Written by A. E. Pole.
Plaid shirts. Ripped jeans. A return to guitars. Can you guess where I am going with this? Grunge! The 1990s! How many of you are old enough to remember? It is okay, I really don’t want to know; it is just a reminder of how old I am. But, if you are like me, you like taking “time machines,” such as youtube, and at least occasionally, revisiting the past. I have even gone so far as writing a novel that takes place in the 1990s. So, Damien here has asked me to write a blog post about this decade for your entertainment, and of course, so I can say a little but about the story I wrote, the all important shameless plug, hint – hint.
Let me tell you a story. The main character, Max, is a slacker with wanderlust and a desire to backpack around the world. He goes to South Korea to teach English. There he meets new people and a new culture, which changes him in ways he wouldn’t have expected, but at the same time, complicates his relationships back home. (And, for Damien Hanson fans, don’t worry, Max also plays Dungeons and Dragons, which is also featured in this story!) These new experiences change Max, and help him to grow. And yes, there are experiences with sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, among many others (read the story and find out), which he writes about in his unpublished manuscript “Language Whore.” Travel, adventure, romance, conversations with friends, and a romantic stab at enlightenment all ensue, and result in an interesting, even humorous, look at how the world can tear us apart, and what we might do to bring it all back together, and as Max might say, it is with an emphasis on “can” and “might,” and this is with the hope that such subtlety of language can be “grocked” – you know, non-Heinlein fans, picked up on and fully understood.
So, for this blog post, I thought I’d look at ten songs from the 1990s that Max, a fictional character, may have been listening to before traveling to Asia, and of course, while traveling in Asia, with an emphasis not on the big hits of the time, but lesser hits and an occasional deep track, that you, the reader, might want to add to your youtube playlists. It is only ten songs. I have emitted many great ones. You probably want to disagree with my choices, and add new ones, so please go ahead! Comment away! If there is one thing the character Max really enjoys is a good conversation, so really, comment away! This could be fun!
In no particular order, yet in an order…
10. “Rock-n-Roll Life Style” by Cake. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1vOVki-a1s)
This is such a fun song! And, the Lou Reed like vocals nail the tone of the music well. The song is basically about blindlessly following trends, even music trends, and questions the need to spend money to have fun and be cool. And, I mean what could be more 1990s than that? Isn’t that basically what Smells Like Teen Spirit was all about? Stop following the trends! Be confident in yourself and blaze your own trail! I think the video is kind of boring, though. But, if you want a more interesting video by Cake, try their take on Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caINuHPKkFQ)
9. “Seether” by Veruca Salt. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC9AUR-iTo0)
What could be more 1990s than girls with guitars! Seether really rocks, too! I will be talking more about this in this list but it was so refreshing to see women pick up a guitar and just letting it rip. And, Seether’s lyrics about dealing with anger also so captures the times! And, their live performances are very cool! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPsQcB52V18)
8. “Eurotrash Girl” by Cracker. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38Vun2LYnoY)
We are not going to say that Nick Lowery and the boys really meant, “You are trash” girl, but hey they probably did. Throwing it on their CD as a secret track, where you had to press track 69 to find it, is just the icing on the cake. What is this song all about? Backpacking around Europe and getting to a whole lot of trouble and not a whole lot of enlightenment! Sounds like exactly what Max would be listening to. Cracker is also good for their GenX anthems. If this is what you want to listen to, and who doesn’t? Go for “I Hate My Generation,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOsNsOhyG8I) because Gen X was nothing if not being baby boomers talking about their generation, right? But, if that is what you are into, and I totally understand, check out their “explosive” sound here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiSKu7SbGNQ)
7. “Three Strange Days” by School of Fish. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onjaC3A2xjk)
How about something a little trippy? I think Max could relate to that. And, we could all use a little “strangeness” in our lives, afterall, right? The video is not the best representation of tripping but it is kind of fun. I guess there is only so much you were allowed to say and depict in the 1990s. I mean we didn’t even have medicinal marijuana.
6. “Tatva” by Kula Shaker. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfONbfAVWGk)
It is a little trippy. It is a little spiritual. It is a little from column A and a little from column B. I couldn’t imagine anything Max wouldn’t appreciate more. He of the I would like to be enlightened but isn’t it too hard kind? In a sense, “Creep” by Radiohead may capture this even better, when they sang, “I want a perfect body; I want a perfect soul. But, I am a Creep. I am a loser.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFkzRNyygfk) Kula Shaker does a fascinating job of merging Indian music with Western rock. This is worth checking out.
5. “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO8vBVUaKvk)
Yeah, they were doing it out in Texas, not Asia, but Max could totally relate, as they were trying to live life to its fullest (and self-destructive in its pursuit but that just makes the song edgy and fun). “Some will fall in love with life. And drink it from a fountain. That is pouring like an avalanche. Falling from a mountain.” Great stuff. And: “You never know how you look through other people’s eyes.” That is pure Max. Throw in the genius of getting Eric Estrada of the television show CHiPs as the police officer in the video, and you have found gold. And, all of us Adventurers can relate to that.
4. “Pretend We are Dead” by L7. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKLETNBTGx8)
Okay, now everyone, make in “L” with your left hand, and then a “7” with your right hand, and tell everyone that you think they are “square” and not “with it” as much as you are. Okay, maybe that is not what L7 means, but it might, right? But, the important thing is this song rocks, and I mean pretty hard. And, it has one of those simple political messages that we can all get behind, such as standing up for what you believe in by not pretending we are dead, and they (whoever your they are) are neither moral nor a majority. Right? Who can’t get behind that? And, if you want to check out the lead singer with her pants down, check out this video. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMykR5v8-XA) I am sure Jim Morrison is turning over in his grave, saying something like, “if it were me, my career would be over…” Let’s hope no one’s career is over and they all keep on rocking!
3. “Crazy Mary” by Victoria Williams. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb6OiQdDq7g)
Yes, Pearl Jam covered it. And, yes, this is not girls with guitars. But, oh, is this such an amazing song! As good as Pearl Jam is, they don’t really do this song justice. If you like brilliant lyrics and a totally cool video, hit that link and enjoy! Max would love the part in the video where Victoria sings, “Little country store with a sign tacked to the side said ‘ No L-O-I-T-E-R-I-N-G allowed’ Underneath that sign always congregated quite a crowd Take a bottle, drink it down, pass it around.” That scene is perfect as is the hopefulness of the end of the song and video. It is a little change of pace, but it is well worth a listen. Max certainly would.
2. “Without a Trace” by Soul Asylum. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNWR3OenaPk)
Okay, everyone has heard “Runaway Train,” and I think Max would love the lines, “I know what no one else should know…” and “I was a key that could use a little turning,” but Soul Asylum is much more than that song. In my mind, they are the kings of angst yet combined with living life to its fullest, with tinges of sadness and desire to succeed and be a better person all wrapped in one. What could be more 90s? Without a Trace is definitely a song Max would appreciate. Sometimes, you just got to leave to become a better person. The video is funny but I am not sure it captures the songs meaning the way Max would have appreciated it. For a classic slacker video, also check out this Soul Asylum video: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lP78Wc3-EGg) And, their whole catalogue because they got the sound and the style down.
Before we get to #1, some honorable mentions: “Soul Sucking Jerk” by Beck, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH-MheZmvKE) because who wants to work for a soul sucking jerk; “Love is a Good Thing” by Sheryl Crow, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFPeDsNKLMw) because it is and it is the transcendence that we need in this crazy world; and “Still Searching” by the Kinks, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1_RmptdCTk) because Max and the people like him are and always will.
And, now for the #1 1990s song that Max, if he were a real person, might have listened to:
1. “Cannon Ball” by the Breeders. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxvkI9MTQw4)
The Breeders is such a cool name. It is not the Beatles. You knew they were women. And, it is kind of funny. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” might have been the spark that ended 80s music and brought Grunge into the mainstream but it very well could have been/should have been “Cannon Ball.” This song is cool on so many levels. And, who doesn’t want to be the “bong in this reggae song,” because we all know that is where inspiration comes from! This song broke so many barriers and it rocks! Think of the possibilities, if the Donnelly sisters hadn’t mailed themselves heroin…the world may never know! So, kids, don’t do that!
Okay, thank you for letting me play virtual VJ. Maybe, you have other songs and other memories, you would like to tell me, us, everyone following this blog. Go ahead and leave it in the comments. Let me know what you think of these songs as well. Do you like them? Hate them? Something in between. And, when my story, “You Can’t Get Jack out of This or The Story of Language Whore,” by A.E. Pole comes out, feel free to give it some love as well. All the best and I will probably be leaving some other blog posts here. So, see you later!