This is quite long, I'm sorry for that. Once I got going, I couldn't stop. Also, I've linked primarily to Wikipedia articles for consistency of style.
It seems that I'm on a roll with music lately. The other day I was listening to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
' new album, and there were some bits and pieces of it that reminded me of Nirvana
. That got me thinking back to when I first heard Nirvana. Well, not first heard, but when I first bought Nevermind
on casette. That's right, I bought Nevermind on casette.
This was 1991/1992 so portable CD players existed, but they were iffy. You were better off with a portable casette player since the CDs tended to skip. A lot. So if I was trying something out, I'd get it on casette. Nevermind came out in September of 1991 (is that really 17 years ago!?) and I had heard/seen "Smell Like Teen Spirit" a bunch.
No one knew who they were; not me, not my friends. I already was listening to Soundgarden
, Alice in Chains
, and Pearl Jam
. Without knowing it, I was already keying into the Seattle sound, aka "grunge."
I decided "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was a strong enough song that I would pick up the album. A friend was coming into town that weekend, and we swung by a record store on the way to my place. I picked up the casette, having no idea what lay in store for us.
To show how dorky I am, the weekend was spent listening to Nevermind (the casette didn't have the hidden track that's on the CD, so the auto-reverse would just flip the tape over and we'd get the other side) over and over and over and over again while we played Super Mario Bros. That was basically it.
The album was brilliant. I couldn't get enough of it. My roommates and my friend...? They had their fill. Thankfully for them, I could listen to it in my trusty Sony Walkman.
In early 1992 (see, I'm bringing the title of this post in) Nevermind hit #1. Music was changing. The grunge music
was in full swing, causing a ton of Seattle-based bands to get signed to record deals so that labels had a grunge artist in their list. I bought a lot of that music, and I won't even try to list it all.
Even outside of Seattle, you had releases from bands like San Diego's Stone Temple Pilots
, who had a definite Seattle or grunge quality to their music. I was in my third year of college, and music was hugely important to me. I was in bands, playing guitar, singing, doing all the things that I thought would make me a rock star (except actually working hard at it, of course).
On top of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, there was the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
, and they both got me thinking about 1992 again. And I was curious what was released that year and what sort of influence it had. I came up with a short list of, in my opinion, hugely influential in music.
In addition to grunge, there was Rage Against the Machine
(RATM) with their self-titled debut
. This didn't sound like any of the Seattle music. This was quite different. And it had a lot of say. Even today, sixteen years later, I can listen to the first RATM machine and became angry due to the content of the lyrics. Highly politicized, RATM caused controversy wherever they went:
"At a 1993 Lollapalooza appearance in Philadelphia, the band stood onstage naked for 15 minutes with duct tape on their mouths and the letters PMRC painted on their chests in protest against censorship by the Parents Music Resource Center. Refusing to play, they stood in silence with the sound emitted being only audio feedback from Morello and Commerford's guitars."Sca-core
band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
released their first full-length album More Noise and Other Disturbances
. I saw them for free at the student union, and can safely say that was the craziest show I've ever been to.
While I didn't come upon the album until much later, Gordon
from the The Barenaked Ladies
came out in 1992. And I'm not ashamed to admit that the Barenaked Ladies are my favorite band. I saw them on a whim in 2000, and metaphorically kicked myself for missing out on the band for so many years. Although to be honest, I probably would have hated them at the time.
It was all good, 1992 foisted a full Right Said Fred album on us, and Color Me Badd had a #2 single with "I Wanna Sex You Up" (sorry, no links...I can't bring myself to do it). This was the type of stuff that was burning up the charts prior to grunge. I, for one, was glad that grunge came along.
But what about the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy? Who the heck were they? Well, frontman Michael Franti
has gone on to form Spearhead, and like RATM, use his music to bring awareness to political issues that are often overlooked in the United States. But there's more. The album Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury introduced us to the work of a young guitarist named Charlie Hunter
Hunter is a jazz guitarist, and one of my favorite musicians. He plays an eight-string guitar (although now I see he's moved down to a seven-string) and performs both the guitar and bass lines on the same instrument simultaneously.
Here's where things get funky, Hunter's 2001 album Songs from the Analog Playground featured the vocals of a young songstress, Norah Jones
, who of course went on to win a Grammy for Best New Arist with her 2002 alubm Come Way with Me
. When I first heard "Don't Know Why," I couldn't figure out why her voice sounded familiar. Then I figured it out. I had heard it a year earlier.
If not for the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (who I found through the Alternative Tentacles
album Virus 100
, a compilation of Dead Kennedys
cover songs) we might not have heard of Norah Jones. Considering the talent level of Hunter and Jones, it's likely we would have heard of them regardless, but the connection is there.
Jones' Come Away with Me hit #1 on the charts in 2002, ten years after Nevermind hit #1. Things had changed over those ten years, not least of all Kurt Cobain's tragic suicide. My own musical tastes had changed to allow in artists like the Barenaked Ladies and Norah Jones. What albums from 1992 resonated for you? From 2002? What musical connections do you know about that are kind of cool and funky (if not obscure)?
Labels: music, pop music, rock music