College Countdown: Winter 1991, 35-31

Earlier this week I dug out an old CMJ chart and started the process of recreating the Sunday nights of my first year at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point when I and my more enlightened dorm-mates would gather around the radio to listen to our station, 90FM-WWSP, to find out the most played tracks on college radio nationwide.

And now, as they say, on with the countdown…

35. Marc Almond, “Jacky”
Marc Almond started his career as one half of the influential New Wave duo Soft Cell. This song came from Tenement Symphony, still his highest-charting album back home in the U.K. It’s a cover of a Jacques Brel song first released in 1965, and famously recorded a couple of years later in an English language version by Scott Walker that got banned by the ever-reticent BBC. It was no surprise that Almond would pull from the Brel songbook. Just two years prior, he recorded an entire album that served as a tribute to the man. Befitting his idol, Almond’s version was big, lush, wildly dramatic. Once when I played it on the radio, Jim Oliva, co-coordinator of the station’s annual trivia contest, called me up and asked “When’s the bullfight start?”

This song was making its debut on the chart, one of nine debuts total that week.

34. U2, “Until the End of the World”
This song was on two separate releases coexisting in the 90FM music rotation at the time of this chart. It was on U2’s sixth or seventh (depending on how you classify the amalgam of Rattle and Hum full-length album, Achtung Baby, one of three songs from that record on the chart. It was also on the soundtrack to the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World, which had a list of contributing artists that read like a college radio dream team. This was one of several instances of the Irish quartet collaborating with Wenders, a relationship that began a year earlier when the German director presided over the music video for the band’s contribution to Red, Hot + Blue, the benefit album that also served as a tribute to Cole Porter. Later the band provided the title song for the sequel to Wender’s most revered film, Wings of Desire. It even led to the seemingly highly unlikely occurrence of Bono providing the story for a Mel Gibson movie. I’ll bet that won’t happen again.

This song was a debut on the chart.

33. Primus, “Tommy the Cat”
This was the second single from Primus’s second album and major label debut, Sailing the Seas of Cheese. It was also notable as an early release on Interscope, the label co-founded by Jimmy Iovine when he was flush from his success as a producer of blockbusters in the years prior. It was also a landmark because just about everything released by Interscope up to that point was dreck. The first single from Seas was “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver,” which had a significant presence on the college charts in the summer of 1991, but I believe this song was the more successful at 90FM. That may be, however, because my friend and DJ extraordinaire Lil’ Jen regularly used the song’s “Say Baby!” yell as a sort of battle cry. My perspective may be skewed.

This was a reentry, one of four on this week’s chart.

32. Dinosaur Jr., “Whatever’s Cool With Me”
1991 was sort of a breakthrough year for the J. Mascis outfit. Green Mind was a very successful release on college radio throughout the spring. The fall brought the EP Whatever’s Cool With Me with the title cut making its own dent on the charts.

This song was on it’s way down the chart. The previous week it was at number 23.

31. Nitzer Ebb, “I Give To You”
Nitzer Ebb is the only band on this chart that also has a song on the Saw VI soundtrack, so that’s something. This was the sort of industrial dance music that rarely gained much of a foothold on the 90FM charts. When you’re at a radio station in the heart of central Wisconsin, few charts seem as foreign than the Dance/Club charts. Indeed foreign charts often seemed less foreign than the Dance/Club charts. A few years later I was working at a commercial “new rock alternative” station down in Madison. I was at the helm for our weekly Saturday night “all request” show (which was only somewhat open to requests, truth be told) and I got a call from a listener who recognized my voice from my years at 90FM, the one time that happened. Weirdly enough, he requested Nitzer Ebb, a band I rarely played as a student DJ. “I Give To You” was the first single from the band’s Ebbhead.

This song was on it’s way down the chart, dropping from number 14 the previous week.


Numbers 40-36

8 thoughts on “College Countdown: Winter 1991, 35-31

  1. The Dinosaur Jr track takes me back to 88-89 when we would sit in the production room @ 90FM listening to the new releases and the “grungy” discriptor came up more often than not, and that was before Nirvana broke.

    1. Speaking of Dinosaur Jr, I recall–maybe accurately, maybe not–sitting in the production studio and listening to the Fossils EP while you cracked up over the “Just Like Heaven” cover.

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