Wednesday, 28 March 2018

25 Years Ago This Week: March 28, 1993

Remember the time, just over a year ago, when we'd marvelled at how Michael Jackson had debuted on the ARIA top 50 with two different singles. This week in 1993, he just went and did it again.

When it came to Michael Jackson's Dangerous album, we took the bad with the good

Except this time, instead of one of those songs being a remix of a previous chart-topper, they were both completely new hits - the latest two tracks lifted from his indefatigable Dangerous album.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 28, 1993

Also this week in 1993, the first of our three recent rock cover versions took over at number 1. But with Lenny Kravitz breathing down their neck, "Cats In The Cradle" by Ugly Kid Joe would only last one week in the top spot.

Off The Chart
Number 96 "Who's Lovin' You" by Jackson 5
Peak: number 96
Released to coincide with miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream, the Jackson brothers' version of the song originally recorded by The Miracles first appeared on the B-side to debut single "I Want You Back" in 1969.

Number 93 "Jump (live)" by Van Halen
Peak: number 93
Another oldie - the studio version of this single from 1984 reached number 2 originally. This live recording was lifted from concert album Live: Right Here, Right Now.

New Entries
Number 50 "Black Stick" by The Cruel Sea
Peak: number 25
Unlike anything they'd released before, "Black Stick" jumped straight into the top 50, giving The Cruel Sea their first mainstream hit. It would turn out to be a big year for the genre-blurring rock band fronted by Tex Perkins, with their upcoming third album, The Honeymoon Is Over, reaching the top 5 and resulting in them taking home a handful of ARIA Awards at the 1994 ceremony.

Number 49 "Heal The World" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 20
I wouldn't have minded one bit if this sixth single from Dangerous had peaked at number 60, the position it reached in mid-December before falling back out of the chart. After five excellent pop/R&B tracks in "Black Or White", "Remember The Time", "In The Closet", "Jam" and "Who Is It", this nauseating, sickly sweet, nursery rhyme-like ballad was the worst single of Michael Jackson's career up until that point. Yes, including "Ben". Now before you all have a go at me, yes, the sentiment behind "Heal The World" is admirable, as were Michael's charitable efforts that went along with the song, but as a piece of music, it's unbearable. Its chart reversal is no doubt partly due to it being the climax of the King of Pop's Super Bowl halftime show at the end of January, and it went on to give him another top 20 hit from Dangerous.

Number 43 "Constant Craving" by kd lang
Peak: number 38
Her duet with Roy Orbison on a remake of The Big O's "Crying" had made slight inroads into the top 100 when it was re-released in late 1992, but things slowly started picking up for kd lang in 1993 when her second solo album, Ingénue, gathered momentum following its Grammy nominations. Almost a year after its initial release, award-winning lead single "Constant Craving", which signalled kd's move away from her original country sound to a more produced adult contemporary feel, crept into the top 40, although I feel like it was one of those songs that was everywhere at the time. Interestingly, Ingénue was only a modest success locally in 1993, reaching number 25 in May. Its top 3 peak wouldn't come for another year, when it bounded back into the chart following kd's visit to Australia in early 1994 to promote her soundtrack for Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Number 40 "Bad Girl" by Madonna
Peak: number 32
It's probably one of Madonna's least remembered singles, but "Bad Girl" was, nevertheless, another top 40 hit for the Queen of Pop - her 28th overall and the third from Erotica. The David Fincher-directed, Christopher Walken-featuring video brought the lyrics to life, depicting the story of the titular bad girl, who indulges in hedonistic behaviour following the breakdown of a relationship. Given the fact that two subsequent singles from Erotica outperformed "Bad Girl" in Australia, the usual excuse that fans already had the album can't explain the fact that this was Madonna's lowest-charting top 50 hit since "Lucky Star". I'd suggest the song's melancholy feel probably had more to do with it.

Number 38 "Deep Forest" by Deep Forest
Peak: number 32
There were more pan pipes and beats being blended on this second hit from - and named after - French electronic duo Deep Forest. "Deep Forest" was also the title track of the pair's debut album, which was re-released a couple of years later as World Mix. There wasn't as strong a hook on this single as on "Sweet Lullaby", and therefore it was a significantly smaller hit - although it should be noted, the album was by now into its sixth week in the top 10.

Number 13 "Give In To Me" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 4
Now this is more like it. Michael Jackson finally got around to releasing one of the highlights from Dangerous - although, oddly, not in the US - as its seventh single. And despite coming out so late in the campaign, "Give In The Me" ended up being the album's second biggest hit in Australia. Just shows what a bit of rock can do for you in this country. The natural successor to "Beat It" (which featured Eddie Van Halen) and "Dirty Diana" (Steve Stevens), "Give In To Me" boasted a guitar solo from Guns n' Roses axeman Slash and saw Michael in pop/rock mode - and, unlike "Heal The World", this was a refreshing change from the slew of R&B singles that'd come before it. As a bonus, those two previous guitar-influenced hits were included on the "Give It To Me" single.

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

Next week: one Australian pop/rock group scores after a series of flops, while another sees its chart struggles continue.

Back to: Mar 21, 1993 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 4, 1993

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

This Week In 1993: 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:

Next week: the sixth and seventh 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.