Wednesday, 25 September 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: September 25, 1994

As half of one of America's top songwriting and production teams, he'd been responsible for some of the biggest US hits of the late '80s and early '90s - only a fraction of which had translated locally. He'd even scored a few big singles as a singer himself, but it took until this week in 1994 for Australia to welcome Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds into the top 50.

Australia finally saw Babyface inside the top 50 as a performer

Funnily enough, Babyface's top 50 debut occured in the same week that one of his most successful compostions and productions also entered the chart. And while his solo single just missed the top 30, the song he'd written for the biggest vocal harmony group of the time went all the way to number 1.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 25, 1994

Spending its second week at number 1 this week in 1994 was "Confide In Me" by Kylie Minogue, which would remain on top until the Babyface-written tune knocked it off in a few weeks' time.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Honest And Sober" by The Sharp
Peak: number 99
Although "Alone Like Me" boasted a harder edge, it still sounded like The Sharp. This next single from Sonic Tripod was quite a departure - and became the band's final top 100 appearence.

Number 96 "Leave Them Alone" by Twenty 4 Seven
Peak: number 89
Also registering their final top 100 placing were Eurodance act Twenty 4 Seven, with this formulaic fourth and final single from Slave To The Music the least successful yet.

Number 95 "Breathe" by Collective Soul
Peak: number 95
Top 10 hit "Shine" was still inside the top 30, but the second single from the American rock band's debut, Hints, Allegations And Things Left Unsaid, only spent this one week on the chart.

Number 94 "Found Out About You" by Gin Blossoms
Peak: number 94
Here's another rock one-week wonder, but unlike "Breathe", this follow-up to "Hey Jealousy" was less deserving of that fate. Like its predecessor, an early version of "Found Out About You" had originally appeared on the band's 1989 debut album, Dusted

Number 85 "Undone - The Sweater Song" by Weezer
Peak: number 63
Still going 25 years later, Weezer have never bettered the chart peak of this debut single in Australia. The first song written by singer Rivers Cuomo for the band, it is about depression and, like the whole album, was produced by the late Ric Ocasek.

New Entries
Number 49 "When Can I See You" by Babyface
Peak: number 31
"It's No Crime". "Tender Lover". "Give U My Heart". These were all excellent songs released by Babyface in his capacity as a solo performer. He'd also been part of The Deele (biggest song: "Two Occasions"), which is where he first worked with future partner Antonio "L.A." Reid. Together, the songwriting and production duo were responsible for hits by the likes of Karyn White, Pebbles, The Whispers, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Sheena Easton, After 7, Johnny Gill, TLC, Toni Braxton and Boyz II Men. Quite a list. In 1993, Babyface had released his third album, For The Cool In You, and by September the following year, his Australian record company must have thought he'd never cross over in his own right, with three singles from the album having achieved nothing here. Finally, acoustic ballad "When Can I See You" gave the prolific musician a hit - even if it would be completely overshadowed by another of his compositions...

Number 48 "Poison" by The Poor
Peak: number 48
"More Wine Waiter Please" and their debut album, Who Cares, had both made it into their respective top 10s, but Australian metal band The Poor's second single, "Poison", would only spend this solitary week in the bottom of the top 50.

Number 42 "Gimme" by Boom Crash Opera
Peak: number 14
Despite (or, perhaps, due to) being the same type of sing-along pop/rock tunes that had brought them success in the second half of the '80s, the singles from Boom Crash Opera's third album, Fabulous Beast, had been commercial disappointments. And so in the lead-up to fourth album Born, the Australian band shook things up. Boasting a more adventurous sound than previously, "Gimme" meshed 1970s glam rock influences with a 1990s electronic feel - and gave Boom Crash Opera their biggest hit since 1989's "Onion Skin". As a big fan of the band, I understood the need to do something significant to turn things around and quite enjoyed "Gimme", even if it isn't one of my favourites of theirs.

Number 39 "Fly Girl" by Kulcha
Peak: number 26
This Australian boy band owed a debt to the music of LA Reid & Babyface (along with Jam & Lewis and Teddy Riley), and after two decent takes on new jack swing, it was time for the requisite quiet storm ballad. Not as big a hit as "Shaka Jam" or "Don't Be Shy", the top 30 success of "Fly Girl" is more than many similar downtempo tracks by Kulcha's US contemporaries had managed. 

Number 26 "Come Out And Play" by The Offspring
Peak: number 8
Although Green Day's "Longview" beat it into the top 40, this is the song I always associate with the rise of pop punk, especially in Australia, where the California band achieved their first mainstream top 10 hit. The lead single from The Offspring's third album, Smash, "Come Out And Play" might only have reached number 8, but it spent 30 weeks in the top 50, half of those in the top 10. I remember constantly selling out of the song (and the album) in my casual music retail job and placing multiple orders with independent label Shock that consisted entirely of singles and albums by The Offspring - we also sold quite a few copies of their two previous albums and the chart run of "Come Out And Play" continued into that of follow-up single "Self Esteem".

Number 24 "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" by R.E.M.
Peak: number 24
Just as The Offspring would do, R.E.M. had started out on a small independent label before making the move to a major and hitting the big time. And in 1994, a new album from the band fronted by Michael Stipe was a major deal, coming as it did after the back-to-back successes of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People. But Monster would be quite a different beast to those multi-platinum albums. Musically, as demonstrated by lead single "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?", Monster was a louder, rockier affair, while the lyrics were written in character - in this song, Michael Stipe took on the persona of an older man trying to make sense of Gen X. As for the song's title itself, there's an expansive explanation here. 

Number 7 "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men
Peak: number 1
As with Babyface, Australia had been a little late to the Boyz II Men party. Yes, "Motownphilly" had been a minor hit here, but nowhere near as big as in the US, and everything else from the original version of debut album Cooleyhighharmony had been ignored. But epic chart-topper "End Of The Road" changed that. When it was time for the vocal harmony group to launch second album II, their record company once again enlisted Babyface, by now writing and producing without L.A. Reid, who was focussing more on the business side of LaFace. One of two songs he contributed to II, "I'll Make Love To You" picked up where "End Of The Road" left off. Hyper-emotional and overblown, it was the biggest ballad in a year marked by massive ones. Apparently there was some resistance among the group to releasing "I'll Make Love To You" as the lead single, but this was a case where the record company execs knew best - the song went to number 1 in Australia as well as in the US, where it equalled Whitney Houston's 14-week stretch at the top with "I Will Always Love You".

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

Next week: another of the year's big ballad hits, plus the debut of a teenage trio who'd take the world by storm.

Back to: Sep 18, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Oct 2, 1994

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: September 18, 1994

As we approached the final quarter of the year, 1994 was really shaping up to be the year of the power ballad. This week, two big ballads joined the likes of "Love Is All Around" and "I Swear" on the top 50, and both would go on to be among the year's highest-selling singles.

Mariah Carey and Luther Vandross almost matched the original peak of "Endless Love"

One was the return of an Australian singer whose biggest hit to date had been a dance-pop tune, while the other was a duet by two American warblers on a song that had already been to number 1 more than a decade earlier.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 18, 1994

At number 1 this week in 1994, Kylie Minogue jumped from number 31 to the top of the chart with "Confide In Me", dislodging big ballad "I Swear" in the process.

Off The Chart
Number 98 "Age Of Loneliness" by Enigma
Peak: number 84
Performing slightly better than 1993's "Carly's Song", on which it is based, this bore all the hallmarks of an Enigma tune: panpipes, Sandra whispering seductively and a gentle dance beat.

Number 97 "Games People Pay" by Inner Circle
Peak: number 97
Proof positive that the reggae revival had run its course, this cover of the Grammy-winning 1968 song by Joe South, which was the lead single from Inner Circle's Reggae Dancer album, barely made an impression on the top 100.

Number 96 "Stronger Together" by Rockmelons
Peak: number 96
Two years after the release of the album it first appeared on, 1992's Form One Planet, this fifth single was given a fantastic remix by Paul Gotel and part of a push for the band in the UK.

Number 93 "Losin' It" by Underground Lovers
Peak: number 93
An Australian indie classic, this was the only charting single by the winners of the 1992 ARIA Awards for Best New Talent - and at a criminally low peak. 

Number 87 "Kiss From A Rose" by Seal
Peak: number 87
Initially released as the follow-up to "Prayer For The Dying", this future chart-topper had an underwhelming response first time around. Amazing what a key soundtrack placement can do for a song!

Number 86 "I Believe In You" by Electric Hippies
Peak: number 76
Another retro rock-flavoured single from the ex-Noiseworks pair, this was every bit as catchy as their debut offering, "Greedy People", but inexplicably not a hit.

Number 70 "Sunshine Of Your Love" by Living Colour
Peak: number 56
Speaking of retro rock, Living Colour's take on the Cream single from 1967 was included on the soundtrack to 1994's big budget action smash True Lies. The band would split soon after this release.

New Entries
Number 49 "Selling The Drama" by Live
Peak: number 49
The lead single from what would end up being a massive album, "Selling The Drama" is one of those songs I would never be able to tell you the name of (probably because the title doesn't feature in the lyrics), but which I know really well. The album in question was Throwing Copper, one of those slow burn albums that didn't end up reach number 1 until almost a year after its debut and one that was on high rotation at the music store where I worked at the time (thus my familiarity with the track). Fronted by Ed Kowalczyk, Live were one of the most consistently successful post-grunge rock bands of the '90s, with a number of much bigger hits still to come. What I didn't know until now was that, like Crash Test Dummies' God Shuffled His Feet, Throwing Copper was produced by Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison.

Number 35 "One Night A Day" by Garth Brooks
Peak: number 35
Two weeks ago, we saw Garth Brooks' first ever ARIA chart hit, "Standing Outside The Fire", which fell out of the top 50 this week. Never mind, the country superstar replaced it with another single from In Pieces, which had just as short a tenure among the top 50. With its jazzy saxophone and "At This Moment" bar singer feel, this was quite a change of pace from his previous hit.

Number 30 "Black Book" by E.Y.C.
Peak: number 25
Their second top 50 hit, "The Way You Work It", had been a chart disappointment, but boy band E.Y.C. found themselves back on the right side of the top 40 with this follow-up. After the frenetic energy of debut hit "Feelin' Alright" and the poppier sound of "The Way You Work It", "Black Book" was more on an R&B tip. The song, which was the trio's biggest UK release, would be their final to chart in Australia, with ballad "One More Chance" missing the top 100.

Number 21 "Chains" by Tina Arena
Peak: number 4
Although she has re-embraced it in recent years, Tina Arena turned her back on her debut solo album, Strong As Steel, in the aftermath of its 1990 release - particularly top 3 hit "I Need Your Body". Disappearing from Australia to hone her songwriting skills, she took her time to return with new music. Released by her new record label, Columbia, her second solo album, "Don't Ask", was entirely co-written by Tina, who admitted to me a couple of years ago when I interviewed her that she was "totally freaked out" in the lead-up to it coming out. In fact, she said, "I was a fuckin' rabbit in headlights, I reckon, for fuckin' months, you know, where I was like, 'If this doesn't work, I'm fucked.'" 
Turns out she had nothing to fuckin' worry about, with the lead single, power ballad "Chains" not only returning her to the ARIA top 10, but becoming a hit overseas as well. An indication of the type of music we could expect from her now she was more in control of her career, the song's soaring vocals and raw emotion connected in a way the frothy pop of "I Need Your Body" hadn't been able to with the local music industry, that still looked down its nose at pure pop. As a result, as well as selling a large number of singles, Tina also became a bona fide album artist, with Don't Ask spending a mammoth 86 weeks in the top 50, finally reaching number 1 in November 1995 and winning four ARIA Awards along the way, including Album Of The Year.

Number 10 "Endless Love" by Luther Vandross / Mariah Carey
Peak: number 2
From a new power ballad, we move now to the return of one of the biggest ballads of the 1980s. Originally recorded by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, and taken from the film of the same name, "Endless Love" had spent four weeks at number 1 in Australia (and nine in the US). Apparently it was Mariah Carey's idea to record the tune with Luther for his covers album Songs, and it turned out to be a good one, resulting in both singers achieving a career best chart peak in Australia. For Mariah, it was a one-spot improvement on the position reached by her previous remake, "Without You", while for Luther, it matched the peak of his last duet, "The Best Things In Life Are Free". For me, while the vocal gymnastics and histrionics were kept to a minimum (cf. Mariah's version of "Against All Odds" with Westlife and, of course, "One Sweet Day"), I much preferred the original version.

Number 9 "Hands Out Of My Pocket" by Cold Chisel
Peak: number 9
Unlike Cold Chisel's last chart return in 1991 with "Misfits", which missed the top 50, this latest pre-Christmas clearing-of-the-vaults release made a much more significant impact on the chart, giving the Australian rock legends their first top 10 hit since 1982's "Forever Now". "Hands Out Of My Pocket" had originally been demoed for 1980's East and was issued all these years later to promote Teenage Love, an album of old demos and studio recordings collected from throughout Cold Chisel's career. As you'd expect with such a fan-targetted release, the song's descent out of the chart was relatively rapid.

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

Next week: another of 1994's mega ballads, plus the top 50 debut of a man who wrote and produced it. And we'll also see the arrival of a pop/punk band who'd have a very good second half of the decade.

Back to: Sep 11, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 25, 1994

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: September 11, 1994

From 1987 to 1992, she had dominated the pop music scene, both in Australia and the UK, registering three chart-toppers and 18 top 40 hits locally. So it was a pretty big deal when, after a year off from music in 1993, Kylie Minogue returned this week in 1994.

Kylie Minogue returned with a drastically different sound

But it was not just any comeback - Kylie released the lead single from her first album away from producers Stock Aitken Waterman, who had been responsible for all her hits from "I Should Be So Lucky" onwards. Would her new track return her to the chart highs she'd enjoyed in the past?

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 11, 1994

All-4-One enjoyed their final week high up atop the ARIA singles chart this week in 1994 as "I Swear" stayed at number 1 for a fifth week.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "Bop Gun (One Nation)" by Ice Cube featuring George Clinton
Peak: number 93
This third and final top 100 single by the former N.W.A. rapper sampled a Funkadelic track and got its title from a song by Parliament - both groups fronted by George Clinton.

Number 98 "U Go Girl" by Tag Team
Peak: number 85
Following up "Whoomp! (There It Is)" was always going to be tough, but at least the hip-hop duo made the ARIA top 100 with this second single - something they couldn't manage in the US. 

Number 90 "Tree Frog" by Hope
Peak: number 83
As its title suggests, this otherwise fairly unremarkable trance track from David Hope featured the sound of a frog ribbiting throughout. 

Number 79 "Go On Move" by Reel 2 Real featuring The Mad Stuntman
Peak: number 79
Like Tag Team, Reel 2 Real had their work cut out for them living up to "I Like To Move It". Although "Go On Move", which actually pre-dated their big hit, made the UK top 10, Australia didn't come back for much more.

New Entries
Number 50 "My Enemy" by Culture Shock
Peak: number 40
It took its time to get there, but Australian dance group Culture Shock scored a second top 40 hit with this follow-up to "Satisfy The Groove" peaking at number 40 in early October. It would be the final time we'd see them on the chart, with the third single from their self-titled album, "Amor Serenade", missing the top 100. The same fate befell "Who's Gonna Cry For You", a single released by Culture Shock v2.0 in 1995, which by then had become a duo.

Number 49 "Wildflowers" by Things Of Stone And Wood
Peak: number 41
"Happy Birthday Helen" aside, Melbourne folk/rock band Things Of Stone And Wood had a habit of peaking in the 40s and 50s with their singles. Lo and behold, the same thing happened with this lead single from second album Junk Theatre. Despite its cheery sound, "Wildflowers" makes a comment on racism in Australia, asking the question, "Why do Nazis grow like wildflowers?" Why, indeed.

Number 43 "Ain't Nobody" by Jaki Graham
Peak: number 17
It is one of the most covered songs of all time, so it's not that surprising that there were two rival versions of "Ain't Nobody" on the ARIA chart in 1994. Easily the biggest - we'll see the second and less successful one in the coming weeks - was a cover by English singer Jaki Graham. A virtual unknown in Australia, Jaki had enjoyed a trio of top 10 hits in the UK in the mid-'80s, and it's likely this remake was an attempt to get her career back on track after a string of flops there. But while her rendition of the song first released by Rufus and Chaka Khan in 1983 made our top 20, it peaked outside the UK top 40. This new take on "Ain't Nobody" was one of my favourite songs of 1994, but that was down to the Love To Infinity remix, which took a good song and made it even better (as all remixes should).

Number 42 "Dreams" by The Cranberries
Peak: number 30
It had spent a handful of weeks in the lower reaches of the top 100 in late 1993 following the success of "Linger", but "Dreams" - which was actually The Cranberries' debut single - finally became a hit all these months later in the wake of its UK and US success. Although achieving only a relatively modest top 30 placement, the song about first love helped ensure the Irish band's debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, which had re-entered the albums top 50 in June, stayed there for a full year.

Number 41 "I Love The Nightlife (Disco 'Round)" by Alicia Bridges
Peak: number 11
It had reached the Australian top 10 in 1979 and, thanks to its use in The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, it almost repeated that feat 15 years later. The only hit for American singer Alicia Bridges, "I Love The Nightlife (Disco 'Round)" was given a remix for the occasion by Rapino Bros - the duo who'd also transformed Take That's "Could It Be Magic" and "The Rhythm Of The Night" by Corona, while one of the stars of the internationally successful Australian film about drag queens, Hugo Weaving, appeared in a new music video. 

Number 33 "That's The Thing About Football" by Greg Champion
Peak: number 31
One of those random football songs that found its way into the charts every now and then - especially at this time of year - this tune was one of many written by Greg Champion about his favourite sport. It has grown in stature over the years thanks to its use by Channel 7 in the years since.

Number 31 "Confide In Me" by Kylie Minogue
Peak: number 1
Over five years, Kylie Minogue had perfected the art of the cheery three-minute pop song. Although she sexed up her image with 1990's "Better The Devil You Know" and got a little musically adventurous on her final album for PWL, Let's Get To It, she'd pretty much stayed within familiar territory. After leaving the Stock Aitken Waterman stable, she made a bold move and signed with cool UK dance label Deconstruction, home to the likes of Felix, Usura and M-People. And her first single for her new record company was a huge sonic leap.
For one thing, Kylie didn't start singing on "Confide In Me" until about a minute-and-a-half into the almost-six-minute track. Musically, it sounded like nothing she had ever released before. Written and produced by dance duo Brothers In Rhythm, its orchestral-meets-Middle Eastern feel coupled with its trip-hop beat was nothing short of a revelation. It was the last thing most people would have expected from her, which was why it was exactly the type of song she needed to release at this crucial point in her career. 
Catchy enough to appeal to her pop-loving core fanbase, mature enough to show artistic growth and credible enough to win back those fickle members of the Australian public that had abandoned her throughout her SAW period, "Confide In Me" charged from this entry position straight to number 1, giving Kylie her first chart-topper since 1988's "Got To Be Certain". Way to make a comeback.

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

Next week: it's mega ballad time with two massive downtempo hits - one of which was a cover of a song that had already been to number 1. Plus, the return of Australian rock royalty.

Back to: Sep 4, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 18, 1994

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

This Week In 1994: September 4, 1994

For some people (i.e. me), it was a major event - a remake of a disco classic that had been a landmark release in 1979, updated by two of the biggest voices in dance music and produced by a couple of hit-makers who'd been behind some of the best pop songs of the previous decade.

Kym and Jocelyn proved more than up to the challenge of remaking Barbra and Donna

But on the ARIA singles top 50 this week in 1994, the track was a one-week wonder - barely a blip on most people's radars at the time. In fact, all four of the new entries on the chart were fleeting hits, with none spending more than two weeks on the countdown.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending September 4, 1994

A song that was proving anything but fleeting was still at number 1 this week in 1994. "I Swear" by All-4-One spent its fourth week on top. 

Off The Chart
Number 75 "Feel The Pain" by Dinosaur Jr
Peak: number 61
The only top 100 appearance by the American rock band was the lead single from their sixth (and most commercially successful) album, Without A Sound

New Entries
Number 49 "You Mean The World To Me" by Toni Braxton
Peak: number 49
Previous single "Breathe Again" had been a more immediate hit, but this follow-up - another ballad from LA Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons - had a much slower trajectory, having first entered the top 100 in late June before bouncing around between the 50s and 70s ever since. This week, "You Mean The World To Me", which I thought was Toni Braxton's best release since debut "Love Shoulda Brought You Home", finally sneaked into the top 50 for a single week.

Number 48 "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)" by Kym Mazelle / Jocelyn Brown
Peak: number 48
Back in 1979, divas (in the good sense of the word) Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer teamed up for the original version of what would now be described as a girl power anthem, reaching the Australian top 10 late that year with "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)". Fifteen years later, two more divas - albeit ones with slightly lower profiles - united for a cover version of the song. 
Since the late '80s, Kym Mazelle had released a number of club hits as a solo artist and featured vocalist on tracks by the likes of Soul II Soul and Rapination. Her partner in song on "No More Tears...", Jocelyn Brown, was another woman who was no stranger to a featured vocalist slot, having guested on hits by Right Said Fred and Incognito in the early '90s. Jocelyn's career dated back to around the time of the original version of "No More Tears...", at which point she performed with a number of different groups (Change, Musique, Cerrone, Inner Life), while her best known solo release was 1984's "Somebody Else's Guy".
It wasn't just "No More Tears..." that returned to the ARIA chart this week. Kym and Jocelyn's cover was produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, who had recently reunited away from PWL. This was their first hit in Australia together since Kylie Minogue's "Shocked" in 1991. The production duo would also work on Kym and Jocelyn's next joint single - a remake of ZZ Top's "Gimme All Your Lovin'".

Number 47 "Standing Outside The Fire" by Garth Brooks
Peak: number 45
The only new entry to spend more than one week inside the top 50 (and then, only two weeks) was the first Australian hit for American country megastar Garth Brooks, who wrapped up his first tour of our country on September 5. No doubt receiving a boost from his concerts, "Standing Outside The Fire" also gained attention thanks to its music video, which told the story of a student with Down syndrome wanting to compete in his school's mainstream athletics carnival rather than an event modelled on the Paralympics. 

Number 43 "Alrabaiye (Take Me Up)" by Amadin featuring Swing
Peak: number 43
If this dance track, which was among my favourite songs for 1994, sounds like it could be a Dr Alban song, that's because the Swedish artist co-wrote, executive produced and featured on "Alrabaiye (Take Me Up)". One of the earliest hits for Cheiron - the Stock Aitken Waterman-style hit factory of the late '90s and early '00s - the song was released by duo Amadin, an alias for songwriters John Amatiello and Kristian Lundin, the latter of whom would go on to produce for Cheiron regulars like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC.

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

Next week: the return of Australia's biggest pop star (and former recipient of Stock and Aitken's songwriting and production prowess), plus a disco classic makes a comeback and a new version of one of the most covered songs of all time.

Back to: Aug 28, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Sep 11, 1994