Saturday, 18 November 2017

This Week In 1984: November 18, 1984

Australians have always loved to laugh, never more so than in the mid-'80s when stand-up comedians were regulars on the ARIA singles and albums charts. This week in 1984, possibly my favourite comedy record from that entire decade debuted.

The comedy record that even non-comedy record fans could enjoy 

Yes, I know, I've banged on and on about how much I hate novelty records previously, and it's not like I went out and bought this single, but there's an exception to every rule. And this top 10 hit (and not, despite claims online, a national number 1 record) is it.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 4, 1984

A song that did reach number 1 on the ARIA top 50 was still there this week in 1984. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder spent its fifth week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "The Real End" by Rickie Lee Jones
Peak: number 90
Taken from her third album, The Magazine, "The Real End" was Rickie Lee Jones's return to the Australian top 100 following her one and only hit, 1979's number 15 "Chuck E's In Love".

Number 95 "Touch By Touch" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 89
Not released as a single in the US - the title track was issued there as the follow-up to "All Of You" instead - this tropical-tinged track did much better in Europe than Australia.  

Number 93 "Sunset Now" by Heaven 17
Peak: number 93
"Temptation" aside, Heaven 17 were finding it hard to come up with another top 50 single, a problem that persisted with this bouncy lead release from third album How Men Are.  

New Entries
Number 50 "Guardian Angel" by Masquerade
Peak: number 27
The clue was in the name. Masquerade was actually a pseudonym for German singer/songwriter Drafi Deutscher, who collaborated with Christopher Evans-Ironside on this synth ballad, which had been released in Europe about a year earlier. In a Milli Vanilli-esque move, however, the two men in the clip below - a TV performance which became the song's de facto music video - weren't Drafi and Chris, but two randoms chosen to lip sync along to the song. As well as taking its time becoming a hit in Australia, "Guardian Angel", was a slow burn on the ARIA chart, not reaching its peak until its 13th week inside the top 50 and spending just over half a year on the top 100.

Number 46 "Shake This City" by Non Stop Dancers
Peak: number 44
It's funny how you can know a song for decades without actually knowing anything about the act behind it. That's the case for me with this pre-rock'n'roll era-style tune by Australian band Non Stop Dancers. For one, I didn't know the band's frontman, Larry Van Kriedt, had briefly been a member of AC/DC (and also The Eighty Eights, who I've never heard of before). I also wasn't aware Non Stop Dancers were based in Newcastle and that "Shake This City" was a much bigger hit on the NSW chart than elsewhere in the country. That fact does explain why it looms larger in my mind than a number 44 single normally would. And I didn't know there was a follow-up single, "Mobbing Me", and album from Non Stop Dancers, neither of which charted.

Number 45 "Dancing In Berlin" by Berlin
Peak: number 39
Here's another song that always seemed to me like a bigger hit than it was. Berlin's second top 40 single, "Dancing In Berlin", didn't do anywhere near as well as "No More Words", but for me it was the better song, ending up among my favourites for the year as a whole. Another slice of perfect synthpop, the song deserved a much warmer reception. We wouldn't see Berlin back on the top 50 for almost two years - and when we did, it would be with a very different type of song.

Number 43 "Purple Rain" by Prince & The Revolution
Peak: number 41
Next up, a very different type of song for the man who was coming off four consecutive top 10 hits, including chart-topper "When Doves Cry". Mega-ballad "Purple Rain" was the title track of Prince's hit 1984 album and a major moment when it was performed in the movie of the same name. But despite being one of his best known songs, it didn't even make the top 40 locally. The usual reasons apply here - it was the third single from Purple Rain, a number 1 album that hadn't left the top 20 since July. But the song's lack of success could also be due to the fact that it was nothing like his party-starting hits. That fact worked in its favour decades later when "Purple Rain" shot to number 3 in the wake of Prince's death in 2016, just as the similarly downbeat "Man In The Mirror" had become a far bigger chart hit posthumously than it was originally for Michael Jackson.

Number 31 "I'm Tuff" by George Smilovici
Peak: number 10
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, comedy records aren't among my favourite things. Don't get me wrong - I do have a sense of humour and love a good stand-up routine. But once you've heard a joke, I don't understand why you'd want to listen to it again and again. That all said, as comedy records go, "I'm Tuff" is one of the better ones. Why? Because it's laugh-out-loud funny - a three-and-a-half minute routine of rapid-fire one-liners about how tough (sorry, tuff) comedian George Smilovici is. 
Listening to it again now for the first time since the mid-'80s, I'm pretty amused, although I do recall more punchlines than I would've thought. Like "Australiana", "I'm Tuff" was recorded as performed and features an appreciative audience who whoop, holler and scream out, "How tuff?" at all the right junctures. Unlike Austen Tayshus (whose second hit was just a few places above this week), George didn't return to the top 100 with any of his subsequent releases, which included singles titled "Popularity", "Beyond Tuff" and "Spewin'".

Next week: a massive 10 new entries, including a number 1 (that would dethrone Stevie Wonder), a number 2 and a number 3, my personal favourite song for 1984, the best song by the best-selling duo of all time and the chart debut for the son of a music legend.

Back to: Nov 11, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 25, 1984

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: November 15, 1992

Some charts weeks are pretty predictable - the songs you expect to be hits go on to do just that, while you can see the flops coming a mile away. This week in 1992 was not one of those weeks.

Two one-hit wonders succeeding where established Aussie rock bands failed

Among the new entries on the ARIA top 50 were three established Australian rock bands who all struck out with brand new songs and three newcomers who would enjoy huge success over the summer months.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 15, 1992

A song still enjoying huge success remained at number 1 this week in 1992. "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus spent its seventh - and, thankfully, final - week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "Money Love" by Neneh Cherry
Peak: number 85
Neneh Cherry's output had been massively underappreciated in Australia, so it wasn't surprising that continued with this lead single from second album Homebrew. More unexpected: it also missed the UK top 20.

Number 97 "It's My Life" by Dr Alban
Peak: number 97
This European mega-hit from the dentist-turned-performer would eventually reach the ARIA top 50, but not until 1994 when it was re-released in the wake of "Sing Hallelujah".

Number 88 "Acid Rain" by Tumbleweed
Peak: number 88
Australian rock back Tumbleweed ventured into the top 100 for the first time with this track from their self-titled debut album. The top 50 awaited them in 1993.

Single Of The Week
Trumpets by Club Hoy
Peak: number 88
A bit of promotion for the Australian folk band may have been the reason they sneaked into the top 100 for the first time with Trumpets. But promotion for the four-track EP was also apparently the cause of their split, with members divided over the choice of "You Promised - You Said" as the lead single. As a result, Trumpets would be Club Hoy's final release.

New Entries
Number 50 "Bettadaze" by Boom Crash Opera
Peak: number 43
It'd been an odd few years for one of my top 5 Australian bands of all time. Since their last studio album, 1989's These Here Are Crazy Times, they'd released a remix album and an average EP, and during the recording of third album Fabulous Beast, bid a permanent farewell to founding member Richard Pleasance, who'd previously limited his role due to suffering tinnitus. Despite the upheaval, Boom Crash Opera were back to their best with the fittingly titled "Bettadaze", which preceded the new album by about six months. All the hallmarks of a classic BCO sing-along were present, but somehow it failed to connect with the Australian record-buying public and peaked just one spot above 1991's Dreams On Fire EP.

Number 48 "Impossible To Fly" by Baby Animals
Peak: number 48
Next up, a band whose last couple of years had been enormously successful, with three top 30 hits and a number 1 album to show for themselves. But like Boom Crash Opera, Baby Animals found themselves on the wrong side of the top 40 with this brand new single - a stop-gap measure between albums. It's likely "Impossible To Fly" under-performed due to its cruisey, bluesy style not being what you'd expect from a Baby Animals single.   

Number 45 "Highway To Hell (live)" by AC/DC
Peak: number 29
It's noteworthy that while three Australian bands flopped with brand new music, AC/DC reached the top 30 with a live version of a 13-year-old song. This new version of "Highway To Hell" (originally a number 24 hit) was taken from their concert release, Live, the double album version of which would debut at number 1 the following week.

Number 43 "Holiday" by Ratcat
Peak: number 41
Proving the failure of previous single "Candyman" was no one-off, the latest jangly guitar single from Ratcat became their first to miss the top 40 since the indie band's breakthrough with Tingles at the start of 1991. A much better single than its predecessor, "Holiday" must have been too little too late to salvage Ratcat's career, with accompanying album Insideout, the follow-up to chart-topper Blind Love, failing to make the albums top 50 at all. Then, none of the band's subsequent releases before their split later in the decade would grace the top 100. Geez, when the Australian public turn, they turn hard.

Number 41 "Jump!" by The Movement
Peak: number 7
Our Australian rock bands out of the way, we move now to the first of three one-hit wonders whose singles did incredibly well. American techno three-piece The Movement was comprised of frontman AJ Mora, producer/DJ Richard Gonzalez and DJ Hazze, and "Jump!" largely consisted of the title word repeated over and over. Depending on the version, upwards of 90 times. One word that was missing from the clean version was "motherfucker", which was replaced with "everybody" to avoid controversy. 

Number 40 "Ebeneezer Goode" by The Shamen
Peak: number 14
Here's a track that was buoyed on by the wave of controversy that had surrounded it in the UK, where it topped the chart for four weeks despite (or because of) being banned for a time by the BBC. Dance act The Shamen also shot up the ARIA listings (although not quite as high) with rave classic "Ebeneezer Goode", which featured lyrics that more or less endorsed ecstasy use (in moderation, mind you). The message was no so subtly disguised as a story about a geezer, a real crowd-pleaser who went by the name of Ebeneezer Goode, but we were pretty much all in on the joke. Smack bang in the middle of a string of five top 10 hits for The Shamen in the UK, "Ebeneezer Goode" was the group's only Australian top 50 appearance, although the song's success did give previous single "L.S.I. (Love Sex Intelligence)" a kick in the pants, although not quite enough of one to result in it becoming a second hit for them here.

Number 29 "Tequila" by A.L.T. & The Lost Civilization
Peak: number 8
From drugs to alcohol, and an update of the song first released in 1958 by The Champs, which got to number 4 in Australia. Surprisingly, for a tune covered as frequently as "Tequila", this remake by rapper Alvin Lowell Trivette (see what he did there?) became only the second version to chart in Australia. Released at the perfect time of year, it was a Latin-flavoured summer hit that ended up remaining on the top 100 for half a year - a trick that would be repeated a couple of years later by Arrow's just as objectionable revamp of "Hot Hot Hot". Unfortunately for A.L.T. and his Lost Civilization, it was his first and only showing on the ARIA chart.

Next week: a previous minor hit returns the chart in acoustic version, plus yet another single from a year-old double album and the arrival of a hip-hop classic.

Back to: Nov 8, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 22, 1992

Saturday, 11 November 2017

This Week In 1984: November 11, 1984

Up until the last month of 1989, every Madonna single released in the '80s except one had reached the top 20 (and most had gone top 10) in Australia. And if the name of the song that spoiled that hit streak wasn't jumping out at you below, you probably wouldn't automatically pick it as the unlucky track.

Not so lucky, as it would turn out

This week in 1984, the single that would ruin the Queen of Pop's track record debuted on the ARIA top 50 and fall 20 places short of her next least successful single of the decade (1986's "Open Your Heart"). And yet "Lucky Star" is one of her most famous songs.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 11, 1984

One of Stevie Wonder's most famous songs was having a grand old time on the chart this week in 1984. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" stayed at number 1 for a fourth week.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Penny Lover" by Lionel Richie
Peak: number 73
It was one single - and ballad - too many for Lionel Richie with this fifth release from Can't Slow Down falling short of the charts highs climbed by the other four. The album still had another year on the top 100 left in it, though.

Number 98 "High Energy" by Evelyn Thomas
Peak: number 98
Disco may have been dead, but the similarly club-oriented Hi-NRG was thriving, although this European hit of the (almost) same name didn't cross over in Australia.

Number 92 "War Baby" by Tom Robinson
Peak: number 73
He'd reached number 13 in 1978 with "2-4-6-8 Motorway" with his former group, Tom Robinson Band, but this was the British singer's only solo appearance on the Australian chart.

New Entries
Number 48 "I Am Only Shooting Love" by Time Bandits
Peak: number 9
A year after it became their third top 10 hit at home in the Netherlands, synthpop band Time Bandits found success in Australia with this slightly retitled single (it was called "I'm Only..." originally). I'm assuming Countdown played a part in the belated local success of this single, which would be followed in almost a year's time by a second top 10 smash. Before that, however, one of the group's earlier Dutch hits, "Listen To The Man With The Golden Voice", didn't fare so well here but is worth a listen, as is their biggest hit at home, 1982's "I'm Specialized In You".

Number 46 "Between The Eyes" by The Angels
Peak: number 44
Earlier in the year, I was pleased to reach the last song in The Angels' impressively long string of top 50 singles, 1992's "Tear Me Apart". I've never been a fan of the Australian rock band and so having to recap 18 different songs by them over the past five years hasn't come easily. But I wasn't quite done. Thanks to the roundabout way I've approached covering the charts from years gone past, I hadn't yet touched this lead single from Two Minute Warning. Peaking a place lower than their last chart single, 1983's "Live Lady Live" (itself the third single from Watch The Red), it wasn't the most auspicious of starts for Two Minute Warning. And as we've already seen in my 1985 posts, none of the other singles from the LP ("Look The Other Way", "Sticky Little Bitch" and "Underground") reached the top 50. The album itself was The Angels' third to peak at number 5, however, so it wasn't all bad news for them.

Number 37 "Phantom Shuffle" by Austen Tayshus
Peak: number 16
Speaking of things I'm not a fan of, here's the second release from the man responsible for 1983's biggest single. But even though "Australiana" wasn't for me, I could completely understand why it was so massive. "Phantom Shuffle", on the other hand, I didn't get at all at the time and still don't. A departure from the stand-up routine format of his first single, the part-spoken, part-rapped, part-sung parody of the comic strip character seemed like an odd choice of subject matter. Was The Phantom that popular in 1984? And given Paul Hogan had been satirising the character on his own show, wasn't it territory that had already been covered? Perhaps I'm forgetting something about this track all these years later, but its chart position and short chart life suggest not many people got the joke.

Number 36 "Lucky Star" by Madonna
Peak: number 36
It's a legitimate classic, but for the first six years of Madonna's chart career in Australia, "Lucky Star" was her lowest-charting single - and the only one to peak below number 16. So what went wrong? I'd say it's a combination of factors, none of which have to do with the strength of the song itself, which is among her best ever singles (according to me). 
For one thing, her self-titled debut album had been on the top 50 since April and spent a lot of that time in the top 20. For another, it should probably have been released a month or two earlier to continue the momentum from "Holiday", "Burning Up" and "Borderline". Instead, "Lucky Star" didn't crack the top 50 until its fifth week on the chart - weeks after "Borderline" had left the top 50.
Possibly most importantly is that "Lucky Star", which spent three weeks locked at this peak position before falling back down, was quickly overshadowed by her next release, which would shoot straight into the top 40 on its way to give Madonna her first number 1 hit. It would take until 1989's "Oh Father" for one of her singles to perform worse on the chart.
In the UK, it was a similar story, with "Lucky Star" her only song not to reach the top 10 all the way until 1994's "Take A Bow", although it must be noted that "Borderline" only reached its number 2 peak there on re-release in 1986, having bombed out at number 56 first time around. There was better news in the US, where "Lucky Star" became Madonna's first top 5 hit and the biggest hit from her debut album.

Number 21 "Freedom" by Wham!
Peak: number 3
Our final new entry for the week comes from another massive pop act that had their string of hits broken by one under-performing track. Up until this point, everything Wham! had released had made the top 10 except for 1983's "Club Tropicana" - a streak they continued up until their final single also flopped. The follow-up to both "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" (in terms of Wham! singles) and "Careless Whisper" (in terms of songs performed by George Michael), "Freedom" had a lot to live up to. Although it didn't top the chart like those two singles, it did spend nine weeks in the top 10 (three at number 3) and, unlike those number 1 hits, had to compete with the duo's second album, Make It Big, also being in stores. Another perfectly formed pop nugget, "Freedom" didn't even have a music video during its chart life here - the one below was put together for the song's mid-1985 American release from footage of George and Andrew Ridgeley making their historical visit to China.

Next week: a song by a pint-sized superstar that wasn't massive at the time but was his highest-charting hit immediately following his death over three decades later. Plus, a novelty single by a one-hit wonder stand-up comedian.

Back to: Nov 4, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 18, 1984

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: November 8, 1992

It can be a fine line between catchy and annoying sometimes. And this week in 1992, the highest new entry on the ARIA singles chart crossed that line by some margin.

Frente!'s biggest hit was very popular, but also very annoying

While the song gave the band responsible a huge hit, it also resulted in their fall from favour - something from which they'd never completely recover.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 8, 1992

A song that was also incredibly annoying continued to hold on to its position as the country's highest-selling single this week in 1992. "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus spent its sixth week at number 1.

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Better Times" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 74
As I mentioned when "Ain't Love The Strangest Thing" debuted, I feel like this would've been a much better launch single for the album of the same name. Instead, it ended up as a char also-ran.

Single Of The Week
"Chains Around My Heart" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 59
If this had been released three years earlier (and maybe not as the fourth single from an album), it probably would've been massive. The type of emotional ballad you used to expect from Richard Marx - although even more dramatic than "Hold On To The Nights" or "Right Here Waiting" - "Chains Around My Heart" felt like a backpedal for an artist who'd mixed things up with songs like "Keep Coming Back" and "Hazard". That said, I quite like it, but then I was no fan of Richard's new musical directions anyway.

New Entries
Number 49 "What's Wrong With That Girl" by Rick Price
Peak: number 45
Speaking of new musical directions, middle-of-the-road balladeer Rick Price got his rock on (well, for him) with this third single from debut album Heaven Knows. With its wailing electric guitar and bluesy feel, it was quite a departure from "Not A Day Goes By" and the album's title track - and only crept up a few more places on the chart. Not only was "What's Wrong With That Girl" not a hit, but it also didn't spur Heaven Knows back up the chart. His album would get a second wind, but not until single number five was released.

Number 48 Spinosity by The Sharp
Peak: number 28
Music in the early '80s was great for a number of reasons. Rockabilly wasn't one of them. But acts like Shakin' Stevens, Rocky Burnette and The Stray Cats were certainly popular enough. This week in 1992, the genre least likely to make a comeback returned to the top 50 courtesy of Melbourne three-piece The Sharp, who gave rockabilly a '90s spin. Following an earlier independently issued EP, the band were signed to Warner Music and released their first major label EP, which featured the single "Talking Sly". As well as not sounding like anyone else on the chart at that point, The Sharp also boasted another unique selling point: their all-black, turtleneck-sporting look. Guess it beat Shakey-style double denim.

Number 47 "Shake Your Head" by Was (Not Was)
Peak: number 47
It was greatest hits album time for Was (Not Was), who'd only ever had the one hit in Australia up until this point: 1987's "Walk The Dinosaur". The band formed by David and Don Was (not actually brothers nor their real names) had, however, been releasing music since 1980, including 1982's Born To Laugh At Tornadoes album, which featured the original version of "Shake Your Head". For retrospective release Hello Dad...I'm In Jail, the song was radically remixed by house producer Steve "Silk" Hurley, and new vocals were recorded by Ozzy Osbourne (who'd performed on the original) and, somewhat unexpectedly, Kim Basinger. Kim was recruited only after Madonna turned down the band's request to use her vocals (recorded when she auditioned to sing on the original version) for the remix.

Number 45 "Would I Lie To You?" by Charles & Eddie
Peak: number 3
From a band just slipping in to the top 50 with their second hit we move to a duo who are a bona fide one-hit wonder. Charles Pettigrew and Eddie Chacon hit big with debut single "Would I Lie To You?", an irresistible slice of retro soul that completely overshadowed anything else the pair ever released. A relatively modest number 13 hit in their homeland of the US, "Would I Lie To You?" topped the UK chart, and was a top 3 success across Europe and in Australia, where it held its peak position for four straight weeks. Charles and Eddie continued working together until the former's death from cancer in 2001. More recently, Eddie has been a member of another duo, electronic act The Polyamorous Affair.

Number 25 "Accidently Kelly Street" by Frente!
Peak: number 4
Holding its peak position for five weeks was a song that would quickly earn its place as one of the most irritating non-comedy releases in Australian music history. The follow-up to Frente!'s breakthrough Clunk EP, "Accidently Kelly Street" sounded like a Play School nursery rhyme - a comparison that was compounded by the cutesy music video. 
And while I'm the first to admit I like plenty of cheery, optimistic songs, this was even too saccharine for me. Just as irritating was the fact that the song's title was misspelt (or misspelled, if you prefer). Although, I guess if you are going to unintentionally spell a word incorrectly, it may as well be "accidentally". 
Of course, Australia being Australia, the massive success of a song like "Accidently Kelly Street" resulted in the inevitable piss-taking, notably by The Late Show, who sent it up as (a correctly spelt) "Accidentally Was Released" in the season one finale in late December. I'd suggest their parody contributed to the song's (and album's) rapid descent out of the top 50 in early 1993 and was the reason Frente! made a much more subdued second video for the song. 
But the damage had been done and despite going home with a couple of ARIA Awards in April 1993 (one for "Ordinary Angels", the other for Marvin The Album), the band found themselves on the receiving end of a massive backlash. We'll see what that meant for them on the singles chart next year.

Next week: three previously successful Australian rock bands falter in the 40s, while three quite distinct dance tracks become massive summer hits.

Back to: Nov 1, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 15, 1992

Saturday, 4 November 2017

This Week In 1984: November 4, 1984

The phrase "jump the shark" is usually employed in relation to the moment when TV shows go from awesome to awful, but it could equally be used to describe the song that ruins a music act's career.

Some Culture Club fans think this song is stupid

This week in 1984, one of the biggest bands of the previous couple of years debuted with a single that was arguably the sound of them jumping the shark. Yes, it almost got to number 1, but it's viewed fairly dimly these days and was followed by a rapid fall from grace.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 4, 1984

The song that blocked our jump the shark single from the top spot for three straight weeks was at number 1 this week in 1984. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder spent its third of eight weeks on top. 

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Go Insane" by Lindsey Buckingham
Peak: number 100
His last solo album, 1981's Law And Order, produced number 1 hit "Trouble", but this lead single and title track from Go Insane placed the Fleetwood Mac member at the opposite end of the chart. 

Number 94 "Shine Shine" by Barry Gibb
Peak: number 87
We saw brother Robin make the top 50 a few weeks ago, but Barry Gibb had no such luck with this genre-blending first single from his debut solo album, Now Voyager

New Entries
Number 37 "No More Lonely Nights" by Paul McCartney
Peak: number 9
Pop stars and movies are an unpredictable combination. And for every Purple Rain, there's a Give My Regards To Broad Street, which saw Paul McCartney play a version of himself on the big screen for the first time since his days in The Beatles. But while the movie itself was pretty widely panned, the soundtrack did quite well. Mostly containing new versions of songs from throughout Paul's career (both solo and with The Beatles), the album also featured new track "No More Lonely Nights", which became Paul's first non-duet top 10 hit since 1980's "Coming Up". It would be the last time he'd get anywhere near that high on his own, but of course featured on two top 10 hits (with Kanye West, and Kanye and Rihanna) in 2015.

Number 24 "The War Song" by Culture Club
Peak: number 2
Since their breakthrough with "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me", Culture Club had enjoyed a stellar chart career, with four top 5 singles and two other top 20 hits to their name. The lowest they'd reached on the ARIA chart in that time had been the number 26 peak of "Miss Me Blind" - the fifth single from their last album. So it was little surprise that brand new recording "The War Song" rushed straight into the chart at number 24 and had jumped to number 2 within two weeks (and stayed there for three weeks in total). 
But despite its success, "The War Song" is credited with ruining Culture Club's career. First there was the song itself and its simplistic "war, war is stupid and people are stupid" refrain. Yes, there was a serious point in there somewhere about the glorification of armed conflict, but the childlike approach to its subject matter undermined any attempt to make a statement. Then there was the overblown Russell Mulcahy-directed music video. New bright red hair! Combat wear as runway apparel! Fright wigs! Stacks of kids dressed as skeletons! A tank! Perhaps what Culture Club needed was someone who'd say "no" every once in a while. 
Don't get me wrong - I actually liked "The War Song" at the time, but I was nine years old. And while I still don't mind it, I can see why it dropped out of the chart just as quickly, lasting just 12 weeks in the top 50, which for a song which spent three of those weeks at number 2 isn't great. A similar fate befell the album, Waking Up With The House On Fire, which also peaked at number 2, but spent just 16 weeks on the top 100 compared to the 68-week tally of Colour By Numbers
Perhaps if Culture Club had better material to follow "The War Song", it might've been viewed as an attention-grabbing novelty in the midst of their otherwise high-quality pop. But Waking Up... is generally considered substandard and rushed. And follow-up singles "The Medal Song" or "Mistake No. 3" (depending which country you lived in) weren't up to much, and performed accordingly.

Number 22 "Why?" by Bronski Beat
Peak: number 10
Bounding up from number 54 to enter the top 50 two places above "The War Song" was the latest from synthpop trio Bronski Beat, whose previous single "Smalltown Boy" dropped out of the top 50 this week. Like its predecessor (and "The War Song"), "Why?" was a song with a political point to make - once again speaking about homophobia. The difference between Bronski Beat's approach and that of Culture Club couldn't have been wider (and not just because of their music videos' respective budgets). Subtle (well, compared to "The War Song") and a sophisticated pop song, "Why?" still resonates today. 
After two top 10 hits in a row, Bronski Beat would fare considerably less well with their next two singles (covers "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "I Feel Love (Medley)"), but would revisit those highs in early 1986 once singer Jimmy Somerville had moved on to form Communards. "Smalltown Boy" and "Why?" would also return to the chart - kind of - when both were worked in to "Tell Me Why" by Supermode in 2006.

Next week: new singles from two of the biggest acts on the planet, the follow-up to the number 1 record of 1983 and the first hit for a two-hit wonder band.

Back to: Oct 28, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 11, 1984

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

25 Years Ago This Week: November 1, 1992

As you scan down the list of songs making their presence felt on the ARIA chart this week in 1992, let me assure you that I am talking about the top 100 from 1992 and not 1976 - the year when two of the week's new entries were originally released.

See those girls, watch that scene, diggin' ABBA all over again

Why were two songs from 16 years earlier back in the chart? Blame the impending Christmas market and the flood of greatest hits albums that spawned re-releases of former hits to promote them. For one of the classic tracks, it was its first time inside the Australian top 100; for the other, it fell some way short of its eight-week run at number 1 back in 1976.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 1, 1992

A song in the midst of its seven-week run at number 1 was still on top this week in 1992. "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus refused to budge for a fifth week.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Baker Street" by Undercover
Peak: number 100
A pop/dance remake of another chart-topping song from the '70s, this revamp of Gerry Rafferty's 1978 number 1 single took Undercover all the way to number 2 in the UK.

Number 97 "Bus Stop" by Nu-Q
Peak: number 95
Another '70s cover! Recorded by Fatback Band in 1975 (as "(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop"), the formation dance classic had last visited the chart in remixed form in 1987. This version by Australian duo Nu-Q didn't reignite the craze. 

Number 91 B-Side Ourselves by Skid Row
Peak: number 51
A near top 50 miss for this EP consisting of five cover versions - four had featured as B sides on singles, while the fifth, a remake of The Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Little Wing", was previously unreleased

Number 77 "Anarchy In The UK" by Sex Pistols
Peak: number 75
Not a hit in 1976 - their first top 100 appearance was 1977's "Pretty Vacant", which reached number 52 - the punk band's debut single was re-released to promote the Kiss This compilation.

Single Of The Week
"Love Can Move Mountains" by Celine Dion
Peak: number 54
Besides her hit Disney duet, Celine Dion had peaked just outside the top 50 with the two other ballads that had so far reached the ARIA top 100 for her. So how would an upbeat number fare? About the same, it turned out. The fourth single from her self-titled album also just missed the top 50 despite being her best song of all time (according to me). The perky track was written by Diane Warren, who it seems was also taking a break from the power ballads with "Love Can Move Mountains". 

New Entries
Number 48 "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" by Divinyls
Peak: number 19
Entering the top 50 two places above the other hit from the Buffy The Vampire Slayer soundtrack is yet another cover version. A brand new recording from Divinyls, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" was a remake of the debut single by The Young Rascals, which had reached number 47 in 1966. For Divinyls, it was their biggest hit since the juggernaut that was "I Touch Myself" and would end up on 1993's compilation The Collection, which would contain two other new singles and an odd assortment of other tracks.

Number 46 "Dancing Queen" by ABBA
Peak: number 37 (original peak: number 1)
The success of Erasure's ABBA-esque EP earlier in 1992 made it clear the tide had turned as far as the public's attitude towards the Swedish four-piece was concerned. More or less ignored since the conclusion of their recording career a decade earlier, it was suddenly OK to like ABBA again. 
And so hit-packed best of collection Gold: Greatest Hits was compiled, which in Australia had a different tracklisting to include songs that were successful here but not in other parts of the world. To promote the album, ABBA's signature song was re-released - I'm presuming the first time one of their singles was made readily available on CD single or cassingle.  
An eight-week chart-topper in 1976, "Dancing Queen" was not ABBA's biggest hit in Australia - that honour falls to 14-week number 1 "Fernando" - but the disco delights of "Dancing Queen" have made it arguably their most enduringly popular song. Also a number 1 smash in the UK and in the US (their only single to top the Billboard Hot 100), "Dancing Queen" is considered by many as ABBA's finest hour. 
And although it didn't exactly set the singles chart alight this time around, Gold was a phenomenal success, hitting number 1 for two weeks just before Christmas and remaining a steady seller ever since, with returns to the top 10 in 1994, 1999, 2008 and 2014. For now, though, the ABBA revival was officially on.

Number 44 "I Wonder Why" by Curtis Stigers
Peak: number 43
In a week when most of the songs to look back at were either remakes or re-releases, it's fitting that this debut single by singer/saxophonist Curtis Stigers was also actually a reissue. Having peaked at number 92 earlier in the year, "I Wonder Why" was repackaged as a tour EP and given another shot. It came nowhere near matching its US and UK top 10 success, but at least this time the MOR ballad made it into the top 50.

Next week: two more of 1992's biggest hits debut - including one of the year's most infuriating songs and a top 3 smash by a one-hit wonder duo. Plus, rockabilly makes a comeback. 

Back to: Oct 25, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 8, 1992

Saturday, 28 October 2017

This Week In 1984: October 28, 1984

Some singers have the worst luck - and the female vocalist behind the highest new entry on the ARIA top 50 this week in 1984 is a case in point. Her name is Hazell Dean and, Stock Aitken Waterman devotees aside, you probably only vaguely remember her (or don't recall her at all).

Hazell Dean was always searchin' for another hit

Due to her performance on my personal year-end charts, Hazell ranks as one of my top 10 favourite acts of the '80s. But in Australia, the British performer only ever had one hit and in the UK, many of her best songs failed for a variety of reasons.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending October 28, 1984

A song that did anything but fail remained at number 1 in Australia this week in 1984. "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder was on top for a second week.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Heaven's On Fire" by KISS
Peak: number 62
A slight improvement chart-wise on the lead single from their previous album, but this first track lifted from Animalize (co-written by Desmond Child) didn't put KISS back inside the top 50.

Number 99 "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger
Peak: number 99
More hard rock now and the biggest single - a US top 5 smash - from San Francisco's Night Ranger. The power ballad was written about drummer Kelly Keagy's sister called Christy, but his band-mates misheard what he was singing and the alternate name stuck.

Number 98 "Cold Shot" by Stevie Ray Vaughan
Peak: number 98
He had a number of top 50 albums throughout his career, but this single from Couldn't Stand The Weather was the only singles chart appearance for the blues guitarist/singer.

Number 86 "On The Wings Of A Nightingale" by The Everly Brothers
Peak: number 78
They'd have hoped to have done better with their first new music in 11 years and first top 100 appearance since 1968, but the duo that racked up eight top 5 hits between 1957 and 1961 couldn't score in 1984 with this Paul McCartney-penned tune.

Number 76 "Love Kills" by Freddie Mercury
Peak: number 56
Given Queen's popularity in Australia, it's surprising this first solo effort by the band's singer (which made the UK top 10) did so badly locally. The track was co-written and co-produced by Giorgio Moroder for use in the 1984 revamp of film Metropolis.

New Entries
Number 50 "Rock Me Tonite" by Billy Squier
Peak: number 50
"The Stroke" had been a top 5 success in 1981, but American rocker Billy Squier hadn't been able to return to the Australian top 50 ever since... until now. Although, by spending a single week at number 50 with this lead single from fourth album Signs Of Life, he barely avoids qualifying for my definition of a one-hit wonder. "Rock Me Tonite" was actually Billy's biggest hit in the US, where it reached number 15, but it's credited with bringing about the rapid demise of his career thanks to a music video which is now widely viewed as among the decade's worst. I'd never seen the clip before, but it does contain some of the most terrible dancing ever put to film.

Number 48 "The Warrior" by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth
Peak: number 6
Speaking of dodgy '80s music videos, the promo for "The Warrior" has been described by singer Patty Smyth as looking like "an off-Broadway production of Cats". In recent weeks, we've seen singer Patty's post-Scandal hit, "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough", debut in my flashbacks to 1992. "The Warrior" was the other song she took into the ARIA top 10, back when she was the frontwoman for American rock band Scandal - a role for which she received featuring billing (possibly to distinguish Scandal from the late '70s Australian band of the same name). Scandal didn't have any further hits and had disintegrated by 1985, leading Patty to pursue her solo career. Fun fact: in 1997, Patty married '80s tennis legend John McEnroe, who coincidentally enjoyed his best season in 1984.

Number 46 "Lights Out" by Peter Wolf
Peak: number 46
From a band whose singer would soon go solo we move now to the solo debut for ex-J Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, who'd parted ways with his former band following a difference of opinion about their musical direction. The title track of his first album on his own, "Lights Out" was fairly consistent with the pop/rock style of tracks like "Centrefold" and "Freeze Frame", while J Geils Band went with a more new wave sound for their only album without Peter (and missed the top 50 with its lead single in early 1985). In the US, Peter did much better with his solo career than in Australia, with both "Lights Out" and 1987 single "Come As You Are" reaching the top 20. 

Number 42 "I'll Fly For You" by Spandau Ballet
Peak: number 38
After three consecutive top 12 hits, it was a bit of a comedown for Spandau Ballet with this second single from Parade. Two things would've worked against "I'll Fly For You": 1) Parade hadn't left the top 30 since debuting on the albums chart in late July and 2) as a song, "I'll Fly For You" takes a while to get going - the verses are a bit dull and it's nearly two minutes before the (excellent) chorus comes in. If it had been me choosing singles from the album, I would've picked "Round And Round" at this point instead of leaving it until fourth.

Number 40 "Better Be Good To Me" by Tina Turner
Peak: number 28
As former chart-topper "What's Love Got To Do With It" fell out of the top 10 this week, it was joined on the top 50 by the next single from Private Dancer - a song that would do nowhere near as well here or in the UK (although it made the US top 5). A rockier track than its predecessor, "Better Be Good To Me" had first been recorded in 1981 by Spider, which featured co-writer Holly Knight in its line-up. Tina Turner's hit was one of two songs co-written by Holly that entered the top 50 this week. The other? "The Warrior".

Number 35 "Like To Get To Know You Well" by Howard Jones
Peak: number 16
After the singles from his first album spectacularly under-performed locally, Australia was finally getting to know Howard Jones well as he reached the top 20 for the first time. "Like To Get To Know You Well" was the lead single from second album "Dream Into Action" and came with two music videos you can see below - one for the UK market and one for the US.

Number 28 "Searchin' (I Gotta Find A Man)" by Hazell Dean
Peak: number 17
Hazell Dean had been putting music out since the mid-'70s without any UK chart success. Her first foray into Hi-NRG, "Searchin' (I Gotta Find A Man)", had been released there in mid-1983 but also flopped. In April 1984, after months of being played in gay clubs, the song was re-released, making the UK top 10 and, several months later, the ARIA top 20. 
Hazell went one better with the follow-up, teaming up with on-the-rise producers Stock Aitken Waterman for "Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)", which reached number 4 in Britain. The reworked version of "Dance Your Love Away" by Michael Prince became the first SAW-produced single to land inside the UK top 10, but would not be the last time the Hit Factory would offer Hazell a track previously recorded by someone else.
Things hit the skids when "Back In My Arms (Once Again)" and "No Fool (For Love)" both peaked at an unlucky number 41 in the UK. And between 1985 and 1987, a string of excellent singles - including the SAW-produced "They Say It's Gonna Rain", "Stand Up" and "Always Doesn't Mean Forever" - went completely overlooked. A cover of Anne Murray's "Who's Leaving Who" took her back into the UK top 5 and she scored one final UK top 20 hit with "Maybe (We Should Call It A Day)", rivalling Samantha Fox for her love of bracketed song titles.
After that, Hazell released her version of Kylie Minogue album track "Turn It Into Love", a cover version of "Love Pains" released at the same time as a remake by Liza Minnelli and her version of Lonnie Gordon album track "Better Off Without You" - each with diminishing returns. All great songs, but it was beginning to feel like a career forged out of covers and cast-offs.
Twenty-three years after it gave Hazell her only Australian hit, "Searchin..." returned to the ARIA chart thanks to a remake by Young Divas. Unlike their two top 10 SAW remakes, "This Time I Know It's For Real" and "Happenin' All Over Again", it scraped the bottom of the top 40. And if you've got this far without your eyes glazing over, it's also worth checking out Hazell's own 1997 remix of "Searchin'...".

Next week: one of the biggest bands in the world returns with what some consider to be their worst single. Plus, a former member of the band that used to be the biggest in the world lands the final solo top 10 hit of his career.

Back to: Oct 21, 1984 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 4, 1984