My Personal Chart Blog, 1991
February 23, 1991
The companion Spotify playlist has all the songs discussed in the blog.
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.