“We’ve got to crack that radio attitude. Too many bands that were great bands have withered up and died because they didn’t pursue it and most of the world never got to hear about them.”
Faith No More bassist and talisman Bill Gould was speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald in June 1990, making no excuses for a band seeking chart and commercial success. It was fitting then that Australia proved the locus for their breakthrough chart success. on 26 August, 1990, the band’s Epic single reached the top of Australia’s official ARIA singles charts.
It was Faith No More’s first number one anywhere – and the first of two in Australia. Remarkably, the band had not even set foot in Oz until one month before topping the chart. Their first show was in Transformers in Brisbane on 29 July. They also played a live session for leading Australian radio station Triple J around this time. Officially dated as 30 July and broadcast on that date, the session may actually have been recorded on the 28 or 29 July. The redoubtable FNM Live site reports: “Puffy walks out during “War Pigs” due to taunts from the band about his playing. He had hurt his ribs during bungee jumping in New Zealand. Patton takes over drums on the song.” That bungee jump was widely reported with the San Francisco Chronicle capturing some band comments:
“It was sheer terror, I would never have done it except for the peer group pressure from the other guys in the band,” said bassist Bill Gould, who arrived Monday in Sydney with the group’s entourage for six performances. “It was so bloody high, I’ve never been so horrified in my entire life,” Gould said. “But it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done.” Vocalist Mike Patton added to the adventure by dangling from the elastic cable clad in only his undershorts and a sweatshirt.
Check out some discussion of and footage from that jump here on New Zealand TV (via Faith No More Followers)
And here is the actual session
The band played an impressive 13 shows in Australia in late July and August – and this and a promo roller-coaster propelled them to the top spot. Not that the critics were completely overwhelmed by their live shows, with the Sydney Morning Herald reviewing one of their two Marquee Sydney shows under the headline: “THE CROWD CAME FOR THE NOISE, AND NOISE IS WHAT THEY GOT”. The article also stated:
“While their name suggests a kind of disaffected nihilism, perfectly suited to the times, they are, in reality, strikingly loyal to their antecedents; their present is very much the literal transfiguration of their past, the sum of their influences.
They come on stage to a tape that sounds like Shostakovich meeting Metallica, or the brooding soundtrack to some big-budget Hollywood feature, and attempt – not always successfully – to maintain that sense of the epic, the cinematic, throughout the course of their performance.
There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work: on record, their music is a seamless fusion of abrasive power chords and symphonic keyboard washes – the effect veering oddly between some of the more pompous excesses of the ’70s(Rush, Emerson Lake&Palmer, et al), and contemporary hardcore speed metal.
Witnessed live, however, volume and distortion conspire to deny that all important balance, with the effect that guitar swamps the proceedings, and much of the subtlety is lost.”
The review concludes:
“This is not to say it wasn’t good – for a metal concert (which was, after all, what most of the audience expected and desired), it was fine. As an event, though, it lacked only that ineffable something that would have taken it from being merely good, into the realm of the truly extraordinary.
I’ts a pity, because that other, higher goal was always within sight, but proved just out of reach.”
The rest of Australia was hooked, however. The re-released single of Epic, with a B-side of The Morning After (and including a yellow cassette single version) was released in late July. Here’s what it looked like, courtesy of Patton Mad.
Epic entered the chart on 22 July 1990 at a creditable 31, the highest new entry of the week. By the following week, it had risen to number 17, nestled between Madonna’s Hanky Panky and Snap’s The Power.
(All chart images and info courtesy of the incredible Chart Beats website)
The following week (5 August) it hit the top 10, reaching number 2 the week after. But Epic was held at bay for two weeks by the continued dominance of none other than…MC Hammer. With U Can’t Touch This.
Hammer was wrong. One week later, Faith No More touched number one – and they would stay there for three weeks in total. (Holding off firstly the challenge of Concrete Blonde’s Joey and then Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory). It was finally knocked off the top spot on 16 September by the hirsute New Jerseyian’s cowboy anthem.
Well-timed touring, Australia’s openness to rock music, a killer song and targeted promotion all combined to earn Faith No More’s first number one. Local record store Utopia also claimed some of the glory. In September, the Morning Herald featured an interview with Dave Defig from the Sydney store. He said: “We basically discovered Faith No More here years ago; somebody woke up to them finally and they’ve now had a number one.”
The band would score two further notable triumphs in Australia in 1990. Epic ranked at 22 in the chart of the year’s best-selling singles. Then on 23 December Faith No More won the Gisborne Handicap (1,000m) at Moonee Valley. A horse named in their honour, of course.
Faith No More would go on to have a second Australian number one in 1993. I’m Easy, as Easy was entitled on this release, reached the top spot on the singles chart on 16 May – after nine weeks on the chart. It stayed there for two weeks – dropping Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way to 2 – before being usurped by Janet Jackson’s That’s The Way Love Goes.
Just like in 1990. Faith No More’s chart-topping came just after a the band had played a series of shows in Australia. In fact, the band played 11 shows in little over two weeks and were in New Zealand playing in Christchurch they day they hit number one in Australia again. And this time the reviews were more positive:
What makes Faith No More more than just another bunch of hairies who know how to crank it up is the perverse, self-parodying streak that runs through their work. You get the feeling, as each song begins, that it might end up somewhere completely different, maybe even visiting a few interesting places along the way.
The addition of keyboard player Rodney Bottum to the standard guitar-based lineup gives them room for contrast and, recalling the Mothers of Invention, he spends a lot of his time inserting atmospherics that run against the grain of the work, odd juxtapositions that convert what might otherwise be too linear into a tangle of ideas.
In one song, they sample the Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah, and in another, begin with a funkier version of the theme from Twin Peaks. Any band that can include fragments of the Bay City Rollers and the Birthday Party in one of their own tracks, Be Aggressive, has to be applauded.
It is this sense of playfulness, this undercurrent of mischief that makes Faith No More so appealing and made the Hordern crowds stand on the seats to catch a glimpse.
(Sydney Morning Herald)
And the band performed the show live on Nine Network’s evening show Hey Hey It’s Saturday in late April.
In an interview with – you guessed it – the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 May, Mike Patton explained some of the logic behind I’m Easy:
“I remember we were talking to a guy from this death metal band called Morbid Angel. They’re this amazing band who are really powerful – but hilarious at the same time.” He frowns: “Though I’m not sure if they’re aware of that or not …
“Anyway, this guy said how much he loved our version of Easy, and I said, ‘Well, why don’t you guys do something like that? You’re the guys who should be trying that. I mean, you’d just take people’s heads off if you were to do something like an easy-listening album.’
“And he just looked at me and said, ‘You don’t understand. We can’t do that. We physically can’t do it.’ Which to me, just goes to show how people in the entertainment industry build their own prisons. This band will never do that.”
Faith No More’s two number ones means they have as many chart-toppers in Australia as David Bowie and Prince. Even more incredibly, they have twice as many Aussie number ones as Australian icons AC/DC, INXS, Nick Cave and Nathalie Imbruglia combined.