|Posted on August 16, 2010 at 1:49 AM|
Not/Quite Remembering: A Musical Odyssey Pt. 2
The Teen Years
1990: Here's what I know about 1990, and might explain why the next year was far more ingrained into my memory than this one: it was pretty much the 1980s. The big bands and hits of 1990 were the same ones you heard in the latter years of the past decade. In other words, the music scene really hadn't changed just yet. Rap was still in its infancy. Grunge a year away and the rebirth of punk even a bit further down the road. The biggest hits of 1990 came from the likes of Poison, LA Guns, Cinderella, Winter, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Damn Yankees and Guns N' Roses.
In other words, the hits came from the 80s and a lot of music just flat-out sucked. Seriously, go look a the billboard charts. Those are all the bands that were at the top (Poison being number one) and many hit makers were one-hit-wonders that you wish you could forget. For the most part, you probably did.
Well....Except for one crazy video: Epic by Faith No More.
The only song most people know Faith No More from.
Well now...that was different. My earliest memory here was that damn flopping fish. The music was pretty unique too, considering all the other stuff around the radio and television.
But enough of that...onward good sir!
The Year That Was: 1991
Now this, folks, is where things got crazy. The music scene exploded with new bands, new sounds, some of the biggest hits and still managed to throw in some tunes from classic artists - notably, for me, Into the Great Wide Open by Tom Petty and Winds of Change by The Scorpions...ah, now that's a fitting song for what's about to come. Not surprisingly, seeing as how MTV hadn't destroyed itself just yet, I remember those videos quite well. That can be said for most of the music from this decade.
A Specific Moment: 1991 - I Wish I could remember the exact year, to be honest, it was either end of summer 1991 or Spring 1992 (but I think that's too late, the video would have been played to death by then....and by video I mean this industry changing one). but I do remember the moment. I was with my older brother and we were at a pool of one of his friends. Someone busted out a boombox and popped in this new CD. I saw the cover, it was a naked baby under water. Everyone laughed at the sticker covering the exposed penis, music stores did that often.
I really didn't listen to it that much, I was too busy swimming. I do know that I liked what I heard and tried to pay attention, but I was ten and having too much fun in the pool. But later on, as school was just starting and my brother getting more into music, I "borrowed" his CD of Nirvana's Nevermind. That, combined with the constant playing of Smells Like Teen Spirit on MTV and on the radio, had me hooked.
Late in 1991: By the holiday, grunge was in full swing. Nirvana was everywhere, this new, unique sound tearing up MTV and the radio couldn't be escaped. and I finally bought my very first CD:
Group Hi-Five guys!
The fact there was a title that was also my name probably influenced it, but I actually didn't like that song too much. I preferred Even Flow and Alive far more. Afterall, many at school were pretty aware of it, so I just got sick of that song. I remember we were in music class, I suppose this was fifth or sixth grade, I don't know, and people were singing it. I was the only person named "Jeremy" in my school, apparently, and that song became the iconic song for the album (well into 1992 as well). Grunge would dominate most of this period, that is until a few years later, once Cobain was gone and the entire genre along with him. But other new sounds came...and guess what? It's still 1991.
Why Not Just Call This Whole Article "1991?"
Red Hot Chili Peppers were funking up the airwaves (more in the coming years), Guns N Roses still kicking with the Terminator 2 soundtrack (only the first R rated film I ever saw, so naturally I bought that single) and strangely Chris Isaak's video for Wicked Game got my hormones in a twirl as I kept waiting for Helena Christensen's hand to drop from covering her naked chest. But while there were a lot of albums I bought, Ten being the first, Nevermind the second, the third was thanks to this masterpiece of rock:
Before Lars was a Total Douche...
Now, I know. Enter Sandman was what made Metallica explode with that new album like a bed left in front of a speeding mack truck. Yeah, I liked it too. I can still sing it by heart. But Unforgiven got me up and out of my chair to go out and actually buy the album (and as a result, buy more Metalilca albums). It was moody, both audio and visual wise with the video, and just sounded epic.
We're only at 1992...This Is Going to Take A While
It's easy to just assume that 1991 would carry over to 1992. You'd be right. Grunge was stil huge, now with the dessert of Soundgarden. But two rather awesome things happened while watching MTV:
What's that they're blurring out?
What now? Who? What? Wow...
A Specific Moment: Now let's go back just a bit first. Somewhere, at some point during these years, I was at my cousin John's house. He and his parents, which I guess would be my Aunt and Uncle now that I think about it, literally lived in a house across the street from my grandparents in Kansas City. I would say this was about 1990 but I can't be sure. He played a little title called "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew and a fe tracks off of some tape he had with NWA scribbled across it in red (looking at album covers now, I can see, in fact, it was Straight Outta Compton). It was all funny, goofy, but I didn't take heed of it or rap music at the time. It wasn't really played that much until...
The Tao of Martin
Dr. Dre, Snoop and Ice Cube just starting tearing stuff up in 1992. Now I had seen Mr. Cube in the awesome movie "Boyz In Da Hood" earlier in that year. I didn't know he was into this whole rap thing (or is that "thang?") It Was A Good Day soon became one of my favorite songs, but if it weren't for Dr. Dre's The Chronic, an album I wasn't allowed to by so, naturally, snuck my step-brothers into my room, I never would have known about it. Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle (A Title my parents did not approve of, then again they were listening to Prince so whatever - I do like Prince, though) would hit the next year, and, again, I stole my brother's to listen to.
Welcome to my next major turn: listening to rap music. It was going to be an awesome decade. Well, the early parts of it, at least. Oh, and that second thing I mentioned?
Pianos, Guitars and Symphonies, oh my.
Do I really need to explain it? This was THE song of the summer of 1992. If you were alive then, you know what I'm talking about. This came out on the heels of the newly re-surged Bohemian Rahpsody by Queen thanks to Wayne's World. It seems fitting, really. This is kind of my generation's "Rock Opera" in a way, similar to what Queen had done.
Oh, and one final note with 1992.
That video was the most popular thing in the world and for good reason. It's the Rock Opera of my generation, epic in every sense, so much so I remember popping in a VHS in the VCR and recording it (I used to to video mix tapes). I played that endlessly.
On my brand new DISCMAN I got for Christmas!
Shit just got real....again.
Talk about adding fuel to the fire. Now I have a way to listen to CDs constantly in long trips (along with a Game Boy). Oh man. Thus began the starts of my CD collection, which, up until about 2005 or so, grew well into the hundreds. Then MP3s showed up and ruined everything. Damn Apple....you and your efficiency.
A Specific Period: More Early 1990s The big debate during the lunch period amongst my schoolmates was which band was better: Green Day or Offspring. I liked both, so didn't care. I was getting more into grunge at this time thanks to my older step brother, but both really burst on to the scene about the same time. In hindsight, I have to say I listened to Dookie a hell of a lot more than Smash.
Now for a very, very Not/Quite Remembering moment. I had to have been in eighth grade, maybe ninth, and my school put on a talent show. "Uh oh," you're probably thinking. And you're be right. The local stoner group decided to play some songs for their "band." I don't recall any of the songs but one: Bush's "Glyserine."
And boy oh boy did they ever butcher it. Maybe that's where my critique of music began, I had a pretty good foundation by this point, so I can certainly tell when something was awful. The guitar strumming was on, but the bass was completely off beat. Then there's the singing...and the lead singer forgot the words after the first verse. He then started dancing a jig and the drummer began playing a different song altogether. It did make for some laughs, but I can't hear that song anymore without thinking of these, well...stoned idiots.
That older brother, step brother actually, got me into a lot of music early on. He was into Nirvana, rap music and a little band known as Metallica. Metallica's black album was the second CD I bought, as I mentioned, but the metal interest didn't stop there. You see...this is when Beavis and Butthead showed up.
The faces of the 1990s.
I started getting a tad bit into heavy metal at that time as a result of all this, but not a whole lot. I suppose pretty much what Beavis and Butthead listened to such as Anthrax, Megadeath, AC/DC (my first exposure to the classic band) and the like. It never fully took off for me, though, but I did enjoy listening and especially watching the videos they would watch and either rock out to or make fun of. They also had the Beavis and Butthead Experience CD (I only had the tape, though) which also helped introduce me to a few metal bands.
The early 90s also ushered in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Under the Bridge. I'd say that that single song is the one song I identify with this period, even more than the likes of Nirvana and Green Day for myself, though I prefer the latter bands by a good margin. That ballad really just had it all, and the weird slow-motion topless Anthony Kiedis run in the video still haunts my dreams.
A Specific Moment: 1993 - I was watching MTV, now something rooted deep into my life (this was when they actually played music, afterall, and were at the top of their game), a video came on. It was "Today" by the Smashing Pumpkins. Naturally, after being rather confused by a lanky man on an ice cream truck in the video, I bought this at the one of two places to buy a CD in my hometown and soon found it the latest in a long line of new bands that started to come up. While I loved them, they would hit a lot harder with their next album and me in high school.
As a few more years went on, the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains (I didn't get into them until Jar of Flies), Beck, Oasis and The Beastie Boys were starting to get rotation in my CD player. My musical repertoire was slowly expanding, growing and learning. This was when the term "alternative" was being thrown around. To me, it was just good rock and roll.
This was also about the time MJ's star was pretty much completely gone.
There were a lot of one-hit-wonders here as well as bands that are just long-forgotten, such as Candlebox, Spin Doctors, or Temple of the Dog, but every era has those, I suppose. Still, with this newfound joy of going to the record stores and CDs making flipping through music so enjoyable, I often would pick up even one-hit wonders and no-name bands simply because I saw their video. I'm willing to bet many followed that formula:
See Video on MTV ---> Buy Single ----> See more videos as albums gets closer ----- Buy Album
Boy, do we take the internet for granted. Now you can sample songs pretty much everywhere, but in the early 90s, if you bought a bad album, you were stuck with it.
This Decade is starting to wind down already.
A Specific Moment: 1994 - I only listened to one album in the summer of 1994: Weezer's Blue Album. I would sit in my room and play Secret of Mana and grind/level up while listening to that album and nothing else. To this day, I know every single song by heart and out of every album I listened during my impressionable years, when I was just feeling out music and finding my love of it, this album is what I identify most with it. Songs like In the Garage, Only in Dreams and Say It Ain't So I still hum and sing today, and it always takes me back to sitting on my floor in my room playing Super Nintendo.
1994 did a good job of confusing me with one of the weirdest videos I will ever see (and surprisingly, it's not the video to Sober by Tool which was also getting played a lot around that time)
You want to what me like a what?
While I wouldn't get into Nine Inch Nails until much, much later in my life, this song and video obviously hit my 14 year old mind pretty damn hard. I mean, wow...talk about edgy and crazy.
Rap was still great by this time as well. I mean really good. Period. By 1994 I couldn't help but love, and I mean LOVE, Juicy by Notorious BIG. Why?
What is a big poppa?
First of all look at him. Not yoru typical "star" is he? That was pretty cool. He exuded "chill." But really, it was because the man, somehow, could rap and put in "Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis" in his wordplay. Now I can look back and say "Holy shit he was talented." At the time, as shallow as it sounds, I just thought it was awesome to hear a guy rapping about videogames (which were still relatively "kids toys" at the time). Rap as a whole was just huge then, with Biggie, 2Pac and Beastie Boy's awesome videos like Sabotage, it was just a great time for that entire genre.
But not all was fun and games, though. Yeah, this was the year that Kurt Cobain killed himself. My step-brother, the same one who introduced me to the band, wore black for a week and I remember watching some half-assed "memorial" on MTV with Courtney Love reading (or rambling) some letter to a seemingly apathetic crowd.
Hmmm...come to think of it, this was about the start of the whole east / west rap feud as well. I was in the midwest, so it really didn't have much to do with me. I just enjoyed good music no matter where it came from. Sadly, as the 1990s went on...good music started to increasingly be harder to come by (save for one bad at the end of the decade - a band many people claim saved Rock music entirely).
A Specific Moment: 1995: was on vacation with my family. We went to some sort of camp/resort type of place that had horseback riding, cabins and so forth. Think "The Great Outdoors" if you will. I had a small, transistor radio tuned into the newest radio station in my state: 95X. Yes, that X is intentional. It was nighttime, I had the floor where my sister had the bed, and stared at this crack in the ceiling with my headphones on. Then on came Green Day's J.A.R.
J.A.R. is a middle-of-the-road Green Day song, but this little tune about growing up and being in school really hit me then at the perfect moment seeing as how I was going to getting into High School soon. It took me months to find out where that song came from, it wasn't on their album afterall, and finally I did (the soundtrack to the movie Angus), bought it, and only listened to that one song for many months. To this day, it takes me back to that moment as though it was yesterday. Green Day has grown considerably as artists since those simple, humple punk-pop roots.
Oh, and that movie sucked, I might add.
A Specific Moment: 1996 - It was my first year in high school, making me a sophmore (Freshmen are still relegated to the junior high in my state). After two years, Weezer finally released their newest album, Pinkerton with it's strange looking art cover. Guess what? I hated it. Oh, damn did I not like it. I was in my Geometry class and my friend, Dan, saw it in my bag and asked me how it was. "Eh," I responded.
Now, though? I LOVE this album. It's a mature, far more introspective yet poppy and fun album than some 16 year old could grasp. The song writing is fantastic and now many consider it the band's masterpiece and I wouldn't argue. I do still prefer the Blue Album, though...for sentimental reasons entirely.
A Specific Moment Again: 1996 - I can't remember which mall I was at, but I was in a music store and browsed the aisles for things that were new. Lo and behold, one of my favorite bands had a new album out.
Come for the Mellon Collie, stay for the sadness.
This could, possibly, be my favorite album of 1990s. It had this world and atmosphere to all of its songs, full of variety and intelligent writing that ranged from ballads to hard rock riffs. Two CDs on top of it all and a hell of a cool work in packaging. I had enough money to get it, and putting it in my Sony Walkman (Ipods were still a ways away, folks) I listened to it on the ride hope endlessly (we were in the city, the "city" being Oklahoma City and one of the malls there) so it made for a pretty awesome ride home.
Or maybe it was Kansas City. It was somethign with "city" in it. Anyways, in relation to this fantastic album, 1996 Also introduced me to, now that I really think about it, my favorite video of all time:
Really, for most of the 1990s, the bands I listened to were the same ones I started with up to 1995/1996 - 1996 really being the last year I can actually say I enjoyed in terms of music at the time. Bands like REM (Who's Automatic for the People was a personal favorite at the time) and Smashing Pumpkins, a I mentioned, were still getting rotations thanks to some pretty damn good albums, Oasis's What's the Story Morning Glory ended up something I absolutely loved (and I recall thinking the video was awful for Wonderwall as it tries too hard to look like the Beatles) Stone Temple Pilots, Beastie Boys, and the entire rap of the early 90s pretty much carried the bulk of what was good in the 1990s for me and all that was good in the early to mid 90s was all that was still good by 1998 or 1999. Why?
Because the late 1990s absolutely sucked. I mean, they were just awful. I mean....ok, here we go...
Yeah, there might have been some come-and-go bands during this time I listened to on occasion, Live (who is actually still quite good), Third Eye Blind, Eve 6 or Jimmy Eat World, but I wasn't in love with them. Truth is, they're completely forgettable and for good reason. But the fact is: music from about 1996 or so on really turned bad, so mediocre bands like that ended up getting played by yours truly as something new, but I'd take Weezer's Blue Album from years earlier or something from Aerosmith any day. It all turned mushy, whiney and overall annoying. The rap genre faded with the deaths of two of its biggest stars, allowing for some of the worst rappers in the history of rappin' to ever exist.
It was just...so bland and phoned in with songs about love and feelings and affirmations. Boy bands were everywhere, I mean everywhere. Not to be outdone in their sense of false talent entered a whole slew of teenage bubblegum pop. Yeah, no wonder medicore bands like The Flys, Marcy's Playground, Local H or Vertical Horizon ended up things I would listen to...there wasn't a whole lot of new good stuff coming out. I was only in high school, and now looking back, the fact that I could really distinguish the good from the bad stuff, and what was pretty mediocre and soon to be forgotten, was a bit of a prelude to my college years and my studying of music history and really going back to listen to decades of music before my time and during my time that I completely overlooked.
Not all Was Lost, Though
I did like The Verve quite a bit, now that I think about it, and Blur's Song 2 really put that band on my radar. Blur were classic, and while I certainly liked Verve at the time, I don't really listen to them that much anymore. Still though, only one band really hit me and stayed in my playlists and influenced rock and roll (some say they even saved it by, like Nirvana before, completely breaking it apart and rebuilding it). Still, though, something needed to change, badly. Thankfully...it started to.
A Specific Moment: 1997 MTV, who had already started to show signs of phasing out music entirely, decided to play something very, very different and unique. At first, I didn't "get it." Then it built and built and progressed and progressed... I had never heard music like this before:
It would change all that I perceived of music from that point on...
Nothing will ever be the same again.
This was in high school, and I soon went out to find everything they had done before. I was aware of their song "Creep" years earlier, but it never really caught on and, for some reason, their album The Bends never got a video or radio play, making them pretty hard to be exposed to.
What this really was the catalyst for was music via the internet, because around this time my family bought one of these:
Also known as the "Porn Machine."
It's hard to imagine your life before the PC, isn't it? Not only was I making my own mix-CDs for the first time, but the internet allowed for an entire new outlet in discovering music. My looking up "Radiohead" soon allowed me to discover more bands that sounded like them, which led to more bands, and so on so forth.
You see, by the mid/late 90s my brother was gone. I won't get into specifics, but not having that outlet of someone older to expose you to new music was a drastic change. The music I listened to in high school were the same bands and musicians I listened to years before. That was until Radiohead came around and, alongside the internet, completely blew the doors off of what I listened to. Now this really wouldn't hit hard until things like Youtube, Pandora and, of course, Itunes started appearing, but it sure helped decide what to check out on the next trip to the music store seeing as how MTV was too busy putting Carson Daly on the screen.
On To the Future
The seed was planted then and there. In my remaining years of high school, I graduated in 1999, (and this song was inescapable for both graduating and New Year's purposes, one radio station in particular playing it on an endless loop on the last day of the year before 2000) I set out to really find out more about them and music as a whole, much of my knowledge and love it coming even more once I reached college. So let's close out one final few things with the late 1990s.
-The Early 1990s (save for the awful year of 1990 itself) really started to change things. Most of what I listened to through the decade really came from the years 1991 to 1995.
-The introduction of rap really changed a lot, and I soon found myself a fan up to about 1995 as well, then being a time when lesser rappers coming through.
-Most of the bands during the late 1990s came and went, those that weren't singers or boy bands at least. Thank God for Radiohead.
-My favorite genres were rock and metal, easily. Favorite Bands I Listend To: Metallica, Green Day, Weezer, Megadeath, Smashing Pumpkins, Blur, Stone Temple Pilots, REM, Oasis, Guns N Roses, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Collective Soul, Dave Matthews Band, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Beck and a few classic rocking bands from previous eras such as AC/DC, U2 and Tom Petty (no, no Zepplin, Beatles or Stones just yet).
-Not to be outdone, early 90s R&B and Rap was up there too: Dr. Dre, Snoop, R Kelly, Ice Cube, Boys II Men, Whitney Houston, Notorious BIG, 2Pac, the Wu Tang Clan and Beastie Boys are still artists I listen to as well. In fact, that's about the only rap I still listen to today. But this isn't a commentary on the complete fall of that genre, just know that the early 1990s was when it was at its height, and it's been a bit of slow decline with few high-points since.
-Bands that Came and Went (and probably aren't that good in hindsight on a lot of them): Better than Ezra, Live, White Zombie, Gin Blossoms, Soul Asylum, Rollin's Band, Porno for Pyros, Everclear, Rancid, Semisonic, House of Pain, Butthole Surfurs, Ugly Kid Joe, The Wallflowers, The Cranberries, Marilyn Manson, Jewel, Spin Doctors, Deftones, Local H, The Flys, The Fugees, New Edition, TLC, Lit, Third Eye Blind, Fastball, Blues Traveler, Counting Crows
I can remember all of these bands and songs. Many help create some old memories, like listening to Counting Crows on my way to work or sitting in my car singing along with One Headlight by the Wallflowers. Every song can bring in a memory and as much as I'd like to detail each and every one here, that woudl be impossible. But they're are certainly there...that soundtrack of life.
Hey, you know I couldn't go through the entire 90s without a pic of these guys.
Part Three Coming Soon: Gotta Get Back in Time (the college years of music history, perspectives, exploration and drugs and alcohol) - the real Odyssey of Music Explorations with Jazz, Elvis, Beatles, Stones, Disco (yes, disco), Indie Rock and all the MP3s you can shake a stick at.