This Week In 1994: May 8, 1994
Girl groups had been coming thick and fast out of America since the late '80, and Australia had got in on the action with a couple of briefly massive ensembles in the early '90s. Surprisingly, there had not been that many girl groups emerging from the UK, which would end up producing one of the decade's biggest all-female acts in Spice Girls.
Before the world went girl power crazy, another British girl group with a propensity for losing members broke through in Australia this week in 1994 with their debut single - a song that had taken its time to make it on the ARIA chart.
Meanwhile, for the second week in a row, the highest-selling single in Australia was from another quartet: Ace Of Base's "The Sign" remained at number 1.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 56
Sinéad O'Connor's song from the soundtrack to the Daniel Day-Lewis film had just made the top 50, while this title track - a collaboration between the U2 vocalist and fellow Irishman Gavin Friday - just missed out.
Peak: number 81
Although they'd formed back in 1987, this lead single from fourth album You Wanna Be There But You Don't Wanna Travel was the first top 100 appearance by the Australian band.
Number 83 "Bump n' Grind" by R. Kelly
Peak: number 82
Turns out R. Kelly didn't see nothing wrong with quite a lot of things. Having shed backing group Public Announcement, this second single from solo album 12 Play took him all the way to number 1 in the US.
Number 50 "Stay" by Eternal
Peak: number 3
The UK's answer to En Vogue, four-piece Eternal started off with sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett before additional members Louise Nurding and her friend Kéllé Bryan joined the project. Launched in Britain in September 1993, the quartet had enjoyed three top 10 hits there by the time their debut single, "Stay", finally started to take off in Australia, having been released at the beginning of December 1993 locally.
Initially, it looked like "Stay" wasn't going to do much here, peaking at number 98 in March, but it crashed back into the chart on its way to the top 3 a couple of months later. A polished slice of R&B, "Stay" was typical of the output of First Avenue Records, also the home for Dina Carroll, Michelle Gayle and MN8, and much poppier than their American counterparts, although the song did make the Billboard top 20. As we'll see in coming months, the Eternal story would be a rocky one - both in terms of their ARIA chart performance and their line-up, with the Bennetts shedding first Louise and then Kéllé over the years.
Number 49 "Satisfy The Groove" by Culture Shock
Peak: number 31
It's amazing what some major label money can do to a song. Initially released on independent label MDS in March, the debut single by local dance outfit Culture Shock was quickly snapped up by Sony Music, given a remix courtesy of DJ Pee Wee Ferris and re-released a month later. An improvement on the original version, the new "Satisfy The Groove" had a certain Urban Cookie Collective feel to it and was one of my favourite songs of 1994. One of the singers for the group was former Young Talent Time alumnus Lorena Novoa, who became the third female singer from the show to score a top 50 hit during the '90s.
Number 39 "U R The Best Thing" by D:Ream
Peak: number 9
A remix and re-release had helped Culture Shock quickly land a hit, and a similar process did the same for D:Ream - albeit over three years and three versions. Originally released in mid-1992 before being given a second chance a year later in 1993, "U R The Best Thing" finally hit the Australian and UK top 10 in 1994 following an update by remix team Perfecto and the success of "Things Can Only Get Better", which had also taken a couple of goes to connect. Like the remix of "Satisfy The Groove", this new version of "U R The Best Thing" gave the track the added oomph it needed to make it a great song rather than just a good song. It wouldn't be the last great song the act fronted by Peter Cunnah would produce, but it would be the last hit they'd score in Australia.
Number 38 "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies
Peak: number 1
Here's another track like "Stay" that took its time to reach our shores, having been released seven months earlier in Crash Test Dummies' home country of Canada. The lead single from the band's second album, God Shuffled His Feet, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" was one of those song's quirky enough to be massive - three weeks at number 1 in Australia - but also one that would inevitably rub some people the wrong way. No prizes for guessing it wasn't one of my favourite tracks from 1994, but I did, however, quite enjoy the final minute of the song, probably because the sonorous lead vocal is done with by then. One of those polarising songs that often pops up on best and worst lists for the '90s, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" tells the stories of three children with some kind of percularity. Singer Brad Roberts talks about it in more detail here. The band would come close to being one-hit wonders in Australia, but we will see them pop up on the top 50 one more time.
Number 31 "I'll Stand By You" by The Pretenders
Peak: number 8
It'd been seven years since we'd seen The Pretenders on the Australian top 50, the British band hitting number 7 in 1987 with ballad "Hymn To Her", as everything from 1990 album Packed! and various other soundtrack releases had flopped locally. But in 1994, they stormed back into the top 10 with another emotional ballad. The song was co-written by singer Chrissie Hynde with a couple of songwriters who know their way around a hit ballad: Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the duo behind "True Colors", "Alone" and "Eternal Flame", to name just some of their big hits. As it would turn out, it would be the last time we'd see The Pretenders on the top 50, while "I'll Stand By You" would improve upon its UK number 10 peak thanks to a cover version by Girls Aloud, which reached number 1 there in 2004.
Number 26 "Less Than A Feeling" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 26
The week's biggest new entry was also the first single from Hoodoo Gurus' Crank album to crack the top 40, "The Right Time" and "You Open My Eyes" having peaked just outside. Despite its high-flying debut, "Less Than A Feeling" would fall quickly off the chart, despite being the enduring Australian rock band's best single since 1991's "Miss Freelove '69".
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994:
Next week: a much more subdued chart when a bunch of recent hit-makers don't do so well with their follow-up singles.