The dearth of new top 150 debuts from August 1990 peaking within the 101-150 region of the chart becomes apparent this week, with a meager one new entry. While there was a week in March 1989 with no new top 150-peaking debuts, this is the first occasion there was only one new entry that peaked between number 101 and 150. The next time this occurs is in December 1991.
One thing this week's debuts have in common is that they are all by groups, and quite a diverse bunch of them. Shall we take a look?
Top 150 debuts:
Number 142 "New Kind of Blue" by The Makers
Peak: number 131
Peak date: 17 September 1990
Weeks in top 150: 6 weeks
Australian band The Makers were formed in 1988 by former Split Enz keyboard player Eddie Rayner, together with singer Brian Baker. A single, "Big Picture", was issued in Australia in April 1990, and peaked at number 82 on the ARIA singles chart in July 1990. "New Kind of Blue" was the follow-up release. Both singles were lifted from their debut album The Makers (number 104, July 1990).
The Makers released two further singles from their self-titled debut album - "Daylight" (October 1990) and "Simple Things" (March 1991), but neither made the top 150.
A second album, Hokey Pokey (June 1993), containing the singles "From Now On" (March 1992) and "Perfect Crime" (June 1993), was released; but neither it nor the singles from it dented the ARIA top 150.
Bubbling WAY down under:
Number 153 "Let's Hang On" by Shooting Party
Peak: number 153
Peak date: 13 August 1990
Weeks on chart: 1 week
Shooting Party were British duo Roger "Sprout" Ferris (lead vocals) and Gary Strange (songwriter, backing vocalist, and musician). The pair had previously been in the late 1970s group No Dice, who scored a number 65 'hit' in the UK with "Come Dancing" in May 1979.
Between 1985 and 1990, Shooting Party released five singles in the UK, of which this was the last. While an album Shooting Party was recorded, it did not see the light of day until receiving a digital release in 2009, almost 20 years after its completion. Shooting Party is one of the few album purchases I have made on iTunes.
The group's final three singles were produced by either Pete Hammond or Ian Harding and Phil Curnow, part of the 'B' team at the PWL Hit Factory, which housed producer-songwriters extraordinaire Stock Aitken Waterman. The first two of these singles, the duo's first releases in Australia - "Safe in the Arms of Love" (released in Australia in September 1988) and "I Go to Pieces" (September 1989), I quite enjoyed, but neither registered on the Australian chart. "I Go to Pieces" peaked at number 88 in the UK in July 1989, and at number 40 in the Flanders region of Belgium in March 1990.
It seemed obligatory around this time for PWL artists to record an updated version of a golden oldie for their albums, and release this as a single. See Kylie Minogue's "Tears on My Pillow" (number 20, February 1990) or Jason Donovan's "Sealed with a Kiss" (number 8, June 1989) for prominent examples of this.
"Let's Hang On", originally made a hit by The Four Seasons in 1965, was Shooting Party's oldie dusted off for a revamp, and I have to say that they did a much better job with it than Kylie or Jason did with their covers from this era. More recently, Barry Manilow scored a number 4 hit in Australia in February 1982 with his version of "Let's Hang On".
Shooting Party's version of the track became their biggest 'hit' in the UK, reaching number 66 there in March 1990. Coincidentally, this version of "Let's Hang On" peaked at number 41 in both the Netherlands and the Flanders region of Belgium in August 1990.
In Australia, "Let's Hang On" was the duo's only release to register on the chart. It performed strongest in Queensland, where it reached number 119.
The other thing PWL seemed to be obsessed with at this time was having their artists wear hats on single/album sleeves, if not also in the music videos. Sprout dons a hat for much of the "Let's Hang On" video embedded below, and both are wearing caps when performing backing vocals.
If you like Shooting Party's version of this song, it's also worth checking out the longer music video for the 12" version of the track, the Solid Gold Radio Mix.
Number 155 "Skies the Limit" by Fleetwood Mac
Peak: number 155
Peak date: 13 August 1990
Weeks on chart: 2 weeks
Up until this point, Fleetwood Mac had placed 21 singles within the Australian top 100, with the biggest of those being "Tusk" (number 3, December 1979). Surprisingly, "Tusk" was also the band's only top 10 single in Australia, until "Dreams", which originally peaked at number 19 in August 1977, became an enduring hit during the streaming era, reaching a new peak of number 4 in October 2020.
The majority of Fleetwood Mac's best-known songs were only top 20 hits in Australia: "Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)" (number 13, September 1976), "Go Your Own Way" (number 20, April 1977), "Gypsy" (number 17, November 1982), "Little Lies" (number 16, October 1987). Two of their more-enduring songs only made the top 30: "Don't Stop" (number 30, October 1977), "Seven Wonders" (number 23, August 1987). The lack of massive hit singles in Australia doesn't really matter so much, though, when you have a string of multi-platinum albums.
"Skies the Limit" (no, that's not a typo) was the second single lifted from Fleetwood Mac's fifteenth studio album Behind the Mask (number 9, April 1990). It followed "Save Me" (number 41, April 1990). Surprisingly, "Skies the Limit" did not register on the UK top 100 singles chart. The single peaked at number 48 in the Netherlands in August 1990, and number 26 in Canada in September 1990.
On the ARIA state charts, "Skies the Limit" performed strongest in Queensland, where it reached number 126.
Fleetwood Mac's line-up has continually changed over the years, with the most notable change being when Americans Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band on New Year's Eve, 1974. Lindsey quit the group in 1987, soon after the release of their Tango in the Night (number 5, November 1987) album. He re-joined in 1996, and has been out of the group again since 2018. Behind the Mask was the first album recorded following Lindsey's initial departure, although he plays on the album's title track.
Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks decided during the Behind the Mask Tour that the tour would be their last with the group, and Stevie quit the band in 1991. The group reconvened, however, for a one-off performance at Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, and Stevie re-joined the group in 1997.
As for me, Fleetwood Mac's music reminds me of sitting in doctors' waiting rooms, as I used to visit a practice where their Greatest Hits (number 3, January 1989) always seemed to be playing when I was there. I don't recall hearing this song before. While it's pleasant enough, it's not terribly exciting.
We shall see Fleetwood Mac next in 1993.
Number 157 "Step On" by Happy Mondays
Peak: number 157
Peak date: 13 August 1990
Weeks on chart: 2 weeks
Happy Mondays (no 'The') hail from Salford in England, and are closely associated with the 'Madchester' scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Forming in 1980, it took until late 1989 for the band to score their commercial breakthrough, when their Madchester Rave On EP (led by the track "Hallelujah") peaked at number 19 in the UK in December 1989.
The Machester Rave On EP was not released in Australia, but Hallelujah - an expanded, re-packaged mini-album version of it, with additional tracks and remixes added - peaked at number 137 on the ARIA albums chart in September 1990.
"Step On", a re-worked and re-titled version of John Kongos' "He's Gonna Step on You Again" (number 2, 1971), was the lead single from Happy Mondays' third studio album Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches (number 98, March 1991).
In recent years, Australian groups Party Boys (number 1, July 1987) and Chantoozies (number 36, July 1987) scored simultaneous hits with cover versions of "He's Gonna Step on You Again" on the Australian singles chart. Perhaps it was too soon for the song to become a hit again down under.
"Step On" fared much better in the UK, however, becoming Happy Mondays' equal highest-charting single, reaching number 5 there in April 1990 and spending an impressive (for the UK) 27 weeks in the top 100. The band's version of "Step On" also registered on the Dutch chart, peaking at number 46 in September 1990, and reached number 57 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in April 1991.
In Australia, "Step On" barely registered a blip, spending a solitary week on the chart in 1990 at number 157, its peak. After the minor success of the follow-up single "Kinky Afro" (number 63, February 1991), Happy Mondays' only single to dent the top 100 in Australia, "Step On" was re-issued in Australia in July 1991. This spent one week on the chart on 5 August 1991, almost a year after "Step On"'s debut, bringing its tally to two weeks. I am unable to ascertain where the single peaked in 1991, as it was outside the top 150 and below its original 1990 peak.
On the state charts, "Step On" performed strongest in New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory upon its initial release, where it reached number 145. Western Australia was the only state where "Step On" peaked higher following its 1991 re-release, peaking there at number 142.
We shall see Happy Mondays bubble under on five more occasions between now and 1999, with the next one being in 1991. Lead singer Shaun Ryder will also bubble under with his mid-late 90s band Black Grape in years to come, and was also the featured vocalist on "Dare" by Gorillaz, which peaked at number 11 in September 2005.
Next week (20 August): Two new top 150 debuts... and that's all!