Lately, I have become downright obsessed with the 1990s. I mean, I have driven down nostalgia lane so many times in the past little while that I sometimes find myself losing track of the present. If I were Lot’s wife, I wouldn’t be writing this; I would already be a grain of salt.
In all honesty, it’s sometimes dangerous to look back at the past. But in this circumstance, I don’t necessarily agree. As of late, I find myself revisiting many artefacts from the 1990s, the most notable being music. The music from the 1990s wasn’t necessarily the greatest. In fact, much of it was pretty terrible. But it was music that impacted me in a crucial way. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but the music from the 1990s was helping to form vivid, profound memories that would remain with me the rest of my life.
The Junior High Years
I first started really getting into music in 1992. R.E.M’s ‘Losing My Religion’ and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ were the songs I most remember being played on the radio at this point (I wasn’t really getting the whole Nirvana thing just yet). My first recollection of the diverse nature of music that existed was discovered at my friends’ house. We were rooting through his CD collection, and I was asking him questions pertaining to his particular tastes in music.
Me: “What’s this black album?”
Friend: “That’s Metallica’s ‘The Black Album’”
Me: “What’s a Metallica?”
Though I wasn’t meaning to be humorous, I was still readily identifying myself as a musicology virgin. To assist me with my affliction, he told me he was going to play the album, and within one song, my introduction to Metallica was complete*. As an innocent, naive adolescent, ‘Enter Sandman’ was the heaviest song I had ever heard up until that point.
As we continued to scour through his CD’s, I would constantly ask him, ‘What’s this?’ The answers varied. That’s R.E.M.’s Out of Time, Tom Cochrane’s Mad, Mad World (‘Life is a Highway’ is still a great cruising tune), Michael Bolton’s Time, Love and Tenderness (for a moment, in my naive state of age, Michael Bolton was cool). But it wasn’t until I discovered Guns n’ Roses Use Your Illusion 1 and 2 that my musical obsession began.
I had heard of Guns n’ Roses prior to that (My friend would blast their debut album, Appetite for Destruction, all the time). But I guess I just didn’t get it back then. It’s when my friend made me a mix tape of both albums (Use Your Illusion-Side A, Use Your Illusion 2-Side B) that my connection with the rebelliousness of rock n’ roll began to accelerate.
In 1992 I was in grade 7, and prior to school one day I decided to listen to a song on my walkman (I had not yet listened to the albums). The first song hit me like a Ron Artest meet and greet with fans. Growing up with a religious background, I wasn’t sure what to make out of ‘Right Next Door to Hell’. I knew I SHOULDN’T like it.
I only had the chance to listen to one song since I had to run off to school. Sadly, it became the only song I heard on that mix tape.
When I arrived home, my mother was standing there with the tape in her hand. I quietly gulped as I awaited my Sonny Corleone/toll booth moment (we all know that feeling). She was not pleased. She began to unload on me with a series of questions that matched the rapid velocity of a Gatling gun. Instead of fully getting into the details of the exchange**, I will just let you know that the tape was destroyed like an appetite that day.
As time marched on, so did my journey through the rigors of school life. In grade 8, I really got into Aerosmith’s Get a Grip album. I thought ‘Livin’ on the Edge’ and ‘Amazing’ were the epitome of music (I was wrong).
As a result, I started to ask around about possibly obtaining copies of their other albums (without actually purchasing them, of course-No job=no money). I remember a guy on my baseball team was also a big fan. Having no currency, I needed to obtain these albums without actually proving to him that I really needed them. I would go off on my love for the band, but would nonchalantly state how I had yet to purchase their previous albums, and how I would love to do so in the near future. The trap was set, and conveniently, he stepped right into it with the speed of a 1988 Ben Johnson.
Friend: “Oh, I own those albums. I could tape them for you if you want”.
Me: “That would be awesome” (Internally-“Excellent, the plan has worked…now for the fail safe”), “but the only thing is that I don’t have any blank tapes, I will have to get you some the next time I see you”.
Friend: “Oh, don’t worry about that, I have plenty”.
Me: “That’s really cool of you” (Internally-“Score!”) (Hey, not the proudest moment of my life, but I needed to get my fix-any of you would have done the same!)
So, he went off and taped for me 1987’s Permanent Vacation and 1989’s Pump, which I received the next week at baseball practice. I thanked him repeatedly for helping me to expand my musical library***. At first, the albums spoke to me on a transcendental level but, of course, tastes change and after a few weeks, like most adolescent crushes, I lost interest in the aging Bostonians by the time I got to high school.
Other notable bands/musicians/songs from Junior High that impacted my musical appreciation were Blind Melon (‘No Rain’), Counting Crows (‘Mr. Jones’, ‘Round Here’), Duran Duran (‘Come Undone’, ‘Ordinary World’), Lenny Kravitz (‘Are You Gonna Go my Way’, ‘Believe’), Pearl Jam (‘Alive’, ‘Black’, ‘Even Flow’, ‘Jeremy’), Soul Asylum (‘Runaway Train’), Spin Doctors (‘Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong’, ‘Two Princes’), and Stone Temple Pilots (‘Creep’, ‘Plush’).
*To be honest, though, I was only slightly intrigued
**You know the scenario- She talks, I stammer some sort of lacklustre excuse
***Albeit, without me personally aiding the band financially. And upon deeper thought, I believe the only album that was a part of my library was Weird Al’s ‘Even Worse’ LP.