|When it came to breaking Roxette's chart run, L was for Loser|
Twenty-five years ago this week, a duo that'd racked up seven top 10 singles (including three number 1 hits) in a little over two years hit their stumbling block - and things would never be the same again for them.
|ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending September 15, 1991|
Things were exactly the same as they had been for the previous seven weeks at the top of the ARIA chart this week in 1991. "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams notched up its eighth week at number 1 and had its eye on equalling the nine-week stretch enjoyed by "We Are The World" by USA For Africa in 1985.
Off the chart
Number 99 "Can't Forget You" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 99
It was back to balladsville after uptempo track "Seal Our Fate" (which had missed the ARIA top 100 completely). The fact "Can't Forget You" only just made it suggests Gloria was losing her appeal.
"Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Peak: number 52
They'd made their name with a string of jokey anecdotal rap tunes like "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" and "Parents Just Don't Understand", but the duo comprised of Jeff Townes and Will Smith weren't oblivious to the fact that their shtick was getting old, as evidenced by the failure of "I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson" and third album And In This Corner... Time for something new, then. The cruisy laidback sound of "Summertime" was the perfect change of direction for the hip-hop duo, who found themselves with their first (and only) US top 5 single and a Grammy Award for their trouble. Australia was a little bit less receptive, with "Summertime", which sampled "Summer Madness" by Kool & The Gang, peaking at exactly the same position as "...Mike Tyson". Their big breakthrough here would come eventually...
"A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'" by De La Soul
Peak: number 54
Here's a hip-hop act coming off their big breakthrough in Australia, but while "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)" was an obvious hit, "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'" wasn't the type of song you would expect to even reach this high on the chart were it not following up a top 10 single. The feel-good rap track sampled a stack of funk and soul tunes most of us would never have heard of, but also threw some Chicago ("Saturday In The Park") and Frankie Valli ("Grease") in the mix as well. Helping De La Soul out on the track were rapper Q-Tip and singer Vinia Mojica, who sings the main hook.
Number 50 "Sexuality" by Billy Bragg
Peak: number 46
Well, this was a turn-up for the books - alternative singer/songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg in the ARIA top 50. But, it wasn't as surprising as it might have been, since "Sexuality" and the accompanying Don't Try This At Home album were intended to be more commercial than Billy's normal output. The song, which Billy co-wrote with The Smiths and Electronic member Johnny Marr, still came with an agenda - a very clear anti-homophobia message ("just because you're gay/I won't turn you away") which was pretty revolutionary for the time. The music video for "Sexuality" was directed by future Never Mind The Buzzcocks regular Phill Jupitus, who, along with Kirsty MacColl, appears in the clip.
Number 47 "Kiss Them For Me" by Siouxsie And The Banshees
Peak: number 40
Here's another act whose music was usually too alternative for mainstream chart success. In fact, in their 15 years in existence, British band Siouxsie And The Banshees had only reached the Australian top 50 twice - and both times around the number 40 mark. In 1991, they made it a hat trick with their first chart hit in eight years. As with Billy Bragg, "Kiss Them For Me" was easily Siouxsie And The Banshees' most commercial release, with its Eastern influences and hypnotic dance beat fitting in nicely with the indie/dance hybrid of bands like The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.
Number 43 "Fall At Your Feet" by Crowded House
Peak: number 31
From two acts you wouldn't expect to see do so well, we move to a band that usually performed better on the chart, especially with sing-along pop/rock tunes as good as "Fall At Your Feet". After the travesty that was "Chocolate Cake", "Fall At Your Feet" was a melodic return to form for the recently expanded four-piece and really should have been a bigger hit. Interestingly, "Fall At Your Feet" didn't seem to spur people to go out and buy Woodface instead, with the album making a rapid descent out of the top 50 over the next six weeks. The song has become something of a fan favourite in the years since, with a couple of significant cover versions furthering its legacy.
Number 41 "The Big L" by Roxette
Peak: number 20
Also not performing to their usual standard were Swedish duo Roxette, who missed the top 10 for the first time in their Australian chart career with this third single from Joyride. It's easy to see why - "The Big L", while reasonably catchy, just wasn't up to scratch. A decent album track, it didn't feel as strong a single as similarly upbeat releases by the band like "Dressed For Success" or "Dangerous". In many ways, "The Big L" was the beginning of the end for Roxette, who were never able to return to the top 10. Would things have been different if they'd released "Spending My Time" as the follow-up to "Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave)" like they did in the US? Maybe. If nothing else, that ballad might have kept their top 10 run intact since, as we'll see, when it did finally come out in Australia, it peaked higher than "The Big L".
Number 14 "Sexy (Is The Word)" by Melissa
Peak: number 3
Soap star-turned-pop star Melissa Tkautz was still in the top 20 after 15 weeks with debut single "Read My Lips", and she wasted no time unleashing a second single on an appreciative Australian public. Picking up where "Read My Lips" left off, "Sexy (Is The Word)" stuck with the template - from the piano house-influenced feel of the song right down to its shirtless male dancer-packed music video. For me, it was a better song than "Read My Lips" and peaked almost as high on the ARIA chart, spending a couple of weeks at number 3 behind the likes of Bryan Adams, Martika and Big Audio Dynamite II.
Number 8 "Don't Cry" by Guns n' Roses
Peak: number 5
Previous hit "You Could Be Mine" had only been on the chart 10 weeks and was holding strong at number 6, but Guns n' Roses had two albums' worth of material to make use of, including this song that dated back to before the band even existed. Written by Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin (whose departure would soon be announced), and intended to be included on Appetite For Destruction, "Don't Cry" finally made it onto both Use Your Illusion I and II in slightly different versions. My enduring memory of the song is from when I was in Germany around Christmas 1991 and some kid was singing along to "Don't Cry" at the top of his voice while using a listening post (remember them?) in a record store. The single was accompanied by Guns n' Roses' first truly epic music video - something we'd be seeing more of from them in the coming months.
Next week: a dual winner of the ARIA Award for Best Female Artist (despite coming from New Zealand) returns with new music. Plus, two female singers who should've had bigger hits miss the top 50.
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