When it came to music, there were two things Australia resisted as best it could prior to the 1990s: 1) music from continental Europe and 2) club music. Yes, there were some pretty massive exceptions, like ABBA, a-ha and Roxette. But for every “99 Luftballons”, “Ça Plane Pour Moi” or “Rock Me Amadeus” that broke through Australia’s pub rock shield, there was a “Dolce Vita”, “You’re My Heart, You’re My Soul”, “Live Is Life” and plenty more that didn’t.
That all changed as the ’80s made way for the ’90s, and Australia lay down its defences to join the world in embracing Eurodance, techno, Scandipop, Italo house and French disco. In honour of the Europe episode of RocKwiz Salutes the Legends, let's take a tour of that era's biggest club and chart hits...
Featuring a revolving door of singers, rappers and the occasional blue-lipped, bumbag-wearing model, Technotronic was created by Belgian producer Jo Bogaert. They reached the Australian top 10 twice – with “Pump Up The Jam” (from late 1989) and “Get Up! (Before The Night Is Over)”. Three times, if you include side-project Hi Tek 3 featuring Ya Kid K’s “Spin That Wheel”.
Bonus Belgian one-hit wonder: AB Logic with “The Hitman”.
She might’ve been based in Italy, but leggy blonde Whigfield was all Danish, and her two Australian hits “Sexy Eyes” and “Gimme Gimme” were pure Europop froth.
Bonus Danish one-hit wonder: Cut ‘n’ Move and their chart-topping remake of “Give It Up”.
They weren’t hits in Australia until mid-2000, but trance classic (and future annoying ringtone) “Sandstorm” by Darude and Bomfunk MC’s chart-topper “Freestyler” were both released in Finland at the end of 1999, so we’ll allow them.
Just when it looked like France wouldn’t have that much to contribute to the international music scene in the ’90s, they went and spawned a whole new genre: French disco. The instantly cool Daft Punk get all the glory, but their hits “Da Funk” and “Around The World” were just the tip of the iceberg.
Bonus French one-hit wonder: the Chaka Khan-sampling “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust.
The spiritual home of Eurodance, Germany recovered from sending Milli Vanilli out into the world to unleash a slew of hit-generating acts like Snap!, Culture Beat, Haddaway, Real McCoy and La Bouche (who were actually American, but based in Frankfurt and masterminded by Frank Farian – the guy behind… Milli Vanilli).
Like the French, Italy had its own dance music genre in Italo house, which was known for its (initially) uncredited samples and bad lip syncing in music videos. In late 1989, Black Box led the charge with the game-changing “Ride On Time” – a song that had to be re-recorded when Loleatta Holloway, the performer of “Love Sensation”, justifiably complained that huge chunks of her vocal had been used without credit. When Black Box’s hits ("I Don't Know Anybody Else", "Fantasy", "Strike It Up") dried up a few years later, Corona stepped in to wave the flag for Italy with Eurodance hits "The Rhythm Of The Night" and "Baby Baby".
Bonus Italian one-hit wonder: “Touch Me” by 49ers.
Although the team behind 2 Unlimited were Belgian, both rapper Ray Slijngaard and singer Anita Doth were Dutch – and the pair set the standard for the he raps/she sings format of countless Eurodance acts on songs like cheerleading favourite “Get Ready For This” and “No Limit”.
Bonus Dutch two-hit wonder: “Slave To The Music” by Twenty 4 Seven.
Ricky Martin, from Puerto Rico, got a lot of credit for the Spanglish explosion in the late ’90s, but he didn't do it alone. Spaniard Enrique Iglesias kept up the family tradition of crossing over to the English-language market with “Bailamos”.
Bonus Spanish one-hit wonder: the infernal “Macarena” by Los Del Rio, who you can actually credit for the surge in interest in Latin music.
Ah, Sweden, where would pop music be without you? ABBA-less, for one thing. In the ’90s, a new two-guy, two-girl act, Ace Of Base, took the world by storm with their insanely catchy earworms. Apologies in advance for getting “All That She Wants” and “The Sign” stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Bonus Swedish one-hit wonder: “Sing Hallelujah” by (Nigerian-born) Dr Alban.
They keep their noses out of many things, but the Swiss entered the Eurodance fray thanks to René Baumann, known professionally as DJ BoBo, and his typically efficient hits “Somebody Dance With Me” and “Love Is All Around”.
Missed the Europe episode of RocKwiz Salutes the Legends? Watch it at SBS On Demand:
RocKwiz Salutes the Legends airs Saturdays at 8:30pm on SBS.