This post was inspired in part by the recent TMI interview I did with the Soundwaves TV crew about the power of music to get us through tough times. You can listen to that right here>>> CLICK ME.
When the 90s officially started ramping up around 92/93 with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam I was still deep in my Paula Abdul, Amy Grant phase of pop music.
The first CD I bought in ‘93 was Gloria Estefan’s, “Cuts Both Ways”. At that time I wanted to dance. I wanted my music up beat and hopefully with a horn section. I was still dining on the overproduced sugar of the 1980s. And I was totally uninterested in the hype of grunge and rap. Can everybody just calm down? It’s not that special.
Also at that time I became VERY curious about all the music that came out before. Before, meaning before I had any memories. You see 99% of any memories of childhood before 5th grade are sounds and songs. And so music is how I recapture what childhood was lost to trauma. But back in the early 90s when I started high school I wasn’t aware that trauma was a thing or that I even had missing memories because none of that had risen to the surface yet. But music was so present in my life and world that I always felt connected to some thing. I was just so annoyed by the Nirvana hype that my reaction was to seek what we called at the time, “oldies”, meaning music of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s.
And in the bay area we had the radio station KFRC for oldies. And I LOVED it. It was an educational time machine but also part of my soul connected to the sounds and the music even though it wasn’t my generation or era. And being a Bay Area baby you know San Francisco had a huge musical presence in the 60s with bands like CCR, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Big Brother and the Holding Company and others… And I connected to all of it from the pop bubblegum of the brill building to the British invasion and psychedelic sounds. Of course I wanted to dance and so there was Motown, doo-wop, and girl groups. I would record songs off radio onto cassette because Wherehouse Music wasn’t selling Little Richard or Beach Boys music because teenagers weren’t buying it.
So that was my early high school template. Pop and older pop. Now one of the big songs still hanging on from the later 80s was Tiffany’s, “I Think Were Alone Now” and when I heard the original from 1967 by Tommy James and the Shondells it rearranged everything I thought I understood about music.
I am sure I have talked about it on my show and elsewhere but for reason some I assumed radio artists wrote the songs they sang. Even though I knew of Broadway musicals and bits and pieces of jazz and the Great American Songbook. I preferred Tiffany’s version as one does with these kinds of things because the first taste is usually the one that creates the strongest bond. But I like both fine now and Tommy James has the overall better catalog for sure.
But that moment was a game changer. Because it forced me to question any assumptions about music I had. And in the age of peak 90s rap there were many assumptions to be had with all the sampling going around and many rappers not writing their own raps. I still had the holier than thou attitude about the hot music of the day even though I had Mariah’s debut and even Snoop’s “Doggystyle” for a couple months before deciding it wasn’t my thing. They didn’t bring me anything new or exciting personally, that I wasn’t getting from Paula or KFRC.
And then in 1993 Melissa Etheridge, dropped her biggest album, Yes I Am. I had seen the videos on VH1, I had heard the hits on KFOG. And I thought, well why not give this a shot. And I listened to the hits and maybe played the album through and thought it was fine. But by junior/senior year of high school this album and specifically the song, “Silent legacy” changed the way I connected to music forever. And so I am returning to 1993 to revisit and review that album along with two other iconic 90s albums (coincidentally the other two albums are both debuts) that I more or less passed over because I was so anti-90s. And coincidentally all three are fronted by women and all three are wildly different in tone and mood and voice. So get person and let’s get to it.