Discover more from This Week in The 90s
The Frank & Walters lead an Irish mini-invasion [Jan 10, 1993]
Plus: Faith No More, PWEI, Peter Gabriel, and 2Pac
Greetings, Time Travellers! 👋
It’s January 10, 1993 again
Here’s what’s happening:
📰 The Braer Storm rages across Britain and Ireland. It’s the strongest extratropical cyclone ever recorded, but fortunately doesn’t do much damage on the ground.
📽️ Cinema-goers are spoiled for choice, with Singles celebrating grunge and Raising Cain celebrating John Lithgow. But the cool kids will try to sneak into the low-budget, hyper-violent heist movie Reservoir Dogs.
📺 Rasslin’ fans get a new weekly treat as WWF Monday Night Raw launches. The first episode airs live from the Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom.
🎶 Number One song in the UK Top 40 is still “I Will Always Love You”, but today let’s talk about…
This week’s Number 11: “After All”—The Frank and Walters
A few years back, I read a short description of the Irish psyche that was very harsh, if not entirely unfair.
I can't find the exact quote now, but it went something like this:
"Ireland is a place where amiability is valued above ambition."
Yikes. That sounds pretty bad. Especially if you think ambition is all that matters.
The ways and workings of this world
If you’re not Irish (and you’re probably not, seeing how this is a newsletter about the UK charts), here’s a quick rundown of how our culture works.
The best thing you can be in this country is "sound". Soundness is a multifaceted concept; you must jump through many hoops before achieving soundness. First, you must be laid-back and take an optimistic view of every situation, even if the situation is that you are on fire. You must also be extremely helpful, always willing to offer a jump-start, lend a tenner, or donate a kidney.
(Bonus sound points if you "know a fella" who can solve a problem—this is actually better than solving the problem yourself.)
Most of all, you must always be willing to stop and chat. Chatting is the primary activity of sound people. They always have a joke and a bit of gossip, and may even drop everything to go to the pub with you.
The worst thing an Irish person can do is to have "notions". A person with notions is self-interested and stuck-up, and clearly thinks they're better than everyone else. People will roll their eyes and mutter "notions" behind your back if you do something ostentatious, like buying a Porsche, building a pergola, or wearing underwear that's not from Pennies.
These concepts of "Notions" and "Soundness" roughly define a kind of Spectrum Of Irishness. In fact, this duality is essentially the plot of The Banshees of Inisherin, in which Colin Farrell plays an extremely sound farmer who clashes with Brendan Gleeson, who has notions of becoming a great artist.
Banshees also highlights the big problem with this Spectrum Of Irishness. What happens when you want to break out of it? What if, say, you want to be a rock star?
All that we’ve been through
My parents grew up in the 1950s, just as the American rock'n'roll explosion sent shockwaves around the world.
Ireland didn't have rock stars back then. We had showbands.
Showbands dressed up in natty suits and played covers of contemporary hits, perpetually touring around Ireland's large network of (mostly) alcohol-free dancehalls. Young people would jive and jitterbug the night away at these dancehalls—exactly how my parents met, in fact.
Showbands were full-time professional musicians, but they didn't encourage a big performer/audience divide. They were ordinary guys—many of them knew the audience personally.
Attempts to evolve were fiercely resisted. In the early 60s, my uncle went to a dancehall and found that the regular showband had been ousted by a rock'n'roll act from England. This new band strutted onstage, possibly said something like "Hello Cork, are ya feelin' good tonight?" and then committed an even worse sin than being English. They played original songs.
The whole crowd, including my uncle, pelted them with pennies and bottlecaps until they abandoned the stage.
You might expect the punchline here to be "that band turned out to be The Beatles/The Rolling Stones".
Don’t be silly, of course not.
It was The Who.
Irish culture leans heavily towards music as a social experience. You don’t sit in your room listening to Leonard Cohen LPs—you go out and dance with people. This ethos is why 70s Ireland saw a resurgence in traditional music (which was a good thing) and an obsession with uptempo Country & Western (a less good thing, as discussed in last year’s issue about “Achy Breaky Heart”.)
But not everybody was happy with this. Some Irish people still wanted to be rock stars.
I know that we fight
Ireland’s most famous son is the embodiment of “notions”. In fact, I could have explained the concept of notions by simply saying, “y’know…Bono.”
Bono wasn’t Ireland’s first rock star—Phil Lynott and Cork’s own Rory Gallagher were selling out stadia when Bono was strutting around in nappies. However, Bono is Ireland’s most rock star. And it was kind of thrilling to see him become so huge, especially in the 1980s when Ireland was at its smallest.
U2’s success inspired a wave of great Irish bands in the 80s and 90s, but there was one problem: the live scene was mostly limited to Dublin. Provincial Irish bands were mostly stuck playing in pubs and small clubs, which limited them to a pub-friendly style of music.
The other option was to up sticks and go to England. Limerick band The Cranberries did this around 1991, as did two bands from Cork: The Sultans of Ping F.C. and The Frank and Walters.
Far from home and lonely
Baggy and baggy-adjacent bands like Carter, The Neds and Inspiral Carpets were all huge in Ireland. Irish audiences clicked with the whole Baggy-era attitude of “we’re just like you, we’re normal blokes, let’s just have a laugh?”
(Am I saying Ned’s Atomic Dustbin are basically a 1950s Irish showband? Sure, why not.)
Equally, The Sultans and The Franks fit perfectly into that indie scene. Both bands had a fun, silly energy, with lyrics that occasionally sounded like Monty Python sketches.
By sheer coincidence, they both made it into the UK charts on this week in 1993. The Sultans of Ping appeared at 26 with their pop-punk charmer, “You Talk Too Much”, taken from the album Casual Sex In The Cineplex.
This alone would have been a great week for Cork, but The Frank and Walters went one better, narrowly missing the Top Ten with the Ian Broudie-produced single “After All”.
And then came true fame: a live appearance on Top Of The Pops. Okay, so they were introduced as “Frank and The Walters from Southern Ireland”, but who cares? There’s a Cork band on Top of the Pops!
Was this beginning of Cork chart supremacy? No. In fact, we were seeing the tail-end of the Baggy and Baggy-adjacent scene. Shambolic fun was out; grunge earnestness was in. Neither The Sultans of Ping nor The Frank and Walters would ever trouble the Top 40 again.
By the end of 1993, the UK indie scene will be dominated by, Suede and Radiohead, two bands that helped make guitar-driven indie a much more serious business.
Another thing Suede and Radiohead had in common: they were both once support acts for The Frank and Walters.
I’m glad that I’m yours and you’re mine
Is this a story about failure then?
Only if you think ambition is all that matters.
Just before the pandemic, there was a big poll to find the most beloved Cork song of all time. People have been writing songs in, for, and about Cork for over 800 years, so the competition was ferocious.
When the results were unveiled, The Sultans of Ping F.C. were in 10th place with their very silly “Where’s Me Jumper”, the opening line of which is commemorated in permanent street art on Cork’s Grand Parade.
Most of the other songs on that list were trad ballads and old standards, except for the Number One. The people of Cork agreed that their favourite Cork song of all time is… “After All” by The Frank and Walters.
“After All” isn’t about Cork or tied to this city in any meaningful way. It’s just a great pop song by a bunch of sound lads. We love them, we love this song, and we have made their music part of our city.
Maybe that doesn’t count for much in terms of pure ambition. But if your goal is to make something beautiful and connect with people, then The Frank and Walters are Cork’s most successful band of the 90s.
I guess it all depends how you look at it.
Elsewhere in the charts
Number 6 (New Entry): “Easy”—Faith No More
Faith No More used to do a live cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”, which went down well with their rock audience until Mike Patton got bored and changed the lyrics to:
Generals gather in their masses [cha-chung]
Golly gee, I hate Black Sabbath
Metalheads did not like this, nor did they like when FNM started seguing from “War Pigs” into a note-perfect rendition of The Commodores’ “Easy”. At every show, “Easy” was greeted by thousands of outstreched hands, each one with its middle finger extended.
But Mike Patton feeds on your anger! They dropped Sabbath altogether and just played “Easy”, going so far to record it during the Angel Dust sessions for a potential B-side.
Ultimately, the joke was on them. Angel Dust didn’t perform as expected, so the label hit the panic button and released “Easy” as a standalone single. It became their biggest hit in the UK and overshadowed the other singles from Angel Dust.
Number 9 (New Entry): “Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies!”—Pop Will Eat Itself
Retitled “Ruff Justice” for the American release, which is a serious downgrade from the UK title.
Number 17 (New Entry): “Steam”—Peter Gabriel
On the CGI evolution timeline, we’re beyond The Lawnmower Man and Def Leppard’s “Let’s Get Rocked”, but still two years behind Toy Story. 1993’s big CGI breakthrough will be the spectacular Jurassic Park, although the best parts of that film involve practical effects.
“Steam” is a bit better than “Let’s Get Rocked”, but it’s still embarrassingly crude compared to what lies ahead. In comparison, the stop-motion “Sledgehammer” video still looks terrific today.
Moral of the story: practical effects will always be better than CGI.
Number 21 (New Entry): “It’s Gonna Be Lovely Day”—Soul System
Did you know that Whitney is not the only person on The Bodyguard’s soundtrack? Joe Cocker, Curtis Stigers, and Lisa Stansfield all make an appearance, plus there’s this track, which is a side project from the C+C Music Factory guys.
Pleasant enough, although it’s no “Queen Of The Night”.
Number 25 (New Entry): “Dogs of Lust”—The The
Are you even an 80s musician if you’ve never been in The The? Former members include Marc Almond, Jools Holland, Neneh Cherry, Sinead O’Conner and Lloyd Cole. “Dogs of Lust” features Johnny Marr on guitar, as does every other track on 1993’s Dust.
Album of the Week
Strictly 4 My N.*.*.*.*.Z—2Pac
Early 1993 is a quiet moment in the Tupac Shakur story.
Quiet by Tupac standards, anyway. In 1992, Tupac had broken through as a movie star thanks to his role in Juice. Meanwhile, outgoing Vice President Dan Quayle had attacked 2Pacalypse Now, saying that the debut LP the record had “no place in our society.”
By the end of 1993, Tupac would be embroiled in legal troubles, charged with multiple shootings and a brutal sexual assault. The turmoil around Tupac would intensify over the 90s until finally… well, we all know how the story ends.
Looking back, I just keep thinking about how young he was. Strictly is the second of only four albums released in his lifetime. It was almost called Troublesome 21 because that’s how old he was.
Twenty-one. Although his voice had an authority beyond his years.
Strictly 4 is a very rough, low-budget affair. There are some funny user reviews on music websites saying things like, “was the mixing desk powered by a Gameboy Color?”, “it sounds like it was recorded on a toaster”, and, my personal favourite, “I think it was recorded in a cave by actual cavemen.”
And true, the muddy production does stifle the tracks. Even Ice T and Ice Cube sound a bit muted on their track, “Last Wordz”:
But nothing can hide the mercurial, poetic, charismatic genius of 2Pac. This is him at his most angry (“Point The Finga”), his most anxious (“Something 2 Die 4”), his most playful (“I Get Around”).It’s also 2Pac at his most optimistic—there is a fundamental belief throughout that the world can be better.
That’s perhaps the saddest thing about Strictly. He’s such an interesting voice and you wonder what he’d say now, especially during the turmoil of the past decade.
Then you remember that we lost him when he was still practically a kid.