When I looked at the Top 50 songs of 1992, I realised that hardly any had any real connection with me. It was an interesting year in music:
1. ACHY BREAKY HEART – BILLY RAY CYRUS
2. NOVEMBER RAIN – GUNS N' ROSES
3. END OF THE ROAD – BOYZ II MEN
4. TO BE WITH YOU – MR. BIG
5. AMIGOS PARA SIEMPRE – JOSE CARRERAS & SARAH BRIGHTMAN
6. THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE - LUTHER VANDROSS & JANET JACKSON
7. PLEASE DON'T GO - K.W.S.
8. THE DAY YOU WENT AWAY – WENDY MATTHEWS
9. UNDER THE BRIDGE – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
10. HAZARD – RICHARD MARX
11. SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST – VANESSA WILLIAMS
12. JUMP – KRIS KROSS
13. AS UGLY AS THEY WANNA BE (EP) – UGLY KID JOE
14. SALTWATER – JULIAN LENNON
15. RHYTHM IS A DANCER – SNAP
16. TAKE IT FROM ME – GIRLFRIEND
17. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU – WHITNEY HOUSTON
18. DAMN, I WISH I WAS YOUR LOVER – SOPHIE B. HAWKINS
19. TOO FUNKY – GEORGE MICHAEL
20. ORDINARY ANGELS (CLUNK EP) – FRENTE
Now I am tempted to choose “Under the Bridge”, but to be honest I remember it more for the parody done of it by the D-Generation on The Late Show than the actual song. I know I would have heard it more than any other of the top 20 songs, but it doesn’t take me, like some audio madeleine cake, back to a moment in my past. Looking at this top 20, I’m quite glad that none of the other songs on the list do either. Achy Breaky Heart? My God, what was it with the 90s and gimmick songs? I recall “November Rain” was once voted the greatest song of all time on a SAFM countdown, but it did nothing for me other than make me think “Layla” did the whole coda thing much, much better.
The rest of the top 50 is not much of an improvement – “Way Out West” by James Reyne and James Blundell? “Accidentally Kelly Street” by Frente? Actually the more I look at the list, the more I am reminded of parodies done on The Late Show than the actual songs themselves.
In fact that year, my third year at uni, was one where I was listening to just about anything but songs on the radio. Perhaps the album that reminds me most of 1992 is Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to the Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ. I had his album “Passion” on almost constantly while swotting for my mid-year exams that year. It also is special because one of the best friends I have ever had gave me the tape, so it always reminds me of her.
But that album is not a 1992 album, so it misses out.
One song from 1992 Top 50 does take me back to a particular moment of that year, in fact a particular place – the refectory of the Lutheran Seminary. The song was “Everything’s Alright” (number 40) from the soundtrack of the Australian revival of Jesus Christ Superstar that toured around that year starring John Farnham, Kate Ceberano, John Stevens and John Waters.
I have to admit to being a bit of a musicals fan. It is something that my parents can be blamed for, as my Dad seemed unable to go on a holiday without having some Rogers and Hammerstein tape playing in the car. That I can even now sing all the words to “Kansas City”, despite not having seen a performance of Oklahoma! for about 30 years, is testimony to the number of times my Dad had the choice of listening to the radio or putting in the Oklahoma! tape and chose the latter. So when this revival of Jesus Christ Superstar came out, it was something of a shock to me to discover that I really didn’t know many of the songs. I could vaguely recall seeing the movie one Easter years earlier, but it seemed to me to be the ropiest bit of post 60s hippiedom that had ever made it to the screen (it still does). So when I first heard “Everything’s Alright” sung by Ceberano, Stevens and Farnham, I have to admit to being quite pleasantly surprised by it.
But the memory it takes me back to is of mopping the floor of the refectory at the Lutheran Seminary where I was boarding. I had taken the job of kitchen-hand there the year before. There was a crew of 4 or 5 boarders who had the job, and we worked on a rotational basis cleaning the kitchen and serving the dinners to all the borders. I don’t think it paid much – beer money most likely – but it was good for the soul, as let’s face it all uni students should do some sort of menial labour. The work also gave me the advantage of knowing what meal was to be served that night, and when I took my break, my friends sitting out on the lawn would seek this knowledge from me in order to allow them to decide whether to stay for dinner, or head down to the Blue and White Cafe for a hot dog with the lot.
In between memories of the food being served out to an unappreciative audience, the dishes being washed in the industrial dish-washer, and the sweeping around the stoves with huge vats of gravy simmering away, what I recall is how we always had Adelaide’s easy-listening FM station, 102.3 5AD-FM (now Mix 102.3), playing on the radio. As an easy listening station, it was naturally pretty enamoured with “Everything's Alright” (in fact with just about anything John Farnham related), which means for what seems like half the year, without fail, every time I started mopping up the floor of the kitchen on would come this song. And, like all oft played songs on the radio, it went from “oh cool, I like this song”, to “geez, they play this a lot” till inevitably we arrived at “not this bloody song again”.
I did see the concert performance later that year, and the one thing that sticks in my mind of the night was that musicians cannot act. Farnham, Stevens, Ceberano and Angry Anderson all tried hard to convey emotion (and failed), but when John Waters walked on the stage, even without opening his mouth, you knew he was an actor (he also was a damn good singer – but then I knew that from seeing him on Play School!).
So here’s the video of the song (and I have to admit I had never seen this until I searched for it on Youtube); a song forever linked for me with mops, low quality food, dishwashers and the joys of being a uni student.