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.