05 February 2021

Week commencing 5 February 1990

This week's post is a bumper week for new entries, with no fewer than 11 top 150 debuts and one bubbling WAY down under entry!  I had a look at the rest of the year, and 11 is the record for top 150 debuts in 1990.  At the other end of the spectrum, there is only one new top 150 debut one week in August 1990.  Interestingly, this week's post contains more debuts peaking between number 101 and 150 than we will see for the entire month of August 1990!  Let's dive in to this week's 12 new entries.

Transvision Vamp: the Australian record-buying public were not quite 'sold' on this release.
Top 150 debuts:
Number 111 "I'm Not the Man I Used to Be" by Fine Young Cannibals
Peak: number 109 
Peak date: 12 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 6 weeks
Weeks on chart: 8 weeks
Up until this point, all eight of Fine Young Cannibals' previous singles had made the Australian top 100, with six of those making the top 20.  The group's biggest single down under had been "She Drives Me Crazy", which was number one for three weeks over two separate stints at the top, in March and April 1989.

The Cannibals' hit-making streak in Australia came to a crashing halt with "I'm Not the Man I Used to Be", the fourth single lifted from The Raw & The Cooked (number 1, July 1989).  Quite why this single stalled, I am not sure, although most people who wanted to own it had probably already purchased the album.
"I'm Not the Man I Used to Be" performed stronger on the Australian Music Report chart, where it peaked at number 96.  On the state charts, the single was most popular in Queensland and Western Australia, peaking at number 85 on both charts.
While the single was a modest hit (given their fast-paced charts at the time) in the band's native UK, peaking at number 20 for two weeks in December 1989, it was, at least, an improvement on the number 34 UK peak of previous single "Don't Look Back" (number 38 in Australia, October 1989).  Internationally, "I'm Not the Man I Used to Be" was a top 30 hit in the Netherlands and Austria, a top 40 hit in Germany, and had its greatest success in Ireland, where it peaked at number 8.

What few people would have predicted, including myself, is that there would be no more top 40 singles for Fine Young Cannibals - in Australia, anyway - owing largely to The Raw & The Cooked being the band's final studio album.  The band only released two studio albums during its existence, plus a greatest hits compilation in 1996, for which they recorded a new song, "The Flame" (number 85, November 1996).

Fine Young Cannibals will be back with another single from The Raw & The Cooked in April.

Number 115 "Prayer for You" by Texas
Peak: number 101
Peak date: 12 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 5 weeks
Weeks on chart: 6 weeks

Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland - in spite of the band name - Texas burst onto the ARIA singles chart in 1989 with "I Don't Want a Lover" (number 4, September 1989).  Follow-up singles "Thrill Has Gone" (number 60, September 1989) and "Everyday Now" (number 52, November 1989) struggled to replicate this success.  "Prayer for You", released as the fourth and final single from Southside (number 14, November 1989), had even less success, just falling short of the top 100.
It was a similar story in the band's native UK, where "I Don't Want a Lover" peaked at number 8 in March 1989, and subsequent Southside singles all missed the top 40.  "Prayer for You" continued the pattern of diminishing returns, peaking at number 73 in the UK in December 1989.
On the state charts, "Prayer for You" performed strongest in South Australia/Northern Territory, where it peaked at number 76.
Although Texas would return to the ARIA top 100 singles chart a couple of times in the early 90s, they would not score another sizeable hit in Australia again until 1997, with "Say What You Want" (number 11, June 1997).  We shall next see Texas bubble under in 1992.

Number 136 "Make Believe Mambo" by David Byrne
Peak: number 136
Peak date: 5 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 3 weeks
David Byrne was the lead vocalist in Talking Heads, who notched up nine top 100 singles in Australia between 1979 and 1986, with three of those making the top 20; the highest-peaking of which was "And She Was" (number 10, March 1986).  Although the band's 1988 album Naked peaked at number 8 in Australia, it spawned no charting singles.  Talking Heads disbanded in December 1991, after band members learnt that Byrne had left through an article published in the Los Angeles Times; he had not otherwise informed the group of his intention to quit.

David Byrne released a solo album 1981, and the follow-up studio album Rei Momo (number 96, January 1990) was released in the last quarter of 1989, from which this track is lifted.

While David's solo career didn't exactly set the Australian charts alight, we will see him again in 1992.
Number 137 "Heat of the Moment" by After 7
Peak: number 107 (number 123 in 1990; number 107 in 1991)
Peak date: 8 April 1991
Weeks in top 150: 15 weeks (9 weeks in 1990; 6 weeks in 1991)
If my memory serves me correctly, here we have the first instance of a single peaking outside the top 100 that had two separate (as in a year apart) chart runs.

"Heat of the Moment" was first released in Australia in January 1990, and peaked at number 123 in May 1990.  But even its first chart run was split in two, spending two weeks in the top 150 in February 1990, and then re-entering towards the end of April 1990, spending a further seven weeks in this region of the chart.   The group then released the singles "Ready Or Not" in August 1990 - which missed the top 150, and "Can't Stop" in December 1990 (number 80, February 1991).  "Heat of the Moment" was then again issued in March 1991, reaching its peak of number 107 in April 1991, and spending another 6 weeks on the chart.

Listening to "Heat of the Moment" for the first time as I write this, I am struck by how similar the music backing sounds to Pebbles' "Giving You the Benefit" (number 48, January 1991).  Both tracks are L.A. Reid/Babyface compositions and productions, though.

"Heat of the Moment" is lifted from the After 7 album, which peaked at number 124 in Australia in February 1990.

Number 139 "Born to Be Sold" by Transvision Vamp
Peak: number 108
Peak date: 12 March 1990
Weeks in top 150: 7 weeks
Weeks on chart: 8 weeks

During 1988 and 1989, Transvision Vamp placed seven singles in the ARIA top 100, with two of those reaching the top 10: "I Want Your Love" (number 7, December 1988) and "Baby I Don't Care" (number 3, August 1989).  The group's popularity down under was cemented with two platinum-certified albums, Pop Art (number 13, February 1989) and Velveteen (number 2, July 1989).

Despite this success, Transvision Vamp's singles chart peaks seemed to drop off quickly by the time it got to the third and fourth single releases from their albums, with "Tell That Girl to Shut Up" (number 44, February 1989), "Sister Moon" (number 95, June 1989), and "Landslide of Love" (number 70, November 1989) all missing the top 40.  "Born to Be Sold" would continue the trend, becoming the band's first release to peak outside the ARIA top 100; although it just scraped into the Australian Music Report top 100 singles chart at number 97.
Speaking of trends, "Born to Be Sold", like Billy Joel's recent hit "We Didn't Start the Fire" (number 2, November 1989) and The Beloved's upcoming flop "Hello" (number 94, May 1990), was a 'list' song.  That is, its verses list a number of cultural icons - in this instance, pop singers, film stars and politicians.  Among others, Elvis, Madonna and Morrissey get name-checked, and Transvision Vamp singer Wendy James (well, via songwriter and bandmate Nick Christian Sayer) declares herself, like the other people listed, as being "born to be sold".
Wendy, who loved to court controversy, copped some flack for comparing herself to 'the greats' with this song in at least one of the pop magazines I read at the time.  Those who followed pop music in the late 80s will no doubt remember some of Wendy's infamous comments slagging off other pop stars, particularly Kylie Minogue, who she once described as "pollution of the mind."  Ouch!  Still, at least Wendy had opinions, unlike many heavily stage-managed and media-trained artists.

On the state charts, "Born to Be Sold" performed strongest in Victoria/Tasmania, where it peaked at number 71.  Internationally, the single peaked at number 22 in the group's native UK in November 1989, and at number 12 in Ireland.
Fun fact: I bought this single on cassette at the time; just as I had bought Transvision Vamp's last single, "Landslide of Love", on the same format.  I obviously showed a precocious interest in flop singles as an 11 year-old.  One of the B-sides on the "Born to Be Sold" single, a live rendition of "Last Time", contained some naughty S and F-words delivered by Wendy when speaking to the audience during the intro - but there was no parental advisory sticker on the sleeve!  Ooh-er!

We won't see Transvision Vamp bubble under again, as the two singles from their third and final studio album in 1991 both made the top 100.  We will, however, see Wendy James in 1993, when she embarks on a solo career, after the demise of the band.

As a special treat, because I find it so funny - and it seems to have been taken down everywhere online - embedded below is French and Saunders' parody of Transvision Vamp/Wendy James' Star Test interview.  The song in the clip parodies the list-song format of "Born to Be Sold", with everything relating back to Wendy and her faux modesty (check out the "me me me me" chorus).
Number 143 "Insect" by Boxcar
Peak: number 143
Peak date: 5 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 3 weeks
Weeks on chart: 4 weeks

Boxcar, hailing from Brisbane, were Australia's answer to New Order.  Well, minus the commercial success, unfortunately.  Their debut single, "Freemason (You Broke the Promise)", released in November 1988, failed to chart locally, but made some ripples on the US Billboard Dance chart, where it peaked at number 8.  OK, I know I've said before that such genre-specific Billboard charts, based on god knows what, are not 'real' charts, but I'm trying to be generous here, for an act responsible for some songs that I like.

"Insect", the band's second single, was released locally in November 1989, but took until now to register on the chart.  Fitting with the song title and the lyrical theme of being "crushed" like an insect by an ex, the music video contains numerous scenes of praying mantises, ants and the like, and is not one recommended for those with entomophobia (look it up!).  But the song itself is definitely worth a listen.

Released on Australian dance music label Volition, "Insect" was produced by pioneering Australian electronic/dance music producer and remixer Robert Racic, who was involved with many late 80s/early 90s home-grown dance releases, such as the 1994 remix of Severed Heads' "Dead Eyes Opened" (number 16, January 1995), Beatfish "Wheels of Love" (number 26, September 1991), and Sexing the Cherry's "Steppin' On" (number 42, May 1994).  Racic, sadly, passed away in 1996 from AIDS.

Boxcar would criminally peak no higher than number 82 on the ARIA singles chart, with "Gas Stop (Who Do You Think You Are)" reaching that position in January 1991. "Insect", "Freemason" and "Gas Stop" all appear on the band's debut album Vertigo (number 118, February 1991).  I don't think that Australia was ready to embrace electronic music made by local bands yet - radio certainly wasn't, instead preferring to stick with a staple of pub rock bands, "classic rock" and Cold Chisel.  Ugh.
Boxcar will bubble under a number of times in the coming years, with the next occasion being in 1991.

Number 144 "Don't Make Me Over" by Sybil
Peak: number 144
Peak date: 5 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 2 weeks
Weeks on chart: 5 weeks

Sybil Lynch, known mononymously as just Sybil, hails from America, and is Maxine Jones from En Vogue's cousin.  Although her version of Dionne Warwick's "Don't Make Me Over" was a number 20 hit for her on the US Billboard Hot 100 in December 1989, Sybil had the most career success in the UK, where she notched up three top 10 hits, and this song peaked at number 19 in October 1989.
The album this track is lifted from, Sybil, also contains a cover of Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By", which was a number 6 hit for her in the UK in February 1990.  Both the album and that single failed to chart in Australia.  Sybil later worked with Stock Aitken Waterman, or their Stock/Waterman incarnation, and some of the songs they produced made the ARIA chart.

While Sybil never peaked higher than number 144 in Australia, we will see her bubble under a few more times in the coming years, with the next occasion being in October.

Number 145 "It's Gonna Change" by Blow featuring Roy Hamilton
Peak: number 145
Peak date: 5 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 1 week
I can't tell you much about Blow, other than it's an alias of house music producer and DJ, Gordon Edge, whose real name is Gordon Laing Matthewman.  Likewise, I can't tell you much about Roy Hamilton, other than his father, also named Roy Hamilton, was a singer from Jamaica.  Together, they released this acid house track, which does not appear to have charted anywhere else.

Number 146 "The Yuppie Rap" by Club Veg
Peak: number 146
Peak date: 5 February 1990
Weeks in top 150: 1 week

Here's an Australian comedy release I missed at the time, probably due to being too young to listen to Triple J.  Club Veg were duo Vic Davies and Malcolm Lees, and they started out as The Morning After Show on radio station Triple J in 1984, before migrating to 2SM in 1986, and then Triple M in 1988.

"The Yuppie Rap" was issued as a single in September 1988, featuring Barry Dink on vocals.  I am not sure why the single charted nearly 18 months later.  The B-side featured New Zealand singer Dave Dobbyn on vocals.

Vic Davies died from lung cancer in 2009.

Number 147 "We Almost Got It Together" by Tanita Tikaram
Peak: number 116
Peak date: 19 March 1990
Weeks in top 150: 7 weeks
Weeks on chart: 8 weeks
Tanita graced our presence twice in 1989, with "Good Tradition" (number 142, January 1989) and "Cathedral Song" (number 120, July 1989).  Her biggest, and only real hit in Australia was "Twist in My Sobriety" (number 23, April 1989).

"We Almost Got It Together" was the lead single from Tanita's second album The Sweet Keeper (number 68, February 1990), and peaked at number 52 in the UK in January 1990.  The single was also a top 30 hit in Ireland, a top 40 hit in the Netherlands and the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium (Flanders), and a top 50 hit in Germany.  One interesting thing about "We Almost Got It Together"'s chart run in Australia - if you're a chart freak, anyway - is that it didn't reach its peak until its final week on the chart, after which, it dropped out.

Subsequent singles released in Australia from The Sweet Keeper, "Little Sister Leaving Town" (May 1990) and "Thursday's Child" (August 1990), failed to chart.  Tanita will join us again, however, in 1995.

Number 149 "Quicksand" by Jimi the Human & Spectre 7
Peak: number 137
Peak date: 16 April 1990
Weeks in top 150: 9 weeks
Listening to this song as I write this, I didn't expect to know it, but the "walking in the quicksand" chorus sounds familiar. "Quicksand" was released back in early December 1989, but took until now to dent the top 150.
If you read the video description blurb for the clip embedded below - which appears to be uploaded by Jimi (Hocking) himself, you would be led to believe that the album this track is from, No Turning Back, was a top 20 success.  Um, hate to burst your bubble, man, but it wasn't.  In fact, the album peaked at number 101 on the ARIA albums chart in March 1990.  Top 20... on the Australian artists chart (another meaningless one), perhaps?  I have noticed that artists often have mistaken beliefs about their chart positions, and that they are prone to inflation.

This would be Jimi the Human & Spectre 7's only top 150 charting single.  "Quicksand" performed much better on the Australian Music Report singles chart, where it peaked at number 86.  You have to wonder, though, when there is a 51-place discrepancy between the ARIA and AMR peaks...

Bubbling WAY down under:

Number 153 "Action" by Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys
Peak: number 153
Peak date: 5 February 1990
Weeks on chart: 1 week

We saw Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys bubble under in November 1989.  "Action" was the second single lifted from the Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys (number 67, October 1989) album, and, likes its predecessor, appears to have only charted in Australia!  The song was a cover version of a song The Sweet took to number 4 in Australia in November 1975.
This was the band's final release.

Next week (12 February): I would normally expect a quieter week after one with 11 debuts, but no, next week there are another 9 top 150 debuts!  Obviously, a clear-out was happening in the lower region of the charts.  On top of that, there are 3 bubbling WAY down under entries for me to write about.  I had better get cracking...  You can also follow my posts on instagram and facebook.
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1 comment:

  1. Have the cassingle of Action. Should have been bigger than it was


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