In case you hadn’t noticed, SOTW has been moving steadily through the decades, which brings us now into the 1990s. We may as well continue with a little more of my teenage musical journey, because let’s face it, unless you’re friend or family—or you’ve been poring over my C.V.—you still know nothing ’bout me (except now you know I won’t hesitate to throw a clumsy and obscure Sting lyric at you when you least expect it).
When we left off last week, I had all but given up on contemporary mainstream music in the late 80s. I even rejected the contemporary mediums of listening to music and spent two years buying nothing but used vinyl. In the spring of 1990 my family moved to Asia, and so began my gradual slide into modernity, propelled through time by two primary catalysts:
1.) Being introduced to non-mainstream music (an all-encompassing genre which, at the time, was becoming known as “alternative” and is now referred to as “indie”). During my junior year of high school, I became tight with a super-cool half-Dutch half-Spanish dude who acquainted me with a bewildering array of music: Jane’s Addiction, Pixies, This Mortal Coil, Nine Inch Nails, The Wonder Stuff. And those are just my favorites. There were dozens more. And with the advent of grunge around the same time the alternative suddenly moved into the mainstream as Nine Inch Nails scored hit songs and The Pixies and Jane’s Addiction later played huge sold-out concerts around the world.
2.) Exposure and access to music from the UK. Occasionally America will experience a British Invasion—as it did in the mid-60s and again in the early 80s—but as a general rule, only your biggest bands (your U2s and Coldplays) or your one-hit wonders (your Rick Astleys and Kylie Minogues) will make it through to any kind of national recognition. (You’d probably be amazed at how much music you’re missing out on unless you’re actively tracking the scene.) In Asia, however, British music dominates the selection at music stores—at least it did 20 years ago—so discovering new artists proved easy, especially since you could buy 3 cassette tapes (I know, how quaint!) for about a dollar and if you didn’t like something, no big deal, you’re out a quarter. Lucky for me, a new crop of English bands came to prominence at this time, most of them associated with the so-called “Madchester” movement (basically alternative rock, generally with a 60s influence, some psychedelic touches, and a dance beat), a music scene seemingly designed to my specific needs and tastes. I love when everything’s melodic and day-glo and trippy with totally groovy beats. Some of my fave raves will get their own posts, but other groups who were twisting my melon included Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans, Primal Scream, and, with some absolutely era-defining singles, Jesus Jones.