I was born on the tail end of the 80’s. By the time I was lulled off The Simpsons Sing the Blues, Sesame Street, and that summer’s Disney adventure, the 90’s were in full swing. I became a child of that Pop, Boy band, grunge, mellow-yellow, generation. A street urchin with the musical taste of a pet rock; as is everyone in their adolescence. Then off to college I went. I rapidly found myself in the equivalent of a measuring contest, only instead of boasting our reproductive organ’s size, we were caught in an endless loop of high caliber, high brow musical stupidity; the more obscure, strange and off the beaten path the band seemed, the higher points we scored against our fellow alumni. Back in those dorm room days, more than once I wanted to scratch out my eardrums on account of the cat-like screech that blasted out of my stereo system. A banshee wail I constantly told the rest; “It’s so avant-garde.” Yes I admit it. I was a putz. When the experimentation phase finally went the way of the dodo, I, – like many of my X-Generation compatriots – fell back into the tunes of our youth.
Here I am, coasting down the highway, one hand on the wheel, the other rummaging my C.D. collection. And yes, before we continue, I still have a C.D. collection, you elitist Mp3 format Iconoclast. My free hand scattering jewel cases, trying, but failing to find anything worthwhile. Because, honestly, us 90’s kids, have been slapped on the forehead by the music Gods with the equivalent of the redheaded stepchild no-one wants. Our songs, our anthems, our melodies, do not age well. When you turn on the radio, how many times have you heard the Backstreet Boys or Blink 182? How many times has Marylin Manson preached about “The Beautiful People”? What about The Foo-Fighters? Or Britney? Everlast? When was the last time you heard The Rembrandts, aside from late night during a Friends’ rerun? Do you even remember Hootie and the Blowfish? Or the New Radicals?
Nowadays, the 80’s can’t seem to die. They’re like the proverbial bad penny, every nostalgic film, dredging out the grimy bottom of a riverbed for that one hit wonder you had all but forgotten. They’re wiping the sludge and slime way, and giving that long dead beat a new coat of paint. Yet, the 90’s, my time, those are treated like radioactive waste; like going to Berlin, and casually asking the tour guide why they never talk about what happened during 1935 through 1945… Everyone glaring at you, with less than friendly expressions, telepathically screaming: “why did you have to bring that up?”
Like I said, my music does not age well.
Seeing as sooner or later I’m going to have guests in my house, I thought it was about time to give myself some credibility. The last thing you want is for a possible squeeze to slink close to your record collection and discover the shame.
“Is this an Offspring album? ‘Americana?'” A small paroxysm of girly mirth. “My little brother used to love them.”
So, here’s a small list I have carefully vetted on those pieces of musical history you simply can’t live without. It doesn’t matter what sort of composition you like. It doesn’t matter what your preferred genre is, nor does it matter that Pitbull is one of your guilty pleasures. What matters is that these gems form part of your life. They are badges of honor. Plus, if anything, they really do help to clean-up your musical palate.
– Bob Marley and the Wailers, ‘Legend.’
Savvy reggae gold. Stand out pieces: “I Shot the Sheriff,” “No Woman, No Cry” and “Redemption Song.”
– Patti Smith, ‘Horses’.
First line of lyric: “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine”. Pure nirvana bottled.
– Pink Floyd, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, or ‘The Wall’…
Screw it, get both just in case; and while you’re at it, also ‘Pulse.’
–The Doors, ‘The Doors’.
“Light my Fire” and “The End”, do I really need to sell this?
– ANYTHING BY THE BEATLES.
See how I put it in bold, capital letters? It’s that important. “White Album”, “Revolver”, “Please Please Me”, “Seargent Peppers”, or simply go out and get their compilation: “One”.
– Muddy Waters, ‘The Anthology’
This is the guy Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix were hearing when they finally decided to dedicate their lives to the craft.
– The Eagles, ‘Hotel California’.
They say every band has its peak, Don Henley admitted: “this was ours.” Frankly, once you hear it all through, you sort of realize that he’s right.
– David Bowie, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’.
The legend creates his glam rock alter ego: Ziggy, he of the white tan, who was well-hung… And rock history, would never be the same.
– Ramones, ‘Ramones’.
Fast and antisocial, this is the music punks listen to.
– The Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’
Has probably one of the most overused songs in recent history: “Gimme Shelter,” and there’s a reason; that’s because not only that track, but the whole album is amazing.
– Joni Mitchell, ‘Blue’.
The term EMO cracks in utter despair and tries to slit its wrist when it hears this album; it’s both beautiful and heart wrenching. It’s that powerful.
– Led Zeppelin, ‘Led Zeppelin’.
A debut album that made every wannabe metalhead, kick their amplifiers and realize they were never going to be that good. Many a long haired guitarist became accountants, ashamed that they would forever live in the shadow of the Zeppelin.
– The Who, ‘Who’s Next’.
After ‘Tommy,’ Pete Townsend suffered a nervous breakdown. That stint in la-la land gifted the world this ruby. Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Bargain” and “Baba O’Riley,” are a few of the songs in this demon.
– The Clash.
This band is, to coin the parlance of yesteryears “the bomb,” so just pick up a two-disk compilation, and let the groove take you places.
Usually people say ‘Joshua Tree’, I’m partial to ‘All that you Can’t Leave Behind,’ so to beat back the controversy and sneak in “One” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,” pick up their 4 disk collection: ‘Best of 1980-1990’ and ‘Best of 1990-2000.’
– Fleetwood Mac, ‘Rumours.’
A golden radio standard and the seventh best-selling album in history. During the course of recording this melodic masterpiece, everyone in the band was breaking up. Hence, classics like: “Go your own way”, “Dreams”, and “Don’t Stop.”
– Johnny Cash, ‘At Folsom Prison’.
Cause there’s no denying it, the man had balls to play to that crowd.
– James Brown, ‘Live at the Apollo Theater’.
This album is soul personified. It’s all there. Everything else falls short.
– Bruce Springsteen, ‘Born To Run’.
“The album became a monster,” Springsteen recalled. “Thunder Road” alone, not to mention “Backstreets”, is worth the price tag.
– Miles Davis, ‘Kind of Blue’.
A slow, but energetic, jazz masterpiece. Perhaps the only jazz album loved and admired by people who generally don’t listen to jazz.
– Bob Dylan.
Some are good, some are bad, but when the good comes to play, it’s freaking fantastic. So, aside from ‘Blonde on Blonde’, which is a must, you can also get ‘Blood on the tracks’ and ‘Highway 61 Revisited’.
– The Beach Boys, ‘Pet Sounds.’
Recorded primarily by Brian Wilson, this deeply personal album proved the man was a genius. Each song flows into the next, building up on elegant themes, perfect pacing, and thematic coherence. The whole treasure starts with the ambitious opening: “Wouldn’t it be nice” and from there on it just takes you to Heaven and back.
There you have it. But, if you have a bit more cash to spend around, here are some B-sides that fell from the list but are just as good. Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’; Elvis Presley, ‘The Sun Sessions’; The Velvet Underground and Nico, ‘The Velvet Underground’; Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’; Van Morrison, ‘Astral Weeks’; Sly and the Family Stone, ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’; Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’; Stevie Wonder, ‘Talking Book’; Elton John, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’; Buddy Holly, ’20 Golden Greats’; Chuck Berry ‘Definitive Collection’; Elvis Costello, ‘This Year’s Model’.