Billboard Modern Rock Number One Hits: 1991

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

The interregnum before the Nirvana years. Fun facts: "Right Here, Right Now," "See the Lights," and "Mysterious Ways" were number one longer than "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Poll Results

OptionVotes
Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit 18
Happy Mondays - Kinky Afro 10
Siouxie and the Banshees - Kiss Them For Me 7
R.E.M. - Losing My Religion 7
Electronic - Get The Message 5
Sisters of Mercy - More 4
U2 - Mysterious Ways 3
Robyn Hitchcock - So You Think You're In Love 3
Jesus Jones - Right Here, Right Now 2
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Give It Away 2
Big Audio Dynamite II - Rush 1
Psychedelic Furs - Until She Comes 1
U2 - The Fly 1
Sting - All This Time 1
Simple Minds - See The Lights 0
Elvis Costello - The Other Side of Summer 0


Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 16:49 (ten years ago) link

Great list! I voted for Electronic, because it's most closely related to what I'm still listening to in 2009. Next would be "The Fly", the best-sounding off that album at the time and still a pretty hot single. Then I dunno, probably Nirvana and then REM. Boy did I hate Jesus Jones at the time but that single captures the vibe of "the walls are crumbling down" a lot better than, eh, "Wind of Change" or "Right Now"; and so I've warmed slightly to it.

Euler, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 16:57 (ten years ago) link

I also voted for Electronic, but I'm fond of the P-Furs and "All This Time," the latter being one of the few solo Sting numbers I love.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 16:59 (ten years ago) link

Good list. I hate to be boring, but Nirvana.

kornrulez6969, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:12 (ten years ago) link

I'm amused that Sting was considered a "modern rock" artist.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:13 (ten years ago) link

i wrote a piece a few months ago when the MR chart turned 20 years old and looked back through all the #1s over the years and there really was some wacky unexpected stuff in this era. i think i'm gonna vote for "Rush" because the hugeness of B.A.D. when i started listening to rock radio as a kid is one of those things that noone really seems to remember now.

some dude, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:17 (ten years ago) link

lol I was about to write "anything but 'Rush'"

^likes black girls (HI DERE), Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:18 (ten years ago) link

"more" was a #1 hit?!

Tracy Michael Jordan Catalano (Jordan), Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:18 (ten years ago) link

On the modern rock chart, yeah. That song was massive.

^likes black girls (HI DERE), Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:18 (ten years ago) link

any excuse to revisit this: lord custos tribute thread

some dude, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:19 (ten years ago) link

College students listened to Simple Minds in 1991? (sincere question)

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 18:19 (ten years ago) link

Yeah I was also gonna ask. I don't remember that Simple Minds song at all, or the Psychedelic Furs one. I do remember being disapointed by the Sisters and Siouxsie albums and singles at the time (although I still saw them both on their respective tours).

LeRooLeRoo, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 22:42 (ten years ago) link

College students listened to Simple Minds in 1991?

High school students (me) did.

Johnny Fever, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 22:45 (ten years ago) link

the P-Furs' "In My Head" got more play down here.

The Siouxsie album was crap, although the remixes were pretty good.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 22:57 (ten years ago) link

"Right Here, Right Now", but this list is actually shock full of great songs. "Losing My Religion", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "The Other Side Of Summer", "Get The Message", "Mysterious Ways" and, yes, actually even "See The Lights" are all great songs!

Geir Hongro, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 23:06 (ten years ago) link

And, as for some questions upthread, I believe "Modern rock" is a bit wider than just college rock. A bit less "underground" so to say, only just slightly to the left of mainstream but not much more. A bit like "New Wave" in the early to mid 80s and "alternative" later on.

Simple Minds may not have been very rebellious or "cutting edge" in 1991, but at the same time, they were so to a somewhat bigger extent than Poison and Extreme.

Geir Hongro, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 23:09 (ten years ago) link

"Until She Comes," from the underpraised late-career renaissance of the Furs, whose middle period is kinda the ultimate record-store-clerk-attitude cliche: they were great til people found out about them; then they tanked and became total self-parody, in the process selling truckloads of records; and then, in a twist that over the years has begun to break my heart a little, they got truly great again (World Outside & especially Book of Days and super-especially "Torch," the last song on the A-side of the latter), only nobody cared.

J0hn D., Wednesday, 7 January 2009 23:13 (ten years ago) link

nice try, andy kaufman

da croupier, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:41 (ten years ago) link

i think "Kinky Afro" is by far the best song on here. will admit that this is a great list of songs

Bee OK, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:48 (ten years ago) link

What the heck is "Kinky Afro" doing on there? Happy Mondays in popular-in-the-U.S. shocker!

Mr. Snrub, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:49 (ten years ago) link

"Step On" was a bona fide, if minor, daytime radio/MTV hit over here, if I recall correctly.

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:52 (ten years ago) link

Yeah, I heard "Step On" ten times more than "Kinky Afro."

I remember this period fondly: the summer before my senior year of high school. Other hits: remember Lloyd Cole's "She's a Girl And I'm a Man"? Kirsty Maccoll's "Walking Down Madison"? EMF'S "Lies"?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:56 (ten years ago) link

According to the modern rock countdown blog I did in '06, I ranked them

Losing My Religion
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Give It Away
The Fly
Mysterious Ways
Rush
Kiss Them For Me
All This Time
Kinky Afro
See The Lights
More
Until She Comes
So You Think You're In Love
Get The Message
Right Here, Right Now
The Other Side Of Summer

With everything after "Rush" (which I may have overrated) making the bottom half of the 228 songs. I only put two songs in mod-rock history below "The Other Side Of The Summer," namely Three Days Grace's "Just Like You" and U2's "Staring At The Sun." God it sucks.

da croupier, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:57 (ten years ago) link

http://modernrock4eva.blogspot.com/

hot linked pics need fixing, and I mistakenly list JAMC's "Blues From A Gun" and Charlatan's Weirdo as 1991 hits (they're 1990 and 1992 respectively)

da croupier, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:59 (ten years ago) link

a worthwhile ILM thread: Gateway Songs That You Now Think Suck. That's what "...Summer" was for me and Elvis C.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 00:59 (ten years ago) link

looks like modern rock was considered UK-only unless you were a stadium level act (REM, RHCP) or just about to be (Nirvana)

dad a, Thursday, 8 January 2009 01:01 (ten years ago) link

now it's mainstream rock lite, with fucking metallica on it

da croupier, Thursday, 8 January 2009 01:04 (ten years ago) link

EMF'S "Lies"? - now that you mention it, I'm a bit blown away that "Unbelievable" isn't on this list.

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 01:07 (ten years ago) link

remember David J's "I'll Be Your Chauffeur"? or was that the previous year?

oh, and Miccio, fuck you and your diss of PiL's "Disappointed" ;)

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 01:10 (ten years ago) link

this was a strange time for "modern rock." Who the fuck would have bet that Peter Gabriel would score TWO number one hits?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 01:12 (ten years ago) link

This list is chock full of "I remember this as an unpopular song that I liked, who knew it was a #1 modern rock hit?" In this category: "Until She Comes," the still-hummable "So You Think You're In Love," and "More." Nirvana is a worthy candidate but for me it's the song I still play about 50 times a year, the one whose singular, peculiar, inimitable greatness I still marvel at, "Rush."

Guayaquil (eephus!), Thursday, 8 January 2009 01:58 (ten years ago) link

Funny how the Psychedelic Furs became the Stones of the early nineties, scoring "Start Me Up"-like echoes of past sonic greatness.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 02:13 (ten years ago) link

I went with "Kinky Afro," but now I'm afraid Siouxsie won't get a vote.

Joseph McCombs, Thursday, 8 January 2009 06:08 (ten years ago) link

I voted for siouxsie.

kingkongvsgodzilla, Thursday, 8 January 2009 13:42 (ten years ago) link

now that you mention it, I'm a bit blown away that "Unbelievable" isn't on this list.
Came out in 1990.

Nirvana or Happy Mondays are the only 2 songs I'd vote for.

I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE UP TO (Colonel Poo), Thursday, 8 January 2009 13:49 (ten years ago) link

Came out in 1990.

No, it charted in the U.S. in '91 (it hit #1 on the Hot 100 that summer).

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 13:53 (ten years ago) link

Point being that it wasn't on the modern rock charts by 1991, I think.

^likes black girls (HI DERE), Thursday, 8 January 2009 14:58 (ten years ago) link

Nah I guess it wasn't released in the US til 1991. It was a hit in the UK in 1990 though. Dunno why it's not on the Modern Rock chart.

I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE UP TO (Colonel Poo), Thursday, 8 January 2009 15:33 (ten years ago) link

it was on the MR chart, it just peaked at #3

some dude, Thursday, 8 January 2009 15:34 (ten years ago) link

too POP to dethrone Simple Minds

^likes black girls (HI DERE), Thursday, 8 January 2009 16:00 (ten years ago) link

I'll admit it, I voted R.E.M. Jesus Jones is a nice strange bit of nostalgia, since I would rather be anywhere but in 1991.

u s steel, Thursday, 8 January 2009 16:07 (ten years ago) link

"Real, Real, Real" and "International Bright Young Thing" are better songs (neither hit #1, though).

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 16:10 (ten years ago) link

http://www.roadcyclinguk.com/news/images/Mike_Edwards.jpg

10 points if you can spot the pop star.

Yehudi Menudo (NickB), Thursday, 8 January 2009 16:14 (ten years ago) link

"Unbelievable" is a song written and recorded by EMF. It hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 20, 1991. It also reached number three in the UK, where it was a 1990 hit in December. - So it was released in the US in '91, and the reason it wasn't listed on the "modern rock" chart is most like because it went to #1 on the Hot 100 itself.

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 17:20 (ten years ago) link

*likely

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 17:20 (ten years ago) link

No, that makes no difference. Songs chart on both lists all the time. "All This Time" and "Mysterious Ways" were top ten pop hits.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 17:47 (ten years ago) link

it was on the MR chart, it just peaked at #3

― some dude, Thursday, January 8, 2009 10:34 AM Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

^likes black girls (HI DERE), Thursday, 8 January 2009 17:49 (ten years ago) link

a music forum thread that gets to the point of bickering about decades-old chart positions is nondifferent from a monk entering samadhi so I celebrate this moment

J0hn D., Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:07 (ten years ago) link

I would like to discuss the lyrics to "The Other Side of Summer."

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:08 (ten years ago) link

ok thinking about the original post's claim of the "Nirvana years": what does this mean? B/c the kind of shit I was hearing on modern rock/"alternative" radio in the early to mid 90s wasn't really grungy at all, it was shit like Porno for Pyros, "New Age Girl" and the Spin Doctors, talked about on many other threads. Did the modern rock charts at the time really go all Nirvana / Alice in Chains / Soundgarden at the time?

Euler, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:19 (ten years ago) link

well, the charts didn't per se, the #1s in '92-'94 are full of Toad The Wet Sprocket and the Cranberries and the Lemonheads...the big 4 grunge bands got played a lot no doubt, but you can't fill a radio playlist with 4 bands, so a whole lot of other stuff (some of it similar, some of it very different) got a lot of airtime too.

some dude, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:23 (ten years ago) link

I still own tapes with stuff recorded from my college radio station from '91-'94. Very eclectic: I've got Daniel Ash, Debbie Harry, Porno For Pyros, Kate Bush, and stuff from the Judgment Night soundtrack bumping up against each other, never mind the grunge stuff. The early nineties >>> late nineties.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:27 (ten years ago) link

OTM. Late-90's were the worst.

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:29 (ten years ago) link

for rock & pop, at least

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:29 (ten years ago) link

yeah, i wouldn't dare say this on 77, but the Smashmouth era was definitely the bottom of the barrel

some dude, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:30 (ten years ago) link

nah, "Walkin' on the Sun" alone saves them from the lowest tier of nu-metal also-rans & that endless stream of Seven Mary Three/Three Doors Down mule-vocalist lite rock.

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:33 (ten years ago) link

wow, I just looked at the 1999 modern rock #1 chart, and the only songs I know on it, I know from Rock Band ("Learn To Fly" and "All The Small Things"). I didn't realize RHCP were so big that late.

Euler, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:34 (ten years ago) link

Oh, "Smashmouth-era." Well, that does just about cover it, doesn't it?

Pain don't hurt. (Pillbox), Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:36 (ten years ago) link

RHCP have had 11 modern rock #1s. 8 have them have been from 1999 or later.

some dude, Thursday, 8 January 2009 18:41 (ten years ago) link

well, the charts didn't per se, the #1s in '92-'94 are full of Toad The Wet Sprocket and the Cranberries and the Lemonheads...the big 4 grunge bands got played a lot no doubt, but you can't fill a radio playlist with 4 bands, so a whole lot of other stuff (some of it similar, some of it very different) got a lot of airtime too.

The Lemonheads were very grunge influenced though. Along with other powerpop acts such as Matthew Sweet and Posies, The Lemonheads basically "went grunge" for a few years during the mid 90.

Geir Hongro, Friday, 9 January 2009 02:27 (ten years ago) link

I'm amazed @ RHCP latter-day popularity! I mean, I can see it looking at those charts now, but I had no idea. I'm happy: in hs in 1990 it seemed like they were "the future" and then Nirvana broke. But I guess they were the future anyway, or *a* future.

Euler, Friday, 9 January 2009 04:26 (ten years ago) link

I remember the big song of 1991 was I Touch Myself. That didn't make it to number 1? Same with Joey by Concrete Blonde. Those two songs were on the radio every ten seconds.

Funny how the Psychedelic Furs became ...

They were not good all slicked up, to put it mildly. But then they made up for it with All That Money Wants, one of the most criminally unappreciates songs I can think of.

kornrulez6969, Friday, 9 January 2009 04:42 (ten years ago) link

voted for robyn, he deserves it

Lemonade In Hammocks (electricsound), Friday, 9 January 2009 04:55 (ten years ago) link

Siouxie and the Banshees - Kiss Them For Me

Transatlantic Dementia (PappaWheelie V), Friday, 9 January 2009 04:58 (ten years ago) link

I keep waiting for the PSK Them For Me to come in and I never hear it.

james k polk, Friday, 9 January 2009 05:03 (ten years ago) link

hate to say it, but Kiss Them was an improvement on a classic.

Transatlantic Dementia (PappaWheelie V), Friday, 9 January 2009 05:04 (ten years ago) link

(and then Sir Mix-A-Lot turned around and sampled Siouxie's Peek-A-Boo that year)

Transatlantic Dementia (PappaWheelie V), Friday, 9 January 2009 05:06 (ten years ago) link

I just listened to Kiss Them For Me, and now I hear it. I had no idea.

james k polk, Friday, 9 January 2009 05:16 (ten years ago) link

To answer Alfred's call: "The Other Side of Summer" had the kind of lyrics that greatly impressed me at 16, meaning they were convoluted and too clever by two-thirds, didn't scan all that well, barely repeated, and railed against what I then perceived as "popularity," as in "the popular kids at school," meaning anyone I figured had more of a life than I did, which was a lot of them. It was a meta-song, which I also liked, because it made me feel smarter than the others. I once played it for a girl in my grade I had a crush on (like about half the women in the grade) who was dating a (much) older guy, figuring I could score sophisto points. I think I did, which isn't to say anything came of it (or that I actually tried to make anything happen). Mighty Like a Rose came out right in the middle of my obsessive Costello period and I played it a lot, figuring it was a masterpiece because it was by him. I was encouraged in this delusion by EW's A- review, by Armond White, I think--foreshadowing! He also called Spike an indulgent mess (C+), which I kind of agreed with. Now of course I think they're both messes.

There's so much imagery in this song that it strikes me less as rococo than simply undisciplined. Costello was deep into his post-grad phase where everything made sense as long as you were him--he'd been heading that way since (at least) Get Happy!! but "TOSOS" is where he really piles it on. You could call it a trash heap but then that'd play into the song's conceit: it's the other side of summer! You know, the underbelly! What a clever man! Music's all over the place too: he really loved the piano on "Dancing Queen," didn't he? He kept using it, anyway.

I will say I still liked the beard and the long hair. I kind of wish he'd grow them back now that he's respectable enough to have a TV talk show.

Matos W.K., Friday, 9 January 2009 14:10 (ten years ago) link

The Lemonheads were very grunge influenced though. Along with other powerpop acts such as Matthew Sweet and Posies, The Lemonheads basically "went grunge" for a few years during the mid 90.

There's so much wrong here I don't even know where to start.

^likes tilt-a-whirls (Pancakes Hackman), Friday, 9 January 2009 14:35 (ten years ago) link

The Lemonheads started off as a hardcore band, for heaven's sake. If they "went" anywhere at all in the mid-90s, it was pop. If we're counting "the mid 90s" as 1993-1996, they were less heavy than they ever were!

The Posies certainly never "went grunge," if you're referring to Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace. Any grunge association on the former is entirely the fault of Don Fleming, and beyind that, I'm not sure what's supposed to be so "grunge" about "Lights Out" or "When Mute Tongues Can Speak" or "Love Letter Boxes" or "How She Lied By Living."

Altered Beast and 100% Fun have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with grunge in any way.

^likes tilt-a-whirls (Pancakes Hackman), Friday, 9 January 2009 14:40 (ten years ago) link

OH NOES POSIES ARE ON THE "HYPE!" SOUNDTRACK THEY'VE GONE GRUNGE!!!!

Posies' live shows were ALWAYS louder and heavier than their records, anyway. I first saw them when they toured for Dear 23 and was surprised at the contrast between the recorded and live versions of, f'rinstance, "Any Other Way." Frankly, Amazing Disgrace has come closest to capturing what they sound like as a live band.

^likes tilt-a-whirls (Pancakes Hackman), Friday, 9 January 2009 14:45 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Thursday, 15 January 2009 00:01 (ten years ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Friday, 16 January 2009 00:01 (ten years ago) link

ILM in agreeing with the Canon shocka ;)

Geir Hongro, Friday, 16 January 2009 00:44 (ten years ago) link

Missed this somehow. Unsurprising results. Woulda voted for Chili Peppers or R Hitchcock.

Calling All Creeps! (contenderizer), Friday, 16 January 2009 00:47 (ten years ago) link

It's hard for me to articulate how I feel about the fact that a chart like this existed at one time in, you know, a sensible country. Sort of absurd and mind-boggling but somehow natural at the same time?

Sundar, Friday, 16 January 2009 01:11 (ten years ago) link

Sisters for me.

moley, Friday, 16 January 2009 01:41 (ten years ago) link

It may look that way from your frozen wasteland, but there's nothing sensible about America.

The Reverend, Friday, 16 January 2009 02:03 (ten years ago) link

America in 1991 was pretty much like today. The president was named George Bush and all....

Geir Hongro, Friday, 16 January 2009 02:25 (ten years ago) link

The president isn't named George Bush today!

Sundar, Friday, 16 January 2009 02:30 (ten years ago) link

Oh I guess he still is for a little while nm.

Sundar, Friday, 16 January 2009 02:31 (ten years ago) link

I voted for "Losing My Religion" but I should have voted for "The Fly."

I enjoyed Matos's Elvis Costello writeup.

lemmy tristano (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 16 January 2009 02:38 (ten years ago) link

three years pass...

I found some videotape from my freshman year in college (fall of '92). I'm videotaping a thunderstorm outside of my dorm window (oh, the days before the internet) and I've got ROCK 103 JEFFERSON CITY playing on my boombox in the background.

In the clip, you hear "Losing My Religion" followed by "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. Interesting times for radio back then.

pplains, Tuesday, 29 May 2012 16:18 (seven years ago) link

six years pass...

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.