A Love Song to 1994:
The Year That Changed Everything.
Many consider the ’60s or ’70s to be the finest decades for music. To me there is no doubt that the 1990s was the most impressive- and mainly because of this one, magical year.
AS I type this, I find myself- once more- shackled by British meteorological cruelty.
There is some respite at the moment, yet it seems that the days of overcast with no rain will be short-lived. I also find myself annoyed once more. Certain people who claim to be friends are not acting as such; those whom I spend a lot of time, effort and money on are being neglectful and terrible friends. I also am imitated by yet another artist whom has not taken the time to read- or comment- or a review posted. Over the past few months I have reviewed a few acts whom have not taken any effort to read what I have written- or say thanks. Yesterday’s artist is culpable, and it comes a few weeks after another artist’s blind ignorance and refusal to do the bare-minimum. It makes me not want to really focus on new music or artists; instead focus on times past and those whom might be appreciative. Anyway, it is another day, another needless and frustrating point of life. For now, I am taking time to focus on something that is dear to my heart: a terrific decade for music. I will focus on the birthday girl in question shortly, but for now, I want to focus on the decade as a whole. The ’90s, to me, was the decade that changed everything for music. I was born in 1983, so when the decade dawned, I was a bright-eyed 6-year-old. There are some whom claim the ’60s was the greatest music decade. They mention the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, but in essence there is not a great deal to recommend. There are some terrific and legendary acts that began playing in the ’60s, yet a majority of the music was mediocre or just plain awful. A lot of innovations occurred and developments made, but to me, here was a decade that could have offered more. Th 1970s was more prosperous, offering up some great acts and bands. Rock and heavy rock started to develop; Dylan was still going strong, and a multitude of new genres was bustling through. The ’80s is always seen as a bit of a joke. It is true that there were too many Hair Metal bands; too many cheesy pop acts and novelty tracks. In the midst of a much-maligned decade, there was some quality to be found. Classic acts such as The Smiths dominated the period, and great northern pop and Indie acts were coming through. It is fair to say, though, that the ’80s provided little in the way of quality- as a whole. Something wonderful began to develop around the end of the ’80s. Towards 1987/1988 an uprising and paradigm shift began to occur. Club music was developing, and the quality and intensity of music upped its game. The club music may seem pretty tame by today’s standards, yet the quality was much greater. Nowadays, there is too much noise; too much innuendo and smut and a huge deal of processed and unspectacular vocals. The clubs are scenes for drunken idiots and stupidity and are arenas I wouldn’t dawn if my life depended on it. It doesn’t matter what is being played, as people are too far gone, ignorant and pissed to concentrate anyway. As a result, the so-called club ‘legends’ are a poor shower of glorified noise-making amateurs. It is true that the standard of music has declined quite a bit, but club and dance music especially so. In the late-’80s acts like Snap! were producing anthems that are still being played and remembered today,. The ensuing decade saw everything change- and improve. Dance music was predominantly wonderful, and the overall standard of music was exemplary. It will be incongruous to state that music has not had any worthy moments since the ’90s. It is obvious that some great bands and albums have been turned out, yet it seems strange that more has not been achieved. I guess the sheer number of musicians entering the scene has distilled the overall quality. So many new acts come through each month, that you really have to dig deep to find true greatness. It is a shame in that sense, but something that will continue unabated. I feel that too few are looking back to the golden decade, when it comes to inspiration. A lot of acts borrow from the ’60s and ’70s; many dip into the modern-day treasure chest when seeking inspiration and guidance, yet there is still too little consideration paid to the 1990s. If you look in-depth at the wide range of genres offered up, there is much to recommend. Grunge music was in full swing in the early-’90s and acts such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam were ruling the airwaves. It was a decade that saw the death of Kurt Cobain, but the Grunge genius left behind a phenomenal body of music that not only inspired every other Grunge act in the world, but is inspiring acts and musicians today. I have mentioned Dance music, and there was plenty to keep a smile on your face. The likes of Culture Beat, Beats International, Basement Jaxx and Fatboy Slim all contributed, as well as an impressive amount of shorter-lived acts. By the time the decade ended, there was a huge legacy left, which inspired the new artists of the ’00s. In fact, the standard of music didn’t dip until 2004/5. and it seems that the afterglow of the ’90s was a long-lived one. I am not one of the cynical music-lovers whom think that music stagnated at a point and will never be good again. I believe that we will see some legendary acts come through, and some new wonders; yet it is true that the best and brightest acts of all time have already played. I love the ’90s so much, because it was a period that not only offered unimpeachable quality, but the range and diversity of music was staggering. If you consider Dance music and Grunge; Britpop and Indie- how can you possible connect the far-reaching genres? That is why I love this era, as so much was being offered up. The best albums and songs of the year still hold up, and are still offering up nuance and joy. It was not just the range and quality that was so impressive; music seemed more redemptive and joyous. There is too much introspection, misery and anger with a lot of music- as well as ineptness. Of course genres such as Grunge were synonymous with depression and anger, yet the majority of music offered up in the ’90s had positivity and inspiration in its core. I feel that one year was particular wonderful; that epitomised the positive and endeavouring spirit- and provided the world with some of the greatest music there has ever been.
I am not sure what it is about 1994 that hits me hardest, but it seems to be the year that saw the greatest acts of my generation come together and produce their best work. I was 10 when the year began, and was really starting to get into music. I grew up indoctrinated to the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan and Bob Dylan, and was more familiar with the music of the ’60s-’80s. When it came the 1990s, my eyes and ears were opened. There was something new and different on offer, and the music helped me get through the difficult days of adolescence and school. I was beginning ‘high school’ in 1994, and it was a hard and scary transition. A lot of tragedy had befallen my family around this time, and I was looking around for something to ease the burden and distract me. Having been fascinated by the previous four years of music, it was 1994 that saw a real sea change. I am not sure what was in the air that year, but music became so focused and pure that I struggle to find any cracks. A few of my all-time favourite albums were unleashed this year. Jeff Buckley’s (sadly only L.P.) Grace was unveiled. Buckley is one of vocals and an absolute music hero of mine. He had been playing the cafés and bars of New York throughout 1992/3, honing his craft; introducing his magical voice to a select few. The release of Grace showed what the young artist could achieve. The album showcases what an incredible music talent Buckley is; the confidence and conviction cannot be assuaged. Radiohead introduced The Bends. Here was a band whose debut Pablo Honey was hardly met with huge acclaim. Aside from the odd great song, it was an album that was largely forgettable. The follow-up is probably the biggest leap forward in music history. No one expected an album of such majesty and credibility. The Bends remains one of my favourite all-time albums, as it set Radiohead on a tremendous course that would see the group go from strength to strength. I mentioned that Kurt Cobain died in 1994, and in the wave of that devastation, Grunge devotees and colleagues released some of their best work. Pearl Jam released Vitology; whilst Soundgarden produced one of my favourite albums, Superunknown. Legends departed- or defunct- such as R.E.M. were still going strong, and Oasis were doing battle with Blur. As much as Definatey Maybe received huge accolade, I feel that Parklife is the sound of 1994- and Britpop. The album was choked full of anthems and wonderful tracks. To be fair there were some truly sub-standard songs, and bizarre decisions and production choices; but you cannot fault the classic moments. This Is A Low would have been the perfect finale- if some moron had not put the dreadful Lot 105 as the last track. Girls and Boys was a summer-infused romper, and one of the best songs the band had produced. Their stories of protandrous hermaphrodites and lasciviousness mingled with tender moments. Underrated gems such as London Loves and Badhead were highlights, and the band produced an album that saw them to continue their run and grow in confidence. The Britpop battle was one of the stories of the year, and a war that Blur won. Dance and trance acts such as Massive Attack and Portishead came through and continued their regency. The two acts unveiled confident albums and terrific songs, and offered another dimension and sensation to a variegated and bustling scene. Everything seemed to be more mellifluous and carefree. Bands such as Supergrass were preparing their first steps, and their bonhomie and youthful energy were ready-made for the scene. It is hard to pinpoint a key moment or greatest act of the year, as there was so much competition. To me, Radiohead’s terrific movements were the most memorable, yet Britpop and the new wave of Grunge are a close second. Away from the mainstream, there were a lot of terrific one-off acts and songs being made.
My Top 10 Albums of 1994:
Grace– Jeff Buckley
The Bends– Radiohead
Vauxhall and I– Morrissey
Protection– Massive Attack
III Communication– Beastie Boys
Dookie– Green Day
Definitely Maybe– Oasis
My Top Ten Songs of the Year:
Street Spirit (Fade Out)– Radiohead
This Is A Low– Blur
Hallelujah– Jeff Buckley
Girls and Boys– Blur
Sabotage– Beastie Boys
Caught By The Fuzz– Supergrass
Fake Plastic Trees– Radiohead
What’s The Frequency, Kenneth– R.E.M.
Live Forever– Oasis
I am optimistic about the future of music. I think it will not capitulate altogether, but it is important that there is ambition and some renewed focus. The ’90s and 1994 were not apportions and freak events- they are capable of being topped. It is the sheer quantity of acts that are making it difficult for such a distillation to occur, but there are some gems coming through. It would be great to hear other people’s thoughts on the year, and favourite moments. Maybe you disagree with my conclusions and blog? It would be great to hear. To any new bands and acts whom have a similar passion for 1994, and the great decade of the ’90s; ambition is key to success and dominance, so take a good listen at the paster masters and mistresses, and above all…
I hope people take note, and try to do likewise.