Wednesday, 16 August 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: August 16, 1992

As we've seen over the past few years, Australia was slow to embrace hip-hop - and when we did so, it was often only the highly commercial, occasionally novelty varieties of rap that scored highly on the ARIA chart. A band that helped open things up made their debut this week in 1992 with a song inspired by serious events.

Arrested Development gave rap music a new dimension

Meanwhile, the ARIA top 50 printout received another facelift this week in 1992, only five months after its most recent revamp had been rolled out nationally. Gone were the changing colours and landscape orientation, replaced by a red and black template (and lots of Coca-Cola mentions) that would remain until mid-1998. Sadly, the redesign meant the Breakers were no more - a section I had enjoyed seeing since it had been instituted in 1986.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 16, 1992

A new-look chart deserved a new number 1 - and it got one with "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)" vaulting up from number 7 for the first of six weeks on top.

Off The Chart
Number 60 "Step In, Step Out" by Weddings Parties Anything
Peak: number 60
With vocals shared by Mick Thomas and Jen Anderson, this second single from Difficult Loves didn't live up to the success of "Father's Day" and it'd take another year for the band to return to the top 50.

Single Of The Week
"My House" by Melissa
Peak: number 119
Her first three singles had all reached the top 20, but Melissa missed the mark in spectacular style with this fourth song, which was the only one that came out following the release of her debut album, Fresh. The fact that "My House" was already available coupled with it not being a very good song pretty much meant the single was doomed - something that was borne out by its peak outside the top 100.

New Entries
Number 50 "Live And Learn" by Joe Public
Peak: number 45
Most of the new jack swing tracks that'd so far made their presence felt on the ARIA chart had either come from male solo stars (like Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson) or male vocal harmony groups (like Color Me Badd and Boyz II Men), but this US top 5 hit was performed, co-written and co-produced by the members of four-piece band Joe Public. Packed with the amount of samples we'd come to expect from any modern R&B song worth its salt, "Live And Learn" was the only hit - here or in America - for the group.

Number 48 "It's Probably Me" by Sting with Eric Clapton
Peak: number 23
Sting's solo career, while not at Police levels of success, had started out pretty well, with one top 20 single each year between 1985 and 1987. Since then, his only hit had been 1991's "All This Time", which reached number 26. The only other times he's visited the top 40 (to date) have been with songs taken from movie soundtracks - the first one being this collaboration for Lethal Weapon 3. Although Eric Clapton is also a named artist on the track, the cruisy "It's Probably Me" involved input from saxophonist David Sanborn and Michael Kamen, who composed the score for the original Lethal Weapon, which is incorporated into the song. Sting's second movie hit would be another collaboration - and would take him back to the top of the chart in 1993.

Number 46 "Tennessee" by Arrested Development
Peak: number 14
Although hip-hop was well established on the Australian chart by this point, it's still pretty remarkable a serious track like "Tennessee" did as well as it did locally. Yes, it has a strong chorus hook, but when you think about the types of hip-hop tunes that'd been really successful over the previous couple of years - "U Can't Touch This", "Now That We Found Love", "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)", "Sucker DJ", "Wiggle It", "Ice Ice Baby", etc. - they were generally much more poppy and/or gimmicky. 
Inspired by two deaths in frontman Speech's family, "Tennessee" was intensely personal and had a less polished, rawer feel to it. Assisting Speech (real name: Thomas Todd) on vocals were band member Aerle Taree (the horseshoes bit) and guest vocalist Dionne Farris (the part at the end). The song also included a snippet of Prince singing the word "Tennessee" in "Alphabet St" - a sample that wasn't cleared and would end up costing $100,000 after the fact.

Number 43 "Boy In The Moon" by Margaret Urlich
Peak: number 21
In 1991, Margaret Urlich had appeared on two back-to-back number 1 singles in Australia - but neither of them were her songs. The New Zealand-born, locally based singer had provided backing vocals for both "The Horses" by Daryl Braithwaite and Ratcat's "Don't Go Now". If only her own material was as successful. This pretty lead single from second album Chameleon Dreams became her latest release to land around the number 20 mark. "Boy In The Moon" was written and produced by the team behind "Escaping" and much of her debut album, however Margaret did branch out on Chameleon Dreams, working overseas with the likes of Rob Fisher (of Climie Fisher), Tony Swain (of Jolley & Swain) and Ian Prince (who'd worked on recent albums by Glenn Medeiros and Sheena Easton).

Next week: the return of the king of new jack swing, plus the latest singles from two Australian pop acts who were on a hit streak.

Back to: Aug 9, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 23, 1992

Saturday, 12 August 2017

This Week In 1984: August 12, 1984

It's funny how many career-defining moments almost never happen. This week in 1984, a single debuted that would completely revitalise a female artist's career, but the song had been offered to a number of different artists previously. If any of them had decided to record it, things would have played out very differently.

Tina Turner's look in "What's Love Got To Do With It" was as iconic as the song itself

Of course, the singer did release it and it not only solidified her musical comeback but it went all the way to number 1 in Australia. Not bad for a song she wasn't that fond of.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 12, 1984

The number 1 song in the country this week in 1984 was still "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!, which held off Prince's "When Doves Cry" for a second week and spent its fourth week overall on top.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "If You Ever Feel The Need" by Colleen Hewett
Peak: number 72
A final top 100 appearance for the Australian singer/actress who'd previously come close to topping the chart twice. A stand-alone single, I wonder if it had been intended as the lead release from an album to follow-up 1983's Colleen that never eventuated?

Number 96 "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" by Joe Jackson
Peak: number 96
The first single from Body & Soul just made the top 50, this second one was lucky to creep into the top 100 despite being one of Joe Jackson's best songs (and a US number 15 smash).

Number 94 "Almost Paradise" by Mike Reno / Ann Wilson
Peak: number 52
Three singles from Footloose had reached the top 50 and the movie's "love theme", which was co-written by Eric Carmen, became the third to miss the mark. Vocals on the big ballad were handled by the singers of Loverboy and Heart (respectively).

Number 83 "Tour De France" by Kraftwerk
Peak: number 60
This synth track by the German electronic legends was actually remixed and re-released around this time after featuring in Breakin', but this Australian single seems to have included the original 1983 mixes.

New Entries
Number 47 "If Ever You're In My Arms Again" by Peabo Bryson
Peak: number 20
In the '90s, he performed on two big hits that provided Disney characters with sweet romantic moments, but in the '80s, his two ARIA chart appearances came with songs that daytime soap characters made passionate love to. Following 1983's "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love" (which featured in Days Of Our Lives), Peabo Bryson returned with his only solo top 50 hit, which was used in Santa Barbara as the theme for characters Joe and Kelly (who was played by Robin Wright). 
The stirring ballad - the key change soars! - was composed by three songwriting legends: Michael Masser (who'd also co-written "Tonight, I Celebrate..."), Tom Snow ("You Should Hear How She Talks About You", "Let's Hear It For The Boy") and Cynthia Weil ("Running With The Night", "Don't Know Much"). With talent like that behind it, no wonder it was big - as well as its top 20 peak locally, it gave Peabo his first US top 10 hit. 

Number 45 "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner
Peak: number 1
Tina Turner's comeback had been going so-so up until this point. Her remake of "Let's Stay Together" had been a decent-sized hit, although the follow-up - her version of The Beatles' "Help!" - didn't do too well (if it was released in Australia at all). But then came "What's Love Got To Go With It", along with the album Private Dancer. Both would turn out to be massively successful.
The single, written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, had been offered to everyone from Cliff Richard to Donna Summer to Bucks Fizz (who did record it but shelved it when Tina's version was a hit). When it finally found its way to Tina, she wasn't overly thrilled with its message, but trusted her manager Roger Davies's instinct. Good thing she did - the tune that suggested love was "a sweet old-fashioned notion" obviously connected with a lot of people. 
The track went to number 1 in Australia and the US, and won Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year at the 1985 Grammys (along with Best Female Pop Performance). The video, which showed Tina strutting around New York in that iconic denim and leather outfit (and big, big hair), also won the MTV VMA for Best Female Video. As well as all its accolades, the success of "What's Love Got To Do With It" well and truly meant Tina's career was back on track - with many years of hits to come. 

Next week: the arrival of an Australian band that loved to party, plus a single by one local group that was later covered by another and yet another homegrown band remakes a tune originally released by the world's most successful group ever.

Back to: Aug 5, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 19, 1984

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: August 9, 1992

In the five-plus years I've looked back at the ARIA charts of the 1980s and '90s, I've written about all sorts of songs. Often in the same week, there'll be singles from different ends of the musical spectrum to talk about. But I don't think any songs were as polar opposite as the two highest entries on the top 50 from this week in 1992. On the one hand, we had this...

And on the other, this...

Both were huge hits, but only one of the two would go all the way to number 1.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 9, 1992

At the top of the singles chart this week in 1992, Richard Marx spent a third week at number 1 with "Hazard", but his days were numbered thanks to this week's high-flying debut.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "If You Asked Me To" by Celine Dion
Peak: number 52
"Beauty And The Beast" was still in the top 20, but Celine found herself just outside the top 50 once again with her latest solo single. This one was written by big ballad queen Diane Warren.

Number 93 "We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions" by Queen
Peak: number 81
Back in 1977, the combined might of this double A-side single was enough to send it to number 8. In 1992, this latest re-release wasn't as well received as "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Number 91 "She's A Dish" by Hard-ons
Peak: number 64
The consistently unlucky Australian rock band peaked short of the top 50 for a third and final time with this track that appeared on EP Dateless Dudes Club

Number 87 "Missing You Now" by Michael Bolton featuring Kenny G
Peak: number 61
It was a battle of the mullets in this single from Time, Love & Tenderness, which charted 15 months after lead release "Love Is A Wonderful Thing". And yes, that's Teri Hatcher in the video.

Single Of The Week
"Haven't Got A Clue" by Dramarama
Someone was very keen on making a success out Dramarama in 1992, with the American band featured as Single Of The Week for the second time in two months, but unlike "What Are We Gonna Do?", "Haven't Got A Clue" didn't manage to crack the top 100 at all - and I have a feeling this was its second time being released. 

New Entries
Number 48 "Barcelona" by Freddie Mercury / Montserrat Caballé
Peak: number 42
The latest Queen re-release might've tanked, but it wasn't the only old song featuring the late Freddie Mercury on the top 100 this week in 1992. This 1987 duet with opera singer Montserrat Caballé was re-released to coincide with the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The song named after the host city had actually been written with the Olympics in mind and was performed by Montserrat (with a backing track that featured Freddie's vocals) at the opening ceremony. The pop star and the opera soprano actually recorded an entire album together, also titled Barcelona, which would be Freddie's final solo work before passing away in 1991.

Number 45 "Tear Me Apart" by The Angels
Peak: number 33
It normally goes the other way, but each of The Angels' three singles from Red Back Fever peaked 10 places higher, with "Tear Me Apart" improving on the number 43 position achieved by "Once Bitten Twice Shy" (which in turn had out-performed the number 53 non-hit "Some Of That Love"). Also worth noting (and giving me cause to breathe a sigh of relief after having been forced to recap so many songs by the band these past five years) is that "Tear Me Apart" was The Angels' last ever top 50 appearance.

Number 40 "How Do You Do!" by Roxette
Peak: number 13
Roxette's imperial phase had well and truly ended when the final single from Joyride, "Church Of Your Heart", failed to make the top 50. But the Swedish duo bounced back with yet another top 20 hit - their 10th - with this lead single from Tourism. Or, to give the band's fourth kind-of studio album its full title, Tourism: Songs From Studios, Stages, Hotelrooms & Other Strange Places. Yes, the band were clearly in demand all around the world and cobbled together an album as best they could while on the fly, but in between its confusing concept and the songs not being quite up to standard, perhaps it would've been a better idea to hold off and not rush something out. To be fair, "How Do You Do!" is not so bad - it's got that catchiness Roxette were known for - but it's not one of my favourites of theirs. And nothing else from Tourism ventured in to the top 50.

Number 29 "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot
Peak: number 8
"I like big butts and I cannot lie." With those words, Sir Mix-A-Lot provided a voice for people who like a bit of junk in the trunk and aren't turned on by the types of stick-thin, bottom-less women normally seen in magazines, on TV and in films. The rapper (real name: Anthony Ray) wrote "Baby Got Back" due to that under-representation of fuller-figured women and helped bring some diversity to the types of body shapes seen in popular culture. 
And, because it was a catchy rap track about huge butts, it was (rather appropriately) massive, reaching number 1 in the US and the ARIA top 10. Although it was Sir Mix-A-Lot's only hit single, "Baby Got Back" has never really gone away, continually referenced and sampled since 1992, most recently by Nicki Minaj on her 2014 single "Anaconda", which also reached number 8.

Number 7 "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)" by José Carreras / Sarah Brightman
Peak: number 1
From a raunchy rap song we move now to a sentimental fusion of pop and opera with the official theme for the 1992 Olympic Games. Performed at the closing ceremony on August 9, "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life)" teamed British musical theatre star Sarah Brightman with Spanish tenor José Carreras on a song co-written by Sarah's ex-husband Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Encapsulating the kind of positivity and cross-cultural mateship the Olympics encourage, the track was the kind of thing people who don't usually buy music would rush out and purchase, since it was as much about being part of a moment in history as it was about the song itself (see also: Elton John's "Candle In The Wind '97"). Naturally, I couldn't stand it. Although it spent six seemingly endless weeks at number 1, the single disappeared after its run at the top almost as quickly as it arrived, ultimately only staying inside the top 50 for 13 weeks. The song, however, would be back before the end of the year...

Next week: the ARIA chart gets yet another makeover, plus the debut of a hip-hop group that had an amazing successful start to their career.

Back to: Aug 2, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 16, 1992

Saturday, 5 August 2017

This Week In 1984: August 5, 1984

It only ran for 20 episodes, but ABC music drama Sweet And Sour looms large in my memories of the mid-'80s. For one thing, it had an awesome theme song, which made its debut on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1984.

The first pop album I ever owned

For another, the soundtrack album was the first non-children's release added to my music collection - I received it for Christmas that year. And that title track theme remains one of my favourite songs from that year.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 5, 1984

Another of my favourite songs from that year held down the number 1 spot yet again this week in 1984. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! spent its third week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 92 "The Modern Bop" by Mondo Rock
Peak: number 85
The first two singles from The Modern Bop had reached the top 20 - one almost topped the chart - but the top 5 album's title track had a much more muted reception. Not a bad song, though.

Number 91 "Friday Night" by Redgum
Peak: number 82
This latest single from Frontline maintained the light feel of "I've Been To Bali Too", but didn't chart anywhere near as high. This was Redgum's final top 100 appearance with John Schumann as singer.

Number 84 "It's A Hard Life" by Queen
Peak: number 65
They'd had back-to-back top 10 hits so far in 1984, but this third single from The Works let the side down (but did reach the UK top 10). The album's fourth single wouldn't chart until mid-1985.

Number 59 "I'm A Fair Dinkum" by John Williamson
Peak: number 59
"The Vasectomy Song" had broken his decade-plus chart drought, but this dinky-di follow-up just missed the top 50. A similarly patriotic track would do the trick in a couple of years.

Number 55 "Busy Bleeding" by Wide Boy Youth
Peak: number 53
This reggae song was recorded by radio and TV presenter Jonathan Coleman, who'd also missed the top 50 in 1981 with his take on the "Stars On 45" craze called "Aussies On 45".

New Entries
Number 49 "Sweet And Sour" by The Takeaways
Peak: number 13
I only watched it the once - was it even repeated? - but I have vivid memories of tuning in to ABC's musical drama Sweet And Sour in mid-1984. I especially remember the scene where the aspiring band were given their name by manager Darrell (Ric Herbert) at a backyard gig. Of course, one of the best things about the series was its theme song, which was written by Sharon O'Neill, who recorded her own version in 1987, and performed by Deborah Conway, who provided the singing voice for the band's vocalist, Carol, instead of actress Tracy Mann. The song's music video, which was the subject of episode 18, couldn't be more '80s if it tried - with its then-tricky animation, the clicking/arm waving dance employed by saxophonist/singer Christine (Sandra Lillingston) and, of course, the presence of a singlet-wearing Reyne brother. But the single has aged very well, still sounding great today. 

Number 44 "No More Words" by Berlin
Peak: number 23
They'd made a fleeting visit to the top 100 in 1983 with "Sex (I'm A...)/The Metro" (which would return just as briefly in 1985), but "No More Words" gave American synthpop group Berlin their first hit in 1984. The lead single from the band's third album, Love Life, it was co-produced by no less a legend than Giorgio Moroder and came with a Bonnie & Clyde-themed music video that was perfect for MTV. As a result, "No More Words" also became a hit in the US - peaking at number 23 there as well.

Number 40 "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat
Peak: number 8
From an American synthpop act with their first hit we move now to a British synthpop group with their first ever single. Bronski Beat made quite a splash with their debut release - and not just because the music video was partly set at a swimming pool. Both lyrically and visually, "Smalltown Boy" captured the homophobia and rejection faced by young same-sex attracted people. In a decade when political content in pop hits wasn't as unusual as it is now, the song's powerful, raw honesty made it stand out. Speaking of standing out, "Smalltown Boy" also introduced the world to the piercing falsetto of vocalist Jimmy Somerville, whose voice floated over the track's much-sampled riff and would be heard on a few more major hits before the decade was out. 

Number 30 "Burn For You" by INXS
Peak: number 3
It was a bit of a week for great synthpop tracks, wasn't it? With possibly their synthiest single ever, INXS racked up their third top 3 hit in a row from The Swing, which had yet to leave the top 20 and was actually on its way back up towards the top 10. Such runaway success for a song from an already huge album was as sure a sign as any that INXS were firmly established as the nation's biggest band. And it's that success that made the fiction of Sweet And Sour probably not far from the truth - what group of musically inclined kids around the country weren't getting together their own bands and hoping to emulate the chart-conquering INXS?

Next week: the chart-topping single that gave a music star a second stretch as a hitmaker, plus a big ballad from a man who'd become synonymous with Disney ballads in the early '90s.

Back to: Jul 29, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 12, 1984

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: August 2, 1992

Sometimes a song's chart peak isn't the full story. For example, it might reach number 1, but if it doesn't hang around very long, it might end up selling only a faction of the amount of copies that lower-charting singles do. Similarly, a track that peaks low but racks up a lot of weeks might end up being a decent-sized hit. This week in 1992, we'll see an example of the latter debut on the top 50.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 2, 1992

Meanwhile, the number 1 single from this week in 1992 spent its second of three weeks on top. "Hazard" by Richard Marx would also remain on the top 100 for almost half a year and wind up as 1992's 10th biggest hit.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Crucify" by Tori Amos
Peak: number 83
We saw "Winter" infiltrate the top 50 a few weeks ago, and as it dropped out of the top 100, it was replaced by this next single from Little Earthquakes. I like "Crucify" even more than "Winter", but I prefer the single remix over the album version, which is heard in the video.

Number 73 "House Of Fun" by Madness
Peak: number 73 (original peak: number 5)
It became their highest-charting single a decade earlier, but Madness's latest re-release didn't inspire the same excitement this time around - either here or in the UK, where it puttered out at number 40.

New Entries
Number 50 "Pretend We're Dead" by L7
Peak: number 50
Yes, it peaked here at number 50 and only spent this one week inside the top 50, but this rock classic from L7 lasted 22 weeks in total on the top 100. In the process, it established itself as one of the more popular songs released during the grunge era, even though the all-female band had been around long before the genre they became associated with, having formed in the mid-'80s. Easily their best known - and most accessible - song, "Pretend We're Dead" was inspired by a breakup and the track's popularity became a sore point for L7, who, to use the words of its songwriter, singer Donita Sparks, would be known to "shit on their hit".

Number 46 "Deeply Dippy" by Right Said Fred
Peak: number 38
Not only did the group behind "I'm Too Sexy" have a third top 40 hit in Australia, but they did it with a song that spent three weeks on top of the UK chart. Trading in the dance beats of their earlier two singles for a guitar-based and brass-soaked feel, "Deeply Dippy" was another pure pop tune, but Australia seemed to have lost its appetite for such sugary confection.

Next week: oh my God, Becky, look at that Olympics-related hit. It is so big.

Back to: Jul 26, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 9, 1992