Australia must be the world leader when it comes to soap actors turned pop stars. Despite the fact that pop is almost an underground genre in the current Australian music scene, there is still no shortage of bad actresses hoping "to do a Kylie" and for that I am eternally grateful! This countdown is not meant to be an exhaustive list. I can think of at least another 10 actors who have briefly dabbled in pop but I either can't track down their music (eg. the lovely Abigail and Laura Vazquez) or simply don't want to (Israel Cannon and Guy Pearce). That said, this collection is pretty comprehensive, covering at least 7 television shows and the who's who of Australian soap stars!
1. Kylie Minogue (Neighbours)
Kylie was not the first soap star to discover pop music but she is by far the most successful and influential. In fact, Kylie's career has been the blue print for all who have come after her. Unless you have been living in a bubble for the past 20 years, you will of course know the Kylie fairytale. Initially starting as a guest star on the flop soap "Neighbours", Kylie's alter-ego Charlene went on to become the most popular character in Australian TV history. Who will ever forget Charlene breaking into Madge's house, Scott and Charlene's wedding or their departure for Queensland? Bless that fabulous 80s perm! The most endearing part of Kylie's journey to pop stardom is the fact that it all happened by chance. Unlike the bitches who came after her, she didn't join the show as a marketing exercise. Kylie was simply at the right place at the right time. As the story goes, Kylie sang an impromptu rendition of "The Locomotion" at a charity event and Michael Gudinski thought he might be able to score a novelty hit for Mushroom records with her. The rest is pop history!
I've included "Look My Way", one of my favourite songs from Kylie's debut album. The other songs have all already appeared in different threads on this Blog.
2. Dannii Minogue (Home & Away)
Dannii doesn't really meet the criteria for this countdown because she was already a pop star when she joined "Home & Away" as the rebellious but lovable goth, Emma. However, Dannii did use the show as a platform to re-launch her music career. It was during her time on "Home & Away" that I really became a Dannii fanatic. The show is filmed about 15 minutes away from where I used to live and I regularly found the idea of watching Dannii walk around Palm Beach more interesting than going to school. Enjoy Dannii's amazing debut single, "Love & Kisses" and a selection of other Dannii material that I have already featured.
3. Melissa Tkautz (E Street, Pacific Drive)
Regular readers will know exactly how obsessed I am with Australia's reigning queen of trash, Melissa Tkautz. This woman is too fabulous for words - Melissa's shameless publicity whoring, role as a pre-mature ejaculation spokeswoman and employment as a gay solarium manager have made her a trash icon. Melissa began her career on "E Street" and became an instant fan favourite. It wasn't long before Melissa tried her hand at a pop career and her debut single hit #1 on the charts and because the highest selling Australian single of that year. Unfortunately, things were all downhill from there.
I was devastated to recently learn that Melissa's new album has been scrapped. However, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before she's embarks on yet another failed comeback! I've included Melissa's number 1 hit, the brilliant "Read My Lips" and a selection of other Melissa tunes that have appeared on this Blog.
4. Jason Donovan (Neighbours)
Poor Jason. It must have been hard to go from every teenage girl's (and many boys) heartthrob to looking like a 55 year old, homeless serial killer. Jason might look a bit frightening and has lost all dignity by appearing in crappy UK reality TV shows, but his place in the soap star hall of fame is assured. Given everything that has followed, it is easy to forget just how massive a star Jason was in the late 80s and just how good his Stock Aiken Waterman output really was. Here are a couple of reminders:
5. Holly Valance (Neighbours)
I worship Holly Valance. Not only is her brief but amazing musical career a trash lover's wet dream but her subsequent forays into movies and television have been equally as brilliant. I think the thing I love about Holly the most is that there was absolutely no pretence about her move into (and out of) pop. While the likes of Dullta and Natalie Imbruglia did everything to market themselves as serious artistes, Holly was busy getting her gear off and appearing semi-naked in videos and men's magazines. In fact, there was almost something old fashioned about the way that Holly launched her musical career on the strength of a pretty face and a nice pair of tits! Holly's first album, "Footprints", was pretty average but very successful. Ironically, her follow up, "State Of Mind", remains one of the best pop albums of naughties but failed miserably. The next time you see Holly play a corpse on "CSI" or a stripper on "Prison Break", play these songs and remember her glorious pop career.
6. Toni Pearen (E Street)
Toni is the poor man's Melissa Tkautz and current host of "Australia's Funniest Home Videos". Toni began her career on "E Street" and after seeing the success of Melissa's debut album, decided to follow in her footsteps. Toni is as boring as bat shit but her album, "Intimate", is top shelf pop and includes a handful of great singles. "I Want You", "In Your Room" and "Walkaway Lover" were all hits but "Intimate" flopped. Toni has yet to record a follow-up, but I live in hope!
7. Bec Cartwright (Home & Away)
I think I'm the only person who enjoyed Bec's brief stint as a pop star. Released at the same time as Dullta's "Innocent Eyes", Bec Cartwright's debut album flopped miserably in comparison. However, the former "Home & Away" star, and currrent Mrs Lleyton Hewitt, produced the far better album! "All Seat's Taken" was a pretty awful first single but the rest of album is a banquet of wonderfully corny pop music. Bec needs to stop popping out babies and make a comeback. Enjoy this selection of Bec "hits" that I have previously posted.
8. Gayle & Gillian Blakeney (Neighbours)
Gayle & Gillian Blakeney were part of the post-Kylie gold rush that seized the "Neighbours" cast. For a while there, every cast member except Mrs Mangel and Bouncer took off for England to record a single! The Blakeney twins actually made quite a fabulous pop duo. They released a couple of flop singles but their gorgeous cover of Prince's "Wanna Be Your Lover" remains a pop classic. Enjoy!
9. Tammin Sursok (Home & Away)
Tammin is one of the most recent "Home & Away" stars to try her hand at pop. Tammin went for the pop-rock sound that has taken hold of the American music scene. In fact, Tammin's debut album sounds awfully similar to the likes of Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan. Only, it was actually quite good. Tammin's record company dumped her after the failure of her third single, which strikes me as being incredibly short sighted. She is currently shacking up with a middle aged television executive in Hollywood, so expect to see Tammin playing a corpse on "Without A Trace" in the near future! I've include my favourite Tammin song, "Whatever Will Be". The original is a kooky ballad but the remix is poptastic! I believe that the skanky American ho, Vanessa Hudgens, stole this song for her debut album.
10. Stefan Dennis (Neighbours)
Firstly, I need to thank the gorgeous Deirdre Halliwell for sending me an MP3 of Stefan's 80s classic, "Don't It Make You Feel Good". We all know and love Stefan as the evil Paul Robinson from "Neighbours". Like Jason, Gayle & Gillian, Craig McLachlan and Madge & Harold (!), Stefan was part of the post-Kylie Neighbours pop explosion. Stefan scored a top 20 UK hit with "Don't It Make You Feel Good", which makes him one of the more successful "Neighbours" pop-wannabes. I love this!
11. Craig McLachlan (Neighbours)
Check out that mullet! And I used to think he was sex on legs. Good grief! Craig took a slightly different route to pop stardom than his "Neighbours" colleagues. Instead of flying to UK, Craig assembled a band "The Check 1, 2" and tried to market himself as a rock star. It didn't work. That said, "Mona" was a big hit in Australia and I'm ashamed to say that I kind of like it! Craig has dabbled in music ever since, appearing in a musical with Dannii Minogue and even recording a duet with Debbie Gibson!
12. Michala Banas (Always Greener, McLeod's Daughters)
Michala is a strange example of a soap actor embarking on a pop career. She appeared on the very short lived soap opera, "Always Greener", and released a pop single almost simultaneously. The show and her single both flopped but she made enough of a name for herself to find work on several other programs. "Kissin' The Wind" is actually rather fabulous. Written by Meredith Brooks of "Bitch" fame, I get the feeling that someone shelled out quite a bit of money on Michala's brief pop career. It would have been interesting to hear a whole album of her material, I think Michala had potential.
13. Abi Tucker (Heartbreak High, The Secret Life Of Us)
Abi will be a familiar name for soap fans, having appeared in just about every soap opera to be screened on Channel 10. Abi has been around for years and is apparently still working on her music. Abi's debut album, "Dreamworld", is without a doubt the most original album released by a former soap star with its rambling lyrics and bizarre musical landscape. Abi's "Australian Kate Bush" sound is really not my thing (at all) but she definitely has a devoted cult following. The least unnerving song on her album is the ballad, "Move You". This is a chorus away from actually being quite good.
14. Belinda Emmett (Home & Away)
Belinda sadly passed away recently after a long battle with breast cancer, which was first diagnosed while she was starring on "Home & Away". It was during this time that Belinda decided to focus on music as well as acting. I have a feeling that Belinda might have released some solo material at the beginning of the decade but I could be mistaken. I know that she was definitely working on a solo album at the time of her death, tracks from which can be downloaded from her husband's website. I've decided to share something a little less morbid but equally heartbreaking. Belinda's duet with Marcia Hines, "Shower The People" is almost eerie in the aftermath of Belinda's death. This beautiful song is one of the highlights of Marcia's album, "Hinesight". Watch the video here.
15. Bruce Samazan (E Street, Neighbours, Home & Away)
Bruce has appeared on the holy trinity of Australian soap operas, which is an achievement in itself. However, it was as Max on "E Street" that Bruce first came to fame. For a while there, Bruce was the heartthrob of choice for teenage girls (and myself!) and as was par for the course in those days, decided to have a go at music. The results are so appalling that they defy belief. Bruce's spectacularly awful rap songs will go down in history as some of the worst examples of music ever recorded. I love both of his crapfests dearly!
16. Gina Riley (Kath 'n' Kim)
Gina doesn't really belong in the countdown because she has never embarked on a pop career and has not been in a soap opera but she makes the grade due to her long association with the Minogues and her amusing musical career. Gina Riley is best known today as Kim, from the comedy series, "Kath 'n' Kim". However, Gina began her career on "Fast Forward", sending up music videos. One her great masterpieces is "Famous Sister", a biting take on Dannii's "Love & Kisses". Watch the clip and take note of Jane Turner (Kath from "Kath 'n' Kim") as one of the mini-skirt wearing backing dancers!
Of course, Gina's most recent Minogue experience is Kylie's cameo as Kim's grown daughter on the season 3 finale of "Kath 'n' Kim". My favourite part is the "Red Blooded Woman" karaoke! Gina has dabbled in music over the years, most often with the adorable Bob Downe. I've included Bob & Gina's cover of "Guilty" from Bob's "Greatest Hits". Streisand fans will never be the same again!
17. Emily Symons (Home & Away)
Emily is best remembered in Australia for playing the ditzy Marilyn on "Home & Away". I have a feeling she ended up on a British soap, but I could be mistaken. Emily's Jimi Hendrix cover version is surely one of the most misguided soap star attempts at pop music. This song comes from the "Farmland" collective which also featured Georgie Parker and Nudge from "Hey Dad"! There is just something so wrong about this that I appreciate. I may be the only one, though.
18. The Cast Of Neighbours
One of my most cherished belongings is the Neighbours cast album from 1989, pictured above. I love dragging this masterpiece out every Christmas, much to the annoyance of my family and friends. Anne Charleston & Ian Smith (Madge & Harold!) scored a #75 UK hit with a novelty Christmas song but their most fabulous recording is "Christmas Caring" for this album. The song begins with a throaty spoken intro from Madge herself before turning into a truly remarkable crapfest about spending time with your neighbours. It's amazing!
19. Natalie Imbruglia (Neighbours)
Natalie, the least talented of the Imbruglia sisters, came to national stardom on Neighbours and has been busily trying to pretend it never happened ever since. I don't mind Natalie but as far as singing soap stars go, she's pretty boring. That said, she does have her moments. I still like "Torn" and it is pretty hard to deny that "Shiver" is one of the loveliest singles of recent years. However, she really needs to ask Laura for some songwriting tips.
20. Stephanie McIntosh (Neighbours)
Jason Donovan's half-sister, Stephanie, is the most recent soap star to try her hand at music. I think she sounds like the poor man's Tammin Sursok but some people are obviously buying her music because her album has done reasonably well. Like Tammin, Stephanie sounds like she's channelling Hilary Duff. Her debut single, "Mistake", is rubbish but I like the remixed version of her follow-up, "Tightrope".
21. Georgie Parker (A Country Practice, All Saints)
One of the most amusing things I have ever read appeared in Georgie's weekly column in a certain well known women's magazine last year. Georgie took it upon herself to comment on Jessica Simpson's cover version of "These Boots Are Made For Walking". Georgie rightly stated that Jessica's version is complete shit but the nerve of the woman is quite astounding given the dire nature of her own attempt. Georgie was also part of "Farmland" with Emily Symons but Emily sounds like Maria Callas in comparison to Georgie. This is almost unbearably awful, but also rather amusing!
22. Russell Crowe (Neighbours)
People tend to forget that Russell began his career in 1987 with a brief appearance on "Neighbours" as Kenny. It is quite amazing how many big stars cut their teeth in Ramsay Street. When he's not beating up people with telephones and winning Oscars, Russell plays small pubs with his quite appalling band, "30 Odd Foot Of Grunt". Russell's music is so tragic that I actually kind of enjoy it on some masochistic level. Watch Russell in a rare non- 30 Odd Foot Of Grunt appearence, singing a duet with the lovely Marcia Hines at the Australian Film Industry Awards. Marcia certainly does get around!
Watch - Russell Crowe & Marcia Hines
23. Natalie Bassingthwaite (Neighbours)
I don't have anything nice to say about this dreadful old cunt. Apart from making "mutton-dressed-as-lamb" attire an artform, this dire bitch is good for nothing. If you think the Rogue Traders stink, wait until your eardrums are raped by this cover of "Don't Give Up" with Australian Idol reject, Shannon Noll.
24. Delta Goodrem (Neighbours)
Dullta is a walking pro-abortion advertisement. If Mrs Goodrem had just made use of that wire coathanger, the world would be a better place and poor Kerry Katona would still have a husband. Dullta's entire output has been vile with the exception of "Predictable", which I begrudgingly admit to liking. The cunt probably stole it from Holly Valance's locker in the "Neighbours" change room!