This Week In 1992: May 24, 1992
Doing something different is a great way for a musician to get noticed - just ask Madonna. In the case of two of the new entries on the ARIA singles chart from this week in 1992, it resulted in the singers concerned winding up with number 1 hits.
One was a big ballad by a female artist whose previous dance/pop tracks (and one midtempo US top 10 hit) had done nothing locally. The other was a completely different type of release by a man who was no stranger to the top 50.
There was nothing different happening at number 1 this week in 1992 as "To Be With You" by Mr Big held on to the top spot for a second week.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 98
The first of four new songs spending just one week inside the top 100 was the lead single from The Lightning Seeds' second album, Sense. The album's title track was one of my favourite songs for 1992.
Number 96 "Wicked Love" by Oceanic
Peak: number 96
Nowhere near as good as "Insanity" and consequently nowhere near as big a hit for the British dance act whose album was called That Album By Oceanic - or Cassette/Compact Disc, depending on the format.
Number 94 "Say A Prayer" by Devils In Heaven
Peak: number 94
If you watched the Australian version of Star Search in 1991, you might recall this Tasmanian band whose prize included a single released by Sony. This interview reveals more of the backstory, while here's what happened to their singer.
Number 91 Dixie Narco by Primal Scream
Peak: number 91
Featuring "Movin' On Up", which had appeared on the Screamadelica album, as well as the song "Screamadelica", which bizarrely hadn't, this EP gave the British band their first visit to the ARIA top 100.
Peak: number 64
Their collaboration with Vic Reeves, "Dizzy", was still inside the top 40 but the success of that remake wasn't sufficient to prompt extra interest in The Wonder Stuff's own music. "Welcome To The Cheap Seats" came from the British indie band's third album, Never Loved Elvis, and featured guest vocals from Kirsty MacColl.
Number 48 "Joy" by Soul II Soul
Peak: number 41
Despite top 10 success in the UK and the US - and a stack of brilliant singles - Soul II Soul had never really taken off in Australia. Although back in the top 50 with this lead single from Volume III Just Right, the British R&B act had to settle for another minor chart hit for "Joy", which differed from their previous singles by featuring guest vocals from a male singer: Richie Stephens. "Joy" was also Soul II Soul's final top 10 hit in the UK, although they came close with 1995's excellent "Love Enuff".
Number 47 As Ugly As They Wanna Be by Ugly Kid Joe
Peak: number 4
Proving that not all early '90s rock hits were bitter and twisted, California's Ugly Kid Joe took the world by storm with their lighthearted celebration of negativity, "Everything About You". The song was initially the standout track on EP As Ugly As They Wanna Be, before being included on the band's late-1992 debut album, America's Least Wanted, by which time Ugly Kid Joe had established themselves as one of America's most wanted new bands. In Australia, they'd end up outdoing As Ugly... by reaching number 1 with another track featured on America's Least Wanted.
Number 43 "Hazard" by Richard Marx
Peak: number 1
Next up, a man who already had one Australian chart-topper under his belt and would add another with a song that couldn't be more different from the material we'd come to expect from him. Like previous single "Keep Coming Back", "Hazard" was neither a sentimental ballad nor an ultra-commercial pop/rock track. Instead, the second single from Rush Street was an ominous tune that doubled as a murder mystery - the song told the story of disappeared woman "Mary", who Richard's narrator character is accused of killing.
Intriguingly - or frustratingly, depending on your need for closure - neither the song nor the music video which brought the tale to life resolved the case. That intrigue no doubt fuelled interest in the song, as did the fact that it showed Richard in a new light as an artist. As it turns out, he didn't think that much of the song and only included it on Rush Street to prove wife Cynthia Rhodes, who thought it was a hit, wrong. When it went to number 1 in Australia and was indeed a hit around the world, she had the last laugh.
Number 38 "Man Alive" by Diesel
Peak: number 20
Another male artist breaking with tradition was Diesel - although in his case, it wasn't so much that he'd changed his sound but had finally released something I liked. And even went out and bought! Naturally, just as I got on board the Diesel train - sorry - "Man Alive" became his least successful single since 1989's "Since I Fell For You". Of course, the fact that "Man Alive" was released just after he'd spent four weeks at number 1 with his Hepfidelity album probably had something to do with the bluesy rock jam failing to match the top 10 status of his previous two singles. Still, an eventual number 20 placing is not so shabby.
Peak: number 1
In America, she was a household name thanks to her historical crowning as the first African-American Miss America in 1983 - and the nude photos scandal that resulted in her resignation shortly before her year with the title was up. Since then, Vanessa Williams moved from beauty pageants to acting and singing, landing two US top 20 hits (including the excellent "Running Back To You") prior to 1992.
Then came "Save The Best For Last", a sweet, string-soaked ballad that made Australia sit up and take notice. The song, which had done the rounds of numerous singers before it was offered to Vanessa, was unlike the dance/pop and R&B tracks she was mostly known for, and topped the chart in Australia and the US (for five weeks). Not surprisingly, the style of song was mirrored in the three other ARIA top 50 hits Vanessa would have over the next few years.
Peak: number 29
Australian record label rooArt was really on a hot streak in the early '90s. Following huge successes with Ratcat, Absent Friends, The Hummingbirds and The Screaming Jets, the independent label added Weddings Parties Anything to its roster and they too became the proud owners of a hit single. The first release from the Difficult Loves album, "Father's Day" actually came out around the same time as Mother's Day - deliberate? - and told the story of a divorced dad who sees his son every Saturday. The winner of the 1993 ARIA Award for Song Of The Year, "Father's Day" was easily the biggest hit of WPA's career and, beyond its chart success, joined the catalogue of classic Australian folk/rock songs.
Peak: number 14
As if having to endure "The Best" in the top 20 once wasn't enough, one of my least favourite hits of the '80s returned almost three years later. In a duet with one of my least favourite Australian singers. Coupled with another of Jimmy Barnes's torturous remakes of an old soul classic (originally performed by Tina Turner). The slightly retitled "(Simply) The Best" was revamped and used in ads for the 1992 rugby league season. Unlike the last time a Tina song was appropriated by the NRL, the new version of "The Best" was a hit all over again.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1992:
Next week: the latest Aussie pop sensation from the stable that'd brought us Melissa and Teen Queens, a top 5 cover version by one of John Farnham's backing singers and a chart-topping rap duo who liked to wear their clothes back to front.