At the time of its release, Donovan was weeks away from filming his final scenes in Neighbours as the popular character of Scott Robinson; these were broadcast in Australia on 18th May 1989. As Scott receded in teenagers’ memories, so the peak positions of Donovan’s singles in his native country declined: he had one more Top 10 hit, a couple of singles made the lower reaches of the Top 50, and then his chart career there was over. Doubtless this wasn’t the only reasons his records were struggling: rock sold far better than pop there at that time, with the year-end best-sellers list featuring artists such as Roxette, Richard Marx, Mike and the Mechanics, The Proclaimers, The Beach Boys and Alice Cooper. But the extra publicity of appearing every weekday on prime-time TV can only have helped his early releases to sell. And here in the UK, Scott would continue to be seen on our screens until 25th July 1990, due to a delay caused by the BBC’s late purchase of the serial.
Although Neighbours debuted in Australia on 18th March 1985, transmission didn’t start in the UK until 27th October 1986; but gradually we started to catch up. This was helped initially by a ten-week break in Australia between episodes 170 and 171, caused by a change in broadcaster from the 7 Network to Channel 10. (Confusingly for the UK, these episode were shown on consecutive days and viewers had to cope with overnight changes such as new wallpaper on some sets. In addition, Scott had been played by Darius Perkins until episode 170 but he was replaced by Donovan in the Channel 10 production.) Also, the series was taken off air there for five weeks or so every Christmas and New Year, whereas in the UK the show was screened all year round. Throughout the 1980s, though, there was a delay of over a year before the final appearances of departing cast members in Australia were seen by a British audience. Donovan’s co-star Kylie Minogue, for example, shot her last scene as Charlene Robinson (nee Mitchell) on 10th June 1988 and it wasn’t aired here until 1st November 1989. During that period she had six Top 2 hits in the UK, peaks she was unable to reach in her home country with the same records: even her duet with Donovan, Especially For You, only made #2 there while it made #1 here.
Not that this television exposure worked for every Neighbours cast member diversifying into music. Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson) issued two singles in UK in 1989: the first made #16 but the second was only a very minor hit. There was no further follow-up from him and no album ever surfaced. And Madge and Harold Bishop (actors Anne Charleston and Ian Smith) released a truly dreadful Christmas novelty record at the end of the year which flopped. Perhaps, after that, the series’ producers put a ban on any more singing from serving stars for a few years – it wasn’t until the mid-90s that anyone from Neighbours tried his luck again.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Feb. 20
DEPECHE MODE Dreaming Of Me (Mute MUTE013)
The HUMAN LEAGUE Boys And Girls (Virgin VS395)
SIMPLE MINDS Celebrate (Arista ARIST394)
KAJAGOOGOO The Lion’s Mouth (EMI EMI5449)
BOY GEORGE Don’t Take My Mind On A Trip (Virgin BOY108)
Jason DONOVAN Too Many Broken Hearts (PWL PWL32)
Howard JONES Everlasting Love (WEA HOW13)
STRAY CATS Bring It Back Again (EMI Manhattan MT62)
Kim WILDE Love In The Natural Way (MCA KIM11)