This Week In 1991: November 3, 1991
It had happened twice already - once in 1985 and again in 1988. And so Australia was pretty much due for another record to debut at number 1 on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1991.
It wasn't just any song that blast straight into the top 50 at the very top, but a brand new single by one of the biggest bands in the world. The thing was: it didn't sound like them at all.
Despite a pretty radical reinvention, the band were as popular as ever, as evidenced by their instant chart-topper, which dethroned Big Audio Dynamite II's "Rush" and held off a challenge by Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy", even if only for one week.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 92
Back in August 1987, Bob Seger had two songs in the top 10 at the same time. In 1991, this single from The Fire Inside, his first studio album in five years, paid a brief visit to the bottom 10.
Peak: number 55
They'd already had two greatest hits albums - Northbound in 1983 and Radio Songs in 1985 - but that didn't stop Warner Music compiling another one for the Christmas market in 1991. As a point of difference, Chisel included "Misfits", a B-side from 1980 that was released as a single to promote the new best of collection. While the album did incredibly well, peaking at number 3 and staying on the top 100 for well over a year, "Misfits" didn't. The single came with a video that combined footage of the band in the studio from 1980 with scenes of kids living on the streets, which the song was written about.
Peak: number 2
It might be laden with some of the least subtle sexual innuendo in pop history, but "Cream" was actually quite tame compared to Prince's previous single, "Gett Off", which dropped out of the top 10 its sixth week on the chart. Given its less explicit lyrical content and radio-friendly sound, the rapidly released second single from Diamonds And Pearls was also one of Prince's biggest ever hits in Australia, spending four weeks at number 2 (behind "Black Or White" and "Let's Talk About Sex") and 13 weeks in the top 10. "Cream" was inescapable the summer of '91/'92 and Prince's regular presence on radio was a notable change from the reception his '80s material had been given by FM stations.
Number 46 "Change" by Lisa Stansfield
Peak: number 21
Her first album, Affection, had yielded global hit "All Around The World" and seen her nominated for multiple BRIT and Grammys awards, so it was safe to say there was a good amount of anticipation for Lisa Stansfield's follow-up, Real Love. Fans (like me) of her soul/dance hybrid weren't disappointed by lead single "Change", which became Lisa's second top 50 hit in Australia. Unfortunately, it would also be her last hit here, with subsequent singles as overlooked as debut album tracks like "This Is The Right Time" and "You Can't Deny It" had been. "Change" was also Lisa's final top 50 appearance in America, where a different music video shot by the director of "Rush Rush" was aired.
Number 39 "Do Anything" by Natural Selection
Peak: number 10
In yesterday's 1986 post, we saw a bunch of one-hit wonders - and here's one from 1991. Another song introduced to Australia thanks to American Top 40, "Do Anything" succeeded where so many other US hits didn't and spent three weeks at number 10. At the time, Natural Selection was comprised of singer Frederick Thomas and Elliot Erickson, while the spoken bits on the song were re-recorded by Madonna's regular backing singer Niki Harris after Ingrid Chavez, who'd performed them on an earlier version, was signed to Prince's record label. In the States, Natural Selection reached the top 30 with follow-up "Hearts Don't Think (They Feel)!", but they weren't so lucky here.
Number 25 "Shining Star" by INXS
Peak: number 21
As with Cold Chisel, there was a time when a new release from INXS would've been a guaranteed smash. But this single - the only studio recording included on concert album Live Baby Live - just missed the top 20, despite being previously unreleased. In truth, it wasn't INXS's best single. Still, "Shining Star" did its job of promoting the live album, which peaked at number 3. Live Baby Live featured songs recorded during the band's Summer XS tour, notably their sold out gig at London's Wembley Stadium, which formed the basis of the accompanying video release. INXS would be back with a new studio album in mid-'92.
Number 1 "The Fly" by U2
Peak: number 1
While INXS was certainly one of the most popular band's in the world in 1991, there's little doubt U2 was the biggest band - a status the Irish four-piece cemented with the release of Achtung Baby as the year drew to a close. It's testament to just how huge U2 were that they could completely make over their sound and image, and the majority of their fans stuck with them, although some purists despaired.
At the time, "The Fly" was a shock to the system - a song that sounded nothing like the worthier-than-thou band of the late '80s. All crunching, distorted guitars and falsetto vocals, it was exactly what U2 needed to do to stay relevant at a time when rock music was going through massive change. That was exactly the intention, with Bono famously describing it as "the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree".
Then there was Bono himself, who donned rock star sunglasses and leather as The Fly, a parody character he formulated during recording sessions and one of three main personae he embodied during the Zoo TV tour. "The Fly" made an instant impact, becoming only the third single in ARIA chart history to debut at number 1. It might only have stayed there for one week, but it played a crucial role in the reinvention of U2.
For a full list of singles that debuted on the ARIA chart at number 1, head here.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: two of the biggest names in Australian music unite for a remake of a soul classic. Plus, a song that's had two sequels in the years since.