07 January 2022

Week commencing 7 January 1991

Welcome to 1991!  When 1991 clocked over, I was 12 years old and about to start high school, which in my state (Victoria) is years 7 to 12.  It marked a big change for me, moving from a small primary school of approximately 120 students, where you knew all of the other students and teachers, to a secondary school with an enrolment of over 1,000 students, where you felt like a grain of sand.  It didn't help that I was placed in a form (or 'home group') where I didn't know anyone else.
Interestingly, Divinyls' "I Touch Myself" was number one on the ARIA singles chart the week I started high school.  I later discovered that Christina Amphlett, the band's lead singer, went to my high school, yet no mention of her impressive achievement of landing a number one single was made at school assembly.  I didn't learn that Chrissy attended my school until the art teacher casually mentioned it a couple of months later.
My other memories of January 1991 are that the Gulf War was starting, and that Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark had died, unexpectedly.  It wasn't exactly a great start to the new year.  But the music, on the other hand, was still pretty decent, as we'll see this week and over the remaining months of the year.

What are your recollections of 1991?

Of the seven singles debuting in the top 150 this week, five them spent a solitary week in the top 150, which is unusual.
But before we dive into the first chart of 1991, I have updated the following post from last year:
* 5 February 1990 - an audio clip has been added for the Club Veg track.
Let's take a look at this week's batch of new entries.
Kim Appleby wasn't worried, but would she be happy with this chart placing?
Top 150 debuts:
Number 139 "Let's Get Busy (Pump It Up)" by Clubland featuring Quartz
Peak: number 139
Peak date: 7 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 1 week
Clubland was a collaboration between Swedish producer Jan Ekholm and British duo Dave Rawlings and Ronnie Herel from Quartz.  They featured various vocalists on the tracks they recorded, and "Let's Get Busy (Pump It Up)" features rapper King Bee.

Listening to this track for the first time as I write this post, I can't help but notice the bass line's similarity to Snap!'s "Mary Had a Little Boy" (number 18, March 1991).  That is probably because Snap! remixed this track.

Internationally, "Let's Get Busy (Pump It Up)" peaked at number 86 in the UK in August 1990, and number 32 in the Netherlands in November 1990.  The track also topped the US Billboard dance chart.  I'm guessing this song might have performed better on the chart if there had been a music video for it - well, if one exists, it hasn't yet made its way onto YouTube.

Number 140 "Where Did She Come From?" by Hard-Ons
Peak: number 130
Peak date: 21 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 3 weeks
Weeks on chart: 5 weeks
As I wrote in my last chart recap for 1990, alternative music was starting to make small ripples on the Australian chart, and would continue to have greater impact throughout 1991.

I can't really explain why - something to do with the guitar riff, probably - but you just know this band are Australian, listening to this track for the first time.  Hard-Ons were, indeed, from Sydney, and formed in 1981.
"Where Did She Come From?", the lead single from the band's fourth studio album Yummy! (number 93, January 1991), was Hard-Ons' first single to register on the top 150.  They would break into the top 100 later in the year with "Let There Be Rock" (number 65, August 1991), a collaboration with Henry Rollins.

"Where Did She Come From?" was released in Australia in November 1990, but took almost two months to reach the top 150.  The single performed best in New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, where it reached number 122.

We shall see Hard-Ons again next in March 1991.
Number 141 "Tricky Disco" by Tricky Disco
Peak: number 141 
Peak date: 7 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 1 week
Here's one I didn't know at the time, but discovered a few years ago.  Tricky Disco were husband and wife couple Lee Newman and Michael Wells, whom you might know of under a name they later used, Technohead.  Technohead scored a number 20 single in Australia in September 1995 with "I Wanna Be a Hippy" (and I want to get stoned on mara, marijuana).

Lee and Michael used different names for their various projects, as they felt that new acts gained more attention with their releases than artists who were following up previous hits.  The pair also released singles under the names G.T.O. (Greater Than One), John + Julie, Church of Extacy, Salami Brothers (!), and L.E.D., among others.

Sadly, Lee Newman died from melanoma in August 1995, just as "I Wanna Be a Hippy" was taking off across the globe.  "I Wanna Be a Hippy" spent a four-week stint at number one in the Netherlands just before she passed, and went on to top the German, Austrian, and Flemish charts following her death.  The single belatedly reached the top 10 in the UK and Ireland in early 1996.

As for "Tricky Disco", that single peaked at number 14 in the UK in August 1990, and number 11 in Ireland during the same month.

"Tricky Disco" seems to make light of the ubiquitous James Brown "woo! yeah!" sample, being reproduced here in almost comedic style with its high pitch, in combination with the song's trippy video.

Number 145 "Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)" by Chad Jackson
Peak: number 145
Peak date: 7 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 1 week
Here's a single that took even longer than Hard-Ons to register a place in the ARIA top 150.  "Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)" was released in Australia on 30 July 1990, but took more than five months to crack the top 150!

Chad, real name Mark Jackson, is an English DJ, remixer and producer.  In 1987, he won the DMC (Disco Mix Club) World Championships, a competition for DJ's.  Accordingly, "Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)", his debut Australian release, is a track containing samples of more than one dozen songs by other artists.
The main riff on "Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)" is sampled from The 45 King's "The 900 Number" from 1989, which uses a slowed-down sample from Marva Whitney's "Unwind Yourself" from 1968.  DJ Kool had a bigger hit in Australia using the same sample on "Let Me Clear My Throat" (number 50, June 1997).

"Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)" peaked at number 3 in the UK in June 1990, number 5 in the Netherlands in August 1990, and number 10 in the Flanders region of Belgium in September 1990.

Number 146 "Baby I'm Yours" by Cher
Peak: number 146
Peak date: 7 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 1 week
Weeks on chart: 5 weeks

We last saw Cher in August 1990, with the final single from her Heart of Stone album.  "Baby I'm Yours" was the first single issued from the Mermaids soundtrack (number 53, June 1991); Cher plays a leading role in the movie.  Despite featuring on the soundtrack, "Baby I'm Yours", a cover version of a song written by Van McKoy and originally recorded by Barbara Lewis in 1965, was not used in the film.

Cher is an artist who can have both massive hits and massive flops, often from the same album.  She, of course, had a much bigger hit with the second single from the Mermaids soundtrack, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" (number 4, April 1991).  I don't recall hearing "Baby I'm Yours" before.

The only other country "Baby I'm Yours" charted in was the UK, where it reached number 89 in October 1990.

On the ARIA state charts, "Baby I'm Yours" performed strongest in Queensland, where it reached number 127.

We shall next see Cher in October 1991.

Number 147 "Don't Worry" by Kim Appleby
Peak: number 119
Peak date: 28 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 6 weeks
Weeks on chart: 11 weeks
Together with her five years-junior sister Melanie, Kim Appleby was one half of the British recording duo Mel & Kim.  The sisters' first single, "Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)" (number 12, July 1987) took seven months to reach its peak on the Australian chart.  The pair landed four top 30 singles in Australia in 1987 and 1988, with their second single, "Respectable" (number 1, July 1987), giving producers Stock Aitken Waterman their first number one hit that they had also written.
Mel & Kim's only studio album F.L.M., officially short for 'fun, love and money' but really standing for "fucking lovely mate" - an expression the sisters used frequently in the studio, reached number 2 on the Australian albums chart in August 1987, and was the fifteenth biggest album of the year.

Mel & Kim's career came to a grinding halt, just as it was taking off, in June 1987 when Mel was diagnosed with cancer, a disease she had dealt with two years prior, before the duo's rise to fame.  In 1985, Mel underwent surgery for an extremely rare form of cancer, malignant paraganglioma, on her liver, when she was 19 years old.
In early 1987, Mel was experiencing back pain, which delayed the filming of the "Respectable" music video.  Her symptoms, however, were put down to the duo's energetic dance routines.  It was not until Mel returned from a promotional visit to Japan in a wheelchair in June 1987 that the cancer she had fought previously was found to have returned, this time in her spine.
Mel disappeared from the public eye while she underwent months of chemotherapy, leaving Kim to promote their "F.L.M." (number 19, September 1987) single alone.  Both sisters told the story that Mel had crushed several vertebrae following a fall, and required an extended period of rest.  That didn't quash speculation that Mel was seriously ill, however, and journalists went to the lengths of dressing up as doctors to attempt to gain access to Melanie's hospital room, and paid porters to let them know when Kim was visiting the hospital, to uncover the real story.
The truth eventually came out in March 1988, when Kim's then-boyfriend sold pictures of Mel, wearing a halo brace (a spinal orthotic) and appearing bald and bloated, to the press.  The sisters then appeared on British chat show Wogan to give their side of the story, while Mel was still undergoing treatment.

While Mel's health seemed to be improving later in 1988, the duo vanished from the spotlight in 1989, despite signing a new record deal with EMI.  Sadly, Mel never fully recovered from her illness, and she died in January 1990, aged 23, after contracting pneumonia.
Mel's death was the first time a celebrity I was a big fan of had died, and for it to happen at such a young age was a complete shock.  I found it difficult to listen to Mel & Kim's music for many years afterwards.

During Melanie's illness, she and Kim started to write songs together, to keep themselves occupied.  The B-side to the duo's final single "That's the Way It Is" (number 28, April 1988), "You Changed My Life", was written by the sisters (with later musical input from Stock Aitken Waterman), and sounds like it could have been a single.

With assistance from former Bros member Craig Logan, whom Kim was dating at the time, the pair wrote an album's worth of material, but it never saw the light of day before Mel's untimely passing.  Kim Appleby's debut solo album Kim Appleby (number 159, April 1991) consisted of the songs she had written together with Mel and Craig, except for "Don't Worry", which was the last song written for the album, after Mel's death.
"Don't Worry" launched Kim's solo career in a big way, reaching number 2 in the UK in November 1990; top 5 in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland; and top 10 in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

In Australia, it was a different story, and "Don't Worry" barely registered a blip.  Although it missed the top 100 nationally, "Don't Worry" peaked within the top 100 on four of the five ARIA state charts, with Victoria/Tasmania being the only exception.  The single performed strongest in South Australia/Northern Territory, where it reached number 84.

Although I am a Mel & Kim fan, was aware of "Don't Worry"'s release and saw the single in the shops, I never actually heard the song until I downloaded it out of curiosity in 2005.  Despite there being at least one article about "Don't Worry" in the Australian edition of pop magazine Smash Hits, Kim's solo releases in Australia seemed to generally suffer from a severe lack of promotion.  I am not sure why.

One, obviously unofficial, explanation is that the Australian branch of EMI Records, which Kim's solo releases were distributed through, apparently viewed Stock Aitken Waterman-related artists (even though the material on Kim's solo debut album was not produced by Stock Aitken Waterman) as appealing only to a gay audience, and did not feel it was worth the bother of promoting them to a wider market.  At least, that's what someone who worked in music retail at the time opined in a post on the now-defunct Hit Factory Forum some years ago.  So, SAW-produced artists signed to EMI, such as Brother Beyond and Sonia, never received the promotional push required to make their singles hits down under.  The explanation fits.

Unfortunately, Kim never landed a solo top 100 single or album in Australia.  We shall see her bubble under again, though, on a few more occasions, with the next one being in April 1991, with a song I did  hear at the time.

If you are a Mel & Kim or Stock Aitken Waterman fan, check out the podcast interview Kim did recently with Chart Beats on this page - scroll down to Episode 15: Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend), where Kim goes into detail on how she and Mel landed a record deal, and the recording process for their first single.  Future episodes of the podcast will deal with Mel & Kim's later singles.

Number 150 "Next to You" by Hurricane
Peak: number 150
Peak date: 7 January 1991
Weeks in top 150: 1 week 

American metal band Hurricane formed in 1983, and split in 1991, before re-forming in 2000.  "Next to You" was the band's first and only top 150-charting single in Australia, and was lifted from their third studio album Slave to the Thrill.   The single did not chart anywhere else.  Just as alternative music was starting to make inroads, metal was on the way out.

Kelly Hansen, who sung lead on this track, is the current lead singer of Foreigner.  He joined the band in 2005.

Bubbling WAY down under:
Number 162 "Breakdown" by Seduction
Peak: number 162
Peak date: 7 January 1991
Weeks on chart: 1 week
We first saw Seduction in July 1990, and here they are with their second and final appearance on the Australian singles chart.
"Breakdown", the final single from the Nothing Matters without Love (number 142, September 1990) album, was remixed for single release - ironically titled the Crossover Radio Mix.  It didn't exactly 'cross over'.

"Breakdown" peaked at number 82 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in October 1990.  Australia appears to be the only other country where it registered a chart placing.

On the ARIA state charts, "Breakdown" performed strongest in New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, where it reached number 147.

Listening to "Breakdown" for the first time, it's a song I could enjoy if not for the awful rapped verses.

Next week (14 January): Five new top 150 entries.  Among them are two singles originally released in 1989!

< Previous chart: 17 December 1990                                      Next week: 14 January 1991 >

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