1992

About a year or so ago I did a post on 1991. Ever since, I’ve been wondering how I could possibly do a follow-up post, and have finally come up with the idea of doing one about 1992. Clever, huh?

1991 was a vintage year, bringing classic albums like Screamedelica, Nevermind and Blue Lines. 1992 can’t compare – NME thinks Sugar’s Copper Blue is the album of the year – but even so, whittling this playlist down to just 12 songs was hard.

Because when you’re 13-14 years old and just discovering the wonders of music, 1992 is bursting with amazing records. Melody Maker, NME and Select magazine are fonts of wisdom. Mark Goodier is a musical guru. The Chart Show indie chart is a highlight of the month. All my paper round money goes on cassettes from Our Price (usually around £7.99).

Here are a few of the things I was listening to… more about them after the break.

In the meantime, shall we pretend we’re doing a Festive ‘Spill for 1992? Let’s have your top 3…


Actually, I don’t think Southern Rain by the Cowboy Junkies ever got played on Mark Goodier or The Chart Show. But the first time I heard Margo Timmons’ voice in a short snippet on Rapido (…anyone?), I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. Still do. A blueprint for much of the music I’d be listening to 20 years later.

I was, for the most part, an indie kid. But occasionally I’d pretend to like records from other genres, like hip-hop, that were supposed to be cool. Sometimes I didn’t have to pretend: how could you not submit to the righteous indignation of The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy? Television – the Drug of the Nation still sounds vital.

St Etienne were indie without sounding indie, which confused me. The music press loved them. I quite liked Avenue at the time. Today, there are few records I love more. This is the song I want playing when I wake up in heaven.

One of the downsides of being a teenage indie snob was when other people started getting into bands you liked first. Carter USM being a case in point. But The Only Living Boy In New Cross still sounds great, cramming their usual puns and allusions into a heartfelt, gut-wrenching song about people dying of AIDS that you can jump around to in your DMs. Not many bands can do that.

One solution for the indie snob was to get into bands that nobody else was ever going to like. Case in point: Cud. Case for the defence: Rich and Strange. Jingling guitars, thoroughly English delivery, oddball lyrics. Makes me smile.

Another indie band never to trouble the charts: The Family Cat with the epic Steamroller, surely a shoe-in if ever Songs About Heavy Machinery comes up as an RR topic. The ‘Cat were probably the biggest band to play Salisbury Arts Centre – my local venue – during my teens, and I happened to be on holiday that week. I’ve never quite got over it. The line “and the Saints are playing at home today” means this comes into my head at least once a fortnight.

The other solution was to be the first to “discover” a new band. This may suggest seeing them at a tiny gig somewhere, or hearing an unreleased demo. In reality, it meant happening to hear them on the radio or read the write-up in the music press before other people. Anyway, I discovered Suede, The Drowners representing the first stirrings of Britpop.

It was also the year of PJ Harvey‘s debut. Does Sheela Na Gig give you an indication that she’d go on to win two Mercury Music Prizes and still be releasing surprising, relevant records in 20 years’ time? Well, yes.

The Manic Street Preachers made their appearance too, pretending to be authentic punks who were going to split up after releasing their debut album. But when you heard Motorcycle Emptiness, you knew their destiny was to play stadiums. A stone-cold-classic rock song.

Another classic rock song: Taillights Fade by Buffalo Tom, a high-water mark in the wave of alternative US rock that swept onto these shores in the wake of Nirvana.

Getting slacker-er still: The Lemonheads. My brother saw Evan Dando touring the It’s A Shame About Ray album this year, and found it almost tragic, seeing those songs performed with professionalism but little affection by a middle-aged man. Here’s My Drug Buddy in all its youthful innocence.

1992 yielded one undeniable classic album in REM‘s Automatic For The People. There’s nothing much better than being 14 and hearing the new record by your favourite band – and it blowing your headiest expectations. Find the River is its glorious closing track.

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30 thoughts on “1992

  1. 13-14 in 1992 – blimey, you’re so young! (I’m sure I knew this really.) I wish I’d had such cool taste at that age. I was 19-20 and liking the same music, more or less! Might listen through these for the nostalgia factor at my desk tomorrow…

  2. Well, you’ve already taken my top three – REM, The Lemonheads and Manic Street Preachers so here’s my B-List…

    Weather With You – Crowded House (single released 1992 from a 1991 album)
    Stockton Gala Days – 10,000 Maniacs
    The Disappointed – XTC

    Am I supposed to post links to these?

    31 in 1992 by the way…

    • Massive donds for Stockton Gala Days – though I didn’t get that album until a couple of years later (sold cheaply in Our Price because it had lost its cassette inlay card). I knew I’d like 10,000 Maniacs, because they were apparently Michael Stipe’s favourite band – but it wasn’t so easy to seek things out in those days, was it? Hard to imagine life before the Internet sometimes…

      • I believe that Natalie Merchant and Michael Stipe were an ‘item’ at around this time. He appeared live on stage with them a couple of times. I also saw them live at the Albert Hall – without Michael Stipe – and they were stunning. One of the best live shows I ever saw…

  3. You had very good taste for a 13-14 year old. Loved the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy even though I was really too old even then…

  4. Are you just trying to make us all feel old? ;-)
    Fun post, makes me feel all nostalgic. I think I saw the Family Cat in Falmouth sometime around then, they were fun, weren’t they?

    My favourites would be Henna and Swayed by Blind Mr Jones because I knew their guitarist and an ex-boyfriend did the picture on the front of the album. I discovered shoegaze about then, bit late, but I’d been being gothic and all.
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Straight to You, because you know, Blixa was still in the band and all was right with the world and Digeridoo by Aphex Twin coz he’s from Cornwall you know and actually good!

  5. I can’t seem to get the Spill player to work – it’s still buffering. I may have to reboot the computer if my other crap is slowing it down.

    I cheated and looked up songs for 1992, many i came to know much later on, so these are songs that i actually remember hearing at the time. I was in LA then, heartland of grunge. Sadly, i watched a lot of MTV at the time too i believe. Actually still love all of these songs. RATM i think released their first album, but they weren’t on my radar until much later.

    Cure – Friday I’m In Love
    House of Pain – Jump Around
    Arrested Development – Tennessee
    Alice in Chains – Would?, Rooster
    George Michael – Too Funky

  6. It is interesting for me, musically speaking, to indulge in a little retro-self-analysis about the early 90s. I was very settled in 1992 in just about every part of my life – relationship (yes, DsMam), home, career, leisure, friends, family, sports – nothing else new was happening to me really. But CDs were definitely “in”, and I was definitely a “£50 Man”, so I was chucking cash around for some new aural thrills with abandon.

    But there was no pattern, no consistency to what I wanted. For example, take my core classic rock: lifelong DsD staple-fodder bands UFO and AC/DC both had albums out that year that I didn’t even hear, let alone bother buying, yet I was banging on the door of Bradford’s HMV at opening time for second album offerings from Thunder and Gun on day of release. In fact there were an awful lot of second albums that year (Black Crowes, Melissa Etheridge, Gin Blossoms, Del Amitri*, etc.) so I’ll take the opportunity to disregard those to make my selection of only a Top Three easier.

    * OK, OK, their third, but I don’t count the scratchy, very different style debut

    Perhaps surprisingly, I was a bit “Meh!” on Nirvana, (and I’m still only lukewarm to them two decades later) but I was so blown away the first time I heard Pearl Jam’s Alive, that I remember I literally stopped driving in the middle of the road (I was at the lights at the bottom of Easby Road – that’s how memorable that moment was!) to listen, open-mouthed and holding my breath for fear of not hearing what this awesome song was. That would definitely be in a Festive Spill list of DsD discoveries of the year.

    More off-piste for me (at least, it was back then), I was discovering mature beauty in music, which has been the second string to my taste bow ever since. For instance, thanks to gordonimmel (or just ‘Gordon’ as I knew him way back then!), I had now discovered Cowboy Junkies via The Caution Horses, so donds for their release of Black Eyed Man.

    But those pursuits were often in vain. Talk Talk’s Paul Webb & Lee Harris released the first O:rang album, which I can listen to but don’t love. Laughing Stock II it most definitely wasn’t.

    amylee gave Arrested Development their second ‘Spill mention this week, and donds for them too. Without wishing to cast aspersions at her powers of recall however, Amy doesn’t think she heard RAtM in ’92, but here in the UK, we bloody well did, when the unedited version of Killing In The Name was played on the Radio 1 Top 40 Sunday show, the most listened-to radio programme in the country. Several million parents would have been spluttering into their Sunday tea.

    So what else was there that I still listen to A LOT now? One was a debut that has never been followed up, the other a debut that’s never been matched by subsequent releases [imo, obv].

    Everyone remembers Sophie B. Hawkins for Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover, but the song I replay most often was her re-invention of Bob Dylan’s I Want You. “Cover” is w-a-y too inadequate a word for this playful, coquettish, exquisite thing.

    The other does return me to my rock collection, but with an added dash of funk to make the political bile more palatable. In 1992, we had a General Election. At last, millions thought, a chance for change after the hateful Thatcher years. Er, no. Mr. Gray, aka John Major got the vote of a few million more who were simply relieved to be rid of the mad old bat. I was gutted, and the debut album from 2 Tribes was a constant steam-release valve then, and still is now. Here’s Decade:

    • It’s funny, because RATM is now probably one of my very favorite 90′s bands. But i don’t remember paying much attention to them until the Battle for LA, Guerrilla Radio was the frist one that grabbed my by the throat. And Testify. I didn’t get back to Killing in the Name and Bombtrack till after that.

      There was a Nirvana album out that year, but i didn’t catch up with that one until later. But certainly knew the earlier one.

      I didn’t see a Soundgarden album out that year on the list. Lots of STP, but i was never big on them.

      • Just for fun sometime, see if you can’t sing the lyrics to Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” to the tune of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

        Re: RATM. A mashup of Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, and the Beasties with none of the humour that those acts so great. I just can’t stomach De la Rocha’s voice today.

        But even I had a weakness for catchy-but-hollow sloganeering in 1992. IMHO, this song has aged better than RATM in that department.

        L7 – Pretend We’re Dead

        If you love music grouped by year – and I do! – KFOG-HD2 from San Francisco is a must. Every hour brings a ten-song set from one year from the 60s through 00s complete with vintage TV and news clips.

      • I know what you mean about De La Rocha’s voice, it can be really irritating. But i love RATM, can’t help it. I have a similar problem with Jack White’s voice, can irritate the crap out of me sometimes.

        Funny you should mention L7 though – this just narrowly missed my challenge playlist -

  7. I turned 40 in 1992!
    The year of the first Pollywonder, as you say, but also Pavement‘s first wrecked kaleidosocpe: Slanted And Enchanted. amy posted Summer Babe from it only yesterday.

  8. I remember being glued to the TV a lot that year – we had a big presidential election and a stellar Democratic candidate and it looked like the first time in my voting life i would be able to vote for a winner. This was after 8 years of the antichrist Reagan. I also watched a lot of MTV, but it seems that a lot of the videos i remember were in fact from ’91.

    • Re: RATM final thoughts – I played the heck out of Evil Empire. I’m glad that was the extent of my rebelliousness.
      Great music for a pissed off mood when you’re working a shitty retail job and still living with your parents in a drafty single-wide trailer.

      Sorta like another 1992 hit

  9. Also having trouble getting the player to do thing with these (ie, play). Am guessing Windws might have protected these mp3s in some way, as that’s typical of the annoying things Windows does in the name of security. It’s a bit like the US Govt. in that respect.

    As for 1992, loads of good stuff, a lot of which have already been mentioned. Album of the year for me (& Shane, possibly), would be Queer by Wolfgang Press. Let’s have Mother Valentine from that (nice Kraftwerk sample). Orbital’s Planet of the Shapes (Withnail & I, sample) from their second Brown album. This was also the year of The Orb’s Blue Room, but Third Pick would probably be Andy Fairley’s False Starts.

    • Think ’92 was the year that the electronic stuff started to get interesting again – even the Cabs put out improved reworkings of their Some Bizzare period stuff. Possibly just taking a break from a couple of years of the US grunge outbreak.

      Look forward to the next episode.

  10. 1992 passed me by musically due to the fact that I had moved from The South to The North (big culture shock), and was juggling academic studies with (very young) child-rearing – the shock of the new!
    Like Amy, I cheated and after having a look was pretty non-plussed with the LPs, I remember buying Gang Starr – ‘Daily Operation’ and Galliano – ‘A Joyful Noise Unto The Creator’ but I was already speeding along that Jazz route as this was the year that ‘The Best Of Donald Byrd’ came out on Blue Note :

  11. these are 3 tracks i particularly liked assuming i got the year right

    start choppin – dino jr
    trigger cut – pavement
    conjure me – afghan whigs

    not much variety there though lol

  12. At the end of 1991 (December 11, to be precise) I had moved into a little house in Stony Stratford, MK – a huge leap for me on to the bottom rung of the housing ladder at the end of 13 years of living in council accommodation and private rentals after my marriage broke down. Hooray! My new house was next door to Jean-Pierre Rasle, the piper with Cock and Bull, and I have a feeling that the Cock and Bull album Concrete Routes, Sacred Cows came out in 1992. I’m going to pretend it did anyway, and I certainly bought it – it’s the only album I have on vinyl, cassette and CD. Throughout 1992 I immersed myself in the folk music culture of Stony Stratford – the music itself, the morris dancing and the mumming. Stony’s famous for it. I went the the Towersey Festival for the first time that year, with a whole gang of Stony friends.

    In other music…I had to resort to Wikipedia, and found that Emmylou Harris’ live album At The Ryman came out in ’92: I certainly bought it then, and love it still. Bruce Springsteen released Human Touch and Lucky Town that year and I bought those too. Other albums that came out then but which I acquired later on were Kiko by Los Lobos, Automatic For The People, Our Time In Eden, Harvest Moon and Good As I Been To You (thank you, steenbeck). Richard Thompson didn’t have an album out that year.

    In 1992 I was 42/43.

    • And here’s Emmylou and Lodi from 1992, with Jon Randall, who later became another of my favourites, standing behind her playing the other acoustic guitar.

  13. I think that year a few of these would have got a couple of listens:

    sugarcubes – hit
    wolfgang press – Louis XIV
    Spiral Tribe – Breach The Peace
    Babymaker - Pale Saints

  14. Wiki-cheating slightly, my top three tunes of 1992 would include:

    Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Big Ones Get Away (because I remember hearing it lots on Radio 1 on Saturday afternoons)
    The Cure: High (because I saw them live in Newcastle on the Wish tour)
    R.E.M.: Drive (because I made my parents mail a cassette copy of the newly released Automatic For The People to me in Siberia, where I spent the latter part of the year and “Drive” particularly kept me sane – ish)

  15. I think it was a bad year for music, ‘cos I can’t remember anything … having scanned the charts for 1992 Annie Lennox, INXS and Richard Marx spring to mind but I was more into going to see local pub bands (rock or folk). I was 32/33 and in a relationship which involved quite a lot of being out of it most of the time. I think.

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