Wednesday, 31 August 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: August 31, 1986

It's inevitable that whenever a music artist releases a new album after even a relatively short period of time, it's classed as a comeback. Thirty years ago this week, three acts that'd previously experienced success on the Australian charts debuted with the lead singles from their latest albums - all comebacks to one extent or another.

Cyndi Lauper's second album proved her initial success was no fluke

For one female singer, it was the first single from the follow-up to an extraordinarily successful debut album. For a new romantic band, it was a taste of what to expect from their first album in two years - and their first under a new record deal. And for a male singer, it was the lead release from his first LP in four years, which would become his first hit single in six.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 31, 1986

A pop star who had barely paused for breath, let alone a comeback, in the past two-and-a-half years was still on top of the ARIA single chart this week in 1986. "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna was number 1 for a fourth week.


Off the chart
Number 98 "On The Beach" by Chris Rea
Peak: number 88
Thanks to its memorable guitar riff, it's one of his best known songs - but the original version of "On The Beach" wasn't a hit here or in the UK, where it peaked at number 57. The 1988 remix did slightly better.

Number 97 "Sheep" by The Housemartins
Peak: number 97
This second single from The Housemartins peaked one place higher than "On The Beach" in the UK. In Australia, "Sheep" is the indie pop band's only other top 100 entry besides "Caravan Of Love".

Number 94 "Rumbleseat" by John Cougar Mellencamp
Peak: number 84
It sounds like the sort of JCM song that would've been a hit in Australia, but "Rumbleseat" was also the fifth single from Scarecrow, which was spending its 46th week on the top 50 albums chart.

Number 91 "So Tough" by Eurogliders
Peak: number 91
Here's another fifth single from an album - this time Eurogliders' Absolutely. The excellent "So Tough" was the first track lifted from the album to miss the top 30 and it did so by some margin.


Breakers
"Paranoimia" by Art Of Noise featuring Max Headroom
Peak: number 52
Their reworking of the theme tune from detective series Peter Gunn had almost made the top 10 and Art Of Noise continued the TV connection for their follow-up. Originally a mostly instrumental track on their In Visible Silence album, the single version of "Paranoimia" (a mix of paranoia and insomnia) featured animated character Max Headroom. Both the 7" and 12" versions contained a different monologue by Max (aka actor Matt Frewer), whose sampled electronic voice suited the avant garde group's quirky style perfectly.




"Flash King Cadillac" by John Justin
Peak: number 51
Despite the labelling on the YouTube clip below, "Flash King Cadillac" would seem to be one of John Justin's solo releases as opposed to one credited to him and backing band The Thunderwings. In either guise, the Melbourne glam rocker didn't have much luck on the ARIA chart. His biggest hit would come a year later when he peaked just one place higher with his cover of "Rock On"




New entries
Number 45 "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper
Peak: number 3
All five singles from Cyndi Lauper's debut album, She's So Unusual, had peaked inside the ARIA top 20, as had soundtrack hit "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough". Needless to say, the flame-haired singer had a lot to live up to as she launched album number two, True Colors. A massive hit waiting to happen, the album's title track was chosen as its lead release and it duly became Cyndi's second US chart-topper (following another of her emotional ballads, "Time After Time") and her second-biggest hit in Australia behind debut single "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"
Interestingly, songwriters Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg (who'd also written "Like A Virgin") had offered a very differently arranged "True Colors" to Anne Murray first. Anne's reject became Cyndi's gain and the success of her hit version helped push the accompanying album to the number 1 spot in Australia - something She's So Unusual hadn't managed (although it spent almost four times as long in the top 100). "True Colors" has been covered numerous times over the years, most notably (and horrifically) by Kasey Chambers, whose screeched version peaked just one place lower than Cyndi's in 2003.




Number 44 "Fight For Ourselves" by Spandau Ballet
Peak: number 16
The last time we'd seen Spandau Ballet on the ARIA chart was with the number 16 hit "Round And Round". That single had been lifted from their second album of glossy soulful pop, Parade. Prior to Parade and its predecessor, True, the British band had released two albums of more synth-based new wave music, Journeys To Glory and Diamond - and so they were about due for another shift in sound. As evidenced by lead single "Fight For Ourselves"their first album in two years, Through The Barricades, had more of a pop/rock feel. Given this single equalled the peak of "Round And Round", it would seem Spandau Ballet's fans were right on board with their new style. But appearances can be deceiving. "Fight For Ourselves" didn't hang around the chart that long, especially considering it was a brand new song - and it would be the band's final significant chart appearance in Australia. Take from that what you will.




Number 42 "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood
Peak: number 8
Steve Winwood's last album, 1982's Talking Back To The Night, and its singles had done little on the charts (although "Valerie" would resurface in remixed form in 1988). And so it had been five-and-a-half long years since Steve Winwood's only hit single so far in Australia, "While You See A Chance" (from the Arc Of A Diver album). "Higher Love" was, therefore, the epitome of a comeback - a top 10 hit in Australia and a number 1 single in the US. The catchy pop track featured Chaka Khan on backing vocals and Nile Rodgers on guitar - and both of them in the music video. Three more top 20 hits would follow from Back In The High Life in America, but in Australia, that remix of "Valerie" would provide Steve with his next top 50 appearance.




Next week: a girl band's lead singer goes solo, a synthpop group tackles a big ballad and the follow-up to the biggest Australian single of the year debuts.


Back to: Aug 24, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 7, 1986


Sunday, 28 August 2016

This Week In 1983: August 28, 1983

Previously successful bands reform for a variety of reasons, but more often than not it's for the cash. Just look at all the '80s groups currently on the road - with music sales down, it's a sure-fire way to earn money off those old hits.

The '80s version of Dragon proved just as popular as the '70s one

This week in 1983, a popular Australasian band from the '70s returned to the top 50 (albeit with a slightly different lineup). And yes, money was a motivating factor behind their comeback. Luckily, the group's new music was just as good - and successful - as first time around. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 28, 1983

Up at the top of the chart this week in 1983, "Flashdance... What A Feeling" by Irene Cara moved back to number 1 for the first of two more weeks as the Victorian ban on "Australiana" resulted in the Austen Tayshus comedy record dipping down to number 7. Meanwhile, Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" rose to number 2 and his previous top 50 entry "I Don't Wanna Dance" re-entered the chart on its way to a new peak of number 21.


Off the chart
Number 88 "Theme From Doctor Detroit" by Devo
Peak: number 88
This single was just as big a flop as the movie it came from, a Dan Aykroyd comedy about a college professor who poses as a mobster. 

Number 86 "Fake Friends" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Peak: number 82
What a difference a year can make. In 1982, they'd had three back-to-back top 20 hits (including number 1 "I Love Rock 'n' Roll"); in 1983, this lead single from Album tanked.

Number 71 "Just An Illusion" by Imagination
Peak: number 64
In late 1982, this funk classic had got no further than number 88 so this was an improvement, although still much lower than it deserved. Years later, singles by PM Dawn and Mariah Carey that sampled "Just An Illusion" would both reach the ARIA top 20. 

Number 69 "Sail Away" by Swanee
Peak: number 52
After a couple of top 20 hits from previous album This Time It's Different, John Swan would've hoped for better with this brand new song. When it missed the top 50, his next venture was a live album featuring a bunch of cover versions.


New entries
Number 48 "Words" by F. R. David
Peak: number 12
This European hit from the Tunisian-born, French-based singer had spent eight weeks between numbers 85 and 100 at the start of the year but got a second lease of life once it had reached number 2 in the UK in April. This time, the gentle synthpop ballad really made its presence felt on the Australian chart, narrowly missing out on a top 10 spot but spending 18 weeks in the top 50 and not falling out of the top 100 until April 1984. "Words" was the only hit for F. R. David, who'd been working as a musician since the late '60s and whose initials came from his middle names - he was born Elli Robert Fitoussi David.

4



Number 39 "I.O.U." by Freeez
Peak: number 3
From one synthpop classic finding success in Australia after reaching number 2 in the UK to another. "I.O.U." peaked almost as high locally and, like "Words", would be the only ARIA chart hit for its performer: dance act Freeez. In Britain, the much remixed and sampled "I.O.U." was the group's second top 10 single, although it sounded nothing like their earlier hit, 1981's "Southern Freeez". That track sounded like a precursor to acid jazz, while "I.O.U." fit right in with the electro/breakdance scene, right down to the record scratching, ghetto blaster and street dancing in its music video.




Number 38 "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" by Paul Young
Peak: number 9
After a pair of UK number 2 singles, we move now to a British chart-topper - the breakthrough hit for Paul Young, who'd put out two previous singles (including the first release of "Love Of The Common People") without success. Originally the B-side of Marvin Gaye's "Too Busy Thinking 'Bout My Baby", soul ballad "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" was the perfect song to showcase Paul's slightly husky voice. That vocal style, which would become his trademark, seemed to be failing him last year when I saw him perform live as part of one of those '80s roadshow concerts. But in 1983, he was in fine voice and enjoyed his first of two ARIA top 10 hits with "Wherever I Lay...".




Number 37 "Rain" by Dragon
Peak: number 2
I wasn't old enough (no pun intended) to really remember Dragon in the second half of the '70s, when they amassed eight top 50 singles, including number 2 hit "April Sun In Cuba" and chart-topper "Are You Old Enough". Besides their record sales, the band from New Zealand that'd settled in Sydney halfway through the decade also gained notoriety thanks to their reputation for outrageous behaviour on and off stage. 
When the rock'n'roll lifestyle caused the band to disintegrate in 1979, few would have expected Dragon to reform in 1982 and come close to hitting number 1 again the following year. But there were bills to be paid and singer Marc Hunter, who'd gone completely off the rails, had cleaned up his act. With Marc's solo career yielding only two minor top 50 hits ("Island Nights" and "Big City Talk"), it made sense for the band that'd got back together to tour to record some new music. 
1982's "Ramona" had crept into the top 80, but Dragon Mk II hit paydirt with "Rain", a song that brought them right into the '80s with its hints of synths and boasted one hell of a sing-along chorus. Kept from the top only by "Australiana", the song ended the year as 1983's 15th biggest single and was the first of eight more top 50 hits for the band. Yep, Dragon were back - and weren't going anywhere soon.




Next week: a song named after a skipping game, a synthpop cover version of a song from the 1930s, and the first single from an album that incorporated sounds of the '50s and '60s.


Back to: Aug 21, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 4, 1983


Thursday, 25 August 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: August 25, 1991

I don't know what was going on in 1991, but, Bryan Adams aside, it was a big year for songs taking forever to reach number 1. Whether it was singles that slowly but surely climbed a little bit further each week or ones that bounced around the chart for months, there were a number of chart-toppers that never seemed destined to end up atop the ARIA top 50... until they did

Big Audio Dynamite II didn't exactly rush into the top 50

It had happened with Ratcat and Daryl Braithwaite, and 25 years ago this week, another song that took an inordinate amount of time to hit its chart-topping peak finally breached the top 50 after months of floating around between numbers 51 and 100.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 25, 1991

As for Bryan Adams, he was, of course, still at number 1 with "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You". This was the soundtrack smash's fifth week on top.


Off the chart
Number 87 "Song 27" by Push Push
Peak: number 62
"Trippin'" was still hanging around in the top 50, but this follow-up, which had also been a top 10 hit in New Zealand, didn't climb as high for them in Australia.


Breaker
"Rollin' In My 5.0" by Vanilla Ice
Peak: number 53
It hadn't even been a year since Vanilla Ice burst onto the chart with "Ice Ice Baby" and already his career seemed to be over. This brand new song, which linked back to a line from that breakthrough hit, peaked just outside the ARIA top 50 and didn't even register on the Billboard Hot 100. Based around a sample from "Fly Like An Eagle" by Steve Miller Band, "Rollin' In My 5.0" featured (in a live version) on concert album Extremely Live, which, like his film career and pretty much everything else Vanilla Ice was involved in at this point, received a critical mauling.




New entries
Number 50 "Rush" by Big Audio Dynamite II
Peak: number 1
This one had been a long time coming. "Rush" had entered the top 100 in mid-May as part of a double A-side single with The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go". In that capacity, the song made it into the Breakers section in June before it was reissued as a single in its own right and continued to bounce around the lower half of the top 100 before finally creeping into the top 50 this week in 1991. From here, it would steadily move up the rankings before finally reaching number 1 in late October, a full 24 weeks after it first entered the chart (and just a few weeks shy of Ratcat's all-time record for the longest climb to the top). 
"Rush" came from The Globe, the second album by the second incarnation of Big Audio Dynamite. We saw the first version of the band debut back in 1986, and this revamped lineup had been in place since 1990. The Globe was more or less a reworking of BAD II's first release, Kool-Aid, and "Rush" a revised version of a track on that album called "Change In Atmosphere". The sample-laden song borrowed from sources as diverse as The Who, The Sugarhill Gang and actor Peter Sellers.




Number 49 "Bad Boys" by Roxus
Peak: number 39
A rock power ballad had provided them with their chart breakthrough earlier in 1991, but it was back to hard rock business as usual for Roxus - and a return to the lower end of the top 50, where they were more usually found. There was better news for the band's debut album, Nightstreet, which would debut at number 5 the following week.




Number 48 "Move That Body" by Technotronic featuring Reggie
Peak: number 27
After the chart hiccup that had been "Turn It Up", Technotronic were back in the top 50 with this lead single from second album Body To Body. Joining the Belgian dance act on vocals was Zairean actress/singer Reggie (real name: Réjane Magloire), who'd previously been a member of Indeep (of "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" fame). Although it reached the same chart position as "This Beat Is Technotronic", "Move That Body" was hardly vintage Technotronic, with the "Hokey Pokey" part of the rap being particularly dire. 




Number 45 "Do You Want Me" by Salt 'n' Pepa
Peak: number 19
This is more like it - like the Technotronic song, the latest from Salt 'n' Pepa was a blend of rap and dance music, but way less irritating. In Australia, the club-friendly Ben Liebrand remix of "Do You Want Me" was chosen as the main version, as opposed to the more traditionally hip-hop original mixIt was a good decision, giving Salt 'n' Pepa their second major hit locally, although an even bigger single was just around the corner for the rap trio.




Number 11 "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
Peak: number 10
Up until this point, Metallica had one top 40 single to their name (1989's "One") and one top 20 album (1988's And Justice For All). In 1991, the heavy metal legends went mainstream - in terms of sales if not their sound. Having previously appealed to a niche audience in Australia, the band were suddenly enjoying a top 10 hit and a chart-topping album in the form of fifth release Metallica
Unlike many acts to cross over, they did it without losing any of their cred or watering down the sound that'd made their string of '80s albums steady sellers at least into the late '90s (when I worked in a record store) and probably to this day. Even so, a pop fan like me still found the chorus melody of "Enter Sandman" reasonably catchy. I didn't like the production around it or the heavy style of the song, but it definitely stuck in my brain at the time - and that may be one of the reasons why they suddenly found themselves with a wider audience than ever before.




Next week: the return of the band who'd hogged the number 1 spot on the albums chart for 34 (non-consecutive) weeks the last time we'd heard from them.


Back to: Aug 18, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 1, 1991


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: August 24, 1986

For a song to reach number 1 once is pretty good going. For it do so twice is an even more impressive feat - and something that has only happened four times in Australian music history (five, if you include "You're The One That I Want" and "The Grease Megamix"). 

They got it, yeah baby Bananarama got it... all thanks to a savvy remake

This week in 1986, a tune that had topped the Australian chart for two weeks in 1970 returned to the top 50 thanks to a new cover version and became one of the year's biggest hits, spending seven weeks at number 1.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 24, 1986

Another of 1986's biggest hits spent its third week on top of the ARIA chart 30 years ago this week. "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna would wind up as the year's ninth biggest single.


Off the chart
Number 83 "Touch And Go" by Emerson, Lake & Powell
Peak: number 83
Palmer was busy with his other band, Asia, and so prog rockers Keith Emerson and Greg Lake found another drummer with a surname starting with P for their reunion album.

Number 76 "Sing Our Own Song" by UB40
Peak: number 76
This anti-apartheid song was the reggae band's 10th top 10 hit in the UK, but Australians generally preferred it when UB40 didn't sing their own songs but recorded cover versions instead.


Single of the week
"Lost & Found" by Non Stop Dancers
As I've done with singles of the week from mid-1987 to August 1991, I'll only be covering songs that don't end up featuring on the ARIA chart as breakers or top 50 entries. This song didn't even crack the top 100. Sydney band Non Stop Dancers had managed a number 44 hit with 1984's "Shake This City" but subsequent singles from debut album Surprise Surprise had failed to chart. Come 1986, "Lost & Found" was one last ditch effort by the genre-defying band and their record company to reignite interest, but when that didn't work, the band split shortly after. 




Breaker
"Ain't That Peculiar" by Peter Blakeley
Peak: number 65
Hands up who thought Peter Blakeley's debut single was "Crying In The Chapel"? I must admit I did until relatively recently, but that was far from the case. This Marvin Gaye cover was one of a couple of singles Peter released in 1986 through his first record deal with True Tone Records, home to Rockmelons (on whose debut single he'd provided vocals). A minor hit, the track features the unmistakable vocals of another Rockmelons guest singer, Wendy Matthews.




New entries
Number 44 "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins
Peak: number 14
Film soundtracks were good to Kenny Loggins in the '80s. As well as hits from Footloose and Caddyshack, he released this memorable track that played during the opening moments of Top Gun. Turns out Kenny was far from the first choice to record the track co-written and produced by Giorgio Moroder. Numerous other acts - Bryan Adams, REO Speedwagon, Toto, Corey Hart - were considered to perform "Danger Zone" but for one reason or another didn't end up with the song, which went to Kenny instead. Surprisingly for such an iconic '80s song, "Danger Zone" wasn't a top 10 hit in Australia, stalling at its peak for three weeks.




Number 36 "Glory Of Love" by Peter Cetera
Peak: number 9
Next up a soundtrack hit that did make the ARIA top 10. Just as Kenny Loggins wasn't the first choice for "Danger Zone", The Karate Kid Part II wasn't the movie "Glory Of Love" was originally composed for. Peter Cetera had submitted the slushy ballad for Rocky IV, but when it wasn't chosen, it ended up in the martial arts sequel and became his first post-Chicago hit. For me, The Karate Kid Part II is every bit as iconic as Top Gunbut that may be because I saw it at the time, whereas I didn't see Top Gun until many years later. Watching the Peter Cetera music video now and seeing those pivotal scenes from The Karate Kid Part II (the typhoon! the fan dance! that bit with everyone playing those little handheld drums!) makes me want to go and watch it again.




Number 16 "Venus" by Bananarama
Peak: number 1
In 1970, Shocking Blue took "Venus" to number 1 in Australia. Sixteen years later, girl group Bananarama did the same - for five weeks longer. The cover version was the first collaboration between the pop trio and producers Stock Aitken Waterman, who Bananarama approached because they liked Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" and wanted their version of "Venus" to have a similar high-energy sound. 
Bananarama had actually been performing the song for years before recording it, but the remake and the new producers couldn't have come at a better time, providing a much-needed shot in the arm after a series of moody and ultra-serious singles flopped in the UK and missed the Australian top 100 altogether. Bananarama had their sense of fun back and "Venus" saw them back in the top 5 locally for the first time since "Shy Boy".
As we'll see in coming months, subsequent singles didn't follow "Venus" into the upper reaches of the ARIA chart, but when Bananarama and SAW reunited for a full album together, it would give the threesome their most consistent run of hits here. For the time being, Australia was gripped by "Venus" fever as the remake became one of the biggest hits of 1986 and one of my personal favourites of the year (and all-time).
The other three songs that have hit number 1 in Australia twice? "Unchained Melody" (jointly credited to Al Hibbler and Les Baxter in 1955, and for The Righteous Brothers in 1990), "What About Me?" (for Moving Pictures in 1982 and Shannon Noll in 2004) and one more song we'll see before the end of the year.




Next week: the return of the unusual singer who'd just wanted to have fun a couple of years earlier, plus the biggest solo hit for a male artist who'd first established himself as a member of a number of different groups.


Back to: Aug 17, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 31, 1986


Sunday, 21 August 2016

This Week In 1983: August 21, 1983

Easy listening station Smooth FM is currently Sydney's most listened to radio station. My parents have it on constantly and whenever I'm there I always hear something I love from the '80s. The other day it was Stephanie Mills' "Never Knew Love Like This" and "These Dreams" by Heart. 

Elton John and Spandau Ballet - on radio playlists in 1983 and 2016

This week in 1983, two ballads you could pretty much guarantee to hear on Smooth FM reasonably regularly made their debut on the ARIA chart. One was what we'd come to expect from the male singer in question, the other was somewhat of a change of direction for the band behind it.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 21, 1983

There was a changing of the guard at the number 1 spot this week in 1983, as "Flashdance... What A Feeling" made way for "Australiana" by Austen Tayshus... for the time being.


Off the chart
Number 89 "Sex (I'm A...) / Metro" by Berlin
Peak: number 89 
It would get a second lease of life in 1985, but despite flopping twice, this double A-side synthpop 12" single still sounds great - and was a highlight of Berlin's recent Australian tour.

Number 73 "Pieces Of Ice" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 73
She'd started the decade with some of her biggest solo (and duet) hits in Australia, but this forgettable US top 40 single saw Ms Ross back in the pop wilderness as far as local fans were concerned.


New entries
Number 50 "Maggie" by Foster & Allen
Peak: number 17
It was a bit of a week for big ballad hits - and it doesn't get more easy listening than this, although I doubt "Maggie" would crop up on Smooth FM. The song was an adaptation of folk tune "When You And I Were Young, Maggie", which had been first recorded in 1905 but dated back even earlier than that. Although this version by Irish duo Mick Foster and Troy Allen didn't get any further than number 17 (a spot it held for four non-consecutive weeks), it stayed in the top 50 well into 1984, by which point every grandmother in the country must have had a copy.




Number 45 "Maxine" by Sharon O'Neill
Peak: number 16
From "Maggie" we move now to "Maxine", a tune about a very different kind of girl. The song and its pretty depressing music video tell the story of a prostitute in Sydney's Kings Cross, and the dark tale provided New Zealand-born singer/songwriter Sharon O'Neill with her biggest hit locally. "Maxine" also reached number 16 back home in NZ for Sharon, who started her music career there with hits including a duet with future Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens




Number 44 "Show Me Some Discipline" by Sunnyboys
Peak: number 44
Their last single, "This Is Real", had missed the top 100 completely, but Sydney's Sunnyboys were back in the top 50 for the fourth time with this single that would be included on their upcoming third album, Get Some Fun. Not as catchy as "Happy Man""Alone With You" or "You Need A Friend", "Show Me Some Discipline" was accordingly a lesser hit.




Number 43 "Temptation" by Heaven 17
Peak: number 38
When The Human League split in two in 1980, Heaven 17 was the other group formed by departing members Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware. Together with vocalist Glenn Gregory, they'd released a series of critically well received singles while their now much poppier former band hit number 1 around the world with "Don't You Want Me". But Heaven 17 had their own pop smash up their sleeve, and "Temptation" gave the trio a UK number 2 hit and their first Australian top 50 entry. 
Thanks to wailing guest vocals by Carol Kenyon and the presence of a 60-piece orchestra, the song's inherent drama was ramped up even more, resulting in one of the decade's most exciting synthpop releases. Nine years later, Brothers In Rhythm gave "Temptation" a remix that actually improved it - something that almost never happens when a song is already brilliant to begin with. Both the 1983 and 1992 versions of the music video are blocked to varying degrees on YouTube. The clip below looks like its playing backwards to get around that, so you can watch a TV performance of the song here if you prefer.




Number 37 "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" by Elton John
Peak: number 4
Here's the first of this week's easy listening ballads that you still hear played today. In the UK, "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" had been the first single released from Elton's Too Low For Zero album. In Australia and the US, "I'm Still Standing" had been chosen instead. Locally, that seemed to be the right decision, with "I'm Still Standing" peaking one place higher on the ARIA chart. In America, "Kiss The Bride" also came out earlier, but "I Guess That's..." ended up being the biggest hit of the three on the Billboard chart. Order of release oddities aside, the love song (featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica) is one of the highlights of Elton's '80s output and much better than the three other ballads he released during the decade that also hit the Australian top 5: "Blue Eyes", "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" and "Nikita".




Number 23 "True" by Spandau Ballet
Peak: number 4
Also peaking at number 4 on the ARIA chart was this worldwide mega-hit by Spandau Ballet. The much-sampled "True" was a pretty big shift in musical direction for the band that'd made its name with new wave tracks like "To Cut A Long Story Short" and "Chant No.1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)". A sentimental soul ballad, "True" was the title track of Spandau Ballet's third album and turned the band into one of the world's biggest acts in the mid-'80s. Like 99 percent of the group's material, it was penned by guitarist Gary Kemp, who was influenced musically by Al Green and Marvin Gaye, and lyrically by his unrequited crush on Altered Images singer Clare Grogan. As well as its chart position and enduring status as a much-played easy-listening hit, "True" shares one more thing in common with "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" - both songs' music videos were directed by Australian Russell Mulcahy.




Next week: the arrival of four big hits, including a major comeback for a New Zealand band that now called Australia home and the breakthrough of a British soul singer with a song originally recorded by Marvin Gaye.


Back to: Aug 14, 1983 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 28, 1983


Thursday, 18 August 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: August 18, 1991

I'm sure someone somewhere has tallied up the most common words to appear in top 50 hits. No doubt, "love" is one of them. Twenty-five years ago this week, the tally was increased by two as a pair of songs with love in their title debuted on the ARIA singles chart.

Love is all you need... to get a song into the top 50, it would seem

One was the only chart-topper by a female singer who recently toured Australia. The other was the only hit by the latest rap act to make an impression locally.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 18, 1991

Still making an impression as the nation's highest-selling single this week in 1991 was Bryan Adams. "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" spent a fourth week at number 1.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "Are You Mine?" by Bros
Peak: number 98
Bros's legion of Brosettes had deserted them by the time this lead single from third album Changing Faces came around. The fact that "Are You Mine?" is a snooze-inducing ballad didn't help.

Number 98 "Solace Of You" by Living Colour
Peak: number 69
Sounding like something off a Paul Simon album, this follow-up to "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" returned Living Colour to their usual home outside the top 50 - where they'd stay for the remainder of their career.

Number 96 "The Beginning" by Seal
Peak: number 82
Another excellent song from Seal, another single that failed to live up to the chart highs of "Crazy". For its US release, the track received a remix from Shep Pettibone that's available on iTunes.

Number 94 "Don't Cry" by Richard Pleasance
Peak: number 69
Given "Sarah (I Miss You)" hadn't set the chart alight, it's not surprising this less commercial follow-up didn't either. Even so, it's still a shame Richard Pleasance's solo music didn't find a bigger audience.

Number 89 "Any Day Above Ground" by James Reyne
Peak: number 67
Here's an Australian male artist who was used to a bigger audience - most recently on top 10 single "Slave". In the US, this was the title track of the album we knew locally as Electric Digger Dandy

Number 86 "Tutti Frutti" by Victor & Sveta
Peak: number 82
A couple of weeks ago, we saw a novelty track from Rubbery Figures. The next Fast Forward spin-off release was a double B-side single from the Good Morning Moscow characters played by Peter Moon and Jane Turner (although Sveta doesn't actually feature on this remake of the Little Richard classic). Proceeds were donated to children affected by the Chernobyl disaster.


Breaker
"If Looks Could Kill" by Transvision Vamp
Peak: number 56
All good things must come to an end - and with this dreary little number, the career of Transvision Vamp stumbled to its conclusion. I say "stumbled" because the once-great pop/rock band had been all over the place for some time. I know there are fans of their later singles, but for me, nothing past "Baby I Don't Care" was really up to scratch. So it was with a sense of the inevitable that "If Looks Could Kill", which missed the ARIA top 50 and the UK top 40, became their final single. Singer Wendy James did embark on a solo career, but was unable to break back into the Australian chart on her own.




New Entries
Number 49 "Learning To Fly" by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Peak: number 44
He might have been back in front of The Heartbreakers after solo effort Full Moon Fever, but it was business as usual for Tom Petty with this lead single from Into The Great Wide Open. Like on Full Moon FeverTom worked extensively with his Traveling Wilbury companion Jeff Lynne on Into The Great Wide Open. As a result, songs like "Learning To Fly" sounded a little bit been there, done that and lacked the originality of something like "I Won't Back Down"




Number 46 "Now That We Found Love" by Heavy D & The Boyz
Peak: number 6
Love was a bit of a go-to word for legendary songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Besides "Now That We Found Love", which had originally been recorded by The O'Jays in 1973, the duo were responsible for notable hits like "Love Train", "The Love I Lost", "I Love Music" and "Drowning In The Sea Of Love". Then there were the many other classics about affairs of the heart (like "Don't Leave Me This Way", "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "When Will I See You Again") they wrote that don't have the word "love" in the title. Selecting a Gamble & Huff tune to remake was a stroke of genius on the part of rapper Heavy D (real name: Dwight Myers), who added his rap to the vocal hook performed by Guy member Aaron Hall. The result: an instant worldwide smash. In Australia, the Teddy Riley-produced track was the only top 50 appearance for the rapper, who passed away in 2011.




Number 40 "Escape From Reality" by Shane Howard
Peak: number 40
From what I can work out about Shane Howard's releases at this point, "Escape From Reality" seems to have been a new song added to a revamped version of his album River, which had first come out in November 1990 and been exhausted of singles in January 1991 when "Here And Now" missed the top 100. Featuring several members of Hothouse Flowers playing on the song, "Escape From Reality" returned the former Goanna frontman to the top 50 for the final time.




Number 29 "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)" by UB40
Peak: number 3
UB40's Labour Of Love II covers collection had been a disaster in Australia as far as its singles were concerned. "Homely Girl" just missed the top 50 in early 1990 and follow-up "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)" barely scraped into the top 100 first time around. The initial release of "Kingston Town" hadn't charted at all and "The Way You Do The Things You Do" had made a pitiful number 78 in early 1991. Not prepared to give up on the project, especially since they'd hit the top 5 with Robert Palmer on "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", the reggae band's record company more or less started the whole process again by reissuing most of those flop singles. This time around, "Here I Am...", which was originally recorded by Al Green, became UB40's biggest hit since topping the chart with "I Got You Babe" in 1985. In the coming months, Virgin Records would really take the old adage "if at first you don't succeed, try try again" to heart.




Number 26 "Love... Thy Will Be Done" by Martika
Peak: number 1
Our second new entry with "love" in its title was the first taste of Martika's second album and the fruits of a collaboration with Prince, who co-wrote this song with her. Or rather, who turned her lyrics - a prayer she'd written in her notebook - into a song. However it came to exist, "Love... Thy Will Be Done" was the sound of a pop star maturing her music. After the fantastically frothy pop that mostly comprised her debut self-titled album, the Martika who returned in 1991 was a more sophisticated artist with songs that demonstrated more depth. Don't get me wrong, "More Than You Know" is one of my favourite songs of 1989, but this new, more substantial Martika worked for me, too. I wasn't the only one who thought so, with "Love... Thy Will Be Done" ending up as the song that would eventually dislodge Bryan Adams from the number 1 spot (with a little help from his record company deleting his single).




Next week: a future number 1 single that'd already been on the top 100 for three months finally creeps into the top 50. Plus, a heavy metal band that'd been releasing music since 1983 finally lands its first major hit.


Back to: Aug 11, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 25, 1991


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: August 17, 1986

Whatever it was that had prompted ARIA to stop producing take-home printouts of the top 50 chart back in January 1986 (an effort to be more environmentally friendly, perhaps?), that decision was reversed 30 years ago this week. Once again, a pile of charts (about half the size of the old ones) greeted shoppers in record shops around the country, with the top 50 singles on one side and the top 50 albums on the other.

In Erasure, Vince Clarke finally found a musical project that stuck 

And to herald a new era in the ARIA chart, one-fifth of the top 50 was comprised of new entries. One of the 10 debuts was the first hit for a synthpop duo who would go on to become one of my all-time favourite musical acts.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending August 17, 1986

Another of my all-time favourite artists was at number 1 this week in 1986. "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna stayed on top for a second week.


Off The Chart
Number 97 "Dangerous" by Innocent Bystanders
Peak: number 97
The second Australian band with this name, the Perth-based Innocent Bystanders featured a pre-fame Mark Lizotte (aka Johnny Diesel) in their line-up, although he'd left by this point.


Breaker
"Nights And Days" by V-Capri
Peak: number 55
Perth favourites V-Capri were nothing if not consistent, placing their second single in a row just outside the top 50. As usual, sales from Western Australia made up the bulk of their tally, with the band failing to catch on in the rest of the country. I don't mind "Nights And Days", although it sounds a bit unfinished, almost like a demo recording.




New Entries
Number 48 "Don't You Love Me Anymore" by Joe Cocker
Peak: number 11
The first of our 10 debuts on the top 50 was the biggest hit for Joe Cocker in three-and-a-half years. Following a string of flops, power ballad "Don't You Love Me Anymore" gave him his best showing since his last big single, "Up Where We Belong". "Don't You Love Me Anymore" was written by two of the biggest names in power ballads - Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, who also wrote Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" together as well as countless other hits on their own or with other writers. 




Number 45 "Hands Up In The Air" by Boom Crash Opera
Peak: number 16
"Great Wall" had given Boom Crash Opera a great start to their career - and as the former top 5 hit spent its last week on the top 50, follow-up "Hands Up In The Air" proved there was more anthemic pop/rock where that came from. A better single than its chart position would suggest, "Hands Up..." made the top 20 nevertheless, although it would be another 10 months before the band would return with their third single, by which time they'd lost much of this early momentum.




Number 41 "Yankee Rose" by David Lee Roth
Peak: number 33
After a couple of tongue-in-cheek cover versions, it was time for David Lee Roth to get serious. The lead single from his first full-length solo album, Eat 'Em And Smile, "Yankee Rose" was more what you would've expected from the ex-Van Halen frontman than "California Girls" or "Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody". But while his former band enjoyed their 18th week in the top 50 with "Why Can't This Be Love", David only managed a brief five-week stay with "Yankee Rose". He wouldn't be back on the chart until 1988.




Number 40 "Oh L'amour" by Erasure
Peak: number 13
He'd scored top 10 hits in Australia as the songwriting force behind Depeche Mode's first album and Yazoo, so how would Vince Clarke's latest project fare? Well, a lot better than his last one, The Assembly, who'd peaked at number 95 in 1984 with "Never Never", which featured Feargal Sharkey on vocals. Partnered with singer Andy Bell, Vince had launched Erasure in 1985 with two flop singles, "Who Needs Love (Like That)" and "Heavenly Action". Things started to look up for the duo in 1986 as "Oh L'amour" became a hit in Australia and a number of other countries, even if not at home in the UK or in the US. It'd take a remake by Dollar in 1987 for the song to be a success in Britain. Erasure would eventually find their footing in the UK chart, scoring four consecutive number 1 albums and 17 top 10 hits during their career. In Australia, however, "Oh L'amour" was one of only three top 50 hits for the pair.




Number 39 "Who's Johnny" by El DeBarge
Peak: number 33
Any kid who grew up in the '80s probably has fond memories of Short Circuit, the movie this solo single by DeBarge member El (short for Eldra) is from. I haven't seen the robot comedy film since 1986 and I imagine it's held up about as well as Mannequin, which I caught a couple of years back on TV and was surprised how woeful it was since I'd loved it at the time. Short Circuit is no doubt just as terrible but "Who's Johnny" is still a great song. El's first release away from his siblings was co-written and produced by Peter Wolf (not the J. Geils Band singer), who worked on hits by Starship, Wang Chung and Go West. Much of the appeal of the track was down to the fun music video, which featured the movie's human stars, Ally Sheedy (in person) and Steve Guttenberg (as a cardboard cut-out), as well as Number 5 (aka Johnny 5) in a courtroom scenario.




Number 33 "Boys Don't Cry" by The Cure
Peak: number 26
It'd been their second ever single back in 1979 - and just made the Australian top 100 a year after its original release in June 1980. Six years later, "Boys Don't Cry" received a new lease of life to coincide with the release of the band's first retrospective collection, Standing On A Beach - The Singles (which featured the original version of the song). This time, the re-recorded track reached the top 30, providing The Cure with their sixth top 40 hit locally.  




Number 32 "Your Wildest Dreams" by The Moody Blues
Peak: number 20
Next up, a British band enjoying their seventh Australian top 40 hit - their first in five years. "Your Wildest Dreams" was also the first hit for the more synthesizer-led version of The Moody Blues, who'd made a name for themselves in the '60s and '70s as a prog rock band. I actually quite liked "Your Wildest Dreams" at the time - and still do, even if it sounds more dated than other synth-based songs from the time. The band's eighth and final top 40 hit would come two years later with a song that was conceived as a sequel to "Your Wildest Dreams". 




Number 24 "Nasty" by Janet Jackson
Peak: number 17
Maintaining the mood established by "What Have You Done For Me Lately", Janet Jackson's second single since taking, er, control of her career was another fierce, empowered record with a hard pop/funk edge. Once again, "Nasty" proved she wasn't a woman to be messed around with by "nasty boys", summed up so succinctly by the line: "No, my first name ain't baby. It's Janet - Miss Jackson, if you're nasty." For me, "Nasty" is more positioning statement than song, and in that respect it worked perfectly and has now become an iconic part of Janet's career. A slightly smaller hit in Australia than "What Have You Done...", it was her second straight top 3 single in the US. But while more mega-hits followed in America, the reception Janet's next single received in Australia was a little unexpected...




Number 23 "Holy Word" by I'm Talking
Peak: number 9
Having charted with a steady stream of singles since January 1985, I'm Talking were finally ready to release their debut album, Bear Witness, and with it, their best single yet. Their third - and final - top 10 hit, "Holy Word" was a perfect slice of pop/funk. Funnily enough, it was also the band's first single to feature lead vocals from Zan Abeyratne. Few would have predicted what happened next, however. The follow-up single, sultry ballad "How Can It Be?" (with Kate Ceberano back on lead), missed the top 100 altogether and, in 1987, I'm Talking disintegrated. There's a link to the music video for "Holy Word" in the song title above, and a terribly out-of-sync upload of a Countdown performance below.




Number 18 "The Dead Heart" by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 4
While the arrival of Erasure was the most exciting thing for a pop fan like me, obviously the biggest release of the week was always going to be a brand new single from Midnight Oil, who'd made history by debuting at number 1 with the Species Deceases EP in late 1985. "The Dead Heart", which was listed as a 12" only release until September, didn't make quite as spectacular an arrival on the ARIA chart, but it did give the band the second biggest hit of their career by reaching the top 5. The song's message was very clear - it spoke out against the mistreatment of Australia's Indigenous population and, together with 1987's "Beds Are Burning" and Goanna's 1982 hit, "Solid Rock", did more to put the issue at the forefront of public consciousness that just about anything. "The Dead Heart" would end up on Diesel And Dust, but until that came out in a year's time, the single spent 25 weeks on the top 100, longer than any Midnight Oil single up until that point.




Next week: Bananarama meet Stock Aitken Waterman and take a chart-topping song from 1970 back to number 1, plus two awesome '80s soundtrack hits.


Back to: Aug 10, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 24, 1986