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