Saturday, 20 May 2017

This Week In 1984: May 20, 1984

Thanks to the gender-bending of Boy George and Marilyn, and the androgyny of Annie Lennox, we'd become used to seeing pop stars exploring all types of gender identity in the mid-'80s. This week in 1984, that continued as one of the world's most enduringly popular bands - comprised of four men - frocked up in the video for their latest single.

What a drag! America wasn't so impressed with Queen playing dress-up

The music video, which parodied a long-running British soap opera, helped the song become another top 10 hit for the band around the world... except in North America. Seems a bit of tongue-in-cheek drag action was too much for those conservatives in the US.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 20, 1984

A song from a movie set in a typically conservative US town became the new number 1 song in Australia this week in 1984. "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins started a three-week run on top.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "God Bless America" by Models
Peak: number 86
Their immediate follow-up to "I Hear Motion", "No Shoulders, No Head" had missed the top 100 completely - and this latest single from The Pleasure Of Your Company didn't do much better.

Number 98 "Body Work" by Hot Streak
Peak: number 59
Unlike other breakdance-related releases - including another one taken from the Breakin' soundtrack we'll see in July - this one and only single for Hot Streak didn't quite make the grade.

Number 93 "Let The Music Play" by Shannon
Peak: number 62
I guess it's to be expected that the song that launched freestyle - a genre that never took off here - wasn't a hit in Australia. Alongside Madonna's "Holiday", the US top 10 hit also helped establish the post-disco genre of dance-pop.

New Entries
Number 43 "Wonderland" by Big Country
Peak: number 43
Scotland's Big Country found themselves back in the top 50 with this brand new stand-alone song released between their first and second albums. In the UK, "Wonderland" became the band's biggest hit up until this point, reaching number 8. In Australia, it progressed no further than this debut position - which was probably better than it warranted.

Number 42 "I Want To Break Free" by Queen
Peak: number 8
For the previous decade, Queen had been one of the most consistently successful bands in the world. In Australia, they'd managed two number 1 singles ("Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love") as well as four further top 10 hits. Queen were coming off one of those hits, almost chart-topper "Radio Ga Ga", when they released the second single from The Works, "I Want To Break Free". 
Given singer Freddie Mercury's penchant for the flamboyant, the fact that he appeared in drag in the music video wasn't that out of character. But the idea for him - and indeed the whole band - to dress up as parodies of characters from iconic UK soap Coronation Street actually came from Roger Taylor's then-girlfriend. For a band known for earnest anthems like "We Are The Champions" and "Somebody To Love", the video for "I Want To Break Free" was a bit of fun - and most people got the joke.
Most people, except the Americans. Deemed too controversial, the clip was banned by MTV and the single only reached number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100. Coincidence? Besides the Coronation Street pastiche, the video also featured a second sequence in which Freddie performed with The Royal Ballet - a segment for which he shaved off his trademark moustache, despite having kept it for the drag scenes.
Whether or not "I Want To Break Free" would've been as big in Australia with a less attention-grabbing video, we'll never know - it certainly was a strong enough song - but it duly became Queen's seventh top 10 hit. Their eighth wouldn't come for another five years.

Number 34 "Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell
Peak: number 12
The Tori Spelling of the music world, Rockwell is the singer otherwise known as Kennedy Gordy, son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr (and half-brother of Redfoo, but don't hold that against him). Like the story of Tori auditioning for Beverly Hills, 90210 under an alias to dispel assumptions of nepotism, Rockwell's rise to fame wasn't due to him being given any preferential treatment by dear old Dad - in fact, Berry had no clue his son had even been signed to Motown at first.
You can read the full story of "Somebody's Watching Me", which features Rockwell's childhood friend Michael Jackson on uncredited guest vocals and half-brother-in-law Jermaine Jackson on backing vocals, here. Released without publicising his A-list connections (although the Jacko vocal was kind of apparent), the song reached number 2 in the US and peaked just outside the top 10 here. Despite such a solid start, follow-ups like US top 40 single "Obscene Phone Caller" were less successful and Rockwell's career petered out after three albums.

Number 26 "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper
Peak: number 6
I wonder what would've happened if Cyndi Lauper's record company had got their way and released "Time After Time" as the lead single from She's So Unusual. We certainly would've received a very different first impression of the flame-haired singer, that's for sure. In the end, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" became Cyndi's debut and she quickly showed her range by going from kooky to serious with emotional ballad "Time After Time". 

The last track written for the album at the behest of producer Rick Cherotff, who wanted "one more song", "Time After Time" was turned around incredibly quickly by Cyndi and co-writer Rob Hyman (of The Hooters). It was then chosen as her second single and, accompanied by a music video once again featuring wrestler Lou Albano and her ever-sweeping real-life mother, it became another top 10 hit in Australia and Cyndi's first US chart-topper.

Next week: new singles by two British acts with shared musical history. The first is a singer who was fired by his band-mates and was now making his solo debut. The other is a hugely successful group storming back towards the top 5. The link? The keyboardist for the second act co-produced the big hit by the first act's former band.

Back to: May 13, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 27, 1984

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: May 17, 1992

Child sex accusations. A secret marriage. A rap saga that spanned seven years and 33 chapters. Who knew what lay ahead in the life and career of the R&B artist who made his debut on the ARIA singles chart 25 years ago this week?

Nothing like making it crystal clear how important your backing group is

Back in 1992, R. Kelly was just another up-and-coming new jack swing performer (backed by Public Announcement) with a bouncy little debut single. All the controversy and musical innovation was still to come.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 17, 1992

There was nothing at all controversial about the song ascending to number 1 this week in 1992. Sing and clap-along ditty "To Be With You" by Mr Big climbed to the top for the first of three weeks.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "Feels Like Forever" by Joe Cocker
Peak: number 74
Titled "(All I Know) Feels Like Forever" in some countries, this Bryan Adams and Diane Warren-penned ballad featured in ice-skating rom-com The Cutting Edge and was included on a repackaged version of Joe's Night Calls album. 

Number 86 "Bang Bang Bang" by Tracy Chapman
Peak: number 84
It's normally second albums that are difficult, but Tracy Chapman hit a wall with her third, Matters Of The Heart. This lead single flopped and the album peaked about 20 places lower than her first two.

Single Of The Week
"Never Look Back" by Maybe Dolls
Peak: number 114
When Maybe Dolls' first two singles had both peaked just outside the top 30 and debut album Propaganda had spent just five weeks in the top 50, they could have taken heart from the slow start fellow female-fronted Australian rock band Baby Animals had experienced. It'd taken Baby Animals four singles to breach the top 20 and their album didn't reach number 1 until months after its release. But the fact that Maybe Dolls' third single, "Never Look Back", didn't even register inside the top 100 (despite a big plug on this week's ARIA chart and not being that bad a song) was probably a pretty clear indication they weren't going to experience a similar delayed surge.

"It's A Fine Day" by Opus III
Peak: number 54
Providing respite from all the rock I have to recap this week is this rave classic - a top 5 hit in the UK for dance four-piece Opus III (three producers and buzz-cut-sporting singer Kirsty Hawkshaw). Naturally, Australia was only vaguely interested in the track, which was actually a cover version of an a cappella record from 1983. Recorded by Jane, "It's A Fine Day" had been written by her poet/musician boyfriend, Edward Barton - and besides being remade by Opus III, the song would be incorporated into Kylie Minogue's first post-SAW single, "Confide In Me". This would be Opus III's only visit to the ARIA top 100, but their 1994 single "When You Made The Mountain", from second album Guru Mother, is also worth a listen.

New Entries
Number 50 "She's Got That Vibe" by R. Kelly & Public Announcement
Peak: number 28
By 1992, new jack swing had made its presence felt on the ARIA chart. Not to the same degree as in the US, but thanks to pop acts like Michael Jackson and even Kylie Minogue incorporating the R&B sound into their songs, it had certainly found its way into the mainstream. 
And so the debut single by former talent show winner Robert Kelly with three-piece back-up singers/dancers Public Announcement received a warmer reception than if it had been released a couple of years earlier (when classic new jack swing tracks by Johnny Kemp, Al B Sure! and Johnny Gill had flopped locally). In fact, "She's Got That Vibe"  performed better in Australia than in the US (number 59) or the UK (number 57, although a re-release two years later resulted in a number 3 peak there). 
It wasn't immediately apparent that R. Kelly would go on to be one of the biggest names in R&B over the next couple of decades - or one of music's most controversial figures thanks to his alleged extra-curricular activities. Although, the fact he wrote and produced "She's Got That Vibe", and directed its music video should've been some clue that he wasn't just some frontman for a team of studio masterminds. 
One of the most memorable parts of the song, of course, was the bit towards the end where Mr Kelly name-checked all the girls who "got it" - a list that includes (in the longer album version) a reference to "little cute Aaliyah", aka the future (illegal) Mrs Kelly. None of the other R. Kelly & Public Announcement singles charted in Australia and we'd next see him on the top 100 as a solo artist in 1994 - the same year of that ill-fated marriage.

Number 47 "Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton
Peak: number 37
I knew this single, which is taken from Eric Clapton's soundtrack for crime drama Rush, had a sad story behind it - but I wasn't aware just how tragic the events that inspired "Tears In Heaven" were. In March 1991, Eric's four-year-old son, Conor, was killed when he fell out the window of a 53rd-floor apartment. As well as appearing in child safety commercials, he began writing "Tears In Heaven" during his grieving process. The tender ballad was eventually finished with the assistance of co-writer Will Jennings, who initially baulked at the idea of collaborating on something so personal. Eric convinced him and the resulting song ended up being awarded three Grammy Awards, including Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. Although not a huge hit in its original form in Australia, "Tears In Heaven" would end up reaching the ARIA top 10, along with "Layla", in its MTV Unplugged version in 1993.

Number 37 "Sister's Crazy" by Candy Harlots
Peak: number 37
Like the Foreplay EP, this latest effort from Sydney's Candy Harlots once again peaked where it debuted - just 20 places lower. I don't really have anything else to add about "Sister's Crazy", which to my ears sounds like it was about four years out of date. I have, however, just noticed something rather hilarious about the aforementioned Foreplay that I really should've spotted when I had to recap that release - the second track on that EP is titled "Backstreet Boys". 

Number 25 "Suck My Kiss" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Peak: number 8
It had taken the uncharacteristically sombre "Under The Bridge" to provide Red Hot Chili Peppers with their commercial breakthrough, but it was back to their funk/rock hybrid for the follow-up. Succeeding where "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away" hadn't, "Suck My Kiss" gave the band a second straight top 10 hit - the only time in their career they'd achieve that. Much of the footage in the music video came from Funky Monks, a documentary about the making of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which is what a major label deal gets you.

Next week: one of my least favourite songs from 1989 returns as a duet with one of my least favourite singers. Meanwhile, a singer I hadn't liked at all so far finally releases a song I enjoy and a disgraced beauty queen has the last laugh.

Back to: May 10, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 24, 1992

30 Years Ago This Week: May 17, 1987

This week in 1987, there were only two new entries on the ARIA singles top 50, but they would both go on to be top 10 hits. They also share another thing in common: they were both performed by artists who'd never return to the top 50.

Two acts + one hit each = two one-hit wonders

That's right, we have a couple of one-hit wonders on our hands. One, is a singer no one seems to know very much about at all, while the other was a band who was really just a singer.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 17, 1987

It's only fitting that the number 1 single 30 years ago this week was by another one-hit wonder. "Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room)" by Paul Lekakis stayed on top for a fifth and final week.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Mandolin Rain" by Bruce Hornsby & The Range
Peak: number 84
If "Every Little Kiss" couldn't give Bruce Hornsby a second hit in Australia, it's hardly surprising this less memorably track - a US top 5 hit - didn't work here, either.

Number 95 "Baby Grand" by Billy Joel with Ray Charles
Peak: number 78
More MOR adult contemporary music now and the latest from Billy Joel's The Bridge. The duet with his fellow piano man (and personal hero) Ray Charles was a song about - what else? - a piano.

Number 72 "I Lied" by The Pony
Peak: number 60
The first and only top 100 appearance by Melbourne-based, '60s-influenced rock band The Pony came with this debut single. Following "I Lied", the band were signed to White Label Records (through Mushroom), but without further success.

New Entries
Number 50 "Ship Of Fools" by World Party
Peak: number 4
Karl Wallinger - who basically was World Party - is actually a one-hit wonder twice over in Australia. He was a member of The Waterboys, whose single "The Whole Of The Moon", reached number 12 in early 1986 - their only top 50 appearance. Following the album that single was taken from, he left that band to form his own and had another success straight out of the gate. 
Debut single "Ship Of Fools" had more of a bluesy feel and socially conscious message than "The Whole Of The Moon", but it boasted another huge, sing-along chorus. Despite being accompanied by a band in the music video, World Party was very much just Karl, who hired session musicians and used pseudonyms for himself in the credits for album Private Revolution. World Party released several more critically beloved albums, but never returned to the Australian top 50, coming closest with 1993's "Is It Like Today?".

Number 43 "Love And Devotion" by Michael Bow
Peak: number 9
Where Paul Lekakis and Man 2 Man Meet Man Parrish led, fellow Eurodance act Michael Bow followed - into the top 10, that is. His single "Love And Devotion" was another Hi-NRG track that jumped from the clubs to the chart, but I've never been able to find out much about the singer who released a handful of records in the late '80s produced by Belgian Fonny De Wulf (who was himself a recording artist as half of Rofo). Who knows whatever became of Michael Bow, but at least he left us this cowbell-heavy dance track to practise our Italian counting with.

Next week: the song that gave an up-and-coming Australian band their first big hit, as well as the fourth top 20 single in a row for another local group.

Back to: May 10, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 24, 1987

Saturday, 13 May 2017

This Week In 1984: May 13, 1984

I've always been more of a fan of upbeat pop hits, but I tell you what - when a ballad is done right, it can be sensational. And, like most things in music, ballads weren't done any better than in the '80s.

"Hello, it doesn't even look like me!"

This week in 1984, three of the year's biggest slow songs debuted on the ARIA singles chart. Two of the new ballads were stirring, emotional tunes that earned their places in music history. One was a duet between Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 13, 1984

The chart also underwent a slight design change this week in 1984. All reference to Countdown was removed and it was rebranded as the Australian Top 50 ARIA Chart. A new look deserved a new number 1, and it got one as "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Eat It" replaced Nena at the top.

Off The Chart
Number 93 "Juno And Me" by The Dugites
Peak: number 60
Like previous single "Cut The Talking", this pop gem didn't progress very far but it did have longevity, sticking around on the top 100 for 16 weeks.

New Entries
Number 46 "You Might Think" by The Cars
Peak: number 24
Was the music video for this lead single from Heartbeat City better than "Thriller"? MTV thought so, making it the inaugural winner of the Video Of The Year award at the first MTV VMAs in September 1984. It was certainly cutting edge for the time, with then-revolutionary animation effects used to insert singer Ric Ocasek and the rest of the band into scenes featuring model Susan Gallagher. A surprisingly modest hit in Australia, the US top 10 single did at least return The Cars to the chart for the first time since the similarly jaunty "Shake It Up", which had reached our top 10 in 1981. Like the rest of the album, "You Might Think" was co-produced by the band with "Mutt" Lange, who was between Def Leppard albums at the time.

Number 44 "Burning Up" by Madonna
Peak: number 13
It'd visited the top 100 briefly at the end of 1983, but thanks to the runaway success of "Holiday", which was still climbing the top 10, Madonna's second single was given a second chance. The fact that "Burning Up" actually had a proper music video worked in its favour, with Countdown play of the clip contributing in no small part to renewed interest in the song. The video, directed by Steve Barron ("Billie Jean", "Don't You Want Me", "Promised You A Miracle"), was also the first demonstration of the part sexuality would play in Madonna's career as she writhed around suggestively on the road. The twist at the end of the clip, however, established from the outset that she literally wouldn't be playing the part of victim and was a woman who was firmly in charge. Nothing like starting how you intend to go on.

Number 29 "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" by Phil Collins
Peak: number 3
Sometimes a song benefits from being featured in a hit movie - the enjoyment of the film prompting people to go out and buy the theme tune. In the case of this mega ballad by Phil Collins, its popularity actually helped the box office cause of the film it was specifically written for: Against All Odds. Well, rewritten for. 
"Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" was actually based on an earlier song, "How Can You Sit There", which dealt with Phil's first divorce and didn't make it onto 1981's Face Value. When he was approached to contribute something to the movie's soundtrack, he revisited the track, tweaking it so it was appropriate. That said, he did mostly sing "against the odds", instead of "against all odds".
After a string of flop singles from second album Hello, I Must Be Going!, "Against All Odds..." put Phil back near the top of the chart. In the US, it was the first of his seven number 1 hits between 1984 and 1989. Despite horrendous cover versions over the years - like the shriek-fest between Mariah Carey and Westlife in 2000, and its use as winner's single for inaugural X Factor UK champ Steve Brookstein in 2004 - the tune has stood the test of time and remains one of music's greatest ballads.

Number 19 "To All The Girls I've Loved Before" by Julio Iglesias / Willie Nelson
Peak: number 4
Next up, a ballad that hasn't dated quite as well. "To All The Girls I've Loved Before" was originally recorded by its co-writer Albert Hammond, who was partially responsible for, among many other hits, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (which we saw in this week's 30 Years Ago... flashback) and "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" (the Diana Ross song that also got turned into a vocal battle with Westlife). 
A pretty unlikely combination, Latin superstar Julio Iglesias and country legend Willie Nelson teamed up to remake the song for Julio's incredibly successful 1100 Bel Air Place album, which established him on the English-language music scene. The song also gave each of the pair their first - and only - top 10 hit in Australia.

Number 18 "Hello" by Lionel Richie
Peak: number 1
It's a tale as old as time. A theatre teacher/creepy stalker falls in love with one of his students, a blind girl he thinks has no idea of his feelings until she, through the medium of pottery, demonstrates she also cares for him. "Hello", the biggest of this week's three big ballads was also a song that, like "You Might Think" and "Burning Up", made an impression because of its iconic music video. Not necessarily a great impression, with the clip derided by some (including, memorably, Hey Hey It's Saturday) as one of the worst of all time. 
Although "Hello" appeared on Can't Slow Down and was lifted as its third single, like "Against All Odds...", the song dated back to an earlier project. The ballad had been written for Lionel's self-titled debut solo album but was left off. Apparently it was Lionel's then-wife, Brenda, who encouraged him to include it on his second LP. Good thing she did - not only was the song a worldwide chart-topper, but it also sold a million copies in both the US and the UK. And, to this day, it has continued to crop up everywhere from Pushing Daisies to Trolls to that viral Adele mash-up.

Next week: He may have had no more singles to squeeze out of Thriller, but that didn't stop Michael Jackson returning to the chart once more. Plus, the follow-up to 1984's funnest number 1 hit.

Back to: May 6, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 20, 1984

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: May 10, 1992

The problem with reaching number 1 with your very first single is that the only way is down after that. And so the only thing for it is keep hitting the top spot for as long as you can.

What they lacked in sensible attire Euphoria made up for with awesome pop/dance tracks

This week in 1992, an Australian dance act debuted with the song that would made it two chart-toppers from two. Elsewhere, an American singer who'd managed to kick off her career with five straight US number 1s arrived with her latest, which continued her downward trend at home but actually improved her chart fortunes locally.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 10, 1992

At number 1 this week in 1992, a band who worked up to their first - and only - chart-topper held onto the top spot. "Under The Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers spent its fourth and final week as the nation's top seller.

Off The Chart
Number 99 4 x 4 by The Cruel Sea
Peak: number 82
Last week, we saw the top 100 debut of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Seven days later, it was the turn of another eventually massive local rock band. The Cruel Sea arrived with a four-track EP led by the song "4".

Number 95 "Mind Adventures" by Des'ree
Peak: number 89
"Feel So High" was it as far as Des'ree's top 50 career went for the time being, with this follow-up and title track of her debut album bombing. She'd be back, though.

New Entries
Number 50 "Kiss Me" by Indecent Obsession
Peak: number 27
Speaking of being back, here was an Australian pop band who'd got off to a great start in 1989"Kiss Me" was the first taste of Indecent Obsession's second album, Indio - and if it sounded a bit more American than the synthpop of their debut record that's because it owed its big pop/rock production to Peter Wolf (who'd worked on international hits by Starship, Heart, Go West and Wang Chung). Unfortunately, "Kiss Me" ended up as only a minor hit in Australia, but it was huge in South Africa, where Indecent Obsession amassed a major following and performed shortly after the end of apartheid. 

Number 49 "Twilight Zone" by 2 Unlimited
Peak: number 11
"Get Ready For This" was still sitting pretty at number 6 and it was joined on the top 50 this week by the follow-up. Another slice of relentless techno, which also came in a no-rap version, "Twilight Zone" fell just short of the top 10 but its success here and around the world established the Dutch-fronted, Belgian-produced duo as one of the biggest names in dance music.

Number 48 "Viva Las Vegas" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 28
We'd last seen the bearded ones on the chart in 1990 with their contribution to the Back To The Future III soundtrack, "Doubleback", and now ZZ Top went back to the past for this new song included on their latest (recent) career retrospective album. A cover of the Elvis Presley song from the film of the same name, "Viva Las Vegas" sounded like a relic from the mid-'80s when the trio were at their commercial peak. A fun enough remake, but also kind of unnecessary.

Number 46 "Mistadobalina" by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien
Peak: number 11
I never would've guessed the key sample in this hit hip-hop track came from a "song" by The Monkees. Included on their 1967 album, Headquarters, "Zilch" contains the line "Mr Dobalina, Mr Bob Dobalina" and it was around that spoken hook that 19-year-old rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (real name: Teren Jones - the Del comes from middle name Delvon) built his debut single. Co-produced by his cousin Ice Cube, the song was Del's only Australian success - and, I'd suggest, was so popular because it falls into the same almost-novelty category of rap songs as hits by De La Soul, Dimples D and 2 In A Room.

Number 45 "Make It Happen" by Mariah Carey
Peak: number 35
She'd started her career with five straight US number 1 singles, but Mariah Carey had to make do with a number 5 placing for this latest release from second album Emotions in America. Like the album's title track, "Make It Happen" was co-written and co-produced by Mariah with Robert Clivillés and David Cole, and had the same piano house influences as "Emotions". Lyrically and musically, "Make It Happen" also referenced Mariah's Christianity - in her tale of the strength she derived from her faith during her tough pre-fame years and in the gospel elements added to the mix. In Australia, the track put her back in the top 50 after the disappointing performance of previous single "Can't Let Go".

Number 21 "In The Closet" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 5
It was fitting that Michael Jackson's latest single from Dangerous - and top 10 hit - was called "In The Closet" since the identity of the guest female vocalist on the track was kept secret for some time. Dubbed Mystery Girl on the liner notes, the voice turned out to belong to Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, who was something of a pop star in Europe. The song about a relationship being kept on the down-low was another new jack sing collaboration with writer/producer Teddy Riley, while the music video's obligatory celebrity cameo came from supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Number 16 "One In A Million" by Euphoria
Peak: number 1
Euphoria did something very clever with their follow-up to chart-topping smash "Love You Right". Having used blonde model/dancer Holly Garnett as the front for their debut effort despite the fact it was actually brunette Keren Minshull singing, group mastermind Andrew Klippel incorporated both women into second single "One In A Million" - and, most importantly, its music video. The move proved Holly could hold a tune, which diminished some of the lip-syncing tarnish, and acknowledged where the true vocal talent in the trio lay. And they were a bona fide trio now, appearing on the single cover in those outrageous music video outfits and everything. Of course, what was also clever was having a song almost as strong as "Love You Right". Less clubby and more straightforward pop, "One In A Million" gave the fledgling act a second number 1 single in a row.

Next week: another follow-up to a number 1 hit arrives, plus the hit with possibly the saddest story behind it and the chart debut of a modern R&B superstar.

Back to: May 3, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 17, 1992

30 Years Ago This Week: May 10, 1987

It's always tempting fate to have a song title that top 50 countdown hosts can use against you as a pun. For example, songs called "Number One" that don't become chart-toppers or singles with the word "up" in their titles that are moving down the chart.

If those smiles look forced it's because the Mannequin cast realise how badly the film will date

This week in 1987, a massive hit arrived on the ARIA singles chart and I can just hear Countdown's Gavin Wood or Barry Bissell from Take 40 Australia incorporating its title into a description of how it got stuck at number 3 for six long weeks. I might even use such a pun myself...

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 10, 1987

A song that had been stuck at number 1 for weeks now held on to the top spot yet again this week in 1987. "Boom Boom (Let's Go Back To My Room)" kept rock bands from around the world at bay as it registered it fourth week as Australia's favourite song.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Falling" by Rose Tattoo
Peak: number 100
The final single from the hard rock band before singer Angry Anderson went solo, "Falling" was another power ballad lifted from the surprisingly commercial Beats From A Single Drum album.

Number 98 "Born To Be Alive ('87 remix)" by Patrick Hernandez
Peak: number 83
It was his only hit, but what a monster it was. The 1979 number 1 smash was brought up to date with a new remix, but couldn't recapture its former chart glory.

Number 95 "Rat In Mi Kitchen" by UB40
Peak: number 84
Based, apparently, on a conversation about singer Ali Campbell's pest problem, this was another British hit that didn't cross over in Australia for the reggae group.

Number 94 "Away Away" by Weddings Parties Anything
Peak: number 92
After a couple of self-funded, limited edition releases, the Australian folk rock band made their major label - and top 100 - debut. It'd be a good few years before they'd really make a mark.

Number 82 "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes" by Paul Simon
Peak: number 69
Yet another singles chart disappointment from the album that was still firmly ensconced in the ARIA top 10. Like "You Can Call Me Al", this track features Ladysmith Black Mambazo on backing vocals.

"Love Removal Machine" by The Cult
Peak: number 58
It's not really that surprising that The Cult, who hadn't made an appearance on the Australian chart up until this point, broke through with this first single from their Electric album. The song signalled a change in the band's sound from goth rock to US heavy metal-influenced rock and no expense had been spared hiring Rick Rubin to re-record the entire album (which was originally going to be called Peace). The Damned's "Eloise" aside, goth rock had never been that successful in Australia, but hard rock and heavy metal was another matter - especially in 1987. Still, it'd take another couple of years for The Cult to break into the top 50.

"Respect Yourself" by Bruce Willis
Peak: number 57
Last week, we saw Alison Moyet only manage a top 30 peak with "Weak In The Presence Of Beauty", which had also been a medium-sized hit the previous year for Floy Joy. Now it was actor-turned-singer Bruce Willis's turn to be disadvantaged by a recent recording of the song he chose to cover. In 1985, Kane Gang had reached the top 20 with their version of The Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself" and so less people were inclined to shell out for Bruce's interpretation (as opposed to in the US and the UK, where it went top 10). 
Despite an average singing voice, Bruce's take on the classic soul track was not that bad - although he did owe a huge debt to the vocal involvement of June Pointer (of The Pointer Sisters) on the track. Such was Bruce's star power thanks to hit TV series Moonlighting that not only was he able to release a whole album, The Return Of Bruno, but HBO (which, admittedly, wasn't the TV powerhouse it is now) aired a mockumentary of the same name in which he took the role of music legend Bruno Radolini. 

New Entries
Number 49 "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship
Peak: number 3
Another week, another massive movie hit - this time, the power ballad from the not-as-good-as-you-remember comedy Mannequin, starring Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall. Co-written by '80s power ballad queen Diane Warren with equally prolific songwriter Albert Hammond, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" was a US and UK chart-topper, and initially looked as if it would do the same in Australia. Turns out - ready for it? - something could stop Starship returning to the top of the chart. Specifically, the combined might of Dave Dobbyn and Whitney Houston kept them stuck at number 3 for five of the six weeks the song spent in that position (Mel & Kim and Whitney kept it at number 3 for week six). Although they continued releasing music until the early '90s before taking a lengthy hiatus, this would be Starship's last major success in Australia - but what a song to go out on!

Number 44 "Holiday Rap" by MC Miker "G" & Deejay Sven
Peak: number 11
It's songs like this that give Eurodance a bad name. Featuring a re-recorded (rather than a sampled) backing track created by producer/remixer Ben Liebrand, "Holiday Rap" obviously used Madonna's breakthrough single as inspiration - and then crapped all over it. A bit of Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday" was even thrown in for "good" measure. Performed by Dutch duo Lucien Witteveen and Sven van Veen, the song was massive across Europe and almost made the ARIA top 10, but even my 12-year-old self knew it for the load of rubbish it was. A second single that ruined Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" followed, but we were mercifully spared that becoming a hit.

Next week: another dance anthem crosses over from the clubs and the arrival of a future top 5 hit from a one-man band.

Back to: May 3, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 17, 1987

Saturday, 6 May 2017

This Week In 1984: May 6, 1984

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. The Human League. Ultravox. Heaven 17. Since the start of the decade, synthpop bands had flooded out of the UK and onto the Australian singles chart. By 1984, there was a growing list of homegrown electronic groups to compete with them.

The faces of Australian synthpop in 1984

This week in 1984, three of the most successful Australian synthpop bands of the decade all debuted on the ARIA chart with their latest singles - and although none of them made the top 10, they all demonstrated that local acts had what it took to rival the best of the British.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 6, 1984

A piece of German synthpop was at number 1 in Australia this week in 1984. "99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons" stayed on top for a fifth and final week.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "The Loser Gets To Win" by Kiki Dee
Peak: number 99
Last seen on the top 100 with the excellent "Star" from 1981, Kiki Dee returned with what seems to have been a one-off single for EMI, which was produced by old pal Elton John.

Number 96 "Sea Of Heartbreak" by Leo Sayer
Peak: number 81
This remake of the 1961 single by country performer Don Gibson peaked at exactly the same position as Leo Sayer's previous release from the Have You Ever Been In Love album.

Number 93 "Two Car Garage" by BJ Thomas
Peak: number 91
From the third of three albums the multi-genre artist released in 1983, this country track would be BJ Thomas's final appearance on the Australian chart. Four years later, he'd perform one of the best TV theme songs ever.

New Entries
Number 48 "A Beat For You" by Pseudo Echo
Peak: number 12
The Pseudo Echo story so far had been what every band dreams of, but now came the Melbourne four-piece's first big test - could they land a second hit? The answer: yes, they could. Another piece of catchy synthpop that sounded as good as anything coming from overseas, "A Beat For You" established that Molly Meldrum's instincts had been right and gave Pseudo Echo a second top 20 hit. Their debut album, Autumnal Park, also peaked just outside the top 10 when it was released in June, although, as we'll see in coming months, its third and fourth singles missed the top 50.

Number 46 "Joanna" by Kool & The Gang
Peak: number 45
Despite a string of US hits dating back to the early '70s, funk band Kool & The Gang had never really taken off in Australia. Even seminal party tune "Celebration" had only reached number 33. Only their second ever top 50 appearance came from ballad "Joanna", which probably owed its local success to the fact that it'd been a number 2 hit in both the US and the UK. Although the love song wasn't typical of Kool & The Gang's output, its chart appearance here foreshadowed the fact that the band would finally score their breakthrough hit in Australia with another sentimental single in 1985.

Number 39 "Taking The Town" by Icehouse
Peak: number 29
This Australian band had been at the forefront of the local synthpop movement, reaching the top 10 with debut single "Can't Help Myself" (as Flowers) in 1980. A name change and several hits later, and Icehouse were up to their third album, Sidewalk. Lead single "Taking The Town" was not quite as synth-y as previous singles but wasn't exactly pub rock, either. It also wasn't as big a hit as Icehouse were probably expecting from the album's first release - a situation that didn't change with the subsequent singles from Sidewalk

Number 34 "Cry And Be Free" by Marilyn
Peak: number 24
How quickly things can change. Marilyn had made a huge splash at the start of 1984 - both on the ARIA chart with the effervescent "Calling Your Name" and in person when he came to Australia for a headline-grabbing promo tour. Seemed like we had a big new star on our hands. But then he went all serious, releasing gospel-tinged ballad "Cry And Be Free" as his second single. A minor hit that was in and out of the top 40 in seven weeks, the track seemed like a misstep - even Marilyn's pals Culture Club had waited until they had a few big singles under their belt before releasing the equally dramatic "Victims". Things didn't get any better for Marilyn, who didn't end up releasing his debut album until 1985, when he made his final appearance on the singles chart

Number 28 "Bitter Desire" by Kids In The Kitchen
Peak: number 17
Our final Aussie synthpop band - and highest newcomers - for the week were, like Pseudo Echo, following up a hit debut single. And Kids In The Kitchen returned to the top 20 with second release "Bitter Desire". Quite a different style of song to the punchy pop of "A Beat For You", "Bitter Desire" is a moody piece of synthpop that builds to the explosion of brass towards the end. It would be a full year before KITK would return - with an altered line-up - with single number three. Unlike Marilyn, they were able to sustain interest until their debut album finally saw the light of day shortly after.

Next week: epic ballads from two of the most successful male artists of recent years, plus a former flop gets a new lease of life... with a little help from Countdown.

Back to: Apr 29, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 13, 1984