Wednesday, 10 January 2018

25 Years Ago This Week: January 10, 1993

A new year, and with the dawn of 1993 came a new musical trend: world music goes electronic. The biggest of the five new entries on the first ARIA chart for the year did for pan pipes and foreign language lyrics what Enigma did for Gregorian chant a couple of years earlier.

1993's first musical trend: world music goes mainstream

The song was a worldwide sensation, but I always associate it with another '90s phenomenon: chart rigging. I'll explain why when we get to it...

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - three weeks ending January 10, 1993

Speaking of phenomena, there was no change at number 1 this week in 1993, with "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston just where we left it. This was the fourth week on top for the Bodyguard smash. 

Off The Chart
Number 97 "Time After Time" by Mark Williams / Tara Morice
Peak: number 82
Unlike the remix of "Love Is In The Air", this remake of the Cyndi Lauper ballad recorded as a duet for Strictly Ballroom (with its female lead as one of the performers) was not a hit.

Number 91 "Love In Motion" by Icehouse featuring Christina Amphlett
Peak: number 74
This revamp of Icehouse's 1981 top 10 hit with guest vocals by the formally credited Divinyls frontwoman was taken from Masterfile, the second compilation of the band's material to stop short of covering the Man Of Colours years.

Number 73 "In Bloom" by Nirvana
Peak: number 73
This fourth and final single from Nevermind might've sounded as, well, grungy as the rest, but it came with a lighthearted music video that saw the band send up 1960s variety shows.

Number 65 "Achy Breaky Heart" by Alvin & The Chipmunks
Peak: number 61
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the helium-voiced rodents gave Billy Ray Cyrus's chart-topper a makeover that resulted in a whole new type of hell.

New Entries
Number 50 "I Will Never Leave You" by Euphoria
Peak: number 41
The dream run was over for two-time chart-topping dance act Euphoria as their fourth single - and first released after their debut album, Total Euphoria - fell a long way short of the top 10. The 2 Unlimited-ish "I Will Never Leave You" also saw the group come full circle with Holly Garnett, who sang the verses, not appearing in the music video, but Keren Minshull, who performed the rest and for whom Holly had lip synced in the "Love You Right" clip, present and accounted for. A post-Holly Euphoria would release one more new single, which we'll see later in the year.

Number 48 "Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night)" by Enya
Peak: number 48
Exactly a year earlier, Enya's Gaelic rendition of the festive favourite had charted as part of a double A-side with "How Can I Keep From Singing?". In 1993, a separate release of "Oíche Chiúin" wound back up in the low 40s thanks to Christmas sales. Enya's persistent record company tried to turn it into a big hit again in 1994-95 and 1995-96 (and maybe on other occasions for all I know), but this was its last appearance in the top 50.

Number 44 "Man On The Moon" by R.E.M.
Peak: number 39
R.E.M. really weren't doing so well with the singles from Automatic For The People at this point, we're they? (Although they could console themselves with the fact the album reached number 2.) Matching "Drive" by peaking in the 30s was this second single, which was inspired by comedian Andy Kaufman. "Man On The Moon" would go on to be used in and provide the title for a film about the former Saturday Night Live cast member in 1999, and despite its surprisingly lowly chart peak here, it's surely become one of the band's most recognisable songs.

Number 43 "Sweet Lullaby" by Deep Forest
Peak: number 7
Indigenous music and dance music had been combined to great effect previously, with the club mixes of Yothu Yindi's songs achieving great success on the ARIA chart. But Yothu Yindi was a contemporary act, while Deep Forrest took recordings of traditional indigenous populations, and blended them with ambient music and electronic beats. On "Sweet Lullaby", a melody that originated from the Solomon Islands was turned into a chillout tune - one that connected with people all around the world, albeit gradually. Released in 1992, it took its time to become a global hit, with countries still coming on board in 1994.
So what's the connection to chart-rigging, I hear you ask? Well, when I worked at a now defunct music store later in the '90s while I was at uni, I witnessed first-hand how sales data was tabulated and was told by the person working out how many copies of each song had been sold that week how easy it was to diddle the figures. In fact, they'd added quite a few sales to the tally for "Sweet Lullaby" when it'd been released, they told me, because they thought it would be funny if it turned into a hit. Of course, I'm not suggesting the song was only successful because one worker in one record shop inflated its sales - it doesn't work like that. And besides, the track was so novel and such an effective production that it was always going to be big. But nevertheless, I always think of that story when I hear the song. 

Number 35 Happy Birthday Helen by Things Of Stone & Wood
Peak: number 9
A song I'm reminded of a couple of times each year when either of my friends named Helen has a birthday, the title track of Things Of Stone & Wood's second EP would provide the Melbourne band with their commercial breakthrough. Naturally, thanks to its jangly, feelgood vibe, it was easy to take the piss out of - and so The Late Show did. "Happy Birthday Helen" was actually written for someone called Helen - singer Greg Arnold's then-girlfriend and future wife, on the occasion of her 22nd birthday.

I'm trying something new this year and creating Spotify playlists for all the top 50 entries on my 25 Years Ago... and 30 Years Ago... posts. Well, as many songs as are available - Euphoria, for example, is not on Spotify. Here's the start of the 1993 one and I'll add to it every week to coincide with each new post:

Next week: a couple of fantastic R&B hits make the chart, a couple of songs from the '80s updated for the '90s don't. 

Back to: Dec 20, 1992 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Jan 17, 1993


  1. I remember thinking at the time that '93 was a really shit year for chart music. Here, anyway. Though it improved slightly in the second half of the year. Of course, compared to the current charts, it was a golden era.

    I did wonder exactly what the point of 'Masterfile' was, given Icehouse had had a greatest hits compilation just 3 years earlier, with only one real new hit in between (which wasn't featured on it, I'm pretty sure).

    I hadn't heard the Chipmunks' rendition of 'Achy Breaky Heart' until now... As bad as it is, I'd possibly rather listen to this than the original, if I had to choose.

    Jodhi was basically hired to just pout and dance for the 'I Will Never Leave You' video.

    I had never heard of Deep Forest until 'Sweet Lullaby' crept into the top 60 on the last chart of 1992, so it may well have been rigged to get there. Its release date locally was apparently 12 October 1992, so it also took a while to dent the lower region of the chart. While I like 'Sweet Lullaby', I slightly prefer the less-successful follow-up. I thought the song (or at least the vocalists they used) originated in the French horn of Africa, though; not the Solomon Islands.

    'Happy Birthday Helen' would be my least favourite TOSAW single I know, so of course it was by far the biggest hit.

  2. Ah, here comes 1993! A lot of music from that year has been listened to much more by me in the last few years than in 1993 itself.

    The Chipmunks' version of "Achy Breaky Mullet" was actually played briefly on Take 40 Australia in early 1993 and I haven't heard it since then. No desire to break that drought.

    But it did somehow peak higher than "In Bloom"! All us Nirvana fans (except me) already owned the Nevermind album, so it's a shame Rage-watchers never got to see the funny video they made for this song.

    That's an interesting story about chart-rigging, I'd love to hear more about it. And the Spotify playlists are a great idea.

    1. 'In Bloom' got plenty of air time on rage outside of the top 60. I remember catching it several times as a new release, and I wasn't even really aware that they aired new releases on a Friday night yet.

  3. I forgot to add...I don't know if you've heard the TISM song "Aussiemandias", but it ends with a very strange-sounding Deep Forest-style sample that goes for about half a minute. I always wondered if they lifted it from the Deep Forest album.