This Week In 1990: April 29, 1990
She'd ruled the charts in the second half of the '80s, but the '90s hadn't got off to a great start for Madonna with the worst performance by back-to-back singles in her career to date when both "Oh Father" and "Dear Jessie" missed the ARIA top 50.
That all changed this week in 1990 when the reigning Queen of Pop stormed back onto the singles chart with brand new song "Vogue" - but interestingly, the future number 1 hit wasn't always intended to be a single. And, as we'll discover, "Vogue" may also not have been intended to chart this week at all...
The present number 1 this week in 1990 was still "Opposites Attract", Paula Abdul's duet with The Wild Pair and MC Skat Kat, but its days on top were numbered. Meanwhile, the week's big new entry kind of overshadowed the return of the state top 10s to the printed ARIA top 50 for the first time since January 12, 1986. Of note, South Australia's love for "Black Betty", Western Australia leading the charge to get behind Wet Wet Wet, and the very warm welcome Victoria and Tasmania gave Madonna, which we'll get to below.
Off The Chart
Number 81 "Still Got This Thing" by Alannah Myles
Peak: number 64
Harder than her two previous hits combined, this third single from the Canadian songstress saw her in full rock chick mode - with seemingly every member of her band required to be decked out not in velvet but black leather instead.
Number 73 "Deadbeat Club" by The B-52's
Peak: number 73
I like this right up until the chorus when one of the girls sings almost high enough for only dogs to hear, ruining what might have been the band's third great single in a row. Record buyers responded accordingly.
Peak: number 66
Here's another act with two recent massive hits under their belt that was more deserving of Australia's sudden disinterest than Alannah Myles or The B-52's. The megamix masterminds behind "Swing The Mood" and "That's What I Like" returned with a new song not included on The Album that was built around "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love". As usual, a batch of rock'n'roll songs were spliced together over the repetitive beat - but while this single reached number 4 in the UK, Australia was having (almost) none of it.
Peak: number 64
Another act that'd ridden the megamix wave into the top 50 was sibling duo Rococo, whose "Italo House Mix" had at least drawn attention to some lesser known singles by Adeva and S-Express in its attempt to cash in on the success of Black Box and Technotronic. For their next trick, Elaine and Evelyn released what can best be described as an above-average Collette track - but no one bought "Italo House Mix" because they were interested in the pair as artists in their own right and, since Collette's songs were still pretty lousy at the best of times, this sent Rococo back into pop oblivion.
Number 47 "What It Takes" by Aerosmith
Peak: number 46
Looks like we have a two-hits-one-flop pattern this week. After scoring the first two ARIA top 40 placings of their career with "Love In An Elevator" and "Janie's Got A Gun", Aerosmith struck out with this third single from Pump. Co-written by the band's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry with rock power ballad supremo Desmond Child, "What It Takes" sounded like so many other American rock ballads that clogged up the Billboard top 10 around the time - and Australia maintained its ambivalence to that over-earnest style of song (see also: "Heaven" by Warrant, "Forever" by KISS and upcoming minor top 50 hit "Without You" by Mötley Crüe).
Peak: number 1
As I alluded to at the start of this post, Madonna's first new single for the '90s was originally planned only as a B-side to "Keep It Together" - an extra incentive for American fans to shell out for a fifth single from Like A Prayer. But when the collaboration between the singer and writer/producer Shep Pettibone was complete, it was obvious "Vogue" was too good to squander as a B-side.
"Keep It Together" was duly remixed and released in the States at the start of 1990, reaching number 8 - and in Australia, it ended up as the double A-side to "Vogue". And so, "Vogue / Keep It Together" hit the ARIA chart this week in 1990 on its way to a five-week spell at number 1.
The single's debut at number 19 was only based on sales in two states - Victoria and a handful of New South Wales stores - and from only two days in shops. I'm not sure whether sales embargoes existed in 1990, but this could be an instance of retailers from those regions putting the record on sale before its official release date. If it had been available around the country for a full week, we'd likely have seen only the third single ever to debut at number 1 on the ARIA chart.
The song itself, as we all know by now, took its inspiration from underground dance style voguing, in which dancers performed moves as if they were models posing. Voguing had already inspired one song, "Deep In Vogue" by Malcolm McLaren & The Bootzilla Orchestra - a double A-side single with "Waltz Darling" in mid-1989 - but it wasn't until Madonna jumped on the trend that voguing went mainstream.
With its iconic black-and-white, David Fincher-directed, MTV Award-winning video, "Vogue" quickly became one of Madonna's biggest hits - and despite having nothing at all to do with her upcoming role in Dick Tracy, the song was tacked on to her accompanying soundtrack album, I'm Breathless, which was released later in the year.
Like the release of "Like A Prayer" just over a year earlier, I recall the sense of excitement around "Vogue". It sounded nothing like anything Madonna had released before and, with its blend of new (dancefloor-ready house influences) and old (an imminently quotable spoken tribute to Hollywood's greats), was a sure sign her days of releasing legendary singles were not over.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1990:
Next week: two of the year's biggest power ballads - one that's a guilty pleasure of mine and one that not only I can't stand but neither can the band behind it.