavy day. Lacking the rock elements that defined their later singles, "Deeper Shade Of Soul" was based around samples from "A Deeper Shade Of Soul", a 1968 track by Latin jazz artist Ray Barretto. Much more commercial than anything else they released, the song was their only top 100 entry in Australia and the US, where it reached number 21.




New Entries
Number 50 Loot by Clouds
Peak: number 22
Indie bands from Sydney (and Canberra, if we're including The Falling Joys) were receiving a lot of attention in 1991, especially since Ratcat's ascent to the very top of the chart. The latest band to crack the mainstream was Clouds, who'd previously released a self-titled EP in 1990. Second EP Loot contained the single "Souleater" and it's a track I was very familiar with since Clouds became the new favourites of one of my sisters at the time. The band would never see such dizzy heights on the singles chart again, but the duelling harmonies of singers Jodi Phillis and Trish Young would be heard on a series of equally catchy tunes over the next few years (especially in my house).




Number 48 "Slave" by James Reyne
Peak: number 10
Our only top 50 entry from a male singer this week was the latest from former Australian Crawl vocalist James Reyne. The lead single from the curiously titled Electric Digger Dandy (which was renamed Any Day Above Ground for US release), "Slave" saw James in laidback mode. The FM radio-ready song was co-written with Bryan Adams's songwriting partner, Jim Vallance, and returned James to the ARIA top 10 for the first time since 1988's "Motor's Too Fast"




Number 38 "Early Warning" by Baby Animals
Peak: number 21
Exactly a year ago, I mentioned that The Angels had featured some up-and-coming bands on the B-side to their 1990 single "Dogs Are Talking". And now, one of those bands made its ARIA chart debut under their own steam. Fronted by the raspy voiced Suze De Marchi, Baby Animals quickly established themselves as one of Australia's favourite rock acts, even if the chart peak of this first single might seem a little underwhelming. 
But while the band never scored truly massive hits, they did very well on the albums top 50 with their chart-topping self-titled album as well as its 1993 follow-up, Shaved And Dangerous. The Baby Animals album, which included "Early Warning", was produced by Mike Chapman, who was no stranger to working with strong female talent like Suzi Quatro, Pat Benatar, Tina Turner and Blondie's Debbie Harry.
The original Australian music video for "Early Warning" is below while a second clip was made for the US market. And, as shocking as it may be for some of you to hear, I actually didn't mind this song - although I would've loved there to have been a dance remix...




Number 33 "Strike It Up" by Black Box
Peak: number 20
Speaking of dance music, Italo house group Black Box's megamix was on its last legs in the top 40 and was joined by this latest single from Dreamland. Quite why it was decided to release "The Total Mix" before Black Box had finished lifting tracks from their album is unclear, especially since "Strike It Up" wouldn't even be the final single. Given a freshening up from the year-old Dreamland, "Strike It Up" took Black Box back into the ARIA top 20 and also gave the act still "fronted" by Katrin Quinol a second US top 10 hit (with a different remix).




Number 28 "(I Just Wanna) B With U" by Transvision Vamp
Peak: number 16
The biggest new single of the week was by one of the most popular female-fronted bands in Australia over the past few years. Thanks to a combination of sex appeal, ballsy vocals and her knack for self-promotion, Wendy James became an instant icon - and a target for the UK press, who would have delighted in the fact that brand new single "(I Just Wanna) B With U" was a relative flop in Britain. 
It was a different story in Australia, where the track reached the top 20, marking the first time the band had done significantly better with a single here than back at home. As a result of the song's under-par performance on the British chart, Transvision Vamp's UK record label held off on releasing their third album, the even more curiously titled (than James Reyne's effort) Little Magnets Versus The Bubble Of Babble. It did come out in Australia, but by peaking at number 25 came nowhere near previous album Velveteen's number 2 placing. Could the band turn things around? Time would tell.




Next week: the return of a female singer who'd completely transformed herself during her 1980s heyday. Plus, a single that resulted in a plagiarism suit.


Back to: May 12, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 26, 1991


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: May 18, 1986

The great thing about the charts in the '80s was that you really didn't know what was going to crack the top 50 next. Pop acts were incredibly diverse - as demonstrated by the new entries on the ARIA singles chart 30 years ago this week.

Fright wigs ahoy. Sigue Sigue Sputnik shot up the ARIA chart in 1986

From a glammed up synth-punk band to a rockabilly singer, an art pop collective to a couple of pop/rock groups with flamboyant frontmen, there really was something for everyone. And, it wasn't a given which act would have the most successful single out of that bunch.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 18, 1986

This week in 1986, the most successful single in Australia was "Living Doll" by Cliff Richard & The Young Ones, which knocked Diana Ross off her pedestal to commence a six-week run at the top.


Off The Chart
Number 94 "Someone To Somebody" by Feargal Sharkey
Peak: number 64
It was third time unlucky for Feargal as this ballad failed to perform as well as his two big hits. Not sure what's more off-putting - his microphone technique or the song itself.

Number 74 "Indian Summer" by Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers
Peak: number 60
No doubt the presence of the unmistakable vocals of Roy Orbison on this track helped it become the only top 100 appearance by the country group in Australia.


New Entries
Number 48 "Peter Gunn" by The Art Of Noise featuring Duane Eddy
Peak: number 11
By 1986, The Art Of Noise had already been responsible for some of the most innovative synthpop releases thanks to their pioneering use of sampling. But, tracks like "Moments In Love" and "Close (To The Edit)" had failed to make an impact on the local charts. It took this reworking of the theme to 1950s cop show Peter Gunn for the group headed by producer Trevor Horn to make a dent on our top 50. 
Composed by Henry Mancini and first released as a single by trumpet player Ray Anthony (a number 15 single in 1959), it was guitarist Duane Eddy's version which had been the biggest hit, reaching number 2 in Australia in 1960. This new take brought the theme right up to date with a modern soundscape of synths, drums and other samples - and although it didn't beat Duane's original chart peak, it was the highest charting of this week's batch of new singles.




Number 47 "Love Missile F1-11" by Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Peak: number 32
The Art Of Noise might have been tinkering with the sound of tomorrow with their sample-heavy releases, but this group formed by ex-Generation X bass player Tony James looked like they came from the future. With their brightly coloured fright wigs, fishnet stockinged faces and outrageous wardrobes, Sigue Sigue Sputnik wore their dystopian influences, well, all over their bodies. 
They were more than just an edgy image, however. The British group took their post-punk aesthetic and gave it a slick Giorgio Moroder-produced soundtrack on debut single "Love Missile F1-11". Packed with vocal effects and other studio wizardry, the song sounded like the most awesome video game soundtrack and tapped into the mid-'80s fascination with all things outer space. But, the flurry of attention Sigue Sigue Sputnik initially received quickly faded as follow-ups bombed and not even the intervention of Stock Aitken Waterman in 1988 could help matters.




Number 46 "Dancin'" by Chris Isaak
Peak: number 46
From the futuristic synth-punk of Sigue Sigue Sputnik we turn now to the throwback sounds of Chris Isaak, who we've seen making his 1991 breakthrough on recent 25 Years Ago... posts. His first top 50 appearance, however, came in 1986 with this single from debut album Silvertone, which had actually been released back in January 1985. Both "Dancin'" and Silvertone had gone under the radar at first, but thanks to Chris's music being included on the soundtracks to films like Blue Velvet and Modern Girls, attention slowly but surely came the crooner's way.




Number 37 "A Kind Of Magic" by Queen
Peak: number 25
We last saw them with their first post-Live Aid single, "One Vision", back in January - and although that song was included on Queen's 12th studio set, A Kind Of Magic, this title track was the first proper single from the album, which serves as the quasi soundtrack to the movie Highlander. Many of the album's tracks feature in the Russell Mulcahy-directed fantasy film, with "A Kind Of Magic" playing over the end credits. Well, a version of the song, anyway. Russell returned the favour, and directed the music videos for this and upcoming single "Princes Of The Universe".




Number 34 "I Am" by Uncanny X-Men
Peak: number 18
Things had been going pretty well for Uncanny X-Men, with the band racking up a couple of decent-sized chart hits with "The Party" and "50 Years". What better time to sign to a new, bigger record company and really take flight? Nice idea in theory, but this was as good as it got for the band under their new deal with CBS Records. The first single from second album What You Give Is What You Get!, "I Am" became the band's final top 20 single. Fun fact: decades before there were Little Monsters, Beliebers or Directioners, Uncanny X-Men fans were known as Xmaniacs.




Next week: two of the biggest pop bands in Australia debut with excellent new singles. Plus, a slice of American soul.


Back to: May 11, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 25, 1986


Thursday, 12 May 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: May 12, 1991

When would it end? Twenty-five years ago this week, the megamix craze that had resulted in a string of chart hits since the late '80s produced its biggest single yet. 

John Travolta was back in the chart for the first time in 13 years

And like the Jive Bunny records that I blame for resurrecting the medley genre, the future chart-topper delved way back into the past for its inspiration, combining three top 40 hits from 1978 - including a number 1 single.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 12, 1991

The number 1 single this week in 1991 was still the Tingles EP by Ratcat. Having spent so long getting to the top, it wasn't about to surrender without a fight - or, as we'll see in coming weeks, record company intervention.


Off The Chart
Number 95 "Mercy Mercy Me/I Want You" by Robert Palmer
Peak: number 89
His remake (with UB40) of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" had reached the top 5 earlier in the year, but there was less interest in this medley of two Marvin Gaye tracks from the 1970s.

Number 92 "Sex Cymbal" by Sheila E
Peak: number 88
Not even references to her seven-year-old hit "The Glamorous Life" could turn this single, the title track from the singer/percussionist's fourth studio album, into a hit.


Breaker
"Mea Culpa Part II" by Enigma
Peak: number 55
As you'd expect, the novelty of Gregorian chants set to dance beats sure wore off quickly - although it didn't help that "Mea Culpa Part II" was nowhere near as inspired as "Sadness Part I". Still, the second release from Enigma did help parent album MCMXC a.D. about face and head back into top 10 for a second stint in June, so at least it was good for something.




New Entries
Number 49 "Are You Ready" by AC/DC
Peak: number 18
By reaching number 18, this third single from The Razors Edge gave AC/DC three top 40 hits from the one album for the first time since way back in 1975/76 when a trio of tracks from T.N.T. ("High Voltage", "It's A Long Way To The Top" and the title track) charted inside the top 20. Interestingly, the official music video for "Are You Ready" was on YouTube when I started putting this post together, but in the time it's taken me to publish, it has been removed. Odd.




Number 46 "Just The Way It Is, Baby" by The Rembrandts
Peak: number 26
It's been completely overshadowed by a certain sitcom theme the band recorded later in the decade, but this was a solid debut single from American duo The Rembrandts. Not as big a hit in Australia as I seem to remember it being - although it did get plenty of airplay - "Just The Way It Is, Baby" tells a little story with its lyrics. It starts off with a spurned lover pining over his ex-girlfriend, only for her to tell him, "Just the way it is, baby". Then, when she comes crawling back, he's moved on and tells her, "Just the way it is, baby".




Number 45 "One More Try" by Timmy T
Peak: number 36
Anything Stevie B could do, it seemed fellow freestyle performer Timmy T could do, too. Well, almost. Having launched himself with the upbeat US top 40 hit "Time After Time", the singer born Timmy Torres unleashed his own drippy ballad, which matched "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" by reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Timmy couldn't, however, convince quite as many Australians to snap up the sickly "One More Time", with the song just scraping into the bottom of the top 40. 




Number 42 "Where Are You Now" by Roxus
Peak: number 13
Another act turning to a ballad to try and ignite some interest among the record-buying public was Aussie rock band Roxus, who'd charted between numbers 33 and 60 with their three previous releases. "Where Are You Now" changed all that with the lighters-aloft power ballad almost taking Juno Roxas and mates into the top 10. The success wouldn't last, however. As we'll see in coming months, Roxus returned to the lower reaches of the chart with subsequent singles from their upcoming Nightstreet album.




Number 37 "Deep, Deep Trouble" by The Simpsons
Peak: number 35
Now this was a bit of a surprise. After topping the chart just as their TV show was making its debut on Network Ten, The Simpsons bombed out with this follow-up to "Do The Bartman". And it's not like everyone was buying the album instead - The Simpsons Sing The Blues had hardly set the chart alight itself, having peaked at number 24 in March. So why the lack of love for "Deep, Deep Trouble"? Once again, it was focussed on the animated series' breakout star, Bart Simpson (who was initially more popular than Homer), with the 10-year-old (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) relating some of the times he'd gotten in trouble over a hip-hop-lite beat. Co-written and co-produced by DJ Jazzy Jeff, this was basically a Fresh Prince song without Will Smith - but since that rap duo's work had yet to be truly appreciated in Australia, perhaps it's not actually that surprising that "Deep, Deep Trouble" also didn't work here.




Number 36 "The Grease Megamix" by Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta
Peak: number 1
From one musical novelty, we move to another... the most successful megamix single on the ARIA chart since the reemergence of the format in the late '80s. Thanks to both Jive Bunny and the slew of dance acts who utilised the medley for their own nefarious purposes, we'd seen several megamix singles climb the top 50 in the previous two years. But this cobbled together compile of the three biggest hits from the Grease soundtrack topped them all, staying at number 1 for five weeks - two more weeks than "Swing The Mood" had managed in 1989.
Originally released in the UK in December, "The Grease Megamix" had been commissioned from PWL producers Ian Curnow and Phil Harding to help promote the release of the 1978 musical starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta on video. Given Australia's love for the film and its songs - the soundtrack spent nine weeks at number 1 in 1978 - it was only a matter of time before the medley was released locally. 
Comprising "You're The One That I Want" (also number 1 for nine weeks), "Greased Lightnin'" (number 40) and "Summer Nights" (number 6), the megamix was impressively done, especially considering it slowed right down for the start of the third song without sounding too clunky. Within no time, "The Grease Megamix" was a staple at hen's nights, 21st birthdays and wedding receptions, while the parent album also returned to the top the ARIA chart for another three weeks. 
This wouldn't be the last we'd hear of either "The Grease Megamix" or the soundtrack, with both returning to the charts in 1998 to coincide with the movie's 20th anniversary.




Next week: an act with another megamix on the chart debuts with a new single (that probably should've been included in their megamix), plus one of the targets of Pet Shop Boys' "How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" returns to the top 50.


Back to: May 5, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 19, 1991


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: May 11, 1986

In 1985, we'd heard her first musical change of pace, but 30 years ago this week, pop's mistress of reinvention debuted her first major image change. And it was quite a makeover.

Who's that girl? Madonna surprised everyone with a major makeover

Also this week in 1986, two of my favourite Australian bands hit the top 50 - a synthpop group coming off their first top 10 single and a rock band climbing the chart with their debut release. I only like one of the songs, however - and it may not be the one you'd expect.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 11, 1986

For the third week in a row, Diana Ross held down the number 1 spot, but she was under pressure from three singles storming into the top 10 and last week's big new debut from Cliff Richard & The Young Ones. "Chain Reaction" also appeared on classic compilation 1986 Way To Go, which debuted on the albums chart on its way to number 1.


Off The Chart
Number 98 "Goodbye Is Forever" by Arcadia
Peak: number 77
Australia had gone with "The Promise", but this had been chosen as the follow-up to "Election Day" in the US. Finally released in Australia, it reconfirmed the Duran Duran side-project had run out of steam.

Number 97 "Come Hell Or Waters High" by Dee C Lee
Peak: number 69
"See The Day" had promised great things from Paul Weller's other half, but this cover of the Judie Tzuke song from 1981 didn't really live up to that potential.

Number 90 "No Reason" by Perfect Strangers
Peak: number 90
Their last single, "No Fear Of Flying", had sneaked into the top 100 at the end of 1985, and the same fate awaited the Perth band's latest, which unfortunately is not on YouTube.

Number 89 "Now And Forever (You And Me)" by Anne Murray
Peak: number 76
The Canadian country star brought in the big guns - producer David Foster - for her return to more of a pop sound on Something To Talk About. This lead single sounded like a hit even if it wasn't.


New Entries
Number 50 "Inspiration" by Venetians
Peak: number 39
After a few years spent trying, Australian synthpop exponents Venetians finally landed a big hit single with "So Much For Love", reaching the Australian top 10 and even making inroads into the US top 100. Then they went and ruined it all with this follow-up. It's not that "Inspiration" is a horrible single, it's just decidedly average, with the "la, la, la, la, la, la" bit in the chorus sounding like they ran out of, er, inspiration and made do. Lucky to get to number 39, the song didn't augur well for Venetians' second album, Calling In The Lions, which also just slipped into the top 40 when it was released the following month.




Number 35 "Great Wall" by Boom Crash Opera
Peak: number 5
From a local group that took its time to make a splash, here's a band that shot into the top 5 with their very first release. Formed in Melbourne, Boom Crash Opera made an instant impact with debut single "Great Wall". With its driving beat, chanted "hey hey"s and immense chorus, the song with lyrics inspired by a dam was destined to be big - and it established Boom Crash Opera as one of the most exciting new acts in the country. They might never have seen such chart heights again, but this was only the beginning of a string of great singles from one of my top 5 favourite Australian bands. The original Australian video for "Great Wall" is below and you can check out the American clip here.




Number 29 "Live To Tell" by Madonna
Peak: number 7
After charting with six different singles during 1985 (one a hangover from 1984) which had kept her in the top 50 from January all the way through to the start of December, it'd been five months since Madonna had been on the chart. And so, she was well overdue for her first hit of 1986. Few would have predicted, though, that when she returned with something new, it would look and sound like "Live To Tell". 
The song was taken from the soundtrack to At Close Range (which just happened to star Madonna's new husband, Sean Penn) and was only her second ballad single - but the sombre "Live To Tell" was much more of a career risk than sing-along love song "Crazy For You". Madonna wrote the lyrics - her most serious to date - to music already composed by Patrick Leonard, who would go on to write the film's entire score. 
The single's release was accompanied by a music video in which Madonna was virtually unrecognisable from the midriff-bearing boy toy we'd come to know. From her demure dress to her soft and subtle hair and makeup, the singer matched her image to the song and once again made the public reconsider whatever preconceptions they had about her.
"Live To Tell" would be included on Madonna's upcoming third album, True Blue, which was still a couple of months away from charting in Australia and would come with yet another image overhaul.




Next week: two rather off-the-wall groups make their debut appearances on the top 50 - one with a reworking of the theme from an old TV cop show and the other formed by an old band-mate of Billy Idol's. 


Back to: May 4, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 18, 1986


Thursday, 5 May 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: May 5, 1991

It might be stating the obvious, but a lot can change in 25 years. In 1991, one of the artists making their top 50 debut on the ARIA singles chart was a rising name in hip-hop; in 2016, he's one of music's elder statesmen and the star of one of TV's longest running crime franchises.

Ladies got to see a lot of Cool James in 1991

Another of the new entries from 25 years ago this week was from a breakthrough act who's now as well known for his music as he is his TV appearances - especially to younger generations. But, in 1991, few would have predicted how either of their careers would develop.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 5, 1991

It's also unlikely anyone would have predicted when it slid into the bottom of the top 50 at the very start of the year that Tingles by Ratcat would move up to the number 1 spot four months later. But that's exactly what the EP by the Sydney band did this week in 1991. Overall, it spent 28 consecutive weeks in the top 100 reaching the top of the chart, which is the record for the slowest climb to number 1 of all time.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "This Is Ponderous" by 2NU
Peak: number 75
I had successfully blocked this combination of electronic bleeps and a spoken word stream of consciousness from memory until now. The American band was "too new" to have a name when this started getting radio play.

Number 89 "I'll Be By Your Side" by Stevie B
Peak: number 73
The hideous "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" had been so massive that it made sense to follow it up with another sickly sweet slush fest. Thankfully, this wasn't as popular. 

Number 87 Shades Of Blue by The The
Peak: number 87
Matt Johnson and co. had enjoyed a handful of top 50 hits, but this EP clearly only appealed to The The's hardcore fanbase, with it dropping right back out of the top 100 the following week.

Number 85 "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Warrant
Peak: number 85
How different things would've been for Warrant had this song ended up as the lead single and title track of their second album (instead of "Cherry Pie") as was originally intended.


Single Of The Week
"Tartan Lines" by Russell Morris
Peak: number 100
Between 1969 and 1972, Russell Morris had five top 10 hits in Australia, including two chart-toppers, the iconic "The Real Thing" and "Part Three Into Paper Walls". In 1991, he found himself at the other end of the top 100 with this lead single from comeback album A Thousand Suns. Would it be cynical to think this had been Festival Records' attempt at their own career resurrection, a la John Farnham or Daryl Braithwaite?




New Entries
Number 49 "Around The Way Girl" by LL Cool J
Peak: number 45
By 1991, LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James, real name: James Smith) was already up to his fourth album, having forged a name for himself in the US throughout the late '80s with tracks that ranged from the smooth grooves of "I Need Love" to the harder-edged "Rock The Bells". With his 1990 album, Mama Said Knock You Out, LL achieved some career firsts, including his first US top 10 single with "Around The Way Girl" and his first Grammy Award for the album's title track. So, it was a great time for Australia to come on board - even if "Around The Way Girl", which takes samples from tracks by Mary Jane Girls (female vocal hook), Keni Burke (instrumental riff) and The Honey Drippers (beat), wasn't the biggest of hits (although it's my favourite song of his). LL would land hits on the ARIA chart regularly over the next 15 years, but these days he's better known as Sam Hanna on NCIS: Los Angeles and the regular host of the Grammy Awards. 




Number 44 "Ring My Bell" by Monie Love vs Adeva
Peak: number 35
From one of America's biggest young rappers we move now to a British MC who'd also made waves in the States with her transatlantic hit, "It's A Shame (My Sister)" (which lost the Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy to LL Cool J). While "It's A Shame..." hadn't done so well in Australia, this collaboration with vocalist Adeva (last seen in the top 50 with simultaneous hits "Warning" and "I Thank You") did find its mark. No doubt helping "Ring My Bell" up the chart was the music video's play on the use of "vs" in the song's credit by having Monie and Adeva duke it out musically in a boxing ring. "Ring My Bell" was the sixth single from Monie's debut album, Down To Earth, with vocals performed on the original album version by Ultra Naté.




Number 39 "Blue Hotel" by Chris Isaak
Peak: number 23
"Wicked Game" was still sitting inside the top 20 after just eight weeks on the chart, but Chris Isaak appeared with another song this week in 1991 - and "Wicked Game" was actually also on the double A-side of "Blue Hotel" (and would be given equal billing in coming weeks). Why the double up? Well, going from the chart credits, the release of "Wicked Game" sitting at number 17 was through Polygram, who must have held the rights to the Heart Shaped World album and its singles in Australia. "Blue Hotel/Wicked Game" (as it would soon be known) was on Warner, who were capitalising on Chris's new-found popularity with the release of a compilation album called Wicked Game, which drew songs from his first three studio albums. 
"Blue Hotel" had originally appeared on Chris's second self-titled album back in 1986. Not wanting to cause confusion with the already successful "Wicked Game" single - but not wanting to completely miss out on sales - Warner led with "Blue Hotel" and had the best of both worlds. For a few weeks, both singles would appear simultaneously on the top 50, even sitting side by side in a couple of weeks' time. Meanwhile, another of the tracks resurrected for Wicked Game will feature on my 30 Years Ago... post in two weeks' time when we see Chris score his first ever ARIA chart hit back in 1986.




Number 29 "Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) / How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 9
With "Being Boring" not having performed - either here or in the UK - as Pet Shop Boys might have hoped, something was needed to reinvigorate interest in the synthpop duo while they continued to roll out singles from the Behaviour album. Next up, was single number three, "How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" - and although it'd been given a remix from the album version, the song that called out pop stars who used their profile to champion political causes wasn't seen as enough on its own. 
And so, for the second time in their career, Pet Shop Boys decided to release a cover version - but not just any remake. Using a strategy that'd worked with their version of "Always On My Mind", the pair turned a song completely on its head, transforming U2's rock anthem "Where The Streets Have No Name" into a disco stormer, weaving in the chorus from "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (based on Boystown Gang's version of the Frankie Valli classic) for good measure.
The medley was sacrilege for U2 purists, but it was exactly what Pet Shop Boys needed to get them back into the upper reaches of the chart, and the incredibly wordy double A-side release returned them to the ARIA top 10 for the first time since, funnily enough, "Always On My Mind". Bono's response to the radical reworking of his song? "What have I done to deserve this?"




Next week: the biggest megamix of them all, plus a band who'd go on to provide the theme tune to one of the biggest TV shows of the decade and another single from one of the biggest TV shows of 1991.


Back to: Apr 28, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 12, 1991