30 Years of Music: 1994

What a great year 1994 was for music. Once again, I’ve found it nearly impossible to limit myself to just ten great songs and have instead picked fifteen while still leaving out so many that I hope we’ll talk about in the comments. Let’s start with some more pop tracks and finish with the rock ‘n’ roll, yeah?

30 Years of Music: 1994

Red Light Special – TLC

It seemed like almost every girl I knew had the album CrazySexyCool when it came out, and learning the rap portion of “Waterfalls” became a source of pride. Though I was tempted to talk about “Waterfalls” or “Creep,” “Red Light Special” was one of those videos that near-teenage me watched with definite feelings of Mmmhmm. Pretty men playing strip poker with the three ladies – what is not to love? Even though writing this is the first time I’ve listen to the song in years, I still know all the words.

Take a Bow – Madonna

I remember watching the “Making of the Video” on MTV for “Take a Bow.” It was shortly before Madonna did Evita, and I was all about the hot matador and her dark nail polish (not so much the actual bullfighting, though). Bedtime Stories is one of my favorite Madonna albums, so I could have talked about any of the songs from it here, but I picked “Take a Bow” not only for the video, but because my friends and I would sing along every single time it came on either the radio or TV. It’s a lovely album closer.

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me – Gloria Estefan

Oh, this is an awfully cheesy video, and I know, I know, the song is pretty schmaltzy too, but sod it. Gloria Estefan’s same-titled album of covers was my jam for so long. She picked a collection of songs that she loved when she was younger and made it into a big production. I always found “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” to be a sweet love song, and you better believe any time I hear the songs from this album (hers or the originals), I sing along.

Space Dog – Tori Amos

I’ve mentioned songs from Tori Amos’ album Under The Pink before – “Cornflake Girl,” “Icicle,” and “Yes, Anastasia,” – but I’m excited to talk about “Space Dog” because it is so unlike the rest of the album. In some ways, it feels like an early precursor to From the Choirgirl Hotel, with the crunchy, almost-electronic beat mixed with her usual expansive piano. “Space Dog” is eerie and dirty, and I love it. When I still danced, I always wished we would have come up with some choreography for this, but we never got to it.

Biscuit – Portishead

Speaking of eerie and gritty, let’s get in with some Portishead. I always meant to buy Dummy, but I never quite got around to that either, though I do have the album that came after. On some mix CD I have, however, there’s “Biscuit.” I’ve always found Portishead to be great atmospheric music, a way to turn into a more introspective state of mind, which is always handy for writing.

The Diner – Ani DiFranco

Ah, Out of Range. What a great Ani album. I previously talked about “Overlap” and “You Had Time,” but let us settle into coffee spoons as percussion and pleading phone calls.

I’m calling from the diner
the diner on the corner
I ordered two coffees and one is for you
I was hoping you’d join me
cos I don’t have any money
and I really miss you
I should mention that too…

Because of the contained short story-style of the lyrics, “The Diner” is one of my all-time favorite Ani DiFranco songs. She often mashes up this song with others while performing live, but I also really love the studio version.

Longview – Green Day

Dookie – such a massive album. It seemed like the singles from it were everywhere when it came out. I picked “Longview” over the others because I love the drum and bass intro, and the quiet verses mixed with the loud chorus. Maybe some people like to make fun of Green Day now, but I’ve always liked what they’ve released, for the most part. In 2000, I saw them perform on the Warped Tour, and they were so much fun.

Closer – Nine Inch Nails

I’ve never been a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, but their songs have grown on me over the years. Still, “Closer” is a classic, especially with its fucked up video. What I’ve embedded here is the director’s cut, so we see all the portions of the video that usually had “Scene Missing” cards when it aired on MTV. To be honest, the monkey is the most uncomfortable part of the video for me.

Spoonman – Soundgarden

I could have gone with the more obvious “Black Hole Sun” from the same album, but I have a soft spot for “Spoonman” because my friends and I would play it a lot at a diner called Tracy’s when we had coffee and breakfast foods late at night. Tracy’s looks as though it’s been unchanged for decades, and the booths still have mini jukeboxes – 2 songs for 25 cents. “Spoonman” was one of the few rock selections that we liked, but it was always funny to see how the songs might come out of the speakers because sometimes it was set to the wrong speed and you’d get a really slowed down version, which made Chris Cornell’s voice sound as though it pushed through a literal heroin haze.

Also, how many songs have an actual spoon solo?

Buddy Holly – Weezer

Super-Weezer-Fans will probably call foul here and tell me that their self-titled blue album has “so many better songs!” but sorry, I still love singing along to “Buddy Holly.” Spike Jonze’s Happy Days video is fun, especially when paired with the opening lyrics, “What’s with these homies dissing my girl?”

I saw Weezer perform in 2002, post “Hash Pipe” success, and they put on a great show. That was really the last time I cared about their new material – I definitely dislike their song “Beverly Hills”  – but the first three-ish albums are still all right by me.

Sabotage – Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys were also a group that have grown on me over time, but “Sabotage” was the exception in that I loved it from the moment I heard it. This was another song I saw the “Making of the Video” with all its ’70s ‘stache glory. I believe this is also a Spike Jonze-directed video. 1994, to me, was kind of the start for music videos as art-form, rather than simple performance recordings or the ’80s style of “I dunno throw these visual effects at it just because we can.”

Lover, You Should’ve Come Over – Jeff Buckley

Everyone is all about Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but I wanted to talk about “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” because it’s such an excellent mix of love, lust and loneliness. Also, it’s one of my friend Kez’s favorite songs, and she’s having a baby soon, so I’m thinking about her.

Ten Storey Love Song – The Stone Roses

How did I neglect to talk about The Stone Roses’ first album in 1989? (Seriously, go listen to “I Wanna Be Adored” right bloody now.)  Let us rectify that omission with an excellent song from The Second Coming. “Ten Storey Love Song” is just so perfect, so full of longing, and it contains one of my favorite lines out of any song: “I built this thing for you.”

The Stone Roses are playing at Coachella this year. If any of you happen to attend, will you see them for me?

Swim – Bush

Oh yes, we’ve talked about Sixteen Stone a lot in Alphabet Soup, with “Alien,”  “Monkey,” “Glycerine,” and “X-Girlfriend.” Are there songs left? Yes! Could I have talked about “Machinehead” or “Comedown,” which most people know? Sure, but why not give a non-single some love? “Swim” is the second song on the album and it’s dead sexy.

I wanna be just like you
I wanna feel right through you
I wanna see just with you
I wanna live, I wanna die you…

Okay, maybe it’s not the healthiest attraction, but sometimes, that’s the best kind.

Bring it on Down – Oasis

Ah-ha-ha! You thought that maybe 30 Years of Music would make so I couldn’t just talk about Oasis all the time like I did with Alphabet Soup, but now that we’re firmly in the ’90s, I can once again be madferit. “Bring it on Down” has one of the best drum beats and such an urgent delivery that I just love all 4+ minutes. Say what you will about drummer Tony McCarroll – I certainly have – but he did an absolutely outstanding job here, managing to outshine a personality as massive as Liam Gallagher. Definitely Maybe is almost twenty years old (Good lord…) and if anyone tries to tell you that it isn’t one of the all-time most important albums, they’re either lying or willfully staying in the dark. Play this song and play it loud.

Then tell me your favorites from 1994 in the comments.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

14 replies on “30 Years of Music: 1994”

We got tickets to the festival on Saturday and got excited. Then they announced a side gig and figured it will only take them to have a fight for them to not tour again for another 30 years so we had better go.

Very excited as at the festival The Prodigy, Dizzee Rascal and Bloc Party are also playing –

Got my fingers crossed for you for Johnny Marr :D

I just looked up if the tickets were available today, and it looks like I missed the presale, but now I’m on the mailing list so I’ll know when the general sale is up. It’s not too expensive for me to get to Portland. It’s around $200 on the train, and I have a few options with friends as to where to stay. So here’s hoping!

(Go sing along loud to ‘She Bangs the Drums’ for me, okay?)

1994 was such an amazing year. SO MANY GOOD SONGS! Two funny stories about “Longview”:

1) My high school best friend’s grandmother lived in Longview, Texas. He decided to play the song for her, not realizing what it was about. Awkward!!

2) At the breakfast picnic during freshman orientation at my Very Baptist University, the students in charge of the music put on an uncensored version of this. For about 45 seconds, before realizing they’d just blasted the words “shit” and “fucking” across campus. I was dying laughing. (Nooooo, I didn’t fit in well there, how did you guess?)

I don’t even so much think it was the song Buddy Holly itself, but the video. Love that video.

Also JEFF BUCKLEY! “Lover” may be my favorite song of all time. The whole album is great. If I need an emotional knockout, “Lover..” “Last Goodbye” and “Lilac Wine” will do it for me.

So much awesome in 1994, seriously. Pretty much all of this is still on my daily playlist,

Backwater – Meat Puppets

No Excuses – Alice in Chains

Star 69 – R.E.M.

Supernova – Liz Phair

Your Favorite Thing – Sugar

Possum Kingdom – Toadies

You Gotta Be – Des’ree

Better Man – Pearl Jam

Come Out and Play – The Offspring

Something’s Always Wrong – Toad the Wet Sprocket

For these I couldn’t just pick one song, the cds are perfect in their entirety:

Purple – Stone Temple Pilots

Wildflowers – Tom Petty

American Recordings – Johnny Cash. Seriously, if I ever met Rick Rubin I would offer him anything he wants, just for the platform he gave Johnny Cash.

I could write a fucking novel’s worth on The Downward Spiral. I feel the same way about it as you do about Definitely Maybe. Several of the songs on it are on rotation as my favorite song ever. To go from something as hard on the ears as The Becoming to something so softly beautiful as A Warm Place … well, I could fangirl for a year here. Ill stop while I’m ahead :-D

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