Tag Archives: 1994 songs

1994 Nostalgic Songs: Longview

Like Weezer, Green Day was big in 1994 and they’re still around.  While Weezer never made a single as good as “Undone” again, Green Day grew up ten years later and took on the state of the nation with American Idiot.  But their singles from Dookie, are still damn good pop-punk singles – ones that an entire generations of  bands have been trying to copy for years without succeeding.

For me, “Longview” is the best of these songs from Dookie-era Green Day.  Like “Undone”, “Longview” plays with the standard soft verse/loud chorus: the verses have no guitar, just drums and the now famous bass line.  “Longview” is perhaps  rock greatest ode to boredom – a feeling many teenagers could easily relate to.  Billie Joe (who would later turn into the greatest frontman of his generation) sounds convincing in his boredom.  He turns on the TV, “but nothing’s on”, yet still watches it for “an hour or two.”  So what’s he to do to cure his boredom?  Masturbate, of course.  As his sexual urges take over, the song literally takes off and explodes.  The song hasn’t been totally quiet until this point, but the production here is great – the band literally rushes out of the speakers as Billie Joe is taken “away to paradise”.

Lack of motivation never sounded as glorious as it does in the bridge.  Where has all the motivation gone? “Smoking my inspiration!” He declares.  Notice that he doesn’t suggest that he’s smoking his inspiration away. This lack of inspiration and motivation doesn’t seem to bother him.  In fact he’s going to let you know that he doesn’t give a shit what you think – “Call me pathetic call me what you will”.

“Longview” was one of the first songs I remember hearing on the radio where not just one, but several words were edited out.  At the age of 12 or 13 that made it more appealing.  As a teenager, you’re often bored and you’re don’t know why.  Other acts at the time may have viewed boredom as a sign of depression and loneliness.  “Longview” is a funny, yet true view of being bored when you have no idea what to do.  It doesn’t pretend to be about anything less or more.

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1994 Nostalgic Songs: Possum Kingdom

Quick post.  I used to love this song, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how messed up it is.

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Nostalgic 1994 Songs: What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?

In 1994, I may have been branching out my musical tastes, but R.E.M. was still my favorite band. During the summer, radio stations claimed that the band would release a “rock album”, after two acoustic-based albums (Out of Time, and Automatic For the People).  Naturally, this excited me as I was a big fan of Document.

In the fall, the stations announced that the lead single of Monster, “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” would soon be played.  I had to hear this song before the album came out.  This would be the song, that would make the kids in my class understand why R.E.M. was so important, so good.  It had to.  By the DJ’s descriptions of it being a big loud rock song, everybody would listening to it.  R.E.M. would be cool to 7th graders.  I wanted to be the kid that told everybody that I had been listening to them for years.  I was already talking about how great the song was before I even heard it.

As fate would have it, it seemed everybody else had heard “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” before me.  Listening to the radio in the car while my mother drove me home from school was the only way I could tune in, waiting excitedly for the song to be played.  Time, unfortunately was not on my side.  Just as we were about to ride home, DJs announced that the song would be played after the commercial break. In the morning, as we drove to school, they announced that it had just been played.

On a trip with my parents one Saturday afternoon, I listened intently in the back seat of my dad’s truck waiting for the moment when I could finally hear the song.  This would be it.  But as we drove further up into the mountains, the radio station began to fade.  Luckily, I could still hear some music through the static.  It wasn’t ideal, but I could deal with a radio cutting in and out.  Further we drove, and the DJ proclaimed that “the new R.E.M. single would be played in the next 15 minutes”.  My eyes widened, and I prepared my ears for rock heaven.

I forced myself to listen through songs I actually liked.  None of it mattered.  And we kept on driving through the mountains, and then the radio completely cut out.  This couldn’t be happening. Not to me. I could have cried.  Why did this have to happen to me?  For about 10 minutes or so, there was silence from the radio.  My mom who knew I had desperately wanted to hear the song, told me it would come back on in a minute.  A few minutes later, the radio finally did come back in.  The DJ declared that they had just played “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”.  I had missed it.  Again.  Would I ever hear the song?

I never did hear “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” before Monster came out.  The first time I heard it was when my older brother, home for the night, brought over his copy.  I closely stared at orange cover with the image of the black bear for several minutes before finally popping it in the CD player in my parents’ living room.  It was late, but my mom let me stay up late to listen to the album.  I couldn’t play it too loud so I put my ears to the speakers and closed my eyes.

In a second, Peter’s Buck distorted guitar-riff came through the speakers.  It was glorious. It was loud and thick.  Even the rock of Document hadn’t prepared for me for this.  Michael Stipe‘s vocals were pushed to the background.  I could barely understand a thing he sang, but it didn’t matter.  By the time, it slowed down for a second, I finally caught my breath.  And then came the solo – a backwards wah-wah break in the middle of the song. I didn’t know that Peter Buck could play like that, and at the time it seemed like the ultimate guitar-solo.  After the song finally ended, I replayed it twice before playing the rest of the album.

R.E.M. had done it. They had returned to rock after years of dabbling in a softer-style. For years, Monster was my favorite album of all time.  It’s probably one of the few albums that I know every single note by heart.  As the years went on, I stopped listening to it obsessively.  Now I don’t even count it among my favorite R.E.M. albums.  I think I wore it out too much, eventually becoming bored with it.  It’s still a pretty good album, but I’ll still list “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” as one of their best.

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”

 

 

 

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Nostalgic 1994 Songs: “Undone (The Sweater Song)”

Even if Weezer had faded away after putting out Pinkerton (which has since become something of a classic) their singles from The Blue Album would still be considered classics.  No other band in the 90’s combined pop hooks with loud guitars as well as Weezer.  Nirvana made taken their cues from punk and The Pixies, while Weezer used Cheap Trick as a influence, updating the pop sensibility for a rock radio format.  No other song from The Blue Album would endure as much as “Undone (The Sweater Song)”.  Everyone knows the chorus, and will joyously/drunkenly sing along whenever it is played.  Even the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” never achieved that, as famous as it is.

Even before the chorus, the opening guitar riff is hypnotic.  It’s the same note played over and over again for a minute.  The dream-like riff is pulls you in – you’re forced to listen to the song.  Even the conversation that takes place in the background of the song seems adrift compared to the guitars.  It takes over the conversation and perhaps that was Weezer’s intent – to force the listener to take in the song.  It feels like it could go on forever, reminding me much of The Beatle’s repeated riff at the end of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.  Weezer does it at the beginning of the song, but the effect is no less enthralling.

And this even before Rivers Cuomo starts singing.  The listener is already hooked, does it really matter what he sings about at this point? In most slow verse/loud chorus songs of this era, the singer would scream through the chorus as a form of catharsis. Undone does explode in the chorus with Cuomo suggesting, “if you want to destroy my sweater, pull this thread as I walk away.”  It’s so ridiculous, yet brilliant.  Everyone who heard that chorus the first time surely must have thought: “What the hell did he just say?”

The second chorus takes it even further.  “Watch me unravel, I’ll soon be naked.  Lying on the floor.”  And just as Cuomo finishes that line, the rest of the band chimes in and repeats it for extra effect.  “I’ve come undone!” Cuomo announces.  The band then takes lift-off, into a guitar-solo that never seems forced.  After the final chorus, the band itself seems to come undone – thrashing away for almost a minute.  But even among all the noise, Cuomo fires series of “ooo-ooo-ooooohs” that recall the signature riff at the beginning of the song,retaining the song’s pop elements.

“Undone” contains many stock elements of 1990’s grunge/post grunge songs.  Even by that time, the soft verse/loud chorus seemed to be dying a slow death.  But “Undone” is so different in its approach, that it seems unique among that style.  It’s little wonder that teenage kids who would later create their own bands listening to Weezer would see them as influence, and in turn take their rock-pop format foundation creating their own sub-genre of rock called Emo.

For me, Weezer was one of the first “new” bands that I grew attached to in the mid-90s.  I never had my own copy of The Blue Album, but instead had a dubbed copy of it on a cassette that I used to play all the time.  By the time “Pinkerton” came out in 1996, I had moved on to other artists.  That Christmas, I remember my brother Pete telling me I should buy “Pinkerton”, and for whatever reason I didn’t.  (I could have been ahead of the curve!)

I still enjoy many of Weezer’s songs on the radio, but like almost everybody else (and perhaps the band themselves as they are now playing The Blue Album in its entirety) I think they’ve never bettered The Blue Album, and more specifically “Undone”.

“Undone (The Sweater Song)”:

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Nostalgic 1994 Songs: Zombie

After the success of their debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We, The Cranberries decided to tackle “serious topics” such as death and abortion on their second album No Need to Argue. Singer Dolores s O’Riordan laments dead family members in “Ode to My Family”; and later contemplates getting older in “21”.  With its heavy riff, “Zombie” exploded on the radio in the fall of 1994, and showed that the Cranberries could actually “rock”.

And it did rock, but it was also polished enough to be on the Mix Radio Station that was played on the bus-ride to school.  The guitars in the chorus may have had distortion on them, but they never overpowered Dolores O’Riorden’s voice. It also helped that the song was catchy as well.  (Who could forget the, “What’s in your head? In your head, zombie, Zombie, Zombie-ey-ey-ey-ey” chorus?)  On one bus ride, a friend of mine let borrow his Discman, and a copy of No Need to Argue, and I was surprised to find out that “Zombie” actually had an extended ending that was edited out of the radio.

Even at 13, I had a vague idea of what “Zombie” was about. Even if you knew little about the Irish Troubles, O’Riordan made it clear what her target was decrying their “their tanks, and their guns, and their bombs.”  I may not have understood exactly what events she was referring to, but I clearly understood the sentiment.

“Zombie” sounded great in 1994/1995 but time has not been kind to this song. While The Cranberries surely felt a need to take on such topics (like most good Irish bands), 16 years later “Zombie” sounds trite compared to other songs about the same subject.  Its title is just plain ridiculous considering the topic, and comparing the IRA to zombies in 2010 comes off as childish, as zombies have become mainstream and commonplace.  Perhaps because of O’Riordan’s accent a lot of the lyrics are sound slurred.  “Theme” sounds like “team” and you could easily replace “bombs” with “bongs”.  Any sense of urgency in the song is automatically lost.

In retrospect, “Zombie” seems like it was written to become The Cranberries’ version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. (Even the guitar riff during the verses uses The Edge’s trademark delays.) “Sunday Bloody Sunday” succeeded because U2 painted a grim picture of the violence contrasting it with religious imagery, and view of non-partisanship.   “Sunday Blood Sunday” is not only considered one of U2’s signature songs, it’s also constantly ranked among the best songs of rock.   “Zombie” on the other hand faded away, and remains stuck in 1994.

“Zombie”:

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