Tuesday Tunes 79: Ruth

Ruth (R) with big sister Katy (L)

I mentioned last week that today’s theme would be a special one for me. My younger daughter, Ruth, was born on 2 November 1991, which means that today is her 30th birthday, and I wanted to mark this moment in some way. Thanks to the archive of the Official Charts Company I have found the top 75 singles and albums from her birth week, and am going to celebrate by sharing some of them with you. Fortunately, given that I wasn’t really a follower of the singles chart by then, there are enough of them that I liked and could inflict on you. For the albums chart, I’ve ignored the ‘greatest hits’ sets that seemed to make up about half of the list – it kinda felt like cheating – and am sharing tracks from original albums. Three of the hit singles were also in the albums chart, which made my selections a little easier to make. As this is a special day for me I’m giving you a bumper set of tunes – nine in all. Hopefully I’ve found something for everyone – if you like them all then you are probably me!

Top of the singles chart that week was a new entry: The Fly, by U2. Having been a fan of the band for some years I was really disappointed in this one, so I won’t be sharing it today. Likewise with the #1 album, Stars by Simply Red – not really my thing!

I like to start these posts with something lively, and it is a bonus for me if I suspect that both the band and the song will be new to many of you. This one fits that bill perfectly:

My apologies for the quality of the video, but it is the only one I can find, and giving you just an audio version would prevent you from seeing the joy that The Levellers brought to their music. If you’d prefer audio only, here is the link for that. I was born and brought up in a coastal town, and this video brings back such wonderful memories of those late night sessions on Folkestone beach, fuelled by cider and laughter. Unlike The Levellers, none of us had a dog with a piece of rope for its lead, though. This was a track from their second album, Levelling The Land, which was released in October 1991 and peaked at #14 in the UK albums chart. It wasn’t a hit anywhere else: in fact few of their records have sold much beyond these shores. I guess they must be very ‘English’ in their style. I love the band, who are still going strong, and I have all of their albums. This one accompanied me in the car on many of my commuting journeys around north London. The song was also released as a single, but only got to #71 and had dropped out of the charts by Ruth’s birthday. Their style has always been quirky, but as a fan of folk-rock music I was bound to be drawn to them. Their period of peak popularity was the mid 1990s, when they had three successive top five UK chart albums (a #1, #2 and #5) and played to an audience of more than 300,000 at the 1994 Glastonbury Festival. But how many of you have ever heard of them?

I would imagine that this next band will be much more familiar to you. They are one of the three who featured in both the singles and albums chart for this week, and this was the first single taken from that album:

Heavy Fuel is from Dire Straits’ final album, On Every Street. The single was a new entry on this week’s UK chart at #55, which was actually its peak. It wasn’t a hit in the US, though it did make #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart, based on airplay: its best sales performance was in Canada, where it got to #17. The album had been released in September, and had reached #1 in the UK, Australia, Austria, France, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland, #3 in Canada and #12 in the US. I love the way the video honours the roadies, the guys without whom the show would never get on the road, and Randy Quaid is great in it.

Talking of shows going on brings me to my next selection:

This was a track from Queen’s Innuendo album, which was released in February 1991, and made #1 in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, though it only reached #30 in the US. This was the fourth track to be taken from it as a single, and it reached its highest chart position here, of #16, the week of Ruth’s birthday. For those who aren’t fans of the band, or may just not realise the proximity of the dates, Freddie Mercury died from AIDS on 24 November 1991. The story has been reported that when the band recorded the song in late 1990 Freddie’s health had already deteriorated to the point that Brian May had concerns as to whether he was physically capable of singing it. May has said “I said, ‘Fred, I don’t know if this is going to be possible to sing.’ And he went, ‘I’ll fucking do it, darling’ – vodka down – and went in and killed it.” That he knew that he was going to die makes this an incredibly powerful performance, for me. Due to Freddie being so ill – though this was continually denied until an announcement just 24 hours before he passed away – no new footage of him had been shot, so for this video they went with a montage of clips from Queen’s videos from 1981 to 1991, in the lead up to the release of the band’s Greatest Hits II album spanning that period. This was released as a single in October 1991 to promote that album.

Enya was in the album charts that week with Watermark, her breakthrough album, which was just a mere 59 weeks into its chart run. But she was also in the singles chart with this one:

Caribbean Blue was at #13 when Ruth was born, the highest it achieved here. It also sneaked into the US chart at #79, though its best performance, not surprisingly, was in her native Ireland, where it reached #8. That video is very clever, and very charming, and is the perfect fit for Enya’s ethereal vocal style. The song is a track from the Shepherd Moons album, which was #1 in both the UK and Ireland, and peaked at #17 in the US.

My next song is another one of those that was in both charts:

Walking In Memphis was the first single released from Marc Cohn’s eponymous debut album, which was released in February 1991. The single came out in March but was re-released in June which, after a slow build up, accounts for its placing in the UK chart in November. The album reached #38 in the US and #27 in the UK, while the single peaked at #13 in the US and #22 in the UK. Thirty years on this is still one of my all-time favourite albums: Marc writes superb songs and wraps that lovely warm voice of his around them. In my view, the album is a masterpiece: eleven tracks and not a dud amongst them. Try Silver Thunderbird or True Companion and you’ll get a feel for the rest of it, but I could really recommend them all. A side note: those of you who only know this song from the execrable cover by Cher may well be surprised to find that the walk took place in Memphis, not Memfuss. A little PSA for you…

This next one was a new entry in the singles chart this week, at #46 on its way to an eventual peak position of #17:

Fall At Your Feet was the second single taken from Crowded House’s third album, Woodface. They are a part Australian, part New Zealand band, and their trademark has always been the beautiful harmonies which are in evidence on that track. The album was their UK breakthrough, reaching #6, though it performed less well in the US than their two previous ones, only getting to #83. It was, of course, big Down Under: #2 in Australia and #1 in New Zealand. It is an album that I still go back to when I’m in the mood for something soothing to listen to.

Whilst I’m in reflective mode, with some nice harmonies, how about this one:

More Than Words was a track on Extreme’s album Extreme II: Pornograffiti, which was enjoying its 23rd week in the UK albums chart at #59, having peaked at #12. The album was actually released in August 1990 but was a slow burner here – it was a US hit too, reaching #10 there. Although it was no longer in the singles chart by November this track was released as a single in March 1991, and became a huge hit: #1 in the US and #2 in the UK. it was a bit of a departure from their usual style, but I’ve always liked it.

R.E.M. had already made a string of great albums by this point, but their big breakthrough came with the March 1991 release of Out Of Time. The album was at #30 in the UK albums chart this week, having previously got to #1. This was its 33rd week in our chart: in total, it spent 183 weeks there. It was, of course, also #1 in the US, but it only had a mere 109 weeks in their chart! The two best known tracks are the hit singles Shiny Happy People and Losing My Religion, so in my true to form style I’m not giving you either of them. Here’s another track from the album instead:

This is another song I’ve always loved: it has such a great feel to it. The collaboration on songwriting and vocals between Mike Mills and Michael Stipe is fairly unusual, but I think it worked well. It was a hit single here in the UK, reaching #27, but wasn’t released as a single in the US. The album has sold more than 4.5m copies in the US and more than 18m worldwide. You may have noticed the ‘This Film Is On’ marking on the video: this denotes that it was included in the video album of that name, which was released in September 1991 in the US, making #7 on their videos chart.

I’m closing this celebration of Ruth’s birthday chart with the third of those which was in both the singles and albums charts this week. It was the blockbuster hit of 1991 here in the UK:

Everything I Do was at #4 in the UK singles chart this week, having been knocked off the top position by U2. It had spent the previous sixteen weeks at #1, which is still a record here. It was also #1 for seven weeks in the US and made the top in around twenty countries altogether: it has sold more than 15m copies, making it one of the most successful singles of all time. It was the lead single for the movie Robin Hood; Prince of Thieves and also for Bryan Adams’ album Waking Up The Neighbours, both of which were released in 1991. Waking Up The Neighbours was #1 in the UK, Canada and Australia, as well as several other countries, and reached #6 in the US: to date, it has sold more than 16m copies worldwide.

So, that’s it for this week. Thank you for indulging me with my celebration of my lovely daughter, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the glimpse at the chart of an earlier year. This has been interesting for me, so maybe I’ll do it again sometime by picking another meaningful date and sharing the chart hits from that time – it seems like a plan! Have a great week, and I’ll see you again soon.

Happy Birthday, Ruth! 🎉🎂🍾❤️