Wednesday, 14 August 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: August 14, 1994

I liked a lot of dance music in 1994 - from techno to Eurodance, dance-pop to hi-NRG, synthpop to trance. But there was one massive club track that year I couldn't stand.

Just what dance music needed: banjos

Debuting on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1994, the song gained more attention than your average dance track by virtue of it featuring a banjo. As a result of the added exposure and interest, it was among the year's 20 biggest hits in Australia.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 14, 1994

A song that was the second-biggest single of 1994 in Australia moved up to number 1 this week. "I Swear" by All-4-One deposed the year's top seller, "Love Is All Around", starting a five-week run at the top.


Off The Chart
Number 94 "Sometimes Always" by The Jesus & Mary Chain
Peak: number 62
This single from Stoned & Dethroned was a duet between Jesus & Mary Chain frontman Jim Reid and Mazzy Star's singer, Hope Sandoval. It was also the highest the Scottish indie band ever reached in Australia.


New Entries
Number 46 "Speed" by Billy Idol
Peak: number 33
Although the 1990s had started off pretty well for Billy Idol, with top 10 hit "Cradle Of Love", his music career took a major downturn with the release of 1993's Cyberpunk, leading to tensions with his record label. Away from music, the rock star was dealing with drug-related issues, brought to a head by his collapse outside an LA nightclub in early August. Could a one-off single for one of the biggest films of the year, Speed starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper, turn things around? It would seem not. Written and produced with long-time collaborator Steve Stevens, "Speed" just wasn't up to standard, despite apparently being modelled on "Rebel Yell". Due to those record comapny problems, it would be Billy's last release for seven years - and remains his final hit in Australia.




Number 43 "Swamp Thing" by The Grid
Peak: number 3
I had actually liked some of The Grid's earlier releases - tracks like "A Beat Called Love" from 1990 and 1993's "Crystal Clear" - but I could not stand the one and only hit for the duo comprised of ex-Soft Cell member David Ball and Richard Norris in Australia. Featuring an irritating banjo line, "Swamp Thing" was so unique that it was only ever going to be a huge success, which meant it was inescapable in the second half of the year - especially in clubs, where I would always take a toilet break when it came on. For me, it felt like a novelty record but obviously enough other people liked it to send it number 3 and for it to end up as the year's 17th highest-selling single locally. Naturally, it also inspired a string of imitators, like "Everybody Gonfi-Gon" by 2 Cowboys, which we showed enough sense not to also turn into a hit (unlike in the UK). 




Number 39 "Heaven 'n Hell" by Salt 'n' Pepa
Peak: number 21
Their last two singles - which had both just missed out on topping the ARIA chart - had been playful and sexy, but rap trio Salt 'n' Pepa got political on this third hit from Very Necessary, tackling social issues like gun crime, drug abuse and poverty in the song's lyrics. One thing "Heaven 'n Hell" did share with its two predecessors, "Shoop" and "Whatta Man", was its throwback funk feel, courtesy of a handful of samples from the late '60s and '70s.




Number 37 "Give It Up" by Public Enemy
Peak: number 16
While Salt 'n' Pepa were up to the eighth hit, hip-hop legends Public Enemy had never quite been able to crack the top 50 despite coming close a couple of times. Until now. They not only entered the top 50 but made it all the way to the top 20 with this single from fifth album Muse Sick-n-Hour Mess Age (say it quickly). Also their biggest hit in the US, "Give It Up" delved into the '60s and '70s for its multiple samples, with the song easily one of their most mainstream releases (thus its chart success, I guess).




Number 34 "Jessie" by Joshua Kadison
Peak: number 15
Let's shift gears totally for some adult contemporary soft rock and this debut single from singer/pianist Joshua Kadison. The definition of a slow burn, "Jessie" was released in the US in May 1993, entered the Billboard Hot 100 in October that year and did not reach its peak there until February 1994. In Australia, it had been slowly working its way up the top 100 since early June. Originally recorded with a full band by producers Rod Argent (of Argent fame) and Peter Van Hooke (from Mike + The Mechanics), they ended up opting for this more minimal sound. Joshua had been dating Sarah Jessica Parker before recording the song, with unconfirmed rumours that it is about her - a topic Joshua refuses to be drawn on.




Number 31 "Do You Wanna Get Funky" by C+C Music Factory
Peak: number 11
And it's back to the dancefloor for the week's final new entry, although this lead single from C+C Music Factory's second album, Anything Goes!, had more of a laidback R&B vibe than house-influenced party-starters like "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" and "Just A Touch Of Love". Featuring vocals by Martha Wash, Zelma Davis and Trilogy (who all appeared in the music video performing their relevant bits), "Do You Wanna Get Funky" almost gave the dance act a third top 10 hit - and would end up being their final chart appearance in Australia.




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





Next week: one of 1994's best dance tracks, plus the turning point in the career of a major music star.


Back to: Aug 7, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 21, 1994


Wednesday, 7 August 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: August 7, 1994

These days, unexpected musical collaborations are pretty common, so much so that it's more unexpected when an artist doesn't have one or two random featuring credits in their discography. But back in 1994, it was a big deal when two acts you wouldn't automatically put together made beautiful music.

Youssou N'Dour and Neneh Cherry made an unexpected match 

This week in 1994, a singer-songwriter from Senegal and a Swedish hip-hop star who came to fame while she was living in London debuted on the ARIA top 50 with a duet that would end up as one of the year's biggest hits.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending August 7, 1994

The actual biggest hit of 1994, "Love Is All Around" by Wet Wet Wet, spent its sixth and final week at number 1 this week. 


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Save Our Love" by Eternal
Peak: number 70
"Stay" was living up to its name by remaining near the top of the chart, but this follow-up was the first of five more UK top 15 singles from Always And Forever that did nothing here.

Number 99 "Low" by Cracker
Peak: number 63
This was the only top 100 hit - here and in the US, where it peaked one place lower - for the American rock band. The video features Roseanne star Sandra Bernhard in a boxing ring with Cracker's singer, David Lowery.

Number 96 "Andres" by L7
Peak: number 86
They'd just grazed the top 50 with their previous album, Bricks Are Heavy, and single "Pretend We're Dead", but this lead single from follow-up Hungry For Stink (and the album itself) fell short.

Number 84 "It's Me" by Alice Cooper
Peak: number 77
This power ballad second single from The Last Temptation was another flop for Alice Cooper, who would never return to the top 100 again.

Number 83 "Send A Message" by Robertson Brothers
Peak: number 68
Their debut single had ventured into the top 50; follow-up "Winter In America" had missed the top 100. This third single, released around the same time as debut album Symmetry, split the difference.


New Entries
Number 48 "American Life In The Summertime" by Francis Dunnery
Peak: number 18
You learn something new every day. Having never really been across It Bites or their UK top 10 hit from 1986, "Calling All The Heroes", I didn't realise until now that their former frontman, Francis Dunnery, was British and not American, as the title of his one and only solo hit would suggest. And is it just me, or is the genre-blurring "American Life In The Summertime" reminiscent of Beck's "Loser" (another reason why I didn't pay it or Francis's backstory too much attention)?




Number 43 "Find Me (Odyssey To Anyoona)" by Jam & Spoon featuring Plavka
Peak: number 22
I know people really like this song, and some even prefer it to the mammoth "Right In The Night (Fall In Love With Music)", which was in its 17th week on the top 50, but I've always found "Find Me (Odyssey To Anyoona)" kind of meh. It's a serviceable enough trance track, I guess, but I doubt it would've been anywhere near as big if it wasn't following the German duo's previous hit. Once again, vocals were provided by Plavka Lonich, who became a fixture in Jam & Spoon until the mid-2000s when member Markus Löffel died of a heart attack.




Number 39 "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories
Peak: number 6
So far, the Reality Bites soundtrack had been responsible for Big Mountain's hit remake of "Baby, I Love Your Way" and "My Sharona" by The Knack re-entering the top 100, and also featured Crowded House's "Locked Out". The second top 10 hit from the album came from a singer who didn't even have a record deal when her song was selected for use in the film. A friend of Ethan Hawke (who starred in Reality Bites), Lisa Loeb and her song "Stay (I Missed You)" were brought to the attention of director Ben Stiller and a (fleeting) music star was born. A number 1 hit in the US, "Stay..." was written about a breakup with her boyfriend, who was also her co-producer. Although Lisa has continued to release music (and star in the odd reality show) ever since, she's never recaptured the chart heights climbed by this debut single.




Number 30 "7 Seconds" by Youssou N'Dour / Neneh Cherry
Peak: number 3
As a fan of Neneh Cherry's two studio albums up until this point, I have to admit to being a little suprised in 1994 when she returned with this elegant duet with renowned Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour. Co-written by Neneh and without a rap to be heard, "7 Seconds" is about the immediate aftermath of a baby being born, when they are unaware of the problems in the world. As well as the collaboration being unexpected, the song was novel thanks to it featuring three different languages: English, French and Wolof. Easily the biggest hit of Neneh Cherry's career in Australia, "7 Seconds" would end up being included on her 1996 album, Man, as well as appearing on Youssou's The Guide (Wommat) from 1994.




Number 24 "Vasoline" by Stone Temple Pilots
Peak: number 24
They'd charted a handful of songs lower down the top 100, but this second single from Purple finally gave Stone Temple Pilots a hit to call their own (even if it got no further than this entry position). Singer Scott Weiland has said he got the line "flies in the vasoline" when he misheard the title of "Life In The Fast Lane" by Eagles, while the song itself deals with his descent into drug addiction. Sub-editor's note: the title of "Vasoline" is spelt differently than Vaseline petroleum jelly.




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





Next week: one of the most annoying dance hits of the year, the not-so-big theme to one of the year's biggest movies and a legendary hip-hop group finally reaches the top 50.


Back to: Jul 31, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Aug 14, 1994