A while ago I made the announcement that this site would no longer be a weekly update on current musical trends and instead turn to more introspective periodicals. This week I continue to deliver that promise with the first of a three part introspective about the music that shaped my life through key stages of growing up starting with "Elementary School-Middle School" through "High School" and ending with "College and Beyond."
Inside Christ Lutheran School where I went.
There are so many bands and artists that I could have mentioned. The Beatles, The Kinks and especially Led Zeppelin have dominated my CD player throughout the years but my goal with this series is to show how much of a product of my generation I am and how much the music that was being made then shaped me into the person that I am today. Music is something that defines us and helps us relate to others. I also believe that people's taste shifts throughout time and to me it's a great way to wax nostalgic and see how much one has changed. Some of these artists I am ashamed to admit I liked others I still proudly listen to and will defend their importance till the day I die.
The first CD that I ever had my mother buy me was Smash Mouth's Astro Lounge at a Target in Phoenix. It's crazy. I don't remember most of my classmates from elementary school but I remember buying this album like it was yesterday. I must have heard Smash Mouth's smash hit "All Star" in some Disney Channel program but then again when that song came out it was everywhere. It's interesting how this was the first album for many of my friends who are around my age as well. I can see why, it's a fun shiny album and is safe for kids to listen to. Looking back on it I see Smash Mouth as a band for people who think They Might Be Giants are a little too extreme but at the time I thought this was the bee's knees.
The second album I ever owned was Fatboy Slim's You've Come A Long Way Baby. I remember with my mom at the mall buying pants at a JC Penney's and on the TV the music video for "The Rockafeller Skank" came on and so I asked my mom if we could go to the mall's Sam Goody and get the CD because I liked that song. This was also the first record I ever owned with a parental advisory sticker on it. On the ride home I put the CD in the car stereo and on the third track "In Heaven" the lyrics of the track are "Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven" are repeated over and over for three minutes. So my mom freaked out, turned the car around and returned the CD to Sam Goody. That was the first and only album I have ever returned. I still don't own it. I should buy it on vinyl. Great record.
Since 1983 Weird Al has dominated the school yard. Back in the 3rd grade I remember listening and memorizing Weird Al lyrics with my friends at recess. He has a ton of albums but I would argue that Bad Hair Day is still his most essential. Weird Al was actually my first concert. I saw him perform at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania for free with my mom, he was on his Running With Scissors Tour. I was absolutely floored being able to sing "Eat It" and "Amish Paradise" with my mom and tons of kids my age. Weird is still pumping out hilarious accordion parodies of pop music to this day with the same band, he still rocks and I'm sure kids are still quoting him on the playground to this day.
My dad has always had a...unique taste in music. He used to collect the ESPN CD series Jock Jams so by association I listened to Jock Jams. Some of the songs were really good "Flagpole Sitta" is still a great 90s rock song. However, most of the mix was made up of the most senseless pop hits of the day like Chumbawumba. I am sure that Jock Jams was only intended to be used for cheerleading competitions, but my dad loved them.
Okay, now here we go. The Offspring fucking rule. They were my first truly favorite band. My dad loved them and they were our go-to artist to play in the car to get me pumped up on the way to hockey practice. Granted The Offspring have sort of faded out of relevance even though they're still touring and making music but Smash, Ixnay on the Hombre, and Americana are in my mind three of the most essential mainstream punk albums of the 90s. I will defend the importance of The Offspring till the day I die. I've been listening to them since I was a little kid and I still have Americana in my car. They were the first concert I ever saw with my dad too. I have great memories tied to this band.
Much like the NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys camp there was a Blink-182 vs. Green Day camp. Even though it's a ridiculous argument cause both bands have released really amazing and really awful records. I was team Blink 182 all the way. Primarily because at the time I watched a lot of MTV and Blink made way better music videos than Green Day did. I also connected better with Blink's personality. They seemed like a bunch of goofballs who liked to run around and make fart and dick jokes which is exactly who I was at the time. I also was a huge fan of their live album The Mark Tom & Travis Show, I learned a lot of new swear words and references to the human anatomy from that album alone. The first half of it is a solid hit-packed live album and the second half is filled with hilariously inappropriate live banter. It's borderline stand-up comedy. I still listen to Enema of The State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket occasionally.
There were no music blogs back then and Napster was just getting started so I just assumed that whatever they played on the radio or on MTV was all that was out there. That was until I discovered my favorite local radio station the now defunct Arizona rock station Edge 103.9 had a weekly late night SkaPunk show. Here I was exposed to a plethora of current 90s punk and ska bands that I didn't know existed until then. NOFX, The Dead Milkmen, Less Than Jake, and Operation Ivy among others. It was so raw and exciting. I knew that even as a 6th grader this would be a genre worth remembering. I would write down the artists names that I enjoyed when they were announced by the DJ after a block of songs and the next day I would go to the Phoenix Public Library or on Napster and try to find them.
Sigh. Nu Metal. A dark age in the history of rock and roll. Nu Metal was different than the more traditional thrash metal of Metallica that I was currently listening to. These songs were more about their "feelings" and were much more slowed down and I would have to say even vaguely influenced by hip-hop. Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Staind all dominated the airways and as an impressionable youth I bought into it. I try to forget this period but at the time I fucking loved it. I even went to a Korn concert and you know what? It kicked ass. It was loud and in your face and I loved any minute of it. So fuck it, I'll wear it like a badge. There was I time I was super into Korn.
Eminem was the only artist my parents forbid me to listen to. So naturally, when they weren't watching I downloaded everything he released. The Eminem Show was the first record I purchased with my own money that I had from my allowance because I had to purchase it behind my mom's back. Eminem was one of the most divisive artists I can think of. Everyone at the schoolyard either hated him or loved him. I wanted to hate him so much but I couldn't. He was so angry and passionate that I was drawn to his music. I never agreed when he talked about domestic abuse but Eminem was the first hip-hop artist I ever truly got behind. I re-listened to Marshall Matthers LP when I was researching for this post, it's a game-changer of an album. Dr. Dre is a great producer as well. It's interesting how he's gone from being the most controversial artist alive and having his CD's being destroyed by kids parents to becoming what is essentially the soundtrack to National Guard commercials everywhere.
If you asked me to I could recite the entire Tenacious D record from heart, and I have been able to do that since the eighth grade. I have a similar relationship to Tenacious D as I did with Weird Al. I love Jack Black as a comedic actor but I would bet the first Tenacious D record is what many people my age appreciate him for. It was a record that brought people together and forged friendships over dirty, filthy and hilarious songs. Long live The D.
A lot of people and critics would say that Nirvana's Nevermind is the quintessential 90s rock record. While that record is certainly monumental and I listened to Nirvana a lot. I would argue that Weezer's debut record Weezer (The Blue Album) is the quintessential 90s record. Their first two records Blue and Pinkerton are some of the best rock music made during the 90s. Every Weezer fan loves and hates Weezer very passionately, talking about how great they were and how far they have fallen from grace since those first two records (I still think Maladroit is under-appreciated). I can state for a fact that Weezer was many of my closest friends favorite band growing up. Every single song on those first two records are solid.
I am sure there are other bands and songs that were a big part of my early years but those are the main ones I can think of, I will be back soon with Pt. 2 High School soon. However the main question I have is, what was the music of the day that you listened to when you were in Elementary-Middle School?
Below is a Spotify Playlist where you can listen to all of the songs I have mentioned in one sitting.
CLICK HERE FOR PLAYLIST