This Week In 1991: June 9, 1991
Having observed the success that cast members from Neighbours and Home And Away had enjoyed on the ARIA singles chart over the past few years, the producers of new soap on the box E Street wanted in on the pop action.
This week in 1991, their dreams came true when the first star from the Network Ten series debuted on the top 50. It was one of a massive nine new entries, but the only one to go all the way to number 1.
At the top of the chart this week in 1991, "The Grease Megamix" made another big leap up the top 50 to dethrone Ratcat's "Don't Go Now". The soundtrack medley would remain at number 1 for five weeks, until the E Street star managed to oust it.
Off The Chart
Number 97 "Break On Through" by The Doors
Peak: number 97
Thanks to the Oliver Stone-directed biopic, the band's debut single from 1967 finally reached the Australian top 100. Their biggest hit remained "Love Her Madly" (number 4 in 1971).
Peak: number 54
Yes, "Unbelievable" had been the right song to kick off their career, but for my money - and I did buy the Schubert Dip album (and the later best of) - "I Believe" is the best thing EMF ever released. A frenetic synthrock track, it sounded not too dissimilar to all those piano house tracks I loved at the time. Unfortunately, despite reaching the UK top 10, it bombed in Australia and the US (where it was released third, following "Lies").
Number 50 "Right Here, Right Now" by Jesus Jones
Peak: number 35
The first of our nine top 50 debuts came from a band that shared quite a few things in common with EMF. Hailing from the neighbouring county in Britain, Jesus Jones also blended dance and rock elements, and found themselves with a massive US hit in the form of "Right Here, Right Now". The band couldn't quite reach number 1 like EMF, having to settle for second place behind Bryan Adams (who didn't?), but they did manage a second US top 5 entry with "Real Real Real". The band's reaction to world events in the previous couple of years, "Right Here, Right Now" actually dated back to September 1990, when it was first released in the UK.
Number 49 "Always On The Run" by Lenny Kravitz
Peak: number 43
He'd poked his head into the top 40 with the lead single and title track from his debut album, and Lenny Kravitz made a similarly understated appearance with the first release from second album Mama Said. Co-written with Slash from Guns n' Roses, "Always On The Run" wasn't the song to turn Lenny into a chart star in Australia, but with continued rave reviews for his music, it was only a matter of time until that changed. Five weeks (and the release of a much more commercial single), to be precise.
Number 46 "Shiny Happy People" by R.E.M.
Peak: number 19
Rock singles didn't get much more commercial than this - which is exactly why R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has gone on the record as hating this follow-up to "Losing My Religion". Featuring guest vocals from Kate Pierson, and sounding not unlike "Roam" by her band, The B-52's, "Shiny Happy People" has been shunned by the band, despite it giving them their first UK top 10 hit and following "Losing My Religion" into the US top 10.
Also not a million miles removed from previous hit "Stand", "Shiny Happy People" is one of those songs in an act's back catalogue that can go one of two ways - either, they own the song and its popular appeal (see also: "I Should Be So Lucky", "Just Can't Enough"), or they pretend it never existed (see also: "Genie In A Bottle", "Creep", nearly every reality show winner's debut single). R.E.M. have mostly gone with the latter approach, not playing "Shiny..." live and leaving it off their best of album, In Time - although they did perform a version of it on Sesame Street.
Number 45 "1000 Miles Away" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 37
After the retro stylings of "Miss Freelove '69", Hoodoo Gurus returned to the present with as straightforward an early '90s rock song as you could hope for. Starting off sounding like something you might hear from Paul Kelly, "1000 Miles Away" kicks in at around the 1:20 mark and becomes the type of rousing tune you'd expect from the Hoodoos. Nice, but kind of forgettable as well.
Peak: number 16
With "Just Another Dream" having finally become a hit for her in Australia and the US (but not yet in the UK), Cathy Dennis struck while the iron was hot and took her slightly amended version of the song originally performed by Wish featuring Fonda Rae in 1984 onto charts around the world (including the UK). Titled "All Night Long (Touch Me)" on Cathy's album, Move To This, the track was remixed and re-titled for single release, reaching number 2 in the US and number 5 in the UK - her best ever chart performances in either country. In Australia, she had to settle for a peak two places lower than "Just Another Dream".
Peak: number 4
They'd released classic hip-hop tracks "Me Myself And I", "Say No Go" and "Eye Know" from debut album 3 Feet High And Rising, but trust Australia to wait for the novelty song before climbing on board the De La Soul train. OK, calling "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)" a novelty record might be a bit harsh, but we are talking about a song with an answering machine message as its main hook. That hook was based on the chorus of Curiosity Killed The Cat's "Name And Number", while a bunch of other samples (most notably a riff from "Help Is On Its Way" by The Whatnauts) were used in "Ring Ring Ring..." by the trio, who killed off their previous hippie image on second album De La Soul Is Dead.
Number 41 "Read My Lips" by Melissa
Peak: number 1
Seventeen-year-old Melissa Tkautz had only been on E Street since September 1990, but she'd already amassed enough of a following to be propelled by the show's producers into a spin-off music career. Melissa was signed to Westside Records, which was run by E Street creator Forrest Redlich, and her character, Nikki Spencer, sang on air in a nice bit of synergy that hadn't been utilised by other soap star-turned-singers.
Naturally, all those machinations would have been for nothing if Melissa's debut single had been a dud - and "Read My Lips" was pop gold. As brazen and sexually aggressive as Samantha Fox's "Touch Me (I Want Your Body)" (which we saw in yesterday's 1986 post), "Read My Lips" even boasted its own lyrical masterpiece to rival Sam's "like a tramp in the night..." line. Yep, I'm referring to Melissa's unforgettable rhyming couplet: "if you want to wait till later/hands off my detonator". Of course, there was a Fast Forward send-up.
"Read My Lips" was produced by Leon Berger, who'd been half of mid-'80s synthpop act Koo De Tah, and featured then-unknowns Simon Baker (Denny) and Tom Williams flaunting their buff bods in the music video. It also wound up as 1991's sixth-biggest single in Australia - but could Melissa sustain this early success? Time would tell.
Number 32 "Chocolate Cake" by Crowded House
Peak: number 20
Here's a band who were still waiting for an Australian number 1 single - something they'd never achieve, with "Better Be Home Soon" (number 2 in 1988) from the Temple Of Low Men album proving untoppable. Last time we saw Crowded House on the top 100 was in 1990, when they milked Temple... for one last single, "I Feel Possessed", despite the fact that "Into Temptation" and "Sister Madly" had both missed the top 50.
Suffice it to say, we were long overdue for some new music from the band. Unfortunately, that came in the form of "Chocolate Cake", which inexplicably ended up as the lead single from third album Woodface instead of the song originally earmarked: "It's Only Natural".
A comment on American excess - which was a bit like biting the hand that fed - "Chocolate Cake" was, like most of Woodface, written by Neil and Tim Finn. The brotherly collaboration, which had been intended to form the basis of a joint album by the two, resulted in Tim instead joining Crowded House, who recorded the songs. Thankfully, there were better songs to come from Woodface.
Peak: number 10
Our final new entry for the week was the breakthrough hit for the multi-genre band Living Colour, who'd just missed the top 50 with debut single "Cult Of Personality" in 1989. A much mellower track (albeit with an angsty undertone), "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" combined rock, funk and blues elements in an irresistible concoction, resulting in the band reaching the ARIA top 10. Their cause was aided somewhat by the more radio-friendly Soulpower remix, which is the version I prefer and may explain why none of Living Colour's other songs (which didn't come with as commercial a revamp) set foot inside the top 50.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: three follow-ups of big hit singles - but only one comes closing to matching its predecessor. Plus, 1991's version of Wilson Phillips hit the top 50.