Ranking Modern Rock hits 1991-1992

When George H.W. Bush expired in a manner incommensurate with the misery he had caused hundreds of thousands of people, I thought, as William Wyler did on hearing about the death of the cinema’s supreme choreographer of elegant comedies, no more Poppy Bush Interzone. Before Nirvana could Change The World, listeners still had a world to endure. A final recrudescence of Anglophilia choked up the chart something bad in 1991 and 1992. I can understand geezers like Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed scoring late hits; college radio, with or without modern rock reporting, had loved them for at least a decade. Yet the eyesore is Sting’s “All This Time,” a top five pop hit in January 1991. While “Digging in the Dirt”‘s proto-laptop beat, punctiliously deployed slap bass, and organ washes don’t code pop in 1992 (or 1991), Sting was already sharpening the canines for the adult contemporary market. I don’t believe a single modern-reporting college station played Sting in January 1991.

Lest I be accused of allowing the unabashed capitalist more space after he said Juice WLRD’s sample of “Shape of My Heart” will put his grandkids through college, let me touch on other matters:

    • The chart rewarded the Charlatans (UK) with a #1 in the spring of 1992 despite the serotonin of the Madchester scene having turned to vapor.
    • With “Tomorrow” Morrissey capped three years of swelling domestic popularity: 1992’s biggest modern rock single, six weeks at #1 (thanks to Soundscan, it turns out we’d underestimated his sales; Your Arsenal debuted at #21).
    • Note how Cracker’s “Teen Angst” and Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis” topped the chart within a couple months.
    • I’ve got a couple of #LMFAO entries below: Elvis Costello’s musically and lyrically garrulous attempt to consolidate the post-Spike comeback; and XTC’s zealously mixed and conceived allegory about an American president, as addled as Oliver Stone’s JFK. I’m surprised Andy Partridge didn’t sing, “Do NOT forget your dying KING.”
    • Electronic’s “Get the Message” is what I imagine heaven is like, which means a couple of excellent drinks, friends on barstools along the perimeter, and Jake Gyllenhaal awaiting at the end of the room.
    • The Cure’s “High” is not too far in the heaven-imagining sweepstakes.

Finally, many also-rans who didn’t hit #1 should take a bow. Will the following please rise? The La’s’ “There She Goes,” Kristy MacColl’s “Walking Down Madison,” Lloyd Cole’s “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man” (he played John the Baptist for Matthew Sweet, on bass here, and in many ways the better songwriter), Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” (uh hi!), INXS’ “Not Enough Time,” and Sugar’s “Helpless.”

The Hague

Simple Minds – See the Light
Elvis Costello – The Other Side of Summer
XTC – The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead


Peter Gabriel – Steam
The Sugarcubes – Hit
U2 – One
Charlatans UK – Weirdo
R.E.M. – Drive
Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro
Cracker – Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give It Away

Sound, Solid Entertainment

Psychedelic Furs – Until She Comes
The Cure – Friday I’m in Love
Lou Reed – What’s Good
10,000 Maniacs – These Are Days
Faith No More – Midlife Crisis
Sting – All This Time
The B-52’s – Good Stuff
Jesus Jones – Right Here, Right Now
Robyn Hitchcock – So You Think You’re In Love
Soul Asylum – Somebody to Shove

Good to Great

Electronic – Get the Message
The Cure – High
R.E.M. – Losing My Religion
Morrissey – Tomorrow
Suzanne Vega – Blood Makes Noise
Peter Gabriel – Digging in the Dirt
U2 – The Fly
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Talking Heads – Sax and Violins
U2 – Mysterious Ways

2 thoughts on “Ranking Modern Rock hits 1991-1992

  1. Jukebox

    What the world needs now is another folk singer, like I need a whole in my head. C’mon, that’s funny. I like ONE and Ways equally. Drive is awesome.

  2. februarycallendar

    Robyn Hitchcock was “too English for the English” for one set of reasons: Morrissey, by this time, was “too English for the English” for another, bleaker set of reasons. Interesting comparison point.


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