It was 20 Years Ago Today.............
Wow. I can't believe the mid-1990s are now officially 20 years ago. As each new year arrives I like to think in terms of where I was and what I was doing 10 - 20 years ago. The 1990s were not my favorite decade by a long stretch and I'd never want to live through a bunch of years like that again. I'd prefer not to get into why specifically, but I do know about the music that got me through a pretty rough decade. And oddly enough I've found myself listening to some of that same stuff again lately. So, before we move forward I'm going to get us in the wayback machine for a guide through what music kept me sane in the crappy decade of the 90s.............
First off, as the 90s started I developed an ear for The Beach Boys. This was big news for me, especially since I had dismissed them for so long. I really like it when I have a “eureka moment” with music. For me, The Beach Boys LP “Little Deuce Coupe” - the mono original – was what hooked me in. I still love this record. Every song is great.
It also helped that my cousin Steve got into the Beach Boys at the same time. I'll never forget the generosity of my cousins who pitched in to give me the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” box set that Christmas.
Those six CDs played in heavy rotation for the balance of the decade. The retrospective CD box set was a big deal in the 90s and The Beach Boys set a standard of excellence with this release. It's still fantastic! I loved it so much I put the decal that came in the box on the back window of the car that got me through the decade.
Two years ago I was amused to see quite a number of young 20-somethings at the Beach Boys 50-year anniversary concert I went to. Really took me back to my own formative years as an obsessive fan..........
So while everybody else was cranking up the Nirvana – I was playing side two of Surf's Up religiously every night before I went to bed (I did mention how cheerful the 90s were for me, right? Heh heh).
As it turned out, there were plenty of Beach Boys “moments” through the decade – Brian Wilson emerged from his 80s haze, Pet Sounds was released as a separate “sessions” box set and in 1996 I saw my first Beach Boys concert in Poughkeepsie, NY. I am so glad I got to see Carl Wilson before he died – I will never forget him belting out “Sail On Sailor”. You could tell he wanted to do that song for “those fans” - the faithful. Yeah. I was among that lot. Still there, too.
Now, look. If you can't figure out that most of my musical tastes run pretty much backward in time you haven't been reading this blog too often. I'm doing my best to connect with some new music nowadays, but in the 90s I had pretty much zero interest in current bands. At least in the main genres. So, the 90s for me were more about older music. However, some older artists were putting out first rate records......like Paul McCartney did with his “Flaming Pie” album. Yep! I got that on VINYL, new!
Where? Well, I managed to find my way down to the Princeton Record Exchange in the 90s and boy did I blow a lot of cash there! With everybody re-discovering vinyl these days, I started that process back in the 90s. Paul's album came out after the Beatles Anthology hoopla (also a fun memory / experience for me in those years). I still think “Flaming Pie” is one of his best. Hard to realize it is almost 20 years old now........
Now, let me introduce you to my two steady girlfriends of the 90s................one British and one American.
Now, I knew them both before the 90s, but I got really serious with them in that decade. Good thing they never found out about how much I professed my love to each of them separately. They were known to be pretty feisty if you crossed them the wrong way. Lesley could be brooding – saying “You Don't Own Me” over and over. Dusty was known to throw dishes and stuff when she got going! Each of these women sent me scrambling for their original albums and 45s since most of their music hadn't been reissued on CD yet. They made me WORK, I tell ya! Yet, when I did find those platters all was forgiven. We're still friends to this day and get together when we can. But life moves on. Dusty and Lesley still hold places in my heart even though Sandy Denny would come along in the 2000s and sweep me off my feet permanently. (Listen, I told you the 90s was a bad decade........I wasn't kidding!)
Being involved like I was with those crazy women – it usually leads to only one thing: The Blues. Man, I had the blues in the 90s. I played with some great blues musicians in those years – lots of memorable gigs. There was a renewed interest in West Coast Swing in some circles I hung around. Good thing I had a membership to the BMG Music Club so I could have access to great compilations like this:
I got heavy into T-Bone Walker in those days. Years later I read biographies on T-Bone and Muddy Waters. I think T-Bone would have been more my kind of character to hang out with. These Imperial sides have served me well over the years. Really fantastic – especially the slow numbers. Like “I Got A Cold Cold Feeling”. Yeah....
Aside from T-Bone Walker I also spent a lot of time listening to Elmore James. This CD compilation is still the only disc I have, but its got killer songs on it. When Elmore sings on some of those late-period tracks he just sounds so desperate and jumping out of his skin with heartache – God! There's nothing like that voice.
As the late 90s rolled around, my fortunes started to turn around a little. But not without a serious bump in the road – after a year working in my chosen profession full time, I was left wondering if I'd manage to continue on that path. The summer of 1999 left me full of doubt and (near) despair. Things would work out in the end, but one of the best musical experiences I had in the 90s was seeing The Fugs in concert at the Byrdcliffe Barn in Woodstock NY that summer. Their performance really bolstered by spirits and gave me the courage to keep trucking, no matter how weird life might get. So I want to publicly thank Ed Sanders, the late Tuli Kupferberg, Steve Taylor and all the modern Fugs for positive vibrations back in the summer of '99.
I have no idea why I got caught up in the tunes of those times. Music is the soundtrack of our lives. And some years, that's what gets us through. Keep those vibrations close – some of my fondest companions have been the vibrations flying off those black and silver sonic potato chips. Keep 'em crunching, friends.