Wednesday, 3 September 2014

This Week In 1989: September 3, 1989

Originally posted as 25 Years Ago This Week in 2014. Updated in 2019.

Singers emerging from TV shows might seem like a relatively recent thing, but this week in 1989, two of the new entries on the ARIA single chart came from artists who'd started their careers on the small screen.

Step by step... Martika made her way from TV star to chart-topper

One was an Australian singer who won the first season of a TV talent quest, while the other was an American performer who started out on a musical comedy series that existed decades before Glee

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending September 3, 1989

Meanwhile, after it looked like they were out of the running for the top spot last week, Simply Red rebounded from number 4 to number 1 this week in 1989 with "If You Don't Know Me By Now". Their stay at the summit would be short-lived, with one of this week's new entries charging towards number 1.

"California Blue" by Roy Orbison
Peak: number 65
He'd already managed two big hits from Mystery Girl, but there were few takers for this third single, which was once again written with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, but lacked the oomph of "You Got It". While The Big O wouldn't appear in the ARIA singles top 50 again, the late singer would return to the albums chart with a couple of posthumous projects and regular greatest hits releases.

New Entries
Number 50 "The World Seems Difficult" by Mental As Anything
Peak: number 19
The arrival of a new Mental As Anything single was usually accompanied by a madcap music video to match the jaunty tune, but the hijinks-loving band defied expectations with this sombre song and a clip with minimal hamming it up for the camera. Despite being uncharacteristically serious, "The World Seems Difficult" returned the Mentals to the top 20, and both it and previous hit "Rock And Roll Music" were included on the band's latest album, Cyclone Raymond. Although that album under-performed - struggling to a peak of number 34 and yielding no further hits - the title did end up being given to a real-life cyclone in 2005, so that's something.

Number 49 "Wait" by Gyan
Peak: number 14
Before The X Factor, The Voice and even Australian Idol, there was Star Search. Hosted by Greg Evans in the mid-'80s, it was responsible for launching the Daddo brothers onto an unsuspecting public - Cameron won the spokesmodel category and replaced Greg as host of Perfect Match (and then came his brothers). But, I digress. Singer Gyan Evans (no relation to Greg) took out the overall grand final of Star Search, winning $20,000 and going on to be signed by Charles Fisher (the producer behind 1927's ...ish)
Three years later, "Wait", which was co-written by Gyan with 1927's Garry Frost and Geoffrey Stappleton from GANGgajang, emerged as her debut single and a bright career looked certain. As we'll see when her second single appears on the top 50 at the end of the year, "Wait" was as good as it got for Gyan - but she certainly made a lasting impression with this, her biggest hit. After all, who doesn't remember the sight of her standing on the clifftop, bellowing out the song's title? 

Number 45 "Bat Attack '89" by The Crime Fighters Inc.
Peak: number 29

The third Batman-related single to feature on the ARIA chart (one as a breaker) in less than a year, "Bat Attack '89" has the desperate whiff of a cash-in. Riding on the coattails of Prince's "Batdance", the track combined the theme tune to the '60s TV show with a vaguely piano house beat. The Crime Fighters Inc. seems to be a one-off project by Australian producers Doug Brady, Ross Inglis and Ean Sugarman, whose names would all pop up again the following year on "I Need Your Body" by Tina Arena.

Number 41 "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard
Peak: number 26
Two years after its release in the UK and 16 months after it started its climb to number 2 in the US, this single from the Hysteria album finally found its way onto the ARIA top 50 as the fifth hit (out of six releases) from Def Leppard's multi-million selling opus. "Pour Some Sugar On Me" had also been originally released in Australia 16 months earlier - in May 1988 between "Hysteria" and "Love Bites" - but missed the top 100 that time. Since Hysteria had spent three weeks at number 1 on the albums chart in early August, the song was never going to be massive, but a top 30 placement is not bad going. "Pour Some Sugar On Me" had two music videos - the original clip set in a house being demolished by a wrecking ball and a more straightforward performance clip the band preferred.

Number 37 "Mixed Emotions" by The Rolling Stones
Peak: number 25
They hadn't had as much chart success during the '80s as previously, but The Rolling Stones had racked up one major worldwide hit from each of their four studio albums released during the decade - Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You, Undercover and Dirty Work. In each case, it was the lead single that performed well - and "Mixed Emotions" followed that trend, reaching the US top 5 as the first release from the Steel Wheels album. In Australia, the single - which was a back-to-basics rock'n'roll song - became the band's biggest hit since 1986's "Harlem Shuffle" and would be their last top 50 appearance for five years.

Number 35 "Toy Soldiers" by Martika
Peak: number 5
Here's our second artist making the transition from TV to the charts - Marta Marrero was one of the child stars of American musical comedy Kids Incorporated. The show was also the launching pad for performers Fergie and Jennifer Love Hewitt, who both featured alongside other cast members as backing vocalists in the chorus of "Toy Soldiers", which became Martika's breakthrough single in Australia. In the US, previous single "More Than You Know" had already reached the top 20, but this anti-drugs ballad, co-written by Martika, hit number 1 there and the top 5 locally. Fifteen years later, the song would be sampled by Eminem for "Like Toy Soldiers", which peaked one place higher on the ARIA chart.

Number 32 "Blush" by The Hummingbirds
Peak: number 19
With their jangly guitars and close harmonies, The Hummingbirds sounded like they could have emerged from the same British scene that spawned The Primitives and The Darling Buds, but they were an Australian band - and the first hit act from fledgling indie record label rooART. A short burst of exuberant guitar pop, "Blush" was the exception to the rule for The Hummingbirds, who never hit the top 50 again, placing in the lower section of the top 100 with all their subsequent releases.

Number 11 "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 1
Richard Marx had released ballads before, but nothing as drippy as this tear-jerker, written to his wife, Dirty Dancing star Cynthia Rhodes (who'd also appeared in her future husband's "Don't Mean Nothing" clip). The couple had married earlier in 1989, which might explain why this love song was quite so gooey. While I preferred Richard's rockier singles, like "Satisfied" and "Should've Known Better", Australia went crazy for "Right Here Waiting", sending it sky-rocketing into the top 50 at number 11 on its way to the very top of the chart, where it would stay for five weeks. Sadly, 25 years later, Richard and Cynthia split up - ending their marriage in the past year.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1989:

Next week: six new entries, six massive stars - including a '70s shock rocker, a side project for the singer of Australia's greatest musical export and the latest from the pop star he corrupted.

Back to: Aug 27, 1989 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 10, 1989


  1. I only caught the 'California Blue' video once or twice on Video Hits. Don't think I heard or saw it anywhere else.

    I liked the Mentals track, though it was very different for them, and seems to be virtually forgotten now. I noticed at the time that it mimicked Jenny Morris's 'Saved Me's chart run from just a few weeks earlier, for its first 3 weeks in the top 50.

    I was surprised that Gyan didn't go on to have a more enduring chart career. Both 'Wait' and 'It's Alright' received plentiful airplay on Melbourne radio, but it didn't help the latter's chart performance much.

    I didn't know that Crime Fighters Inc. were Australian. I don't think I realised that any dance music was being produced locally at the time (well, none that made the top 50), and remember being surprised to learn that Boxcar and Real Life were local artists. Rage never aired the video while it was in the top 50, oddly, and I only ever saw it on Video Hits a handful of times.

    'Pour Some Sugar On Me' first charted in New Zealand in January 1988 according to the site, suggesting it would have also first been released in Australia around that time. But then it re-entered the NZ charts in December 1988, and peaked there in January 1989. But then 'Love Bites', 'Armageddon It' and 'Rocket' also charted there a few months before in Australia. I assume the 'performance' video was the US version, as they seemed to love videos showing the band perform back then, plus the original UK version looks somewhat cheap (and dated, I thought, by the time it cracked the top 50 here). The song is yet another that features that 'Wild Thing' chord progression/riff (or one very similar to it)... in the chorus anyway.

    'Mixed Emotions' was a rather nothing song that only charted because it was them, I thought. But were 'oldies' still buying singles in 1989? I guess this proves they were. Though I do like a handful of Rolling Stones tracks from this period, namely 'Rock and Hard Place' and 'Almost Hear You Sigh'.

    It seemed like Martika was going to be around for quite a while, so I was surprised when she disappeared off the face of the earth after the 'Martika's Kitchen' album... though I've since learned that the album flopped in the US, not even cracking the top 100, which explains it.

    The Hummingbirds' 'Blush' was probably the first 'alternative' song I liked, though it is quite poppy once you get past the distorted guitar* sounds (*a term I remember clearly after they reviewed the singles in Smash Hits and Simon from the band made comments like, "Where's the distorted guitar on this?", followed by the Editor adding “I’ll distort your flippin’ guitar, matey” after he’d made the comment a few times).

    I really did not like 'Right Here Waiting' at the time, though it's since grown on me. But the chorus lyrics (and even melody) seem somewhat cliched to me... even back then. I was surprised by both its #11 debut, and its rapid ascent to #1. 'Hazard' was quite deserving of being #1 though, I thought, and in retrospect is probably one of the most unusual/unlikely Australian #1's ever.

    "...and the latest from the pop star he corrupted", ha ha!

  2. A lot of Top 50 newcomers for the start of the new season.

    I liked the Mentals doing a ballad and thought they were still on top of their game and many more hits to come, but wasn't to be. Wasn't until 1995 that they had their short lived comeback.

    "If A Vow" was another great song from The Hummingbirds in 1991. Sung by the female band member. I think it went Top 60? Nope, peaked at 73.

    I was also under the impression that "Bat Attack" was by a European act, Holland, Denmark or something like that? I thought it was pretty cool. I remember the 60's Batman movie resurfacing on TV around this time. I also only saw the video on 'Video Hits' a couple of times.

    So, are we saying that Fergie & JLH contributed to the backing vocals of 'Toy Soldiers'? How old were they? It was only a few years ago that i discovered the song went to No.1 in the US. 'More Than You Know' should have been a bigger hit here. I don't think I ever saw the video doing the rounds at that time, which probably explains the low chart peak.

    The Rolling Stones got a fair bit of promotion for their 'Steel Wheels' album. They even got decent coverage in Smash Hits! I prefer 'Rock And A Hard Place' over 'Mixed Emotions'.

    Yes, 'RHW' was a yawnfest! The girls loved him and that song. His uptempo songs were better. I love 'Take This Heart' from '92.

    1. I too thought Crimefighters Inc. would be from a continental European country, like Belgium.

      Now that you mention it, I recall that the 'More Than You Know' video wasn't aired in its first few weeks on the rage top 50... and they may have only aired it during its last couple of weeks on the chart (though it didn't spend that long on it). I remember seeing it at #40, which was its second last week. But I acquired an Oz promo VHS compilation a few years ago, dated May '89, featuring the video... indicating that it did get a local release (and the video was available) before 'Toy Soldiers'. I never caught the video or heard the song until its re-release.

    2. Yep, More Than You Know was released here first - and I bought it just as Toy Soldiers was climbing the chart. I had to get my local record store to order it back in. I heard it on Entertainment Tonight or some similar show. Never really liked Toy Soliders but loved MTYK - it's my #7 for 1989:

  3. So, it took 3 years for Gyan to win Star Search and the release 'Wait'? Geez, nothing like the quick turn around these days. I never knew she won a talent contest until a few years ago.

  4. "World seems difficult" is a real underrated gem from the Mentals. Sweet lyrics, excellent pop production and even the video holds up well.