Thursday, 17 November 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: November 17, 1991

By November 1991, it'd been more than four years since Michael Jackson had released his last album. Of course, given the fact he lifted practically every track from Bad as a single up until August 1989, it didn't seem quite so long.

Michael dressed in black and white for the occasion

Twenty-five years ago this week, the first single from his eighth studio album crashed into the ARIA singles top 5. Unlike his previous two lead singles, it wasn't a ballad duet without a music video - far from it. Also unlike "The Girl Is Mine" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", the new hit went all the way to number 1.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending November 17, 1991

At number 1 this week in 1991, Right Said Fred weren't too sexy for the top spot as "I'm Too Sexy" stayed at the chart summit for a second week.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Love Of A Lifetime" by FireHouse
Peak: number 97
Obligatory power ballad (with key change!) time for the group behind top 50 near miss "Don't Treat Me Bad". Naturally, "Love Of A Lifetime" was a US top 5 smash.

Number 97 "Faith In Love" by Among Thieves
Peak: number 72
I don't recall hearing this rousing debut single from the Melbourne band previously known as Anzac Day at the time. Perhaps the lack of exposure explains its lowly chart peak. 

Number 91 "Baby, I Believe In You" by New Kids On The Block
Peak: number 91
Speaking of lowly chart peaks, this was the lowest yet for NKOTB. Originally on Step By Step, a slightly remixed version of "Baby, I Believe In You" was the third single from No More Games.

Number 88 "Caribbean Blue" by Enya
Peak: number 74
Both her breakthrough album, Watermark, and its hit single, "Orinoco Flow", had reached the top 10. While 1991's Shepherd Moons also got to number 8, lead single "Caribbean Blue" let the side down.


Breaker
"Some Of That Love" by The Angels
Peak: number 53
1990's Beyond Salvation had been a massive release for The Angels - it topped the albums chart and contained three singles that peaked inside the top 25. Even fifth single "Bleeding With The Times" had managed to drag itself up to number 54 earlier in 1991. Surprisingly, "Some Of That Love", which was the lead single from follow-up Red Back Fever, didn't even crack the top 50, peaking just one place higher than "Bleeding...". Sure, The Angels were never the most consistent of singles chart performers, but even Red Back Fever got no higher than number 14 - the worst performance of any of the band's studio albums since their 1978 debut, Face To Face.




New Entries
Number 50 "Painless" by Baby Animals
Peak: number 49
Another Australian rock band having trouble selling singles were Perth's Baby Animals, who could console themselves with the fact that their recently released debut album had enjoyed a healthy nine-week run in the top 20 and this week, sat at number 21. A change of pace after the two raucous singles that had come before, "Painless" was probably never going to be massive, but it did enough to keep interest in Baby Animals alive into the new year when the album would race back up the chart and the band would achieve their biggest hit with the fourth single.




Number 47 "Heavy Fuel" by Dire Straits
Peak: number 26
I can't help but think this second single from On Every Street only did as well as it did because Dire Straits just happened to be in Australia for the entire month of November (and a few dates either side) as part of their mammoth 1991-92 world tour. "Heavy Fuel" would end up being the band's final hit single (although a live EP would reach the top 50 in 1993).




Number 45 "Someone's Singing New York New York" by Ghostwriters
Peak: number 29
It's incredibly common for band members to go off and release a solo record between albums, but it's less often the case that they'll go and start a new band as a side project. Ghostwriters is one of those instances - a group formed by Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst and Richard Grossman, the bassist for Hoodoo Gurus, along with other temporary members and session musicians. The band's first single, the Midnight Oil-ish "Someone's Singing New York New York", is the only Ghostwriters song to have reached the top 50, and I must admit I wasn't actually aware the band had issued three other albums after their self-titled debut at reasonably regular intervals between 1991 and 2007.




Number 40 "Kingston Town" by UB40
Peak: number 17
Spurred on by the success of a re-released "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)", UB40's Australian record company next turned to Labour Of Love II's third single, "Kingston Town", which had missed the top 100 altogether first time around. Upon reissue, the cover of the reggae song originally recorded by Lord Creator (real name: Kentrick Patrick), made it all the way to the top 20. In 2007, the owners of the copyright in "Kingston Town" (i.e. not UB40) sued the writers of Paris Hilton's "Stars Are Blind", alleging her debut single plagiarised their song. I haven't been able to track down an outcome for the case.




Number 5 "Black Or White" by Michael Jackson
Peak: number 1
It didn't happen often, so when Michael Jackson released a new album, it was a major event. In November 1991, the occasion was heralded by the debut of the music video for "Black Or White", the lead single from Dangerous, in a prime-time special. Directed by John Landis, who'd helmed the "Thriller" clip, the video for "Black Or White" contained everything but the kitchen sink - face morphing! Macaulay Culkin and George Wendt! native tribesmen! Asian dancers! Russian dancers! lions! The Simpsons! a bizarre post-song sequence in which Michael turned into a panther then back into himself and went on a violent dancing spree! Controversy erupted over those last few minutes (which you can watch by clicking the link in the song title above), which quickly got edited out when the song was played on TV.
Music video aside, "Black Or White" was also a great song, which suggested Michael hadn't lost his touch and augured well for Dangerous. As it would turn out, the pure pop of "Black Or White" wasn't indicative of the album as a whole, which ventured into new jack swing territory courtesy of album co-producer Teddy Riley. That would become apparent when the album was released at the end of the month, but for now, Michael more or less picked up where he left off - just with producer Bill Bottrell filling in for Quincy Jones, who'd parted musical ways with Michael following Bad. Lyrically, "Black Or White" was about racial tolerance, and so strongly did Michael feel about the message of the song that he apparently asked "Weird" Al Yankovic not to parody this track, after having approved of the comedian's songs "Eat It" and "Fat".




Next week: a rap trio get a saucy conversation started, a novelty single pays tribute to an iconic film character and the daughter of Australian (via America) music royalty becomes the new guest vocalist for a local pop act.


Back to: Nov 10, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 24, 1991


2 comments:

  1. I must've heard the Firehouse track on American Top 40, but have no recollection of it.

    I remember the band name Among Thieves, but not the song. It sounds like something else I can't put my finger on... I'm thinking Steve Winwood (the instrumental middle 8 section in 'Higher Love')

    Never heard the NKOTB track before.

    I liked 'Caribbean Blue', and am slightly surprised it didn't at least scrape the top 50.

    The Ghostwriters' gimmick, at least to start with, was to not reveal who they actually were - hence the band name and lack of appearance by the band in the video. This track was the kind of thing Melbourne radio would play at the time to say 'see, we do actually play new music!'

    'Kingston Town' was first released here in May 1990. I caught it a few times then, but had no idea it had been re-released until it finally entered the chart. I was spared hearing the Paris Hilton song until it aired on rage last month, and recognised the similarity to 'Kingston Town'.

    'Black or White' definitely isn't among my favourite Michael Jackson tracks. The hype, the controversy over the video, and the song title alluding to his skin colour changes no doubt helped it to reach #1.

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  2. Another week of new music that wouldn't let me down. Great songs by The Angels, Baby Animals, Ghostwriters, UB40, MJ and my all time favourite Dire Straits song who are one my favourite bands. How Heavy Fuel didn't race up into the top 5 and hang around for 20 weeks or so boggles my mind.

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