A new feature. It may prove temporary, but I’ve a feeling I’ll get 12 postings out of it.
It’s partly inspired by reading somewhere that anyone who was born back in 1990 is now just as close to the year 2050 as they are to the year of their birth.
Back in the late 70s and 80s when I was beginning to immerse myself in music, the sounds and songs of three decades earlier seemed totally alien and of no interest to me. But these days, thirty years doesn’t feel all that long a time period with many songs from three decades ago still very much an essential part of listening lists, often inspiring memories of happenings, events and gigs that were life-changing (it’s no coincidence that 1990 was the year that myself and Rachel moved in together).
Each month, I’m going to have a casual look back at the songs that hit the UK charts 30 years ago; it’s not going to about sneering at some of the awful pap that reached the top end of the charts, nor is it going to highlight a singer or band scraping into the lower echelons of the Top 75 for a week and then doing nothing else during their career, but it will make mention of minor hits by major bands.
The introduction to the series will be something of a slow burner as record companies have always tended not to push out too much in the way of new singles in the month of January, preferring to let the Xmas market fade away slowly. There were some great singles kicking around in the charts in January 1990, but almost all of them had been released the previous year. Here’s some, however, that did break through during the month in question:-
Welcome To The Terrordome – Public Enemy
Entered the charts on 20 January at #26, reaching its peak of #18 just a week later.
Public Enemy were very much at their peak in terms of awareness, including here in the UK, on the back of two hit albums, sell-out tours and supplying music for Do The Right Thing, a critically acclaimed and commercially popular film by Spike Lee. Some of the wider awareness, however, was to what had happened in mid-1989 when the band had seemingly broken-up and then re-formed, all related to them having to respond to Professor Griff making inflammatory anti-Semitic comments during an interview with the Washington Post.
Welcome to The Terrordome was the band’s first new piece of music since the row. It was a response to the turmoil that had engulfed them, with Chuck D hitting out hard, reminding the world just how often the black community had been victimised throughout history. I don’t recall this 45 getting played much on radio at the time, and it is quite remarkable to realise it went Top 20.
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
Entered the charts on 20 January at #30. Climbed to #3 the following week and then spent four weeks at #1, before finally dropping out of the Top 40 in April.
One of the best known cover versions of all time, and one of the best examples of a promotional video boosting sales. A song in which sadness and anger are conveyed in equal measures, it propelled Sinead O’Conner from cult to mainstream status, something which subsequent events proved she was not fully prepared for. It is reckoned that 3.5 million copies of the single were sold in 1990 and it reached #1 in more than 20 countries. See that thing I mentioned earlier about inspiring life-changing memories? This was hanging around the charts as myself and Rachel braved up to deal with the domestic fall-outs from both of us leaving someone else for one another…….
Hello – The Beloved
Entered the charts on 27 January at #44; it would enjoy a seven-week stay, peaking at #19 in mid-February.
A superb and mellow dance-track in which a shout-out is given to some friends of The Beloved, as well as a number of famous people, some of who were fictional. Jeffrey Archer (politician and novelist), Fred Astaire (actor and dancer), Bobby Ball (comedian), Charlie Brown (cartoon character), Tommy Cannon (comedian), Billy Corkhill (soap opera character), Leslie Crowther (TV presenter), “Freddie” Flintstone (cartoon character), Paris Grey (singer), Brian Hayes (broadcaster), Vince Hilaire (footballer), Barry Humphries (comedian), The LSO (orchestra), Kym Mazelle (singer), Mork and Mindy (TV characters), Little Nell (character in a novel) Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher), Charlie Parker (musician), André Previn (musical conductor), Little Richard (musician), Salman Rushdie (author) Jean-Paul Sartre (philosopher), Mary Wilson, Di and Flo (The Supremes), William Tell (Swiss folk hero), Sir Bufton Tufton (fictional character in a satirical magazine), Desmond Tutu (religious leader), Willy Wonka (character in a novel), Zippy and Bungle (TV characters).
The references to Peter and Paul are in respect of apostles and gospel writers; Chris and Do are friends of the band while Steve and Claire was a reference to guitarist Steve Waddington and his then girlfriend.
Hello was also given countless remix versions, some of which still sound great while others have date badly.
Telephone Thing – The Fall
Entered the charts on 27 January at #58. Dropped out of sight the following week
The first non-cover version to get into the Top 75. The previous year had been a horrific one for Mark E Smith – Brix had left him, his dad had passed away and he’d been dropped by Beggars Banquet, the label that had seemingly been the one to finally understand how to get the best out of him in terms of commercial success. It was a huge surprise that 1990 got off to a bang with a single recorded with Coldcut, a duo of English electronica producers who had enjoyed chart success previously with the likes of Yazz and Lisa Stansfield. The lyrics were written on the back of MES believing he had evidence his phone was being tapped.
Ride – Chelsea Girl (from Ride EP)
Entered the charts on 27 January at #72. Went up one place the following week and then fell back down again
Their first official release by Ride, issued by Creation Records. I’ll admit to it totally passing me at the time. Indeed, I’ll go further by admitting that I never bought anything by Ride at the time they emerged. Shoegaze was never quite my scene.
I’m thinking that reading all of this today might make a few of you feel quite old.