Chart Music Through The Years – 1990

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here –


1990 was a big year in world events, from a political and historical standpoint, with the  beginnings of The Gulf War, the collapse of Yugoslavia, the pseudo birth of the Internet, the release of Mandela, and the resignation of Thatcher all making headlines. On a happier and lighter note, McDonalds opened its first restaurants in China and Moscow, Mr Bean made his first TV appearance, The Nintendo World Championship took place, The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania’s Main Event, West Germany won the World Cup while Chris Waddle skyed his penalty, and Kevin McCallister was left Home Alone while the rest of us asked who killed Laura PalmerI was in my middle years in Primary School and just getting into metal music thanks to the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Alice Cooper, and Bryan Adams and beginning to look for heavier stuff, while gorging myself on Bruce Lee, Arnie, and assorted action movies. My little sister was born meaning me and my older brother became a trio.

In the music world, Hair Metal and 80s metal in general was still successful but was on the decline thanks mostly to burnout of listeners and performers (though there were still a few seminal metal releases), Madchester continued to rise in the UK bringing with it a heady mixture of decent and atrocious music, Milli Vanilli admitted to lip syncing, Madonna continued to court controversy with apparently explicit videos and performances, and Roger Waters performed The Wall in Berlin. The list below contains a few of my most disliked songs – songs which I despised at the time and have shuddered in disgust at the very thought of them since. I suspect I’ll have heard them all but there are a few I’m not sure about just by reading the artist and song name, but as always we will soon find out.

  1. The Beautiful South: A Little Time
The Annoying Twats

We start off badly with a song I detested then, but thankfully haven’t heard in a long time. Because I love you all so much though, I’ve decided to give it a new listen with my 2016 era ears and brains. Oh horrendously plain and twee vocals. Yes yes, I know the lyrics are about a breakdown so it isn’t as happy as it sounds, but man those vocals are just terrible. Of course it’s catchy enough to sink its claws in, but the music – those clicky drums, the simpering horns, and the vocals somehow get worse as the songs finally gets to the end.

2. Maria Mckee: Show Me Heaven

Nascar and Ballads

Speaking of vocals, I remember this one having a powerfully sung but screechy chorus. The verses are quite whispery and deep, not quite sultry but something along those lines. it has all the hallmarks of an 80s Power Ballad but with the synth replaced by an organ. As far as I know this was a one hit wonder (let me know if I’m wrong in the comments) but as with many of its ilk I mostly like it. It certainly has a blasting, memorable chorus but I don’t get much emotion off it and it lacks the atmosphere I usually enjoy in these songs.

3. The Righteous Brothers: Unchained Melody

Shep, come by! Come by, Shep!

I don’t need to hear this one again to know that I still hate it. One of the most covered, most overrated songs of all time, everything about this insipid, festering dump is wretched. If you think I love you that much to listen to it by choice again, then I hate you.

4. Status Quo: The Anniversay Waltz

The Abomination

It appears that this one was in two parts, with the combined running time over 10 minutes, so here we go. Hmm, so it’s actually just a medley of existing rock and roll songs, starting off with ‘Rock And Roll Music’. Fine, I’ve heard these songs a million times so Status Quo won’t add much to it. An essentially pointless endeavour.

5. Happy Mondays: Kinky Afro

Music For Tramps, By Tramps

I was never into the Madchester scene when it was popular, as I found most of the music boring, dull, and dumb. It took me until my later teenage years to reevaluate it thanks largely to many friends being fans and influenced by it. I still don’t get much from it and I think it came from a pretty crappy place and influenced more crappy bands than good, but I do like some stuff. Kinky Afro and a few other Happy Mondays songs were always played in the clubs or house party’s I frequented in my younger days so I had to get used to them – I don’t love or hate them, they’re just there in the background sending others into a frenzy while I watch in a state of drunken bemusement. Oh yeah, I hated the hair, the style, the vocals, the ridiculous videos of most of this stuff back then, and they aren’t much better now. Still, it’s a decent song, even if I do still find it dull, boring, and dumb.

6. Bobby Venton: Blue Velvet

Baby Wants To Fuck

Well, there can be only one reason for this being in the charts in 1990, although given that Lynch’s movie was released a few years earlier this all seems bizarre. It’s your typical wavering, dreamy 50s ballad evoking images of cadillacs, skirts, burger joints and kids cruising. Very strange that it’s here, but the 1990 re-release was probably the first time I heard the song.

7. Whitney Houston: I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

Blue Velvet?

This starts out with horrendous 1980s sounds, feeble beats, and trumping trumpet bleats. It’s one of those songs that sounds dated on the day it’s released, but luckily Houston’s voice and a catchy chorus save it from being instantly forgettable. It has an ineffectual bridge and an overlong ending meaning the final product is over four minutes long instead of the two it should be.

8. Berlin: Take My Breath Away

Jets and Ballads

Another song that has no business being in the charts in 1990. It’s one of the best and most instantly recognizable power ballads ever written, it suits Top Gun perfectly, and it ranks up there with one of the most memorable movie songs. I’m sure anyone reading this will know the song, will know its ‘dun dun dun dun dun -bum bum. bum bum’ riff and the vocals in the chorus which bum bum along, and the sultry verses with images of sun tanned chests vollyballing and jets and parachutes and danger zones.

9. Technotronic: Megamix

Worse Than Hitler

I knew at an early age that the world was broken. I knew at an early age that this was an abomination.Time has not been kind to this junk, although strangely I don’t mind it as much now. It’s still a dreadful collection of noises and laughable rapping that appeals mainly to the mindless, but it’s better than a lot of what came from it afterwards. And it just keeps going, doesn’t it? It’s hilarious how edgy and cool people thought this was at the time, and how iconic it is claimed to be now; it was shit then, and it’s shit now, as were you and as you are.

10. Londonbeat: I’ve Been Thinking About You

A’right, bruv

Right before I clicked play on this I couldn’t remember, but then it suddenly popped back into my head. So now I recall the song before hitting play. I remember thinking it was okay, it was tolerable and with a chorus you could hum along to. Hitting play now. Yes, I was right. The singer sounds like your doll from M People, even though she is a she and this is a he. Pretty funky, yes it’s dated but it’s the sort of song where the dated beats could easily be stripped away and updated to sound more modern and the song wouldn’t lose anything in the transition. There’s something a little bit dark, a little bit rock influenced about it too. Still, it does suffer from being too long at almost 5 minutes. There’s probably been a dozen remakes and remixes of this already, but I imagine it would sound great in a club with a thumping bass backing.

There you have it, the cream of the crop from the first year of the final decade of the last millennium. What can these songs teach the folks of today about the music of the time? Primarily it seems that big breathy ballads were doing battle with a new wave of dance music, and that seems like a respectable way to view much of 90s chart music – while grunge and britpop would have their moments and boy and girl groups would abound later, many of the early years of the nineties saw ballad after ballad as movie soundtracks topped the charts, and rave and underground dance culture swirled and became more palatable EDM and RNB junk. When looking at the biggest selling songs of 1990 we have two ballads – Nothing Compares 2U, It Must Have Been Love, and three dance and rap influenced pieces – You Can’t Touch This, Vogue, Ice Ice Baby. But 1990 also saw the release of Depeche Mode’s Violator, Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet, Bruce Dickinson’s Tattooed Millionaire, Sonic Youth’s Goo, Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, and many more. So finally, here is a selection of ten songs which I feel better reflect the quality of music released in 1990. Enjoy!

  1. Megadeth: Hanger 18
  2. Angelo Badalamenti: Laura Palmer’s Theme
  3. Alice In Chains: Bleed The Freak
  4. Slayer: Dead Skin Mask
  5. Public Enemy: 911 Is A Joke
  6. Mother Love Bone: Man Of Golden Words
  7. Pantera: Cowboys From Hell
  8. Jon Bon Jovi: Blaze Of Glory
  9. LL Cool J: To Da Break Of Dawn
  10. Cher: The Shoop Shoop Song (for your movie soundtrack needs)

What songs have I missed from 1990? What do you make of the songs in both or either lists? What was a younger you getting up to back then? Let us know in the comments!