25 Years Ago This Week: October 8, 1995
There was a proven formula to landng a long-running chart-topper in the early '90s: ballad + movie tie-in = multiple weeks at number 1. That equation had worked for Jon Bon Jovi, The Righteous Brothers, Bryan Adams, Boyz II Men, Whitney Houston, Wet Wet Wet and Seal.
But this week in 1995, a song that would stay at number 1 for longer than any of those soundtrack hits did things a little bit differently. Yes, it was also from a movie, but it was a rap track that sampled an old Stevie Wonder song.
Off The Chart
Number 95 "Destination Eschaton" by The Shamen
Peak: number 92
Their previous album had yielded a string of UK hits, only one of which had followed suit locally. This lead single from Axis Mutatis similarly reached the top 20 in Britain but bombed here.
Number 92 "Last Goodbye" by Jeff Buckley
Peak: number 88
Released earlier in the year, this Grace track was quickly reissued following the success of "Eternal Life" and Jeff Buckley's recent visit to Australia.
Number 87 "Your Loving Arms" by Billie Ray Martin
Peak: number 85
Formerly the vocalist for dance group Electribe 101, German singer Billie Ray Martin struck out solo with this UK top 10 hit, which was co-produced by The Grid.
Number 86 "Joy (A New World Anthem)" by Hoops Inc.
Peak: number 73
Jumping on the Jam & Spoon and FCB bandwagon of turning classical music into dance tracks, this "Ode To Joy"-sampling abomination was a big hit in South Australia, where the duo comprised of Groove Terminator and Steve Hooper were from.
Peak: number 50
Some soundtrack ballads dominate the number 1 spot; some spend one week at number 50. The latter was the case for this debut single by Jonathan Buck, who received a helping hand (or should that be voice) by the song's writer and producer, Babyface. A top 10 hit in the US, "Someone To Love" featured in Bad Boys, Side note: I recently featured "Someone To Love" on the Chart Beats Instagram account, as I journey through all the CD singles still in my collection (I'm up to B as I work my way from A to Z).
Peak: number 49
Also spending just one week in the top 50 is Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, with the follow-up to top 10 soundtrack smash "Stay (I Missed You)". Still, a hit is a hit — even a number 49 hit. And so Lisa et al. miss out on being technically considered a one-hit wonder in Australia according to my definition of the term. In the US, "Do You Sleep?" reached the top 20, somewhere Lisa visited again on her own with debut solo single "I Do" in 1997.
Number 42 "Fairground" by Simply Red
Peak: number 7
It was a good move for Mick Hucknall and whoever was in Simply Red at the time to take a break between albums in the early '90s. In the UK especially, he probably would have worn out his welcome after previous album Stars ended up as the highest-seller for both 1991 and 1992 there. Three years since the final single was lifted from Stars, Simply Red returned with this Goodmen-sampling track — another stroke of genius since it was like nothing the band had released before. With its thundering beat and joyful chorus, it was a million miles away from the white soul ballads and moody midtempo tunes they had become known for. Whether all that was a tactic or just happenstance, it worked and "Fairground" became Simply Red's first number 1 hit in Britain and gave them their biggest Australian hit since topping our chart in 1989 with their remake of "If You Don't Know My By Now".
Number 41 "Ablett's In The Air" by The Music Men
Peak: number 41
In this week's 1980 recap, we saw The Two-Man Band's VFL song, "One Day In September", debut on the top 50, and 15 years later, another single related to the sport, by then known as AFL, did the same. I have no idea who Ablett is — a quick internet search has revealed he's Gary Ablett (who has a son named after him who also plays AFL) and I presume he was a big deal around this time. But I'm about as interested in looking up his career stats as I am listening to this song performed by those guys from Hey Hey It's Saturday or discovering on Wikipedia that Ablett Snr was admitted to hospital with severe gastro in late 1996. If you care more than me, this story from Today Tonight about the song might interest you.
Peak: number 19
Hands up who forgot Montell Jordan had another top 20 hit to follow "This Is How We Do It"? The Kool & The Gang-sampling "Somethin' 4 Da Honeyz" was indeed a second (and final) success in Australia for the R&B singer who abandoned the music industry around a decade ago to become a pastor. But old habits (or former hits) die hard, with Montell coming out of retirement in recent years to perform "This Is How We Do It" on occasion and even release a new album last year.
Peak: number 1
Here it is: the Dangerous Minds soundtrack single that would spend a massive 13 weeks at number 1 in Australia across the summer of 1995-96 — more weeks on top than either "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" or "I Will Always Love You" had managed. Not bad going for a rapper whose only previous top 50 action had been reaching number 37 with his breakthrough single, "Fantastic Voyage". This darker, more intense track was so different to Coolio's previous hit that his record company were initially concerned it was too big a shift. They needn't have worried, with the song racing to the top of charts around the world.
Well, I say "racing", but in Australia, there was a slight hurdle standing in the way of "Gangsta's Paradise": distribution problems. So high was the demand for the song that its number 5 debut took record company BMG by surprise and their warehouse ran out of stock, resulting in the song slipping back to number 16 the following week. Then, after more copies were produced and shipped to stores, "Gangsta's Paradise" rebounded to number 1. Working in music retail at the time, I distinctly remember quickly selling out of our initial order of the CD single — which was, annoyingly, much lower than the amount I recommended ordering — and having to wait ages for new stock, turning away customer after customer wanting to buy it in the meantime.
Crucial to the popularity of "Gangsta's Paradise" was its prominent sample of 1976 Stevie Wonder track "Pastime Paradise" — a sample that was only cleared once Coolio removed all profanity from the initial version of the lyrics. Once cleaned up, Stevie Wonder gave his approval for his song to be used. Fun fact: the stage name of vocalist and co-writer L.V. (real name: Larry Sanders) stands for Large Variety.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1995 (updated weekly):
Next week: a major transformation for one of the country's biggest pop stars, plus a second hit from a singer not seen on the chart for three years.