Yes, I know it has been a week since we last did this. Some live cricket stuff kind of messed up the schedule and got in the way of life.
Elsewhere in the world (you knew it was coming) in June 1991, South Africa repealed the apartheid laws and joined the civilised world at long last, some chap called Boris Yeltsin was the surprise winner in the Russian presidential election, the fate of the heir to the throne was in question after one of Prince William’s school friends accidentally stoved his head in with a golf club, and ‘Silence Of The Lambs’ was packing them in at the local multiplex.
Back in the present day, our retrospective look back at the chart of June 2nd 1991 has reached the Top 20.
1991 was supposed to represent a rebirth for the legendary German synth wizards. Having virtually withdrawn from live performing and with their last album release a full five years earlier, they marked their return to the limelight with The Mix, an album featuring a selection of rearranged and re-recorded classics that they intended to be a demonstration of how they have been evolving their sound during the previous years of isolation. Critical reaction was mixed, the general air of “is that it?” common to most reviews, but for fans of the group who had been aching for new work from their heroes for many years the album was leaped upon eagerly. Leading the promotion was a single edit of The Robots, a new version of a track that had first appeared on the album The Man-Machine way back in 1978. Truth be told the 1991 version didn’t (if you’ll pardon the pun) press any exciting new buttons or mark the huge leap forward that it was sold to us as, but it did at least give the group their first chart hit since Tour De France way back in 1984 and indeed by going Top 20 became their biggest hit since Computer Love/The Model stormed to Number One back in 1982.
At the start of the year would you have put money on OMD ever having a hit single again? Silent since the release of a Greatest Hits album in 1988, the group were all but broken up McCluskey and Humphries having parted ways at the end of the decade and the latter’s The Listening Pool project picking up the lions' share of critical coverage. Undaunted Andy McCluskey carried on, retaining both the band name and his near-legendary haircut and recruiting fellow Liverpudlians Lloyd Massett and Stuart Kershaw to work on some brand new material. The first fruit of these labours was the comeback single Sailing On The Seven Seas, a deceptively simple track propelled by little more than a tubthumping rhythm track and an organ. To the surprise of all but the most cynical of us, it worked and the track flew to Number 3, giving the new version of the group their biggest hit single since Souvenir a full decade earlier. Follow-up single Pandora’s Box went Top 10 as well to prove it was no one-off and the album Sugar Tax became the first of a trio of well-received albums during the 1990s. When the hits dried up again in 1996 McCluskey and Kershaw moved on to creating new acts of their own – most notably the first incarnation of Atomic Kitten. Is is true to say that Kerry Katona is indirectly famous thanks to the success of this single?
It took the UK the best part of a year to catch on to NKOTB following their initial American success, so it kind of stands to reason that their British appeal persisted long after the fans back home had all grown breasts and moved on to other things. The idea for No More Games: The Remix Album was credited to Donnie Walhberg who was as tired as the rest of us were by Maurice Starr’s watered-down pop and whilst it did little to arrest their rather startling commercial decline in America, it gave them enough of an impetus to sell-out concerts across Europe and Asia throughout 1991. Lead single Games made Number 12 at the start of the year and this more successful single was the follow-up. If Tonight is the one New Kids song it is OK to like, then Call It What You Want is the song that it was acceptable to dance to. Remixed by producers of the moment Clivilles and Cole and featuring a hard-edged and inspired rap from Freedom Williams, the single crackled with energy and most crucially had a credible edge that was almost entirely lacking from the rather risible singles they had released until now. Had Call It What You Want been followed up with enough haste they might well have reinvented themselves as a dancefloor-friendly urban act for the new decade. As it was, aside from a one-off Christmas single later that year, the New Kids vanished until 1994 when they returned as NKOTB and were pretty much laughed off the park.
Everywhere I turn I am surrounded by opportunities to talk about the Pet Shop Boys, although in this case it is a good thing. Jealousy was the fourth and final single to be lifted from the Behaviour album and followed hard on the heels of their celebrated (and to this day famous) remake of Where The Streets Have No Name which had stormed to Number 4 in the spring. Jealousy was a rather more measured affair, a slow-building torch song which served in its entirety as a build up to the lavish orchestral climax. Indeed the novelty of the single release was that it had been remixed from the album version, the synthesised band at the end having been replaced with a real orchestra for the occasion. Never the most commercial of offerings, the single still made a none too shabby Number 12 the week after this new entry placing.
Speaking of US superstars about to live past their shelf life, here comes MC Hammer. At this point he was just a year removed from the globe-buggering success of U Can’t Touch This but already the novelty value was wearing off. Yo! Sweetness was another track lifted from the massive selling Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em and was based heavily around a sample from Word Up by Cameo yet despite this respectable enough Number 16 placing you could not escape the feeling that once the hype had died down he was something of a one trick pony. Not that he didn’t have a little more gas in the tank - Addams Groove went Top 10 at the start of 1992 and the follow-up Do Not Pass Me By mixed rap and gospel in a manner which many hated but I found hard to resist. Still, if you are looking for the moment when MC Hammer reached the top of the mountain and began to amble down the other side, there is a case to be made for pointing at the release of this single.
The seventh hit and third Top 10 single for Sonia, the bubbly scouse redhead who for all her enthusiasm only ever seemed to be presented with Stock/Aitken/Waterman’s off-cuts for her songs. Having left PWL records in a sulk after her first album, she teamed up with Nigel Wright for her second collection of irritatingly chirpy offerings. Wright was well and truly at the helm for this single, a bouncy yet somehow rather synthetic Motown pastiche which was charting here on its way to an eventual Number 10 peak. I actually liked her, possibly out of sheer bloody-mindedness and because it wound other friends up who (quite rightly) viewed her as the antithesis of cool. She never quite hit the chart heights again after 1991, although her Eurovision entry Better The Devil You Know was robbed of the crown at the death and gave her a Number 15 hit in the wake of the contest that year.
Having milked 1990 debut Pump Up The Jam for several nearly identical singles (plus a megamix), Technotronic producer Jo Bogaert needed to mix the formula up to extend the life of the project. Hence the recruitment of Rejane Magloire aka Reggie to supply vocals on this lead single from their second album. As a party hit Move That Body worked well enough but it was neither distinctive nor original enough to become anything more than “just another Technotronic single”, still based around the trademark Teutonic thump that had conquered Europe the year before. In fact that seems to be a common theme amongst this selection of songs in the Top 20, late additions to an act’s chart history that were neither spectacularly good nor particularly bad, just a little bit indifferent.
This single on the other hand is something of a snapshot of an oft-forgotten aspect of the early career of one of pop’s greatest ever songwriters. Industry legend Cathy Dennis started out as a reedy-voiced dance diva, teaming up with D-Mob for their early hits in 1989 before breaking out on her own in a moderately successful solo career. Touch Me (All Night Long) was her biggest hit both here and in America, hitting Number 5 on these shores. The song was unfamiliar to most but was hardly new, having been originally recorded by wish back in 1984. Cathy Dennis’ last hit was her cover of Waterloo Sunset in 1997 after which she forged a new career as songwriter to the stars, an integral part of the 19 Entertainment setup and as a result penning hits for the likes of S Club 7, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears and indeed just about every American Idol winner you care to name. Towering 21st-century pop records like Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Reach and Toxic? All Cathy Dennis creations.
No, you are not wrong, this is still 1991. Madonna’s first-ever Greatest Hits compilation The Immaculate Collection had been such a hit at the end of 1990 that it prompted her label to continue to milk it for the next six months. Token new track Justify My Love had been followed with a re-release of Crazy For You which had duly shot to Number 2 and matched its original 1985 peak. New track Rescue Me had also flown in short order to Number 2 so for a fourth bite of the cherry it was decided to reactivate what was essentially her signature song. Holiday had already been a Top 10 hit twice over, reaching Number 6 as her debut hit in early 1984 and then flying to Number 2 in the summer of 1985 just as her career went stratospheric. This re-release six years on meant that the throwaway pop song became one of those rare records to have been a hit on three separate occasions, reaching the Top 10 each time after climbing to Number 5 a week after this new entry point. Incidentally, the hits on The Immaculate Collection were billed as “remixes” thanks to a supposedly revolutionary new technique known as Q-sound which was supposed to recreate quadrophonic sound through ordinary stereo speakers. Needless to say most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
The prospect of Minogue Junior becoming a pop star like her older sister had been talked up for some time. Just about every interview and reference to Dannii Minogue during 1990 made reference to the fact that she had been a smash in the Australian charts with her single Love And Kisses and was hoping to duplicate her sister’s international success herself. Not one single British label was interested and her music went unreleased until she finally landed a regular role in Home and Away and was suddenly a bankable star on these shores. When it did finally emerge, Love And Kisses was horrible, a plodding meandering single delivered in a strange whiny voice that made the year of hype that had proceeded it seem like a very bad joke. Nonetheless the single scrambled its way to Number 8 and justified the release of this follow-up. Success may have also attracted its fair share of critical scorn but it was at least a much better single, sung properly this time and blessed with an infectious dance beat which afforded it a modest amount of club play and in truth kind of pointed the way for some of the better receive hits of her career. The single lodged itself at Number 11 for no less than three weeks before finally falling back. Perhaps the most amazing fact about the single is that a decade later, against all odds it seemed, Dannii Minogue was still managing Top 10 hits.