This Week In 1991: May 5, 1991
It might be stating the obvious, but a lot can change in a couple of decades. In 1991, one of the artists making their top 50 debut on the ARIA singles chart was a rising name in hip-hop; in 2016, he's one of music's elder statesmen and the star of one of TV's longest running crime franchises.
Another of the new entries from this week in 1991 was from a breakthrough act who's now as well known for his music as he is his TV appearances - especially to younger generations. Back then, few would have predicted how either of their careers would develop.
It's also unlikely anyone would have predicted when it slid into the bottom of the top 50 at the very start of the year that Tingles by Ratcat would move up to the number 1 spot four months later. But that's exactly what the EP by the Sydney band did this week in 1991. Overall, it spent 28 consecutive weeks in the top 100 reaching the top of the chart, which is the record for the slowest climb to number 1 of all time.
Off The Chart
Number 99 "This Is Ponderous" by 2NU
Peak: number 75
I had successfully blocked this combination of electronic bleeps and a spoken word stream of consciousness from memory until now. The American band was "too new" to have a name when this started getting radio play.
Number 89 "I'll Be By Your Side" by Stevie B
Peak: number 73
The hideous "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" had been so massive that it made sense to follow it up with another sickly sweet slush fest. Thankfully, this wasn't as popular.
Number 87 Shades Of Blue by The The
Peak: number 87
Matt Johnson and co. had enjoyed a handful of top 50 hits, but this EP clearly only appealed to The The's hardcore fanbase, with it dropping right back out of the top 100 the following week.
Number 85 "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Warrant
Peak: number 85
How different things would've been for Warrant had this song ended up as the lead single and title track of their second album (instead of "Cherry Pie") as was originally intended.
Single Of The Week
Peak: number 100
Between 1969 and 1972, Russell Morris had five top 10 hits in Australia, including two chart-toppers, the iconic "The Real Thing" and "Part Three Into Paper Walls". In 1991, he found himself at the other end of the top 100 with this lead single from comeback album A Thousand Suns. Would it be cynical to think this had been Festival Records' attempt at their own career resurrection, a la John Farnham or Daryl Braithwaite?
Number 49 "Around The Way Girl" by LL Cool J
Peak: number 45
By 1991, LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James, real name: James Smith) was already up to his fourth album, having forged a name for himself in the US throughout the late '80s with tracks that ranged from the smooth grooves of "I Need Love" to the harder-edged "Rock The Bells". With his 1990 album, Mama Said Knock You Out, LL achieved some career firsts, including his first US top 10 single with "Around The Way Girl" and his first Grammy Award for the album's title track. So, it was a great time for Australia to come on board - even if "Around The Way Girl", which takes samples from tracks by Mary Jane Girls (female vocal hook), Keni Burke (instrumental riff) and The Honey Drippers (beat), wasn't the biggest of hits (although it's my favourite song of his). LL would land hits on the ARIA chart regularly over the next 15 years, but these days he's better known as Sam Hanna on NCIS: Los Angeles and the regular host of the Grammy Awards.
Number 44 "Ring My Bell" by Monie Love vs Adeva
Peak: number 35
From one of America's biggest young rappers we move now to a British MC who'd also made waves in the States with her transatlantic hit, "It's A Shame (My Sister)" (which lost the Best Rap Solo Performance Grammy to LL Cool J). While "It's A Shame..." hadn't done so well in Australia, this collaboration with vocalist Adeva (last seen in the top 50 with simultaneous hits "Warning" and "I Thank You") did find its mark. No doubt helping "Ring My Bell" up the chart was the music video's play on the use of "vs" in the song's credit by having Monie and Adeva duke it out musically in a boxing ring. "Ring My Bell" was the sixth single from Monie's debut album, Down To Earth, with vocals performed on the original album version by Ultra Naté.
Number 39 "Blue Hotel" by Chris Isaak
Peak: number 23
"Wicked Game" was still sitting inside the top 20 after just eight weeks on the chart, but Chris Isaak appeared with another song this week in 1991 - and "Wicked Game" was actually also on the double A-side of "Blue Hotel" (and would be given equal billing in coming weeks). Why the double up? Well, going from the chart credits, the release of "Wicked Game" sitting at number 17 was through Polygram, who must have held the rights to the Heart Shaped World album and its singles in Australia. "Blue Hotel/Wicked Game" (as it would soon be known) was on Warner, who were capitalising on Chris's new-found popularity with the release of a compilation album called Wicked Game, which drew songs from his first three studio albums.
"Blue Hotel" had originally appeared on Chris's second self-titled album back in 1986. Not wanting to cause confusion with the already successful "Wicked Game" single - but not wanting to completely miss out on sales - Warner led with "Blue Hotel" and had the best of both worlds. For a few weeks, both singles would appear simultaneously on the top 50, even sitting side by side in a couple of weeks' time. Meanwhile, another of the tracks resurrected for Wicked Game will feature on my 1986 flashback in two weeks' time when we see Chris score his first ever ARIA chart hit.
Number 29 "Where The Streets Have No Name (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You) / How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" by Pet Shop Boys
Peak: number 9
With "Being Boring" not having performed - either here or in the UK - as Pet Shop Boys might have hoped, something was needed to reinvigorate interest in the synthpop duo while they continued to roll out singles from the Behaviour album. Next up, was single number three, "How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously?" - and although it'd been given a remix from the album version, the song that called out pop stars who used their profile to champion political causes wasn't seen as enough on its own.
And so, for the second time in their career, Pet Shop Boys decided to release a cover version - but not just any remake. Using a strategy that'd worked with their version of "Always On My Mind", the pair turned a song completely on its head, transforming U2's rock anthem "Where The Streets Have No Name" into a disco stormer, weaving in the chorus from "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" (based on Boystown Gang's version of the Frankie Valli classic) for good measure.
The medley was sacrilege for U2 purists, but it was exactly what Pet Shop Boys needed to get them back into the upper reaches of the chart, and the incredibly wordy double A-side release returned them to the ARIA top 10 for the first time since, funnily enough, "Always On My Mind". Bono's response to the radical reworking of his song? "What have I done to deserve this?"
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: the biggest megamix of them all, plus a band who'd go on to provide the theme tune to one of the biggest TV shows of the decade and another single from one of the biggest TV shows of 1991.