The nineties was the decade that I really began to search for my own musical genres rather than continue to be influenced by what my parents and siblings were listening to.
For Christmas 1991 I asked my parents for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Album. This was the first album that I had ever asked for. I must admit that apart from Invincible (2001), this was my least favourite Michael Jackson album. I didn’t know whether my musical tastes were changing or if I was growing up or whether the style of the new album wasn’t to my liking. I just knew that my fascination with Michael Jackson’s music was coming to an end and I was searching for something new.
By this time I had begun to attend many school discos and was introduced to bands like Ace of Base (who had hits with “I Saw the Sign” and “Don’t Turn Around”) as well as many groups from the reggae resurgence of the early nineties. A lot of my school chums were into ‘rave’ music but I never got into it.
My eldest sister had moved out and we rarely had anything to do with each other so her influence over my musical interests ceased with the late eighties. My older brother had a very peculiar taste in music. He bought several ‘Greatest Hits of the 50’s’ and ‘Greatest Hits of the 60’s’ albums, swiftly moved on to Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ (1994) and then became interested in gangsta rap.
I could never understand the fascination with rap music. That’s not to say that it isn’t a noteworthy genre, I just never saw the appeal when it came to referring to women as bitches and hoes or threatening to pop a cap in someone’s arse. His influences were mainly Eazy-E, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Cypress Hill, Busta Rhymes and Snoop Doggy Dogg. However he did introduce me to Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chilli Peppers for which I am eternally grateful.
My other sister had moved on from Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue by this point and had become an adoring fan of Take That and Eternal. I’m pretty sure most of you will be aware of Take That’s rise to fame in the early nineties, their split in 1996 felt by every teenage girl in the nation (My sister was allowed the afternoon off school as she was so upset) and their successful come back. However I would wager that few of you remember Eternal who had several hits in the nineties with ‘Stay‘, ‘Oh Baby I…‘ and ‘I Wanna Be The Only One‘.
By the mid-nineties my musical tastes were constantly changing. I had well and truly left Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson behind and was embarking on a wonderful journey realising that music wasn’t always bubble gum pop.
Unfortunately one of the earliest albums I bought with my own money was The Spice Girls ‘Spice’ (1996). I’m not sure why I bought the album. Maybe my lustful teenage libido made me buy it. This album was soon joined by East 17 ‘The Story So Far…’ (1996) and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Electric Ladyland’ (1968).
I am also ashamed to admit that the first single I ever bought with my own money was a song called ‘Change Your Mind’ (1996) by an obscure boy band called Upside Down. I bought it because at the time I hung around a guy who was very much into boy bands. No he wasn’t gay before you ask. He just liked singing along to boy band songs on his stereo which doubled up as a karaoke machine.
In my mid-teens my friends and I discovered cannabis which naturally, and a little stereotypically, led us to listen to more Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. My friends also listened to heavy metal. Now I can appreciate a twelve minute guitar solo as much as the next man, I never really got into the whole heavy metal genre.
The change for me came when my dad brought home The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ album (1969) and said, ”Hey son, listen to this” and proceeded to play the CD. I listened and fell in love. Abbey Road continues to be my favourite Beatles album of all time. For me the album is perfect from start to finish. It just flows, and affected me so much that over the next few years, after getting a part-time job, I bought the entire Beatles back catalogue.
In 1997 I was watching a TV show, of which the name escapes me now, that used to showcase new songs being released. This is where I first heard the song ‘Beautiful Day’ (1997) by The Levellers, an Irish folk/punk band from England that would take me on my first journey through the political side of music. I proceeded to purchase their back catalogue too and have seen them in concert many times over the years.
Around about the same time my father brought home another CD called ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ (1965) by some guy called Bob Dylan. Once again he told me to stop playing my computer game, ‘Age of Empires’ as I recall but that’s another story, and listen to this album.
Again I loved it. My father never steers me wrong when it comes to music. Hearing that initial snare drum hit at the beginning of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ still makes me shout “Fuck yeah!” whenever I hear it. Even Bruce Springsteen said, “That snare shot sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind”.
In 1999 I bought my first guitar, a cheap £35 classical acoustic guitar from Argos. Most of my friends did too and straight away it became apparent which direction we were all headed in.
While my friends were playing intricate, quick-fingered guitar solos, I was slowly toe-tapping along to Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” much to the mirth of said friends but I didn’t care. I knew that with all this new musical input being fed into my brain I was on a journey and I had no idea where this journey would take me next.
My musical tastes were no longer being influenced by my siblings but I still looked to my dad for guidance. One day he suggested that if I was going to do the Beatles I’d have to do the Rolling Stones too. I wouldn’t get around to the Stones for a while yet.
However, here are my top ten songs that remind me of the early nineties before my discovery of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Levellers:
- I Saw The Sign – Ace of Base
- Sweat (A La La La La Long) – Inner Circle
- Basket Case – Green Day
- Heal the World – Michael Jackson
- Outta Space – The Prodigy
- Oh Baby I… – Eternal
- Pray – Take That
- Crazy For You – Let Loose
- Stay Another Day – East 17
- Three Lions – Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightening Seeds
And here are the top ten songs I remember from the late nineties after the discovery of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Levellers:
- River Flow – The Levellers
- Weather With You – Crowded House
- Swallowed – Bush
- Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan
- Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
- Stand By Me – Oasis
- Place Your Hands – Reef
- The Abbey Road Album – The Beatles
- Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
- All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
Big difference huh? What are your memories of 90’s music? What were the first singles and albums that you bought?
Also if you missed it, check out Music and Me Part One: The Eighties