Fancy another nostalgia trip? So do I. Following the pre-Christmas review of a chart from 1987, I thought it was worth coming just a couple more years up to date. Once again the concept is simple, this writeup based on a cassette recording I have of an old Radio One Top 40 show. Consequently this isn't a rundown of the entire chart, just the 30 or so songs that were played during the two hours chart show.
This particular tape is the show recorded on February 11th 1990 and sticks in my mind as a particularly entertaining one, not necessarily due to the music it contains but because it was a week in which there were about 10 new entries, at the time an unusually high number.
To further place this in your memories, this was during Radio One's 1FM "one million watts of music power" era. Bruno Brookes makes a point of giving a shout out to listeners in Devon and Cornwall who have just had their 97.7FM transmitter turned on. This show was also broadcast on the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
The first-ever chart single for the rock group formed out of the ashes of Terraplane who had crashed to earth a year earlier. On the face of it this was a massive hit in the making, a crunching soft metal track with a rousing chorus and a crowd-pleasing na-na-na refrain to boot. Released four years earlier in would have been Top 10 for sure but even in 1990 it was a sound that had begun to sound incredibly dated. Number 32 the following week was as far as it got, and indeed Thunder can boast just one solitary Top 20 hit to their name. Despite this they remain a going concern to this day, their last hit coming as recently as Christmas 2006.
Probably the most influential group you have never heard of, Renegade Soundwave were darlings of the London electronic scene from the late 80s onwards, fusing dance, dub reggae and hip-hop in a manner that was amazingly ahead of its time. Plenty of acts, the Chemical Brothers to name but one can trace their sound and their inspiration to the work done Danny Briotlet and Gary Asquith. For all that, this quirky hit remains their one and only Top 40 appearance, a tongue-in-cheek narrative of a botched bank raid that ends with the protagonist lamenting "the worst thing about it, I just booked me cruise".
One of the most photographed and biggest selling British stars of the early 80s, Adam Ant had just spent five years in the States trying to make it as an actor before turning his hand back to music with a comeback album Manners And Physique that was dutifully hyped up by a willing music press as the second coming of the messiah. In truth, it wasn't that good, but this opening single at least put him back in the spotlight for an all-too-brief period, peaking ultimately at Number 13 and in a pleasant surprise going Top 20 in America later the same year.
1988 debut offering 'We Care A Lot' was little more than a turntable hit, so one change of lead singer later this was the Top 40 debut for Faith No More who would go on to an acclaimed career for most of the next decade. Half-rapped, half-sung 'Epic' peaked right here on this appearance but after becoming a major American hit later in the year it returned for a September re-issue, this time penetrating the Top 30. Their time would come, even if it took another two years.
It is a convenient shorthand to paint the December 1989 appearance of the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses on Top Of The Pops as the watershed moment that swept away the dad-rockers of the late 80s and ushered in the Madchester scene. In truth the invasion of the baggy sound didn't really get underway until late spring, leaving room in the early part of the year for one final mini invasion of the elder statesmen of pop. Chris Rea had actually closed the 80s with his one and only Top 10 hit The Road To Hell Part II and for the second single from the album of the same name, he chose its six-minute epic final track. A dark ballad recounting tales of child abuse, Rea's gruff tones are accompanied by a lush orchestration that even a generation on still has the power to stop you in your tracks. An amazingly bold choice of single, it would actually have been a crime for this to have languished forgotten as an album track.
A short and sweet two minute track that served as the last single from McCartney's Flowers In The Dirt album, a work notable for most of the songs being written in a register just beyond that which his ageing vocal range could manage. It meant tracks such as this one and indeed This One were sung in a strangulated whine which would have rendered anyone else a laughing stock. Fortunately, by 1997 he'd worked out he couldn't sing the same way he could before and had modified his work accordingly. Sadly for the audiences of 1990, it made McCartney an almost painful listen.
At the turn of the decade, punk and new wave legends The Stranglers managed a hit single in the first months of the year almost like clockwork. In 88 it was 'All Day And All Of The Night', in 89 a remix of '(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)' and now here in 1990 a cheerily faithful romp through the song made famous by ? And The Mysterians in 1966. Possibly the first time in many years that a hammond organ had been the lead instrument on a pop record. The Inspiral Carpets ensured later that same year that it would not be the last.
Speaking of dad-rock, or should that be Grandma-rock? Steamy Windows was written for Tina Turner by legendary bluesman Tony Joe White and doesn't it show. A glorious blues track drenched in steel guitars and harmonicas, it may have been the kind of song that Simon Bates and DLT would gush over on Radio One at the time it is actually one of Tina Tuner's most enjoyable singles. With her previous hit The Best now just an overblown cliché, the presence of this track in her hit opus is a welcome reminder of just how good she could be.
Spot a theme developing here? Clapton's album Journeyman marked both the exclamation point on his career as a mainstream rock star as well as the first hints of his rediscovery of the blues. The obvious choice for a lead single, this was an all-star performance with Mick Jones of Foreigner on co-writing duties and the distinctive sound of Phil Collins on tub-thumping duties (a favour that would be returned almost simultaneously as we will see). An obvious single it may have been, however most Clapton fans will agree that this came at the expense of the album's best track No Alibis which peaked a long way from the Top 40 when it became a seven-inch a couple of months later. Chalk it up as the biggest hit Clapton never had, although of course his biggest hit of all was just two years away.
A little-remembered side effect of the whole Madchester invasion was the way it dragged long-standing veterans of the Leeds indie scene into the charts in its wake. After five years of being almost unknown outside of Peel Sessions, this track was the first-ever Top 30 hit for the Wedding Present, leading to the entertaining spectacle of David Gedge perched at the edge of the Top Of The Pops stage attempting to mime the song without actually moving his lips as if to see just how far he could stretch the concept.