Friday, December 23, 2011

Too Young To Be Married - The Hollies

The Hollies
(T. Hicks) Parlophone A 9406


Chart Entry: 29th May, 1971
Highest Position: #1
Points: 103,041
From the album
"Confessions Of The Mind".


The British domination of America during the mid-60's could not be done by The Beatles alone. They needed a sidekick and it came in the form of The Hollies who mirrored much of The Beatles' style and set up. Both bands debuted around the same time, both lost a valuable member towards the end of the decade, and both enjoyed success all over the world. What sets them apart, is their longevity, as The Hollies are one of only three British groups from the early 60's to be performing today.

Throughout the 60's, The Hollies provided the charts with plenty of pop treats that saw them hit the UK top ten 15 times during the decade, two more added to that tally by the mid-70's. Australia gave the band five top tens during the 60's, denying them a #1 hit during that time. But the 70's proved to be a popular time after being freed of The Beatles reign, and finally The Hollies scored themselves an unlikely #1 with "Too Young To Be Married".

Confessions Of The Mind was the first album released after The Hollies' key member, Graham Nash left to pursue his career with Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was also a chance to recover from a critical blast that saw their previous albums falter in the charts. It was less experimental, trading in the sitar for a beautiful string section which featured on "Too Young To Be Married". The seemingly straight forward approach to the album has seen many of its tracks rate among The Hollies' best.

"Too Young To Be Married" was pure schmaltz, a man and a woman who battle the everyday struggles of domestic life. At first they're happy, in love, and content in the things that usually annoy us. Despite pressure from their family who think they are "too young to be married", the happy couple make things work. By the end of the song, the cracks start to show as the wife is trapped in the same routine that she was promised to be free from years ago. Those words keep repeating in her head, "too young to be married", and so now her married has become an empty promise to keep so as to not prove her doubters right.

"Too Young To Be Married" was only released as a single in Australia, and if that success was anything to go by, there may have been a huge worldwide hit waiting in the wings. It wasn't to be, but there was still plenty more to come from the band, The Hollies almost adding two more #1's to their Australian total when 1972's "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" and 1974's "The Air That I Breathe" peaked at #2 on the Go-Set charts. Both were among the bands biggest hits in America but unfortunately both also signaled the end of their chart reign, conditioned to minor hits from then on.


Chart Run: (22 weeks in Top 100)
(Go-Set Charts)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

If Tomorrow Never Comes - Ronan Keating

Ronan Keating
(G. Brooks, K. Blazy) Polydor 570 719-2


Chart Entry: 6th May, 2002
Highest Position: #3
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 102,957
From the album "Destination".


Garth Brooks never had much luck on the Australia singles charts as he struggled to find success with a hit single during his reign as the premier Country music star of the 90's. Just two releases found their way into the ARIA Top 100 during 1994, "Standing Outside The Fire" (#45) and "One Day A Night" (#35). So when Ronan Keating decided to open his second album account with a cover of Garth's very first US Country #1, "If Tomorrow Never Comes", he was able to save some face in this country for Garth.

"If Tomorrow Never Comes" was the first of 19 US Billboard Country #1's, taken from Garth's debut self-titled album which sold more than 10 million copies in the US, giving him a rare Diamond accreditation. It kicked off a sales boom for Country music that lead to Garth being named the biggest selling albums artist since 1991! Ronan Keating had plenty of hits experience in Australia, scoring top tens both as a solo artist and with his former band, Boyzone. "If Tomorrow Never Comes" gave the Irish singer his third #1 single in the UK, also helping the Destination album reach the top spot as one million copies were eventually shipped inside Europe alone.

Despite Garth's 90's success, it would be 1989's "If Tomorrow Never Comes" that would remain his signature song. He shipped the idea for the track around constantly to find a songwriter who could give it that final polish. Enter Kent Blazy who immediately connected with Garth, and continued to provide hits for the Country superstar, writing at least one track for each of Garth's albums, bar one.

Had it not been for "When You Say Nothing At All", this hit would have provided that same signature song for Ronan Keating, but his Notting Hill track is a hard one to rise above. Nevertheless, "If Tomorrow Never Comes" set a tone for Destination that saw three Country covers released as singles. OK, so his hit duet with Lulu, "We've Got Tonight", is technically a Bob Seger remake, but Kenny Rogers did release his own cover. And then it gets tricky. Fourth single, "The Long Goodbye" was written by Ronan and fellow Irishman, Paul Brady a couple of years prior to his Destination success. In the time between, Country music duo, Brooks & Dunn scored a US Country #1 with their version, Ronan re-claiming the track in 2003 when it hit #3 in the UK.

Ronan Keating's version of "If Tomorrow Never Comes" has prompted many international music lovers to discover how magical Garth Brooks' version is, many converting back to the original as their version of choice. While this may be true, Ronan can be satisfied that his is the version that opened the door to Garth's music outside America.


Chart Run:
(25 weeks) (ARIA Top 100)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Key Largo - Bertie Higgins

Bertie Higgins
(B. Higgins, S. Limbo) Epic ES 726


Chart Entry: 12th April, 1982
Highest Position: #2
Points: 102,915
From the album
"Just Another Day In Paradise".


In a similar vein to The Clash's "The Right Profile" and Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes", Bertie Higgins brought the legendary Humphrey Bogart to the radio with a homage to the actor. Who cares if he mixed up his movie quotes and re-wrote some of the movie scenes, "Key Largo" struck a chord with the public, sending it to #2 on the Australian charts in what would be Bertie's only chart appearance.

Key Largo was released in 1948, pairing Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall for the fourth and final time. The married couple were one of the most glamourous and popular couples in Hollywood, and relatively happy despite their differences - Lauren loved the nightlife, Humphrey liked to stay home. The film was more a thriller than a love story, but Humphrey and Lauren still shine as they battle not only a nervous group of gangsters, but a raging hurricane.

"Key Largo" was a love song, but there was criticism that Bertie had all his Bogarts mixed up. The lines "Here's looking at you kid" and "Please say you will, play it again" were obviously lifted from Humphrey's most famous movie, Casablanca, but "Key Largo" was not meant to be a re-creation of the film, rather a reminiscence of times spent watching old movies with his loved one. However, there were still errors that could legitimately be pointed out. There was no "sailing away to Key Largo" as Humphrey rocked up on a bus to pay his respects to the family of his dead friend. Lauren played the widow who was already at the hotel owned by her father-in-law. Furthermore, while in real life Humphrey was an avid sailor, Lauren couldn't stand the ocean as she suffered from seasickness.

Casablanca was relegated to supporting duties on "Key Largo", but Bertie provided its own song on his album, Just Another Day In Paradise. The song "Casablanca" was quickly recorded by Japanese singer, Hiromi Go, his version reaching #2 on the Japanese Oricon charts, selling over half a million copies in the country. Just Another Day In Paradise rode those coattails as it hit #4 in Japan, becoming the second biggest selling album of the year by a Western artist.

"Key Largo" was a US #1 Adult Contemporary hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the UK turned their backs on the single, placing it at #60 at its peak. Australia gave the single its best chart performance, but Bertie's follow-up was nowhere to be seen. His albums' title track, "Just Another Day In Paradise" failed to make any impression, bar a #46 placing in the US before disappearing from the charts forever. There has been another four albums released over the years, but these days Bertie, himself, is involved in the film industry, acting, producing and writing his own scripts with son, Julian.


Chart Run:
(25 weeks) (Australian Music Report)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Push - Matchbox 20

Matchbox 20
(R. Thomas, M. Serletic) Atlantic / Lava AT0021CD


Chart Entry: 21st September, 1997
Highest Position: #8
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 102,907
From the album
"Yourself Or Someone Like You".


Back when the Matchbox guys were "20" rather than "Twenty", success took its time for the Florida outfit, having to wait a year after the release of Yourself Or Someone Like You to finally see some chart action. Their first release, "Long Day" was a credible success on US radio, opening the door for the follow-up, "Push" which officially saw the arrival of one of the most successful bands of the last couple of decades. If "Long Day" suggested Matchbox 20's wait for success, then "Push" did exactly that, up the charts.

Pop ruled the charts in 1997, as groups such as Spice Girls, Aqua and Backstreet Boys coloured the charts in a way that hadn't been seen since the 80's. Not that they didn't provide some of the finest moments in pop history, but there was definitely a hole in the market for some gutsy mainstream rock, and Matchbox 20 had just the album waiting in the wings. "Push" still had to play second fiddle to pop in the Australian singles charts, not able to rise above #8 on the ARIA charts, but with almost half of its 36 week chart run within the Top 20, there was enough long-lasting success to put it amongst some of the biggest singles of all time.

The tables turned in 1998. On the ARIA End Of Year Albums chart, the Spice Girls provided us with the ninth biggest album of the year with Spiceworld. Backstreet Boys took out fourth spot for Backstreet's Back while Aqua's Aquarium surprised everyone by ending the year as the second biggest selling album of 1998. At the top? Matchbox 20's Yourself Or Someone Like You, accredited 9xPlatinum in Australia, and selling over 10 million copies worldwide to be awarded the rare Diamond Award.

With all this success coming Matchbox 20's way, there had to be some catch, and the controversies came their way via some feminist groups who slammed "Push" for its seemingly sexist lyrics suggesting violence towards women. Matchbox 20 frontman, Rob Thomas, explained that the song was more than its chorus, and further understanding in the verses revealed the violence was emotional rather than physical, inflicted on the male figure in the song rather than the female. And Rob would know, he wrote the song about his own failed relationship, losing most of his clothes in the break-up when they were "donated" to charity by his future ex-girlfriend.

Matchbox 20 never repeated the success of Yourself Or Someone Like You, but with all their albums managing at least a triple Platinum accreditation in Australia, they haven't exactly failed either. For a good while it seemed "Push" would be as good as it got for the band on the singles charts, but 2007's "How Far We've Come" from the greatest hits package, Exile On Mainstream, broke the spell, climbing one place higher in the charts, and is still to come in this list.


Chart Entry: (36 weeks)
(ARIA Top 100)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Morning After - Maureen McGovern

Maureen McGovern
(J. Hirschhorn, A. Kasha) 20th Century-Fox TK 4985


Chart Entry: 12th May, 1973
Highest Position: #2
Points: 102,724
From the soundtrack album
"The Poseidon Adventure".


The mother of all 70's disaster movies gave Maureen McGovern a chance to hang up her secretary gloves and briefly become the darling of Oscar's Best Song award. The Poseidon Adventure was undoubtedly the biggest movie of 1973, doubling the earnings of Deliverance, the second biggest for the year. By the end of 1974, The Poseidon Adventure was among the six biggest movies of all time, a list including Gone With The Wind, The Sound Of Music, The Godfather, Love Story, and the disaster movie that started the 70's trend off, Airport. So any song featured in a film that big was certain to be a success.

"The Morning After" featured in the films opening scenes as passengers on the SS Poseidon prepared themselves for a New Years party they would never forget. Carol Lynley played the ships' resident singer, Nonnie Parry, who performed "The Morning After" as part of the nights entertainment. Of course, it was lip-synced by Carol, Renee Armand providing the actual vocals for the film version. Nonnie survived two hours of life threatening obstacles to be one of the six survivors of the tidal wave disaster.

20th Century Records boss, Russ Regan was shopping around for a vocalist to bring "The Morning After" to the singles market. Barbra Streisand was the obvious choice at the time, but she was too busy with her own projects to even consider the offer. The answer to his woes had already been provided months before when a secretary and part-time Folk singer, Maureen McGovern gave him a demo tape of a few songs she had recorded. After fishing out the tape again, Russ had no hesitation to hire Maureen to record the song, despite not even knowing what she looked like.

Maureen McGovern had recorded and released "The Morning After" during The Poseidon Adventure's run at the box office, but still the single went unnoticed as far as the charts were concerned. A Best Song win at the 1973 Oscar's hurtled "The Morning After" to the top of the US Billboard charts, and almost repeated the success on the Australian Go-Set charts, stalling at #2. The timing of her success was perfect, counter balancing her own personal problems including a divorce and the news of her mothers' diagnosis with colon cancer. While "The Morning After" has been labelled a "generic song of hope", it has its believers, Maureen finding strength from hundreds of letters describing her fans' own problems, and news that her song has helped them cope with their misfortunes.

Maureen continued her Oscars success two years later when the theme from another disaster movie, The Towering Inferno, took out the Best Song prize for "We May Never Love Like This Again". The single was released to include "Wherever Love Takes Me" from the British disaster film, Gold, a song also nominated for the same award. While the US largely ignored the release, Australia remained faithful enough the give Maureen another Top 5 hit. Maureen later released "Can You Read My Mind" from the 1978 film, Superman. Maureen McGovern was certainly the figure of hope in a world of disaster.

Maureen's chart success subsided after the 70's, but she has achieved critical success over the years, including a couple of Grammy nominations towards the end of the 90's. 2008 saw her release an album of covers called The Long And Winding Road, a collection that she currently tours with since its release. Oh, and Maureen was able to turn the tables on those disaster movies she became so associated with. She played the hilarious singing nun in 1980's disaster spoof, Flying High.


Chart Run: (26 weeks in Top 100)
(Go-Set Charts)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Little Boy Lost - Johnny Ashcroft

Johnny Ashcroft
(J. Ashcroft, T. Withers) Columbia 45-DO 4128


Chart Entry: 26th March, 1960
Highest Position: #3
Points: 102,722
From the album "Mostly Folk".


In February 1960, Australia was at a stand still as the biggest land and air search took place to find four year old Steven Walls who went missing in the New England Ranges of New South Wales. Some five thousand people and seven aircraft took part in the operation lead by Aboriginal tracker, William Stanley. He quickly became known as the "little boy lost", losing the tag four days later when he was found alive and well.

Johnny Ashcroft had been active in the music industry for a few years by the time news of the missing boy came to light, and soon his composition detailing the event and honouring the help made its way towards the top of the charts, eventually landing at #3. It became one of the biggest Australian hits of the time, and made waves worldwide via a TV performance that was distributed as the songs film clip. At a time when singles went unaccompanied by their visual counterpart, Johnny Ashcroft became an unlikely pioneer of the format, continuing to provide clips for his music.

With a lengthy run in the Australian top ten, "Little Boy Lost" was awarded the first Australian Gold Record accreditation, a feat repeated in New Zealand, all without the aid of hitting the top of the charts. Its worldwide appeal saw many artists cover the track including Jimmy Dean, Michael Holliday, Jimmy Little and Slim Dusty. Johnny re-recorded the track himself in 1978 as part of the soundtrack for the film version of the incident. Little Boy Lost premiered in Armidale close to the area where Steven was lost and received a German Catholic Award for decency.

The connotations associated with "Little Boy Lost" didn't work well for Johnny later in 1960 when a Sydney schoolboy, Graham Thorne, was kidnapped, later found murdered. It was a little too close to home for family and friends involved, so Johnny personally moved to have all airplay of his hit abandoned in what would the only such incidence where an artist stopped their own singles' success.

Johnny Ashcroft continued to record and perform for years after the success of "Little Boy Lost", but unfortunately he found it hard to keep his chart success alive. After a couple of minor hits, "The Girl Behind The Bar" would be the best he could do when it hit #31 in 1962, another track accompanied by a film clip. But Johnny was indeed a legend and pioneer of Australian music and awarded the Medal of the Order Of Australia in 1990.


Chart Run: (28 weeks in Top 100)
(Kent Top 20)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Long And Winding Road - The Beatles

The Beatles
(J. Lennon, P. McCartney) Apple A 9163


Chart Entry: 4th July, 1970
Highest Position: #6
Points: 102,718
From the album "Let It Be".


All good things come to an end, and with the release of "The Long And Winding Road" came the end of The Beatles, the most successful recording act in history. It was not a happy ending, tensions in the band causing much of their later work to be handled by various producers rather than The Beatles themselves. Phil Spector took control of the Let It Be album, including this track where most of The Beatles' instrumentation made way for his "wall of sound" of orchestral instruments. Because of this, only John Lennon and Paul McCartney remain in the final recording of the song, John featuring on bass guitar in his only Beatles recording in that role.

While not present in the final mix, George Harrison sided with John in favour of Phil Spector's treatment of "The Long And Winding Road", however, it was totally different to Paul McCartney's initial vision, later stating that he hated what Phil had done to the song. The band was sent into further turmoil as a result, unable to save themselves as impending solo careers took over the bands' unity. Paul took his grudge to the courts, citing Phil's treatment of the song as one of the six reasons that broke up The Beatles. But Spector was put in a very awkward position, John Lennon later stating, "Phil was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it, and he made something of it." George and John further championed the producer by employing Phil to oversee their next solo efforts.

Paul McCartney wrote "The Long And Winding Road" in Scotland, the relaxing landscape and beauty a great inspiration for him. He had Ray Charles in mind for the song, but it was finally offered to Tom Jones upon completion with the proviso that it would be released as his next single. Tom already had "Delilah" slated for release, so politely declined, a decision he regretted for years after. If "The Long And Winding Road" was going to be put on vinyl, then it looked like The Beatles would have to do it themselves, but there has been no shortage of covers since its release, many artists taking up the chance to record the now classic, including Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, Diana Ross, George Michael and Olivia Newton-John.

It's comes as no surprise that Paul McCartney halted the release of "The Long And Winding Road" in the UK, but even he couldn't stop a single making its way onto the American market where it spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. It Australia, the single failed to reached the Top 5, something of a rare Beatles occurrence, previously seeing the Eight Days A Week EP reach #84 in 1965. It also halted an eight straight #1 run for the group, but there was still a "long and winding" 12 week stay in the Go-Set Top 10 that ensured "The Long And Winding Road" would still be included as one of the most successful singles of all time.

Paul McCartney's original imagining of "The Long And Winding Road" finally saw the light of day in 2003 via the Let It Be...Naked project. It was Let It Be without Spector and his "wall of sound" which has caused division among critics since its 1970 release. Void of the lush instrumentation and choral overdubs, the track is as close to the original Beatles recording as it has ever been, also closely resembling the version appearing in the 1970 Oscar winning film, Let It Be.


Chart Run:
(23 weeks in Top 100) (Go-Set Charts)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Not Fair - Lily Allen

Lily Allen
(L. Allen) Parlophone 9641472


Chart Entry: 6th April, 2009
Highest Position: #3
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 102,659
From the album "It's Not Me, It's You".


With chickens, cows, and a banjo, Lily Allen set the Country music movement back forty years to a time when it was all about...err, the country. With "Not Fair", she could have easily continued the current "sexy" trend championed by Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes, but an unflattering white jumpsuit ensured it was all about the music and not the image.

Lily Allen's second release from her Australian #1 album, It's Not Me, It's You, matched the #3 peak of her previous single, "The Fear", helping the album to an eventual 4xPlatinum accreditation. "Not Fair" would also give Lily her best placing to date on the famed JJJ Hottest 100, coming in at #8 on the 2009 list, quite possibly the highest position any "Country" song has reached.

Back to Lily's Country inspiration for "Not Fair", the video clip was introduced by Porter Wagner, using real footage from his 60's television series for a mock Porter Wagner Show performance. Porter was most famous for introducing the world to Dolly Parton, and collaborated on many albums with her, but for this show, it was time for a "purty little lady to come forth with a real purty song". There was no special effects in the clip, nothing special at all actually, just Miss Lily Allen and a farmyard of animals. The whole clip was even shot of video tape to ensure the authentic Porter Wagner experience.

"Not Fair" had an entirely different subject matter to the "innocence" of the video shoot and instrumentation. The song tells of how Lily's new found love is perfect in every way, but when it comes to the bedroom, therein lies the imperfection. His laziness and selfish nature truly shines and leaves poor Lily unsatisfied where it really counts.

In a similar but twisted vein to Carly Simon's "You're So Vain", Lily revealed in an interview that "Not Fair" was certainly about a specific person, but "the person in question is far too arrogant to even consider that it might be about him". She even went as far to play him the song and still the thought never crossed his mind. While that put Lily in a powerful position as a woman, it also hindered her ability to muster any interest in other men, fearing they would become the subject of a future Lily Allen single. In a later interview, Lily stated she regretted writing the song.

Regret or not, "Not Fair" spent an extra two months in the Australian Top 100 than "The Fear", making it her most successful single in this country. It also highlighted an emerging artist not afraid of blurring extreme genres to create something truly different, and more importantly, making it work. Let's make her welcome, indeed, Miss Lily Allen!


Chart Run: (44 weeks)
(ARIA Top 100)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Most Girls - P!nk

(D. Thomas, Babyface) Arista 74321 79201 2


Chart Entry: 4th September, 2000
Highest Position: #1
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 102,645
From the album "Can't Take Me Home".


The new hero of female pop flexed her muscles nice and early in her career, following her #2 debut, "There You Go" with the #1 Australian hit, "Most Girls". It was as if a higher power was showing us the past and future all at once when P!nk broke up a power struggle between the two biggest female artists of all time, Madonna and Kylie Minogue, who were swapping the top position almost weekly with "Music" and "On A Night Like This". This little seven week period of the charts in 2000 highlighted the three biggest female artists of all time in the Australian charts.

At just 15 years old, Alecia Moore, better known as her nickname "Pink", joined R&B girl group, Choice. They were picked up by LaFace Records, a joint venture of L.A. Reid and Babyface, and soon a record deal was sealed including a debut album all ready to go. That album never saw an official release, but there is a Choice moment on the soundtrack for Shaquille O'Neal's 1996 film, Kazaam.

Choice disbanded in 1998, but P!nk continued her association with LaFace, Babyface producing most of her debut album, Can't Take Me Home. Of course, this meant that P!nk was also associated with the R&B genre, nestling alongside Destiny's Child and *NSync as her contemporaries, and finding herself opening concerts for the latter of the two.

"Most Girls" itself fitted snuggly alongside any on the R&B releases at the time. The disjointed beat and sparse instrumentation typical of the style. There were signs that the attitude was there, but P!nk hadn't been fully "dissed" just yet, and was still looking for a man to offer her "real love". The video clip segued from "There You Go", changing its tune slightly from the motorcycle babe of the first to a leather clad warehouse boxer in the second. She was knocking out the weaker female opponents then just as she is now on the charts. In the end, P!nk finds her "real love" with a very handsome man in true "happy ending" style. Ah, R&B.

P!nk admitted that the two year period it took to record and promote Can't Take Me Home trapped her as an artist, unable to express her real musical influences. Despite her co-writing seven tracks, there's hardly a shred of evidence that the P!nk we now know had anything to do with the album. But we all have to make a start somewhere, and Can't Take Me Home still gave her estimated worldwide sales of 5 million copies, an amazing effort given the fact that the album only ever reached the top ten in Australia alone, and that was at #10.

P!nk's success in Australia has never declined. Her frequent trips to our shores are reward for our devotion to her right from the start. Apart from Can't Take Me Home finding its highest positioning on the Australian charts, we were also the only country to place any of the albums' releases at the top. Her collaboration on "Lady Marmalade" aside, it took a second album for the UK to honour her with a #1 single, 2002's "Just Like A Pill", and an amazing five album wait for 2008's "So What" to finally give her a US Billboard #1.

"Most Girls" was the first of five #1 singles in Australia, her biggest tally in a single country, and one of eighteen top ten hits, making her Greatest Hits...So Far!!! set packed full of hits. Unfortunately, unlike Madonna and Kylie, P!nk seems to be a little embarrassed by her earlier works, leaving them out of her concerts. "Most Girls", unlike "Holiday" and "I Should Be So Lucky", hasn't been part of a P!nk show since 2004, and so becomes one of those forgotten hits in the P!nk catalogue.


Chart Run: (22 weeks)
(ARIA Top 100)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Move Baby Move - Johnny O'Keefe

Johnny O'Keefe
(M. Maurer, W. Farrell) Leedon LK 378


Chart Entry: 8th June, 1963
Highest Position: #1
Points: 102,644
From the album
"The Best Of Johnny O'Keefe".


As far as chart statistics were concerned, there was nothing wrong with Johnny O'Keefe's career in 1963. With seven top ten singles to his name, three of those #1 hits, Johnny earned his place as Australia's pioneer rock and roller, but behind the scenes there was a career barely holding on.

Johnny O'Keefe juggled his successful career with mounting personal problems while at his peak. A car accident in 1960 left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, spending some time in hospital after a nervous collapse. There was no better example of the high and lows of the music industry when just a few months later "Come On And Take My Hand" hit the top of the Australian charts, Johnny's second #1. A year later "I'm Counting On You" took that tally to three, bookended by two top ten hits, "Ready For You" (#10) and "Sing!" (#6). Johnny O'Keefe definitely had a loyal fan base to support him throughout all the hardships.

To add to his workload, Johnny joined ATN-7, later known as Channel Seven to compere The Johnny O'Keefe Show. The dangerous moved was confirmed with multiple public breakdowns, including some months in a psychiatric ward. It caused the producers of the show to rename it Sing Sing Sing, fearing that Johnny's run as compere would soon be over. But he overcame that prediction and continued with the show until it was cancelled in October 1965.

A couple of minor hits at the end of 1962 saw Johnny O'Keefe stumble for the first time during his two year high. Eight straight Top 20 hits were followed by "Yes, Indeed I Do" (#38) and "I Thank You" (#24) confirming his backers greatest fears. But there was still one more hit in the wings, and soon Johnny was back on top, his fourth and final #1, "Move Baby Move" gracing the top of the Australian charts. Originally recorded by Gil Hamilton, who was also the original artist for "Tell Him" by The Exciters, "Move Baby Move" found its biggest audience in Australia with Johnny at the helm.

There was no saving Johnny O'Keefe's impending decline. He became more and more controversial, resistant to change in the music industry, and seemingly mocking his trips to the psychiatric ward, a place he called "holiday camp". But he kept a full card of engagements despite the cancellation of his TV show, and took time out to entertain the troops in the Vietnam war. There was even time for a 70's comeback where another two top ten hits were added to Johnny's impressive discography to ensure that one of Australia's greatest musical pioneers would go out with a bang instead of a whimper.


Chart Run: (21 weeks in Top 100)
(Kent Top 20)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Angel Of The Morning - Merrilee Rush

Merrilee Rush
(C. Taylor) Stateside OSS 8389


Chart Entry: 26th June, 1968
Highest Position: #1
Points: 102,616
From the album "Angel Of The Morning".


It was "divine intervention" when a struggling Chip Taylor finally came up with "Angel Of The Morning" following a two hour writing slump. After trying to string two chords together, without any luck, he composed the song in 20 minutes, stating in a later interview that he dreamed the song into existence rather than consciously wrote it. He uttered the line "There'll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can't bind your heart", and coupled with a slower version of "Wild Thing" which he had written a couple of years earlier, he soon had a hit song on his hands.

"Angel Of The Morning" was given to emerging teenage singer, Evie Sands, with promising signs of success until her record company went bankrupt two weeks after its release. Enter Merrilee Rush and her band, The Turnabouts, who were opening a series of concerts for Paul Revere & the Raiders. Paul and his band recorded an album along the way which set up a meeting between Merrilee and producer Tommy Cogbill. Tommy had been searching for the right voice to front "Angel Of The Morning", keeping a rough demo of the song in his back pocket for months. Soon, Merrilee had "Angel Of The Morning", and eleven other tracks for a complete album in the can.

It seems like a title of innocence, but "Angel Of The Morning" is actually about pre-marital sex, still a taboo subject at the time despite it being the late 60's, a time of free love. It was for this reason that Connie Francis, first offered the song, turned it down. Many artists have since recorded the song without change in subject matter, including Chrissie Hynde, Nina Simone and Juice Newton, who recorded the most successful version in the US in 1981. However, there was a change in meaning when Shaggy reworked the song as "Angel" in 2001, turning it into a homage to his girlfriend.

Merrilee Rush's version of "Angel Of The Morning" also found its way onto the big screen, featuring in the 1978 Harvey Keitel film, Fingers, and 1996's Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise makes a failed attempt to sing the song. It was also featured in the soundtrack to 1999's Girl, Interrupted featuring Angelina Jolie's Oscar winning performance as Lisa Rowe. Angelina Jolie just happens to be the niece of Chip Taylor!

There also an amusing commercial featuring "Angel Of The Morning" promoting the 2011 Toyota Highlander. It highlights just the sort of hell parents can inflict when overcome with the urge to sing the song...

There was little support for "Angel Of The Morning" in the UK charts, making it to #55 before dropping out of existence, but later that year, P.P Arnold did manage to hit the Top 30, her version peaking at #29. Juice Newton had similar trouble when "Angel" hit #43 but Shaggy had no problem with his re-imagined version topping the UK charts. The shame!

Merrilee needn't worry too much, though, soon finding herself with a US Billboard top ten hit when "Angel Of The Morning" hit #7 in June of 1968. It also graced the Dutch Top 5 but it was in Australia, New Zealand and Canada that she would top the singles chart. There was also some Grammys interest with a nomination for Best Female Contemporary-Pop Vocal Performance, losing the award to Dionne Warwick for "Do You Know The Way To San Jose?".

Merrilee Rush appeared in countless TV variety shows during the 60's and 70's, without any luck to follow up her #1 success. Only a couple of minor hits accompany her Australian success, "That Kind Of Woman" (1968, #59) and "Reach Out" (1969, #67). These days Merrilee is content with the quiet life in the countryside near Seattle, still performing the odd nostalgia show here and there.


Chart Run: (23 weeks in Top 100)
(Go-Set Charts)