Ranking Mainstream Rock tracks, 1990 edition

In 1990 the evidence of crossover between the Mainstream and Modern Rock chart happened with a song that everyone promptly forgot by the end of the year: Midnight Oil’s followup to “Beds Are Burning,” which I’d praised as sound, solid entertainment last week but surrounded by these lonely inferiors it has the force of a bell in the night. ZZ Top returned with Recycler, among the decade’s most aptly named albums, and two #1s on this chart, the superior of the two (beloved by Greil Marcus!) also a context cleanser. Billy Idol is the surprise. Honking banality, a smirk as lived musical flesh, “Cradle of Love” apart from its video yet it became a surprise #2 pop smash and topped this chart when “White Wedding,” “Eyes Without a Face,” “Flesh for Fantasy,” or “To Be a Lover” didn’t.

Finally, I spent a paragraph praising Stevie Nicks yesterday but can’t do the same for “Black Velvet,” the Alannah Myles hit that was one of the few to cross over pop. I’ve hated it without reason since 1990: the affected post-Cray blues swagger, the comfort with received ideas about sexiness. Yet Bonnie Raitt’s pop crossover owed something to those tropes and received ideas. Only better.

The Hague

Jon Bon Jovi – Blaze of Glory
Damn Yankees – Coming of Age
Alannah Myles – Black Velvet
Johnny Van Zant – Brickyard Road


Bruce Hornsby and the Range – Across the River
Billy Idol – Cradle of Love
ZZ Top – Doubleback
Allman Brothers Band – Good Clean Fun

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Steve Winwood – One and Only Man
Robert Plant – Hurting Kind
Eric Clapton – Bad Love
Aerosmith – The Other Side
Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining

Good to Great

ZZ Top – My Head’s in Mississippi
Rod Stewart – Downtown Train
Aerosmith – What It Takes
INXS – Suicide Blonde
The Rolling Stones – Almost Hear You Sigh

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