Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ten Great Songs From One Great Year

1994 v.2

The music industry was shocked to its core upon the news that Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain, had committed suicide. As the voice of the grunge subculture, he led the way for alternative rock to displace boy bands and Mariah Carey from the top of the charts. Through his death, he became was this generation’s Jim Morrison.

A week later, Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira die when a missile shoots down their jet near Kigali, Rwanda. This is taken as a pretext to begin the Rwandan Genocide. A month after that, Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa's first Black president. Then in June, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult release a sarin gas attack at Matsumoto, Japan, killing 7 and injuring 660. In Buenos Aires, a terrorist attack destroys a building housing several Jewish organizations, killing 85 and injuring many more (see AMIA Bombing).

In November, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced that he has Alzheimer's disease, boxer George Foreman wins the WBA and IBF World Heavyweight Championships, becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in history and Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich leads the United States Republican Party in taking control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in midterm congressional elections, the first time in 40 years the Republicans secure control of both houses of Congress. George W. Bush is elected Governor of Texas.

For more on 1994, please click here.


This is about a guy whose girlfriend packs up her stuff and leaves, and just how much he misses her. In the video, Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler (lead singer Steven Tyler’s daughter) teamed up to be runaway schoolgirls who have the time of their lives on the road. This won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. It was Aerosmith's third Grammy.

Can You Feel The Love Tonight - Elton John

This was featured in the Disney movie The Lion King when the main character, Simba the Lion, falls in love with his childhood friend Nala, to the dismay of his friends Timon and Pumba. The song was almost cut from the movie because it was not working with the scene, but Elton convinced the producers to leave it in. The Lion King soundtrack sold over 10 million copies. Kiki Dee, Rick Astley, and Gary Barlow sang backup. Kiki Dee sang a duet with Elton on the '70s hit "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," Astley had a series of hits in the early '90s, and Barlow was a member of the group Take That.

All Apologies – Nirvana

This was a highlight of Nirvana's Unplugged In New York, an acoustic album recorded for an MTV special. Nirvana recorded the Unplugged session November 18, 1993 and it aired almost a month later. The album was released November 1, 1994 in the US, 7 months after Cobain's suicide. In that context, it sounded like a goodbye message from Cobain. Some people inside the band have stated that this song was meant to be a last note to Kurt Cobain's daughter Francis Bean, apologizing for not being the father he should have been.

Until I Fall Away - Gin Blossoms

The Gin Blossoms named its debut album New Miserable Experience as a reflection of its relatively unpleasant new experience of life in a band. During work on this record, lead guitarist Doug Hopkins, a severe alcoholic, was fired and replaced with Scott Johnson. Author Laurie Notaro makes a (slightly veiled) mention of the Gin Blossoms, specifically drinking with Doug Hopkins after he had been kicked out of the band, in her book "We Thought You'd Be Prettier" in an essay about the closing of Long Wong's, a local bar where the band performed. Hopkins' songs "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You" went on to become hit singles. Their success was overshadowed by Hopkins' suicide in 1993. In between their debut and sophomore efforts, they provided the single "Til I Hear It From You" to the Empire Records soundtrack. It reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second major album, almost entitled "Sophomore Jinx"[citation needed] was released in 1996 under the title, Congratulations… I'm Sorry. The album was met with mixed reviews; despite yielding the top ten hit "Follow You Down," which also reached #9 on the Hot 100. However, it was this song from their debut album, that Billboard Magazine writer Larry Flick called, “Pure pop joy.”

I'll Stand By You – Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde wrote this with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, who have written many hit songs, including "True Colors," "Eternal Flame" and "Like A Virgin." Steinberg: "I remember when we wrote it I felt two things: I felt one, we had written a hit song and I felt two, a little sheepish that we had written something a little soft, a little generic for The Pretenders. Whereas 'Night In My Veins' really felt like a great Pretenders rocker, 'I'll Stand By You' felt a little generic. I know that Chrissie felt that way too to some extent. I don't think she really entirely embraced it to begin with, but she certainly does now because when she plays it live, it's one of the songs that gets the strongest response. It's done really well for her and for us."

Because The Night - 10,000 Maniacs

Bruce Springsteen wrote this and gave it to Patti Smith in 1976 because he thought it would suit her voice. He was also in a legal battle with his manager, Mike Appel that kept Bruce from recording for almost 3 years. It became the only hit for Patti Smith, when it reached #13 in 1977. Prior to performing this live on MTV Unplugged, and then releasing it as a single, 10,000 Maniacs had only limited success outside of college campuses. Their first two singles – 1987’s “Peace Train” (a remake of the famous Cat Steven’s hit) and “Like the Weather” failed to break the Billboard top 40. The band was most famous for the number of people who were considered in the band – more than 30 musicians since the band formed in 1981. Its most famous member was lead singer Natalie Merchant, who left following the success of “Because the Night” to pursue a solo career.

Dreams – Cranberries

The Cranberries rose to international fame in the 1994 with their debut album, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?, which became a high commercial success and sold over five million copies in the United States. The group was one of the most successful rock acts of the '90s and sold over 14.5 million albums in the United States alone. The band has achieved four top 20 albums on the Billboard 200 chart and eight top 20 singles on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. The Cranberries' debut album was released in the spring of 1993, followed by a single of "Dreams." Neither the album or the single gained much attention, nor did a second single, "Linger", until the band embarked on a tour, catching the attention of MTV, which put their videos into heavy rotation. Both “Dreams” and “Linger” were re-released the following year to much greater success.

Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots

Lead singer Scott Weiland wrote this about his relationship troubles and his growing heroin addiction. When he wrote it, he thought about what kind of a liar he had become towards his fiancé and how he had promised to stay off drugs when they went to Atlanta to record Purple. In the Stone Temple Pilots appearance on VH1's Storytellers, Weiland explained that the band would travel in a Winnebago that pulled a trailer with their equipment. When band members wanted some quiet, they would go in the trailer with a walkie-talkie. Robert DeLeo was back there with his guitar one day when he came up with the music for the song, and he used the walkie-talkie to call to the band and play it for them. Weiland added: "The words are about the lies I was trying to conceal while making the Purple record."

Fade Into YouMazzy Star

Mazzy Star was an American alternative rock band formed in Santa Monica in 1989 from the group Opal, a collaboration of guitarist David Roback and bassist Kendra Smith. Smith's friend Hope Sandoval became the group's vocalist when Smith left the band. Mazzy Star is probably best known for the song "Fade into You" which brought the band some success in the early to mid 1990s and was the group's biggest mainstream hit, earning radio and MTV airplay. Roback and Sandoval were the creative center of the band, with Sandoval writing most of the lyrics and Roback composing most of the music.

What's The Frequency Kenneth? – R.E.M.

This is about an incident in 1986 when CBS news anchor Dan Rather was attacked on a New York City sidewalk by a crazed man yelling "Kenneth, what is the frequency." The man turned out to be William Tager, who was caught when he killed a stagehand outside of the Today Show studios 9 years later. Tager, who is serving a 25 year sentence, said he was convinced the media was beaming signals into his head, and that he was on a mission to determine their frequencies. After this came out, "What's the frequency, Kenneth" became a catch phrase and was a running joke on The David Letterman Show. Rather had a good sense of humor about it and later appeared on the show, singing this with R.E.M. backing him. The song slows down at the end because of bassist Mike Mills. They noticed he was in pain, but everyone followed him and finished the track. After they were done, Mills was taken to the hospital and it was discovered he had appendicitis. They never got back to redoing the song.

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