This Week In 1993: January 10, 1993
A new year, and with the dawn of 1993 came a new musical trend: world music goes electronic. The biggest of the five new entries on the first ARIA chart for the year did for pan pipes and foreign language lyrics what Enigma did for Gregorian chant a couple of years earlier.
The song was a worldwide sensation, but I always associate it with another '90s phenomenon: chart rigging. I'll explain why when we get to it...
Speaking of phenomena, there was no change at number 1 this week in 1993, with "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston just where we left it. This was the fourth week on top for the Bodyguard smash.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 82
Unlike the remix of "Love Is In The Air", this remake of the Cyndi Lauper ballad recorded as a duet for Strictly Ballroom (with its female lead as one of the performers) was not a hit.
Peak: number 74
This revamp of Icehouse's 1981 top 10 hit with guest vocals by the formally credited Divinyls frontwoman was taken from Masterfile, the second compilation of the band's material to stop short of covering the Man Of Colours years.
Number 73 "In Bloom" by Nirvana
Peak: number 73
This fourth and final single from Nevermind might've sounded as, well, grungy as the rest, but it came with a lighthearted music video that saw the band send up 1960s variety shows.
Peak: number 61
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the helium-voiced rodents gave Billy Ray Cyrus's chart-topper a makeover that resulted in a whole new type of hell.
Number 50 "I Will Never Leave You" by Euphoria
Peak: number 41
The dream run was over for two-time chart-topping dance act Euphoria as their fourth single - and first released after their debut album, Total Euphoria - fell a long way short of the top 10. The 2 Unlimited-ish "I Will Never Leave You" also saw the group come full circle with Holly Garnett, who sang the verses, not appearing in the music video, but Keren Minshull, who performed the rest and for whom Holly had lip synced in the "Love You Right" clip, present and accounted for. A post-Holly Euphoria would release one more new single, which we'll see later in the year.
Number 48 "Oíche Chiúin (Silent Night)" by Enya
Peak: number 48
Exactly a year earlier, Enya's Gaelic rendition of the festive favourite had charted as part of a double A-side with "How Can I Keep From Singing?". In 1993, a separate release of "Oíche Chiúin" wound back up in the low 40s thanks to Christmas sales. Enya's persistent record company tried to turn it into a big hit again in 1994-95 and 1995-96 (and maybe on other occasions for all I know), but this was its last appearance in the top 50.
Number 44 "Man On The Moon" by R.E.M.
Peak: number 39
R.E.M. really weren't doing so well with the singles from Automatic For The People at this point, we're they? (Although they could console themselves with the fact the album reached number 2.) Matching "Drive" by peaking in the 30s was this second single, which was inspired by comedian Andy Kaufman. "Man On The Moon" would go on to be used in and provide the title for a film about the former Saturday Night Live cast member in 1999, and despite its surprisingly lowly chart peak here, it's surely become one of the band's most recognisable songs.
Number 43 "Sweet Lullaby" by Deep Forest
Peak: number 7
Indigenous music and dance music had been combined to great effect previously, with the club mixes of Yothu Yindi's songs achieving great success on the ARIA chart. But Yothu Yindi was a contemporary act, while Deep Forrest took recordings of traditional indigenous populations, and blended them with ambient music and electronic beats. On "Sweet Lullaby", a melody that originated from the Solomon Islands was turned into a chillout tune - one that connected with people all around the world, albeit gradually. Released in 1992, it took its time to become a global hit, with countries still coming on board in 1994.
So what's the connection to chart-rigging, I hear you ask? Well, when I worked at a now defunct music store later in the '90s while I was at uni, I witnessed first-hand how sales data was tabulated and was told by the person working out how many copies of each song had been sold that week how easy it was to diddle the figures. In fact, they'd added quite a few sales to the tally for "Sweet Lullaby" when it'd been released, they told me, because they thought it would be funny if it turned into a hit. Of course, I'm not suggesting the song was only successful because one worker in one record shop inflated its sales - it doesn't work like that. And besides, the track was so novel and such an effective production that it was always going to be big. But nevertheless, I always think of that story when I hear the song.
Peak: number 9
A song I'm reminded of a couple of times each year when either of my friends named Helen has a birthday, the title track of Things Of Stone & Wood's second EP would provide the Melbourne band with their commercial breakthrough. Naturally, thanks to its jangly, feelgood vibe, it was easy to take the piss out of - and so The Late Show did. "Happy Birthday Helen" was actually written for someone called Helen - singer Greg Arnold's then-girlfriend and future wife, on the occasion of her 22nd birthday.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1993:
Next week: a couple of fantastic R&B hits make the chart, a couple of songs from the '80s updated for the '90s don't.