Wednesday, 27 March 2019

This Week In 1994: March 27, 1994

I've probably said this before - I do tend to repeat myself a bit - but when it comes to cover versions, if you're going to bother remaking a song, you may as well do something interesting with it rather than just record it in exactly the same way as the original.

Elton John and RuPaul had a kiki... without Kiki.

This week in 1994, three of the week's new entries on the ARIA singles chart were updates of old songs - two from the '70s and one from the '60s - and all of them did something quite different with them than what had been done before.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 27, 1994

There was nothing different about the number 1 spot on the top 50 this week in 1994 as East 17 stayed on top for a fourth week with "It's Alright".

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Heard So Much About You" by Nick Barker
Peak: number 88
With Nick Barker & The Reptiles having never really got off the ground, their frontman went it alone on this single produced by Richard Pleasance, but didn't manage to attract much more interest.

Number 94 "Thinking Of You '94" by Sister Sledge
Peak: number 88
It was actually a 1993 remix that took its time to come out in Australia, but this revamp of the girl group's 1984 single managed to do something the original hadn't - it made the top 100. 

New Entries
Number 50 "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John / RuPaul
Peak: number 45
Our first remake of the week was actually revived by the man who originally performed it. In 1976, Elton John and Kiki Dee went all the way to number 1 in Australia, the UK and the US with "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" - the song that remained Elton's only British chart-topper right up until 1990's re-release of "Sacrifice/Healing Hands" there. In 1994, Elton revisited the track for his Duets album and took it in a new direction. Kiki Dee was out (although she performed on the album's lead single, "True Love") and in was future Emmy Award-winning reality TV host RuPaul. I can't say I loved what they did with what is one of the best pop songs of all time, but the video was kind of fun, with the pair dressing up as iconic duos from history, including Sonny and Cher, the latter of whom had recently bastardised one of her own classic tracks in a remake with Beavis and Butt-head.

Number 49 "Feel Like Making Love" by Pauline Henry
Peak: number 13
Her former band, The Chimes, had scored their biggest hit with a soulful remake of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", and Pauline Henry did the same in her solo career with her cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love", a song from 1975 that never charted in Australia. The big-voiced singer retained some of the rock punch of the track, but gave it a slick pop/R&B feel as well. As big a fan as I was of The Chimes, I have to say this single left me a bit cold.

Number 48 "Let The Beat Control Your Body" by 2 Unlimited
Peak: number 39
I was, however, still big into 2 Unlimited in 1994, but it seemed their fans were drying up in Australia with this fifth and final single from No Limits barely making the top 40 despite the single version of "Let The Beat Control Your Body" being quite different from the album version. Perhaps a new album in a few months would help matters... (or perhaps not).

Number 43 "You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart" by Sinéad O'Connor
Peak: number 43
In The Name Of The Father (about the Guildford Four and starring Daniel Day-Lewis) was one of my favourite films of the 1990s, and this haunting song taken from the soundtrack prompted me to do something I'd never done before - buy a Sinéad O'Connor single. Co-written by Bono and produced by Bomb The Bass's Tim Simenon, it captured the anger and fury of the movie, and managed to make several seemingly incongruous elements - the singer's lilting vocal, stirring strings and a cool beat - all fit together perfectly. Unfortunately for Sinéad, her days of managing big hits in Australia were behind her.

Number 27 "Twist And Shout" by Chaka Demus & Pliers with Jack Radics & Taxi Gang
Peak: number 13
We finish off with another cover, by a reggae group whose last hit has also been a remake. A song that has been performed by numerous artists in a whole range of genres, "Twist And Shout" is best known in its version by The Beatles, but they weren't the first act to record it. Vocal groups The Top Notes and The Isley Brothers got to it before the Fab Four. In the UK, Chaka Demus & Pliers managed something The Beatles didn't - they reached number 1 on the singles chart with "Twist And Shout" (although The Beatles' version of the song had been originally released there on a three-track EP which topped the EP chart instead).

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994:

Next week: a band who hit the top of the chart in 1993 return to do the same in 1994.

Back to: Mar 20, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 3, 1994

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

This Week In 1994: March 20, 1994

If 1993 had been the year of reggae, 1994 was shaping up to be the year of the big ballad. In weeks past, we've seen hits by Celine Dion and Mariah Carey arrive, and this week in 1994, another female singer debuted on the ARIA singles chart with one of the year's biggest love song dedications.

The sound of 1994: slickly produced mega-ballads

Unlike Celine and Mariah, the week's newcomer was enjoying her first hit in Australia, and she'd almost top the chart with her big ballad - a style she'd become known for throughout the decade (with the odd upbeat jam thrown in for good measure).

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 20, 1994

A song that did manage to top the chart was enjoying its third week at number 1. East 17 stayed put with "It's Alright".

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Come Baby Come" by K7
Peak: number 68
This is exactly the sort of fun hip-hop song that usually translated in Australia, but the US top 20 and UK top 5 hit by the rapper born Louis Sharpe couldn't manage a home run here.

Number 95 "Tones Of Home" by Blind Melon
Peak: number 83
Originally Blind Melon's debut single, this was re-released, apparently with a brand new video that picked up where the clip for "No Rain" left off, although the one linked to above is perhaps the original version since there's no Bee Girl in sight.

Number 92 "What's Up?" by DJ Miko
Peak: number 92
Not even a thumping Eurodance remake of the 4 Non Blondes hit by Italian dance act DJ Miko could make me like the song. In the UK, this version peaked at number 6. 

Number 84 "Careless Whisper" by Sarah Washington
Peak: number 78
Another dance cover, and UK singer Sarah Washington's George Michael revamp was the follow-up to her rendition of "I Will Always Love You". Her original material in a couple of years' time would be much better.

Number 56 "Choose" by Color Me Badd
Peak: number 56
Perhaps this brilliant second single from CMB's criminally overlooked second album, Time And Chance, should have been released first (instead of the ordinary title track)? 

New Entries
Number 47 "Breathe Again" by Toni Braxton
Peak: number 2
A month ago, we saw Toni Braxton miss the top 50 with the lead single from her debut self-titled album, "Another Sad Love Song" - the song that had put her on the map in the US when it reached number 7. She recitified the situation in Australia wth the follow-up, "Breathe Again", a Babyface-penned plea for a lover not to end a relationship. For me, "Breathe Again" had the whiff of desperation about it - "if you walk right out my life/God knows I'd surely die" - and its lethargic, overly schmaltzy feel was where Babyface started to lose me, having been a big fan of his and LA Reid's (involved here as co-producer) from the late '80s. I much preferred Toni's debut single, "Love Shoulda Brought You Home" from 1992, as well as that year's Babyface collaboration, "Give U My Heart" (both from the Boomerang soundtrack), but she'd win me back with her next ARIA top 50 hit.

Number 45 "I Can See Clearly Now" by Jimmy Cliff
Peak: number 17
Back in late 1990, Hothouse Flowers had finally landed a decent-sized hit in Australia with their version of Johnny Nash's number 3 hit from 1972 peaking just outside the top 20. Thanks to its appearance on the soundtrack to Cool Runnings, Jimmy Cliff's reggae update did even better and gave the veteran performer his first top 20 hit in the process. Twenty-four years earlier, Jimmy had reached number 31 with his 1970 version of "Wild World", on which Maxi Priest had modelled his successful 1988 reggae cover.

Number 44 "Helping Hand" by The Screaming Jets
Peak: number 25
Continuing the one-on, one-off pattern of the previous singles from second album Tear Of Thought, this fourth single returned the band to the top 50 after the failure of "Here I Go/Hard Drugs". No doubt the cruisy, jazzy sound of "Helping Hand", which wasn't really what you'd expect from The Screaming Jets, helped it stand out. And given its 19 weeks inside the top 50 (quite a long time for a relatively modest hit), it clearly appealed beyond the band's normal fanbase. 

Number 41 "Let Me Show You" by K-Klass
Peak: number 18
One of those dance acts that seemed to manage a brilliant single once a year (see also: JX), K-Klass hadn't made any waves in Australia with "Rhythm Is A Mystery" (1991) or "Don't Stop" (1992), but they belatedly broke through with 1993's "Let Me Show You". Like their previous tracks, the British dance act utilised the lead vocals of female singer Bobbi Depasois on this, their best song.

Number 32 "Mr Jones" by Counting Crows
Peak: number 13
I'm sure there are going to be many of you with fond memories of this debut single by California rock band Counting Crows. Not me. I couldn't stand "Mr Jones", which, like the work of Hootie And The Blowfish later in the decade, was inescapable at the time, being the type of thing FM radio lapped up. Turns out, singer Adam Duritz came to hate the song, too, but for very different reasons - he came to regret the lyrics' suggestion that "when everybody loves me, I will never be lonely". In the US, "Mr Jones" was one of the decade's big radio hits that were never released as singles there (see also: "Don't Speak", "Torn"), requiring people to buy the album to own the song. And they wonder why people turned to illegal downloading as soon as they could...

Number 22 "Loser" by Beck
Peak: number 8
We finish this week with another of 1994's breakthrough hits - and again it's not a song I particularly like, although I'm sure many disagree with me. Originally released by Beck independently, "Loser" led to him being signed by Geffen Records and it was issued as his maor label debut. Like "Asshole", which was spending its final week inside the top 10, "Loser" was somewhat of a throwaway novelty track, but Beck would go on to become one of the most musically diverse, critically beloved artists of the past 25 years.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994:

Next week: two classic songs - one from the '60s and one from the '70s - return to the chart in quite different versions. Plus the return of the woman best known for releasing the highest selling single of 1990.

Back to: Mar 13, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 27, 1994

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

This Week In 1994: March 13, 1994

Each week, there's usually something really obvious for me to talk about before I dive into the new entries on the ARIA singles chart. It could be a major release or a pattern among the debuts or even a song I really hate.

Great songs, average chart positions for Haddaway and Janet Jackson

But there's nothing jumping out at me about the five new entries from this week in 1994. I like some, but don't like others; most of the songs weren't particularly big hits; the one that did reach the top 5 is by an artist I'm not that big a fan of. You see my dilemma.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 13, 1994

Anyway, having managed to string out having nothing to say for two paragraphs, I'll just get on with it. The number 1 single this week in 1994 was "It's Alright" by East 17, which spent a second week on top.

New Entries
Number 43 "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That / Hits From The Bong" by Cypress Hill
Peak: number 43
"Insane In The Brain" had put dope-loving hip-hop group Cypress Hill on the map in late 1993, and they returned to the top 50 with this double A-side release, which had actually been the third single from Black Sunday internationally. The group's fondness for marijuana landed them in trouble with Saturday Night Live when band member DJ Muggs lit up onstage, which resulted in a ban from the comedy show - the fact they also trashed their instruments and the set might also have had something to do with it. Guess that's one way to "go out" instead...

Number 41 "Return To Innocence" by Enigma
Peak: number 16
Last time we saw Michael Cretu's dance act on the top 50, it had been with the Gregorian chant-featuring "Sadness", but for his second album, the Romanian-born, German-based producer traded music from the Middle Ages for world music, sampling a chant by two Amis men on this Deep Forest-style track - the lead single from Enigma's second album, The Cross Of Changes. Turned out he didn't have permission to use the vocals - although he says he thought they were in the public domain - and legal proceedings ensued. The other vocals on "Return To Innocence" came mostly from German singer Angel X, with a short spoken word contribution from "Sadness" singer and Michael's wife, Sandra. The music video for "Return To Innocence" was memorable for showing a man's life in reverse, starting with his death and going back in time until we see him as a baby - a literal return to innocence, if you will.

Number 39 "Life" by Haddaway
Peak: number 34
More dance music from Germany now and the follow-up to "What Is Love", which had spent all summer in the top 20 and was still inside the top 30 this week. Unlike in many countries, where "Life" was as big as if not bigger than "What Is Love", "Life" didn't do anywhere near as well here, not even venturing into the top 30. Personally, I think it deserved a lot better. Fun fact: in the US, the song was released as "Life (Everybody Needs Somebody To Love)".

Number 35 "Streets Of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen
Peak: number 4
A decade earlier, Bruce Springsteen had graduated to the big time, registering seven top 50 hits from the Born In The U.S.A. album (including two top 10 singles, one of which was the number 1 song of 1984 in Australia), but since then, he hadn't done so well, getting no further than number 17 with both "Brilliant Disguise" and "Human Touch". That changed with this song, written especially for the film Philadelphia at the request of director Jonathan Demme. Apparently Bruce thought his lyrics didn't work with a heavier rock beat and so he sent a more subdued track, which he considered an unfinished demo, to Jonathan, who was happy with what he heard. So too were music fans, as well as voters for the Oscars and Grammys, with "Streets Of Philadelphia" going on to the Oscar for Best Original Song and four Grammys, including Song Of The Year.

Number 27 "Because Of Love" by Janet Jackson
Peak: number 25
Janet Jackson had been enjoying the best start to an album campaign of her career with the singles from janet, and that continued with another top 30 hit: fourth single "Because Of Love". The poppiest of the singles released so far, the track was a straightforward love song that, while immensely enjoyable, maybe lacked some of the edge of earlier singles. Perhaps as a result, it became Janet's first single since 1987's "The Pleasure Principle" to miss the US top 5, peaking at number 10.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994:

Next week: we'd had "Creep" and "Asshole", next came "Loser". Plus, the arrival of one of the '90s' premier balladeers.

Back to: Mar 6, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 20, 1994

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

This Week In 1994: March 6, 1994

Before songs were constantly available in the digital age, tracks that hadn't been successful first time around had to be re-released if there was any hope of them charting. The practice was fairly common, with record companies often believing in a song enough (or wanting a chance to recoup some of their initial outlay) to give it a second shot.

D:Ream subscribed to the theory that if you release a song enough times, it will become a hit

Sometimes, a remix and/or new video were commissioned to correct what might have been the original problem. In the case of one of the new entries on the ARIA singles chart from this week in 1994, both of those things happened and the song went all the way to number 1 in the UK and into our top 10.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 6, 1994

A song that reached the UK top 10 but hit number 1 here ascended to the top spot this week in 1994. "It's Alright" by East 17 started a seven-week stretch as the highest-selling single in Australia.

Off The Chart
Number 87 "I've Been Lonely" by Peter Blakely
Peak: number 61
He'd had huge success with his previous album, Harry's Cafe De Wheels, but Australian singer Peter Blakeley perhaps left it too long to follow up with this cover of the Frederick Knight track.

Number 83 "YMCA" by Village People
Peak: number 76
Given the renewed interest in the disco group following Pet Shop Boys' remake of "Go West", their 1978 chart-topper was given the PWL remix treatment and a new best of was released.

Number 79 "Most People I Know Think That I'm Crazy" by Gary Sweet
Peak: number 52
With his popularity at an all-time high thanks to his Logie-winning role in Police Rescue, actor Gary Sweet released his cover of the 1972 hit by Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, but fell just short of the top 50.

Number 73 "Keep On Dancin'" by DJ BoBo
Peak: number 54
Also peaking just outside the top 50 was this sound-alike (but inferior) follow-up to "Somebody Dance With Me" from the Swiss dance artist.

New Entries
Number 50 "Mountain" by Chocolate Starfish
Peak: number 12
For their third single, Australian band Chocolate Starfish switched things up, slowing down the pace with rock ballad "Mountain", which followed their first two more energetic releases. And it worked, with the FM radio-ready tune returning them to just outside the top 10 and peaking one place below debut single "You're So Vain"

Number 43 "Peace, Love & Harmony" by Cut 'n' Move
Peak: number 35
As "Give It Up" fell from the number 1 spot, the follow-up from Cut 'n' Move joined it on the top 50, ensuring the Danish dance act wouldn't end up as one-hit wonders in Australia. Although, I think it's fairly safe to say "Peace, Love & Harmony" only reached as high as it did due to the goodwill associated with "Give It Up", since it's not actually that great a track. 

Number 42 "Things Can Only Get Better" by D:Ream
Peak: number 9
Here's the song that was on its second go around, having been originally released in 1993, when it reached the UK top 30 and gave the pop/dance act centred around singer Peter Cunnah their first hit. But a number 24 placing wasn't high enough and "Things Can Only Get Better" was remixed and reissued with a new music video, soaring to number 1 in the UK for four weeks at the start of 1994. In Australia, where it flopped completely previously, it reached the top 10.
It wasn't the only song by D:Ream that took more than one attempt to realise its true potential - their other Australian hit, which we'll see if the coming months, was released three times. It's just a shame D:Ream's other 1993 singles, "Unforgiven" and "Star / I Like It" didn't receive as much attention. This wouldn't be the last time "Things Can Only Get Better" would hit the UK chart - it would be used by the British Labour Party in 1997 and return to the top 20 there.

Number 6 "Whatta Man" by Salt 'n' Pepa
Peak: number 2
Blasting straight into the top 10 is another song that had been kicking around for a while. First recorded for En Vogue's Runaway Love EP in 1992, "Whatta Man", which was based on a 1968 track by Linda Lyndell, emerged as a single in its own right as the follow-up to "Shoop", which fell out of the top 10 this week. The perfect combination of Salt 'n' Pepa's feisty rap and En Vogue flawless harmonies, "Whatta Man" was only denied a number 1 placing by the unstoppable "It's Alright", with the rap trio on a real hot streak, scoring back-to-back number 2 hits.

Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994:

Next week: the biggest hit in years by a singer who'd scored the year-end chart-topper a decade early and a return to the chart by an electronic act who'd last been heard turning Gregorian chant into pop.

Back to: Feb 27, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 13, 1994