Thursday, 30 April 2020

25 Years Ago This Week: April 30, 1995

What was it with covers albums in the mid-'90s? Hot on the heels of collections of remakes by Gloria Estefan and Annie Lennox, my favourite British band of the '80s also went down the covers route in 1995.

Duran Duran, don't do it!

Included on the project was one of the most unlikely remakes of all time: their version of a seminal hip-hop track, which received a mixed response, to say the least.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 30, 1995

A song that continues to receive a mixed response all these years later (judging by the comments on the Chart Beats Facebook page) continued its reign (of terror?) on the ARIA chart this week in 1995. "Here's Johnny" by Hocus Pocus spent a sixth week at number 1.

Off The Chart
Number 90 "Fire In The Head" by The Tea Party
Peak: number 79
Although this lead single from the Canadian rock band's second album became their latest to miss the top 50, The Edges Of Twilight was sitting inside the top 10 on the albums chart.

New Entries
Number 49 "Whoops Now / What'll I Do" by Janet Jackson
Peak: number 49
Her brother Michael had managed nine top 50 singles from one album between 1987 and 1989 - although, to be fair, "Leave Me Alone" had only been included on the CD version of Bad, which helped make it more appealing as a single for people who owned the LP or cassette. This week in 1995, Janet Jackson came just short of that achievement with this eighth and final hit from her two-year-old album, janet. And although "Whoops Now" wasn't listed on the back cover, it did feature on janet, tucked away as a hidden track after interlude "Sweet Dreams". The bouncy and playful tune was unlike anything else on the album - the closest would be "Because Of Love" - which is probably why "Whoops Now" was essentially a bonus track. Packaged up as a double A-side with recent hit "What'll I Do" (and a Dave Navarro remix of that song), the single spent only a solitary week on the chart.

Number 46 "Purple Medley" by Prince
Peak: number 40
I had completely forgotten about the existence of this release, which came a few years after the megamix craze of the late '80s and early '90s. Bringing together snippets from some of Prince's biggest hits, as well as fan favourites like "Erotic City" and "Darling Nikki", "Purple Medley" ran for 11 minutes in its full version (which featured additional songs) and a little over three in its radio edit (below). It also combined both the original performances with some re-recordings and additional music from the New Power Generation.

Number 43 "White Lines (Don't Do It)" by Duran Duran
Peak: number 20
In early 1984, "White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)" was one of the earliest hip-hop hits in Australia. It was obviously a song that made an impression on Duran Duran, because they made the unexpected decision to cover the track on their 1995 remakes album, Thank You, so named because they paid tribute to songs and artists that'd influenced them. Their version of "White Lines" even featured Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Also included on the album that was once called the worst of all time were versions of songs originally recorded by The Doors, Bob Dylan and Public Enemy. It was a curious move for Duran Duran to make after their triumphant comeback in 1993, and, especially in the case of "White Lines", one they've been living down ever since. It did bring them back to the top 20 for the 13th and final time in their career, so that's something.

Number 41 "I Can't Be With You" by The Cranberries
Peak: number 30
After two top 5 hits, The Cranberries' third single from No Need To Argue only just made it into the top 30 - no real surprise, since the album hadn't fallen lower than number 8 since its debut in November 1994. Despite its rather negative title, "I Can't Be With You" was the most upbeat single taken from the album up until this point.

Number 11 "Israel's Son" by silverchair
Peak: number 11
Like previous release "Pure Massacre", silverchair's third single had debuted much lower down the chart - number 88, in fact - before rocketing up to what it would be its peak position in its second week. I'm not sure what the reason for that was, although it may be that some early sales caused the singles to venture into the top 100 before their first full week on release. Whatever the reason, "Israel's Son" duly became the trio's third big hit and first to (only just) miss the top 10, which was probably down to the fact that album Frog Stomp had spent the previous three weeks at number 1. Inspired by a documentary songwriter Daniel Johns had seen about wartime attrocities, the song was involved in a 1996 murder trial, with the defendants claiming to have been motivated by the lyrics.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1995 (updated weekly):

Next week: a dance explosion, with three of the biggest club tracks of the year all arriving in the top 40 at once.

Back to: Apr 23, 1995 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 7, 1995

Monday, 27 April 2020

This Week In 1980: April 27, 1980

When is a one-hit wonder not a one-hit wonder? When they actually had a second huge hit that often gets forgetten about.

Rockabilly star Rocky Burnette had two of 1980's biggest songs

This week in 1980, a rockabilly singer often mistakenly referred to as a one-hit wonder debuted on the Australian singles chart with the first of his two top 10 hits. Granted, his first hit was significantly bigger, reaching number 1 and overshadowing his also successful follow-up.

Australian Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 27, 1980

This week in 1980, Split Enz's "I Got You" was overshadowing all other songs as it remained at number 1 for a second week. 

Off The Chart
Number 99 "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" by Bonnie Pointer
Peak: number 52
"Heaven Must Have Sent You" was still inside the top 40, but Bonnie Pointer's next disco cover version (of the Four Tops 1965 classic) didn't quite make the top 50.

Number 96 "Back On My Feet Again" by The Babys
Peak: number 92
Their previous two albums had yielded major hits, but this single from Union Jacks wound up at the other extreme of the top 100 for the band fronted by John Waite.

Number 88 "Cruisin'" by Smokey Robinson
Peak: number 70
Despite being a big hit in the US (and topping the chart in New Zealand), this solo slow jam by the former Miracles singer wouldn't become a hit in Australia until it was covered by Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis for the film Duets

New Entries
Number 47 "You May Be Right" by Billy Joel
Peak: number 28
I grew up on the music of Billy Joel, but I have to say this track isn't one of my favourites. It did, however, bring him back to the top 50 for the first time since "My Life" in 1978. (Surprisingly, "Honesty" and "Big Shot" both missed the top 50.) Taken from Billy's seventh album, Glass Houses, "You May Be Right" sees the Piano Man rocking out more than he'd been known to do, with critics at the time seeing it as a reaction to the rise of punk and new wave. 

Number 46 "The Rose" by Bette Midler
Peak: number 6
At the softer end of the musical spectrum, Bette Midler, who was still on the top 50 with "My Knight In Black Leather", swapped disco for torch song with the title track from her 1979 film The Rose. Already recorded by its songwriter Amanda McBroom, who provided harmonies on Bette's version, "The Rose" became the biggest hit of the singer/actress's career up until this point. The song was remixed for single release, while the version heard in the film and on the soundtrack is the one below.

Number 43 "Carmilla" by Jon English
Peak: number 27
Also changing pace for his latest single was Jon English, who followed up almost top 10 hit "Hot Town" with this self-penned mid-tempo tune. Both songs were included on his recently released top 20 album Calm Before The Storm.

Number 42 "Tired Of Toein' The Line" by Rocky Burnette
Peak: number 1
With Queen and Major Matchbox already on the top 50, rockabilly was really shaping up to be one of 1980's biggest musical trends. And like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", this breakthrough hit for American singer Rocky Burnette (real name: Jonathan) went all the way to number 1. Rocky was a second generation rockabilly musician - his father, Johnny Burnette had a string of hits in the early 1960s, including number 6 single "You're Sixteen". And this would not be the last we'd see of Junior on the Australian chart.

Number 35 "Skinny Girls" by Alan O'Day
Peak: number 11
Doing his bit to contribute to body dysmorphia, American singer-songwriter Alan O'Day returned to the Australian chart for a second and final time. Having just made the top 10 with 1977's number 9 hit "Undercover Angel", he narrowly missed it this time with this (presumably) tongue-in-cheek ode to thin chicks. When his solo career slowed down, Alan went back to writing for other projects, and was responsible for dozens of songs heard in 1980s cartoon series Muppet Babies.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):

Next week: one of those bands that named all their albums after themselves (with different numbers to indicate which album it was), plus new hits from Donna Summer and Rupert Holmes.

Back to: Apr 20, 1980 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: May 4, 1980

Thursday, 23 April 2020

25 Years Ago This Week: April 23, 1995

The ARIA top 50 chart might have featured singles by Boyz II Men, CDB, TLC and 4PM this week in 1995, but there was always room for more vocal harmony groups, right?

Brownstone and MN8 had a little something for us in 1995

It would seem so, given a new American female trio and a fresh British male quartet both scored big hits with their breakthrough singles.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 23, 1995

The biggest hit in Australia this week in 1995 was still "Here's Johnny" by Hocus Pocus, which bam-bam-bam'd its way to a fifth week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 95 "Up To Our Necks In It" by Skunkhour
Peak: number 56
A second placing in the 50s for Skunkhour, whose first major label album, Feed, debuted on the albums chart this week as well.

Number 89 "Moonglow" by Tony Bennett / k.d. lang
Peak: number 65
Taken from Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged, this rendition of the 1930s standard was one of two duets on the album - the other was with Elvis Costello.

Number 57 "Gel" by Collective Soul
Peak: number 52
The lead single from the American rock band's self-titled second album, "Gel" also featured on the soundtrack to The Jerky Boys

New Entries
Number 47 "Baby Baby" by Corona
Peak: number 7
"The Rhythm Of The Night" had been one of the best dance tracks of 1994 and Italian group Corona came up with the goods again with follow-up "Baby Baby", one of the best dance tracks of 1995. Producer Francesco Bontempi stuck with the tried and tested formula that had made Corona's debut single such a success. For one thing, model Olga Souza continued to masquerade as the vocalist of the outfit - this time, it was Sandy Chambers who could be heard on the song. And like "The Rhythm Of The Night", "Baby Baby" repurposed an old song: "Babe Babe" by Joy and Joyce, a 1991 track that had in turn sampled Alisha Warren's "Touch Me" ("cold chill down my spine" at 1:26) and taken its main hook from "K.I.S.S.I.N.G." by Siedah Garrett ("oh, baby baby, why don't we just test the water" at the three-minute mark). Repackaged with slightly amended lyrics and a pounding Eurodance beat, "Baby Baby" was easily one of the year's most energetic songs.

Number 46 "I've Got A Little Something For You" by MN8
Peak: number 7
They'd already given the world a girl group (Eternal), and now First Avenue Records launched boy band MN8, who all had similarly abbreviated names: KG, G-Man, Kule T and Dee Tails. So '90s it hurts. And just like that other British four-piece, MN8 looked to America for their sound, with debut single "I've Got A Little Something For You" a classic new jack swing track. The biggest hit of their career, the song almost topped the UK chart and reached the ARIA top 10. 

Number 43 "If You Love Me" by Brownstone
Peak: number 13
Peaking just outside the top 10 were US trio Brownstone, whose second single, "If You Love Me", came in a plethora of mixes, including the a cappella version below and one with musical accompaniment, which I prefer, that's linked to in the song title above. Like "I've Got A Little Something For You", "If You Love Me", which reached number 8 in both the US and the UK, was easily the biggest for the girl group, who consisted of Mimi, Nicci and Maxee, and were signed to Michael Jackson's MJJ label, home also to 3T and Tatyana Ali.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1995 (updated weekly):

Next week: my favourite British band of the '80s make an interesting career decision, plus an eighth single from a two-year-old album.

Back to: Apr 16, 1995 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 30, 1995

Monday, 20 April 2020

This Week In 1980: April 20, 1980

As much as I've always tried to keep on top of what's going on in music, it wasn't easy in the 1980s, especially when I was very young. And so I didn't discover two of the new entries from this week in 1980 until much later.

Blondie's Debbie Harry: her hair was beautiful

One of the songs came to my attention thanks to a mid-'90s remix, while I was introduced to the other (which also had a mid-'90s remix) at a retro club night I went to in 1993. One of the songs would end up as my number 1 single released in 1980.

Australian Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 20, 1980

After seven weeks of Queen hogging the Australian number 1 position, Split Enz took over as "I Got You" moved up to monopolise the top spot for eight weeks.

Off The Chart
Number 94 "Daydream Believer" by Anne Murray
Peak: number 94
Besides her number 2 hit from 1978, "You Needed Me", Canadian Anne Murray hadn't had much luck on the Australian chart, including with this remake of The Monkees' number 2 from 1967.

Number 92 "Wonder World" by John St Peeters
Peak: number 78
Earlier in 1980, Simon Townsend's Wonder World presenter Edith Bliss landed herself a hit, but the same thing didn't happen for the afternoon kids' TV show's theme song.

New Entries
Number 50 "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" by Viola Wills
Peak: number 37
After years in the music industry, Viola Wills, who was discovered by Barry White in the mid-'60s, enjoyed a breakthrough hit with her remake of this song, which dated back to the early '50s and had been recorded several times in the years since. Viola's disco rendition, which spent 16 of its 19 weeks in the top 50 bouncing around the 40s, is the sort of song I would've liked at the time had I been aware of it. Instead, it wasn't until 17 years later, when a Handbaggers remix of the track was on high rotation on dance music radio station Wild FM and in the clubs I'd frequent, that I heard it and eventually sought out the original version.

Number 46 "Atomic" by Blondie
Peak: number 12
Here's another song that I was introduced to in a nightclub in the 1990s, but in the case of "Atomic", it was this original version that was played at an '80s night called (imaginatively enough) Retro at Club 77 in Sydney in 1993. For some reason, although I knew "Heart Of Glass" and other Blondie hits at the time of their release, "Atomic" passed five-year-old me by - possibly because it was overshadowed by the imminent release of "Call Me" in a few weeks' time. Thanks to an unusual release pattern in Australia, "Atomic" became the second single from Blondie's fourth album, Eat To The Beat, following "Dreaming", which had missed the top 50 in 1979. Anyway, in 1993, "Atomic" was a brand new song for me, and I loved it so much so that when I was putting together my chart of personal favourites from 1980, it ended up on top. Then, in 1994, a remix of "Atomic" became one of my favourite songs from that year. It surely is the gift that keeps on giving.

Number 39 "Same Old Girl" by Darryl Cotton
Peak: number 6
Just as his former band, Zoot, had managed one top 10 single - their 1970 cover of "Eleanor Rigby" - so too did singer/actor/kids' TV presenter Darryl Cotton only venture into the upper reaches of the chart with this one track, otherwise placing no higher than number 44 in his solo career. It must have been something of a relief to finally have a song really connect with the Australian public after a decade spent in and out of different musical projects, but unfortunately Darryl's music career didn't maintain the momentum, and he was better known to kids of my generation as one of the hosts of Channel 10's late '80s Saturday morning TV show, The Early Bird Show, than as a musician.

Number 36 "Rockabilly Rebel" by Major Matchbox
Peak: number 12
Rockabilly really was big in 1980, wasn't it? Around for most of the '70s, British band Matchbox finally landed a hit with this jaunty little number. The group were renamed Major Matchbox in Australia due to the existence of a band called Matchbox from Melbourne who had been releasing satirical records for a few years. Although (Major) Matchbox had a few more hits in the UK following "Rockabilly Rebel", this was their only success locally.

Number 33 "People" by Mi-Sex
Peak: number 6
Fresh from the success of their chart-topping single, "Computer Games", New Zealand-formed, Australian-based band Mi-Sex returned to the top 10 with this lead single from their second album, Space Race. Although they were shaping up to be one of the most popular local bands, this would be the final major hit for Mi-Sex, whose next biggest single was 1981's "Falling In And Out", which peaked at number 20.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):

Next week: more rockabilly, plus two big '70s stars from America - one male, one female - continue to score hits in the '80s.

Back to: Apr 13, 1980 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 27, 1980

Thursday, 16 April 2020

25 Years Ago This Week: April 16, 1995

So far, in the battle of the '90s British boy bands, East 17 had trounced their biggest rivals, Take That, in Australia (although the reverse was true back home). Here, East 17 had one chart-topper and five more top 10 hits to their name, while Take That had briefly visited the top 10 with a re-release of "Pray" and otherwise landed in the 30s, if they were lucky.

In 1995, Take That finally did something in Australia they'd been doing for years in the UK

And the last time we saw both pop groups enter the ARIA singles chart in the same week, East 17 predictably dominated. But this week in 1995, everything changed (pardon the pun) and Take That not only debuted higher than East 17, but would end up going all the way to number 1.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 16, 1995

The dance track that Take That would eventually dethrone continued its reign at number 1 this week in 1995. "Here's Johnny" by Hocus Pocus spent a fourth week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 95 "Darkheart" by Bomb The Bass featuring Spikey Tee
Peak: number 95
After finally breaching the top 50 with previous single "Bug Powder Dust", Bomb The Bass were faced with another flop on their hands with this reggae-infused follow-up.

Number 87 "Here I Go" by 2 Unlimited
Peak: number 80
A return to form after the disappointing "No One", this third single from Real Things was too little, too late for 2 Unlimited, whose hit-making days were behind them.

Number 57 "I Go Wild" by The Rolling Stones
Peak: number 57
Fresh from their tour of Australia, the veteran rockers landed another top 100 single from Voodoo Lounge, which held steady at number 6 on the albums chart.

New Entries
Number 38 "Baby It's You" by The Beatles
Peak: number 33
Ah, Live At The BBC - that Christmas cash-in release by The Beatles that the music department where I worked as a casual ordered way too many copies of, thinking The Fab Four = big sales. And yes, the double CD of peformances (and some dialogue) did debut at number 2 in December but only spent nine weeks on the top 50. Despite being the first album including previously unreleased music by The Beatles in years, it was clearly only for die-hards. Similarly, this belatedly released single had a brief tenure on the chart. A remake of a 1961 song by The Shirelles, "Baby It's You" had featured on The Beatles' debut album, Please Please Me. This live rendition marked their first top 50 appearance since a Ferris Bueller-related re-release of "Twist And Shout" in 1986. 

Number 24 "Let It Rain" by East 17
Peak: number 12
"Gold" aside, East 17 had enjoyed a fantastic run on the ARIA chart, with "Steam" their only top 50 hit to miss the top 10. And the week "Steam" had debuted on the chart, Take That's "Love Ain't Here Anymore" had also arrived, peaking 20 places lower than the East 17 song. Since then, both boy bands had charted with another single - East 17's "Stay Another Day" (number 3) and Take That's "Sure" (number 31). So it was quite a turn-up for the books for East 17 to play second fiddle to Take That this week in 1995. In all fairness, "Let It Rain" was the fourth single from Steam (albeit a slightly remixed one), so a number 12 peak was nothing to whinge about, but it did signal a shift in the boy band power stakes. Incidentally, "Let It Rain" did reach number 1 on my personal weekly chart (thanks to the album version, which I prefer). That said, it's one of my least favourite personal chart-toppers - it didn't even make my year-end top 100 for 1995.

Number 22 "Back For Good" by Take That
Peak: number 1
In the 1990s, Take That pretty much released two types of song - perky pop tunes or emotional ballads. When it came to the latter, UK hits "A Million Love Songs", "Babe" and "Love Ain't Here Anymore" hadn't worked (or even been released) in Australia, but "Back For Good" became the exception to the rule, finally turning them into a phenomenon locally and going all the way to the top of the chart. They'd been massive in the UK for years and "Back For Good", which was apparently written by Gary Barlow in 15 minutes, was their sixth number 1 - but it sold more copies more quickly than anything they'd released before. It even did well in America, giving the five-piece (but soon-to-be four-piece) their only hit there, reaching number 7. But just as Take That hit their stride, things were about to break apart in spectacular fashion...

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1995 (updated weekly):

Next week: two new R&B acts make their debut and a Eurodance follow-up with a complicated back story.

Back to: Apr 9, 1995 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 23, 1995

Monday, 13 April 2020

This Week In 1980: April 13, 1980

In my 1995 flashbacks, we recently saw that despite going on to become one of this country's defining musical moments, Christine Anu's cover of "Island Home" failed to make much of an impression on the ARIA chart. Fifteen years earlier, another song that is inextricably linked with Australia's self-identity flopped just as monumentally.

This Peter Allen song didn't find a home in very many Australians' record collections

Whereas Christine Anu was an emerging artist, the man behind the song that would go to be considered as something of a national anthem was incredibly well known. So why did his patriotic single bomb so badly?

Australian Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending April 13, 1980

A song that was doing anything but bomb stayed at number 1 this week in 1980. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen spent its seventh and final week in the top spot.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "It's My House" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 71
The former Supreme hadn't had a big hit in Australia in ages, and this final single from The Boss, written and produced by Ashford & Simpson, was just the latest to miss the mark. Things would dramatically improve later in the year.

Number 97 "Married Women" by Grand Junction
Peak: number 63
The first single released by this Australian country band was their only record to reach the top 100. Apparently, Grand Junction received their break thanks to a radio station in Tamworth.

Number 92 "I Still Call Australia Home" by Peter Allen
Peak: number 72
Given Australia wasn't shy of sending a patriotic tune like "C'mon Aussie C'mon" to number 1, I'm astounded this song, which has become almost a second national anthem in the years since, didn't do better on the chart. But then again, Peter Allen only had two hit singles locally - "The More I See You", which reached number 10, and chart-topper "I Go To Rio" - and this was the first of three tracks to stall in the 70s. Written in record time while on the road, "I Still Call Australia Home" received a rapturous reception when performed live, but is another example of a future classic being spurned by record buyers.

New Entries
Number 50 "A Message To You Rudy" by The Specials
Peak: number 29
Much more successful in the UK, where they managed eight top 10 singles (including two number 1s), The Specials only graced the Australian top 50 this one time. Produced by Elvis Costello, the 2 Tone band's remake of a song originally released by reggae artist Dandy Livingstone performed considerably better locally than the politically motivated "Ghost Town" and "Nelson Mandela", which would both peaked in the 60s.

Number 48 "The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan" by Marianne Faithfull
Peak: number 48
Her biggest hit had come 15 years earlier with the Jackie DeShannon-written "Come And Stay With Me", and after a tumultuous 1970s which saw her battling addiction and an eating disorder, and being homeless, Marianne Faithfull made a major comeback with her seventh album, Broken English. This remake of a song first recorded by Dr Hook & The Medicine Show brought her back to the Australian top 50 for the first time since 1967, and although it and the album were only modest hits in Australia, the project was critically acclaimed and resulted in Marianne's only Grammy nomination.

Number 45 "An American Dream" by The Dirt Band
Peak: number 45
The week's third new entry was also another remake of an obscure song - in this case, "An American Dream" had been released by its writer, Rodney Crowell, in 1978 under a slightly different title. Speaking of altered nomenclature, this cover provided The Dirt Band with their first (and only) hit under that name, but they had previously peaked at number 15 in 1971 as Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with their version of "Mr Bojangles".

Number 43 "Refugee" by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Peak: number 24
The only one of this week's new entries that I am familiar with was also the week's biggest hit - the breakthrough single for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Taken from the band's third album, Damn The Torpedoes, "Refugee" became their first top 50 appearance locally, having just missed the top 50 with debut single "Breakdown" in 1978. Tom was involved in some complicated wrangling with record companies in the lead-up to this album, which he said influenced the "defiant" feel of tracks like "Refugee".

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1980 (updated weekly):

Next week: my favourite song from 1980 arrives, as does a song I liked when it was remixed in 1996 (and then came back and discovered the original). Plus, the biggest hit by a guy kids my age (at the time) were more familiar with from Saturday morning TV.

Back to: Apr 6, 1980 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 20, 1980

Thursday, 9 April 2020

25 Years Ago This Week: April 9, 1995

Sometimes it's all just a matter of timing. One month's chart flop can be a massive hit at another time of year... as was the case with a song finally entering the ARIA top 50 this week in 1995.

Persistence paid off for Merril Bainbridge and her "Mouth"

Initially released in October 1994, the debut single for an up-and-coming female artist missed the top 100 then. But in April 1995, it ascended to the number 1 spot.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending April 9, 1995

At number this week in 1995, "Here's Johnny" by Hocus Pocus spent its third week on top.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Keep Givin' Me Your Love" by Ce Ce Peniston
Peak: number 99
A year after it had been released in the UK, Ce Ce Peniston slipped into the top 100 with this track, which was also included on the soundtrack to Prêt-à-Porter.

Number 96 "Big Empty" by Stone Temple Pilots
Peak: number 63
Another year-old single - this time the song that had been the first release from STP's second album, Purple, overseas. "Big Empty" was unable to match the top 50 success of the album's other two singles.

Number 92 "Connection" by Elastica
Peak: number 71
Fronted by Justine Frischmann (the then-girlfriend of Blur's Damon Albarn), Elastica had reached number 1 in the UK with their self-titled debut album, but despite "Connection" being one of the best Britpop tracks, they didn't, er, connect in the same way here.

Number 86 Sleepwalking by Ammonia
Peak: number 86
Another five-track EP from the Perth trio, another peak outside the top 50. Could third time be the charm for Ammonia?

Number 81 "Mr Personality" by Gillette
Peak: number 80
Not content with ridiculing the size of a man's appendage, "Short Dick Man" singer Gillette took aim at someone who was called Mr Personality "because you're so ugly". 

New Entries
Number 48 "Everybody On The Floor (Pump It)" by Tokyo Ghetto Pussy
Peak: number 6
They'd enjoyed two hits on the ARIA top 50 in 1994 with trance tracks "Right In The Night (Fall In Love With Music)" and "Find Me (Odyssey To Anyoona)" but German duo Rolf Ellmer and Markus Lӧffel traded in their Jam & Spoon moniker for Tokyo Ghetto Pussy on this much more hyper Eurodance track - although they went under the pseudonyms Trancy Spacer and Spacy Trancer for this release. As big a fan as I was of dance music in the '90s, I put this track in the same category as Melodie MC's "Dum Da Dum": more irritating than enjoyable.

Number 47 "The Sweetest Days" by Vanessa Williams
Peak: number 47
Here's a song I did like, but unfortunately not enough other people did and Vanessa Williams ended up with another ballad that stalled in the 40s, like her 90210 duet, "Love Is". The title track of her third album was even written by the same team that had penned "Save The Best For Last", but it would take a little bit of Disney magic to boost the former beauty queen's fortunes later in the year.

Number 46 "I Wanna Get Back With You" by Tom Jones featuring Tori Amos
Peak: number 30
Here's a song I had completely forgotten about - and what an odd pairing it is. Fresh from his comeback success with "If I Only Knew", Welsh legend Tom Jones teamed up with Tori Amos on this Diane Warren ballad, with Tom's voice sounding a bit like a foghorn compared to Tori's "Don't Give Up"-style backing vocals. Also included on the CD single were a couple of mixes of Tom's cover of Yazoo's "Situtation", a song I would have preferred he'd left alone.

Number 44 "Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow
Peak: number 3
Returning to the top 50 with the far less annoying follow-up to her number 1 hit, "All I Wanna Do", was Sheryl Crow, who would come close to repeating that achievement with "Strong Enough". Although it ultimately fell short of topping the chart, it did help propel her album Tuesday Night Music Club back up the top 50 and to the number 1 spot for two weeks in June. Despite such a strong start, Sheryl would never return to the ARIA top 10, and would only graze the bottom of the top 20 with one more significant hit in 1996.

Number 42 "Mouth" by Merril Bainbridge
Peak: number 1
Another artist who had an almost identical start to her chart career as Sheryl Crow is Australian singer-songwriter Merril Bainbridge. Although in Merril's case, it initially looked as if her debut single, "Mouth", wouldn't get up and running at all. Originally released in late 1994 by her label, John Farnham and producer Ross Fraser's Gotham Records, the bouncy tune sank without a trace. Reissued in 1995, the track picked up radio play and soon took off towards the number 1 spot, where it would spend six weeks in total. "Mouth" was also a hit in the US... eventually. It began its chart run there in late 1996. Like the Tom Jones single, Merril included a remake of an old synthpop song as a bonus track on "Mouth", although her cover of Pet Shop Boys' "Being Boring" included a lyric change - intentional or otherwise - when she sang "I came across some casual photos" instead of "I came across a a cache of old photos".

Number 5 "Bedtime Story" by Madonna
Peak: number 5
Blitzing all opposition this week in 1995 was Madonna with the third single from her Bedtime Stories album. A pulsating piece of electronica co-written by Bjӧrk with producers Nellee Hooper and Marius De Vries, "Bedtime Story" burst into the chart at number 5, just like the album's lead single "Secret", and progressed no further, also like "Secret". Following that song and Bedtime Stories' second single, "Take A Bow", "Bedtime Story" was another major shift in direction for Madonna, and it's likely if anyone other than her had performed this song it would not have come anywhere near the top 5. As it was, the single had a relatively brief stay on the chart - after three straight weeks at number 5, it quickly dropped down the listings. For my money - and I did buy the CD single - the Junior Vasquez single mix was the best version of the song, turning it into more of a straightforward pop track more in line with my sensibilities.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1995 (updated weekly):

Next week: another round in the battle of the British boy bands, but this time the ARIA chart underdogs get the upper hand. Plus, the return of the Fab Four.

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