The Best Of: 90s Compilations
Hit Machine vs 100% Hits
In the 1990s, Australia took its lead from the UK's Now That's What I Call Music series and two rival compilation series were born: 100% Hits, which launched in 1991, and Hit Machine, which followed in 1993. Just as they had in the 1980s, the major record companies fell into two groups — EMI, Warner and Polygram were behind 100% Hits; Sony, BMG and Festival put out Hit Machine — and most of the big hits of the day could be found on one or other of the franchises, which timed their releases to come out more or less head to head. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to go back to mid-1993, when Hit Machine joined 100% Hits on the compilation chart and compare each set of albums. I'll give my verdict on each album and determine my preference, and I'll ask for your votes on the Chart Beats Facebook page. Let the debate begin!
Chart debut: June 27, 1993
Peak: number 1 (13 weeks)
Biggest hit: "Informer" by Snow (number 1 for five weeks)
Smallest hit: "This Isn't Love" by Boom Crash Opera (number 69)
Best song: "Looking Through Patient Eyes" by P.M. Dawn
Worst song: "Detachable Penis" by King Missile
100% Hits was so well established as a brand by this point that even a fairly average set of songs dominated the number 1 spot on the compilations chart for three months. Filled with mid-level hits, Volume 8 left most of its heavy-hitters until the end. Ugly Kid Joe aside, the run of five songs from "Mr Wendal" to "Oh Carolina" constituted the album's biggest hits — some very odd sequencing indeed. Similar to Hit Machine '93, the album covered off all genres.
Chart debut: July 18, 1993
Peak: number 2
Biggest hit: "Easy" by Faith No More (number 1 for two weeks)
Smallest hit: "Happy Boy" by The Beat Farmers (number 156)
Best song: "No Limit" by 2 Unlimited
Worst song: "Happy Boy" by The Beat Farmers
Clearly wanting to make a good first impression, the launch edition of Hit Machine crammed in 21 songs, although it's a pity five of them weren't actually hits, with the tracks by David Bowie, The Black Sorrows, Sound Unlimited, Things Of Stone And Wood and The Beat Farmers all missing the top 50 — the latter didn't even make the top 100. The rest of the tracklisting was a pretty good summation of the diversity of the ARIA singles chart at this point, with pop, rock, dance and hip-hop all covered, and as a pop fan, I was well catered for.
Chart debut: December 5, 1993
Peak: number 2
Biggest hit: "The Key: The Secret" by Urban Cookie Collective (number 4)
Smallest hit: "Last Train" by Christine Anu / Paul Kelly (number 93)
Best song: "The Key: The Secret" by Urban Cookie Collective
Worst song: "Going Down" by Jon Stevens
It's pretty telling that even though the third Hit Machine once again beat 100% Hits into stores, it couldn't take out the number 1 spot. Decidedly lacking in big hits, the compilation features seven songs that didn't actually make the top 50. And while some of them — "Breakadawn" by De La Soul and Deborah Conway's "Alive And Brilliant" — should've been bigger, there's a lot of filler and nowhere near enough killer. Best moments are the Eurodance triple of Urban Cookie Collective, Haddaway and DJ BoBo, and SWV's "Right Here" (although can someone tell me if it was the "Human Nature" remix that was included?).
Chart debut: December 12, 1993
Peak: number 1 (two weeks)
Biggest hit: "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meat Loaf (number 1 for eight weeks)
Smallest hit: "Spaceman" by 4 Non Blondes (number 85)
Best song: "Go West" by Pet Shop Boys
Worst song: "Spaceman" by 4 Non Blondes
Things didn't get off to a good start with number 1 hog Meat Loaf — although obviously the presence of the year's highest-selling single was a huge selling point as 100% Hits went into double digits. What pushes this over the line for me isn't the songs I loved — tracks by Gabrielle, Pet Shop Boys, Crowded House and Caligula — but the fact that I didn't mind inclusions by artists who weren't normally my thing. If I had to listen to Stone Temple Pilots or Red Hot Chili Peppers, for example, I'd choose "Soul To Squeeze" or "Plush". Good one-hit wonder action from Efua and Tony! Toni! Toné! (in Australia) as well. Fun fact: in a case of self-sabotage, Volume 10 was knocked off the top by The Best Of 100% Hits: 1993.
Chart debut: October 3, 1993
Peak: number 1 (one week)
Biggest hit: "All That She Wants" by Ace Of Base (number 1 for three weeks)
Smallest hit: "A Prayer For Jane" by Jo Beth Taylor (number 61)
Best song: "Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)" by Sub Sub featuring Melanie Williams
Worst song: "Three Little Pigs" by Green Jelly
Sneaking out a week earlier than its rival, Hit Machine 2 gave the series its first chart-topper, but only for a week. To HM2's credit, it included "Mr Vain" and "All That She Wants" before either reached number 1 — a risky move. Despite those two and more excellent pop from Taylor Dayne, Dannii Minogue, Sub Sub and SWV, there was some real dross. I'm not just talking about the stuff you'd expect me not to like (Baby Animals, Jimmy Barnes, Rage Against The Machine, Ween). Even a lot of the pop, R&B and dance tracks were duds, like those by the ever-shirtless trio of Peter Andre, Jeremy Jordan and Freedom Williams.
Chart debut: October 10, 1993
Peak: number 1 (nine weeks)
Biggest hit: "What's Up?" by 4 Non Blondes (number 2)
Smallest hit: "The Honeymoon Is Over" by The Cruel Sea (number 41)
Best song: "The Floor" by Johnny Gill
Worst song: "Get A Haircut" by George Thorogood
What 100% Hits Volume 9 lacked in songs I really loved, it made up for in consistency. In other words, there might've been fewer 10/10 songs, but there weren't really any 1/10 songs either, although "Get A Haircut" and "Shock To The System" come close. And I was never a fan of number 2 hits, "What's Up?" and "Sweat (A La La La La Long)". On the plus side, there was everything from Lenny Kravitz and The Cranberries to the boy band double of East 17 and Silk to an excellent Duran Duran tune. I didn't even mind the contributions by Diesel (one of his best) and Tina Turner (a return to her mid-'80s form). So by virtue of having less crap, rather than a blistering set of songs, this receives my pick.