THE BIG HITS…..30 YEARS ON (12)

At long last, we reach the final part of this series looking back at the UK singles charts of 1990.  As anticipated, most of the new entries over the course of December had a festive theme, but there were a very small number of decent entries, while the final chart of the year, which crossed into the first of 1991, was genuinely surprising.  Here’s the contents of the selection boxes:-

2 December

The month opened with no changes in the Top 4, with Vanilla Ice, The Righteous Brothers, EMF, and Kim Appleby all holding the same positions as they had at the end of November.  The highest new entry, at #5 was no real surprise, nor would its eventual rise to #1, as Cliff Richard unleashes Saviour’s Day on a wholly suspecting nation, thus repeating his success of 1988 with Mistletoe and Wine.

There was a bit of ying to Cliff’s yang with the second-highest new entry as Ms. Ciccone decided she wanted to sex everyone up:-

mp3: Madonna – Justify My Love (#9)

A new song to promote The Immaculate Collection, a greatest-hits album that would fly off the shelves in December and find its way into the stockings of millions across the world.  For someone who had always used MTV and videos to further her career, Madonna came up with a brilliantly effective method to further rack up sales of Justify My Love by filming a promo that was always going to be deemed too sexually explicit for MTV and thus be banned, leading to to the decision to make it available, commercially, as a video single.  It is reckoned, in the USA, that actual single sold around 1 million copies and that 400,000 copies of the video were shifted.

Two bands that had been around for a few years without much commercial success until 1990 also enjoyed new entries this week:-

mp3: The Farm – Altogether Now (#12)
mp3: James – Lose Control (#33)

Altogether Now proved to be the highpoint in the career of The Farm, rising to #4 and spending a total of six weeks in the Top Ten either side of Xmas/New Year.  It was quite fitting for a song that took its inspiration from the Christmas Day truce in 1914 when soldiers on both sides put down their weapons to met in no-mans-land where there was an exchange of gifts and games of football were played.

Lose Control immediately dropped down the chart the following week, but the fact it even made the Top 40 was a sign that the fanbase of James was continuing to grow, leading to them becoming probably the biggest band in the UK in 1991/92.

The best ‘new’ record of the week came in at #22:-

mp3: Yazoo – Situation (1990 remix)

Yup, a full eight years after first appearing as the b-side to Only You, and seven years after the duo had disbanded, one of their most popular and most enduring tracks was given the remix treatment and re-released as a single.  It would climb to #14 the following week.

9 December

Just the one single worth highlighting, as much to demonstrate that club hits still had the capacity to crossover into the mainstream:-

mp3: C&C Music Factory – Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) (feat. Freedom Williams) (#40)

This single would spend 12 weeks all told in the Top 50, finally dropping out in mid-March having peaked at #3. It is still, all these years later, one of the most immediately identifiable dance hits of any era.

16 December

Under the cover of darkness, I’ll just mention that The Sisters of Mercy and Billy Idol sneaked their lastest singles into the charts at #39 and #56 respectively.

23 December

The highest new entry this week was at #73, and the distincyion belonged to A Homeboy, A Hippie and Funki Dredd with a song called Freedom.  Quite clearly, the record industry makers and shakers were too busy partying to get fresh product into the shops

The nation rejoiced, however, as Cliff, just in time, took the #1 spot, kicking Vanilla Ice’s sorry ass in the process and bringing his four-week reign at the top to an end.  The question that needs to be asked is whether it was a fix, in that Cliff only stayed one week at #1 before dropping down to #3, whereas the Iceman was at #2 for this chart and the next, which contained a few surprises as the kids raced out to the shops and spent their record tokens on all sorts of singles that were brand new in the shops……

30 December

mp3: Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop – Did You Evah? (#70)

The second single lifted from the Red Hot + Blue compilation album aimed at raising funds to fight AIDS.  It would eventually peak at #42.

mp3: Prefab Sprout – Carnival 2000 (#57)

This was one of four tracks to be found on the Jordan EP, which was following on from two earlier singles lifted from Jordan : The Comeback, an album that had been released in September 1990 to near universal acclaim.  The EP would reach #35

Other new entries this week were Robert Palmer, Motorhead, The Stranglers, and Bananarama, all of whose releases came in outside the Top 40.

The hard rock brigade featured well this week, with Anthrax from New York City scoring at #23, with a cover of a Joe Jackson song

mp3: Anthrax – Got The Time

Seven months later, they would team up with Chuck D and take a cover of Bring The Noise into the top 20.

The year ended, however, with a very rare beast, namely a #1 for a hard rock band. One of the UK’s home grown acts who had previously seen a number of 45s go Top Ten in the late 80s, but this was this the first, and as it proved, last, time they hit #1 – and it was achieved with a brand-new entry.

By my reckoning, this was just the 22nd time a song had entered the singles chart at #1, going back to 1952.

Between 1991 and 1999, that particulat accomplishment would be achieved 122 times; indeed of the 35 songs which reached #1 in 1999, fully 33 of them would enter at #1, of which 20 would fall off the top spot after just one week.  Changed days indeed…..

JC

 

15 thoughts on “THE BIG HITS…..30 YEARS ON (12)

  1. Justify My Love is still an absolute belter of a track and Ingrid Chavez who wrote the lyrics recently featured at my bit on a excellent new single by Charles Webster

  2. This has been a great series. Nostalgic (although it confirmed my memory as crap) and a firm prompt to relisten to songs that I listened to (owned) at the time.

    From the above I owned little:

    James
    Sisters of Mercy
    Yazoo
    The Righteous Brothers (although this was purchased in the 80s)

    All will be dusted down today … snaps, crackles and pops.

    Has to be said: Yazoo would top that list and then some.

  3. B side of lose control had a gorgeous version of out to get you which they re recorded for Laid . Love the earlier version , James at their meandering best

  4. I remember scratching my head at Anthrax’s version of ‘Got The Time’, but a good song is a good song…

  5. I was disengaging from the pop charts of England by the late 80s. These 1990 singles were almost meaningless to me. Apart from Prefab Sprout, who I like [a lot], but are far from the bright lights of my universe. Your last paragraph was the most interesting thing here. Why indeed did the charts change so dramatically in the UK with records entering at #1 well in advance of the thrust of history?

    In America, we had Soundscan; a network of sales measurement that came from retail stores where the actual sales were scraped for the data to inform the charts. Previously to that, radio stations and stores reported on their playlists. Presumably based on the “honor system.” Now for the first time, sales were reliably measured and the impact on the charts in America was felt. I seem to recall that now, for the first time, records could enter the US charts at number one.

    Given the scattershot organization of the broadcast industry in America with hundreds of little fiefdoms making it all up made the impossible to achieve generations earlier. Now computer networks were homogenizing the industry and the charts took on a new complexion to reflect that faster movement. Also, the consolidation of the broadcast industry as Reagan had eviscerated FCC rules to allow for the vertical integration of broadcasters into huge, powerful monopolistic blocs which saw the radio industry winnow down its owner base sharply into a few key players.

    These two trends accounted for the normal ebb and flow of the US charts to speed up considerably. The deregulation of the US airwaves resulted in a more monolithic broadcast industry where far fewer people had greater control over the content. Ironically, a situation closer to what the UK had always had, though without government involvement. As the UK radio industry was always regulated strongly, what would you ascribe the 90s rise of instant #1 hits to on your end?

  6. In answer to postpunkmonk, the changes in the 90s were all down to marketing. Singles were released to radio weeks before they hit the shops, creating demand. Then the singles were heavily discounted in the first week (99p or £1.99 for a 3/4 track CD single) and were released in multiple versions (2 different CD singles, cassette singles, 12″ or 7″). This basically meant everyone bought the single in the first week and then the price typically went up to £3.99 for a CD single, which led to massive falls from No 1. Looking back, it’s amazing to see who got No. 1’s in the 90s, because of all this.

  7. Cheers PPM

    I think part of the answer lies with some of the things we are revealing in the REM singles series, in that multi-formatting/ alleged limited editions were permitted and uberfans would sweep everything up as soon they could, propelling a single to the top of the charts but leaving subsequent sales to casual listeners.

    It was also a period where the major labels seemed to work more closely to avoid having their big names release singles away from the same week as potential rivals, thus having a clear run at the top spot….of course, when it suited them, an artificial contest would be created to make the news, with both the winner and loser going on to enjoy huge sales (Blur v Oasis).

    I’m no expert on it, but I think it also coincided with a move away from where chart positions had been determined by sales at a small number of shops across the country (the identity of which were well known and sales could be manipulated) to a system which more reflected what was happening in all stores.

    PS – I see that I was typing this up at the same time as Ady…and we are coming from the same place!!

  8. @postpunkmonk: A lot of it was down to first-week discounting. It became commonplace for records to be sold at a low price for the first week to generate an artificially high chart placing, initially for acts with an established fanbase, but it went on to become standard practice across the board. Also (and enabling the discounting) it was around this time that distributors moved to delivering product to the shops ahead of time with an embargo until the official release date, so no more waiting for Monday’s new releases to reach Aberdeen on Friday. So everything was engineered toward a big first-week bang.

  9. A great series JC, which has reminded me how much I had disengaged from the singles chart (and to a lesser extent music) but reminded me how much I did actuall enjoy. The stats about new entry at Number one just makes me appreciate even more how remarkable Slade’s achievement in the early seventies was. Three new entries at number one without any of the marketing shenanigans of the 90s. Thanks again for the nostalgic trips.

  10. This has been a very enjoyable series. Whilst chart placings had become of less interest to me at this time, I was still avidly listening to Radio 1 and local radio to keep myself up to date with what was going on.
    Having listened to Justify My Love again for the first time in years, it remains one of my least favourite Madonna tracks. On the plus side, All Together Now, Lose Control and Carnival 2000 would certainly have been being spun chez TGG at this time. And yes, that C&C Music Factory tune is still quality.

  11. I’ve been dropping by often over the years. Thanks for all the great entertainment. Mostly, I just wanted to throw a hey and wish ya a very Merry Christamas. ~peace

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