Great Moments In Pop – The 80s Part 36.

Having just about milked the UK singles chart for any acts who released some interesting songs and their stories in the 80s, but still being keen to discover more, I decided to look through the Australian singles chart. This is another English-speaking market, and I recently found a website that lists every song that made the Top 100 down under in this decade. I was hoping to find some more curious moments that I could share, and this is definitely one of them.

The Monitors were an Australian group, and in August 1980 they released “Singing In The 80s”, which speculated about which sounds and genres could be popular in the coming years. But what really intrigued me though was who appeared in the video, as this was a very good example of some people appearing on TV long before I ever thought they did.

The video to “Singing In The 80s” featured twin sisters Gayle and Gillian Blakeney, who for some reason were dressed as members of rock group Kiss, although it seems that they didn’t actually sing on this. I know that people sometimes can start out earlier than you think, but 1980? They could only have been 14 years old at the time. But this was the only Top 20 hit for The Monitors in Australia, and I’m fairly sure that this wasn’t released here.

It wasn’t until about a decade on from this that they would become famous in this country. This was in 1990 when they joined the cast of soap Neighbours, as Christina and Caroline Alessi. They were best-known for one of them marrying Paul Robinson, or maybe he was married to both of them at the same time, I can’t remember. And it was around this time when they decided to do some, er, singing in the 90s.

In 1991 they released “All Mixed Up” (credited as “The Twins”), but this was really one of the final scrapings from the now rather rusty Stock/Aitken/Waterman bin (and definitely doesn’t sound anything like Kiss), and didn’t do very well, reaching no. 74 in Australia. They appeared on TV-am to promote this, and in June 1991 they were even on the cover of Smash Hits (just ahead of the likes of Chesney Hawkes and Nobby The Sheep), a magazine which was usually rather good at spotting who would succeed, but not this time, and this was a very rare occasion of Ver Hits giving the cover to an act who never had a UK Top 40 (or indeed Top 60) hit single.

Following this, they had a second attempt at pop fame (this time credited as “Gayle And Gillian”), and in July 1993 “Mad If Ya Don’t” was released (on Mushroom Records, naturally), which reached no. 75 in the UK. They also appeared in an advert for Head & Shoulders. Next in March 1994 was a cover of Prince’s “Wanna Be Your Lover”, which reached no. 62, and was their biggest hit in the UK. Also in 1994 they were the hostesses for a series of ITV game show Take Your Pick, assisting Des O’Connor with the gong in the Yes/No Game, showing off the prizes, and so on, which was an unlikely career swerve. I don’t recall seeing them much after this though.

Now going back to The Monitors, in May 1981 their second single “Nobody Told Me” was released, which also featured Gayle and Gillian in the video, and was their final Top 40 Australian hit, reaching no. 32. By 1982, there had been some line-up changes (including Stig O’Hara from The Rutles joining), but their next singles “Having You Around Me” and “Who Did You Think It Was” flopped, and they split not long after, with the twins going on to appear on children’s TV show Wombat. Going from this to Take Your Pick, how terrific.

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