Wednesday, 27 November 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: November 27, 1994

A few weeks ago, I talked about how a covers album is often the kind of thing an artist does when their career has hit a rough patch and they don't know what else to do. I mentioned that Christmas albums fall into the same category, and we've seen countless examples over the years of singers sticking out a collection of festive favourites when they've run out of other ideas.

Mariah + Christmas: one of the most successful collaborations of all time

This week in 1994, however, a very different type of Christmas release debuted on the ARIA singles chart. Taken from a holiday album that came when the singer responsible was very much in the ascendancy, it has, in the 25 years since, become a modern day Christmas classic. And, in the streaming age, it returns to the chart each year, having finally reached number 1 last Christmas.

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

At number 1 in the lead-up to Christmas 1994, silverchair held on to the top spot for a fifth week with "Tomorrow".

Off The Chart
Number 98 "Sly" by Massive Attack
Peak: number 98
Maintaining their strike rate of being completely underappreciated on the Australian chart, this lead single from second album Protection, which features vocals from Nicolette, was barely a blip on the top 100.

Number 96 "Give It All You Got" by Marcia Hines
Peak: number 53
The first single from Right Here And Now just made the top 50; this follow-up just missed. "Give It All You Got" was given a couple of releases, with the link above taking you to the 1995 remix version.

Number 95 "Dance Naked" by John Mellencamp
Peak: number 79
"Wild Night" had taken John Mellencamp into the top 20 for the first (and what would end up as the only) time during the '90s, but the title track of his 13th album did not follow suit.

Number 84 "Move That Body" by Look Twice featuring Gladys
Peak: number 66
A fairly hideous Eurodance track (even by my standards) that took its hook, like so many other songs, from "Let's All Chant". It was the only top 100 entry for the Swedish group.

New Entries
Number 50 "My Wave" by Soundgarden
Peak: number 50
"Black Hole Sun" had taken them into the top 10 and even (slightly) appealed to grunge-resistant me, but this follow-up scraped the very bottom of the top 50 and is not a song I even recall hearing at the time. "My Wave", which was inspired by "My Beach" by Surf Punks, certainly didn't have the immediacy or sing-along chorus of their big hit, which probably explains its lowly peak.

Number 48 "Tighten Up Your Pants (Scotland Medley)" by Audio Murphy Inc. featuring Melinda
Peak: number 39
Just when you thought dance music couldn't sink any lower than "Swamp Thing" and "Everybody Gonfi Gon", along came Melinda Schneider to yodel all over this cynical cash grab from Australian group Audio Murphy Inc, who released one more track in 1995: "Fiddler Man" featuring Slim Dusty. Thankfully, that didn't chart. Melinda, meanwhile, would go on to have quite a respectable music, TV and radio career.

Number 47 "Sure" by Take That
Peak: number 31
Despite the best efforts of the boy band and their record company, Take That had still to really happen in Australia, the top 10 placement of "Pray" notwithstanding. The Everything Changes album had paid a brief visit to the top 30 mid-year but the title track and "Love Ain't Here Anymore" hadn't amounted to much locally. So what about a brand new song from their then-upcoming third album? "Sure" was an instant number 1 in the UK - albeit the lowest selling chart-topper for the year there - and in Australia it was... another minor hit. For me, "Sure" wasn't among Take That's best songs and seemed a bit like an obvious attempt to appeal more to the US. Then there were those bizarre outfits in the music video - the likes of which hadn't been seen since their debut clip. All in all, it felt like some odd decisions were being made, but Take That would course correct in about six months' time.

Number 46 "All I Want For Christmas" by Mariah Carey
Peak: number 2 (in 1994); number 1 (in 2018)
Even Mariah Carey herself was unsure about how wise it was to release a Christmas album when she was only three albums in to her career - and that career up until then had been one of the most successful debuts of all time. But her record company, headed up by her then-husband, Tommy Mattola, pushed for the project, Merry Christmas, which featured a selection of festive standards and three new songs, co-written by Mariah with regular collaborator Walter Afanasieff. One of those, "All I Want For Christmas", a 1960s-sounding love song with a holiday theme, was chosen as the lead single and was a substantial hit at the time (her second number 2 following "Endless Love").
But it's what happened next that makes the song truly remarkable. Over the years, the track, which works as both a season-specific tune and a pop song, has established itself as a Christmas classic in the vein of "White Christmas" or "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", and is covered by other artists on their Christmas albums, performed at Carols By Candlelight, has appeared in films and TV shows, and is inescapable in the month leading up to December 25. And, since the streaming era, "All I Want For Christmas" has returned regularly to the ARIA top 50. It reached number 40 in 2012-13, number 33 in 2013-14, number 14 in 2014-15, number 17 in 2015-16, number 15 in 2016-17, number 6 in 2017-18 and, finally, went all the way to number 1 last Christmas.
Naturally, the song never hangs around in the top 50 for very long - its original seven-week run has yet to be beaten - but unless something dramatic happens to the chart in the coming years, we can rest assured that "All I Want For Christmas" will pay a visit each December for some time.

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

Next week: an eclectic mix of new entries, including some British indie, a reggae remake, a spooky dance song and some Aussie rock.

Back to: Nov 20, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Dec 4, 1994

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: November 20, 1994

Some songs are immediately successful, blasting into the upper reaches of the chart; others are more of a slow burning, taking their time to work their way up to their peak.

Celine Dion had to think twice when it looked like this single wasn't going to be a hit

This week in 1994, there was an example of each type of song among the new entries on the ARIA singles top 50, with both peaking near the number 1 spot - one much more quickly than the other.

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

Still at number 1 this week in 1994 were silverchair, who spent a fourth week on top with "Tomorrow".

Off The Chart
Number 100 "All By Myself" by Margaret Urlich
Peak: number 100
Her previous Australian hit had been a cover, but this remake of the Eric Carmen power ballad scraped the very bottom of the top 100 and didn't end up being included on Margaret Urlich's next album.

Number 96 "Hard Days Night (live)" by Billy Joel
Peak: number 85
Another cover, this time of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night", which was taken from  A Voyage On The River Of Dreams, a repackage of Billy Joel's 1993 album. The single, released only in Australia, was his second live Beatles remake, following 1987's "Back In The USSR".

Number 88 "I Wish It Would Rain" by Jon Stevens
Peak: number 67
And yet another cover - and one that would also end up being a between albums release. "I Wish It Would Rain" was originally recorded by The Temptations in 1967.

Number 80 "God Shuffled His Feet" by Crash Test Dummies
Peak: number 70
Peaking 30 places lower than their previous single, the title track of the Canadian band's second album became their final release to visit the ARIA top 100.

Number 71 "Circle Of Life" by Elton John
Peak: number 60
I had to double check this was right because I would've sworn this follow-up to "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" had also been a hit, so ubiquitous has it become. But my memory failed me and it did, indeed, miss the top 50.

New Entries
Number 50 "Last One Standing For You" by The Black Sorrows with Jon Stevens
Peak: number 46
While his latest solo release didn't make the top 50, Jon Stevens did get a look-in with this guest appearance on the second single from The Black Sorrows' Lucky Charm album. Like its predecessor, "Snake Skin Shoes", it's not a song I have any memory of and would end up as the final hit for the band, which was essentially just Joe Camilleri and a floating line-up of musicians at this point.

Number 49 "Think Twice" by Celine Dion
Peak: number 2
I guess it made sense to mix things up and release "Misled" after Celine Dion's cover of "The Power Of Love", but as it would turn out, people really just wanted power ballads from the Canadian belter and that more uptempo track fizzled. And so it was back to the ballads in the form of this third single from The Colour Of My Love, although "Think Twice" sure took its time to become the massive hit it ended up being. In fact, it dropped back out of the top 50 in seven days' time before re-entering at number 45 on the December 4 chart. Then, it disappeared again from the top 50 until late January, when it began its tortuously slow climb to number 2, finally reaching its peak in late April. In the UK, it was a similar story, with "Think Twice" not hitting number 1 until its 16th week - a rarity for the much more rapid British chart. I don't think it's any coincidence that most of Celine's future singles (and big hits) were ballads.

Number 43 "Cruise Control" by Headless Chickens
Peak: number 26
Here's a song that took three years to become a hit in Australia, although this release of the New Zealand top 10 hit was a completely different version to the original mix from 1991 that had been successful there. Remixed by British electronic band Eskimos & Egypt, "Cruise Control" gained new layers of synths and a poppier aesthetic, while still retaining its early '90s indie-meets-dance feel. This was actually the third release of the track locally, with the original 1991 version and a 1992 UK remix both missing the top 100 previously.

Number 3 "Spin The Black Circle" by Pearl Jam
Peak: number 3
Here's the new entry that smashed its way into the top 5 first week out. And it's easy to see why - "Spin The Black Circle" was a brand new song from one of the world's biggest bands and would serve as the lead single for upcoming album Vitalogy. The frenetic song is about Pearl Jam's regard for vinyl records, which was so high that Vitalogy was released on that format in the US two weeks ahead of its release on CD and cassette. In Australia, Vitalogy was released on vinyl on November 28 (possibly as an import of the US pressing), one week ahead of the other formats, but that didn't result in an early chart entry for the album, which debuted at number 1 following its full release on December 5

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

Next week: Speaking of songs that took a long time to reach their peak, a festive favourite that took almost a quarter of a century to reach number 1 debuts. And if banjos weren't enough to ruin dance music, how about yodelling?

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

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: November 13, 1994

Although Australia had been a little late to the boy band party, things really started picking up in 1994. Following the success of Kulcha, a second homegrown R&B-flavoured quartet made their debut on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1994.

CDB hooked themselves up with some chart action in late 1994

The floodgates didn't exactly open in Australia as they did in the US and the UK, but having two successful local boy bands did pave the way for an even bigger vocal harmony group to hit the scene in 1996 (and go on to be inducted into this year's ARIA Hall Of Fame).

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

A band you'd have to expect will one day enter the ARIA Hall Of Fame were still enjoying their first number 1 this week in 1994. "Tomorrow" by silverchair stayed on top for a third week.

Off The Chart
Number 100 "Shake Your Groove Thing (remix)" by Peaches & Herb
Peak: number 71
The original reached number 13 in 1979, and the disco classic was the latest to be given a new lease of life by The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, although not as successfully as "I Love The Nightlife (Disco Round)"

Number 93 "How Can I Be Sure" by Daryl Braithwaite
Peak: number 55
His recent releases hadn't done so well, so how about a newly recorded cover (of a number 16 hit for The Young Rascals in 1967) taken from greatest hits album Six Moons: The Best Of 1988-1994? Still no luck.

Number 88 "Get Over It" by Eagles
Peak: number 74
Back with their first new music in 14 years, the hugely successful '70s band included four new studio recordings (of which this was one) on live album Hell Freezes Over. The song was written by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, with the latter handling vocals.

Number 87 "Blind Man" by Aerosmith
Peak: number 76
Our fourth act that had originated in the '70s and the second with a new song promoting a compilation of songs from a specific part of their career. "Blind Man" was included on Big Ones, which covered Aerosmith's output for Geffen Records from 1987 to 1994.

Number 85 "Yesterday Once More" by Redd Kross
Peak: number 84
Remember tribute albums? This second top 100 entry from the American alternative band came from If I Were A Carpenter, which also featured the likes Sonic Youth, Matthew Sweet and The Cranberries reinterpreting the music of The Carpenters.

Number 65 Beetroot by Clouds
Peak: number 65
The Sydney band's first new music since 1993 album Thunderhead, this four-track EP was kicked off by the less commercially palatable (or successful) "Boy Of Air".

Number 60 "None Of Your Business" by Salt 'n' Pepa
Peak: number 53
The hip-hop group had been on a hit streak with the singles from Very Necessary, but this Grammy-winning fourth release just missed out on giving them another hit.

New Entries
Number 50 "Interstate Love Song" by Stone Temple Pilots
Peak: number 50
Just sneaking into the top 50, the American grunge band followed up "Vasoline" with this song, which I expect many would have thought had been much more successful. In the US, where it wasn't a commercial single, it enjoyed a then-record 15 weeks at number 1 on one of Billboard's other charts (Album Rock Tracks), and made number 17 in the Triple J Hottest 100. But as well as only scraping the very bottom of the top 50, it didn't even help parent album Purple back up the chart - in fact, that spent its final week in the top 50 this week, not returning for additional runs until February (three weeks in the 40s) and April (another visit to the top 10).

Number 40 "Coming Down (Drug Tongue)" by The Cult
Peak: number 40
Returning with their first new studio set since 1991, British rock band The Cult found themselves back in the top 50 with this lead single from their self-titled sixth album after having just missed it the year earlier with their remix of "Sanctuary". I'd liked the odd bit of The Cult before, but I can't say this song did anything for me.

Number 38 "Hook Me Up" by CDB
Peak: number 11
Sydney had Kulcha, and south of the border, four all-singing, all-formation dancing vocalists combined to form CDB. Comprised of brothers Brad and Gary Pinto, Andrew De Silva and Danny Williams, the boy band followed Kulcha's lead of offering an Australian spin on new jack swing, but "Hook Me Up" felt slicker than anything Kulcha had released. That was probably on account of it being produced by pop/funk group Rockmelons, and written by that band's core members along with ex-Wa Wa Nee frontman Paul Gray and Andrew from CDB. The glossier, pop-influenced sound made it feel less like watered down Teddy Riley and more like something that incorporated new jack swing rather than trying to imitate it. "Hook Me Up" just missed out on reaching the top 10 but it did spend nine weeks bouncing around the top 20.

Number 34 "Trouble" by Shampoo
Peak: number 17
Catchy enough to be pop, edgy enough to be cool, the breakthrough hit for British duo Shampoo was all teen attitude and shouty vocals. A number 11 hit in the UK and massively popular in Japan, "Trouble" is one of those bratty songs that people either think is great or grates on people (see also: "I Love It" by Icona Pop featuring Charli XCX). In Australia, it was the only hit for Carrie Askew and Jacqui Blake, who recorded for a few more years before going their separate ways.

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

Next week: a mega ballad that had a mega slow climb up the chart, plus a new song by one of the world's biggest rock bands that shot straight into the top 5.

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

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

25 Years Ago This Week: November 6, 1994

The decision for an artist to record a covers album is an interesting one, because it suggests they have run out of their own ideas and/or are in need of a boost to their lagging career. That's not always the case but, like Christmas albums, a collection of remakes often feels a bit desperate.

Gloria Estefan turned her Australia chart career around in 1994

This week in 1994, a singer who'd done reasonably well on the Australian charts up until then did something she'd never managed before - released a top 10 single that just happened to be the lead release from her first covers album.

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

Meanwhile, at number 1 for a second week this week in 1994, silverchair's "Tomorrow" continued to keep "Always" by Bon Jovi in second place.

Off The Chart
Number 99 "2 Way Dreamtime" by DIG
Peak: number 99
Another top 100 entry for Australia's premier acid jazz outfit - this time, a track with an Indigenous flavour in terms of its lyrics and instrumentation.

Number 97 "This D.J." by Warren G
Peak: number 95
A second top 10 hit for the West Coast rapper in the US, this cruisy follow-up to "Regulate" didn't catch on locally.

Number 82 "Everybody Needs Somebody" by Nick Howard
Peak: number 71
Not to be confused with the more recent British singer of the same name, this Nick Howard came from Australia and was our next big pop hopeful. This was not a great start to his chart career.

Number 81 "Neighbourhood Freak" by Swoop
Peak: number 62
A harder track than the one they'd made their top 100 debut with earlier in the year, this was the Australian band's last release before moving from Freakzone to Mushroom Records.

Number 77 Mc Skunk by Skunkhour
Peak: number 52
Another local band that blended rock with funk (and hip-hop), Lismore's Skunkhour made their top 100 debut with this EP, their second since singing with Mercury Records.

Number 75 "Fall" by Single Gun Theory
Peak: number 64
Two years after "From A Million Miles", this chilled dance act found themselves peaking at number 64 once again with a song that was, for me, one of the year's best.

New Entries
Number 50 "Turn The Beat Around" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 8
Never quite as big in Australia as in the US, Gloria Estefan's previous best singles chart peak locally had been number 11, which she had reached (with Miami Sound Machine) on two separate occasions - in 1984 with "Dr Beat" and in 1988 with "Anything For You". But it had been four years since Gloria had seen the inside of the ARIA top 40 - her last hit here was 1990's "Cuts Both Ways" - and so a covers album was a great way for her to reignite interest. The lead single from Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Gloria's take on Vicki Sue Robinson's disco classic, "Turn The Beat Around", became her first ever top 10 hit in Australia. Outperforming the original, which had peaked at number 28 in mid-1978, the song was also included on the soundtrack to Sylvester Stallone/Sharon Stone movie The Specialist. Fun fact: Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me was Gloria's fifth solo album. Her fourth? Festive album Christmas Through Your Eyes.

Number 45 "Zombie" by The Cranberries
Peak: number 1
Last week, I mentioned I wasn't too fond of Sheryl Crow's number 1 hit, "All I Wanna Do". Here's the other chart-topper from summer '94-'95 that I couldn't stand. A musical change of direction for the Irish band who had so far been known for dreamy pop tunes like "Linger" and "Dreams", "Zombie" was written about a 1993 IRA bombing in which two young boys had been killed and was, as you would expect, an angry piece of music. While I can't fault the sentiment behind the track, it was not a song I really wanted to listen to. Yet again, Australia disagreed with me and sent it to the top of the chart for eight long weeks. Fun fact: I actually bought the CD single of the dance cover of "Zombie" by A.D.A.M. featuring Amy, but I can't say I like that much either (what was I thinking?).

Number 39 "Lucas With The Lid Off" by Lucas
Peak: number 15
Earlier in 1994, Eurodance had collided with The Charleston in "Doop", and now Danish rapper Lucas Secon blended a Benny Goodman track from the 1930s with hip-hop on this top 20 single, which for some reason I can never remember. The Michel Gondry-directed music video was notable for being one continuous take (on the 17th take).

Number 4 "About A Girl" by Nirvana
Peak: number 4
Seven months after the death of frontman Kurt Cobain, the album of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged performance, which had been recorded in November 1993, was released and, in seven days' time, would debut at number 1. Before that, this limited edition single blasted into the top 5. A track from Nirvana's debut album, Bleach, "About A Girl" was considered one of the band's poppier numbers, so it was only fitting that it would become their highest-charting single. Due to the fact that it only spent one week on the top 50 - only 5000 copies were produced in total - it would have been outsold by "Smells Like Teen Spirit", however.

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

Next week: another new Australian vocal harmony group arrives, as does a mouthy British duo.

Back to: Oct 30, 1994 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Nov 13, 1994