10 April 2020

Week commencing 10 April 1989

There's a fine line between success and failure sometimes.  Does it matter if your latest single stalls outside the top 100 if your album is selling by the truckload?  Does it matter if your first foray into music barely charts if you go on to be a successful producer and remixer?  Does it matter if your recording career isn't that big if you go on to become a Member of Parliament?  Probably not.  This week, we see each of these kinds of acts among the four new top 150 entries.

Enya: Before Tiger King was a thing, Enya was the Lion Queen.

Top 150 debuts:

Number 115 "Back to the Wall" by Steve Earle
Peak: number 115
Peak date: 10 April 1989
Weeks in top 150: 6 weeks
Steve Earl landed a top 30 hit in Australia with "Copperhead Road" (number 23, February 1989), and this track was the second single released from the Copperhead Road album (number 39, February 1989).
"Back to the Wall" failed to register on any other sales-based chart in the world, as far as I am aware.  It reached number 20 on the US Mainstream Rock Airplay chart, though (if that counts for anything - which it doesn't, in my book), in April 1989.
Another single from the Copperhead Road album, "Johnny Come Lately", peaked at number 75 in the UK in December 1988, but does not appear to have been released in Australia.
Steve will join us again in 1990.
Number 123 "Evening Falls..." by Enya
Peak: number 104
Peak date: 17 April 1989
Weeks in top 150: 7 weeks 
Weeks on chart: 9 weeks

Enya's breakthrough hit, "Orinoco Flow", was so unlike anything else on the chart, which no doubt helped it to get noticed and climb to number 6 in Australia.  The follow-up release, "Evening Falls..." is a rather haunting tune, but a hit single it doth not sound like.  Despite that, this single managed to reach number 3 in Enya's native Ireland, and number 20 in the UK.  I doubt the record company were too bothered that it didn't do quite as well as "Orinoco Flow", given that parent album Watermark went on to spend several years on the chart, and earned a 6x platinum certification in Australia.  The third release from Watermark, "Storms in Africa (Part II)", seems like a much better-known song than "Evening Falls...", thanks to its use in both the movie Green Card and in Ansett TV commercials; but, somehow, it did not even chart in Australia!  Enya will pay the 101-150 region of the chart another visit when 1992 rolls around.

Number 138 "Ready for Love" by Gary Moore
Peak: number 113
Peak date: 24 April 1989
Weeks in top 150: 8 weeks 
Weeks on chart: 8 weeks

We saw Gary Moore bubble under back in February 1989.  Although Gary had been releasing music since 1978 and had a few (outside the top 40) charting albums Down Under, he had so far only managed to score one moderate hit single here, with a cover of the Easybeats' "Friday on My Mind" in 1987.  While his signature tune would come a year later, in the meantime, the best Gary could do was number 113 with this, the second release from his After the War (number 62, March 1989) album.
Gary will join us again in 1991 and 1992 with additional peaking-outside-the-top-100 singles.

Number 142 "Smile Me Down" by Andrew Cash
Peak: number 109
Peak date: 1 May 1989
Weeks in top 150: 7 weeks

Hailing from Canada, Andrew Cash these days is primarily known as being a Canadian politician, who was a Member of Parliament there between 2011 and 2015.  There is scant information about his recording career on his wikipedia page, though it does mention he recorded three albums, one of which was a top 100-charting success in his homeland.

Number 150 "Jibaro" by Electra
Peak: number 150
Peak date: 10 April 1989
Weeks in top 150: 1 week

Eight months before (barely) gracing our charts, this one peaked at number 54 in the UK in August 1988.  Who was behind Electra?  Why, none other than Paul Oakenfold, who went on to become a successful record producer and remixer, remixing songs for the likes of Madonna, U2, Britney Spears and... The Rolling Stones, and forming Perfecto Records with partner Steve Osborne.

Bubbling WAY down under:

Number 154 "Ana Ng" by They Might Be Giants
Peak: number 154
Peak date: 10 April 1989
Weeks on chart: 2 weeks

I'm not sure where, but I once read a comment that They Might Be Giants make kindergarten music for adults, and I think that's an apt description.
Hailing from Brooklyn in the US, "Ana Ng" was the first single lifted from the band's second album Lincoln (number 116, May 1989).  It was They Might Be Giants' first release to chart nationally in Australia.  I say 'nationally', because a single from their 1986 debut They Might Be Giants album (number 159, December 1990), "Don't Let's Start", registered on four of the five state charts in the second half of 1988, but missed the national chart (when it ended at number 100).  Such is life.
Interestingly, "Ang Ng" did not chart anywhere else, other than the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart (not a 'real' chart, in my opinion), where it peaked at number 11 in December 1988.  The single was not released commercially in the US, which at that time rendered it ineligible to make the Billboard Hot 100.

You may be wondering... who is the 'Ana Ng' in question?  Well, the song came to be when John Linnell, who sings lead on this track, was looking at a Manhattan phonebook for inspiration when writing songs, and noticed the large number of Ng listings - a common Cantonese surname.  Linnell also drew inspiration from a Pogo comic strip, depicting characters who were digging a hole to China.

They Might Be Giants would not score a breakthrough hit single in Australia until "Boss of Me" (number 29, September 2001) was used as the theme for the TV series Malcolm in the Middle.  Despite their lack of hits down under, the band placed six singles outside the national ARIA top 100 between now and 1997.  We will next see They Might Be Giants in 1990.

Number 164 "Right One for Me" by Tony Llewellyn
Peak: number 164
Peak date: 10 April 1989
Weeks on chart: 1 week

Australian recording artist Tony Llewellyn first registered on my radar when he reviewed the singles in Smash Hits in mid-1988.  Three things I distinctly remember about this article, despite never having heard any of his music until now, are: the unusual (for 9 year-old me) spelling of his surname, his hair, and that he got to review his own single that week... which he may (again, I am not certain) have nominated as his 'single of the week'.  Er...

Listening to "Right One for Me" as I write this, it reminds me a little bit of Wa Wa Nee's sound - just with less-slick production values and more-sedate vocals.  "Right One for Me" was the second single lifted from Tony's only studio album The News (number 135, November 1989).  It followed "Pick You Up" in July 1988 - the one he got to review in Smash Hits, which failed to chart, but I like more than "Right One for Me".

On the state charts, "Right One for Me" performed strongest in Victoria/Tasmania, where it reached number 138.

Tony would go on to play keyboards for Icehouse, from 1991 until 2004.  Before then, he charted with another single, which we will see in October 1989.

Number 169 "Superwoman" by Karyn White
Peak: number 162
Peak date: 17 April 1989
Weeks on chart: 2 weeks

Unmistakably a L.A. Reid/Babyface production, "Superwoman" was the second single lifted from American Karyn White's debut album Karyn White (number 130, May 1989).  It followed the more-upbeat "The Way You Love Me", which was not released in Australia until January 1990 as Karyn's third single, with "Secret Rendezvous" being released in-between in June 1989.  In contrast to "Superwoman", both of these singles failed to chart locally.  Karyn's biggest chart success in Australia came in 1991, when "Romantic" peaked at number 68 on the ARIA singles chart in October of that year.
I've never been a fan of this style of... schmaltz that L.A. Reid/Babyface seemed to specialise in, and which usually sold by the truckload in the US during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.  Indeed, "Superwoman" peaked at number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in April 1989.

We will see Karyn again in 1992.

Next week (17 April): another 4 debuts, including an all-girl Kiwi chart-topper from 1988, plus another bubbling WAY down under entry.  You can also follow my posts on facebook.

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  1. good points about success being more than the sum of your single charting...was wondering Nathan, how low did the bubbling under chart go numerically? Do we get to a top 200 or more eventually? Was wondering if there is a "bongo" prize for the lowest charting song ever on these charts, i.e. one week at the bottom position of the known chart listings. That could be interesting to find out!

    1. Unfortunately I can't answer that question of how low the chart went, other than for one week in November 1990 (which I'll mention when we get to it), where the singles chart, for whatever reason, finished at number 140. Based on the albums chart (which often ended before number 150 in 1989-1990), it likely varied week by week.

      The lowest chart position I have from 1989, at this point, is number 181, for Lou Gramm's 'Just Between You and Me', in its debut week in November 1989. The lowest position I have from 1990, so far, is number 169 - the entry position for a Dusty Springfield single in August 1990. The first number 200 position I have is the entry position for a Saint Etienne single in October 1991. The first below number 200 position I have to date is for an M People single from June 1992. The first beyond number 300 position I have is from June 1997. It appears that the chart was calculated progressively lower throughout the 90s.

      Unfortunately, only a top 150 chart can be extracted as a weekly chart from the ARIA database, which is why my posts are limited to that, other than the occasional below number 150 info I have.

      I can tell you that the chart is currently calculated beyond number 2000!

  2. I'm a massive They Might Be Giants fan and "Ana Ng" is one of my favourite songs of all time. It was only the second song by them I'd heard, but it inspired me to ferret out every single one of their 61 albums. It also has a very strange (but cool) music video. Oh, and I found a medical surgery headed by Dr. Anna Ng (slightly different spelling) when I went to Hong Kong. And that's all.

  3. This is pure speculation with nothing of note to really back it up but regarding as far as the chart goes, looking at the lowest entries that we know thus far and taking into account any songs that may have dropped out of the top 150 i personally would put it as a top 200 for 1989 and 1990,expanding it to a top 250 in 1991 - 1993, a top 300 in 1994 - 1996, a top 350 in 1997 and by 1999 a top 400. This is sheer guesswork on my part as it seems to me unlikely to stop a chart at a unusual position. I could be totally wrong though.

    1. I think the chart ended at a different spot most weeks back then, and probably still does. The earliest #200 position I currently have is from July 1991; I think it is unlikely that the chart went to #200 long before then. The lowest singles chart positions I have from the other years, currently, are: 1991 - #203, 1992 - #233, 1993 - #238, 1994 - #263, 1995 - #266, 1996 - #266, 1997 - #302, 1998 - #294, 1999 - #369, 2000 - #287 (but I don't have that many below #150 positions from 2000 currently).

    2. And the lowest positions I have for 1989 and 1990 are still #181 and #171, respectively.


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