It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm

(Well, Maybe Not Today, but It Was Twenty Years Ago)

Submitted By: Kevin Smith Clark

My mind works like this quote from Lucas in Empire Records: “Who knows where thoughts come from, they just appear.”  I don’t hide the fact that my favorite album of all-time is U2’s Achtung Baby.  Yes, I like it more than The Joshua Tree.  No, I don’t have something wrong with me.  It’s a more complete album.  It’s not my problem…it’s yours.  But it hit me as I was driving around a couple weeks ago…this album I cherish turns 20 this year.  But it’s not the only important album that was released in 1991.  I humbly submit to you the Important Albums of 1991 (had Dr. Dre’s The Chronic dropped in ’91 instead of ’92, this article would be arguing it was the most Important Year in music since The Beatles).  NOTE: these are not all my favorite albums…I don’t even like some of them, but that doesn’t minimize each’s importance, and are in no particular order.

U2, Achtung Baby.  So good, I’ll mention it twice.  Important because this was the follow-up to the Joshua Tree/Rattle and Hum frenzy that took America by storm, and then took a three year hiatus.  As expected, it wasn’t what fans anticipated.  Different.  Looser.  Sexier. Colorful (remember all the b & w album covers?).  After the first two tracks, complaints about no “With or Without You,” but by track three, the trump card: “One.”  By track seven, “The Fly,” track eight, “Mysterious Ways,” and possibly the most underrated song in their catalog, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).”  It’s important because it took the band in a new direction, and invited us to follow.  Some did, some didn’t.  I was 14 and on the fence…but experienced a full conversion some 10 years later, when I finally “got it.”

Nirvana, Nevermind.  I was working with my dad at our rental property, drywalling, when I heard that opening lick coming out of Dad’s crappy solid state AM/FM.  “What the…?”  It wasn’t metal.  It wasn’t rock.  It wasn’t anything I’d ever heard before.  And according to Dad, I was to “turn that $#!& off.”  Too late.  This Seattle trio had sunk it’s hooks into me, as well as the rest of America.  The final nail in the hair band coffin had been driven.  The Grunge Age had begun.  Quick, find your plaid flannels.

Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion I & II.  Okay, maybe I spoke too soon about the hair bands, but these guys were never Poison or Def Leppard.  They weren’t your friends and didn’t desire your company.  They were here to punch your face in with rock.  If you were an early teen Summer of ’91 and heard “You Could Be Mine” set to Arnold in Terminator 2, you couldn’t wait to get your hands on the rest of this album.  And being a band that majored in indulgences, G’N’R gave us two, bloated, pretentious albums that were sprinkled with greatness (“Don’t Cry,” “November Rain,” “Civil War,” “Estranged,” and my guilty pleasure “Breakdown”).  Important because they still had the stones they exhibited in Appetite For Destruction, and because it would be the last time the gang was all together.

Metallica, Self-titled (commonly “The Black Album”).  The real “metal” people will rip this album and its creators for being sell-outs.  I had heard Metallica’s “One” in seventh grade, and I liked it, but simply didn’t connect with the rest of their thrashing.  But this…this I could listen to…I could connect with it.  And so did millions of others, which makes it important.  It introduced a harder rock/metal/whatever to the mainstream…who knows, maybe this is the root of all the Napster angst?  Nevertheless, “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” and  “Nothing Else Matters,” were all good tunes, metal or not.  And 20 years later, “Wherever I May Roam” still gets my blood pumping!  Yeah, YEAAAAHHHH!

R.E.M., Out of Time.  Like the previous listing, this one will get ripped for it’s un-REM-ness.  Or, one may argue, that REM had already hit big.  Nay, I say.  They had some hits (“The One I Love,” “It’s the End of the World…” and “Stand”) but those were scattered across a few albums.  But this one packed them together, and again, gave REM a wider audience.  I don’t care what you think (now) about “Shiny, Happy People.”  It was a hit, and started making “alternative” music more accessible.

Pearl Jam, Ten. I was a Nirvana fan until I heard “Even Flow”…then I jumped ship.  Not as angry as Nirvana, but just as powerful (and musically, more talented).  I remember going to the mall trying to find a copy of this CD.  Nobody had it.  All sold out.  It’s importance: try 13x platinum, not to mention more of that grunge sound coming from the Northwest.  Soundgarden and Alice in Chains would soon follow.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Maybe the theme from ’91 was “breakthrough.” The Chili Peppers had mild success already, but exploded onto to scene with “Give it Away,” and the addiction-anthem “Under the Bridge.” It provided an alternative to Grunge and a hearkening back to the funk of 1970s.

Garth Brooks, Ropin’ the Wind. I’m sure I’ve lost some of you now, but if you’re wondering why Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban are so popular now, blame Garth and this album.  It was country, but didn’t sound like Conway Twitty (cue the “Family Guy” cutaway).  It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and sold 14 million copies nationwide…and it wasn’t all to country music lovers.

Runners-up: A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory; Boyz II Men, Cooleyhighharmony; Matthew Sw

  1. shiny happy people produced the only moment at a catholic teen retreat that could compete with the cheese grating stupidity of many activities at sunset bible camp.

    people dancing around and dip-dip-dipping to dip-dip-dip.

    however, the former retreat did introduce me to john hiatt and the good catholic girl who joined me for my first screening of pulp fiction (on our first date). good memories.

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