My Personal Chart Blog, 1991
February 23, 1991
The companion Spotify playlist has all the songs discussed in the blog.
I’ve Got Australia On My Mind, Part 2-Don’t Crowd the Icehouse, Best Sellers and U2 Bookends.
My favorite Australian act of the era was Crowded House. Their debut album from 1986 is my #1 album of the ‘80s. In 1987 they placed 6 songs in my top 100 of the year. One of my favorites was the moody deep cut “Hole In The River” which employs a great dissonant change bridge of piano and horns. I’ve charted all 11 songs from that album. That same year U2 came out with my #2 album of the decade. “Joshua Tree” had 5 songs in my top 100 and my #1 song of the year “Red Hill Mining Town”, one of the most gorgeous songs I’ve ever heard. It still gets me and brings a tear to my eye. Originally it was slated to be the follow-up to “With Or Without You”. It was shelved because Bono could not hit the high notes during rehearsals for the tour. A video was filmed for the song as well, but the band was unhappy with it. Of course, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” became the choice and a classic was born.
Crowded House was born out of the ashes of the seminal New Wave band Split Enz. Hailing from New Zealand, the band’s biggest song was 1980’s “I Got You” but they had 9 studio albums from 1975-1984 and 5 top 10 singles in New Zealand and Australia including “History Never Repeats” and “Six Month In A Leaky Boat”. The band was originally formed in 1972 by Tim Finn and Phil Judd as an acoustic band called Split Ends. By 1974 they had changed the name to Split Enz and had their first charted single, the #93 “Late Last Night”. That song owed more to their acoustic beginnings albeit with some quirkiness, but the next charter, the #15 “My Mistake”, more explicitly showed the direction the band was moving towards.
Tim’s brother Neil joined in 1977 and became a major focal point of the band, and drummer Paul Hester was a member is their waning years. After the Enz split (get it), these two formed Crowded House with bassist Nick Seymour. In the short term they became a bigger international band because of the song “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. In 2001 the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) for its 75th anniversary had a panel pick the 30 best New Zealand and Australian songs of the previous years. ‘Over’ made both lists, #2 for New Zealand and #7 for Australia. The New Zealand list included 4 Split Enz songs (‘Leaky Boat’ #15, “I Got You” #11, “I Hope I Never” #25, and “I See Red” #28) and 2 from Crowded House (“Weather With You” #16).
By 1991 Crowded House was on their third album, “Woodface” and rose to #1 on my chart for the eighth time with the lead single “Chocolate Cake”. All 8 of those songs made my top 30 of the year in their respective years with the best showing #3 in 1987 with the effervescent “Mean To Me”, their first single in Australia. It managed minor airplay in the States (kind of a shame), but it was one of 5 songs that made the top 100 at my 1988 music party. ‘Over’ clocked in at #3 at that party and their other major hit that year, “Something So Strong” was #17. “Now We’re Getting’ Somewhere” at #71 and “World Where You Live” at #80 rounded out those 5.
On “Woodface” the other Finn brother, Tim, joined the group. The brothers had been working on songs for their own album but when Neil Finn submitted songs to the record company for a new Crowded House album, they were rejected. Neil asked Tim if they could use the songs from their work and Tim asked to be part of the group. This resulted in their biggest UK hit (‘Weather’) and Alternative hits “It’s Only Natural” and “Fall At Your Feet”. The album reached #2 in Australia and in a 2010 book “100 Best Australian Albums” it ranked as #3, behind Midnight Oil’s “Diesel And Dust” (which includes my favorite Oil song “Sometimes”) and AC/DC’s “Back In Black”. Pretty great company. The final single “Four Seasons In One Day” is a common phrase used in Melbourne to describe it’s changeable weather.
Another song that used a phrase to describe Australian weather is “Cool Change” by Little River Band. I only learned this relatively recently from a rider when driving Uber. While the band was hugely popular in their homeland with 5 top 10 albums and 2 more in the top 20, as a singles artist they were more successful in the States. Only 2 of their singles made the Australian top 10, “Help Is On Its Way”, a #1 and 1982’s “Down On the Border”, a song that did not chart stateside. In the U.S. LRB reached the Pop top 20 10 times, reaching #1 with “Lonesome Loser” and #2 with “Reminiscing”. The band has been in my top 10 of the year 5 times. ‘Help’ and ‘Change’ are joined by “Lady”, “Man On Your Mind” and “The Night Owls”. Strangely, “Cool Change” was never released In Australia but did make the APRA top 30 list in 2001.
During the later years of LRB, between 1982-85, the original lead vocalist Glenn Shorrock was replaced by John Farnham, who had been a teen idol during the late ‘60s and ‘70s. After his stint in the band, he went back to his solo career and had a defining song with “You’re The Voice” and the accompanying album “Whispering Jack” became the second biggest selling album in Australian history. The song was my #2 song of 1987 and is his only Hot 100 entry in the States, reaching #82 in early 1990. Even without real success here, the song was an international hit. In 1991, Heart released a live version of the song that made it to #20 on the Rock chart but it failed to reach the Hot 100. In 1995 the Alan Parsons Project included it on a live album, with vocal from Chris Thompson, one of the actual songwriters. He is best known as the vocalist for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and “Blinded By The Light” as well as for the 1979 song “If You Remember Me” from the movie “The Champ”. Thompson initially did not want Farnham to record ‘Voice’ because of his teen idol image from the ‘70s.
To exemplify Farnham’s importance in his homeland, he has had a #1 record in 5 consecutive decades. One of those was 1988’s “Age Of Reason” a #1 single and the best-selling album in Australia that year. This song also made my top 10 of the year, #4 of 1990. This spiritual song has lyrics that are appropriate for our time:
“So why can’t we be still, why can’t we love each other
Is kindness an ancient skill buried by our blindness
And if we look behind us there’s a wind blowing in
To create the age of reason”
In 1989-90 he also reached my top 20 with “Two Strong Hearts”, a song that made the Adult Contemporary chart in the U.S. and led to the re-release of “You’re The Voice”, and “Beyond The Call”. ‘Voice’ is one of only a handful of pop songs that feature bagpipes. It was actually written as a protest song about nuclear disarmament. It has been used at rallies against COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia over the last year.
“How long can we look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun?
You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear”
A funny side note, Farnham passed on the song “We Built This City” for his “Whispering Jack” album and we all know how that played out. Another co-writer of ‘”You’re The Voice” was Andy Qunta, who also co-wrote the song “Crazy” from his band Icehouse. This is one of my favorite songs of all-time, it was my #1 song of 1987 (this blog so much more about 1987 than 1991) and my #3 of the entire decade of the ‘80s. The atmospheric quality of this song just sends me for some reason. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to be powerful. The album it comes from, “Man Of Colours” was another massive album in Australia, their best-selling overall and Australian’s #1 album of 1988. It was also the first album to have 5 songs reach the top 30 in Australia. “Electric Blue”, their biggest song in the States (Hot 100 #7, “Crazy” #14 and both Rock chart top 10’s), was co-written by John Oates from Hall & Oates.
The band was originally called Flowers and had an early song called “Icehouse”. The word is an Australian term for an insane asylum and became the band’s name after conflict with a Scottish band Flowers. That song and “We Can Get Together” got the band stateside Alternative airplay in 1981. The early band in essence then split up. Frontman Iva Davies recorded a solo album and released it under the Icehouse name. It spawned 2 hits, “Hey Little Girl” and “Great Southern Land”, and to promote it brought a band together with a mix of old and new members.
Their highest charting song on the Rock chart in the U.S. was “No Promises” in 1986. “Man Of Colours” generated 3 more top 10 songs on my chart in 1988 with “My Obsession” (#1), “Heartbreak Kid” (#2) and “Nothing Too Serious” (#9). In late 1989 they returned to #2 with “Touch The Fire” and in1991 this week they had 2 songs on my chart “Jimmy Dean” (63) and “Miss Devine” (92). In February 2020, right before COVID lockdown, the band played the St. Kilda Festival in Melbourne, 40 years after Flowers played at the first festival.
There are 2 other male artists who fronted earlier bands that were enjoying solo success during the late ‘80s-early ‘90s era. Daryl Braithwaite had been the lead singer of arguably the most successful Australian pop band of the ‘70s, Sherbet. They were relative unknowns in the States, save for a minor hit in 1976, “Howzat”. That song and the 1975 song “Summer Love” both reached #1 in Australia. I remember “Howzat” and I’m just listening to “Summer Love” now. I would have enjoyed that one as a teenager. The band moved from Little River Band style music in the ‘70s to a more New Wave approach in the early ‘80s and that came with a name change to the Sherbs. It did not gel in their homeland but in the States, they managed 2 moderate Alt hits with “I Have The Skill” and “We Ride Tonight”.
Braithwaite re-surfaced in 1988 with a solo album and scored a string of hits including the top 10 “One Summer”. In 1991, like Icehouse and John Farnham, he earned the best-selling album of the year in Australia with the 1991 album “Rise”. That was fueled by the #1 hit “The Horses” (78). That song was written by Rickie Lee Jones of “Chuck E’s in Love” fame, along with Walter Becker of Steely Dan. Jones released the song on her 1989 album “Flying Cowboys” and though it was not released as a single people may remember it from the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire”.
James Reyne rose to fame as the leader of Australian Crawl who enjoyed success during the first half of the ‘80s with 4 albums, 2 of which reached #1. The band name is derived from a swimming technique that was developed by a swimmer in the 1890’s. Though their music is not patterned after the Beach Boys, they earned a reputation as the Melbourne version of that band because of their beach culture vibe. I own their 1982 album “Sons Of Beaches” but I do not recall any of the songs from it. The lead single from it was “Shut Down” but listening to it I got nothing. They did not receive much airplay in the U.S, and definitely didn’t reach any national charts here. I bought so much stuff from used record stores back in college for like $1 or $2 and probably listened to some of those once, if at all.
I did not discover Reyne as a solo artist until 1993 when his 1991 album “Electric Digger Dandy” was re-packaged in the States as “Any Day Above Ground”. It yielded 2 #1’s on my chart, “Slave” and “Some People” and 2 other appearances with the title track and “Reckless”, a reworking of Australian Crawl’s biggest hit from 1983. The first 2 songs ended up as my #8 and #5 of 1993. He also had a song on the album “Company of Strangers” that would become the name of a one album Australian supergroup featuring Reyne, Braithwaite and Simon Hussey. Hussey had also been in Australian Crawl and was married to Reyne’s sister Elisabeth at the time. In addition, he was the producer of both solo artists. As a band they did not have the same impact as their solo careers, managing 3 top 40 singles including the chugging “Motor City (I Got Lost)” but none reaching past #21.
In 1990 the best-selling album in Australia belonged to Johnny Diesel and the Injectors. It was straightforward pub Rock as evidenced by the top 10 hits “Cry In Shame” and “Don’t Need Love”. Diesel (real name Mark Lizotte) was born in Fall River, Massachusetts and his family moved to Perth when he was 5. He was sort of discovered by the wife of Jimmy Barnes (who I wrote about in the last post), Jane. Diesel eventually married her sister. My exposure to Diesel (he dropped Johnny for his moniker as a solo artist) came with the next album, the #1 “Hepfidelity”, a nice mix of Rock, Blues and Funk that brought the song “Man Alive” to #1 on my chart in 1992. “Tip Of My Tongue” was the bigger hit in Australia, reaching #4. In 1993 he won Album of the Year and Best Male Artist at the ARIA Music Awards. He would also nab Best Male Artist the following 2 years. He did not make an impact stateside though (strange aside) there was a band from the Netherlands with the same name that scored a U.S. hit in 1981 with “Sausalito Summer Night”.
Another Aussie band that could not translate their homegrown success to the States was 1927. Their debut album “…ish” was huge in Australia, going 5 times platinum and generating 4 top 20 singles. 2 of those made my top 5, “You’ll Never Know” and their first single “That’s When I Think Of You”. That song was their only Billboard Hot 100 entry, barely making it at #100. Their brand of solid Pop Rock veered between the post new Wave vibe of INXS/Icehouse and the Pop sheen of Little River Band. They had 3 songs from their second album on my chart this week, “Don’t Forget Me” (31), “The Other Side” (58) and “Tell Me A Story” (38) that had just peaked in my top 10. I’ve been groovin’ on ‘Story’ lately and it is back in my current top 10. By the third album things had fallen apart.
Going back to a band that is closer to the pulse of Crowded House, we land on Hunters and Collectors. Interestingly, that band’s frontman Mark Seymour is the brother of Crowded House member Nick Seymour. Their biggest songs on my chart were the same 2 that made the U.S. Alternative Top 10 in 1998 and 1990, “Back on The Breadline” and “When The River Runs Dry”. These songs brimmed with the Jangle Rock sound of the time, but their early music was more influenced by bands like Kraftwerk. The song “Judas Sheep”, from the second album “The Fireman’s Curse” in 1983, is pretty raw comparatively. In a way it reminds me of how some of the early Split Enz music was, adventurous and off-kilter. “42 Wheels” the lead track from their third album, “The Jaws Of Life”, is decidedly Talking Heads.
The 1984 song “Throw Your Arms Around Me” alluded to the musical direction they would move towards and become a signature song for them. I would equate their evolution through the ‘80s to that of R.E.M. Though in hindsight R.E.M. was less experimental, to me when I saw them on Landsdowne St. across from Fenway Park in 1982, I felt I was experiencing something completely new. Songs like “Wolves, Lower” and “1,000.000” we’re really exciting to me at the time. Hunters and Collectors would become one of the best live acts in Australia and I can imagine if I saw them early on, I would have had a similar experience. This was also true when I saw U2 at CBGB’s in New York City in 1980. “I Will Follow, “The Electric Co.”, and ”A Day Without Me”; the energy was unbelievable. I feel extremely fortunate to have seen both of these iconic bands at the beginning of their careers.
I’ve Got Australia On My Mind, Part 1-The World Around INXS, a Music Party, and Pub Rock
INXS/Bitter Tears (18)
The era of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was infiltrated by a good number of Australian bands and male artists. INXS was one of the bigger bands on my chart throughout the previous decade, starting in 1983 with “The One Thing”, their first American hit reaching #30 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Rock chart. It also was their first to make the top 100 of the year at my annual music party, #92 at the inaugural party in January 1984. After 37 years, this year we took a gap year from the party because of COVID but I look forward to having a great one this summer to coincide with my 60th birthday.
At The 15th anniversary of the music party, I tabulated the top 200 artists of the first 15 years based on the songs that made the top 500 each year (my obsessive music nature on display). INXS was the #4 artist with 33 songs that made the top 500 throughout the years, 6 of those reaching the top 20; the 4 big hits from 1987’s album “Kick”, “What You Need”, and “Suicide Blonde”. “Need You Tonight” was the #1 song at the 1989 party, their best year with 4 songs in the top 11 (“Devil Inside” #6, “New Sensation” #7 and “Never Tear Us Apart” #11). There are 4 podcast episodes dedicated to the music party and one of those features what I call the “INXS Party” extensively (Castlist 002. Ep 4 released Dec. 28, 2018). The biggest artist during the first 15 years was U2 with 58 songs overall and 3 #1’s of the year, “Bad” in 1986, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” in 1988 and “One” in 1992. 3 others (“Mysterious Ways”, “Without Or Without You” and “Pride (In The Name Of Love”) placed at #2 in their respective years.
“Bitter Tears” was #29 at the 1992 party and was my favorite song from the album “X” as it would reach my top 5. “Suicide Blonde” (#3 at the 1991 party) and “Disappear” (62) both made my weekly top 15, and both reached the top 10 on the Hot 100. The band got its start in 1977 while 3 members were still in high school, Michael Hutchence and 2 of the 3 Farriss brothers (that was the band’s name at the time). It was Midnight Oil’s manager who ended up bringing the boys on as an opening act and one of that band’s members suggested the name change to INXS, party inspired by the band name XTC. The band was born out of the Pub Rock scene but certainly evolved throughout their career, first with New Wave edges, then Dance Rock beats but it was ultimately the stage and video presence of frontman Hutchence that secured them superstar status.
It’s always difficult to follow-up a career defining album like “Kick”, and this is true of INXS and “X”, though the album still managed to go double platinum in the States. After the first 2 top 10 singles, “Bitter Tears” only reached #46 (but top 10 at Rock and Alternative). The ballad “By My Side” had moderate success in Australia and the UK but failed to chart in the States. The final single “The Stairs” did not make any major charts. I, however, found this one as compelling as any of their previous releases, ironically more U2-esque in my opinion. It followed ‘Tears’ into my top 10.
Also, on my chart this week was “Good Times” (39), their collaboration with Jimmy Barnes, that was featured in the 1987 film “The Lost Boys”. It had originally peaked at #48 on my chart that year and saw a new life when it was released in the UK in 1991. Barnes had been the lead singer of the Pub Rock band Cold Chisel from the mid-70s until the early ‘80s when he went solo. That is when I discovered the rough voiced belter. Between the band and his solo career, he has amassed more top 40 albums than any artist in Australia, homegrown or international. 10 of his solo albums went to #1.
To me, Australian Pub Rock is akin to the style of Bruce Springsteen (the music party’s #6 artist), Bob Seger and John Mellencamp (party #55). This is evidenced in Barnes 1985 song “Working Class Man”, one of several songs by him that reached #1 on my chart in the mid-80s including “I’d Die To Be With You Tonight”, his first top 10 single in Australia with an assist from Kim Carnes (his female counterpart?). In 1986 he got some exposure on U.S. Rock radio with ‘Man’ (written by Journey’s Jonathan Cain) and “No Second Prize”. “Good Times” brought him to #3 on that chart and he repeated at that number in 1988 with “Too Much Ain’t Enough Love”, but it was “Waitin’ The Heartache” that brought him back to #1 on my chart. The album those are from, “Freight Train Heart”, features Cain. Neal Schon (also of Journey), Huey Lewis, Randy Jackson, and Jon Farriss of INXS. In 1991 his songs “Lay Down Your Guns”, “Let’s Make It Last All Night” (co-written by hit-makers Diane Warren and Desmond Child) and “Little Darling” all had marginal success on my chart.
Midnight Oil (party artist #61) got their start in the early ‘70s, like INXS, as Farm, a high school endeavor. By 1978 they released their debut album as Midnight Oil and in 1982 saw their first international success with “Power And The Passion”. The band was always more politically and socially charged then others around them, their biggest hit “Beds Are Burning” (#2 at the 1989 music party) criticizes the handling of the Aboriginal population in Australia and ‘Power’ mentions the dismissal of a former prime minister.
In 2001 both of these songs ranked in the top 30 Australian songs of all-time according to the Australasian Performing Rights Association. ‘Beds’ was #3, just behind the Easybeats “Friday On My Mind”. That band did the original version of “Good Times” in 1968. One of the fun things I’ve learned over the last year is that 2 members of the Easybeats, Harry Vanda and George Young, went on to become the late ‘70s, early ‘80s New Wave band Flash and the Pan. In addition, George Young is the older brother of Malcolm and Angus Young of AC/DC, who are on this week’s chart with “Moneytalks” (32). Vanda and Young also produced the early AC/DC albums and wrote the late ‘70s hit “Love Is in The Air” by John Paul Young (no relation). Talk about a hodgepodge of styles. Flash and the Pan have had a number of big songs on my chart including “Hey St. Peter”, Welcome To The Universe” and the #1 “Midnight Man”.
In 1991, Midnight Oil landed a a string of victories at the ARIA awards ceremony (Australia’s Grammys) winning Best Group, Best Video, and Best Album (among others) for “Blue Sky Mining”. 3 songs from that album were big Alternative and Rock hits in 1990. “Blue Sky Mine”, “Forgotten Years” and, “King Of The Mountain” also all made my weekly top 25. The next album stirred controversy with the song “Truganini” which supposedly supported a ‘white’ myth about the extinction of Tasmanian Aborigines. The album “Earth and Sun and Moon” was produced by Nick Launay, who had helmed earlier albums of theirs and also produced the album “The Swing” by INXS.
In 1992 their album “Welcome To Wherever You Are” was said to be more experimental and contains my second favorite INXS tune and Alternative #2 “Not Enough Time”, a slow burn single with a big ending that owes some thanks to the Simple Minds song “Alive And Kicking”. My favorite INXS track is “Mystify” from “Kick”. The album managed to produce 3 more top 10 Alternative hits with “Heaven Sent”, “Taste it” and “Beautiful Girl” plus the anthemic “Baby Don’t Cry, replete with orchestra.
After Hutchence’ tragic death in 1997 (officially reported as a suicide though many believe it was accidental due to autoerotic asphyxiation), the first new lead singer of the band was Jon Stevens, formerly of the Aussie band Noiseworks. In 1988 that band had a monster hit on my chart with the very INXS “No Lies”, my #3 song of the year. They followed that with a #2 on my weekly chart, “River Of Tears”, late in the year. Surprisingly, I did not chart the Australian top 10 single “Take Me Back”. This week in 1991 they were inching up my chart with “Freedom” (80). The songs “Miles And Miles” and “Hot Chilli Woman” would follow. ‘Chilli’ was their hardest rocking song and became their second, and last, top 10 in their homeland before splitting up. They also got an assist from Hutchence on the remake of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Take You Higher”, their final single. In 2009 there was a black comedy called “World’s Greatest Dad”, starring Robin Williams as the dad of a teenager who accidentally died from autoerotic asphyxiation. Yeah, that’s pretty black.
To be continued…