This Week In 1991: May 19, 1991
It was a great week for rock bands with female singers this week in 1991, with three new entries on the ARIA singles chart coming from groups fronted by women. A fourth new entry was by another act with a female vocalist (even if that wasn't the woman we saw in the track's music video).
It was particularly good news for Australian bands with female singers, with a hot new rock group from Perth debuting along with a Sydney indie band that featured two female vocalists in its line-up.
Up at the top of the chart, there was a female singer featured on the new number 1 single - with "The Horses" by Daryl Braithwaite (and uncredited backing vocalist Margaret Urlich) finally reaching the summit after 15 weeks inside the top 100. In fact, Margaret also appeared on this week's number 2 single, "Don't Go Now" by Ratcat - surely a chart rarity.
Off The Chart
Number 97 "Biscuit's In The House" by Biscuit
Peak: number 97
Had he launched his rap career a year earlier when NKOTB were still white hot, things might have gone better for the boy band's former bodyguard and his "All Right Now"-sampling track.
Number 93 "Rico Suave" by Gerardo
Peak: number 87
A top 10 hit in the US, this James Brown-sampling debut single by Ecuadorian rapper Gerardo Mejia didn't do the business here. Nice Bobby Brown-meets-Milli Vanilli moves in the video, though.
Peak: number 56
You wouldn't think it to listen to this chilled out soul/hip-hop debut single from Dutch band Urban Dance Squad, but much of their output sounded more like Red Hot Chili Peppers or Faith No More on a heavy day. Lacking the rock elements that defined their later singles, "Deeper Shade Of Soul" was based around samples from "A Deeper Shade Of Soul", a 1968 track by Latin jazz artist Ray Barretto. Much more commercial than anything else they released, the song was their only top 100 entry in Australia and the US, where it reached number 21.
Number 50 Loot by Clouds
Peak: number 22
Indie bands from Sydney (and Canberra, if we're including The Falling Joys) were receiving a lot of attention in 1991, especially since Ratcat's ascent to the very top of the chart. The latest band to crack the mainstream was Clouds, who'd previously released a self-titled EP in 1990. Second EP Loot contained the single "Souleater" and it's a track I was very familiar with since Clouds had become the new favourites of one of my sisters. The band would never see such dizzy heights on the singles chart again, but the duelling harmonies of singers Jodi Phillis and Trish Young would be heard on a series of equally catchy tunes over the next few years (especially in my house).
Number 48 "Slave" by James Reyne
Peak: number 10
Our only top 50 entry from a male singer this week was the latest from former Australian Crawl vocalist James Reyne. The lead single from the curiously titled Electric Digger Dandy (which was renamed Any Day Above Ground for US release), "Slave" saw James in laidback mode. The FM radio-ready song was co-written with Bryan Adams's songwriting partner, Jim Vallance, and returned James to the ARIA top 10 for the first time since 1988's "Motor's Too Fast".
Number 38 "Early Warning" by Baby Animals
Peak: number 21
Exactly a year ago, I mentioned that The Angels had featured some up-and-coming bands on the B-side to their 1990 single "Dogs Are Talking". And now, one of those bands made its ARIA chart debut under their own steam. Fronted by the raspy voiced Suze De Marchi, Baby Animals quickly established themselves as one of Australia's favourite rock acts, even if the chart peak of this first single might seem a little underwhelming.
But while the band never scored truly massive hits, they did very well on the albums top 50 with their chart-topping self-titled album as well as its 1993 follow-up, Shaved And Dangerous. The Baby Animals album, which included "Early Warning", was produced by Mike Chapman, who was no stranger to working with strong female talent like Suzi Quatro, Pat Benatar, Tina Turner and Blondie's Debbie Harry.
The original Australian music video for "Early Warning" is below while a second clip was made for the US market. And, as shocking as it may be for some of you to hear, I actually didn't mind this song - although I would've loved there to have been a dance remix...
Number 33 "Strike It Up" by Black Box
Peak: number 20
Speaking of dance music, Italo house group Black Box's megamix was on its last legs in the top 40 and was joined by this latest single from Dreamland. Quite why it was decided to release "The Total Mix" before Black Box had finished lifting tracks from their album is unclear, especially since "Strike It Up" wouldn't even be the final single. Given a freshening up from the year-old Dreamland, "Strike It Up" took Black Box back into the ARIA top 20 and also gave the act still "fronted" by Katrin Quinol a second US top 10 hit (with a different remix).
Peak: number 16
The biggest new single of the week was by one of the most popular female-fronted bands in Australia over the past few years. Thanks to a combination of sex appeal, ballsy vocals and her knack for self-promotion, Wendy James became an instant icon - and a target for the UK press, who would have delighted in the fact that brand new single "(I Just Wanna) B With U" was a relative flop in Britain.
It was a different story in Australia, where the track reached the top 20, marking the first time the band had done significantly better with a single here than back at home. As a result of the song's under-par performance on the British chart, Transvision Vamp's UK record label held off on releasing their third album, the even more curiously titled (than James Reyne's effort) Little Magnets Versus The Bubble Of Babble. It did come out in Australia, but by peaking at number 25 came nowhere near previous album Velveteen's number 2 placing. Could the band turn things around? Time would tell.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: the return of a female singer who'd completely transformed herself during her 1980s heyday. Plus, a single that resulted in a plagiarism suit.