Just Giblets

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 5 & 6

4th June 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 5 & 6

Here we are at the Top 6, and from here on out, the ladies rule. We’ve got a couple of first-time appearances on the list today, one band I’m sure you’re all aware of, the other act, probably not…

#6 – Jenny Morris – She Has to be Loved

Jenny Morris is a New Zealand born, Australian pop singer. In her native country she had some Top 20 success with her initial band, Crocodiles, before moving to Sydney and embarking on first, a career as a back-up singer for established acts, then as a in another band called QED before finally finding success as a solo artist. In the U.S., Jenny first appeared singing back-up for INXS on The Swing album. She then recorded a duet with Michael Hutchence, performing Nancy Sinatra’s hit, Jackson, which climbed to #2 on the Australian charts. She then joined the band on their world tour for the Listen Like Thieves album, where I discovered her. Her first of several fantastic solo albums, Body and Soul followed soon after.

She Has to be Loved is the second single from her second and most commercially successful album, Shiver. The jittery, propulsive dance number is infectious and delightful. It’s her highest charting solo single, reaching #5 on the Austrlian charts and #3 on the New Zealand charts. It’s feminist lyrics make it a favorite among her female fans.

#5 – Divinyls – Sleeping Beauty

What can I say about Divinyls? Formed in Sydney in 1980, with core members Chrissy Amphlett and Mark McEntee, Divinyls were a formative force in my musical life from the moment I heard Boys in Town until Chrissy’s untimely death at age 53 from breast cancer and beyond. Chrissy’s unabashed sexual ferocity on stage was notorious as she lashed out at other band members and the audience. I remember an early club show I saw of Divinyls, women at the front of the audience would rest their purses on the edge of the stage, and Chrissy would go through them, pulling out lipstick and other items. Her voice, which seemed uncontrolled and strained was actually laser sharp and a tool that Chrissy wielded with precision and beauty. There are so many amazing songs that Divinyls performed over the years that it was difficult not to fill this list with all of them.

Instead, Divinyls get two in the Top 5, starting with Sleeping Beauty, a gorgeous love-ballad from their second album, What a Life! The album was a huge success climbing to #4 on the charts. In Australia, Sleeping Beauty was the fifth single from What a Life!, peaking at #50. In the States, the lead single, Pleasure and Pain written by hitmakers Holly Knight and Michael Chapman, became their first Top 1oo single, reaching #76. Sleeping Beauty was the follow-up single and while it didn’t chart, it got significant airplay on MTV. I love this song and video so much. It’s a great merging of Divinyls emotional sincerity and dark perversions to create a love song all their own.

posted in 1980s, Australia, Divinyls, Favorites, Lists, Music | at 9:14 am | 1 Comment
28th May 2017
by Michael

Top Australian Pop Songs – #’s 7 & 8

Took a little break from my list of Top Australian pop songs, but I’m back as we continue to move through the Top 10. These two songs even have a familial connection.

#8 – Throw Your Arms Around Me by Hunters & Collectors

The second song from Melbourne’s Hunters & Collectors to appear on this list is upon first look, a bit of an anomaly for the band. This beautiful ballad is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. It’s a song that talented songwriter Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House wished he had written. It goes against the propulsive, muscular, political rock songs Hunters & Collectors is usually known for. But frontman Mark Seymour definitely has a sensitive and romantic streak in him, and this song fully embodies it, with such lyrics as “We may never meet again, so shed your skin and let’s get started…”

Throw Your Arms Around Me was released first as a single only in 1984, then included on their breakthrough commercial hit album, Human Frailty in 1986. Many American audiences were exposed to the song during Crowded House’s first U.S. tour, and appearance on MTV Unplugged. Crowded House bass player Nick Seymour is Mark’s younger brother. It’s definitely one of my top love songs of all time.

#7 – Love This Life by Crowded House

Although led by New Zealander Neil Finn, Crowded House was formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1985. Crowded House garnered much success in its home country as well as here in the U.S. Their breakthrough international hit, Don’t Dream it’s Over climbed to #2 in the U.S., #1 in Canada and New Zealand, but curiously, only to #8 in Australia. Songwriter Neil Finn has written so many beautiful songs, and is well known for his songwriting talent. In addition to Don’t Dream It’s Over, songs like Something So StrongWorld Where You LiveBetter Be Home SoonWeather With You, and It’s Only Natural could all have appeared on this list.

I’m cheating again a little, because the song I have chosen to represent Crowded House isn’t even a single, but rather in my mind, one of the most beautiful pop songs ever written. Love This Life is an album track lifted from their second album, Temple of Low Men, and I just find the lyrics, and the gorgeous turn of melody from the dark verse to the hopeful and lovely chorus to truly embody was a lovely song is. And I also included by favorite single by the band, also taken from the Temple of Low Men album. When You Come was the second single released from their second album and it didn’t chart in the States, but it hit #27 in Australia.

This entry includes some really outstanding songwriting, and it’s lovely to have them all together in one post.

posted in 1980s, Australia, Favorites, Lists, Music | at 5:13 pm | 2 Comments
18th May 2017
by Michael

Top 20 Australian Pop Songs – #’s 13 & 14

#14 – Another Day in the Big World by Eurogliders

Eurogliders are the first Perth-based band to appear on this list, and they came together in 1980. After releasing a first album that didn’t do much for them, their second album, This Island, exploded, peaking at #4 in Australia, and hitting #140 on the Billboard Top 200 albums. It spawned their first Australian Top 10 single, Heaven (Must Be There), which climbed all the way to #2. It reached #65 on the Billboard Hot 100. I saw Eurogliders live at a club in Boston, and had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with keyboard player Amanda Vincent and drummer John Bennetts at a ’til Tuesday show the night before. I think they were surprised anyone knew who they were, and even knew their names!

There are a lot of Eurogliders songs that I loved, and could have chosen for this list but the update single, Another Day in the Big World is definitely one of my favorites. This was the second of four singles released in Australia off This Island, and it peaked at #66.

And I’m sure many of you remember their single, Heaven (Must Be There)

#13 – Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain) by Inxs

Certainly the most well-known band to appear on this list, Inxs were an international sensation. Forming in 1977 as The Farris Brothers, Inxs released their first, self-titled album in 1980. The band hit it big in Australia and made some waves on the alternative scene in the U.S. with their next two albums, Shabooh Shoobah and The Swing. But it was with their fifth album, Listen Like Thieves that they achieved true international success with the single What You Need hitting #2 in Australia, and climbing into the Top 5 in the U.S. They would go on to even greater success with their follow-up album, Kick, and their #1 U.S. hit, Need You Tonight.

For my list, I’ve included their fourth single off the Listen Like Thieves album, Kiss the Dirt (Falling Down the Mountain). The song becaome their 10th Australian To 20 hit, peaking at #15, but it failed to chart in the U.S. It did however climb to #24 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks. The accompanying video was shot in Coober Pedy in South Austrlia. The flew direct form the U.S. to shoot the video overnight, then returned to the U.S. the following day.

 

posted in 1980s, Australia, Music | at 6:46 am | 2 Comments
22nd April 2013
by Michael

What a Life!

Chrissy AmphlettTerribly saddened to hear this morning of the death of Chrissy Amphlett, former lead singer of the Australian band Divinyls.  She passed away in her home in New York City where she lived with her husband, former Divinyls drummer, Charlie Drayton, after suffering from breast cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2010 and MS in 2007.  She was only 53 years old.

Although best known in the States for her titillating Top 5 U.S. hit “I Touch Myself” in 1991, the Divinyls came into my life in 1983 with the U.S. release of their first album, Desperate.  I was introduced to Divinyls by my friend Doug, who was the one who often discovered these bands first, and I wasn’t thoroughly convinced right away.  Their first single, “Boys in Town” was a smash, Top 10 in Australia, but it only got a little airplay in the States.  The song that captivated me from their first album was the clever love song, “Science Fiction.”  With its witty lyrics and catchy pop hook, “Science Fiction” just gets in my head and keeps me singing.

Their follow-up album, “What a Life!” was arguably their breakout album on alternative radio in the States, led by their first charting single in the States, “Pleasure and Pain,” written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman.  Every song on that album is a winner, but once again, it was their second single that had the biggest impact on me, the beautiful pop confection, “Sleeping Beauty.”  It’s a beautiful song with subversive lyrics, barely contained sexuality, and a feminist twist that was often found in Amphlett and McEntee’s songs.

Divinyls will be well remembered for their intense stage performances, and Chrissy’s wild antics and school girl outfits.  She hurled herself across the stage, pouting, sneering, careening into her partner-in-crime, guitarist Mark McEntee.  I was fortunate to see Divinyls perform life several times, from tiny clubs like Axis to much larger venues, and even got to go backstage to meet them after their self-titled album that spawned their biggest it.  I will cherish a photo I have with the band, and Chrissy running her fingers through my hair.  I like to say, the woman who touches herself was touching my hair.

They went on to record several more albums peaking with their afore-mentioned smash hit, “I Touch Myself.”  Chrissy also performed on stage and screen.  Her film debut was the Austrlian film MONKEY GRIP, released in 1982.  She had successful theatre experiences, playing Judy Garland in the touring company of “The Boy from Oz,” and playing the lead in “Blood Brothers.”

Chrissy announced her diagnosis of MS at the start of their 2007 tour, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.  The last years of her life were difficult as her body failed her.  But her music will live on.  Divinyls were a major part of the soundtrack of my life in the 80’s.  Everytime I go back and listen to their catalog I thrill to the songwriting skills and musicianship found in their music.  Chrissy Amplett was a pioneer for women in rock, unafraid of her sexuality, rage, and vulnerability that found her a unique and ground-breaking place in the male-dominated industry.  I will remember her and her music as an integral part of my coming-of-age.

posted in 1980s, Divinyls, Music | at 7:51 am | 0 Comments
17th October 2009
by Michael

Anne Murray at the Hippodrome

Thanks to the fabulous Jann Arden I found this amazing video of Anne Murray performing with some of the biggest early 80s British pop stars of the day. Don’t miss it. It’s work watching. Anne Murray rocks!

posted in 1980s, Canada, Music | at 12:52 pm | 0 Comments
10th July 2009
by Scot

Forever Plaid, Not So Bad. (Not so hot, either.)

Forever PlaidThanks to Chris Caggiano and some lady at NCM Fathom (a division of National CineMedia), Michael and I were able to see the one-time-only 20th Anniversary Special “cinecast” of Forever Plaid. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a four person musical that opened Off-Broadway in 1990 and ran for many years. (The 20th anniversary, presumably, celebrates one of its pre-New York limited runs in smaller theaters.)

The premise of the show is that a quartet of clean-cut young men, on their way to pick up snazzy plaid tuxedos to top off their burgeoning swing/jazz vocal career, are killed when their Mercury crashes into a busload of Catholic schoolgirls who were headed to watch the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. We are able to watch them perform the show they always meant to do because they have one tiny reprieve from the afterlife. That’s about it for the plot and it always has been. It’s basically a cute excuse to perform a lot of nice 50’s and 60’s tight harmony numbers well, with a wink and a nudge.

The show is now pretty much a staple of regional dinner theatres, and truth be told, that’s probably where it should stay. It’s a cute show and with the right voices, makes for a satisfying dessert. My 86-year-old (I think that’s right) father-in-law would love it. My grandma would have loved it too, if I’d taken her twenty years ago. But alas, she passed several years ago. I was really hoping to love it too because I really dig the sounds of The Hi-Lo’s, who I consider the masters of this kind of tight harmony vocal acrobatics. But in the end, the film and associated live-broadcast performance left me feeling like I’d watched a fun HBO theatre special from 1980, like Annette O’Toole in Vanities or Margot Kidder in Bus Stop — an amusing two hours, but kinda like “donuts for dinner.”

So here I sit, wanting something a little meteor meatier. Why? The voices were just fine. The guys were mostly coming across very sincere, so the jokes played just fine. Some jokes were pretty lame, and the constant bumbling was a bit much to stomach outside of a dinner theatre setting, but I’m not one to quibble about that.

But first of all, the evening was presented as if it were going to be a live broadcast of the stage show. At least, that’s what I thought from the trailer we saw Tuesday at the Harvard Square Lowes. Instead, what we got was a live introduction from Fred Willard at some unknown theater in Los Angeles rambling on about how awesome it was that this was being broadcast in 500 cinemas in the U.S. and Canada. Then they showed a movie. A movie staged and shot months before. Then, the live broadcast returned to Fred Willard’s theater and — to their credit — the cast members performed some live numbers.

Second, the voices were lovely, but they did not have the energy or punch of The Hi-Lo’s. That’s just me, I know, raising my expectations based on a really high bar. The Hi-Lo’s were named that for a reason: a really, really wide range of pitch, including a first tenor that sounded like a freaking coronet. (If you haven’t heard them, lemme play you a few tracks.) Besides a few bass-heavy numbers, the Plaids were more like The Four Freshmen or … I dunno, the Ink Spots. More suited for recordings or concerts than dynamic theatre. In fact, it wasn’t until the after-film live numbers that I could even hear the high tenor wail and then I think it wore on him cause he started to crack or go flat after the first couple numbers.

Third, the direction of the film was just awful. Sorry, but you know how I said it was like an 80’s HBO theatre special? Let me amend that by saying it was like an 80’s HBO theatre special run through Adobe After Effects. Someone didn’t trust the actors to keep our attention and insisted on inserting all kinds of graphics and animation over the performers. Particularly distracting was the sheet music frame around the Scottish number and the floating business cards around their event-related medley. Ick. But what do you expect? The director was Stuart Ross, the man who conceived, wrote, and directed the stage show. All he’s credited with directing on IMDB are this film, one episode of Frasier, and one episode of Veronica’s Closet. It looks like Dad ran Baby’s first birthday through some cheesy iMovie effects.

And finally, the film boasts that it has original cast members from the stage show. Well, David Engel, who plays the bass vocalist Smudge is pretty cool. He’s my favorite performer, all told, in the film. He’s adorably goofy, but not too annoying, and gets an awesome “stud moment” late in the show. But Stan Chandler, who plays the first tenor Jinx is looking… well, like he should be 20 years younger. Oddly, so does Larry Raben, who plays Sparky, the “cut up” of the group. I’m not sure why he was cast, since he was not in the original cast and he’s playing the role created by one of my favorites — Jason Graae. Not sure what Jason’s been up to lately. He must be lying low. The fourth member, Frankie was played by Daniel Reichard of Jersey Boys fame. He was pretty good, but I can’t say I have the same attraction to him that Chris does. He’s a little too pretty.

The evening was not bad by any means, however. There is a singalong component to Forever Plaid, which I love under most contexts. I was singing my lungs out to “Matilda” along with a few others in the audience. And the after-film performance had a bit of that too. It was kind of difficult, since there were only 17 people in our audience at the Fenway 13 cinema (including the four of us who got in on Chris’s press comps), and the live performance tried to divide us into four-part harmony. But WTF. I took the high road and sang the first tenor in falsetto because there were so few people there to be embarrassed in front of.

But there were two really special parts of the evening. In the post-film performance, the Plaids trot out — OMG — Carol Effing Channing!!! She sings “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” admonishing the audience for applauding after the first verse because “I’m not DZHUN yeyat!” And then the Plaids try to get her to teach “us” how to sing “Sh-boom, Sh-boom. Ya-da-da-da-da, Ya-da-da-da.” But she’s unsure if she’s singing the right number of “Ya-da-da’s.” Priceless. And God knows, this may be the closest I get to seeing her live before she leaves us!

The other special part was getting to meet Chris and his friend Victor, who he knows from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Such charismatic men, both! At one point, I turned to Michael to explain that Forever Plaid was a bit like Nunsense, but since it had very little plot, it was more like Oil City Symphony. Chris grabbed my hand and said, “You just said Oil City Symphony. We are going to get on just fine.” Or something like that. My heart melted in a totally non-adulturous way.

Here’s to the power of digital media. It can stream Fred Willard live to 17 people in Boston. Or it can make really awesome friends.

posted in 1980s, Friends, Movies, Musicals, Reviews, Theatre, Web | at 1:35 am | 3 Comments
1st July 2009
by Scot

A perfect place for zombies

Carnival of SoulsIn the last two days, I’ve watched a good bit of b-film horror, including Silent Night, Bloody Night, Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead), and most of Carnival of Souls. And now, the fog lays low on our street. It’s quite creepy really, and I’ve just looked over our back balcony to the tree-canopied backyard that cannot grow grass, only moss.

I can’t help thinking we need to throw a Thriller party.

I know. That’s so unlike me.

posted in 1980s, Horror, Movies, OMGWTFBBQ!?, Weather | at 12:05 am | 0 Comments
14th September 2008
by Michael

Something I NEVER thought I’d see

So, during the first two or three years of the 1980s, my favorite band was a little South African outfit called Spider.  They had one top 40 hit called “New Romance (It’s A Mystery)” but became better known for a what a couple of their members went on to do after the band broke up.  Anton Fig was their drummer, and he was well-known for performing nightly on the David Letterman show.  Holly Knight played keyboards, and she went on to be a famous songwriter who wrote songs for the likes of Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Heart, Aerosmith and many, many more.

Having missed my one chance to see them live (they were supposed to open for Alice Cooper at the Cape Cod Coliseum and I bought tickets but the show was cancelled!) and never having known them to shoot a video, I thought my chances of ever seeing them perform — even faking it — were nil.  Well, leave it to YouTube. You’ll recognize the song because Tina Turner went on to make it a huge hit.  However, Spider recorded it first, and this version will always be the one I remember and cherish the most.  (Although it’s edited way down in this clip.)

Feast your eyes on this!

posted in 1980s, Music, Video | at 9:12 pm | 0 Comments
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