It’s a personal philosophy of mine that when most people think of “the best music”, they think of the music that they listened to when they were at the end of high school and beginning of college.
I usually add, as a joke, that while most people think that, I know that it’s true.
See, the month I started high school was the month Nirvana’s Nevermind was released. While it’s true that over the years Nevermind was lost its luster (probably due to it’s overproduced feel, and the fact that it’s minimalist lyrical take wasn’t necessarily designed to hold the weight of the several hundred listens it received that first year), and isn’t even my favorite album from that year, it (along with Perry Farrell’s Lollapalooza tour) brought a loose-knit group of musicians into the spotlight that changed everything.
After Nevermind, The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik (released the same day), and late 1991’s releases from Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and even U2’s Achtung Baby, which also brought a sound not commonly heard in the mainstream to the fore, everything changed.
There’s nothing more representative of that change than at the end of 1991 when Nevermind replaced the newest Michael Jackson record as the #1 album in America. That such glossy, poppy and expensive music could be replaced on the charts by a band touring the country in a van, buying secondhand instruments along the way, was the tipping point.
1992 continued that trend, making alternative stars out of such bare-bones, facade-free artists as Henry Rollins, Tool, Beastie Boys, Pavement, Alice In Chains, and Rage Against The Machine.
Meanwhile, diamond-selling artists like Springsteen, Def Leppard, Prince, and Bon Jovi, who had scored 10-million sellers in the last 6 or 7 years, dropped magnificently in sales in 1992.
1984 – Born To Run – 15 million albums sold.
1992 – Human Touch – 1 Million
1992 – Lucky Town – 1 Million
1983 – Pyromania – 10 million albums sold.
1987 – Hysteria – 12 million albums sold.
1992 – Adrenalize – 3 million albums sold.
1985 – Purple Rain – 10 million albums sold.
1992 – Love Symbol – 1 million albums sold.
1986 – Slippery When Wet – 12 million albums sold
1992 – Keep The Faith – 2 million albums sold
Hard Rock bands like Warrant, Damn Yankees and White Lion dropped from double platinum to gold. Even country superstar Garth Brooks dropped from 17 million sold in 1990 to 9 million two years later (still an astonishing number, to be sure).
Which leads us to 1993, which continued to see the rise of small, previously underground bands (PJ Harvey, The Flaming Lips, Smashing Pumpkins), the cementing of indie stars like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Primus into legend status, and the continued crumbling of sales for more pop-sounding artists.
For me, I started out 1993 managing a bookstore, desperately hoping to start any career that dealt with music. Almost every day, I spent my lunch break walking to the CD store down the mall that let you listen to albums before you bought them. I listened to countless new albums there, and bought way too many than my bookstore manager salary should have allowed.
I also went to a ton of local shows, and started working with my best friend to start a record label. We found an amazing band of high school kids named Gypsi’s Ritual. The name was perfect. The guitar player was like Jimi Hendrix (who had a band called Band Of Gypsies), re-incarnate, pulling out funky grooves, dirty riffs, and playing with his teeth. The drummer was amazingly agile, and reminded us of Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction (whose album Ritual De Lo Habitual was a favorite of ours). The bass player was invisible. He usually played facing his amp. But he chugged out sludgy melodies reminiscent of Black Sabbath or slower Soundgarden. What we called grunge, not what the magazines called grunge. We wound up releasing a 4-track EP (on cassette) from Gypsi’s Ritual in 1993.
So, what I’d like to do this for Year of the Month this month, if you’ll indulge me, is write twelve articles, each about one month of 1993. I have no desire to offer a complete and concise history of all the releases that came out, but rather the ones that were important to me, and I remember affecting me (even if it is in a negative way) that year, and shortly thereafter. (I want to try to avoid crate-digging for the exercise.)