Call me out with the fairies if you wish, but there is an unmistakable flavour to the start of summertime. It is the feeling of stepping out of the house in the morning with the sun having been up for several hours, with the hedgerows bursting into life and for people like myself the depressing feeling of stuffiness and unpleasant early morning aftertaste that means hay fever season looms yet again.

If you are of school age it naturally also means exam time and the knowledge that no matter how much things are bursting into life elsewhere, you just cannot properly relax and enjoy things knowing that an intense period of study lies ahead of you, followed inevitably by the fact that the brightest, nicest, sunniest day of the year will coincide with Maths Paper 2 and you are stuck doing quadratic equations in the school gym.

(Incidentally, was it just at my school where the presence of exams in the gym block was a source of continual stress and annoyance given that PE lessons involved tiptoeing into the changing rooms next door, getting changed in stage whispers and then sneaking out onto the fields where you could make as much noise as you wanted without getting yelled at? School design fail, all the way).

Needless to say, the music that soundtracks the two most important summers of your life – GCSE and A-Level time – is something that is bound to resonate with memories. That then is the theme for this particular chart retrospective, the UK Top 40 show recorded off the radio on Sunday June 2nd 1991, slap bang in the middle of my own A-Level schedule. A quick check of the calendar indicates that this was right at the end of half-term week, meaning that I probably had an exam within a couple of days of this recording, if not the very next morning. Listening to the show was probably the closest I got to proper relaxation at the time.

As ever the rules are the same, what follows is written in reference to the cassette of the Radio One Top 40 show, with links where appropriate to the relevant songs on Spotify so you can hear in full just what the soundtrack of that particular summer 18 years ago sounded like. The tape incidentally was recorded in the middle of the 14 month period when Radio One expanded the chart show to two and a half hours and pledged to play every single track on the chart, rather than the 30 most significant ones. The small logistical problem presented by having to fit in 40 records in a little under 150 minutes was countered by some rather clunking edits to some of the older songs on the chart. If I get annoyed whilst writing about any of these discs, this is probably the reason why.

With that in mind, roll the tape. As befits the time constraints, Mark Goodier’s introduction is brief and to the point and we’re into the first song within 30 seconds.

40: Living Colour – Solace Of You

Even 20 years after Hendrix, the concept of a black rock band was still enough to turn heads. Living Colour’s unique fusion of styles took a while to catch on in this country, despite the widespread critical acclaim for their major label debut album Vivid. It wasn’t until the 1990 release of the follow-up Time’s Up that they first troubled the charts, its second single Love Rears Up It’s Ugly Head hitting Number 12 in February 1991 and this follow-up having a brief cup of coffee at the lower end of the Top 40. The soca-flavoured single was perhaps just a little too subtle to be a major hit but it was breezy and summery enough to hoover up its fair share of airplay. Intriguingly their label’s next step was to try to re-promote the Vivid album leading to a re-release of its most famous single Cult Of Personality, only to see the track stiff at Number 67.

39: New Model Army – Space

A live single, although I could swear they played the studio version on the Top 40 show here, but never mind. Space started out as a track on the New Model Army album Impurity but was released as a single to promote their first ever live album Raw Melody Men. It became the sixth of their seven Top 40 hits, of which only two made the Top 30. That’s not to run down any of their work for they retain a fond place in the affections of many an alternative fan of the time, but commercially they to this day remain something of a niche interest.

38: Gloria Estefan – Remember Me With Love

A single so bland, it rarely finds its way onto Gloria Estefan hits collections, but it existed nonetheless, appearing here as a new entry on its way to a Number 22 peak the following week. The single was taken from her “comeback” Into The Light album which marked her rehabilitation from the injuries she sustained in a tour bus crash in 1990. It seems little referred to these days, ignored even by his Wikipedia page so it is worth documenting Gloria Estefan’s role in of the more red-faced moments of Piers Morgan’s career. Editor of the Bizarre column in The Sun at the time, he lead the page one day in 1990 with a postcard he claimed had been sent to him by his “good friend” Gloria Estefan telling of the wonderful time she was having on tour. The fact that she was at that moment lying in hospital with a broken back caused by the aforementioned bus crash caused many to question with some amusement just how much of a “good friend” he actually was.

37: Deacon Blue – Your Swaying Arms

At times you had to feel for Deacon Blue, unable to satisfy everyone no matter how hard they tried. Like many people, I fell in love with the singles they released during 1988 from their debut album Raintown, a set of tracks fuelled by melancholy and longing and possessed of such simple beauty that you understood completely why they were the next big thing. After the likes of Dignity, When Will You Make My Telephone Ring and most especially Chocolate Girl all underperformed or flopped they changed tack and went for the commercial jugular for second album When The World Knows Your Name in 1989. A string of pop hits duly flowed but early fans like myself felt a little underwhelmed by them all and I never really connected with the new material like I did the old. 1991 album Fellow Hoodlums was an attempt to return to the roots of the first album and although the critics loved it more, their commercial appeal took a dive once more. Released as the follow-up to the non-album EP of Bacharach and David songs that gave them their biggest ever hit (Number 2) at the end of 1990, it was a huge shock when the lead single Your Swaying Arms charged down the chart after two weeks lodged at Number 23. Although Twist And Shout returned them to the Top 10 later in the summer the writing was on the wall and the simple beauty of third single Closing Time missed the Top 40 altogether. Looking back, this may actually have been for the best. Without the need for a radical rethink, would they have gone away and enlisted Oakenfold and Osborne for 1993 album Whatever You Say, Say Nothing  which transformed them into a glorious dance and alt-rock fusion group, a world away from the Glasgow folk scene that spawned them.

36: T99 – Anasthasia

Thus dating us deep in the rave era, the frantic instrumental Anasthasia (sic) was the creation of Belgian producers Patrick De Meyer and Olivier Abbeloos who pooled their talents as a side project from their world with other dance acts. Assigned a legendary status that persists far beyond its original chart run (which saw it peak at Number 14 in May 1991), elements of the track still pop up here and there in the works of others. Oh yes, and for the benefit of people googling “music from Human Traffic”, this is the song you are looking for.

35: Harry Connick Jnr – Recipe For Love

The one and only Top 40 hit for Sinatra-alike Harry Connick Jnr during his initial burst of international fame in the early 90s. Recipe For Love was taken from the album We Are In Love, probably his most consistent collection of big band songs, most of which he penned himself. The single was actually a double a-side, this track paired with the older It Had To Be You which he had originally written for the soundtrack of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ two years earlier. After he made an ill-advised flirtation with funk in the mid-90s, was I the only one who cheered when he got zapped by the aliens in ‘Independence Day’?

34: Divinyls – I Touch Myself

Except that Goodier cocks this up on the live show and cues the Blur record in instead, but we’ll keep to the proper order here. Australian new wavers the Divinyls are resolutely one hit wonders both here and in the States despite their long and distinguished careers back home, but what a hit it was. Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the ode to flicking one’s bean is that it was co-written by legendary songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, ensuring that as well as beautiful ballads such as True Colours and Eternal Flame their pension fund is also topped up by the royalties from a song about wanking. A new entry here on this chart, the single stormed to Number 10 in short order and also climbed to the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 in America where needless to say the more puritanical element of their society took suitable umbrage. As we shall later see, unashamedly sexual songs and lyrics were quite the thing in the summer of 1991. I was a 17-year-old A-Level student though, so I wasn’t getting any at all.

33: Blur – There’s No Other Way

If Damon Albarn ever made it onto This Is Your Life then naturally this would be one of the first pages. This wasn’t Blur’s first single of any kind, that honour going to 1990 flop She’s So High but it was with this track that they opened their chart account to great popular acclaim. “Listen to this, they are the new Jesus Jones,” was the cry that went up from one individual who deserves to remain nameless in the sixth form common room when it first came on the radio that summer. Blur were unashamedly the next big thing and There’s No Other Way soared to Number 8 in late May. Strangely enough, the only other single to chart from debut album Leisure was the Number 24 hit Bang but little did we know that far greater things were to come just as soon as Damon had found his inner Ray Davies. By the end of the decade they could justifiably claim to have conquered the world.

Oh yes, and how did Mark Goodier recover from having played the last two songs in the wrong order? By segueing straight into ‘I Touch Myself’ via a jingle and then announcing “back to back hits on the UK Top 40”. Ever the pro.

32: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Kiss Them For Me

I was too young to appreciate the Banshees in their post-punk heyday in the 1980s, so it was actually something of a privilege to be around for their turn of the decade mini comeback. 1988s Peek A Boo with its strange backwards-masked snare drum kind of left me cold but the bhangra infused Kiss Them For Me was perfectly to my taste. Their tenth album Superstition actually put a few fans’ noses out of joint, producer Stephen Hague dragging them in an unashamedly commercial direction for what was possibly the first time in their career. Sadly this was the peak of Kiss Them For Me and follow-up Shadowtime was a relative flop. Just a year later they would return with a smash thanks to Face To Face from the “Batman Returns” soundtrack.

31: Simple Minds – See The Lights

1991 album Real Life was kind of an indifferent one for Simple Minds, finding them caught in the crossfire of the musical revolution of the turn of the decade which instantly rendered their polished arena rock rather old hat. Not that their fans cared all that much naturally and with the passage of time the album deserves its evaluation as being as least as good as any of their late 80s work. See The Lights was the album’s second single and was a Number 20 hit to complement its Top 10 predecessor Let There Be Love. It also had the honour of being their final American Top 40 hit, creeping to Number 40 on the Hot 100 at the end of June 1991.


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