Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Best Of 1989 - part 2

JUMP TO: 100-76 II 75-51 II 50-26 II 25-1

It would be quite a few years until I would get to go to nightclubs and actually, you know, dance to dance music, but in 1989, I couldn't get enough of house, garage, high energy, Eurodance, Italohouse and pretty much every other dance genre except acid house (those bleeps and blops never really floated my boat).

Blue-lipped Felly was one of many dance acts that didn't actually sing in 1989

It was about that time that I discovered import record stores. I'd been frequenting the record shops in my neighbourhood for a few years, but by 1989, I was visiting Central Station Records and Disco City in Sydney's CBD with my Billboard-subscribing friend. We'd track down the songs we'd read about in the US chart mag or Number One magazine from the UK and listen to them in store.

My friend bought a lot more 12" singles than I did, since a) I prefer 7" mixes and they generally weren't imported and b) he had a much higher disposable income than I did. But, getting to hear (and occasionally buy) songs that wouldn't gain a local release for months - if at all - was pretty exciting in a pre-internet age.

Not being dependant on the ARIA chart for my music information meant my taste and that of the Australian top 50 continued to diverge - and for every song by Technotronic or Black Box that did make a mark in Australia, there were countless others that didn't, many of which are included in numbers 75 to 51 of my favourite songs from 1989.

Number 75 "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours" by Ruby Turner
The song is incredibly well known - being one of Stevie Wonder's biggest hits, but the performer was not so famous. How I stumbled across this single (I bought the 7"), I don't recall, but former backing singer Ruby gives a rousing performance and it's a shame her version has largely gone undiscovered.

Number 74 "Love Shack" by The B-52's
Here's a song you couldn't miss if you tried in 1989. Number one in Australia all summer long going into 1990, the kooky B-52's also shimmied and shook their way onto the list of essential wedding reception and 21st birthday party songs. "Love Shack" was completely overplayed at the time and I did get a little bit sick of it after a while, which is always a danger when a song is so massive - but there's no denying it's an inventive, good-time track the world could do with more of.

Number 73 "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan
Never successful in Australia, this track was a top 10 hit in the UK and, therefore, showed up in the British magazines I was devouring in 1989. Things I didn't know about Kon Kan until now: 1) they were Canadian, 2) one half of the duo went on to become one half of remix team Thunderpuss, 3) they had three albums. "I Beg Your Pardon" was a great mix of the relatively recent sampling trend and the synthpop sound I'd liked all decade.

Number 72 "She Bangs The Drums" by The Stone Roses
I'm not a fan of The Stone Roses. When "Fools Gold" became a hit in Australia in 1990 and was played on Rage, I remember always fast-forwarding my video of the top 50 chart until the song was over. I did, however, eventually discover this earlier single by the group which, like The Charlatans' "The Only One I Know" and Inspiral Carpets' "This Is How It Feels", was one of a handful of British indie songs I liked from the turn of the decade.

Number 71 "Don't Know Much" by Linda Ronstadt / Aaron Neville
I know it's kind of asking for it to say, in one breath, that I don't like The Stone Roses and then, in the next, to admit to being a fan of this drippy ballad - but hey, I like what I like. The song itself had been kicking around for about a decade, often recorded under the name "All I Need To Know". When Linda got her hands on the track for her first English-language studio album in three years, she enlisted the vocal assistance of Aaron (from The Neville Brothers) - in fact, she recorded three other duets with him for Cry Like A Rainstorm, Howl Like The Wind, including the similar sounding "All My Life". "Don't Know Much" was a huge hit around the world, including in Australia, where it reached number 2.

Number 70 "A New Flame" by Simply Red
Led by Mick Hucknall, Simply Red are renowned for their soulful ballads, like "Holding Back The Years" and 1989's mega-hit, "If You Don't Know Me By Now". I always preferred their more upbeat tunes like "The Right Thing" and this song, the title of their third album. Although hugely successful well into the 1990s (Stars was the highest-selling album in the UK for two years running in 1991-92), the inevitable backlash occured, and in the last decade of their recording career, they struggled to achieve anywhere near the success of their glory days.

Number 69 "Cuddly Toy" by Roachford
The band led by singer Andrew Roachford would eventually become an FM radio staple in Australia in the mid-'90s with songs like "Only To Be With You", but I also liked the singles from their debut self-titled album, like this track, "Family Man" (at number 97 on this list) and "Kathleen" (number 160). These days, Andrew has wound up as one of the vocalists with a revamped Mike + The Mechanics.

Number 68 "Baby I Don't Care" by Transvision Vamp
They'd blasted their way into the charts in 1988 with the Pop Art album, and in 1989, follow-up Velveteen offered up this song (featuring a riff that sounded suspiciously like "Wild Thing"... and "Dressed For Success"), which would end up as the band's biggest hit in Australia, reaching number 3. Transvision Vamp would have one more major chart appearance with 1991's "(I Just Wanna) B With U" before disappearing into pop's wasteland.

Number 67 "This Is The Right Time" by Lisa Stansfield
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 66 "Tell Me Something" by Indecent Obsession 
The Aussie four-piece signed to Molly Meldrum's Melodian label were just the thing the local market needed - a moderately attractive (well, lead singer David Dixon was), young pop band. They played their own instruments and wrote their own songs (essential if they had any hope of cred in the rock-oriented Australian market), while looking right at home in the pages of Smash Hits. This song was their second single and reached number 17, while debut hit "Say Goodbye" (number 59 on this list) would be their most successful, climbing to number 6. There's a link to the American video in the song title above, and the original Australian clip is below.

Number 65 "I Only Wanna Be With You" by Samantha Fox
It had been a couple of years since a Stock Aitken Waterman-produced single from Sam, and this cover of the Dusty Springfield hit (originally titled "I Only Want To Be With You") was more cutesy than anything she'd done before and jarred with some of the edgier house production on her I Wanna Have Some Fun album. Still, a good song is hard to keep down, and this would be a number 19 hit for her here - and also her last chart appearance.

Number 64 "Listen To Your Heart" by Roxette
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 63 "Hooked On You" by Sweet Sensation
I've spoken about Sweet Sensation in my girl groups post - and this song by the first line-up was actually a remix of their debut release back in 1987. Complete with a new video (which I discovered on Rage one morning before their top 50 countdown began), it would be a moderate success in the US. Naturally it did nothing in Australia - with the freestyle genre pretty much passing this country by.

Number 62 "Onion Skin" by Boom Crash Opera
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 61 "Baby Don't Forget My Number" by Milli Vanilli
Their secret was safe for the time being, and in 1989, the dynamic dancing duo were racking up hits like nobody's business. Not their biggest success, but a single that had a lengthy run on the Australian chart - it only peaked at 17 but spent 43 weeks in the top 100. "Baby Don't Forget My Number" appealed more to be than ballad "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" and even "Blame It On The Rain", both of which shot straight into the Australian top 10.

Number 60 "I Go To Pieces" by Shooting Party
By 1989, I knew the difference between SAW (producers Stock Aitken Waterman) and PWL (Pete Waterman Limited, the label and production company). In some cases, it felt like acts previously dealt with by SAW were demoted to being handled by producers like Harding & Curnow or Pete Hammond - good producers in their own right, but obviously not as prestigious as the main trio. Then there were acts like Shooting Party, who never rose to the level of being produced by SAW in the first place. Info on the duo is as hard to come by as a YouTube clip of the 7" version of "I Go To Pieces", but the high energy classic (and the album it came from) finally scored a full digital release a couple of years ago.

Number 59 "Say Goodbye" by Indecent Obsession
Mentioned above and previously featured here

Number 58 "Manchild" by Neneh Cherry
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 57 "C'mon And Get My Love" by D-Mob introducing Cathy Dennis
Once D-Mob finished mucking around with acid house, the group (essentially producer Dancin' Danny D with various guest singers) went on to release a string of successful pop/house tracks like this song, which even broke the Australian and US charts. This was also the first appearance of flame-haired singer Cathy Dennis, who would enjoy a briefly successful solo career before hanging up her pop star shoes and taking a behind-the-scenes role as the songwriter of hits like "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" and "Toxic".

Number 56 "Everyday (I Love You More)" by Jason Donovan
Mentioned in Part 3

Number 55 "Forever Your Girl" by Paula Abdul
Mentioned in Part 4

Number 54 "I Just Don't Have The Heart" by Cliff Richard
Previously featured here

Number 53 "Hey Music Lover" by S'Xpress
And to finish off this part of the countdown... a triple play from three of the biggest dance acts of the year. First up, the group who took us on a trip with 1988's "Theme From S'Express" released another great single, which sampled Sly & The Family Stone's "Dance To The Medley".

Number 52 "Pump Up The Jam" by Technotronic featuring Felly
There was so much wrong with this song that it had to be a massive hit. From Felly's bum bag-sporting booty-shaking moves and the cheap graphics in the clip to the almost irritating vocal - which wasn't even performed by Felly, who was, of course, a model. After Milli Vanilli-gate, rapper Ya Kid K would receive her dues on follow-up single "Get Up (Before The Night Is Over)" and the Technotronic sound would be good for a few more hits in the coming years. Wikipedia claims that Ya Kid K ended up marrying the other main Technotronic rapper, MC Eric from "This Beat Is Technotronic" - sounds too good to be true!

Number 51 "Hey DJ/I Can't Dance To That Music You're Playing" by Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo
They'd already had hits with "Rok Da House", "Burn It Up" and "Who's In The House" (yep, there were a lot of house songs with the word "house" in the title), but in 1989, production trio Beatmasters released possibly their best known track with upcoming rapper Betty Boo on lead. This was before Betty's solo career (which spawned the hits "Doin' The Do" and "Where Are You Baby?") and her ill-fated trip to Australia during which she dropped her microphone while making a clearly mimed appearance. In a post-Milli Vanilli world, any hint of miming ended careers (especially in Australia), and before long Betty went the way of Cathy Dennis and ended up as a pop songwriter. Beatmasters, meanwhile, released another album in 1991 before giving up recording to concentrate on remixing and production - notably turning overly long album tracks by The Shamen into sparkly dance/pop singles.

This Thursday, my normal ARIA recap from this week 25 years ago - and I'll follow that with my 50 favourite songs from 1989, in which hit production teams from the US and UK will battle for supremacy.

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1 comment:

  1. Growing up in a regional city, a new world opened to me when I discovered Central Station Records in Melbourne in the early-mid 90's. Though I used it primarily to track down early Tori Amos b-sides (how non Central Station-like... some years before the 'Professional Widow' remix became a dance smash) and a few CD singles that didn't receive a local release (or were available on import in proper jewel cases instead of the local cheap card wallet sleeves), rather than the latest import dance tunes.