Wednesday, 15 May 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: May 15, 1994

Three years ago, in one of my 1991 recaps, I wrote about UK quiz show Pointless and how some long-forgotten chart entries would make excellent answers because they're not the songs that spring to mind most often when thinking about certain artists.

Not the first songs that come to mind when you think of these artists

Since I wrote that post, an Australian version of the game show has been and gone, having recently aired its final episode. Even so, local readers would now be more familiar with the concept of Pointless and recognise that most of the songs entering the ARIA top 100 and top 50 this week in 1994 would have very low scores on that show.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 15, 1994

One of two songs most people would think of when it comes to Ace Of Base was still as number 1 this week in 1994. "The Sign" spent a third week on top. 

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Misled" by Celine Dion
Peak: number 55
Instead of playing to her big ballad strengths, Celine Dion's record company mixed things up with this mid-tempo tune, which sounded like a Taylor Dayne album track. They'd learn their lesson.

Number 90 Miscellaneous Debris by Primus
Peak: number 69
The American rock band's commercial breakthrough came courtest of this collection of five remakes. Their cover of XTC's "Making Plans For Nigel" was promoted as the EP's single.

Number 89 "Renaissance" by M-People
Peak: number 60
After re-releasing "One Night In Heaven", M-People's record company tried to keep the party going by skipping ahead to this fourth single from Elegent Slumming. Although a UK top 5 hit, "Renaissance" didn't connect locally.

Number 83 "World In Your Hands" by Culture Beat
Peak: number 57
The good times also ended for Culture Beat who followed up three massive hits with this slower paced track, which sounded to me a bit like "Cult Of Snap!". They'd never return to the top 50.

Number 78 "God" by Tori Amos
Peak: number 65
While "Cornflake Girl" spent its 12th week on the top 50, this stylistically similar follow-up didn't follow suit. Not sure if people were turned off by all those rats in the music video...

New Entries
Number 50 "I'm Broken" by Pantera
Peak: number 49
One minute. That's how far into this song I got before I had to turn it off. From probably my least favourite genre of music, this sole top 50 hit by the heavy metal band was taken from seventh album Far Beyond Driven, which had debuted at number 1 back in April. Apparently, the title is quite literal, referring to the back pain suffered by singer Phil Anselmo. Guess that explains all the screaming.

Number 45 "It's My Life" by Dr Alban
Peak: number 43
If you're reading this in Europe, you'd be entitled to quibble at my description of this Eurodance classic as a long-forgotten single - it was massive across the continent and in the UK in 1992. But in Australia, the lead single from One Love bombed out at number 97 in November that year. Re-released in the wake of "Sing Hallelujah" reaching the ARIA top 5, "It's My Life" only managed to creep into the bottom of the top 50. As a result, I'd suggest it's not a song many Australians would recall. Like "Sing Hallelujah", "It's My Life" is all about the chorus - a jubilant celebration compared to its stodgy, almost indecipherable verses. 

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994 (updated weekly):

Next week: a new Australian boy band, an old heavy metal song makes a huge re-entry and a song that always reminds me of my time in music retail.

Back to: May 8, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 22, 1994

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: May 8, 1994

Girl groups had been coming thick and fast out of America since the late '80, and Australia had got in on the action with a couple of briefly massive ensembles in the early '90s. Surprisingly, there had not been that many girl groups emerging from the UK, which would end up producing one of the decade's biggest all-female acts in Spice Girls.

Eternal by name, but not by nature

Before the world went girl power crazy, another British girl group with a propensity for losing members broke through in Australia this week in 1994 with their debut single - a song that had taken its time to make it on the ARIA chart.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 8, 1994

Meanwhile, for the second week in a row, the highest-selling single in Australia was from another quartet: Ace Of Base's "The Sign" remained at number 1.

Off The Chart
Number 93 "In The Name Of The Father" by Bono & Gavin Friday
Peak: number 56
Sinéad O'Connor's song from the soundtrack to the Daniel Day-Lewis film had just made the top 50, while this title track - a collaboration between the U2 vocalist and fellow Irishman Gavin Friday - just missed out.

Number 90 "I'm Gonna Release Your Soul" by Dave Graney & The Coral Snakes
Peak: number 81
Although they'd formed back in 1987, this lead single from fourth album You Wanna Be There But You Don't Wanna Travel was the first top 100 appearance by the Australian band.

Number 83 "Bump n' Grind" by R. Kelly
Peak: number 82
Turns out R. Kelly didn't see nothing wrong with quite a lot of things. Having shed backing group Public Announcement, this second single from solo album 12 Play took him all the way to number 1 in the US.

New Entries
Number 50 "Stay" by Eternal
Peak: number 3
The UK's answer to En Vogue, four-piece Eternal started off with sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett before additional members Louise Nurding and her friend Kéllé Bryan joined the project. Launched in Britain in September 1993, the quartet had enjoyed three top 10 hits there by the time their debut single, "Stay", finally started to take off in Australia, having been released at the beginning of December 1993 locally. 
Initially, it looked like "Stay" wasn't going to do much here, peaking at number 98 in March, but it crashed back into the chart on its way to the top 3 a couple of months later. A polished slice of R&B, "Stay" was typical of the output of First Avenue Records, also the home for Dina Carroll, Michelle Gayle and MN8, and much poppier than their American counterparts, although the song did make the Billboard top 20. As we'll see in coming months, the Eternal story would be a rocky one - both in terms of their ARIA chart performance and their line-up, with the Bennetts shedding first Louise and then Kéllé over the years.

Number 49 "Satisfy The Groove" by Culture Shock
Peak: number 31
It's amazing what some major label money can do to a song. Initially released on independent label MDS in March, the debut single by local dance outfit Culture Shock was quickly snapped up by Sony Music, given a remix courtesy of DJ Pee Wee Ferris and re-released a month later. An improvement on the original versionthe new "Satisfy The Groove" had a certain Urban Cookie Collective feel to it and was one of my favourite songs of 1994. One of the singers for the group was former Young Talent Time alumnus Lorena Novoa, who became the third female singer from the show to score a top 50 hit during the '90s.

Number 39 "U R The Best Thing" by D:Ream
Peak: number 9
A remix and re-release had helped Culture Shock quickly land a hit, and a similar process did the same for D:Ream - albeit over three years and three versions. Originally released in mid-1992 before being given a second chance a year later in 1993, "U R The Best Thing" finally hit the Australian and UK top 10 in 1994 following an update by remix team Perfecto and the success of "Things Can Only Get Better", which had also taken a couple of goes to connect. Like the remix of "Satisfy The Groove", this new version of "U R The Best Thing" gave the track the added oomph it needed to make it a great song rather than just a good song. It wouldn't be the last great song the act fronted by Peter Cunnah would produce, but it would be the last hit they'd score in Australia.

Number 38 "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies
Peak: number 1
Here's another track like "Stay" that took its time to reach our shores, having been released seven months earlier in Crash Test Dummies' home country of Canada. The lead single from the band's second album, God Shuffled His Feet, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was one of those song's quirky enough to be massive - three weeks at number 1 in Australia - but also one that would inevitably rub some people the wrong way. No prizes for guessing it wasn't one of my favourite tracks from 1994, but I did, however, quite enjoy the final minute of the song, probably because the sonorous lead vocal is done with by then. One of those polarising songs that often pops up on best and worst lists for the '90s, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" tells the stories of three children with some kind of percularity. Singer Brad Roberts talks about it in more detail here. The band would come close to being one-hit wonders in Australia, but we will see them pop up on the top 50 one more time.

Number 31 "I'll Stand By You" by The Pretenders
Peak: number 8
It'd been seven years since we'd seen The Pretenders on the Australian top 50, the British band hitting number 7 in 1987 with ballad "Hymn To Her", as everything from 1990 album Packed! and various other soundtrack releases had flopped locally. But in 1994, they stormed back into the top 10 with another emotional ballad. The song was co-written by singer Chrissie Hynde with a couple of songwriters who know their way around a hit ballad: Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the duo behind "True Colors", "Alone" and "Eternal Flame", to name just some of their big hits. As it would turn out, it would be the last time we'd see The Pretenders on the top 50, while "I'll Stand By You" would improve upon its UK number 10 peak thanks to a cover version by Girls Aloud, which reached number 1 there in 2004.

Number 26 "Less Than A Feeling" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 26
The week's biggest new entry was also the first single from Hoodoo Gurus' Crank album to crack the top 40, "The Right Time" and "You Open My Eyes" having peaked just outside. Despite its high-flying debut, "Less Than A Feeling" would fall quickly off the chart, despite being the enduring Australian rock band's best single since 1991's "Miss Freelove '69".

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994 (updated weekly):

Next week: a much more subdued chart when a bunch of recent hit-makers don't do so well with their follow-up singles.

Back to: May 1, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 15, 1994

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: May 1, 1994

I never noticed it at the time, but the release schedules of Prince and Madonna started to sync up in 1992, with the music megastars debuting simultaneously on the ARIA chart a number of times that year with "Sexy MF" and "This Used To Be My Playground", "My Name Is Prince" and "Erotica", and "7" and "Deeper And Deeper".

TAFKAP just didn't have the same ring to it

This week in 1994, it happened once again, with brand new songs by both singers arriving on the top 50, except one of the stars wasn't going by their regular mononym anymore - and earned themselves another number 1 in the process.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending May 1, 1994

Before then, the number 1 song in Australia was "The Sign" by Ace Of Base, which ascended to the top for the first of four weeks this week in 1994. 

Off The Chart
Number 98 "March Of The Pigs" by Nine Inch Nails
Peak: number 98
They'd be responsible for one of the decade's most controversial singles with their next release, but this lead single from The Downward Spiral at least got the industrial act's chart career started.

Number 95 "Stomp" by Tyme
Peak: number 70
You can thank Molly Meldrum for this excrutiating attempt at DJ BoBo-style Eurodance - the remake of The Brothers Johnson's disco classic was released by the music guru's Melodian label.

Number 92 "Gotta Lotta Love" by Ice-T
Peak: number 90
Another minor top 100 entry for Ice-T, whose Home Invasion album (which this song was taken from) was recorded back in 1992. The delays and record company interference he faced resulted in the rapper leaving his label so he could release the album as itended.

Number 91 "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" by Me'Shell Ndegeocello
Peak: number 79
Snapped up by Madonna's Maverick label, this American R&B artist garnered critical acclaim with debut album Plantation Lullabies, which featured this excellently titled single.

Number 88 "Liar" by Rollins Band
Peak: number 65
This Grammy-nominated single from fourth album Weight became the first chart appearance for the band fronted by Henry Rollins (who had visited the chart himself earlier). 

Number 85 "A Certain Slant Of Light" by The Tea Party
Peak: number 60
A slight improvement on their previous top 100 entry, this third single from the Canadian band's debut album was only given a full release in Australia and came with a music video filmed in Sydney.

Number 80 "Big Time Sensuality" by Björk
Peak: number 62
This track from Debut, which was remixed for single release by British electronic group Fluke, is far and away my favourite song by the Icelandic singer (although I prefer the album version). In fact, it may be the only one of hers I like.

New Entries
Number 50 "To The Top" by Peter Andre
Peak: number 46
Despite coming in two versions - one, a standard single edit and the other, a revised version with new lyrics linked to the 1994 FIFA World Cup for which is served as the official theme - this became the first single by Australia's answer to Bobby Brown to miss the top 20 since his debut effort, "Drive Me Crazy". As it would turn out, Peter Andre was really just getting started.

Number 49 "Danny Man" by Jimeoin
Peak: number 49
Since he'd relocated to Australia in the late '80s, Irish comedian Jimeoin had quickly established himself as one of the country's most popular joke-crackers. So much so that he had his own show on Channel Seven in 1994-95 and managed to sneak into the top 50 with this... well, I don't really know what to call it. Part-rap, part-Irish jig based on Irish folk tune "Danny Boy", it reminds me a little of a novelty version of "Tubthumping". A bigger hit than his last charting effort, "Walk On The Wild Side", but only just. 

Number 45 "Rocks" by Primal Scream
Peak: number 43
Earlier in the decade, they'd been one of many British rock bands to incorporate elements of dance music into their sound on third album Screamadelica, but Scotland's Primal Scream changed course for their next effort, Give Out But Don't Give Up, as evidenced by this blues-influenced stomper. More than a little reminscent of T.Rex, "Rocks" is one of those songs that has never really gone away, popping up in TV shows and movies, and covered over the years by all manner of artists - giving it a legacy much greater than you'd expect for a song that peaked outside the top 40.

Number 42 "I Believe" by Marcella Detroit
Peak: number 10
She'd had one of the most unceremonious sackings in music history when she was dismissed from Shakespears Sister by Siobhan Fahey at the 1993 Ivor Novello Awards. Although Marcella Detroit was in attendance at the songwriting awards ceremony, Siobhan was not, and it was the duo's publisher who made the announcement as part of a pre-written speech composed by Siobhan that was delivered when Shakespears Sister won Best Contemporary Collection Of Songs. Cold. (Side note: it took 25 years for the pair to talk again, meeting up in 2018, the same year Siobhan went back on tour with her previous group, Bananarama.)
Anyway, in 1994, Marcella dusted herself off and released this sublime ballad as her solo return, having previously released music in the early '80s. Self-written, "I Believe" perfectly showcased Marcella's vocal range - from the gentle verses to the impassioned chorus to that piercing high note in the song's climax. A great start to her post-Shakespears Sister career, the song peaked one place higher in Australia than the UK, but it would end up as Marcella's only solo hit, with subsequent releases failing to dent the top 100.

Number 41 "Whoomp! (There It Is)" by Tag Team
Peak: number 19
Like "Macarena" a couple of years later, this hip-hop anthem was one of two very similar tracks released in the first half of 1993 in the US. But despite being the bigger of the two, both here and in America (where it peaked at number 2), this song by one-hit wonder duo Tag Team was actually released later than the first: "Whoot, There It Is" by 95 South (which didn't even chart here, but reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100). 
There's an interesting interview (in terms of the content and where it's filmed) with 95 South member Carlos Spencer about the situation on YouTube (the relevant part is from the five-minute mark), while Tag Team's Cecil "DC The Brain Supreme" Glenn and Steve "Steve Roll'n" Gibson tell their side of the story here. Musically, "Whoomp! (There It Is)" featured a sample from disco track "I'm Ready" by Kano and was an example of Miami bass, a genre made famous by 2 Live Crew.

Number 23 "Doop" by Doop
Peak: number 5
From "Whoomp!" we move to "Doop" and another novelty-esque track that I have to say I found pretty much unbearable. Plenty of other people liked it, though. Blending a 1920s Charleston tune with a 1990s dance beat, the eponymous debut single from the Dutch duo comprised of Peter Garnefski and Ferry Ridderhof reached number 1 in the UK and the Australian top 5, but I wonder how quickly those who bought it got sick of it. Mercifully, this was the only time Doop charted in Australia, although the same team were behind an even bigger hit in 1995 under a different name.

Number 12 "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" by Prince*
Peak: number 1
Things were pretty much over between Prince (*who I'll continue to refer to as Prince, even though he was going by the same unpronounceable love symbol that had been the title of his most recent studio album) and Warner Bros. Records at this point. As well as making everyone's lives more difficult by insisting on not being called Prince (with many referring to him as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince or just The Artist), he took to writing SLAVE on his face in reference to his belief that he was indentured to a record company that weren't acting in his artistic interests. 
His 1993 career retrospective out of the way, Warner Bros. made the unusual decision of allowing new track "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" to be released by Prince's NPG Records and independent German label Edel Music. In Australia, the song was distributed through a deal with Festival Records. Although all the rigmarole surrounding the release no doubt helped matters, it's likely the song - a ballad inspired by his future fiance, Mayte Garcia, and performed mostly in falsetto - would have been massive regardless. What few would have expected, however, was that it would be Prince's last huge hit.

Number 11 "I'll Remember" by Madonna
Peak: number 7
Here's something I didn't know before now: this Madonna ballad was co-written by Mr Mister frontman Richard Page. He wrote the original version of the song, which was then modified by Madonna and regular collaborator Patrick Leonard. "I'll Remember", which appeared on the soundtrack to long-forgotten Joe Pesci/Brendan Fraser film With Honors, was Madonna's first new song since winding up the Erotica project and its sensitive, delicate style was in marked contrast to the overt sexuality of most of that album (although similar musically and visually to "Rain" and its accompanying music video). Debuting one place above Prince (or whatever he was called) at number 11, she effortlessly racked up her 23rd top 10 hit.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994 (updated weekly):

Next week: another future number 1 with a title that consisted of one word repeated four times, plus the long-overdue arrival of a new British girl group.

Back to: Apr 24, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 8, 1994