On Blimpy’s birthday thread, Japanthersan made a comment about 1991 being a mutual Year Zero. That struck a chord, and in fact I’d been planning a post on the subject for a while. Here it is…
I started to listen to pop properly in late 1990 (before this, I had an interest in folk music that was maybe a little unhealthy in a 12 year-old). I remember listening to the Top 40 for the first time. The Beautiful South were number one with “A Little Time” (that album would be the first I bought), and I also loved the Happy Mondays’ “Kinky Afro”.
So 1991 was the first year in music I was really aware of. And what a year it was. And no, I’m not just talking about Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do…”
I don’t think you can put that all down to rose-tinted nostalgia – any year that contained Screamadelica, Nevermind and Blue Lines has got a fair claim to greatness by any objective standard. But there’s something about music from that era – even the rave stuff that I hated at the time – which evokes an almost painful nostalgia, and brings back senses and feelings that are vivid and specific, but almost impossible to put into words. I suspect everyone feels like this about a particular time…
Anyway, here’s a personal, narrowly indie-focused playlist. Since much of my music from the time is on cassette, I’ve put together a YouTube playlist. The videos also bring back a few memories.
Here’s hoping this brings back memories for a section of the ‘Spill demographic, and maybe even tempts Pa McFlah out of his extended paternity leave.
And a couple of questions: Where were you in 1991? And what was your own Year Zero?
At this point, there should be an embedded YouTube playlist of 10 songs, but for some reason WordPress doesn’t like it. But you can open the playlist here or follow the individual links below.
We kick off with the riff that launched grunge (and made the over-sized jumpers my grandma used to knit instantly fashionable): Nirvana and Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The first REM song I heard was Losing My Religion and I knew I’d discovered something special (although I thought “Shiny Happy People” was even better – but, you know, I was young…).
In the right mood (and/or with the right drugs), I think Screamadelica by Primal Scream is the greatest album ever made – it still sounds like past and future rolled into one ecstatic present, represented here by Higher Than The Sun.
Massive Attack pretty much invented what was to become one of the dominant sounds of the decade (it’s a much wider thing than “trip-hop”). I didn’t understand the genius of Unfinished Sympathy at the time, even when they performed it complete with string orchestra week after week on Top of the Pops. I do now.
I did like St Etienne‘s Nothing Can Stop Us Now when it came out, without quite realising that 20 years (WTF? 20 years?) later it would be one of my favourite songs from my, ooh, let’s say 8th favourite band of all time.
We’ve got My Bloody Valentine providing the blueprint for shoegazing with When You Sleep. Most indie records for a year or two sounded like this, except not as good. That this sound appears to be influencing a new generation at the moment also makes me feel old.
Representing the tail end of baggy, we have Caravan by the Inspiral Carpets. The Beast Inside was the first proper indie album I bought. I still wear the T-shirt when I’m gardening.
What can I say about The Wonder Stuff and Size of a Cow, other than that they don’t make indie disco classics like that anymore, do they?
I thought I was incredibly cool when I bought Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub after hearing The Concept. It was Album of the Month in Vox magazine you know.
You can tell Blur have got something about them from the video to There’s No Other Way. But what odds would you have got on that floppy-fringed kid becoming arguably the most creative pop musician of his generation?