This Week In 1990: September 30, 1990
It's the rare backing singer who makes the transition to becoming a star in their own right. Luther Vandross, Sheryl Crow and Whitney Houston all did it - and this week in 1990, the ARIA singles chart welcomed another former session singer.
After years in the background and collaborating with other performers, one of Australia's (via Canada) most popular female artists finally released her debut solo single. It'd be the start of an incredibly successful few years for the singer who'd come to this country as a backing singer for Little River Band frontman Glenn Shorrock.
Also this week in 1990, "Blaze Of Glory" by Jon Bon Jovi was still holed up at number 1. The Young Guns II soundtrack hit spent its third week on top.
Off The Chart
Number 100 "Get On Your Feet" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 98
Almost a year after its original release (and two decades before its hilarious use in Parks And Recreation), the best song on Cuts Both Ways finally poked its head inside the top 100.
Number 90 "Heart Like A Wheel" by The Human League
Peak: number 64
Not only was this track taken from the synthpop band's first album in four years, but it was also their first record produced by Martin Rushent since 1983's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination".
Single Of The Week
Peak: number 88
While Crowded House had gone from strength to strength over the previous few years, this group featuring three of Neil Finn's former bandmates from Split Enz didn't have anywhere near as much mainstream success. Listening to this title track from the band's second album, it's pretty easy to see why - it's not the most commercial of songs. Sounding more than a little bit influenced by Talking Heads (at their quirkiest), "OK Alright..." didn't exactly win people over to the Schnell Fenster cause and it would be their last top 100 appearance, with the band splitting by 1992.
Peak: number 59
He'd been hired to replace Bobby Brown in New Edition in 1987, but by the end of the decade, the boy band had disintegrated and Johnny Gill went back to the solo career he'd been pursuing - mostly unsuccessfully - throughout the '80s. With a much higher profile than previously, Johnny's first post-New Edition single became a huge hit in the US, reaching number 3. The success of "Rub You The Right Way" also had a little to do with the fact that it was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis - the team behind Janet Jackson. In Australia, the single just missed the top 50 - a chart performance no doubt aided by its appearance on nationally syndicated radio show American Top 40.
Number 50 "Stone Cold Sober" by Del Amitri
Peak: number 50
Just when it looked like this latest single from the Scottish rockers - which actually preceded "Nothing Ever Happens" in the UK - was on its way out of the top 100, it rebounded from number 91 to number 50. As Del Amitri songs go, "Stone Cold Sober" is not so bad, but it would only spend a solitary week on the top 50 before working its way back down the listings again. After a succession of minor hits throughout 1990, the band would disappear from the chart for another couple of years - and return in 1992 with one of their best known tracks.
Number 48 "Caroline" by Concrete Blonde
Peak: number 39
I think it's safe to say this single would never have made the top 50 had it not been released as the follow-up to runaway hit "Joey". One of those songs that doesn't seem to ever get anywhere, "Caroline" ensured Concrete Blonde wouldn't be a one-hit wonder, even if most people would be hard pushed to remember it these days.
Number 45 "Token Angels" by Wendy Matthews
Peak: number 18
Here she is - the singer who'd provided backing vocals on albums by Models, Jimmy Barnes and Icehouse; appeared on the soundtracks for ABC series Dancing Daze (with Jenny Morris) and You've Always Got The Blues (with Kate Ceberano); guested on a track by Rockmelons; and, most recently, been the voice of Absent Friends. It was this last gig more than anything else which paved the way for Wendy Matthews to embark on a solo career - her voice now familiar to mainstream audiences thanks to top 5 smash "I Don't Want To Be With Nobody But You". Keeping things downbeat, this lead single (written by Roger Mason from Models and Absent Friends) from debut album Émigré was an understated way to launch her solo career. The sort of song that creeps up on you rather than hits you in the face, it would contribute to Wendy receiving the first two of six career ARIA Awards.
Number 44 "I'll Be Your Shelter" by Taylor Dayne
Peak: number 4
This is where Taylor Dayne lost me. I'd been a big fan of everything she'd released since debut single "Tell It To My Heart", but her decision to trade pop/dance for generic pop/rock was not one I supported. Seems like I was on my own - not only did "I'll Be Your Shelter" return her to the top 10 for the first time since her first single, but it became her highest-charting single up until that point in Australia. Like previous single "Love Will Lead You Back", "I'll Be Your Shelter" was written by Diane Warren, but had been offered to Tina Turner ahead of Taylor.
Number 40 "Falling To Pieces" by Faith No More
Peak: number 26
Like Concrete Blonde, Faith No More were riding on a wave of success thanks to a massive breakthrough hit - in this case, number 1 single "Epic" - and were pretty much guaranteed further chart action. Unlike Concrete Blonde, Faith No More's follow-up was a reasonably memorable song - even if the band have done everything they can to erase "Falling To Pieces" from their repertoire, performing it rarely in the years since. Once again combining catchy hooks with heavy rock, the track was also accompanied by another visually arresting music video.
Number 36 "That's Freedom" by John Farnham
Peak: number 6
As we saw just six weeks ago, the lead single and title track from Farnsey's Chain Reaction album wasn't the type of tune we'd come to expect from him, but order was restored with second single "That's Freedom". An anthemic pop/rock track tailor made for John, it swiftly jumped up the top 50 to join "Chain Reaction" (this week's number 9) in the top 10. In just eight weeks, a third single from the album would be welcomed onto the top 100 - nothing like flooding the market in time for Christmas!
Number 19 "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC
Peak: number 4
For a few years in the early '80s, AC/DC hadn't been able to land a hit single no matter how hard they tried. By 1990, times had changed and the pattern seemed to be that a new album from the Australian rock group would at least yield one top 10 single if nothing else. True to recent form, this lead single from The Razors Edge - the band were so rock they didn't need apostrophes - not only followed "Who Made Who" and "Heatseeker" into the top 10 but gave AC/DC the highest-charting single of their career. As a sign that things were really changing for the band, "Thunderstruck" actually hung around the chart well into 1991. The shocking developments didn't end there, as we'll see when we get to the subsequent singles from the album, which became their biggest worldwide success since 1981's For Those About To Rock We Salute You.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1990:
Next week: solo chart hits from the lead singers of two very different bands - one, an Aussie rock institution and the other, an Irish group from the punk era. Plus, another US R&B track that deserved better.