1990 In Motion: Part One

Repost time, seeing as it is topical. Here’s a revised repeat of a chart recap I first wrote a few years ago to hark back to 1900 and the last time an England side was doing spectacularly good things in a World Cup.

July 4th 1990 marks a famous moment in the history of English football. A snapshot in time of shattered dreams, iconic tears and the start of an unbearable cliché that no matter how much hope and expectation we have, England are just never any good at penalty shootouts (the recent Columbia game excepted).

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As chance would have it, the Sunday before I had pressed record on the Radio One Top 40 show and captured for what seemed ever more the way the singles chart sounded at the precise moment that Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle shanked their penalties later that week. So here then as a special midsummer treat is a recap of that very chart show. To save a little time I’ll take the songs as they were played during the two-hour chart show as per the tape, the best 30 in effect, although at the end I’ll link to a Spotify playlist with as much of the full Top 40 intact as is possible.

With all that said, cue the Greenwich pips, cue Bruno Brookes and let’s roll the Official Top 40 as it was broadcast on Sunday, July 1st, 1990.

39: World Party – Message In A Box

Karl Wallinger started his music career first as a theatre director and then as a funk musician before joining The Waterboys, being part of the line up of the ground which recorded the This Is The Sea album in 1985 and its classic hit single The Whole Of The Moon. Leaving the group shortly afterwards, Wallinger formed World Party as a proper vehicle for his own multi-instrumentalist talents. His (or their) second album Goodbye Jumbo had been released in April 1990 and whilst lead single Way Down Now had flopped first time around, the second cut taken from the album became the first ever Top 40 hit single for World Party. One of those records inevitably cooed over by the ageing Radio One lineup at the time, it would these days be regarded as the perfect Radio Two record, an endearingly relaxed production underpinning Wallinger’s intensely meant vocals pleading for environmental tolerance and global peace and love. Having taken four weeks just to reach this initial Top 40 entry, Message In A Box just didn’t have any steam left to carry it further and so it remains a faded memory and a passing curiosity to this day. Still, the album itself remains a worthwhile listen as indeed does 1993 follow-up Bang! which at last contained something approaching some proper hit singles.

36: Del Amitri – Move Away Jimmy Blue

Intense and soulful Glaswegians Del Amitri had taken their sweet time to become properly famous but the breakthrough hit single had been achieved in the early weeks of 1990 with the enduring classic Nothing Ever Happens. After a re-release of earlier flop single Kiss This Thing Goodbye had failed to live up to expectations and missed the Top 40 for the second time, the group moved on to what was actually the fourth and final single from their Waking Hours album (which was by this time a year old having first hit the streets in summer 1989). Move Away Jimmy Blue was at its heart a rather clever bit of poetry, the tale of a man conceived into poverty as “a love match with the moon in a lay-by” and for whom a life of “4 walls of neglected debts and stolen stereos” is only escapable by leaving the small town in which he lives and seeking better in the wider world. An inescapably bleak record it I guess speaks volumes for the hard work the group had put in that it finally became their second Top 40 hit (even if this Number 36 placing was a far as it would get), proof that Nothing Ever Happens was no fluke and formed the bedrock for better things to come.

35: River City People – Carry The Blame/California Dreamin’

Siobhan Maher began her career as a children’s TV presenter, appearing on summertime mornings on BBC1 in 1988 as part of a rotating cast of faces. She had bigger ambitions though and even as her TV career started to take off so her band Peep Show was steadily morphing into the River City People. The group landed a major coup that same summer when still unsigned, they featured in a specially shot video on The Chart Show performing an early version of (What’s Wrong With) Dreaming which would become their first official single a year later. Despite working with producer Don Gehman in Los Angeles their debut album Say Something Good had resolutely failed to sell and hit singles were thin on the group despite sympathetic support from Radio One. Their chart debut was, therefore, a last ditch roll of the dice, pairing one final track from the album with a new track, a straight for the jugular cover version of the old The Mamas and The Papas hippie anthem California Dreamin’. Full marks to whoever had the idea though, because it worked. A new entry here this week, the double A-sided track eventually fought its way to a Number 13 peak and became the high point of the career of River City People. Although technically the second track on the single it was California Dreamin’ which attracted all the attention, lead song Carry The Blame an intense but altogether less sunny anti-abortion polemic.

33: Diana Ross – I’m Still Waiting (Remix)

Consider this our first encounter of something of a leitmotif for this singles chart as for a brief period in the summer of 1990 the British music market was engulfed in revivals of 70s soul hits reworked for modern day dancefloors. I’m Still Waiting is a curious anomaly in Diana Ross’ hit canon, a single which was a hit uniquely in Britain and practically nowhere else with Tony Blackburn having badgered for its release in 1970 and relentlessly promoted it all the way to Number One. Its 20th-anniversary revival came thanks to a remix by Phil Chill, a prospect which sounds grotesque on paper but which was actually respectful enough of the source material to ensure that the Motown soul ballad was transformed gently but effectively into a chill-out club shuffle. The new version of I’m Still Waiting only reached Number 21 but was actually a surprisingly worthwhile exercise.

32: James – Come Home

It genuinely seemed as if Tim Booth and the band James were destined never to have proper commercial success. Manchester-based contemporaries of Morrissey and Marr, they were frequently spoken of in the same breath as The Smiths (they were the support act on the Meat Is Murder tour after all) and as the uncrowned second best band in Manchester. By the end of the 1980s the group had overcome addictions, spells in religious cults, on-stage fights and a grumpy unwillingness to properly commit to record labels to finally record their third proper album Gold Mother for Rough Trade records. Sadly another dispute over its marketing (and Geoff Travis’ belief that they were only going to sell locally) led them to buy the rights to the master tapes and strike a major label deal with Fontana records instead. Their first release on the label How Was It For You had seen them reach the Top 40 for the first time ever in May and it was swiftly followed by a brand new version of a track which had been their final Rough Trade single at the end of the preceding year. The new mix of Come Home was remixed by Mark ‘Flood’ Ellis, at the time a very hot ticket indeed thanks to his work on the Depeche Mode album Violator. He took the jangling indie anthem and thrust the group headlong into the burgeoning baggy scene, adding house pianos and swirling funk guitars to all of a sudden make James sound like the most exciting band in the world. In spite of its seminal status, however, Come Home still wasn’t the single that turned James into superstars, peaking here at Number 32 alongside the rather limply received initial release of the Gold Mother album. True salvation from obscurity was another nine months away.

31: Rolling Stones – Almost Hear You Sigh

“Daddy, was there really still a time in the 1980s when the Rolling Stones were still considered a relevant, commercially viable and contemporary musical act rather than a never-ending nostalgia novelty?”

“Why yes, small imaginary child, take for example their 1989 album Steel Wheels which saw Jagger and Richards end their decade-long sulk with each other and start working properly together for the first time in years. It cast aside ill-advised flirtations with funk and disco and was generally considered their best work for some time, prompting their biggest tour ever and prompting their overdue transformation into living legends. Lead single Mixed Emotions had become a minor Top 40 hit the previous autumn and this third single even exceeded its peak even if it was a quite extraordinary mellow love song that basically came gift wrapped with a “please add me to your playlist” note for American rock radio.”

30: Inspiral Carpets – She Comes In The Fall

A record that was very much a victim of second-single syndrome as She Comes In The Fall was simply put the lesser starred follow up to the classic This Is How It Feels which had dragged the Inspiral Carpets kicking and screaming into the Top 20 three months earlier. Dialling down the Hammond Organ a little and actually slightly more representative of the usual meat and potatoes output of the Oldham noisemakers She Comes In The Fall did at least as I recall coincide with the burgeoning popularity of the band’s notorious “Cool as F*ck” line of t-shirts which prompted a brief kerfuffle about just how legal it was to wear them in a public.

29: Janet Jackson – Alright

Single number 596 from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album (actually the fourth, be sensible, this isn’t Smash Hits) Alright can possibly be considered the zenith of Jam and Lewis’ songwriting and production style, the track little more than a blur of New Jack Swing and almost entirely devoid of melody with Janet Jackson reduced to gamely sawing away at the microphone and singing lyrics which might as well have been part of an entirely different song. Simply put this is a record to be experienced rather than heard and whilst it came at the very peak of her fame and was a huge American smash hit, Britain went “meh” and propelled it to a Number 20 peak a week after this chart and then promptly forgot about it. Of more note perhaps is the fact that this was one of the earliest urban singles to be produced in a variety of different versions for single release, including several that added a rap from Heavy D, a contribution absent from the version which charted here in Britain.

27: Massivo featuring Tracy – Lovin’ You

Back on the 70s soul tip and another classic record reworked into a summertime house shuffle. Loving You was the song here, made famous naturally by Minnie Ripperton in 1975 but appearing here in a version that even the extensive Wikipedia page on the song appears blissfully unaware of. The actual identity of Massivo or even singer Tracy has thus far eluded me, but they were a four-piece soul act signed to Debut records and indeed appear to have fluked their way to this hit single given that the version which made the charts was an extensively remixed Soul II Soul-esque take on the rather plastic sounding original that the group had released earlier in 1990. Lovin’ You was a true slow-burner, taking five weeks to reach the Top 40 from its chart debut and here in the middle of a four week run as a Top 30 hit which would see it peak next week at Number 25.

25: Double Trouble featuring Janette Sewell and Karl Brown – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

Numerous acts have chosen to brand themselves Double Trouble over the years, which can get a little confusing. These guys at least are easy to nail down, the trio of British producers who were active from the late 80s onwards and who had made their name in tandem with the Rebel MC with whom they’d had a brace of hits in 1989. Their take on Love Don’t Live Here Anymore duly became the third version of the famous song to be a hit, following in the varied footsteps of original performers Rose Royce in the 70s and Jimmy Nail back in 1985. Taken from their album Be As One, the Double Trouble version is actually a worthwhile listen, a track which takes its cue from the Rose Royce original and blends it neatly with the beats and strings of 1990 house to make this a cover which adds rather than detracts from what should, in theory, be an untouchable classic. The vocals came from Janette Sewell, one-time backing singer for Simply Red and Double Trouble member Karl Brown who supplies the opening “be true to who you are” monologue and who would go on to become one half of Kiss Fm presenting duo Tuff Jam later in the decade.

21: Glenn Medeiros featuring Bobby Brown – She Ain’t Worth It

A talent show winner in his native Hawaii, Glenn Medeiros had landed a worldwide smash hit (and a UK chart-topper too) in 1988 with his cover version of Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You. Had he wound up a one-hit wonder following this few would have been surprised, but it was maybe more of a shock when he re-emerged two years later with some crunching R&B tracks for his self-titled third album. Leading the way was jilted lover revenge track She Ain’t Worth It which thanks to the then white-hot Bobby Brown on guest rap duty (the pair apparently having a mutual friend in Rick James) duly charged to the top of the American charts at around the same time it was becoming a sizeable hit across Europe. Here, the single was on its way to Number 12 as Medeiros’ second and final British hit single although he did have one final moment of notoriety later that year when his follow-up single was selected for review on the Jools Holland-fronted revival of Juke Box Jury. In a clip that has been shown on countless “TV nightmares” shows since, the entire panel listened to the track and elected to be crashingly rude about the record, much to the horror of the host and the teeth-gritting chagrin of the singer himself who was waiting behind a panel to be introduced as the show’s mystery guest. From career-making record to career-killing TV appearance in a matter of months. Now that takes some doing.

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