He was the biggest selling music act of 1989, but where did Jason Donovan’s career go from there…?
Jason Donovan. Undoubtedly Australia’s second biggest export. Actor, singer, all round nice guy, he swept to fame in the late 1980’s first on television and then into the music charts around the world. But his singing career was not as long lasting as his fellow co-star and one time girlfriend. So let’s ask, where are YOU now, Jason Donovan?
Jason was born in Malvern, Australia in 1968 and made his acting debut aged 11 in 1980 in the TV series Skyways, where he would meet the young girl that he would stick very close to for the rest of the decade. Jason really made his name in his home country when cast in the role of Scott Robinson for the brand new daytime soap opera Neighbours, in 1986. Once again, the story line would see that he was teamed with former Skyways star, Kylie Minogue, with his character becoming romantically involved with hers. Something which extended far beyond the camera’s it would later be revealed!
Jason’s character would eventually marry Kylie’s, in what would become the second biggest wedding in the world of the 1980’s, but after two years, Minogue left the show in 1988 to pursue a music career. Jason remained in the show till 1989, when he too followed his real life girlfriend to London, where he was signed by the hugely successful production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. Having already established Minogue with a quartet of global smash hit singles and the biggest selling album of the year, they now turned their attention to Jason and at the end of August 1988, he released his debut single, “Nothing Can Divide Us“.
The song reached the top five in Australia, the UK and Ireland and with the airing of the big Neighbours wedding in the UK in November that year, Jason and Kylie were brought together in the studio for the follow up, the big ballad, “Especially For You“, released just in time for Christmas. The song didn’t win the coveted prize but did become the first chart topper of 1989, selling millions of copies around the world and firmly establishing Jason now as a leading pop artist over and above his acting successes.
That was just the beginning of 1989, the year which would become Jason’s year and no one else’s. With “Especially For You” barely out of the charts, Jason’s second solo single proper, “Too Many Broken Hearts”, debuted in February and after just two weeks, found itself at the top of the UK singles chart and No.7 in Australia, giving Jason three consecutive top ten hits in both countries. Whilst Madonna’s ‘comeback, “Like A Prayer“, pushed him off after two weeks, “Too Many Broken Hearts” sold enough to keep it top two and top ten for another month. The song would eventually finish up one of the ten biggest sellers of the year.
The beginning of May would see Jason’s debut album emerge. “Ten Good Reasons“, although there were eleven tracks ultimately carried, was a surefire hit, topping the UK chart and peaking at No.5 ‘down under’, the album would remain a constant for the rest of the year and for the second year running, a Stock Aitken Waterman album would become the biggest seller of all. In the UK, the album was certified five times Platinum as well as attaining Platinum status in his home country and to ‘seal’ its success yet more, a third chart topper was only three weeks away with Jason’s cover of Brian Hyland’s 1960 hit, “Sealed With A Kiss”. Another top ten hit elsewhere, “Sealed” just confirmed that Jasonmania was truly set in stone now.
The fifth and final single, “Everyday (I Love You More)” gave Jason a fourth top two hit in the UK, although this fared less well in Australia that Summer. Jason wasn’t done yet. Four months later and just in time for Christmas, he rounded off ‘his’ year with a brand new recording, “When You Come Back To Me”, which would become one of his biggest hits of all, spending four weeks at No.2 in the UK over the festive season and into 1990. Oddly this only made it to No.40 in Oz. Perhaps the magic was now wearing off there… But what would 1990 bring having sat at the top of the mountain at the end of the old decade…
Recording for Jason’s second album was already advanced when the second new single, “Hang On To Your Love”, was delivered in the Spring of 1990. Disappointingly, the track struggled to find an audience for the first time and, whilst making the UK top ten, stopped at No.8, Jason’s lowest chart position to date. The song was a top three success in Ireland but was no where to be seen in Australia. The down-tempo “Another Night” soon followed but this had even worse results, failing even to make the UK top ten and again, no show ‘down under’! The album, “Between The Lines”, followed at the end of May and debuted at No.2 in the UK. Success was only fleeting as the album soon sank and disappeared without trace, although a Platinum disc was later awarded, this was a far cry from the triumphs of twelve months earlier. Too soon? Bad content? Who can guess.
Jason did return to the UK top ten that Summer, but it was with another cover version, this time The Cascades 1962 hit “Rhythm Of The Rain” and this time also, an Australian chart entry, even if it was only No.44. Hoorah! The 60’s influenced “I’m Doing Fine”, saw the album closed off that Autumn and unlike other retro singles released by PWL at that time, the song represented the nadir of Jason’s career so far in reaching No.22 in the UK and No.123 in Australia, although the Irish kept up the support with a tenth consecutive top ten hit there! Jason1990 was done. But what where did this leave his career and what, if anything, would come next…
There was no resting for Jason as in Spring of 1991, a new track was premiered, “RSVP” with a noticeable kick to it. The song made it to No.17 in the UK but bombed in his home country, although I can’t help feeling that this was released a year too late. Had it of come the same time as Lonnie Gordon‘s “Happenin’ All Over Again” and Kylie’s “Better The Devil You Know“, it may have been a much bigger hit. Who knows… The song was initially not featured on any album but very soon after Jason made the announcement that he would be pursuing a stage career and was cast in the title role of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s new musical, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The shows were an instant success and sold out for many months. This in turn helped Jason’s flagging music career with the release of “Any Dream Will Do” from the show as a single in June.
It worked as Jason was back on top of the UK singles chart for the first time in two years and was loving every minute of it. Back at PWL, a hastily issued best of was put out in September, preceded by Jason’s cover of The Turtles “Happy Together“, which continued his run of top ten hits there with the album reaching No.9 soon after. Following a megamix of songs from the hit musical in December (UK No.13), Jason parted ways with PWL and sought to gain more control over his music career. This was achieved the following Summer with the debut of a brand new, non-SAW song, “Mission Of Love”, which was written by former chart star Christian James of Halo James, initially for himself. “Mission Of Love” was not too dissimilar to what we had come to expect of Jason, even if it was away from the confines of PWL. That said, it peaked at No.26 in the UK but did nothing back home.
Before the year was out, Jason was offering yet another remake of an old song, this time the much recorded “As Time Goes By”, which joined “Mission” in reaching No.26 in the UK. In early 1993 “All Around the World” was released but this suffered the indignity of becoming Jason’s first single not to make the UK top 40 and, as it would turn out, something Jason has still yet to achieve. The album of the same name came that Summer and flopped, entering at No.27 and sinking very quickly. A fourth single, “Angel”, did nothing at all. And so ended Jason’s career thus far. Controversy swirled around him in the mid-90’s as Jason’s private life and ‘temptations’ hit the headlines. He suffered a seizure at The Viper Room in 1995, the same club where actor River Phoenix had died less than two years earlier. But with the support of friends and family, Jason recovered and began to rebuild his career.
He returned to the stage in 1998 in the new Rocky Horror Picture Show and soon after met his future wife, Angela Malloch. Jason continued to work in the theatre until 2008 when he made his return to music with the covers album, “Let It Be Me”, his first for fifteen years. He revisited some of his favourite hits of the 1980’s in 2010 with the album, “Soundtrack Of The 80’s” (UK No.20) and two years later, released a brand new album, “Sign Of Your Life”. Jason has kept the acting going with a number of films in the 1990’s and the short lived TV series Echo Beach in the UK in 2008. Jason has been a radio presenter on Heart FM since 2015 and has amassed a big following, as to for his ongoing Ten Good Reasons and Even More Good Reasons stage/music tour, now into its third year! In 2018, the world rejoiced as Jason and Kylie were reunited once more, on stage, singing “Especially For You”, with tears aplenty in front of more than 50,000 people as the highlight of Kylie’s star turn at the Radio 2 Festival in London’s Hyde Park. For four minutes, they really were back together…
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