Biggest Comebacks Of The ’80s And ’90s

Biggest Comebacks Of The ’80s And ’90s

biggest music comebacks
Meatloaf (Photo by Patrick Ford/Redferns/Getty Images), Cher (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Everybody loves a comeback. Whether it’s a performer who takes time out from making music or a musician whose career has been in the doldrums, there is nothing better than seeing a former great land another big hit. In the 1980s and ’90s, some of the most successful acts in the history of music came charging back onto the scene in a big way.

Tina Turner

They may not have had many huge singles, especially in Australia where their best performance was the number 14 peak of 1973’s “Nutbush City Limits”, but husband-and-wife duo Ike and Tina Turner’s influence went beyond chart positions. Following the breakdown of their volatile marriage in 1976, Tina’s solo career finally took off in 1984, first with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and then her chart-topping signature tune, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, which cemented her place as one of the ’80s biggest female stars.

Aretha Franklin

When the Queen of Soul reached number 6 in 1985 with “Freeway Of Love”, it was her first visit to the Australian top 50 since 1971’s “Spanish Harlem”. It was also her highest chart position ever locally up until that point, surpassing the number 8 peak of “I Say A Little Prayer” in 1968. Aretha had released albums all that time but with limited commercial success – something that changed with the release of 1985’s more pop-oriented Who’s Zoomin’ Who.

John Farnham

One of Australia’s biggest stars in the late 1960s and 1970s, the artist formerly known as Johnny Farnham enjoyed two boosts to his music career in the 1980s. Firstly, in 1980, his remake of The Beatles’ “Help!”, taken from his first album in five years, returned him to the top 10 for the first time since 1973. Then, after a stint as the lead singer of Little River Band, John released the most successful locally produced album of all time in Whispering Jack and topped the singles chart for the first time since 1969’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” with “You’re The Voice”.


She’d reached the top 10 as one half of Sonny & Cher in the 1960s and again as a solo artist in the 1970s, but it had been 14 years since Cher had seen the inside of the Australian top 50 when she returned there with the Michael Bolton co-written power ballad “I Found Someone” in 1988. Taken from her first album in five years, that hit kicked off a string of successes (including chart-topper “If I Could Turn Back Time”) that had petered out in Australia by 1991. Then, in 1998, she made another chart comeback with the all-conquering “Believe”.

Roy Orbison

After an impressive tally of six Australian number 1 singles during the 1960s, The Big O’s fortunes took a dive in the 1970s and for most of the ’80s, even though his influence was clear from the number of remakes of his songs that were successful for other artists. By the late ’80s, Roy’s career was taking off again and he was back in the chart as part of supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Sadly, he never lived to see how well received his first album in a decade, Mystery Girl, and lead single “You Got It” were in the wake of his December 1988 death.

The B-52’s

In 1980, the kooky five-piece from Atlanta had one of the most original hits of the year in the form of debut single “Rock Lobster”, which was followed by another success with “Private Idaho” from second album Wild Planet. And then, despite releasing albums throughout the ’80s (and taking some time out to cope with the loss of founding member Ricky Wilson), nothing connected for the band until the very end of the decade, when Cosmic Thing’s second single “Love Shack” ruled the roost for most of summer ’89-’90.

Meat Loaf

The original Bat Out Of Hell is the highest-selling album of all time in Australia, certified 25 times platinum since its 1977 release. So when none of Meat Loaf’s four follow-up albums did anything like that kind of business, there was only one thing for it: a sequel. Released in 1993, seven years after previous album Blind Before I Stop, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell restored the singer/actor born Marvin Aday to the top of the Australian charts.


They may never have been a force on the singles chart in the 1970s (biggest hit: “She’s Not There”, number 19 in 1977) but the band named after guitarist Carlos Santana were regulars in the top 10 of the albums chart throughout that decade. The ’80s and early ’90s weren’t as kind to Santana, but by 1999, seven years after 1992’s Milagro, they reached number 1 on both charts thanks to Supernatural and “Smooth” featuring Rob Thomas.

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