This Week In 1991: December 15, 1991
We hear a lot about climate change and the damage we're doing to the environment today, but some people were on the case decades ago. This week in 1991, a song on the very topic entered the ARIA top 50.
Another of 1991's slow-burn singles, the issue-driven song struck a chord with enough people to eventually spend a month at number 1, a total of 23 weeks after it entered the top 100 (making it the third slowest climb to the top at that point). But did it shift anyone's habits?
Still at number 1 this week in 1991 was "Black Or White" by Michael Jackson, which proved immovable in its third week atop what was a revamped, slightly more colourful ARIA chart. Interestingly, the chart printout in some parts of Australia was completely revamped for this week only.
We'd be seeing that particular design again from March 1992 on. Quite why it was trialled for just the one week - and only in one (or some?) states is something I don't know.
Off The Chart
Number 97 "Hardstone City" by Hothouse Flowers
Peak: number 97
Album Home had left the top 50 months earlier, but Hothouse Flowers' record company kept releasing singles, hoping another might work as well as "I Can See Clearly Now". Like the previous two, "Hardstone City" did not catch on.
Number 95 "Killer" by Seal
Peak: number 95
The original Adamski version had introduced Seal to the world when it topped the UK chart in 1990, and his re-recording of "Killer" also made the British top 10, but once again flopped locally.
Peak: number 26
In 1991, a lot of pop, dance and R&B songs that should've been bigger - or even just made the top 50 - failed spectacularly. And so it's a little frustrating that this good but average single by C&C Music Factory seemed to effortlessly sail into the top 30 when so many others didn't. Obviously, the dance act's track record no doubt helped elevate their fourth single above worthier songs, and I'd wager that "Just A Touch Of Love (Everyday)" would've done approximately nothing if it didn't follow "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)", "Here We Go" and "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...". Remixed from the lengthy album version, "Just A Touch Of Love (Everyday)" featured only the vocals of Zelma Davis, with Freedom Williams nowhere to be heard.
Number 48 "Christmas Day" by The Tin Lids
Peak: number 40
It was only a matter of time. After their scene-stealing performance on dad Jimmy Barnes' "When Your Love Is Gone", The Tin Lids were snapped up for their own record deal by some bright spark at Mushroom Records. The four mini-Barneses (Mahalia, Eliza-Jane, Jackie and Elly-May), who were born between 1982 and 1989, released the album Hey Rudolph! just in time for Christmas and saw it reach the top 10. Among their versions of "Silent Night" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" was this topical song with Eliza-Jane on lead and her siblings belting it out like dear old Dad on the choruses. Recorded in a pre-Auto-Tune world, it's pretty much unlistenable and thankfully didn't progress too far up the chart.
Number 42 "Live And Let Die" by Guns n' Roses
Peak: number 10
It was the theme tune to the first Bond film to star Roger Moore, reaching number 5 for Paul McCartney in 1973 - and 18 years later, Guns n' Roses took "Live And Let Die" back into the Australian top 10. The remake which appeared as the first track on Use Your Illusion I was the third hit from the Use Your Illusion project, following "You Could Be Mine", which fell out of the top 100 this week, and "Don't Cry", which once again dropped off the top 50 after re-entering last week. The music video for "Live And Let Die" is the final one to feature founding member Izzy Stradlin, who'd announced his decision to quit the band at the start of November.
Number 41 "Saltwater" by Julian Lennon
Peak: number 1
Since launching his music career with top 10 album Valotte and number 13 hit "Too Late For Goodbyes" in 1984, Julian Lennon had mostly struggled to live up to his early promise. With the notable exception of Australian (but nowhere else) hit "Now You're In Heaven" in 1989, the son of former Beatle John Lennon had seen many of his singles fail. At first, it looked as if "Saltwater", the lead release from Help Yourself, was also going to bomb. It'd already spent 10 weeks on the top 100 not getting any higher than number 64 and had been headed back down the chart last week.
However, Julian's emotional plee for environmental awareness sprung into life this week, shooting up 31 places. It would (mostly) continue upwards until it finally reached number 1 in March. Once there, it spent four weeks at the top to become far and away Julian's biggest hit in Australia. In the UK, "Saltwater" matched the number 6 peak of "Too Late For Goodbyes" to be his (equal) best performance on that chart, too.
Number 3 "Mysterious Ways" by U2
Peak: number 3
Here's a band that had no trouble racking up hit after hit - and U2 blasted straight into the top 3 with their second smash in seven weeks. "Mysterious Ways" was the rapid follow-up to instant chart-topper "The Fly", which plunged out of the top 10 this week (I'm assuming due to it being deleted), and became the band's sixth top 10 single overall in Australia. "Mysterious Ways" was also the first song by U2 I'd really liked since 1984's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)". I hadn't minded "Desire" and "Angel Of Harlem", but the dance influences evident on "Mysterious Ways", not to mention its big chorus, really appealed to me.
It would've been unfortunate if I hadn't liked the song, since in December 1991 I was on a school trip and everyone else in the tour group was obsessed with the recently released Achtung Baby album. Not a day went by when someone didn't quote a lyric from "Mysterious Ways" ("If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel on your knees, boy" seemed to be flung around a bit) or blast the song from their Walkman headphones.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: the final chart for 1991, with a new entry from one of the most influential songs released all year. Plus, we'll look at the year-end countdown. Would it more accurate than 1990's annual chart?