28 August 2020

Week commencing 28 August 1989

Before I start this week's post, I want to highlight that you can now follow my posts on instagram at the embedded link.

One thing all of this week's debuting acts have in common is that they had patchy success on the Australian charts.  A couple of big hits a decade apart, a one-hit wonder with (much) greater success in movies, an artist who had more success as a jingle writer, and a relic from the 1950's - we've got 'em all this week.  So let's take a look...

The B-52's morph into The CFC-52's with this track... though I wonder how many CFC's were released with all that hairspray?

Top 150 debuts:

Number 114 "Warrior" by Public Image Ltd 
Peak: number 114
Peak date: 28 August 1989
Weeks in top 150: 4 weeks

One thing that annoys me is when a band name is not consistent across their releases.  Sometimes a band name has a The at the front of it; other times it doesn't.  Or, even worse, the sleeve artwork says one thing, but the disc says another.  Consistency, please!  Here, case in point, we have Public Image Limited - or Public Image Ltd, P.I.L, or PiL - take your pick!  On this release, the band - fronted by former Sex Pistol John Lydon a.k.a. Johnny Rotten - are billed as Public Image Ltd... on the sleeve, but P.I.L. on the vinyl label and CD.  Do you see why I find this so infuriating?  Now, onto the music in question, up until now, P.I.L. (or whatever you want to call them) had placed two singles on the Australian chart, the biggest of those being "This is Not a Love Song" (number 17, January 1984).  "Warrior" was the second single lifted from the album 9 (number 57, August 1989), and peaked at number 89 in the group's native UK.  Public Image Ltd will join us again in 1990, though under the name Public Image Limited.  See what I mean?

Number 133 "Raising Heaven (In Hell Tonight)" by Patrick Swayze 
Peak: number 131
Peak dates: 11 September 1989, 18 September 1989 and 25 September 1989
Weeks in top 150: 6 weeks

Patrick Swayze hit the big time as an actor towards the end of 1987, with the phenomenal success of the movie Dirty Dancing and its accompanying soundtrack.  Patrick also tried his hand at singing, and scored a top 10 hit with "She's Like the Wind" (number 6, April 1988).  While Patrick is generally thought of as being a one-hit wonder when it comes to the charts, it didn't matter so much, as music was not his raison d'ĂȘtre - in fact, he never released an album.  It may then surprise some readers to know that he scored a second 'hit' - of sorts - on the Australian charts with this track, another movie tie-in, from the Road House soundtrack (number 43, July 1989).  "Raising Heaven (In Hell Tonight)" also registered on the Swiss charts, where it peaked at number 30 in August 1989.  Patrick, of course, passed away in 2009, aged 57.

Number 146 "Channel Z" by The B-52's 
Peak: number 145
Peak date: 4 September 1989
Weeks in top 150: 2 weeks
Weeks on chart: 5 weeks

The B-52's scored two decent-sized hits in Australia in 1980 with "Rock Lobster" (number 3, May 1980) and "Private Idaho" (number 11, September 1980); but no other single they had released up until now had peaked higher than number 43 on the Australian charts.  Their last charting single down under was "Summer of Love" (number 90, December 1986), and they hadn't troubled the top 40 locally since 1980.  Fast forward to 1989, the group had since lost guitarist Ricky Wilson to AIDS in 1985, and their previous fun-loving, party image had been replaced by a more 'serious', politically conscious one... at least for this single.  Somewhat prophetic, "Channel Z" touched upon the brainwashing nature of dedicated 24-hour TV news channels (which weren't a thing in Australia until 2009), getting all of your 'news' from one source, and the looming environmental catastrophe. Thirty-one years later, we seem to be in a much worse state with these things.

The lead single from their Cosmic Thing album, "Channel Z" didn't exactly set the charts alight.  The only other place it charted in 1989 was in the Flanders region of Belgium, where it peaked at number 43 in September 1989.  In Australia, "Channel Z" performed strongest on the South Australia/Northern Territory state chart, where it peaked at number 78.  This pattern of doing best in South Australia/Northern Territory was evident across all of the singles issued from Cosmic Thing - perhaps most strikingly when "Love Shack" debuted at number 101 nationally, but at number 7 on the SA/NT state chart!  Cosmic Thing also topped the SA/NT state chart in December 1989; a month before it reached number 1 nationally.

"Channel Z" was re-issued in 1990 in several countries, including Australia (in September 1990), after the success of "Love Shack" (number 1, December 1989), "Roam" (number 11, March 1990), and... er, "Deadbeat Club" (number 73, April 1990), but did not re-enter the top 150 again.  The 1990 release of the single registered on the UK charts, however, peaking there at number 61 in August of that year.  "Channel Z"'s lack of success surprises me, as it seemed to get the group back on the radar - I caught the video on Countdown Revolution several times, and songs about the environment seemed to be topical in 1989.  Nevertheless, the single propelled Cosmic Thing to number 62 on the ARIA albums chart in September 1989, before its ascent to number 1 in January 1990, following the success of "Love Shack".

In a way, "Channel Z" was perhaps one of the first 'buzz release' singles - used primarily to generate interest in the group again before 'attacking' with the sure-fire hit sledgehammer that was "Love Shack".  As it turns out, "Channel Z" was recycled as the B-side on "Love Shack".  The B-52's will visit us again in 1992.

Number 150 "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis 
Peak: number 101
Peak date: 11 September 1989
Weeks in top 150: 7 weeks

I have previously written about this one, in my special post on singles peaking at number 101.  OK, you may be asking 'why is a song from 1957 on this list?'  Well, "Great Balls of Fire" was re-recorded to coincide with the release of the biopic film about Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire!, where Dennis Quaid plays the leading role.  This issue of the single performed particularly well in New Zealand, where it peaked at number 8 in September 1989.  For once, I think us Aussies showed better taste in not making it a hit again.

Bubbling WAY down under:

Number 161 "When the Day Is Done" by Stephen Cummings 
Peak: number 161
Peak date: 28 August 1989
Weeks on chart: 1 week

This track was the third and final single lifted from Stephen's A New Kind of Blue album (number 53, March 1989).  Stephen was technically the first artist I saw live in concert, as the support act on the Australian leg of Tori Amos' Under the Pink tour, in December 1994.  To date, Stephen had only landed two solo top 40 hits since The Sports disbanded in 1981; and the last of those was in 1984.  Stephen, of course, had notable success as a jingle-writer for TV commercials, such as this Medibank Private one, which still occasionally pops into my head, 30 years later...  If only some of Stephen's jingles had been singles!  We will see Stephen again numerous times in the coming years, with his next visit being in 1991.

Number 164 "Cha Cha Heels" by Eartha Kitt and Bronski Beat
Peak: number 151
Peak date: 18 September 1989
Weeks on chart: 3 weeks
British band Bronski Beat, formed by Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek, burst onto the Australian chart in 1984 with their debut single "Smalltown Boy" (number 8, August 1984), with then band member Jimmy Somerville on vocals.  Further hits with Jimmy on lead included "Why" (number 10, November 1984), "It Ain't Necessarily So" (number 58, February 1985), and "I Feel Love (Medley)" (number 34, June 1985) with Marc Almond.  Jimmy then left the band to form Communards, whose biggest hit was "Don't Leave Me This Way" (number 2, November 1986), before embarking on a solo career.

Jimmy was replaced by singer John Foster, who sang on further Bronski Beat hits "Hit That Perfect Beat" (number 3, March 1986) and "C'mon C'mon" (number 27, June 1986).  Check out the strategically-placed coconuts in the video for the latter if you haven't seen it before!

Steve and Larry wrote "Cha Cha Heels" with drag actor/singer Divine, who scored a top ten hit in Australia with the Stock Aitken Waterman-produced (their first hit) "You Think You're a Man" (number 8, October 1984), in mind.  As Divine passed away in 1988, they instead offered the song to actress/singer Eartha Kitt, best known (at least, to me) for her role as one of two women who played villainess Catwoman in the Batman TV series from the 1960s.  Eartha reprises her trademark Catwoman purr on this track.

Internationally, "Cha Cha Heels" peaked at number 32 in the UK in July 1989, and number 22 in Ireland during the same month.  In Australia, "Cha Cha Heels" performed strongest in Western Australia, where it reached number 114.

The video for "Cha Cha Heels" is notable for only including fleeting appearances from Bronski Beat co-founder Larry Steinbachek, owing to his gradual departure from the band around this time.

Sadly, we have since lost Steve Bronski (died in 2021), Larry Steinbachek (died in 2016) and Eartha Kitt (died in 2008).

Next week (4 September): Next week there are just two new top 150 debuts, and that's all!  You can also follow my posts on facebook and instagram.

< Previous week: 21 August 1989                                          Next week: 4 September 1989 >


  1. "i feel better now, so much better now..." Damn you Nathan, now that jingle is stuck in my head. Yeah, Stephen Cummings should have released it as a single. Very catchy tune.

    I remember loving "Channel Z" the 1st time i saw it (on Countdown Revolution of course) and feeling like the B52s had been robbed when it wasn't a hit. Still, it prompted me to join the hordes & buy their album, so classic case of single promotes the album which arguably equals better royalties...

    1. One of the deciding factors for me, when buying the "Love Shack" cassingle, was the fact that "Channel Z" was its B-side. I had never actually heard of The B-52's before (though later realised I'd heard "Rock Lobster" and "Private Idaho") when I saw the "Channel Z" video for the first time, and it definitely left an impact on me.

      I wonder how well that Stephen Cummings jingle would have done if it was a full song and had been released as a single... Probably better than all of his solo releases, I'd say.

  2. What's happened to gavins website? Looks like the content has been erased or something!

    1. (replying about 40 minutes after your comment) The site is loading normally for me; perhaps it was down for maintenance?


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