Wednesday, 25 November 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: November 25, 1990

Regular readers will know that there were a number of big hits in 1990 that I couldn't stand - "Joey", "Check Out The Chicken", "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You" - and 25 years ago this week, a song entered the ARIA top 50 that would join that list.

Welcome to the Hall Of Shame, Scatterbrain

In fact, I didn't think that much of any of the debuting singles on the chart from this week in 1990. But I got myself into this recapping business, so I'll just have to suck it up.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending November 25, 1990

In what was obviously a bad week for me, the new number 1 single in Australia also wasn't to my liking. The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" pushed aside the very excellent "Groove Is In The Heart" to spend what would feel like an eternity at the top. Thanks a lot, Ghost


New Entries
Number 49 "Don't Call Me Dude" by Scatterbrain
Peak: number 14
Without further ado, here's the song that joined the ranks of my most hated - a single that no one else in the world cared about, but somehow Australia decided to send into the top 20. A novelty record in thrash metal clothing, "Don't Call Me Dude" tells the story of a guy who turns psychotic when anyone refers to him by the surfer slang term. By 1990, "dude" was becoming part of the mainstream vernacular, thanks to its use in Less Than Zero and Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure - and so the timing couldn't have been more perfect for a song that traded on that. Pity Australians were the suckers who ran with Scatterbrain's anti-dude anthem. 




Number 48 "Always And Ever" by Southern Sons
Peak: number 16
Peaking two places lower than the abomination by Scatterbrain was the local band that had quickly stepped into the gap vacated by 1927 as Australia's favourite radio-friendly soft rockers. The band's second release, "Always And Ever" is a pretty unobjectionable mid-tempo pop/rock tune - neither as rousing as "Heart In Danger" nor as full-blown a weep-fest as what would come next. And that middle-of-the-road quality is probably why I had completely forgotten about this song until now. I didn't think too much of it then, and that hasn't really changed, but I do like the use of the cascading water in the music video. You don't see enough of that anymore.




Number 46 "Bedlam Bridge" by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 46
A brief in-and-out visit to the top 50 for this fourth single from Blue Sky Mining is pretty much what anyone could have hoped for, especially given it's not one of their most commercial tracks. And that's exactly how "Bedlam Bridge" performed. The meaning of the lyrics isn't as clear-cut as with previous singles - I've read online interpretations that reference Jesus and Ronald Reagan - so I'll leave it to the band's fans to try and make heads or tails of it.




Number 40 "Rise" by Daryl Braithwaite
Peak: number 23
Daryl Braithwaite had to have been pretty happy with the way his comeback album, Edge, had been received. Not only did the LP reach the number 1 spot, but third single "One Summer" returned the former Sherbet singer to the top 10 as a solo act for the first time in over a decade. And so on to the inevitable follow-up album, Rise. Led by the title track, the going was slow, with Rise not reaching the top 10 until April 1991 (although once it did, it stayed there for five months). 
Even though that chart pattern was almost identical to Edge's progress, you might've expected Rise to have been more of an instant success given he'd put in the hard comeback yards already. Part of the problem was that "Rise" the song didn't even breach the top 20 - a fact that's kind of surprising given it's reasonably upbeat and catchy. And so, absent a strong lead single, Daryl was going to have to pull something a bit better out of the bag if he wanted to, er, rise back up the charts. Luckily, he had just the song to do the trick...




Next week: a much better week for new entries, with three debuts inside the top 20 from three of the most popular artists of the era. Plus, another classic dance track from 1990 makes its appearance.


Back to: Nov 18, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 2, 1990


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: November 24, 1985

It must be pretty frustrating for artists that record the original version of a song when someone else comes along, does a pretty faithful rendition of the same tune and turns it into a hit single. Clearly, the song had potential, so why didn't their original record become the popular version?

Despite appearances, Whitney wasn't singing about the horse

Thirty years ago this week, a singer who'd make a habit of having her way with other people's little-known songs debuted on the ARIA singles chart with her first big record in Australia - a track that had done absolutely nothing for its original performer. It wasn't the only remake that improved on the chart performance of the original to enter the top 50 this week in 1985, either.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 24, 1985

A song that was successful for its original artist - and for one or two other performers over the years - held down the number 1 spot this week in 1985. "Take On Me" by a-ha spent its second and final week on top.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Already Yesterday" by The Church
Peak: number 100
I'm stunned this single - the first from fourth album Heyday - did so badly. It's just as good as The Church's two major hits up until that point, "The Unguarded Moment" (number 22 in 1981) and "Almost With You" (number 21 in 1982).

Number 98 "Loving You" by Feargal Sharkey
Peak: number 97
Bigger things were just around the corner for the former vocalist for The Undertones, but this single co-written with The Human League's Jo Callis became his second in a row to flop.

Number 97 "Born In East LA" by Cheech & Chong
Peak: number 53
A parody of "Born In The USA", this comedy record was about a Mexican-American mistaken as an illegal immigrant. In 1987, it was turned into a film, written and directed by and starring Cheech Marin. 

Number 90 "Italian Boys" by Electric Pandas
Peak: number 90
This final single for the Sydney band feels like a song in search of a decent hook and became Electric Pandas' lowest charting release. They broke up a year-and-a-half later.

Number 75 "Love Is The Seventh Wave" by Sting
Peak: number 57
A slight improvement on "Fortress Around Your Heart" but still not a great chart performance. Parent album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles was doing better - still in the top 30 after 20 weeks.


New Entries
Number 50 "Who's Zoomin' Who" by Aretha Franklin
Peak: number 38
Having been restored to the top 50 for the first time in 14 years with "Freeway Of Love", the Queen of Soul made it two from two with this follow-up and the title track from her highest-charting album in the US since 1972's Young, Gifted And Black. A more understated song that its predecessor, "Who's Zoomin' Who" did manage to make the top 10 in the US - her first back-to-back top 10 hits there for just as long. Once again, the song was co-written and produced by Narada Michael Walden, who'd come to be associated with one of the other artists debuting on the top 50 this week - a performer who just happened to call Aretha "aunty".




Number 46 "Sleeping Bag" by ZZ Top
Peak: number 36
Here's another song that made the US top 10 - peaking at number 8 like previous single "Legs" - but didn't do anywhere near as well in Australia. I think Australia got it right, since although "Sleeping Bag" shares the same synthrock sound as "Legs", it's not as good a song. But, it was the lead single from a brand new album, Afterburner, whereas "Legs" had been the final single from Eliminator - which always counts for a lot.




Number 45 "Appetite" by Prefab Sprout
Peak: number 45
They just missed the top 50 earlier in the year with "When Love Breaks Down", but this just as sleek follow-up sneaked onto the chart for a brief stay in the lower 40s. "Appetite" was also taken from the Steve McQueen album, which was released in the US under alternative title Two Wheels Good following legal issues with the Hollywood star's estate. Fun fact: Steve McQueen was produced by Thomas Dolby.




Number 44 "Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo)" by Red Box
Peak: number 29
More long-forgotten (by many) British synthpop now, with this breakthrough hit by the band fronted by Simon Toulson-Clarke. A number 3 hit in the UK, "Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo)" was notable for its music video featuring a sign language interpreter in the corner. At home, the band had a second top 10 hit with "For America", but this was their sole top 100 appearance in Australia.




Number 42 "Saving All My Love For You" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 20
Things hadn't got off to a great start for Whitney Houston in Australia, with the original release of "How Will I Know" and her breakthrough US hit "You Give Good Love" failing to find their way into the top 50. But third time was the charm, with Whitney's cover of "Saving All My Love For You" providing her with her first ARIA top 20 single. First recorded by Solid Gold host Marilyn McCoo back in 1978 and included on her album with husband Billy Davis Jr, Marilyn & Billy, the song's lyrics told the tale of a woman involved in an affair with a married man. The theme of infidelity in the song and video caused a bit of a stir, but not enough to prevent it from becoming her first US and UK number 1. In Australia, she'd have to wait a bit longer to top the chart. Oh, and obviously, Whitney is the singer with the link to Aretha, who was her "honorary" aunt, since Whitney's backing singer mother, Cissy, was a close friend.




Number 33 "Born To Be Wild" by Rose Tattoo
Peak: number 25
Of all the artists to have tried their hand at this song over the years, few have been as suited as Australia's own Rose Tattoo. Originally released by Steppenwolf in 1968, "Born To Be Wild" had never charted in Australia up until this point, making this remake by Angry Anderson and mates the first top 50 appearance by the classic rock track - a title it still holds. Released as the first single by the band through their new deal with Mushroom Records, it served as a stop gap between the Southern Stars and Beats From A Single Drum albums.




Next week: one of the most iconic songs in Australian music history and another debut from one of this week's new entries. Plus, the other half of Duran Duran arrive with their side-project, and a song that would go on to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award.


Back to: Nov 17, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 1, 1985


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: November 18, 1990

After a slow start in Australia, rap music was off and running in 1990. Two hip-hop singles had already been to the top of the ARIA top 50 by this stage in the year - and 25 years ago this week, a third rap song that would go on to top the chart made its debut.

If there was a problem, yo, he'd solve it

And what a single it was. A career-defining record that has come full circle over the years - from being loved at the time of its release to being derided shortly after and back to being acknowledged as a bona fide (if guilty pleasure) classic.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending November 18, 1990

Another '90s classic ascended to the top of the Australian chart this week in 1990. "Groove Is In The Heart" by Deee-Lite knocked "Jukebox In Siberia" from the number 1 position - although it would only stay there for one week.


Off The Chart
Number 97 "Holy Smoke" by Iron Maiden
Peak: number 93
A brief top 100 appearance for this lead single from the No Prayer For The Dying album - a song which conveyed the band's attitude toward American televangelists like the Bakkers.

Number 96 "Walk On" by Chantoozies
Peak: number 96
Having shed five of their eight members, the three-piece Chantoozies were struggling to get back into the top 50. Solution: release another cover version as their follow-up to this flop.

Number 93 The Weddings Play Sports (And Falcons) by Weddings Parties Anything
Peak: number 93
Their mainstream breakthrough was a couple of years away, but in the meantime, the popular live band released this EP of songs originally recorded by The Sports and Jo Jo Zep And The Falcons.

Number 70 "The Space Jungle" by Adamski
Peak: number 70
Brilliant UK chart-topper "Killer" (which launched vocalist Seal) had received no attention whatsoever in Australia, but this mediocre follow-up somehow made the top 100? Travesty.


Breaker
"I've Got You Under My Skin" by Neneh Cherry
Peak: number 61
Not even a brand new single from charity album Red Hot + Blue could lift Neneh Cherry out of the chart doldrums, with this cover of the Cole Porter classic that dated back to 1936 placing in the same vicinity as previous top 50 misses "Manchild" and "Kisses On The Wind". Like all the other tracks on the AIDS benefit compilation, "I've Got You Under My Skin" gave the song made most famous by Frank Sinatra (and also covered by The Four Seasons) a major makeover. In fact, very little of the original tune remained, with Neneh's version transforming the song into an edgy rap track.




New Entries
Number 50 "From A Distance" by Bette Midler
Peak: number 8
Here's another cover version, but in this case the original recording of "From A Distance" by country performer Nanci Griffith was more or less unknown, leaving the way clear for this remake by Bette Midler to become the definitive version. Similar in style to her last big hit (and cover), "Wind Beneath My Wings", Bette's take on "From A Distance" was the lead single from Some People's Lives, her first studio album in seven years. 
Despite lyrics that plead for peace and harmony, the big ballad became associated with the Gulf War that broke out around the same time as the single's US release - incidentally, my favourite bit of the song is when Bette dramatically emphasizes the last word in "even though we are at war" (around the 2:50 mark). Helped along by the link, "From A Distance" reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won the Grammy for Song Of The Year. 
In the UK, Bette even managed to out-perform Cliff Richard with her version. The two singers both released their recordings of the tune at the same time in the UK, with Cliff's single initially peaking higher, reaching number 11 as opposed to number 45 for Bette. But, crafty Bette re-released her version in mid-1991 and it went all the way to number 6. In Australia, as well as Bette reaching the top 10 for what would be the final time, there was the obligatory Fast Forward parody, which in this case was kind of an easy target.




Number 47 "The Obvious Child" by Paul Simon
Peak: number 42
The last time we heard new music from this half of Simon & Garfunkel, it was with his Grammy Award-winning number 1 album Graceland, which spent five weeks at the top across 1986-87 and yielded the number 2 smash "You Can Call Me Al". But while the similarly world music-influenced follow-up album, The Rhythm Of The Saints, reached number 3, this lead single featuring Brazilian drumming ensemble Olodum didn't crack the top 40. 




Number 44 "Rhythm Of The Rain" by Jason Donovan
Peak: number 44
Here it is: the final top 50 appearance for one-time chart sensation Jason Donovan. And what a dud single to go out on. Like "Sealed With A Kiss", "Rhythm Of The Rain" was originally recorded in the early '60s and chosen by producers Stock Aitken Waterman (although I'm sure Pete Waterman was really to blame) for Jason to remake in the hopes that it would have cross-generational appeal. 
Even more insipid than "Sealed...", this cover of the song first released by The Cascades was the latest in a line of dreary old ballads that SAW foisted on to their artists (it's worth listing the others again - with links! - if you can stomach them: "End Of The World", "Hey There Lonely Girl", "Tears On My Pillow"). Deservedly not advancing any further than this entry position, "Rhythm Of The Rain" was about as uncool a single as Jason could have released - and for once I didn't blame the Australian public for turning their back on him.




Number 42 "Miracle" by Jon Bon Jovi
Peak: number 8
With "Blaze Of Glory" now in free-fall - dropping 10 spots on this week's chart - it was time for a second single from Jon Bon Jovi. "Miracle" was also taken from Jon's Blaze Of Glory album, but was one of the songs "inspired" by Young Guns II rather than one that actually appeared in the movie - in fact, that was true for all but three tracks on the album. I wasn't a fan of "Blaze Of Glory" but could see why it was such a big hit, whereas with "Miracle", I couldn't understand it doing so well on the chart, apart from the fact that Jon was exceedingly popular at the time. But it's nowhere near as good as any number of Bon Jovi songs that had stalled in the top 30. Watch out for future Friends star Matt Le Blanc, who appears as one of Jon's motorcycle-riding squad in the music video - there's a clear shot of him at the 1:57 mark.




Number 37 "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice
Peak: number 1
I've never been a particularly big fan of this breakthrough hit for the rapper born Robert Van Winkle, but it is undoubtedly - and justifiably - one of the most significant singles to hit the charts in 1990. Although he initially tried to deny it (and later wrote his pretence off as a joke), "Ice Ice Baby' was based around a sample from "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie
No credit for the sample was originally given, but that changed pretty fast - especially since, as Vanilla Ice notes, "Ice Ice Baby" quickly sold millions of copies. Turns out, it wasn't the only songwriting dispute. In terms of his own contribution to the record, Vanilla Ice wrote the lyrics back in 1983 when, as a 16-year-old rapper, breakdancer and occasional law-breaker, he was involved in a drive-by shooting.
Often incorrectly described as an '80s hit, "Ice Ice Baby" did actually have its first release in 1989. It was included on the independently released album, Hooked, and on the B-side of his first remake of "Play That Funky Music" (a second version of which became his other big hit in 1991). Discovered hiding away on the flip side, "Ice Ice Baby" soon became the more popular track and resulted in major label interest - all of which led to a full release of "Ice Ice Baby" in 1990. 
In Australia, the single became the third rap track for the year to reach number 1 - a sure sign that music tastes were changing locally. What's more remarkable is that neither of the other two ARIA chart-toppers, "U Can't Touch This" and "Bust A Move", had reached number 1 in the US, and "Ice Ice Baby" became the very first fully rapped track to top the Billboard Hot 100. Draw whatever assumptions you like from that fact.




Number 30 "Strong As Steel" by Tina Arena
Peak: number 30
It was a case of too little too late as Tina Arena tried to make up for the error in judgment that had been "The Machine's Breaking Down" by releasing the title track of her debut album. A remake of the Diane Warren-penned mid-tempo tune first recorded by British sibling band Five Star in 1987, "Strong As Steel" should've been Tina's second big hit single in Australia. Instead, it peaked where it entered the top 50. 




Number 27 "Cult Of Snap!" by Snap!
Peak: number 27
With all the big songs debuting this week, it's kind of surprising to see that the week's highest new entry was the worst of the four singles taken from Snap!'s debut album, World Power. It's also a little odd that the tribal dance track progressed no further after such a flying start - but number 27 is about as good as this song warranted. Snap! would be back with a better effort - and improved chart position - for their next single.




Next week: as Australian-artist triple-play, with three of the less-remembered singles by Midnight Oil, Southern Sons and Daryl Braithwaite. Plus, another one of the songs that really made 1990 suck (for me).


Back to: Nov 11, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 25, 1990


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: November 17, 1985

It's not always a good idea when characters from TV series release spin-off singles. Scratch that - it's pretty much always a terrible idea. Case in point: 30 years ago this week, a character from one of my favourite shows at the time debuted on the Australian chart with a novelty record.

Neil was thrilled to make the Australian singles chart

Such was the popularity of the TV series that the single ended up becoming a top 30 hit in Australia, despite being fairly dreadful. But it least it wasn't as big here as it'd been in the UK, where it almost topped the chart.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 17, 1985

Another song that almost went to number 1 in Britain did manage to climb to the top of the chart in Australia this week in 1985. "Take On Me" by a-ha spent its first of two weeks at the chart summit.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "This Is England" by The Clash
Peak: number 62
This was the lead single from the final - and critically savaged - album by a Mick Jones-less version of The Clash. The LP was called Cut The Crap - and so they did, splitting in early 1986.

Number 96 "Is It A Dream?" by The Damned
Peak: number 69
The goth rock band had been going for a decade, but this single (which came with an alternate video) from Phantasmagoria was their first Australian chart appearance.

Number 94 "After The Fire" by Roger Daltrey
Peak: number 60
The Who might've amassed 13 top 50 hits, but their lead singer had only ever managed one as a solo artist, "Come And Get Your Love" (number 46 in 1975). This lead single from Under A Raging Moon, written by band-mate Pete Townshend, didn't add to that tally.

Number 91 "(When You) Call Me" by The Style Council
Peak: number 91
Not even the fact that this track was recorded live in Melbourne in August - and was exclusively released in Australia (before being issued in a couple of other countries in 1986) - helped this advance any further.

Number 86 "Eaten Alive" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 81
It might've been co-written by Michael Jackson and Barry and Maurice Gibb, and featured Michael and Barry on guest vocals, but this title track from Diana's 16th studio album was a resounding flop in Australia, the US and the UK.


New Entries
Number 50 "Hole In My Shoe" by neil
Peak: number 29
More than a year after it reached number 2 in the UK, this spin-off single by the miserable hippie from The Young Ones finally reached the ARIA chart. The reason for the delay, of course, was that in a pre-fast tracking world, the cult sitcom about four uni students sharing a house, which aired between November 1982 and June 1984 in Britain, took its time to make it on to Australian TV and really develop a following. Upon the song's initial release here in 1984, it only just slipped into the top 100.
One of the more obvious candidates for a novelty record, neil (as his character name was stylised for this release) moaned his way through a remake of the 1967 single by Traffic (also a UK number 2 hit). Produced by Dave Stewart (not the Eurythmics member), "Hole In My Shoe" also featured the vocals of Barbara Gaskin, with whom Dave had previously recorded a hit remake of "It's My Party"
As much of a fan of The Young Ones as I was, I couldn't get into "Hole In My Shoe", partly because I hate novelty records in general, but also because I much preferred Rik and Vyvyan to Neil on the show. Those characters - as well as Mike - would also have their time on the singles chart in 1986, with a cover version that performed a whole lot better than "Hole In My Shoe".




Number 46 "Living On Video" by Trans-X
Peak: number 40
Here's another song that took its time to reach Australia. "Living On Video" was originally released in Canada in English and French (as "Vivre Sur Vidéo") versions by synthpop duo Trans-X in 1983. Remixed in 1985, it became a UK top 10 hit and even cracked the Australian top 40 as a 12" release.




Number 45 "Nikita" by Elton John
Peak: number 3
In last week's 25 Years Ago... post, we saw as Elton released his first career-spanning retrospective - and this single from 1985 was one of nine songs from the '80s included on the 30-track collection. It was actually his highest-charting single in both Australia (an honour it shared with "I'm Still Standing") and the UK for the decade. 
The tale of forbidden love during the Cold War, "Nikita" is about a guy from the West (Elton) who falls for someone called Nikita (inferred to be a woman in the music video but actually a male name in Russia) - but Nikita will "never know" of the guy's affections. In the video, the love interest is actually a woman working at border security who lets Elton across the border... but they never get to share intimate moments, like a game of tenpin bowling, together. 
The song, which features Nik Kershaw and George Michael on backing vocals, was the subject of a plagiarism lawsuit against Elton and his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, three years ago - but the claim was dismissed. Although "Nikita" shared some overarching lyrical themes about an East-West romance with the other song, there's no copyright protection for a general idea.




Number 23 "If I Was" by Midge Ure
Peak: number 10
These days, it's often overlooked that he was the co-writer and producer of Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and the co-organiser of Live Aid, but in 1985 there was a lot of goodwill towards Ultravox frontman Midge Ure as a result of his part in the charitable events. So much so that when he decided to restart his solo career (which had produced two stand-alone singles up until this point), anything he released probably would've been given a warm reception. 
As it turned out, "If I Was" just happened to be a really good song - and duly went to number 1 in the UK and reached the Australian top 10. Would it have done so well without his humanitarian efforts? I'd like to think so. Although he came close with 1989's "Dear God", Midge never saw the inside of the ARIA top 50 again - either as a solo artist or with Ultravox, who released one final album in 1986.




Next week: Whitney Houston finally breaks into the top 50 - with a song that is often forgotten to be a cover version. Another remake brings Rose Tattoo back to the chart, and there are new hits from Whitney's "aunt", ZZ Top, Prefab Sprout and Red Box.


Back to: Nov 10, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 24, 1985


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: November 11, 1990

It used to be a proven formula: hit movie plus power ballad equals chart smash. And indeed, this week in 1990, two of the week's new entries on the ARIA singles chart were soundtrack singles that would wind up being the biggest hits of the summer.

Two of 1990's most iconic film couples

One was a new song by the former lead singer of a little-known American band, while the other was the re-release of a single that'd reached number 3 in 1965. One of the two would go on to top the Australian top 50. 

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending November 11, 1990

At number 1 this week in 1990, the reformed Skyhooks ruled the roost for a second week with "Jukebox In Siberia", but thankfully it would be the single's final week on top.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Angel Street" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 97
A brief top 100 appearance for this second single from Harley & Rose, which I don't think I'd realised was even released. The Sorrows would return to the top 50 in 1991.

Number 99 "Isolate Your Heart" by Ana Christensen
Peak: number 66
Taken from the American-born, Australian-based singer's major label debut album, this ballad peaked at number 90 in 1990 before returning to the chart for an improved run in April 1991.


Breaker
"Walking By Myself" by Gary Moore
Peak: number 55
A cover of a 1954 blues track by Jimmy Rogers, "Walking By Myself" was the third single from Gary's Still Got The Blues album - and it's a pretty faithful rendition, down to the sub-three minute running time.




New Entries
Number 49 "So Hard" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 27
After a pretty consistent run of hit singles between early 1986 and early 1989, Pet Shop Boys had been absent from the ARIA top 50 for coming up to two years, so I was very happy to welcome them back with their best single since their remake of "Always On My Mind". The lead track from their fourth album, Behaviour, which was produced by Neil and Chris with synth legend Harold Faltermeyer, "So Hard" was a typically detailed tale of a couple cheating on each other. Like songs such as "Domino Dancing" and "Left To My Own Devices", "So Hard" wasn't the biggest of hits in Australia - peaking at exactly the same position as Behaviour would manage - but in the UK it was their 10th consecutive top 10 record. Unfortunately for them, that was a run that was about to be broken...




Number 48 "Show Me Heaven" by Maria McKee
Peak: number 3
Our first soundtrack hit was the theme to Days Of Thunder, the car racing film that brought Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman together. I've never seen that movie, but I did buy this single (on cassette), performed by former Lone Justice singer Maria McKee. A British number 1, "Show Me Heaven" had to settle for five weeks at number 3 in Australia - although Maria had been responsible for a chart-topper here, having written Feargal Sharkey's "A Good Heart" back in the mid-'80s. The soaring ballad would end up being Maria's only chart hit, probably because its ultra-commercial feel was at odds with her usual, more niche style - and she would routinely leave it out of her concerts in the years following its success. 




Number 44 "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers
Peak: number 1
Movie hit number two was not a new song. In fact, it was a very old song, with a gap of 25 years having passed since this version of the frequently recorded song was last on the  Australian chart. But The Righteous Brothers weren't the first act to record "Unchained Melody" - not by a long shot.
The melody was originally composed in the 1930s and the lyrics written two decades later when the tune was included in the 1955 film Unchained (thus the title), performed by Todd Duncan. The Oscar-nominated song then went on to be recorded numerous times over the next decade (including a batch of versions that all came out in 1955) - and many did quite well on the Australian, US and UK charts. In Australia alone, two versions reached number 1 - those by Les Baxter and Al Hibbler.
So by the time the duo of Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley released their remake in 1965, it was an incredibly well-known track. Nevertheless, The Righteous Brothers' version of "Unchained Melody" reached number 3 in Australia, number 14 in the UK and number 4 in the US that year.
Then, after its memorable inclusion in the film Ghost in 1990, the original recording sped back up the charts, finally making it to number 1 in Australia and the UK, and foiled from doing the same in the US due to the existence of rival versions of the single - the original and a re-recording - both of which were on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously. The song has continued to be recorded by other artists ever since (including two more chart-topping versions in the UK), but no matter how often "Unchained Melody" is covered, it will forever more be best known as the song from that pottery scene.




Number 37 "Shout Me Down" by The Slow Club
Peak: number 36
Like Bang The Drum and Wildland, this Melbourne band seemed to be another attempt by an Australian record label to launch a 1927-style group with radio-friendly, sing-along pop/rock songs. But also like Bang The Drum, Wildland and even 1927 at that point, The Slow Club faltered, with debut single "Shout Me Down" only advancing one more spot on the top 50. Fronted by singer Andrew Sefton, The Slow Club also included in its number former Japan guitarist Rob Dean.




Number 35 "You Gotta Love Someone" by Elton John
Peak: number 32
The second new entry for the week which was included on the soundtrack to Days Of Thunder - a fact I'd forgotten about until now - "You Gotta Love Someone" was also one of two new songs to appear on The Very Best Of Elton John. The first compilation that spanned the extent of Elton's full career (which by 1990 was already impressive), the double CD capitalised on Elton once again being a global chart force thanks to singles like "Healing Hands" and "Sacrifice". "You Gotta Love Someone" was, however, one of the more forgettable singles of the 80+ he'd released by 1990, and was another of this week's new entries not to make much progress beyond this entry position.




Number 30 "Miles And Miles" by Noiseworks
Peak: number 26
Here's our third track in a row that looked like it might become a big hit but failed to move much further up the chart - and it's one I think should have been much bigger given it was Noiseworks' best single in years. Like previous release "Freedom", "Miles And Miles" was taken from the upcoming Randy Jackson-produced album Love Versus Money - but two consecutive chart disappointments meant that album wouldn't see the light of day until mid-1991, by which time the band had finally managed another top 10 single.




Next week: the most successful white rapper of the pre-Eminem era, Tina Arena covers a song by British group Five Star, Jason Donovan makes his final top 50 appearance, and new hits from Bette Midler, Snap!, Jon Bon Jovi and more.


Back to: Nov 4, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 18, 1990


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

30 Years Ago This Week: November 10, 1985

Earlier in 1985, Scottish sweetheart Sheena Easton had sexed up her girl-next-door image and emerged as one of the year's raunchiest female performers. Thirty years ago this week, another female artist, Olivia Newton-John, used sex as a weapon - with less impressive results.

Not so many people fancied a tumble in the sheets with ONJ

It wasn't the first time one of ONJ's releases had been considered racy - but unlike "Physical", which was about as sexual as holding hands, this time there was clearly a deliberate attempt to up the raunch factor. As it turned out, perhaps Livvy would have been better releasing something as tame as her 1981 mega-hit.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending November 10, 1985

Another mega-hit was at number 1 on the ARIA singles top 50 this week in 1985. "I Got You Babe" by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde spent its third and final week on top.


Off The Chart
Number 95 "Lost In The Fifties Tonight (In The Still Of The Night)" by Ronnie Milsap
Peak: number 66
The eighth and final single to make the top 100 (but not the top 50) for the blind country star no doubt benefitted from the incorporation of the 1956 standard by The Five Satins.

Number 88 "Just As I Am" by Air Supply
Peak: number 79
Another top 20 hit in the US, this lead single from the Australian duo's self-titled album - their first studio set since 1983's chart-topping Greatest Hits - failed to find favour locally.

Number 87 "Brand New Friend" by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
Peak: number 73
The trio of singles from Rattlesnakes had all charted within weeks of each other - and eight months over, this lead track from Easy Pieces was yet another release to miss the top 50.


New Entries
Number 48 "Soul Kiss" by Olivia Newton-John
Peak: number 20
Just like her Grease character, Sandy, formerly pure and innocent singer Olivia Newton-John realised that if you couldn't beat them, why not join them. In an attempt to out-sex Madonna, ONJ kicked off her 13th album with this seductive single, performed in her best come hither vocal style and accompanied by a music video in which she mostly rolled around in red bed sheets. OK, there were a few reenactments of classic love scenes as well - featuring Livvy's new husband, Matt Lattanzi, in a supporting role. 
More overtly sexual than anything Olivia had done before, "Soul Kiss" was miles away from the image makeovers she'd had for her Totally Hot and Physical albums - and it would seem that the public weren't so interested in seeing her in sex vixen mode. It didn't help that "Soul Kiss" was a pretty average song. If she was going to take on the next generation of female singers, she was going to have to do better than this.




Number 46 "What About Love?" by Heart
Peak: number 28
Speaking of makeovers, here's a band that had undergone a major change in sound if not in visual image. Originally a rock band with a much harder edge, Heart became known in the mid-'80s for their slickly produced power ballads. Power ballads like "What About Love?", which became the band's first major US hit in five years. In Australia, there'd been an even longer gap between top 40 visits - Heart's last hit had been 1977's "Barracuda", which had reached number 15 and was typical of the band's earlier sound. 
Originally recorded by Canadian band Toronto, whose members Brian Allen and Sheron Alton had co-written it with Jim Vallance (the co-writer of many of Bryan Adams hits), "What About Love?" was recorded but not released by Toronto and offered to Heart instead. In this case, the makeover worked with this hit just the start of Heart's chart comeback. And for those of you familiar with my feelings towards a certain single released by Heart in 1990, I'm happy to say I'm a fan of this track.




Number 39 "Cold Fever" by Models
Peak: number 36
It was a major comedown from the 2-1 of their previous couple of singles - "Barbados" and "Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight", but this top 40 placing for "Cold Fever" was to be expected given 1) it was the fourth track released from their current album and 2) it was an OK song but not a classic Models single. "Cold Fever" was also the third single in a row written (or co-written) by James Freud, with Sean Kelly having to wait until the fifth release from Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight for another turn in the spotlight.




Next week: a solo single from one of the brains behind Band Aid, a novelty record from one of the most popular comedy characters of the year and one of Elton John's biggest hits of the decade.


Back to: Nov 3, 1985 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 17, 1985


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

25 Years Ago This Week: November 4, 1990

It's always been the case in music that when one act fades away, another similar artist is waiting in the wings to take its place. And to prove the point, 25 years ago this week, there was a changing of the guard in the hair metal stakes.

Warrant: all dressed up and ready to shock

As the second-biggest band in the genre flopped with their latest release, a newer group scored their first ARIA top 50 hit single - and just like that the baton was passed.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending November 4, 1990

At number 1 this week in 1990 was an Australian band that'd seen its time come and go - and then come again. "Jukebox In Siberia" by the reformed Skyhooks spent the first of two weeks on top of the ARIA singles chart.


Off The Chart
Number 81 "If Wishes Came True" by Sweet Sensation
Peak: number 68
Their debut album had yielded no chart action whatsoever in Australia, but the freestyle trio cracked the top 100 with their obligatory big ballad - a US number 1.


Breaker
"Violence Of Summer (Love's Taking Over)" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 59
They ended the '80s with career retrospective Decade - and what a career Duran Duran had enjoyed so far. In Australia alone, they'd placed eight songs inside the top 10 - but things had taken a downward turn following the relatively disappointing performance of 1988's "I Don't Want Your Love". Looked like it wasn't going to get any better in the '90s, with this first single from Liberty giving the band their worst lead-off to any album up until that point. 
Even for a big Duran Duran fan like me, "Violence Of Summer..." was a bit of a disappointment. It's not a terrible song, but it certainly wasn't up to their normal standard, with Simon Le Bon saying years later that it didn't have a "proper chorus". Meanwhile, the three-piece version of the band that had existed since 1986 once again became a quintet, with touring guitarist (and future porn star) Warren Cuccurullo and drummer Sterling Campbell added to the permanent line-up.




New Entries
Number 50 "Candy" by Iggy Pop
Peak: number 9
Despite their wide-reaching influence on music, up until the late '80s, neither Iggy Pop nor his (then) former group The Stooges had been especially successful on the Australian charts. Proving that "Real Wild Child (Wild One)", which peaked at number 11 in 1987, was no one-off, Iggy went even better and finally landed a top 10 single with this second release from the Brick By Brick album. On this occasion, Iggy had more than a little help from his duet partner on "Candy" - Kate Pierson from The B-52's, who proved to be a popular choice of guest vocalist around this time and whose soaring vocals were the essential ingredient that made "Candy" such a guaranteed hit.




Number 48 "I Can See Clearly Now" by Hothouse Flowers
Peak: number 22
Irish band Hothouse Flowers seemed to be becoming regulars around the tail end of the top 50, with their first three singles peaking between number 39 and 53, so it was time to shake things up a bit. Why not a gospel-y cover of "I Can See Clearly Now", originally a number 3 hit by reggae star Johnny Nash in 1972? At first, it looked like the remake was destined to suffer the same fate as the band's previous releases - peaking here at number 48 before sliding right out of the top 100. But, the song had a new lease of life in February and broke the curse by climbing as high as number 22. Still, Australia seemed to prefer the song in its original reggae style, with a more faithful rendition by Jimmy Cliff beating Hothouse Flower's position just over three years later.




Number 47 "Lover Of Mine" by Alannah Myles
Peak: number 47
After enjoying two of the year's biggest hits with "Love Is" and "Black Velvet", Alannah Myles ran out of luck with her third single, "Still Got This Thing". Time then for the Canadian rock chick to wheel out big ballad "Lover Of Mine", which at least returned her to the top 50, even if it progressed no further.




Number 44 "Something To Believe In" by Poison
Peak: number 44
Here's another rock ballad entering the top 50 at what would be its peak position - and it was the final ARIA top 50 appearance for the normally much more fun Poison. A pretty sombre, issues-driven effort, "Something To Believe In" was also the band's last major hit in the US, with subsequent singles from Flesh And Blood scraping the bottom of the top 40 there.




Number 43 "Number One (Remember When We Danced All Night)" by Margaret Urlich
Peak: number 24
Ballad "Only My Heart Calling" had slipped into the top 50 in July, but New Zealander Margaret Urlich found herself back in the middle of the chart with her third single, a boppier track that even received a PWL remix for the 12" single. The production on the standard version could've been a bit punchier, but it was hard not to like "Number One...", a song that seems to have become long-forgotten. Although neither this single nor "Escaping" had been major hits in Australia, Margaret's album, Safety In Numbers, was settling in to an extended run in the top 10 at this point in its shelf-life, which was probably better news for her bank balance.




Number 42 "Cherry Pie" by Warrant
Peak: number 6
Poison might have come over all serious - and bottomed out on the chart as a result - but fellow hair metal band Warrant brought the fun with this lead single from their second album of the same name. Best known up until this point for their US hit power ballad "Heaven", the band fronted by bleach blond singer Jani Lane (real name: John Oswald) channelled the cheekiness Poison had shown on songs like "Nothin' But A Good Time" and "Unskinny Bop", and turned the sexual overtones up to 11. 
One of those tracks written - in 15 minutes, allegedly - at the behest of a record company eager for a hit single, "Cherry Pie" was about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Then, there was the music video, featuring former Miss Teen USA runner-up Bobbie Brown (real name) cavorting around in what back then passed for next to nothing. 
With all that going for it, "Cherry Pie" couldn't fail - and it ended up being the biggest of this week's new entries. Fun fact 1: Jani and Bobbie, who met while filming the video, ended up dating and then marrying in 1991. They divorced in 1993. Fun fact 2: Poison guitarist C C DeVille played on "Cherry Pie".




Number 36 "I'm Your Baby Tonight" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 7
Just as Mariah Carey was settling in nicely as America's new diva on the block, the singer who turned the big ballad into an art form during the late '80s stormed back onto the charts to reclaim her throne - or, at least, put up a decent fight for it. But, for her first single in two years, Whitney Houston opted for an upbeat tune, just as she had in 1987 when she kicked off Whitney with "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)"
Written and produced by the hit American songwriting and production team of LA Reid and Babyface, the US version of "I'm Your Baby Tonight" returned her to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 - her eighth chart-topper. For its release in Australia (and Europe), the R&B track was given a more pop remix by Yvonne Turner, and the song became her biggest hit and first top 10 record since "I Wanna Dance...".




Next week: it's power ballad o'clock with a couple of big songs taken from two of 1990's hottest films. Plus, the return of my favourite group of all time and some big debuts that quickly puttered out of steam.


Back to: Oct 28, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 11, 1990