This Week In 1992: May 17, 1992
Child sex accusations. A secret marriage. A rap saga that spanned seven years and 33 chapters. Who knew what lay ahead in the life and career of the R&B artist who made his debut on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1992?
Back then, R. Kelly was just another up-and-coming new jack swing performer (backed by Public Announcement) with a bouncy little debut single. All the controversy and musical innovation was still to come.
There was nothing at all controversial about the song ascending to number 1 this week in 1992. Sing and clap-along ditty "To Be With You" by Mr Big climbed to the top for the first of three weeks.
Off The Chart
Number 94 "Feels Like Forever" by Joe Cocker
Peak: number 74
Titled "(All I Know) Feels Like Forever" in some countries, this Bryan Adams and Diane Warren-penned ballad featured in ice-skating rom-com The Cutting Edge and was included on a repackaged version of Joe's Night Calls album.
Number 86 "Bang Bang Bang" by Tracy Chapman
Peak: number 84
It's normally second albums that are difficult, but Tracy Chapman hit a wall with her third, Matters Of The Heart. This lead single flopped and the album peaked about 20 places lower than her first two.
Single Of The Week
Peak: number 114
When Maybe Dolls' first two singles had both peaked just outside the top 30 and debut album Propaganda had spent just five weeks in the top 50, they could have taken heart from the slow start fellow female-fronted Australian rock band Baby Animals had experienced. It'd taken Baby Animals four singles to breach the top 20 and their album didn't reach number 1 until months after its release. But the fact that Maybe Dolls' third single, "Never Look Back", didn't even register inside the top 100 (despite a big plug on this week's ARIA chart and not being that bad a song) was probably a pretty clear indication they weren't going to experience a similar delayed surge.
Peak: number 54
Providing respite from all the rock I have to recap this week is this rave classic - a top 5 hit in the UK for dance four-piece Opus III (three producers and buzz-cut-sporting singer Kirsty Hawkshaw). Naturally, Australia was only vaguely interested in the track, which was actually a cover version of an a cappella record from 1983. Recorded by Jane, "It's A Fine Day" had been written by her poet/musician boyfriend, Edward Barton - and besides being remade by Opus III, the song would be incorporated into Kylie Minogue's first post-SAW single, "Confide In Me". This would be Opus III's only visit to the ARIA top 100, but their 1994 single "When You Made The Mountain", from second album Guru Mother, is also worth a listen.
Peak: number 28
By 1992, new jack swing had made its presence felt on the ARIA chart. Not to the same degree as in the US, but thanks to pop acts like Michael Jackson and even Kylie Minogue incorporating the R&B sound into their songs, it had certainly found its way into the mainstream.
And so the debut single by former talent show winner Robert Kelly with three-piece back-up singers/dancers Public Announcement received a warmer reception than if it had been released a couple of years earlier (when classic new jack swing tracks by Johnny Kemp, Al B Sure! and Johnny Gill had flopped locally). In fact, "She's Got That Vibe" performed better in Australia than in the US (number 59) or the UK (number 57, although a re-release two years later resulted in a number 3 peak there).
It wasn't immediately apparent that R. Kelly would go on to be one of the biggest names in R&B over the next couple of decades - or one of music's most controversial figures thanks to his alleged extra-curricular activities. Although, the fact he wrote and produced "She's Got That Vibe", and directed its music video should've been some clue that he wasn't just some frontman for a team of studio masterminds.
One of the most memorable parts of the song, of course, was the bit towards the end where Mr Kelly name-checked all the girls who "got it" - a list that includes (in the longer album version) a reference to "little cute Aaliyah", aka the future (illegal) Mrs Kelly. None of the other R. Kelly & Public Announcement singles charted in Australia and we'd next see him on the top 100 as a solo artist in 1994 - the same year of that ill-fated marriage.
Number 47 "Tears In Heaven" by Eric Clapton
Peak: number 37
I knew this single, which is taken from Eric Clapton's soundtrack for crime drama Rush, had a sad story behind it - but I wasn't aware just how tragic the events that inspired "Tears In Heaven" were. In March 1991, Eric's four-year-old son, Conor, was killed when he fell out the window of a 53rd-floor apartment. As well as appearing in child safety commercials, he began writing "Tears In Heaven" during his grieving process. The tender ballad was eventually finished with the assistance of co-writer Will Jennings, who initially baulked at the idea of collaborating on something so personal. Eric convinced him and the resulting song ended up being awarded three Grammy Awards, including Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. Although not a huge hit in its original form in Australia, "Tears In Heaven" would end up reaching the ARIA top 10, along with "Layla", in its MTV Unplugged version in 1993.
Number 37 "Sister's Crazy" by Candy Harlots
Peak: number 37
Like the Foreplay EP, this latest effort from Sydney's Candy Harlots once again peaked where it debuted - just 20 places lower. I don't really have anything else to add about "Sister's Crazy", which to my ears sounds like it was about four years out of date. I have, however, just noticed something rather hilarious about the aforementioned Foreplay that I really should've spotted when I had to recap that release - the second track on that EP is titled "Backstreet Boys".
Number 25 "Suck My Kiss" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Peak: number 8
It had taken the uncharacteristically sombre "Under The Bridge" to provide Red Hot Chili Peppers with their commercial breakthrough, but it was back to their funk/rock hybrid for the follow-up. Succeeding where "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away" hadn't, "Suck My Kiss" gave the band a second straight top 10 hit - the only time in their career they'd achieve that. Much of the footage in the music video came from Funky Monks, a documentary about the making of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which is what a major label deal gets you.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1992:
Next week: one of my least favourite songs from 1989 returns as a duet with one of my least favourite singers. Meanwhile, a singer I hadn't liked at all so far finally releases a song I enjoy and a disgraced beauty queen has the last laugh.