Proper 90’s

Remember the 90’s? Because I don’t!

So I was 13 when the 90’s started and 24 when they ended and so it’s fair to say the 90’s had the best years of my life.

It annoys me when people harp on about how great the 80’s were because everything was better and the music was amazing.

It annoys me because, well, it’s bullshit!

Things WEREN’T better, Thatcher had us gripped by the short and curlies, you couldn’t really go anywhere because it was properly violent in the city centres and towns and if they weren’t violent they were “fun pubs” – eugh!

TV highlights included a glittering game show based on darts, a former Goon singing hymns at you and a 3 hours of nonsense every Saturday staring a bloke who seemed to have arthritis in his right hand.

No, the 80’s were shite.

Now the 90’s! THEY were the dog’s doodahs!

We had bright, optimistic politicians who wouldn’t start REALLY lying to us until well into the new century. We had bright young things on new TV channels, people you really could go down the pub with and the music was properly brilliant….

….I think! You see for most of the 90’s I was either moping about in my bedroom listening to local radio or drunk. Very very drunk.

So I have decided that 30 years is enough water under the bridge and it’s time to look back and reevaluate the 90’s bit by bit.

I will, and this blog will be my record, attempt to listen to every single album that charted in the 1990’s. In doing so, I hope to find a bit of joy from revisiting old favourites and finding new loves that were under my nose this entire time.

You’re more than welcome to join me…so long as you’re wearing a shell suit with a Global Hypercolour t-shirt underneath, and a Tamogochi in your pocket.

This is Proper 90’s

131. Jason Donovan – “Between The Lines”

In 1990, when young Australians came to the UK, they didn’t head for the nearest pub in search of employment, they called Pete Waterman who would throw a few songs and a recording contract their way and chart domination followed.

We used to wind my brother up by saying he looked like Jason Donovan. He had blonde hair and that was the only resemblance. He was lucky! I got “Jack” because they claimed I looked like the bloke who played Jack in the lovable Scouse sitcom “Bread”…and I did, but that’s neither here nor there.

I never took to Jason Donovan. There’s a moment in the video for “Especially For You” where he’s got Kylie Minogue in his arms and he shoots a look to camera which says ‘look at this, how embarrassing’. Seriously! Even at the time I thought if you think you’re cooler that having a clinch with Kylie Minogue on camera then you REALLY have ideas above your station.

I met Jason Donovan a few years ago when my colleagues and I interviewed him about a play that no-one went to see in Bristol. He was not as forthcoming as we’d have liked, actually he was quite rude! He shot down every attempt to inject fun into the proceedings and I found him to be humourless, dull and very much presenting himself like he just didn’t want to be there. (In his defence, my colleagues were singing “Especially For You” at him during the interview.) So revisiting “Between The Lines” was always going to have an image of a lacklustre singer at the mic.

Now, at the age of 44, I’m finally ready to admit that I can be a musical snob. I like my music to have some attitude and a fire in the belly, and to be authentic.

Thinking back to the late 80’s and early 90’s I remember PWL records being crap, but “Between The Lines” surprised me, because I don’t remember them sounding so cheap.

The music sounds like a backing track in a karaoke bar that couldn’t be bothered to buy the Sunfly CD’s but knocked something vaguely like the same song up on a free app.

The whole 34 minutes just stinks of “can’t be arsed”, get it done and get it out, especially “Rhythm Of The Rain” and “I’m Doin’ Fine”.

I know they say that no-one goes out to make something bad, but all too often people are happy to make something that will “do” and that they know people will buy. That’s not good enough for me and this album feels like fans are being cheated but who cares, get the next one out.

Jason left the PWL factory after this and went to the West End to become Joseph…which I imagine he got bored of quite quickly as well.

15. The Mission – “Carved In Sand”

Mercury : Charted at #7 on 11th February 1990

The Mission are “goths’!

But because by the time 1990 came around and I’d listened to The Sisters Of Mercy a few too many times, The Mission were ‘goth-pop’ & Wayne Hussey was the prick who had left the Sisters and fell about drunk on the James Whale Show (which I only watched because it was filmed in the reception of Radio Aire).

Back to the Sisters and to 13 year old me Andrew Eldritch was a god. The fact that Eldritch hated Wayne (most of the vitriol on “Floodland” is aimed at him after all) just made me disengage from what I saw as the cartoon goth of the Mission.

In 2020 though I’ve mellowed. I’ve also read Hussey’s memoirs “Salad Daze” and learned that he’s not from Leeds at all but round the corner from where I live at the minute in Bristol…which means everything is forgiven.

“Carved In Sand” is the 3rd of 11 albums by the band and is still their biggest seller.

The track list was compiled by the “Eskimos”, the name given to the Mission’s most ardent fans – no “squads” in the 90’s, which some reviews give as a reason for their opinion that it doesn’t quite ‘make sense’.

That’s not my feeling at all, except for opener “Amelia” which delves into the abuse of a child by a family member.

53 – Barnstorming when it’s not baffling.

FAVOURITE TRACK : “Deliverance”

14. Leonard Bernstein – “Bernstein in Berlin : Beethoven Symphony No. 9”

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHONE – charted at #54 on 4th February 1990

This was recorded at the Christmas Day concert in 1989 in Berlin celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Famous for West Side Story this was his last performance before retirement. He died just 5 days after announcing his retirement.

Now I know nothing about classical music and so can’t honestly make any judgement on the performance. What I can say is that it was wonderful to get carried away with.

It’s the first time I’ve listened to a symphony in full, it won’t be the last.

85 – Essential recording of a historic performance

13. The Lightning Seeds – “CloudCuckooLand“

GHETTO – charted at #50 on 4th February 1990

Ian Broudie gets 20 automatically because he produced “I Am Kurious Oranj”. He was also in “Big In Japan” and “Original Mirrors”….but that was the 80’s!!

In the 90’s he was a one man music project, The Lightning Seeds, and it feels like it’s a lesson in creating pop music. Opener “All I Want” is the perfect start and tells you what to expect. Sussanah Hoffs covered it!

“Sweet Dreams” and “Don’t Let Go” are highlights but the star is “Pure” which is as close to the perfect pop song as you can get.

A smiley, happy tune and one which burrows into your brain, but look at the lyrics. It’s not an optimistic song, it’s recognition that things will never get better than this….and as I spend my 40-oddth day in lockdown away from the usual clowns daily life throws at you, it’s hard to disagree 🙂

86 – Perfect pop from proper producer.

12. Inner City – “Paradise Remixed”

10 RECORDS – charted at #17 on 4th February 1990

Detroit House from a band that became legends in US dance music circles. They must have been small circles.

Inner City have…what’s the nicest way to say it…a definite style!

Paris Grey’s vocals sound as bored as I was after a couple of tracks. “Good Life” IS a tune…but this is 40 minutes of it.

15 – needs more than a remix to alleviate the boredom

11. Fish – “Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors”

EMI – charted at #5 on 4th February 1990

It’s just after 6pm on VE 75 Day which means most of the UK are just one pint away from their social distancing driveway high teas becoming a massive national wedding reception. For some reason the local dogs have had a unified mad half hour….

…and I’m listening to Fish!

Derek Dick from Midlothian got the name “Fish” from an old landlord who thought he spent too much time in the bath. He found fame as the voice of Marillion.

When I first read the name of this album, my first reaction was, I think understandably “oh piss off Derek” and an overwhelming feeling that Punk happened 13 years previously purely to rid the world of over serious rock stars singing 8 minute long songs about goblins…..obviously, it’s not that bad!

“If there’s somebody out there, can they throw me a line” is not a lyric I’d associate with a fish! Surely they try to avoid that kind of thing.

It appears that some of the songs on “Vigil…” were refused by Marillion for being too political for them. “Big Wedge” and “The Company” being the most obviously anti-Thatcherite and greedy system (which is obviously to be commended.)

Honestly, I enjoyed this far more than any Marillion I’ve heard before.

51 – Fish, not foul

10. Tanita Tikaram – “The Sweet Keeper”

EASTWEST – charted at #3 on February 4th 1990

“Ancient Heart” was my first cassette album. I got it with a Walkman for Christmas and so I listened to it over and over again.

The smoky deep voice is there, the Argent/Van Hooke influence is there and the songs are nice enough, with lead single “We Almost Got It Together” the best thing on it but I remember he as much more dour than this album shows.

She’s now 50 and still performing and recording but she’s also one of the greatest Twitter users because she shares some utterly beautiful art on a nearly daily basis @tanita_tikaram

FACT : Her great uncle was the world’s longest serving ombudsman!

65 – Alexei Sayle didn’t like her, but I did.

9. The Quireboys – “A Bit Of What You Fancy”

PARLOPHONE – charted at #2 on February 4th 1990

They started life as “The Choirboys”, then for some reason, changed to “The Queerboys” before someone had a word and they became “The Quireboys”, ‘quire’ being the word for 4 pages of parchment…so they’re ‘The Old Paper Boys”

This is their first album and the only one out of 12 so far to break into the top 10. (Only 2 have charted)…and yet they’ve not got the message!

49 minutes of what producers of bloody awful TV shows imagine rock bands sound like. “Sex Party” in particular can stay in 1990.

I remember the main single “Hey You” very clearly and indeed it’s the only song I can listen to without wanting to shower immediately after hearing it.

09 – …just for “Hey You” which isn’t awful.

8. The Jungle Brothers – “Done By The Forces Of Nature”

ETERNAL – charted at #41 on 28th January 1990

Another album I’m afraid to say I’ve never heard before,

I’ve had a look around the internet at different reviews and profiles and the common thought seems to be that this is a great album BUT it’s doing too much and they missed the bus in place of De La Soul.

My feeling is that it’s a bit unfair. It’s a brilliant and uplifting collection of songs with a focus on the band’s African roots.

Rolling Stone calls it one of the 50 Coolest Records of All Time and although it certainly wasn’t the commercial success of “3 Feet High And Rising” it deserves it’s place on that list rather than being considered an also ran.

90 – I’ve listened to and from work nearly 20 times now and every time is a joy.

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