July 1990. The beginning of the second summer of love. I know that a few of you out there were heavily involved in all that was happening in clubs and fields; I am, in some ways quite jealous, but at the same time I don’t think I’m prepared to any accept offer from a time machine operator to experience the late 80s/early 90s and in doing so lose everything I’d gone through ten years previous.
In due course, the UK singles charts would begin to increasingly reflect what was going on out there in the fields, but for the most part they remain this month packed with the sort of dross, pap and utter shite that clogged up the airwaves of most radio stations.
The month began with Elton John in the middle of what would prove to be a five-week run at the top with Sacrifice, managing against the odds to fend off Luciano Pavarotti whose Nessun Dorma had gained huge exposure on a daily basis as the theme of the BBC coverage of the 1990 World Cup. The fact that Elton would be displaced eventually at the top with a tune called Turtle Power by Partners in Kryme (and yes, like the rest of you I can’t recall this one at all), gives you an indication that the area around top of the charts wasn’t vintage this month. Further down, there were some gems waiting to be unearthed amidst a ginormous pile of horse manure.
Come Home – James
The band’s hard work over the previous years was beginning to bear fruit. How Was It For You? had earlier in the year provided a Top 40 hit while new album Gold Mother had gone int at #16, albeit it fell down the placings the following week. Fontana Records were aware that some of the back catalogue stood a great chance of success, in the same way as had been enjoyed by contemporaries such as Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, and so the 1989 single that had flopped when issued by Rough Trade was handed to uber-producer Flood. It came in on 1 July at #32 but that was as high as it managed. James‘s commercial ascendancy lay further down the road.
The Crying Scene – Aztec Camera
Roddy Frame had delivered a new album to WEA that they were a bit flummoxed by. The previous album, Love (1987) has been slick and glossy. providing in due course a huge hit in Somewhere In My Heart. The new album, Stray, was more slow-paced, introvert and had just one real candidate for a single, if you chose to ignore the potential of a collaboration with a former member of the Clash. Not surprisingly, the label issued the song most likely to get airplay, even though it wasn’t that great, memorable or distinct a number. Despite being issued on 7″, 10″ and CD format, The Crying Scene limped in at #73 in the first week of July before going up to #70 the following week and then disappearing into the bargain bins. The b-side offered up a cover of a Cyndi Lauper hit single which is so lovely that I have to include it here.
True Colours – Aztec Camera
And that, was as good as it got for new entries in the first week of July 1990. The second week saw this come in at #4
One Love – Stone Roses
Up until now, all the chart hits for Stone Roses had been re-releases of old material. One Love was different and it entering the charts at #4, offered an indication that mainstream success for what was previously underground was a distinct possibility. The single didn’t go Top 3 but it did hang around the lower and middle reaches for a further six weeks.
I’m Free – Soup Dragons (feat. Junior Reid)
Those of us up here in the Glasgow area who had watched Soup Dragons be part of the twee, occasionally shambolic but always guitar-based Bellshill scene (along with the likes of BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub) were stunned, bemused and delighted to see the band take the singles charts by storm by hitching their wagon to the Madchester sound.
To be fair, lead singer Sean Dickson was now pursuing his real love in terms of music, and the dance-floor is where he has remained over the past 30 years, never remotely interested in going back to the style his band had previously been best known for. I’m Free was a cover of a relatively little-known album track recorded in 1965 by the Rolling Stones. This version came in at #28 and eventually went to #5. Junior Reid, the lead vocalist for UK reggae band Black Uhuru, provided the distinctive toast verse in the middle of the song.
Kill Your Television – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
The crusties and the grebos were also beginning to enjoy some commercial success, thanks in many ways to the old fashioned method of the bands going out on the road, gigging constantly and earning a fanbase who loved the energy of the shows. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin cracked the lower end of the charts with their sophomore single – it also went to #1 in the Indie Singles Chart. It’s a barnstormer of a tune, and while they would have bigger hits in later times, this has proven to be their signature tune.
Beef – Gary Clail On-U Sound System (12″ version)
An ode to vegetarianism from the Bristol-based singer/producer. On-U Sound had been around for much of the decade, founded by Adrian Sherwood and specialising in dub/reggae music, although this minor hit leans more towards Italian house. The main lyric is a rework of Bring The Noize with “Bass! How low can you go? Death row, what a brother knows” becoming “Beef! How low can you go? Hear the cattle cry, death row.”
Despite not getting much in the way of airplay, Beef did reach #64, while Gary Clail would enjoy a top 10 hit in 1991 with Human Nature.
There’s not a huge amount to write home about in the charts of 15 and 22 July, albeit twenty-eight singles first entered the charts over those two weeks. These have some merit….
Return To Brixton – The Clash
Long after the band had broken up, CBS continued to shove out material for cash-in purposes. Beats International had used The Guns of Brixton as the basis for Dub Be Good To Me (as featured in a previous edition of this series) and just to prove that very point, and to promote a newly remastered edition of London Calling some 10 years after the original, a slight remix of the original was issued as Return to Brixton. It entered at #57 on 15 July but got no higher.
Tom’s Diner – DNA featuring Suzanne Vega
The American songstress had enjoyed a very minor hit in 1987 with a song celebrating a New York restaurant that she often frequented. Three years later, the vocal was taken by two British record producers who went by the name of DNA and mixed with the tune from Keep on Movin’ by Soul II Soul. It was initially pressed up as a club track only but as soon as the bosses at A&M Records heard it, they turned the screw on the producers and took ownership of the track, releasing it as a bona fide single which came in at #13 on 22 July and eventually went to #2 where it spent three weeks (which I’ll return to next month).
Incidentally, and I only learned this while researching for this piece, Tom’s Diner was the song the electrical engineer and mathematician, Karlheinz Brandenburg, used for the testing process as he developed and refined the audio compression scheme that we know as mp3.
Velouria – Pixies
The profile of the Boston-based band had rocketed from the adoration heaped on them by the critics, many of whom had named Doolittle as the best album of 1989. Velouria was the first new song since then and it smashed into the charts at #28 on 22 July.
It’s On – Flowered Up
Another band whose reputation was down to live shows, critical acclaim and making the sort of music that fitted in perfectly with all that was happening around them. The debut single made the charts at a time when many other bands usually needed two or three goes to get it right, entering at #64 on 22 July , eventually peaking two weeks later some ten places higher; not bad given it wasn’t played much on daytime radio.
The chart of 29 July 1990 had plenty of new entries – 14 in all – but once again (as was illustrated last month) they should, in the interests of good taste, mainly be skipped over:-
Visions of Love – Mariah Carey (#74)
Saxulaity – Candy Dulfer (#63)
Hey There Lonely Girl – Big Fun (#62)
Pure – GTO (#57)
Let Love Rule – Lenny Kravitz (#55)
For Her Light – Fields of The Nephilm (#54)
Nobody – Tongue’n’Cheek (#45)
Blaze of Glory – Jon Bon Jovi (#42)
Amanada – Craig McLachlan and Check 1-2 (#36)
Hardcore Uproar – Together (#24)
Violence of Summer (Love’s Talking Over) – Duran Duran (#23)
She’s A Little Angel – Little Angels (#21)
Tonight – New Kids on the Block (#17)
The highest new entry, is worth a passing mention, albeit it wasn’t one of his most memorable.
Thieves In the Temple – Prince
Thieves In The Temple would rise into the Top 10 the following week, becoming the ninth Prince single to achieve such lofty heights. He would go onto have six further such successes during the first half of the 90s, including his only #1 hit, The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, which hit the top in April 1994, although it was released by Symbol rather than Prince……….
I’ll be back in around four weeks time with another look back at the 45s which were being bought by the great British public.
Velouria…..30 years old now. Can’t quite get my head round that one.
(aged 57 years and 1 month)