The Horses, Chains, Confide in Me and Torn are seen as some of Australia’s biggest hits of the 90s.
The Horses, Chains, Confide in Me and Torn are seen as some of Australia’s biggest hits of the 90s.

The biggest Oz hits of the 90s

What Australian songs were Australians buying in the 90s?

Here's the biggest local hits from each year of that decade, where modern classics like Torn and The Horses were actually outsold at the time by local rock trios The Living End and Ratcat.

 

1990 Mona - Craig McLachlan and Check 1-2.

In the era when it seemed Bouncer was the only cast member of Neighbours not to land a record deal, McLachlan scored his only major hit with Bo Diddley's 1957 b-side, written about a 45-year-old exotic dancer in Detroit. Mona hit No. 3 in Australia and No. 2 in the UK.

Runners Up: I Need Your Body - Tina Arena, Jukebox in Siberia - Skyhooks

Wendy Matthews’ The Day You Went Away was a cover. Picture: Supplied
Wendy Matthews’ The Day You Went Away was a cover. Picture: Supplied

 

Sydney’s Ratcat took indie rock into the mainstream before Nirvana. Picture: Supplied
Sydney’s Ratcat took indie rock into the mainstream before Nirvana. Picture: Supplied

 

1991: TINGLES EP - Ratcat

Sydney indie band Ratcat took the alternative to the mainstream a year before Nirvana became a household name. With lead track That Ain't Bad, the Tingles EP was cleverly marketed at kids for just $4.95 and the band straddled both Triple J and Video Hits. After initially being released in October 1990, by May 1991 the EP hit No.1. They'd blitz 1991 with another No. 1 (Don't Go Now, written with Hummingbirds' Robyn St Clare) and their chart-topping album Blind Love. Brutally, by 1992 it was all about Nirvana and the Ratcat bubble burst. Simon Day's band still play the occasional show and the songs still stand up.

Runners up: The Horses - Daryl Braithwaite, Read My Lips - Melissa

 

1992: THE DAY YOU WENT AWAY - Wendy Matthews

This is actually a cover. The Day You Went Away was written by UK dance band Soul Family Sensation, whose version of the track missed the British chart. "It was a risk to release a ballad like that at the time," Matthews told News Corp. "Australia's always been particularly rock-based and male-based. But I also thought there might be a miracle and there might be other people like me ready for something besides non stop rock …" With a push via oh-so-90s TV hit E-Street, the stark piano ballad hit No. 2 and remains a timeless classic.

Runners up: Take It From Me - Girlfriend, Ordinary Angels - Frente

Peter Andre picking up an ARIA for highest selling single for Gimme Little Sign in 1994. Picture: Jeremy Piper
Peter Andre picking up an ARIA for highest selling single for Gimme Little Sign in 1994. Picture: Jeremy Piper

1993: GIMME LITTLE SIGN Peter Andre

Molly Meldrum spotted Peter Andre on New Faces and signed him to his new record label Melodian. Alas, first single, Drive Me Crazy, stalled at No. 72. Enter a cover of Brenton Wood's 1967 hit which turned Andre into the pop star he always dreamt of, reaching No.3. "Molly was good at picking hits," Andre told News Corp. "He picked Gimme Little Sign. I liked the original but I never thought I could do justice to do it, but Molly said 'I'm telling you, it will be a smash, record it'. He was absolutely right." Andre remains a star in the UK, where he's been based since the mid 90s.

Runners up: This Is It - Dannii Minogue, Stone Cold - Jimmy Barnes

 

 

Remember Merril Bainbridge and her hit Mouth? Picture: Supplied
Remember Merril Bainbridge and her hit Mouth? Picture: Supplied

 

Teenagers Silverchair at the 1995 ARIAs. Picture: Supplied
Teenagers Silverchair at the 1995 ARIAs. Picture: Supplied

 

 

1994: TOMORROW - Silverchair

Silverchair's $75 demo version of Tomorrow won an SBS talent competition called Pick Me. The prize saw Triple J record the song for them - that version would reach No. 1 in September. A year later, Tomorrow would become a major US hit. Silverchair would later disown the song - they stopped playing it live in 1999 (11 years before they split) - however it sold over 300,000 copies in Australia alone.

Runners up: Confide in Me - Kylie Minogue, Chains - Tina Arena

 

1995: MOUTH - Merril Bainbridge

Signed to John Farnham and his producer Ross Fraser's record label Gotham, Melbourne singer/songwriter Merril Bainbridge's self-penned Mouth spent six weeks at No. 1 on the ARIA chart, reached No. 4 in the US and sold a million copies worldwide. Bainbridge swapped music for motherhood and a clothing line, but has started writing songs again recently.

Runners up: Let's Groove - CDB, Mysterious Girl - Peter Andre

 

 

1996: I WANT YOU - Savage Garden

 

Rejected by every major record company in Australia, Savage Garden would sign to Roadshow music and one of the songs on their rejected demo, I Want You, hit No. 4 and later No. 4 in the UK. Originally titled Sundays Seem to Come and Go, Savage Garden Singer Darren Hayes was influenced by Janet Jackson's If, U2's Numb and Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire. "I hated the chorus, I thought it was totally throwaway," Hayes told News Corp. "Daniel (Jones) said it was a hit and he was right."

Runners up: Ooh Ahh (Just a Little Bit) - Gina G, Get Down on It - Peter Andre and P2P

 

 

The first, and very literal, press photo shoot for Savage Garden in March 1997. Picture: David Crosling
The first, and very literal, press photo shoot for Savage Garden in March 1997. Picture: David Crosling

 

1997: TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY - Savage Garden

Initially titled Magical Kisses, the duo reworked the track completely during the writing sessions for their debut album. The ballad would reach No. 1 in Australia, became their first US chart topper and hit No. 4 in the UK. "It's extremely innocent, I hear somebody else when I hear that song, I hear me before it all began," Hayes said. "That person I hear is completely untainted."

Runners up: To the Moon and Back - Savage Garden, Freak - Silverchair

 

1998: PRISONER OF SOCIETY/SECOND SOLUTION - The Living End

The Melbourne rock trio scored their mainstream breakthrough with this indie double a-sider. It peaked at No. 4, and spent a remarkable 69 weeks on the ARIA chart selling over 150,000 copies. The EP this single came out on also included a cover of the Prisoner TV theme On the Inside. They'd re-record both lead tracks for their album, released in 1999, and both remain signature songs in their live show to this day.

Runners up: Buses and Trains - Bachelor Girl, Torn - Natalie Imbruglia

 

 

The Living End‘s Prisoner of Society stuck around the charts for over a year. Picture: Supplied
The Living End‘s Prisoner of Society stuck around the charts for over a year. Picture: Supplied

 

1999: DON'T CALL ME BABY - Madison Avenue

Inspired by disco-house hits of the era like 100% Pure Love and Horny, Melbourne DJ Andy Van and songwriter Cheyne Coates started to work on their own take on the genre. Coates recorded a demo vocal on an $80 microphone, looking to pitch the song to another singer. "There was something quirky about Cheyne's vocals that just worked," Van told News Corp. The song hit No. 2 in Australia (it spent six weeks stuck behind Eiffel 65's Blue) and in 2000 reached No. 1 in the UK. "It's safe to say the song bought me a house," Van said. The elusive Coates has refused all offers to reform the duo, who released a 20th anniversary remix of the track last year.

Runners up: The Animal Song - Savage Garden, Sister - S2S

 

Andy Van and Cheyne Coates promoting Don’t Call Me Baby in 1999. Picture: Norm Oorloff
Andy Van and Cheyne Coates promoting Don’t Call Me Baby in 1999. Picture: Norm Oorloff

Originally published as The biggest Oz hits of the 90s


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