Wednesday, 21 March 2018

25 Years Ago This Week: March 21, 1993

Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen American bands remake "Cat's In The Cradle" and "Mrs Robinson" in early '90s rock style. This week in 1993, the triumvirate of covers was completed by another update of a hit from decades past.

Landing a second number 1 hit was "Easy" for Faith No More

And like the Ugly Kid Joe remake, this new cover would go on to reach the number 1 spot on the ARIA singles chart - the second time the band in question reached the top, although this remake was nothing like the song they'd reached number 1 with back in 1990.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 21, 1993

The number 1 song this week in 1993 was still "You Don't Treat Me No Good" by Sonia Dada, but with two future chart-toppers queuing up behind, its days on top were numbered.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "The Morning Papers" by Prince & The New Power Generation
Peak: number 87
This final single from the Love Symbol album was a chart disappointment around the world, missing the Australian, US and UK top 40s. A couple of months later, Prince would change his name to that same unpronounceable symbol.

Number 90 "Rock This Boat" by Things Of Stone & Wood
Peak: number 51
This jaunty follow-up to breakthrough single "Happy Birthday Helen" was unlucky not to become a hit, kept waiting on the threshold of the top 50 for two straight weeks. 

Number 87 "B.I.N.G.O." by The Movement
Peak: number 84
As "Jump" spent its 19th week in the top 50, this irritating second single from dance act The Movement based on the nursery rhyme thankfully didn't match its predecessor's success.

Number 77 "Land Of The Living" by Mantissa
Peak: number 60
Since their name change from Killing Time, rock band Mantissa hadn't been able to land another hit. This single would be their final top 100 appearance, although they continued recording and touring until 1996.

New Entries
Number 45 "I Feel You" by Depeche Mode
Peak: number 37
Somewhere along the way during Depeche Mode's transformation from slick synthpop group to stadium-filling synth rockers, Australia had lost interest in the band we'd once sent into the top 5 with "Just Can't Get Enough". Not even 1990's Violator album, despite all its international success, made waves locally. 
Things changed with their eighth studio album, Songs Of Faith And Devotion, which not only saw the band breach the albums top 20 for the first time, but returned them to the singles top 50 following a nine-year absence since 1984's "People Are People". The song that did it was lead single "I Feel You", a synth-meets-rock anthem that burst from the speakers and was a world away from the sound most Australian fans would've associated them with. 
Whether it was the rockier vibe that appealed to Australians or the fact that both "I Feel You" and the accompanying album were among the best work the band had ever produced, I'm not sure, but as a result of the improvement in their profile, Depeche Mode undertook their first major tour of Australia the following year - and I slept out overnight for tickets, having fully embraced my love for the band with this album.

Number 44 "Little Bird / Love Song For A Vampire" by Annie Lennox
Peak: number 38
Her solo career had got off to a good start with top 20 single "Why" and the Diva album debuting inside the top 10, but any hope that Annie Lennox would be as consistently successful as Eurythmics had been throughout the '80s were dashed when both "Precious" and "Walking On Broken Glass" fell short of the top 50. Things took a turn for the better when easily the best song from the album was finally released as a single and she returned to the top 50. With its career-referencing music video, featuring a host of doppelgängers dressed in Annie's most memorable looks, and a new track as a double A-side - "Love Song For A Vampire" from the Dracula soundtrack - it had everything going for it, but still somehow only just crept into the top 40.

Number 33 "Easy" by Faith No More
Peak: number 1
Despite sounding nothing like what we'd come to expect from Faith No More, this reworking of Commodores' 1977 US and UK top 10 hit - it reached number 75 in Australia - wasn't completely out of the blue. The band had been performing the song in concert and recorded their fairly faithful version during the sessions for the Angel Dust album. Eventually added to the tracklisting for the album, it became its final single - and its biggest by some margin. Although "Epic" had given Faith No More a number 1 single in 1990, that song's massive success had so far been a one-off in Australia, with the band settling in to a series of modest chart achievements ever since, clearly appealing to a more niche audience. But just as "Easy" had been part of Commodores evolution from soul/funk band to adult contemporary crowd pleasers, so too did the cruisy tune provide Faith No More with an opportunity to once again reach a wider fanbase. 

Number 16 "Truganini" by Midnight Oil
Peak: number 10
Here's a band who'd enjoyed an incredibly large fanbase in Australia for about a decade, and this lead single from eighth studio album Earth And Sun And Moon maintained that, giving Midnight Oil their first top 10 single since 1990's "Blue Sky Mine". Named after an Indigenous woman from Tasmania whose story you can read here, the song also touched on the republican movement in Australia and the socio-economic problems facing the country. "Truganini" would turn out to be Midnight Oil's final major hit, with no further singles reaching the ARIA top 20. It seems their days of shifting truckloads of albums were also behind them, with Earth And Sun And Moon failing to match the chart-topping status of Blue Sky Mining and Diesel And Dust (although it did get to number 2), and selling a fraction of what those albums did.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1993 (updated weekly):

Next week: the fifth and sixth singles from a 16-month old album by a music superstar debut in the same week, while the latest hit by another megastar also arrives. Plus, the first ARIA chart appearances by a multiple Grammy Award-winning Canadian singer/songwriter and a local rock band that'd go on to dominate the 1994 ARIA Awards.

Back to: Mar 14, 1993 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 28, 1993

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Best Of Kim Wilde

It's been a while since I've done a countdown of my favourite songs by a particular artist, and with her latest album, Here Come The Aliens, out this weekend, what better time to pay tribute to almost four decades of great pop from Kim Wilde. Except for that long stretch where she stopped making music and became a celebrity gardener. 

Kim Wilde, presumably looking out a dirty, old window

From her massive hits in the '80s to her woefully underappreciated singles from the early '90s to her 2006 comeback and beyond, these 25 songs shows why Kim is my third favourite female artist of all time (behind the two obvious ones).

Year: 2007
Album: Never Say Never
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: N/A
The second single from her aptly titled comeback album was less the type of synthpop Kim had traditionally released and more in keeping with the guitar-based pop of the mid-'00s. The tune's big chorus earns it the first place on this list, edging out 1992's "Love Is Holy" and UK top 10 ballad "Four Letter Word".  

Year: 1990
Album: Love Moves
Australian chart peak: number 104
UK chart peak: number 42
After the return to form - musically and chart-wise - that was the Close album, expectations must've been high for the follow-up, Love Moves. But Kim's habit of not always leading with her best songs - four more tracks from the album rank higher on this list - worked against her. An understated pop tune about discovering that the thing you're looking for is right in front of you, "It's Here" just didn't connect with the record-buying public in either the UK or Australia. Shame (no pun intended).

Year: 1984
Album: Teases & Dares
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: number 56
Not even a Cinderella-themed music video, which Kim has since described as "atrocious", could help this second single from her underrated fourth album climb the charts - a fact that was especially disheartening since "The Touch" was the type of moody synthpop she'd established herself with just a couple of years earlier...

Year: 1981
Album: Kim Wilde
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: number 11
Moody synthpop songs like this third single from her self-titled album, which is about tinnitus - something Kim says she now has to contend with. "Water On Glass" would likely have been a hit in Australia if it had been released here, but since we lagged behind her UK schedule, the decision was made to skip straight ahead to "Cambodia" - a song that, despite its popularity, doesn't feature in this list. Cue outrage.

21. "Another Step (Closer To You)" (with Junior)

Year: 1987
Album: Another Step
Australian chart peak: number 88
UK chart peak: number 6
Remixed from the album in order to make it single-worthy, this duet with soul singer Junior Giscombe (best known for 1982's "Mama Used To Say") had the difficult task of following worldwide juggernaut "You Keep Me Hangin' On". While it did the trick in the UK, giving Kim her fourth top 10 hit, Australia was less impressed. Fools.

Year: 1986
Album: Another Step
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: N/A
One of a number of Kim's songs that have an environmental theme, "Schoolgirl" was written in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster about the guilt she felt as an adult about the world being created for younger generations, like her sister, Roxanne - the titular schoolgirl. The deceptively cheery-sounding song was only released in Europe and Australia, and was Kim's first single for which she received a writing credit.

Year: 2010
Album: Come Out And Play
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: N/A
Well and truly back in the pop-making saddle after her 2006 comeback, Kim released Come Out And Play through Sony Music Germany, who found this song for her. It's one of her few non-remake singles not to be at least co-written by her brother, Ricky, who did co-produce it.

Year: 2018
Album: Here Come The Aliens
Australian chart peak: TBC
UK chart peak: TBC
Unlike her previous two albums of original material, Here Come The Aliens has been officially released in Australia, which augurs well for Kim to bring her accompanying concert tour locally. The standout track from the album - and its second single - "Kandy Krush" was co-written by Kim and Ricky with Swedish songwriters Frederick Thomander and Anders Wikström, and the Scandi influence is evident in the power pop tune.

Year: 1990
Album: Love Moves
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: N/A
I've always thought this would've been a much better lead single from Love Moves than "It's Here", since it feels like the natural successor to 1988's "Never Trust A Stranger" - all synthrock drama and attitude. By the time it ended up coming out, it was another Europe- and Australia-only release that did little to ignite interest in the album.

Year: 1990
Album: Love Moves
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: N/A
Issued - again, only in Europe - as the final single from Love Moves, "World In Perfect Harmony" was another example of Kim thinking about the type of world her younger siblings were growing up in. Optimistic and, as Kim readily admits, naive, the song is one of the most unashamedly upbeat track on this list, without the usual edge her tunes have.

Year: 1985
Album: Teases & Dares
Australian chart peak: number 94
UK chart peak: number 19
And this is the only rockabilly-influenced song on this list. Remixed by Dave Edmunds for the single release, "Rage To Love" put Kim back in the UK top 20 for the first time in three years and also returned her to the Australian top 100 - just! - for the first time in two.

Year: 1992
Album: Love Is
Australian chart peak: number 154
UK chart peak: N/A
Although the Belinda Carlisle-esque "Love Is Holy" had probably been a good choice of first single from Love Is, especially given its UK top 20 and ARIA top 30 success, I much preferred the songs written and produced by Kim and Ricky for the album, like this pulsating pop gem and...

Year: 1992
Album: Love Is
Australian chart peak: number 159
UK chart peak: number 49
Another Kim and Ricky classic, "Who Do You Think You Are" is about how people deal with fame - including Kim herself. Kim has said the song came together at a point where work on Love Is wasn't going so well and was completed quickly once she came up with the lyrics, which are also often claimed as being inspired by Madonna.

12. "Time"

Year: 1990
Album: Love Moves
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: number 71
A UK-only release, "Time" had the misfortune of being Kim's least successful single on the British chart up until that point, peaking lower than 1983's "Dancing In The Dark", which had only reached number 67. I liked "Time", even if no one else did. I'm not sure about some of Kim's handsy dance moves in the music video, though.

Year: 1996
Album: Now & Forever
Australian chart peak: number 140
UK chart peak: number 46
If there's one thing the songs so far on this list have in common, it's that they're all uptempo power pop tunes - Kim's speciality. But there's an exception to every rule, like this second single from her 1995 album, Now & Forever, which was also a marked change in direction from the lead release, piano house-influenced "Breaking Away". "This I Swear" was co-written by '80s hitmaker Tony Swain and like many ballad singles of the mid-'90s - hi, Dina Carroll - came with a club track on the B-side, in this case, the excellent "Heaven".

Year: 1990
Album: Love Moves
Australian chart peak: N/A/
UK chart peak: number 51
OK, there are two exceptions to every rule - here's the best ballad Kim has ever released, and it's another of those overlooked singles from Love Moves. I've only just discovered that the backing vocals on "I Can't Say Goodbye" - which really add to the song - are performed by Jaki Graham.

Year: 1984
Album: Teases & Dares
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: number 29
From an emotional love song we move now to Kim's most sexually suggestive single ever. Titled "Go For It" in the US, "The Second Time" didn't exactly disguise its subject matter. Kim enjoyed shattering her good girl image with the track, which was a return to form following her post-Select material.

Year: 2006
Album: Never Say Never
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: N/A
In 2006, more than a decade had passed since Kim's previous studio album, during which time the singer had left music to go and make babies and decorative borders. So I was as shocked as anyone when she returned, testing the water with a rockier update of 1988's "You Came". And while her reinterpretations of old hits on comeback album Never Say Never were mostly quite good, they were surpassed by her new material, like this blast of energetic synthrock that simultaneously felt like vintage Kim and fit in with the pop music sound of the mid-'00s.

Year: 1993
Album: The Singles Collection 1981-1993
Australian chart peak: number 3
UK chart peak: number 12
It had worked in 1986, so given her first two albums of the '90s had under-performed and a greatest hits collection was in the planning, Kim decided to release another cover version - and once again, it gave her a major hit single, especially in Australia. Written by the Gibb brothers and originally recorded for Saturday Night Fever by Yvonne Elliman, "If I Can't Have You" was one of many former hits Kim and Ricky tested - and was suggested to them as a potential song to remake by her brother's wife, Mandy.

Year: 1988
Album: Close
Australian chart peak: N/A
UK chart peak: number 7
Time for a cautionary tale - and one that involves Kim speaking from experience, having trusted a stranger with her heart. Following the sweeter but just as catchy "You Came", "Never Trust A Stranger" completed a one-two punch that set up Close to become her most successful album of all time worldwide. Once again, Australia was clueless.

Year: 1982
Album: Select
Australian chart peak: number 7
UK chart peak: number 16
The final single in a career-opening string of four consecutive top 10 hits in Australia (sometimes we got it right!) for Kim, "View From A Bridge" is a pretty dark song, telling the story of a girl standing on a bridge, contemplating suicide and ultimately jumping off. The song's lyrics were matched by the type of foreboding synthpop that characterises much of her back catalogue.

Year: 1981
Album: Kim Wilde
Australian chart peak: number 6
UK chart peak: number 4
Proving her debut single had been no one-off, Kim's second single, "Chequered Love", gave her another Australian and UK top 10 hit - but it was easier said than done. It took Ricky and Kim's father, Marty, a few attempts to come up with a follow-up that would satisfy her record label, and "Chequered Love" was completed just before the deadline they'd been given. The song was written about the opposites attract relationship between Kim's parents.

Year: 1986
Album: Another Step
Australian chart peak: number 1
UK chart peak: number 2
The single that turned things around for Kim after a series of less-than-successful releases, her revamp of The Supremes hit from 1966 was a revelation, transforming the tale of heartache intro a tumultuous hi-NRG stormer, and sending her to the top of the ARIA and US charts. A textbook example of how you remake a song that's already been massive and, as they say on reality TV, make it your own.

Year: 1981
Album: Kim Wilde
Australian chart peak: number 5
UK chart peak: number 2
The song that started everything off for Kim came as a result of her future label boss hearing her backing vocals on brother Ricky's material and wanting to release something by her. To his credit, Ricky put his stuff on the backburner, and he and dad Marty came up with "Kids In America" - that "East California" line and all - incredibly quickly. "Kids In America" is also my favourite song from 1981, when, as a six-year-old, I was already hooked on pop music and devouring as much of it as I could.

Year: 1988
Album: Close
Australian chart peak: number 34
UK chart peak: number 3
One of the best songs released in the '80s by any artist, "You Came" has been a favourite of mine from the very first time I heard it and then proceeded to play it to death after buying the 7" single. The first 12 seconds are now also my ringtone, so whenever I hear the intro these days, I start looking around for my phone. Written about the birth of Ricky's son, Marty, "You Came" is pure joy with so many brilliant moments - the handclaps, the "since You Caaaaaaame" bit at 2:45, all the different synth hooks throughout and its simple but flawless music video. Pop perfection.

Top 5 album tracks

Kim's no slouch when it comes to album tracks, either. Here's my pick of her best non-singles:

1. "Stone" from Close
2. "I Believe In You" from Love Is
3. "A Miracle's Coming" from Love Is
4. "Love's A No" from Close
5. "Forgive Me" from Never Say Never

Right, now I'm off to carry on listening to Here Come The Aliens. Meanwhile, you can listen to (all but one of) Kim's top 25 singles and top 5 album tracks on my Spotify playlist:

You're welcome.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

25 Years Ago This Week: March 14, 1993

For the second week in a row, there's a deluge of new rock songs to talk about as we look back at the ARIA singles chart from this week in 1993. But among this week's grunge, metal and retro-influenced rock, we also have the top 50 debut of the closest the rock scene came to producing a pop star.

Was there anyone more '90s than Lemonheads' Evan Dando?

His band's big hit was a cover version, but he was also renowned for his own songwriting... and his good looks, romances, partying and drug problems. How very '90s. Also among this week's crop of new entries, a future chart-topper from another of the decade's biggest rock stars.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 14, 1993

The chart-topping single this week in 1993 was still "You Don't Treat Me No Good" by Sonia Dada, which spent a third week at number 1. Right behind, Whitney Houston wasn't going away in a hurry, with "I Will Always Love You" at number 2 also for a third week following its 10-week stretch at the top.

Off The Chart
Number 93 "Come On, Come On" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 70
Another single from Better Times, another peak in the 70s for The Black Sorrows. The album's fourth single, "Sweet Inspiration", did even worse, missing the top 100 completely.

Number 85 "Would?" by Alice In Chains
Peak: number 69
Never as big in Australia as their grunge contemporaries, Alice In Chains made their first top 100 appearance with this song from Singles. The film's director, Cameron Crowe, co-directed the music video.

Number 78 "No Time For Nowhere" by Def FX
Peak: number 67
The Sydney band edged ever closer to the top 50 with this latest thrashy release from their Light Speed Collision album.

New Entries
Number 50 "Stand Up" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 41
If the chart positions of Heat and its lead single, "Sweat It Out", had been under par for Jimmy Barnes, then the performance of this follow-up must have been seen as a disaster. Not since the earliest days of his solo carer, when his second ever single, "Promise Me You'll Call", completely flopped, had he struggled this soon into an album campaign. It's easy to see why, with "Stand Up" one of his least melodic singles of all time. But just as he rallied in 1985, Jimmy would salvage his chart record with Heat's more typical third single...

Number 44 "Daddy's Gonna Make You A Star" by Company Of Strangers
Peak: number 35
For a group with as much star power as Company Of Strangers, it's kind of surprising their songs weren't bigger. Previous effort "Sweet Love" had been unlucky not to give James Reyne, Daryl Braithwaite and friends a top 20 hit, but their third single came nowhere close to achieving that, despite being another sing-along pop/rock tune like debut release "Motor City (I Get Lost)". "Daddy's Gonna Make You A Star" might not have been a bit hit, but it did help push the band's self-titled album into the top 10, where it spent one week in early April.

Number 37 "Mrs Robinson / Rudderless" by Lemonheads
Peak: number 16
They'd been releasing music since 1987, but it wasn't until their fifth album, It's A Shame About Ray, that things took off for Lemonheads - and top 20 chart success came thanks to their remake of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs Robinson" (which was tacked onto a re-release of the album). The band's rock update of the song was recorded, despite singer Evan Dando hating it, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of The Graduate, in which the original version had featured.
It wasn't the first time Lemonheads had released a cover, despite Evan's original material being quite well regarded. In 1989, they'd put out a remake of Suzanne Vega's "Luka", with Evan referencing that by wearing a "Hello, my name is Luka" sticker in the clip for "Mrs Robinson". But whether it was the band's own songs or their covers, their music would come to be overshadowed by the amount of press coverage Evan received for everything from the women he was seeing (Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue, Courtney Love) to his rock star lifestyle.
On the ARIA chart, "Mrs Robinson" was listed as a double A-side with "Rudderless", although the latter was only a bonus track on the cassingle and its name didn't feature on the front cover. Why was it credited at all? Brace yourselves, it's a bit complicated. In early 1993, the cassette single was still the dominant format and the catalogue numbers you see on the chart pertain to that version of each song. Problem was, the CD single version of "Mrs Robinson" was actually a double A-side release, with "Being Around" billed on the artwork and everything. But it wouldn't do for the chart to mention "Being Around" when it wasn't available on the cassingle, now would it? And so it seems that's why "Rudderless" was elevated to double A-side status. 

Number 21 "Wherever I May Roam" by Metallica
Peak: number 14
After three straight top 10 hits from their self-titled album, Metallica had barely made the top 50 with fourth single "Sad But True". On the eve of the Australian leg of their world tour, fifth release "Wherever I May Roam" resulted in a remarkable reversal in chart fortune, almost returning them to the top 10. Other than the presence of a sitar (or similar) on the track, it was pretty much musical business as usual for the metal band who had quickly become one of the most commercially successful in the world.

Number 19 "In The Still Of The Nite (I'll Remember)" by Boyz II Men
Peak: number 11
At the other end of the musical spectrum, but also responsible for a huge amount of record sales around this time were vocal harmony group Boyz II Men, who followed chart-topper "End Of The Road" with another soundtrack release. Recorded for TV miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream, the quartet's version of "In The Still Of The Nite (I'll Remember)" became the second a cappella song in the ARIA top 20 as it debuted 10 places lower than Shai's "If I Ever Fall In Love". Boyz II Men's remake of the doo-wop classic was the first recording of the much-covered song, originally performed by The Five Satins in 1956, to become a hit in Australia.

Number 7 "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz
Peak: number 1
He had a top 10 single and album to his name already, but things really went ballistic for Lenny Kravitz in 1993 with the release of his third album, Are You Gonna Go My Way, and its all-conquering lead single of the same name. A six-week chart-topper, the funk-infused rock of "Are You Gonna Go My Way" turned Lenny from that cool dreaded guy people were kind of familiar with into a major music star. One of those songs that came together very quickly, it's apparently about Jesus - the subject of or inspiration for a number of his tunes. Despite not actually being released as a single in the US, the music video did receive a lot of play there and won the MTV VMA for Best Male Video later in 1993.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1993 (updated weekly):

Next week: another rock band scores a big hit with a cover version, plus some actual pop makes its debut, too.

Back to: Mar 7, 1993 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 21, 1993