Wednesday, 3 June 2015

This Week In 1990: June 3, 1990

It's always fun to discover a song you always thought was originally performed by the artist who had a hit with it was actually a cover version. That's especially the case when it's a track like "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" or "Mickey" - a song so associated with the one act it's hard to imagine anyone else ever having recorded it.

Step 1: take a little-known track and record a hit version of it

Tthis week in 1990, a remake entered the ARIA singles chart that I didn't know was a remake until writing this post. Like Yazz's "The Only Way Is Up" and "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, the single was a new version of quite an obscure song and this version became a defining moment in the career of the boy band that performed it.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending June 3, 1990

Another song that was a defining moment in its performer's career held down the number 1 position for a fifth and final week. Madonna clung onto the top spot with "Vogue/Keep It Together" despite strong pressure from Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You", which snagged number 1 on a couple of state charts.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Express Yourself" by N.W.A.
Peak: number 96
First Public Enemy (who we saw last week and earlier in 1990) and now fellow late '80s/early '90s rap legends N.W.A. made the top 100 - in this case with a year-old single that Triple J played continuously for 24 hours to protest the banning of the group's "Fuck Tha Police".

Number 99 "Permanent Friend" by Girl Overboard
Peak: number 85
Things had been going increasingly well for this Australian band, with their debut album, Paint A Picture, making the top 20, but after two top 50 singles, this third release bombed.

Number 97 "Don't Wanna Fall In Love" by Jane Child
Peak: number 97
In the US, it climbed all the way to number 2, where it stayed for three weeks, but it was in and out of the ARIA chart for the nose chained Canadian singer. One of my favourite songs from 1990.

Number 96 "Cuts You Up" by Peter Murphy
Peak: number 96
His former band, goth pioneers Bauhaus, hadn't managed any Australian hits, and the early years of his solo career had been just as barren - but this US chart success at least sneaked into the top 100.

Number 94 "Hello" by The Beloved
Peak: number 94
Like "Don't Wanna Fall...", this is another 1990 classic that made my personal year-end chart but spent just a solitary week on the ARIA top 100. The British synthpop act had a string of hits at home but never made our chart again.

Number 85 "Fame '90" by David Bowie
Peak: number 85
In the '90s, best of CDs were often accompanied by a remix of an earlier hit. This update of the 1975 US chart-topper was to promote the Changesbowie compilation, with some mixes featuring a rap by Queen Latifah. The revamp also appeared on the Pretty Woman soundtrack

New Entries
Number 47 "With A Little Love" by Sam Brown
Peak: number 27
After big ballad "Stop!" and Motown cover "Can I Get A Witness", British songstress Sam Brown changed musical directions with this almost country-sounding ditty. The first release from her second album, April Moon, "With A Little Love" performed better in Australia than back at home but it was to be her last top 50 appearance locally. Saying I didn't really love this song is a bit of an understatement - the high-pitch vocal in the chorus was like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.

Number 36 "A Dreams A Dream" by Soul II Soul
Peak: number 27
If I asked you to name Soul II Soul's most successful single, it's unlikely you'd pick this second release from Vol. II: 1990 - A New Decade. You'd probably go with "Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)", "Keep On Movin'" or "Get A Life", right? In Australia, however, it was this single, with vocals by statuesque singer Victoria Wilson James, that reached the highest point on the ARIA chart. But, it's not as simple as it seems. As pleasant a song as "A Dreams A Dream" is, it had more than a little help climbing the Australian top 50. The locally released 12" featured "Get A Life" and "Back To Life" - both of which had fleeting top 50 stays but extended chart runs in the bottom half of the top 100 - on the B-side. And, I seem to recall that the 7" had a similar arrangement (either those songs on the flip side or as a bonus disc, I can't remember exactly). So the chance to own those two word-of-mouth hits that'd gradually won fans over was definitely added to the appeal of this release. 

Number 27 "Step By Step" by New Kids On The Block
Peak: number 8
It's startling the things I've discovered while writing this blog. "Step By Step" - the best song New Kids On The Block ever released - was a cover version! First recorded by The Superiors - another outfit put together by writer/producer Maurice Starr - in 1987, it sank without a trace. And so, believing he had a hit song on his hands, the pop mastermind resurrected it for NKOTB's third album, also called Step By Step. Released a week ahead of the new album, the single returned the boy band to the ARIA top 10, where it matched the peak of their last big hit, "Hangin' Tough". For me, "Step By Step" was the first New Kids song I got excited about. I'd kind of liked "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" - mostly for the "all that I needed was you" pre-chorus bit - but this was pure pop gold. They even let Jon sing a line!

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1990:

Next week: two mega-successful Australian artists return with the first taste of their new albums. For one, it came with a major image makeover; for the other, it was business as usual.

Back to: May 27, 1990 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jun 10, 1990


  1. I didn't tune in to Triple J properly until 1995, so didn't know about the 24 hours' worth of the Public Enemy track. I assumed the

    ARIA mightn't have listed it as such, but 'Permanent Friend' was actually a double A-side with 'Some Things Never Change'; and I'm pretty sure videos were filmed for both, too. I liked 'Permanent Friend', though that shocking quality upload doesn't do it justice. The band now have an official youtube channel, I think with all of their videos uploaded (in better quality) - but few appear in the search results.

    The Jane Child track seemed to get quite a few airings on Countdown Revolution. Memorable mainly for her disgusting 'nose chain' (?), when I downloaded the song in the mid 00's out of curiosity, it wasn't quite as good as I'd remembered it.

    The Beloved released some excellent singles in 1990, and beyond. It's a shame that 'Hello' was the only one to (barely) crack the top 100. Name-checking Paris Grey, a bit like the Reynolds Girls name-checking Yazz a year earlier, was probably a bit premature in estimating her enduring cultural impact.

    If I remember correctly, 'Fame '90' actually made the lower reaches of a rival Take 40-chart aired weekly, which wasn't based on the Kent/AMR chart either (I'm not sure what it was based on), hosted by Mike Hammond. The name of the program escapes me, but it may have been the Oz 40 Countdown.

    I liked 'With a Little Love', but generally liked Sam's universal flop singles ('This Feeling' and 'Mindworks'; the latter seemed to be an obvious 'inspiration' for Kylie's 'Put Yourself In My Place' video if you haven't seen it before) the best.

    The 'correct' title of the Soul II Soul single was actually 'A Dreams (no apostrophe) a Dream' - who knows what that's supposed to mean? ARIA obviously hadn't noticed. I bought the cassingle some weeks before it cracked the top 50, and was quite surprised when it did, as I assumed its chance had well and truly passed by then (and with their history of local flops). The singer looked quite similar to Yazz, I thought. Efua, Jazzie B's wife and future one-hit wonder, also appears in the video (on the swinging rope thing), I spotted some years later. You're right; there was a 3-for-1 shrinkwrapped 7" singles pack I saw a few weeks after its release in the stores. I don't remember there being the same deal for cassingles, though have a vague memory of seeing a long rectangle-shaped cassette pack in Brashs (though I don't remember if it was for this release). Rage even played all 3 videos back to back from a few weeks into 'A Dreams a Dream's top 50 chart run.

    I was long over NKOTB by the time 'Step By Step' was released, and didn't like the song as a result (though a friend and I used to love mimicking the middle 8 section where they all sang a line). However, in retrospect, it's my favourite single of theirs, and quite a decent pop track. I was surprised when I saw that it only peaked at #8 here; it seems like it did much better. It broke the record of the most nights at #1 on Triple M's Top 8 at 8, which is probably one of the reasons I hated it back then (due to overkill). I also had no idea it was a cover version; I guess since it was written by their usual songwriter at the time.

    1. Thanks for the heads up about the apostrophe! Never noticed that before. And I'm glad I'm not just imagining the 3-for-1 deal with the other formats.

  2. I meant to write in the previous comment about Public Enemy, 'I assume the record company must have reissued the single to cash-in on the Triple J exposure, if it was already a year old'.

    1. It might have been a reissue, not sure. Sometimes, though, singles back then used to be available long after release - I ordered a few things from my local record store long after they stopped being in shops. I guess record companies would hang on to whatever stock didn't originally sell sometimes, so maybe this was a case of stores ordering in the old single due to public demand?

  3. I also meant to mention, interesting that Kevin Page was in the WA state top 10 despite not yet cracking the national top 50.

  4. My copy of Soul II Soul had "Get A Life" and "Back To Life" on the B side, playing at 45rpm. One record but other Virgin artists had a complete previous single shrink-wrapped together with the new single (eg. Inner City)so you'd get 2 records for the price of 1.

    Also, in the US (my cousin was a DJ and I was also sent tapes), the main version they used of Jane Child was the "(Knife Feel Good Mix)" which was much better than the standard version

  5. Thanks for listing The Beloved.

    I had never heard of them or their music before. But I really like Hello and their 1993 UK Top 10 hit Sweet Harmony too.

    This website is terrific for discovering music with at least some commerciality that you like but never knew existed!