Wednesday, 31 May 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: May 31, 1992

Regular readers will know I'm no fan of novelty records, but I don't mind it all when a non-humorous song has something novel about it.

Teen rap stars Kris Kross had a lot to look forward to in 1992

In the case of the highest new entry on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1992, the fact that the duo behind it were barely teenagers and had a kooky way of wearing their jeans in no way detracted it being a great song - although those facts probably did help it reach number 1.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 31, 1992

Once again, the number 1 single in Australia 25 years ago this week was "To Be With You" by Mr Big, which stayed on top for a third and final week.


Off The Chart
Number 96 "Stevie's Blues" by Tommy Emmanuel
Peak: number 93
He'd racked up three top 20 albums by this stage, but this was the first top 100 singles appearance by the guitar virtuoso.

Number 95 Live At Wemley Stadium by Metallica
Peak: number 95
Just the one week on the chart for this three-track EP, which contained live versions of hits "Enter Sandman" and "Nothing Else Matters", and upcoming single "Sad But True".

Number 92 Return Of The Dudes by Scatterbrain
Peak: number 92
Another EP now, this five-track release coincided with a tour by the thrash band and was led by previous hit "Don't Call Me Dude". It also featured three live recordings.

Number 87 "Superman's Song" by Crash Test Dummies
Peak: number 87
A brief visit for the Canadian band we'd next see on the chart with the chart-topping "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". "Superman's Song" was Crash Test Dummies' debut single.

Number 81 "You Just Gotta Know My Mind" by The Hummingbirds
Peak: number 81
Written by '60s star Donovan for his girlfriend Dana Gillespie, but released first by Karen Verros, this jangly tune should've put The Humminbirds back in the top 50, but instead it ended up being their final rooArt release.

Number 75 "The Only Living Boy In New Cross" by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
Peak: number 70
The only single by the British indie dance act to reach the UK top 10. The title of this track from 1992 - The Love Album is a play on Simon & Garfunkel's "The Only Living Boy In New York".

Number 63 "Little Egypt" by Nathan Cavaleri featuring Chris Bailey
Peak: number 63
We started this section with one local guitar hero and we end with a very different one. As a child, Nathan Cavaleri had learnt - and mastered - guitar as he battled leukaemia. Released when he was still nine, this collaboration with The Saints singer was a cover of the Elvis Presley song.


Breakers
"Accident Waiting To Happen" by Billy Bragg
Peak: number 62
He'd landed a top 50 single with "Sexuality" and almost did the same with this subsequent single from Don't Try This At Home, but Billy Bragg's efforts to break into the mainstream would take their toll. Constant touring and promotion for the album - including a visit to Australia, as evidenced by the late night TV appearance below - left him wanting to get out of his record deal. He'd succeed in leaving Go! Discs and wouldn't release new music for another four years.




"Watching The Wind Blow" by Tall Tales & True
Peak: number 53
When we saw them fall one place short of reaching the top 50 with "Summer Of Love", I asked whether Tall Tales & True could improve on that performance. Turns out the answer was no, with "Watching The Wind Blow" also just missing the chart. Not a great week for the once unstoppable rooArt.




New Entries
Number 50 "Cry" by Lisa Edwards
Peak: number 5
She'd been one of Australia's go-to session singers and backup vocalists for years, most recognisably as part of John Farnham's band in recent years - that's her in the "Two Strong Hearts" music video. Finally in 1992, Lisa Edwards did a Wendy Matthews and stepped into the spotlight with this cover version of Godley & Creme's minor hit from 1985. Lisa transformed "Cry" into a rousing pop song and made it all the way to the top 5. Unfortunately, her follow-up single, the rocky "So Dangerous", missed the top 100, which didn't augur well for her then-still upcoming debut album, Thru The Hoop




Number 45 "Even Flow" by Pearl Jam
Peak: number 22
They still weren't releasing singles commercially in the US, but Australia was one of the countries where Pearl Jam did issue songs from debut album Ten and "Even Flow" became the grunge band's second hit following "Alive", which sat at number 14 this week. Apparently an incredibly difficult song to record, the band updated the track in 1992 - and it's that new version that can be heard in the music video below. Lyrically, the song deals with homelessness.




Number 43 "Remedy" by The Black Crowes
Peak: number 21
Unlike Pearl Jam, who'd entered the top 10 first time out, The Black Crowes had been waiting for a hit since 1990. Their time came with this lead single from second album The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, which sampled a riff from an old Parliament track. Hard enough to sit alongside the grunge stylings of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, but still firmly anchored in their blues rock roots, "Remedy" would be as good as it got for The Black Crowes, who never saw the inside of the top 50 again.




Number 41 "Friday I'm In Love" by The Cure
Peak: number 39
If they'd achieved a career best peak of number 5 with previous single "High", then surely The Cure would have another huge hit on their hands with this ultra-commercial second single from Wish, right? Nope, it barely made the top 40. While it should've crossed over to people who, as singer Robert Smith said, "aren't actually fans of The Cure" due to it being so far removed from the gloomy tunes people associate with the band, Australia didn't get behind "Friday I'm In Love". The poppy, optimistic tune did at least reach the top 10 in the UK, and gave The Cure their second - and final - top 20 hit in the US.




Number 31 "Innocence" by Deborah Blando
Peak: number 31
In recent weeks, there's been some chatter in the comments section - do stop by and leave a message some time, either here or on Facebook! - about singles being sold around this time for bargain basement prices. Or, about what you'd pay for a track on iTunes these days. One song I remember going for a pittance, because I bought it, was this ballad by Italian-born Brazilian singer Deborah Blando from her debut album, A Different Story. I always thought Deborah's surname was an unfortunate one for a pop star to have, especially when I decided "Innocence" was a fairly bland song and soon divested myself of my copy of it. Seems the price drop might have inspired others to give "Innocence" a try, but unable to sustain the initial interest, it quickly dropped out of the top 50 and Deborah was never to be seen on the top 100 again - although she's enjoyed a lengthy career in Brazil.




Number 25 "I Can Feel It" by Radio Freedom
Peak: number 7
Regular readers will also be aware of my pop obsession, so what do you think I made of this latest homegrown dance/pop effort? In short: I thought it was terrible. Yes, it had a great hook in the chorus and plenty of eye candy in the music video, whatever your persuasion. But the verses are pretty painful and as for the raps by shirtless Pehl (aka Paul Snashall)... well, Marky Mark he wasn't. "I Can Feel It" was the latest hit to emerge from Westside Records, who seemed to be almost single-handedly keeping the local pop music scene alive, having also been responsible for Teen Queens and Melissa. Whether they were intentionally named after the South African radio station, I'm not sure, but Radio Freedom duly joined those other acts in the Australian top 10 - and, as we'll see in coming months, had just as short-lived a chart lifespan. As for what Pehl, who now seems to go by the name Paul Snatch, is up to, you can check him out here.





Number 20 "Jump" by Kris Kross
Peak: number 1
Ultra-young African-American acts were nothing new - New Edition had reached the top 10 in 1983 and Another Bad Creation (although not The Boys) had enjoyed success in 1991, but the duo comprised of Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly and Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith did two things none of those other acts did: 1) they rapped and 2) they had a number 1 single in Australia. Three, if you include wearing their clothes backwards. Discovered by soon-to-be-huge producer Jermaine Dupri when he was still a teenager, the two Chrises were both 13 when their debut single, "Jump" blasted onto the ARIA chart and quickly ascended to the top. 
Their sample-ridden track also held down the number 1 spot for eight weeks in the US - the longest a rap tune had spent there up until that point. Would "Jump" have been as big if its performers weren't too cute kids with a funny way of dressing? Maybe not, although whatever novelty there was in Kris Kross as artists, their song was an accomplished track that established both the boys and their producer as major players on the hip-hop scene.




Next week: a significantly quieter week, with the top 50 debut of a trip-hop group and... not much more!


Back to: May 24, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: June 7, 1992


30 Years Ago This Week: May 31, 1987

It's called the difficult second album for a reason. When you've had major success with your debut release, it's a lot to live up to. And there's the conundrum - do you repeat the same formula and risk boring people or do you try something new and potentially alienate your existing fans?

New hair, old sound: Whitney Houston played it safe in 1987

This week in 1987, the biggest new female artist of 1985-86 returned with the first taste of her second album and it quickly became apparent she was sticking with what had worked the first time. And that was just fine, since it gave her another number 1 single in Australia. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 31, 1987

The song she would eventually knock off the top was still at number 1 this week in 1987. "Slice Of Heaven" by Dave Dobbyn with Herbs held on for a second week.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Battleship Chains" by Georgia Satellites
Peak: number 82
Debut single "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" had been a top 20 hit, but there was no such luck for "Battleship Chains", which was also released by its songwriter Terry Anderson's band, The Woods.

Number 99 "Skye Boat Song" by Roger Whittaker / Des O'Connor
Peak: number 96
Neither had seen the inside of the top 100 since the mid-'70s, and they only barely made it this time with their duet - featuring bonus whistling! - of the Scottish folk tune. A top 10 hit in the UK. 


Breaker
"Boy Wonder" by Big Pig
Peak: number 59
The aprons were back - in white this time - but the energy of debut single "Hungry Town" was lacking on this more sedate follow-up. It would be almost a year before the percussion-heavy Big Pig would return with single number three - time spent recording their debut album, Bonk, as well as working out what went wrong with "Boy Wonder", I imagine.




New Entries
Number 50 "Let's Wait A While" by Janet Jackson
Peak: number 21
It might've seemed like Janet Jackson's Control album had run out of steam in Australia, what with its two most recent singles missing the top 50. But this tender ballad about taking things slow completely turned things around. Just falling short of the top 20 - it hit number 21 on three separate occasions - "Let's Wait A While" benefitted from showcasing a completely different side to Janet than the four reasonably similar sounding tracks already taken from the album. In the US, "Let's Wait A While" reached number 2, meaning the five singles from Control up until this point had peaked at numbers 4, 3, 1, 5 and 2 - a clean sweep of the top 5.




Number 48 "Caravan Of Love" by The Housemartins
Peak: number 24
Three years earlier, The Flying Pickets' a cappella cover version of Yazoo's "Only You" had taken out the Christmas number 1 spot in the UK. And in December 1986, it looked like The Housemartins would repeat the trick with their remake of Christian-themed "Caravan Of Love", originally recorded by The Isley Brothers splinter group Isley-Jasper-Isley the year earlier. Unfortunately for the four-piece band with crucifixes shaved into their heads, their vocal update of "Caravan Of Love" was knocked off the UK number 1 position a week shy of Christmas. In Australia, the single gave The Housemartins their only hit locally before they went their separate ways in 1988 (two members to The Beautiful South, one to Beats International).




Number 45 "Rock The Night" by Europe
Peak: number 22
In its 15th week, "The Final Countdown" was still inside the top 10 and it was joined on the top 50 this week by the song that was both its follow-up and its predecessor. As well as being the second single from Europe's The Final Countdown album, "Rock The Night" had also been released in Sweden prior to their international breakthrough hit. In 1985, "Rock The Night" - and Europe themselves - had appeared in a half-hour film called On The Loose and the song had reached the Swedish top 5 (accompanied by its original music video). I've always liked "Rock The Night" and believed it should've done even better than its number 22 peak, but it was overshadowed by the unstoppable force of "The Final Countdown". Internationally, the band would have one more hit from The Final Countdown: obligatory power ballad "Carrie", while in Australia, they'd sneak into the top 50 one more time in late 1988.




Number 44 "Let It Be" by Ferry Aid
Peak: number 28
By 1987, charity ensemble records were the go-to means of quickly raising funds and/or awareness for a given cause. Following the Zeebrugge disaster, in which a ferry overturned off the coast of Belgium and 193 people were killed, The Sun enlisted the help of producers Stock Aitken Waterman to pull together a remake of The Beatles' "Let It Be". Why did the newspaper, not normally known for its altruism, organise the recording? Because many of the passengers had taken advantage of a special cheap deal offered by The Sun to ride on the ferry as it made the crossing between England and Belgium. 
Given the paper's reputation for muck raking, pop stars were initially reluctant to be involved, but the good cause at the heart of the single won out. Dubbed Ferry Aid, the ensemble reached number 1 in the UK, but only just made the Australian top 30, probably because many of the performers (like Nick Kamen, Jaki Graham, Level 42's Mark King and Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot from Curiosity Killed The Cat) weren't that well known here and the tragedy didn't have the same impact as it did in the UK.




Number 34 "Roll It On Robbie" by Redgum
Peak: number 34
In April 1987, the infamous Grim Reaper safe sex advertisement had debuted on Australian TV, shocking the country into awareness about the AIDS epidemic. Folk rock band Redgum took a different approach to encouraging condom use. Telling people to "roll it on Robbie" and "slip it on Sam", the lyrics were direct but friendly: "It's a shower and a raincoat, my bald-headed friend... Cause if you're looking down the barrel, you're going to get shot". Ironically, it was the band that died off, with "Roll It On Robbie" proving to be their final single.




Number 13 "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 1
Whitney Houston (and her record company) must've been pretty happy with how her debut album had been received. And so to follow it up, it was pretty much business as usual - down to calling it Whitney instead of Whitney Houston. Many of the same songwriters and producers were enlisted, including George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam (aka Boy Meets Girl), who'd penned her only upbeat hit to date, "How Will I Know"
Asked to come up with a song for Whitney the husband-and-wife duo delivered "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" - literally. George took the finished demo to the airport to hand it over to Whitney's A&R guy, Clive Davis, saying that if he didn't want it for Whitney, they'd record it for their own album. Needless to say, Clive liked what he heard - and, when it was released as the lead single from Whitney, so too did the singer's fans, who sent it charging into the chart at number 13 on the way to five weeks at number 1. 




Next week: another future chart-topper from a duo that featured on Ferry Aid, plus the solo debut of a singer from an under-rated late '70s/early '80s funk group. And, the only hit from 1987 - or any year? - named after an assassinated US president.


Back to: May 24, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 7, 1987


Saturday, 27 May 2017

This Week In 1984: May 27, 1984

I've always loved it when songs are remixed from their album versions for single release. Well, I say "always", but I actually prefer my favourite song of all time in its album incarnation than its single mix, so that's a pretty big exception to the rule.

Duran Duran were back on chart form with the remixed "The Reflex"

But more often than not, a single remix transforms a good song into a great one and/or gives new life to a track that's been kicking around for a while on an album. This week in 1984, a remix did both those things to the third song lifted from Duran Duran's Seven And The Ragged Tiger - and restored the band to the ARIA top 5.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 27, 1984

At the pinnacle of the top 5 this week in 1984, "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins spent a second week at number 1 and held off the comic onslaught from the two runners-up.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "State Of The Nation" by Industry
Peak: number 78
The first of three singles that were good enough to have done much better, "State Of The Nation" was an anti-war-themed song by American new wave band Industry, who broke up later in the year.

Number 98 "It's My Life" by Talk Talk
Peak: number 73
Turned into a hit almost two decades later by No Doubt, the original version of "It's My Life" is an overlooked classic by the band who'd reached the Australian top 40 with their eponymous hit.

Number 80 "The Caterpillar" by The Cure
Peak: number 51
After a trio of commercially successful stand-alone singles, the only track lifted from The Cure's fifth album, The Top, just missed out on a top 50 berth.


New Entries
Number 50 "Only For Love" by Limahl
Peak: number 50
Spending a couple of weeks at the very bottom of the top 50 was the debut single by Limahl following his ignominious dismissal from Kajagoogoo (although he'd released two songs as Christopher Hamill prior to joining the band). Not a bad pop tune, "Only For Love" didn't have the same impact as "Too Shy", the Nick Rhodes-produced top 10 hit that'd made Limahl and Kajagoogoo famous in the first place. Limahl would have much more success on the ARIA chart over the '84-'85 summer.




Number 46 "Ghost Ships" by The Saints
Peak: number 46
Seven years earlier, The Saints had sneaked to number 98 with their debut single, "(I'm) Stranded" - a song that's now regarded as one of the most influential records of the punk rock era. Over the ensuing years, the Brisbane band continued to operate outside the mainstream (in one line-up or another) but returned to the chart for the first time since 1977 with "Ghost Ships". The first single from sixth album A Little Madness To Be Free, it had only a brief stay in the top 50, but it was a key step towards the band's true commercial breakthrough a couple of years later.




Number 43 "Don't Answer Me" by The Alan Parsons Project
Peak: number 43
Sounding like an ABBA song produced by Phil Spector, "Don't Ask Me" was the second and final Australian top 50 hit for prog rock band The Alan Parsons Project. The British group, anchored by the duo of Alan and Eric Woolfson, had previously reached number 22 with the light and breezy-sounding "Eye In The Sky", but didn't make quite as much of an impression with this Wall Of Sound-inspired lead single from the Ammonia Avenue album.




Number 41 "The Reflex" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 4
The last time we'd seen Duran Duran on the top 50, it'd been with the under-performing second single from Seven And The Ragged Tiger, "New Moon On Monday". Thanks to a sparkling remix by Nile Rodgers, the album's third single, "The Reflex", put the band back at number 4, exactly where they'd peaked with the two singles before "New Moon...". Not that the album version was bad, but at five-and-a-half minutes, it certainly benefitted from the tightening up. Besides its Australian success, "The Reflex" topped the UK and the US charts, and was the beginning of a successful working relationship between Nile and the band that'd see him produce their next single and their post-hiatus album, Notorious




Number 35 "Strong Love" by Pat Wilson And Her Daddy O
Peak: number 26
Landing on the top 50 one place below the latest from Mondo Rock was the second single by the wife of the Australian band's lead singer, Ross Wilson. "Strong Love" was the follow-up to Pat Wilson's number 2 debut smash hit, "Bop Girl", and was actually a duet with Ross (aka "Her Daddy O"), who wrote and co-produced the song. He also performed the B-side, "Tacky Too", which I'm guessing was linked to "Tacky", the B-side to "Bop Girl". "Strong Love" was nowhere near as good as "Bop Girl" nor anywhere near as successful, and it ended up being Pat's final single release.




Next week: the debut of one of the most successful Australian recording artists of all time. Plus, another hit from one of the year's biggest movies and the song that'd end up in a legal dispute with another soundtrack hit.


Back to: May 20, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 3, 1984


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: May 24, 1992

Doing something different is a great way for a musician to get noticed - just ask Madonna. In the case of two of the new entries on the ARIA singles chart from this week in 1992, it resulted in the singers concerned winding up with number 1 hits.

Two of the 1992's number 1 singles were a change of pace for the singers behind them

One was a big ballad by a female artist whose previous dance/pop tracks (and one midtempo US top 10 hit) had done nothing locally. The other was a completely different type of release by a man who was no stranger to the top 50.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 24, 1992

There was nothing different happening at number 1 this week in 1992 as "To Be With You" by Mr Big held on to the top spot for a second week.


Off The Chart
Number 98 "The Life Of Riley" by The Lightning Seeds
Peak: number 98
The first of four new songs spending just one week inside the top 100 was the lead single from The Lightning Seeds' second album, Sense. The album's title track was one of my favourite songs for 1992.

Number 96 "Wicked Love" by Oceanic
Peak: number 96
Nowhere near as good as "Insanity" and consequently nowhere near as big a hit for the British dance act whose album was called That Album By Oceanic - or Cassette/Compact Disc, depending on the format.

Number 94 "Say A Prayer" by Devils In Heaven
Peak: number 94
If you watched the Australian version of Star Search in 1991, you might recall this Tasmanian band whose prize included a single released by Sony. This interview reveals more of the backstory, while here's what happened to their singer.

Number 91 Dixie Narco by Primal Scream
Peak: number 91
Featuring "Movin' On Up", which had appeared on the Screamadelica album, as well as the song "Screamadelica", which bizarrely hadn't, this EP gave the British band their first visit to the ARIA top 100.


Breaker
"Welcome To The Cheap Seats" by The Wonder Stuff
Peak: number 64
Their collaboration with Vic Reeves, "Dizzy", was still inside the top 40 but the success of that remake wasn't sufficient to prompt extra interest in The Wonder Stuff's own music. "Welcome To The Cheap Seats" came from the British indie band's third album, Never Loved Elvis, and featured guest vocals from Kirsty MacColl.




New Entries
Number 48 "Joy" by Soul II Soul
Peak: number 41
Despite top 10 success in the UK and the US - and a stack of brilliant singles - Soul II Soul had never really taken off in Australia. Although back in the top 50 with this lead single from Volume III Just Right, the British R&B act had to settle for another minor chart hit for "Joy", which differed from their previous singles by featuring guest vocals from a male singer: Richie Stephens. "Joy" was also Soul II Soul's final top 10 hit in the UK, although they came close with 1995's excellent "Love Enuff".




Number 47 As Ugly As They Wanna Be by Ugly Kid Joe
Peak: number 4
Proving that not all early '90s rock hits were bitter and twisted, California's Ugly Kid Joe took the world by storm with their lighthearted celebration of negativity, "Everything About You". The song was initially the standout track on EP As Ugly As They Wanna Be, before being included on the band's late-1992 debut album, America's Least Wanted, by which time Ugly Kid Joe had established themselves as one of America's most wanted new bands. In Australia, they'd end up outdoing As Ugly... by reaching number 1 with another track featured on America's Least Wanted.




Number 43 "Hazard" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 1
Next up, a man who already had one Australian chart-topper under his belt and would add another with a song that couldn't be more different from the material we'd come to expect from him. Like previous single "Keep Coming Back", "Hazard" was neither a sentimental ballad nor an ultra-commercial pop/rock track. Instead, the second single from Rush Street was an ominous tune that doubled as a murder mystery - the song told the story of disappeared woman "Mary", who Richard's narrator character is accused of killing. 
Intriguingly - or frustratingly, depending on your need for closure - neither the song nor the music video which brought the tale to life resolved the case. That intrigue no doubt fuelled interest in the song, as did the fact that it showed Richard in a new light as an artist. As it turns out, he didn't think that much of the song and only included it on Rush Street to prove wife Cynthia Rhodes, who thought it was a hit, wrong. When it went to number 1 in Australia and was indeed a hit around the world, she had the last laugh.




Number 38 "Man Alive" by Diesel
Peak: number 20
Another male artist breaking with tradition was Diesel - although in his case, it wasn't so much that he'd changed his sound but had finally released something I liked. And even went out and bought! Naturally, just as I got on board the Diesel train - sorry - "Man Alive" became his least successful single since 1989's "Since I Fell For You". Of course, the fact that "Man Alive" was released just after he'd spent four weeks at number 1 with his Hepfidelity album probably had something to do with the bluesy rock jam failing to match the top 10 status of his previous two singles. Still, an eventual number 20 placing is not so shabby.




Number 37 "Save The Best For Last" by Vanessa Williams
Peak: number 1
In America, she was a household name thanks to her historical crowning as the first African-American Miss America in 1983 - and the nude photos scandal that resulted in her resignation shortly before her year with the title was up. Since then, Vanessa Williams moved from beauty pageants to acting and singing, landing two US top 20 hits (including the excellent "Running Back To You") prior to 1992. 
Then came "Save The Best For Last", a sweet, string-soaked ballad that made Australia sit up and take notice. The song, which had done the rounds of numerous singers before it was offered to Vanessa, was unlike the dance/pop and R&B tracks she was mostly known for, and topped the chart in Australia and the US (for five weeks). Not surprisingly, the style of song was mirrored in the three other ARIA top 50 hits Vanessa would have over the next few years.




Number 29 "Father's Day" by Weddings Parties Anything
Peak: number 29
Australian record label rooArt was really on a hot streak in the early '90s. Following huge successes with Ratcat, Absent Friends, The Hummingbirds and The Screaming Jets, the independent label added Weddings Parties Anything to its roster and they too became the proud owners of a hit single. The first release from the Difficult Loves album, "Father's Day" actually came out around the same time as Mother's Day - deliberate? - and told the story of a divorced dad who sees his son every Saturday. The winner of the 1993 ARIA Award for Song Of The Year, "Father's Day" was easily the biggest hit of WPA's career and, beyond its chart success, joined the catalogue of classic Australian folk/rock songs.




Number 18 "(Simply) The Best / River Deep, Mountain High" by Tina Turner / Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 14
As if having to endure "The Best" in the top 20 once wasn't enough, one of my least favourite hits of the '80s returned almost three years later. In a duet with one of my least favourite Australian singers. Coupled with another of Jimmy Barnes's torturous remakes of an old soul classic (originally performed by Tina Turner). The slightly retitled "(Simply) The Best" was revamped and used in ads for the 1992 rugby league season. Unlike the last time a Tina song was appropriated by the NRL, the new version of "The Best" was a hit all over again. 




Next week: the latest Aussie pop sensation from the stable that'd brought us Melissa and Teen Queens, a top 5 cover version by one of John Farnham's backing singers and a chart-topping rap duo who liked to wear their clothes back to front.


Back to: May 17, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 31, 1992


30 Years Ago This Week: May 24, 1987

V Capri. Cattletruck. Bang The Drum. In our trips back to the ARIA charts of decades past, we've seen plenty of homegrown bands that never quite made it. But for every pub rock also-ran or radio-friendly pop/rock wannabes, there were others that broke through with a big hit single and, in some cases, managed to maintain their success.

The song that took Noiseworks into the ARIA top 10 for the first time

This week in 1987, a Sydney band fronted by a New Zealand expat debuted on the top 50 with the song that'd take them into the top 10 and turn them from minor hit-makers to major players on the local music scene.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending May 24, 1987

Another Kiwi performer was the biggest player on the chart 30 years ago this week. Dave Dobbyn stepped into the top spot with "Slice Of Heaven" - and would stay there for four weeks.


Off The Chart
Number 97 "Come As You Are" by Peter Wolf
Peak: number 72
The title track of the J.Geils Band singer's first solo album just dented the ARIA top 50 in 1984, but despite having the bounciest music video ever made, this lead single from Come As You Are couldn't do the same. Also disappointing: "Come As You Are" is not on iTunes.


New Entries
Number 48 "Take Me Back" by Noiseworks
Peak: number 7
Musical burst of energy "No Lies" had been a great introduction to Noiseworks in late 1986, but the vast majority of Australia's record-buying public didn't share my enthusiasm for the power pop/rock track and it faltered just outside the top 30. Looked like it was time for a different strategy - and a different style of song. Brooding mid-tempo tune "Take Me Back" did the trick, sending the band into the top 10 for the first of only two times, while its smouldering music video established singer Jon Stevens as the new heartthrob of Aussie rock. I wouldn't be surprised if the one-two hit of "No Lies" and "Take Me Back" had gone exactly to plan - soften them up with a taster before delivering the knockout punch. Either way, Noiseworks had certainly arrived.




Number 41 Living Daylight by Hunters & Collectors
Peak: number 41
Next up, a local band that might not have achieved a major hit yet - and wouldn't really ever do so. But, Hunters & Collectors had made up for their lack of a top 10 single with the success of their 1986 album, Human Frailty, which peaked at number 10 and ended up as the 29th biggest LP of the year. Despite the appearances of the YouTube clip below, "Inside A Fireball" was not taken from Human Frailty (although it would be included on a 1991 CD re-release). Instead it was the lead track from the Living Daylight EP, which was released to tide fans over until the band's fifth album, What's A Few Men?, came out later in the year. Neither it nor the EP's title track were the Hunters' best efforts, but they'd be back on form when they returned to the top 50 in November.




Number 39 "One And One (Ain't I Good Enough)" by Wa Wa Nee
Peak: number 19
Certainly more of a singles act than an albums one, Wa Wa Nee had notched up three top 10 singles in just over half a year. And the fact that their debut self-titled LP hadn't done so well perhaps explains why they also made the top 20 with its fourth single. For me, "One And One (Ain't I Good Enough)" is the synthpop band's second best song (after "Stimulation", obv) and it seems their international success with "Sugar Free" had convinced their record company to splash out on a pricey location video, complete with helicopter shots. After a start to their career like this, surely the sky was the limit for Wa Wa Nee? Not so much, with an 18-month wait for new music killing the momentum they had.




Next week: an upbeat return for the big ballad queen and an all-star remake of a Beatles song in the wake of a tragedy off the coast of Belgium. Plus, the first chart appearance by a future superstar DJ.


Back to: May 17, 1987 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 31, 1987


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.




Breaker
"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