Time to wrap this up with the Top 10 singles from March 21st 1993, a series of singles that actually have better than average tales to tell. We also feature a Top 3 lineup which marks something unique in British chart history. Read on...
1993 found Bowie the legend in need of a career shot in the arm. Four years of messing around with hard rock outfit Tin Machine had produced little more than critical derision and a lukewarm sales reception. His first solo album since 1987s Never Let Me Down therefore needed something special in order to make an impact. Recruiting old Spiders From Mars cohort Mick Ronson for a guest guitar spot (his final recording before his death) was a start, but the clincher was teaming up once again with Nile Rodgers in the hope that the magic that had worked a decade earlier on Let's Dance could be recreated. The buzz thus generated was enough to ensure both the album and its lead single Jump They Say were his most anticipated releases for years. The single shot to Number 9 on its first week of release, giving him his first Top 10 single since Absolute Beginners way back in 1986. I have to confess to having spent my entire life trying to 'get' the genius of David Bowie. Enough people whose opinions I respect wax lyrical about his talents and his genius but aside from acknowledging the odd classic I've never quite worked out where the hero-worship comes from. Jump They Say was hailed as magnificent when it came out, and whilst hearing it now whilst writing this piece is a far from unpleasant experience, I still fail to work out just what it is I'm supposed to be excited about. I just feel I'm missing out somehow.
Whatever his other faults and problems, imperial period Michael Jackson wasn't stupid. He knew that the universal appeal of his music rested on his ability to genre-hop and appeal to the broadest cross-section of fans at all times. A man who started out in soul music singing Motown pop should not have been able to pull off arena rock as well as he did, but few would argue that the token metal tracks on all his classic albums were some of the standout moments. Just as Beat It was to Thriller and Dirty Diana was to Bad, so Give In To Me was the out and out rocker from Dangerous and so it inevitably became one of the best singles from the sometimes misfiring album. It took a while to appear, having to wait its turn as the seventh chart single from the album, but even over a year after the release of Dangerous still had enough in the tank to charge to Number 2 and sit alongside Heal The World as its second-biggest hit. The next single was the gospel-tinged Will You Be There, released in the summer and while that was in the charts some stories began appearing about raids on his home and child molestation allegations. Things for Jacko would never be the same again.
I've put forward the theory that it was around 1990 that Cliff Richard finally lost his grip on his hitherto unerring ability to be relevant and to reinvent himself to fit in with the passing trends of musical time. Records he made after that were bought by his fans solely on the basis that they were Cliff Richard records rather than on their own merits. Depeche Mode syndrome at work even before they had invented it I guess. The fact that he didn't become a total joke until the late 90s is full credit to the fact that his early 90s work probably would have been well received in the hands of anyone else. Take Peace In Our Time, which aside from its suspiciously biblical lyrics was an upbeat and inspirational driving pop record which (don't tell anyone I told you) actually more than deserved its Number 8 chart entry this week, even though it did so with a suspicious lack of mainstream airplay and promotional activity. With this single he moved even further ahead of Elvis' hit singles tally to become undisputedly the most prolific act of all time. As the decade progressed and the hits became rarer and smaller, he regrettably lapsed into paranoia and accused the mainstream music media of being biased against him. Then again he may have had a point, 1998 release Can't Keep This Feeling In was even getting club airplay as a white-label before it was revealed as an East 17-esque stunt. The minute we knew it was Cliff, nobody would touch the single with a bargepole.
One year on from Everything About You, Ugly Kid Joe proved they were more than novelty one hit wonders by grabbing a second Top 10 hit with this metallised cover of Harry Chapin's tale of generational disconnection. Although it had been the Christmas Number One in the USA in 1974, the original version never charted here so Ugly Kid Joe's rendition stands proud as the only major hit version of the classic song. Questions as to just how you can cover such a nakedly autobiographical track are answered by the revelation that the verses were written by Chapin's wife and actually dealt with the relationship she witnessed between her own ex husband and his father. Harry Chapin bizarrely was singing about the dysfunction of a family he didn't even know.
It took the UK a while to get Lenny Kravitz properly. 1990 debut Let Love Rule needed two releases before it finally limped to Number 39 and although his 1991 album Mama Said made the Top 10 here, its only major hit single was Number 11 hit It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over. His Top 10 singles breakthrough finally came with the title track from his third album. Released in February 1993, it took just two weeks to rocket into the Top 10, eventually peaking at Number 4 from where it had tumbled to rest at this position on this particular chart. It would have remained his one and only Top 10 hit single, but for a fluke six years later when Fly Away from his 1998 album 5 was used in a TV commercial and shot to Number One. Funnily enough, it is a TV commercial that was responsible for the next single and the most popular revival of the year.
The highest new entry of the week and the ultimate proof that good things come to those who wait. Robert "Bobby Bluebell" Hodgens originally wrote Young At Heart back in 1981 with then-girlfriend Siobahn Fahey who was a member of upcoming female trio Bananarama. You may have heard of them. The country-esque song appeared as track seven on their 1983 debut album Deep-Sea Skiving (and indeed this version is worth tracking down as a fun introduction to the genesis of a classic). Hodgens subsequently landed a record deal for his own group The Bluebells and they recorded Young At Heart for their one and only album Sisters in 1984. Differing sharply from the original with a new melody and new lyrics in the chorus, the song climbed to Number 8 in the summer of 1984 as the Scottish group's one and only Top 10 hit.
After they disbanded in 1985, that probably would have been the end of the story, but for the track being licensed for use as the soundtrack to a TV commercial for Volkswagen which began airing in February 1993. Swamped by demand for the track, London records swiftly re-released the single which still sounded fresh and alive over a decade after it was first recorded. To widespread joy it debuted here at Number 5 and one week later was Number One, a position it retained for a month. The band quickly buried the hatchet and reformed to promote the single, their Top Of The Pops appearances for the single rapidly becoming talking points thanks to Bobby Bluebell's improvising. This was during the TV show's "live mic" period where groups were required to perform their singles live, a fact that Bobby exploited by namechecking his chart rivals in a different way each time. Thus Young At Heart gained new lyrics "techno techno techno techno" and "Shabba!" along the way. Whilst I can't confirm the veracity of this story, part of the band's enthusiasm for their nostalgic revival and their support of a retrospective hits collection was to maximise any potential royalties that might come their way. When they asked after the money the label reportedly advised them that the money raised had been offset against the debt they still owed from their unprofitable recordings back in the day, but thanked them profoundly for their efforts in reducing the deficit.
A final twist to the tale came in 2002 when British country legend Bobby Valentino successfully sued for a part share of the songwriting royalties, claiming that his violin solo made what the judge described as a "significant and original contribution" to the song, a performance for which he was originally paid a session fee of just £75.
2 Unlimited had already scored a quartet of Top 20 hits in 1991 and 1992, including consecutive Number 2 hits Get Ready For This and Twilight Zone but it was the release of what I have no choice but to point out is an all time enduring classic that put them firmly on the map. Released in the new year dead zone, No Limit took advantage of a lack of outstanding rival product and duly became the single that deposed I Will Always Love You from the top of the chart. By no means the most sophisticated record ever made, there is no denying its simple charm and the fact that at the time you could barely move on the dancefloor even when the track received its third airing of the night. A worldwide smash as well, 2 Unlimited continued to have hits until well into the late 90s, even if strangely enough they never made the Top 3 again.
Not that they didn't have their fans of course. In 1996 The Sun reported on one teenager who had changed his name by deed poll to "Ray Slijngaard" in honour of what he described as "the greatest group ever to be placed on God's earth". Sadly online archives don't go back far enough for me to be able to retrieve exactly who he was. I'd love to know how he feels about them now, or indeed the fact you can't find them on Spotify or in any online stores?
So now to the Top 3, and a lineup that had never been seen before or since in the UK charts. Representing the genre's greatest ever chart monopoly, every single one of the Top 3 singles was a dancehall ragga smash.
Shabba! Yes, the clarion call for a thousand annoying twats can be traced back to the breakthrough hit for Rexton Gordon. Shabba Ranks' first UK chart appearance came back at the start of 1991 when he made a cameo appearance on Scritti Politti's extraordinary cover version of the Beatles' She's A Woman which climbed to Number 20. Mr Loverman is a track which dates back even further than that however, starting life as a song called Champion Lover which was originally recorded by dancehall singer Deborahe Glasgow. Shabba Ranks used the track as the basis for his own song Mr Loverman which appeared on his independently released album in 1990. After signing a deal with Epic records a year later, Shabba revisited the song, but by this time Glasgow was seriously ill with the lymphatic cancer that would cause her premature death at the age of 29 in 1994. Instead, Chevelle Franklin was recruited to play the female part on the track. Released as a single in the summer of 1992, it reached Number 23, the only attention paid to him resulting in his famous appearance on The Word when he became embroiled in an on-air row with Mark Lamarr over alleged homophobia in his song lyrics.
Then Mr Loverman was picked up for use on the soundtrack of the movie Deep Cover and to cash in on the film, the label re-released the single. Serendipitously this re-release happened to coincide with a mini craze for dancehall music and the net result was a Top 3 smash, propelling Shabba Ranks to the biggest hit of his career and indirectly providing The Bluebells with the inspiration for a cute lyrical modification. The follow-up was another Top 10 hit, a re-release of the Maxi Priest-starring Housecall which had originally limped to Number 31 in the summer of 1991.
If you thought Mr Loverman had a tortuous route to the charts, you haven't seen anything yet. Possibly the only ragga hit performed by a white man from Canada to arrive on the UK charts via chart-topping success in the USA, Informer was far and away one of the most unexpected worldwide smashes of 1993. The song stems from one of singer Darrin "Snow" O'Brien's frequent run-ins with the forces of law and order. Those with the patience to penetrate the machine gun lyrics (or with a copy of the subtitled video the label were forced to issue) will learn that the track is the tale of his temporary incarceration on subsequently dropped charges of attempted murder in 1989, the graphic description of his strip search resulting in its most famous "run down me pants, look up me bottom" lyrical couplet. In a desperate irony, Snow was sent to prison for real for an 8 month stretch just before the American release of his debut album 12 Inches Of Snow and by the time of his release was well on its way up the Hot 100.
The week the single ascended to the top of the US charts for what would turn out to be a seven-week run at the top, Informer debuted at Number 24. Two weeks later it was the nation's second-biggest seller and part two of this unique dancehall triumvirate.
Topping them all however was this. Long before It Wasn't Me and predating Boombastic, this was the debut single and the first chart-topping single for Shaggy. On the face of it, it was the last single you would expect to cross over and race to the top of the UK charts, but there was an undeniable charm to the way Shaggy growled and postured his way through the song which whilst unfamiliar to most was an acknowledged dancefloor classic. The original version of Oh Carolina is considered a defining moment of 1960s reggae, originally penned by John Folkes for his band The Folkes Brothers and was the first ever successful production by Prince Buster. Shaggy's version was notable for becoming the first Number One single for reggae label Greensleeves but the success of the track in the UK and Europe then prompted a rather unedifying legal spat. Buster and Folkes went to court to determine just who owned the copyright on the song, the row eventually holding up the worldwide release of Shaggy's debut album Pure Pleasure and delaying what should have been his American breakthrough by the best part of two years. The dispute settled, Folkes then sued Shaggy and his label for the lyrical changes they made to his song on the b-side in a row which it appears he is still bitter about to this day. Those with eagle-eyes may care to note that the other co-author listed for Shaggy's version of Oh Carolina is legendary composer Henry Mancini due to the track's sampling of the Peter Gunn guitar riff.
So, in a vain attempt to find an adequate way of closing the tale, that was the Top 40 from March 1993. I can't add any more, other than to note that the Spotify playlist is now complete with all the available tracks from this Top 40 and to wheel out the now traditional shot of the cassettes on which the show was recorded. Now if you'll excuse me, I've some goats to interfere with. [That's an oblique reference to this post and the abusive comments it attracted].