Having hits in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s was literally a hit and miss affair. This week in 1991, a single that was promoted with a Pepsi TV commercial could not become a hit, and an act who landed one of the biggest hits of 1990 will languish outside the top 100 with just their third release. You were only as big as your last single, it often seemed.
Before delving into this week in 1991's new entries, I have updated some earlier posts with the following:
Top 150 debuts:
Number 138 "Kanon" by Loudest Whisper
Peak: number 114
Peak date: 24 June 1991
Weeks in top 150: 8 weeks
This track, which I'd never heard of before - and wasn't on YouTube until I uploaded it to embed in this post (rescuing these flops from obscurity is my life's work...) - is a version of Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D". Coincidentally, we saw another song based on this just three weeks ago. I wonder if there was a connection, with this track being released to cash-in on the success (well, not in Australia) of The Farm's "All Together Now"?
To my ears, "Kanon" sounds like a Christmas-y song. The kind of thing that's pleasant to hear over the PA system in a shopping centre, or in a hotel lobby. This song is presumably one of few charting singles to contain a harp on it. Other than that, I can't tell you much about this one. This version of "Kanon" did not chart anywhere else that I can determine.
"Kanon" peaked 38 places higher on the Australian Music Report singles chart, reaching number 76.
Number 144 "Seal Our Fate" by Gloria Estefan
Peak: number 112
Peak date: 27 May 1991
Weeks in top 150: 7 weeks
Weeks on chart: 9 weeks
Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan was involved in a nasty tour bus accident in 1990, which left her with broken vertebrae. Gloria was apparently told that she may never walk or dance again, but fortunately, that grim prognosis turned out to be incorrect, and Gloria made a comeback in early 1991 with her second solo studio album Into the Light (number 9, November 1991).
Gloria's chart career started out as part of Miami Sound Machine, landing the memorable hits "Dr. Beat" (number 11, February 1985) and "Conga" (number 37, March 1986). After several underperforming singles on the Australian chart, Gloria returned in 1988 - now with lead billing as Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine - with "Anything for You" (number 11, August 1988).
Gloria stepped out on her own in 1989 with the Cuts Both Ways (number 1, July 1990) album. "Seal Our Fate" was the second single from Into the Light, following "Coming out of the Dark" (number 56, February 1991).
Internationally, "Seal Our Fate" peaked at number 53 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in May 1991, number 24 in the UK in May 1991, number 35 in the Flanders region of Belgium in April 1991, number 46 in the Netherlands in May 1991, and number 54 in Germany in June 1991.
Within Australia, "Seal Our Fate" was most popular in Queensland, where it reached number 87. The single peaked higher on the Australian Music Report singles chart, reaching number 98.
As seemed to be a trend for me in 1991, I first heard/saw "Seal Our Fate" on Coca-Cola Power Cuts. Coincidentally, the song and music video were used in a TV commercial for rival cola company Pepsi. I was a bit surprised by Gloria's energetic performance in the video for "Seal Our Fate", given her recent spinal injury. There's an alternative edit of the video, showing more energetic scenes and fewer close-up shots of Gloria's face here.
We will next see Gloria in September 1991.
Number 147 "Valentine" by Nils Lofgren
Peak: number 119
Peak date: 29 July 1991
Weeks in top 150: 12 weeks
American rock musician and multi-instrumentalist Nils Lofgren placed three albums on the Australian chart between 1976 and 1981, although none charted higher than number 73. Nils had greater success recording with other artists, such as Crazy Horse and Neil Young. Nils has also been part of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1984.
"Valentine", lifted from Nils' album Silver Lining (number 122, July 1991), contains guest vocals from Bruce Springsteen on the chorus, although he is not credited as a featured artist or duet partner. Bruce also appears in the music video.
Internationally, "Valentine" peaked at number 19 in the Netherlands in May 1991. The song also reached number 37 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay chart in April 1991, for whatever that's worth.
In Australia, "Valentine" made a slow 12-week climb to its peak of number 119 - and then exited the top 150 the following week.
Number 148 "Good Beat" by Deee-Lite
Peak: number 105
Peak date: 27 May 1991
Weeks in top 150: 6 weeks
Weeks on chart: 7 weeks
Lady Miss Kier (real name Kierin Magenta Kirby - why didn't she just stick with that?), DJ Amitri and Towa Tei formed Deee-Lite in New York City in 1987. The trio burst onto the charts in 1990 with their heavily-based-on-samples debut single "Groove Is in the Heart" (number 1, November 1990).
Unfortunately, Deee-Lite would never replicate the success of "Groove...", and they are generally thought of as being one-hit wonders. Technically, however, they did land a second top 50 hit in Australia... just, with "Power of Love" (number 47, January 1991).
While I like "Power of Love", I think it's fair to say that it would not have been anywhere near as 'big' had it not followed one of the biggest singles of 1990. If it had it been up to me, I would have gone with "Good Beat", which was instead issued as the third single from Deee-Lite's debut album World Clique (number 33, November 1990), as the follow-up to "Groove Is in the Heart". That being said, "Good Beat" was not a huge hit anywhere (other than perhaps on the dancefloor?), peaking at number 53 in the UK in May 1991, and number 45 in New Zealand during the same month. The single also managed to top the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, though that doesn't mean anything in my book.
Domestically, "Good Beat" peaked within the top 100 on all five ARIA state charts but, frustratingly, could not dent the national top 100. The single was biggest in Queensland, where it reached number 87. "Good Beat" also cracked the Australian Music Report top 100 singles chart, where it peaked at number 96.
I recall seeing "Good Beat" as a new release on rage, shown as the first video that evening. I like the song's perhaps selfish message of blocking out the world's problems and just getting lost in the music, or using music to help you forget about your/the world's problems. "Good Beat" is probably my favourite Deee-Lite song, and I wish it had've been another hit for them.
Deee-Lite's next single, "How Do You Say...Love", was issued in Australia in August 1991, but failed to chart.
We will see Deee-Lite again in 1992.
Number 149 "Willy" by Ashley Cleveland
Peak: number 131
Peak dates: 17 June 1991 and 24 June 1991
Weeks in top 150: 13 weeks
American singer-songwriter Ashley Cleveland has an extensive list of backing singer credits to her name, performing back-up for artists such as John Hiatt and Emmylou Harris.
"Willy" was Ashley's first single release, lifted from her debut album Big Town. The single peaked 33 places higher on the Australian Music Report singles chart, where it reached number 98. I cannot find evidence of the single charting elsewhere.
A second single from Big Town, "I Could Learn to Love You", was released locally in August 1991, but missed the top 150.
Bubbling WAY down under:
Number 155 "Signs" by Tesla
Peak: number 155
Peak date: 13 May 1991
Weeks on chart: 3 weeks
One thing I'm not a huge fan of, generally, is live music. Yes, you read that correctly! There are a couple of artists I like who I think can (or, more likely, once could) pull their music off well live; but I'd almost always (with a couple of exceptions for the odd track here and there) rather listen to the studio recordings. I've only ever been to three live concerts in my life.
Why do I mention all of the above? Because this song by Tesla is a live recording. Tesla, who I'm not familiar with, are a hair metal/glam rock band hailing from Sacramento, California. This track, though, is much more on the acoustic spectrum of 'metal'. Perhaps the band foresaw what was happening with metal as it morphed into/was replaced by grunge an alternative music by the end of 1991.
"Signs" was a cover version of a song that started out as a B-side for Five Man Electrical Band in 1970, before being flipped and released as an A-side the following year, where it reached the top 5 in the US and Canada. Tesla's live rendition of the track was lifted from their live album Five Man Acoustical Jam (number 145, May 1991).
Internationally, "Signs" peaked at number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in April 1991, and at number 70 in the UK during the same month.
Within Australia, "Signs" was most successful in New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, where it reached number 139.
While "Signs" would be Tesla's only single to chart in Australia, they had a couple of other albums that charted locally, including The Great Radio Controversy (number 121, May 1989), Psychotic Supper (number 158, October 1991) and Bust a Nut (number 215, October 1994).
Number 161 "It Won't Be Long" by Alison Moyet
Peak: number 153
Peak date: 10 June 1991
Weeks on chart: 5 weeks
English singer Alison Moyet's first taste of chart success came as the vocalist in electronic music duo Yazoo (known as Yaz in the US - not to be confused with Yazz), with ex-Depeche Mode and future Erasure band member Vince Clarke. Together, the duo scored a pair of top 10 singles in Australia with "Only You" (number 7, August 1982) and "Don't Go" (number 6, November 1982).
After recording two albums with Yazoo, Alison embarked on a solo career in 1984, launched with the single "Love Resurrection" (number 17, October 1984). Between 1984 and 1987, Alison placed six singles on the Australian chart, with "Is This Love?" (number 13, March 1987) being the highest-peaking of those. Then Alison went quiet for a few years, feeling pressure to appease her record company by writing more songs that would become pop hits, despite not wanting to go further down this route.
Alison returned in 1991 with her third solo studio album Hoodoo (number 120, July 1991), from which "It Won't Be Long" was the lead single. Internationally, the single peaked at number 50 in the UK in April 1991, and at number 43 in the Netherlands in May 1991.
Within Australia, "It Won't Be Long" performed strongest in New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory, where it reached number 128.
I hadn't heard "It Won't Be Long" until writing this post. In fact, I didn't hear any of Alison's post-1985 singles at the time; somehow, her 1987 album completely passed me by - though I didn't get into music properly until the second half of in 1987.
We will see Alison next in August 1991.
Next week (20 May): Three new top 150 debuts, and three new bubbling WAY down under entries.