30 Years of Music: 1997

Man, I thought 1994-1996 were hard to narrow down to 15 songs, but here comes 1997 with a whole new challenge. Behold! An embarrassment of musical riches:

30 Years of Music: 1997

Little Wonder – David Bowie

Oh, I love Earthling so much as an album. 90s David Bowie is so much greatness, and meeyow, look at him. I’ve already talked about “I’m Afraid of Americans,” but this other single from the album is just as excellent. The video is a little seizure-y, but I’ll allow it.

Setting Sun – The Chemical Brothers (feat. Noel Gallagher)

Well, of course this is the song from Dig Your Own Hole that I picked. Yes, the album is filled with all sorts of techno wonders, but “Setting Sun” is lovely.

You said your body was young but your mind was very old

Please hold for my dance break…

Hypnotize – Notorious B.I.G

When this song first came out, I didn’t like it much, probably mostly owing to the fact that MTV played it near-constantly and that was really getting in the way of all my Britpop. But now? Now I love it, despite how semi-ridiculous it is. Especially the video. At its recording, we were only marginally aware of the soon-to-be-omnipresent Puffy-Diddy-Sean Combs. And his brief sidekick, Ma$e. Let us savor that moment.

On and On – Erykah Badu

I’ve already mentioned “Afro” from Baduism (which plays at the beginning of this video), but the big single, “On and On” is great too. I loved her massive headwear filled with braids, the Billie Holiday vibe, the dog that looked like mine at the time, all of it.

The world keeps burnin’…

Volcano Girls – Veruca Salt

I’m not even sure I have words to say how much I loved Nina Gordon, except to say, a lot. This song is so great to rock out to, and the bungee cords? Excellent madness! I always meant to own the album, Eight Arms to Hold You, but never got to it.

Please hold while I jump around a bit…

Turn My Head – Live

I’ve never been a huge Live fan, but I like a lot of their singles well enough. However, “Turn My Head” is my favorite from them of the songs I know. It’s a sexy, meditative tune, and I dig it.

To Make You Feel My Love – Bob Dylan

We gotta mention Bob at some point during this column, don’t we? Of course! Time Out of Mind is a great album, and “To Make You Feel My Love” is gorgeous. Garth Brooks did an all right cover of it, and Adele’s cover is rather good, but the original is my favorite. The sentiment is so very ride or die.

Now there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do…

Tusk (live) – Fleetwood Mac

1997 brought Fleetwood Mac back together properly, outside of their one-off 1993 inaugural gig when Bill Clinton worked his diplomatic magic. Now they tour together pretty frequently, but this was the last time Christine McVie was with them. “Tusk” done live is an experience, especially here when they brought in the USC Band for good television purposes. The drums and horns are what elevate this song to another level. And dig it – Christine plays the accordion.

Song For the Dumped – Ben Folds Five

A friend of mine had bought this album, Whatever and Ever Amen, and had it loaded up in her CD changer (ah, remember those being an essential item?), but it wasn’t the first album she listen to before bed. “So, I’m almost asleep,” she said one morning at school, “and then I hear…”

Fuck you too! Give me my money back! Give me my money back, you bitch!

This video is edited for TV, and for some reason, it has a portion of it in Japanese, but I like it.

Pink – Aerosmith

Another friend and I went through a stage where we obsessed over Aerosmith’s Nine Lives album, and we decided that we found Joe Perry hot. I know, I know, but he looked pretty good in the 90s – highlights, eyeliner, and all. Plus, him as a centaur in this video is hilarious.

Once I heard someone give the most monotonous performance of “Pink” at karaoke. I think the crowd sung along with her out of kindness. It was so very strange.

You could be my flamingo…

Sonnet – The Verve

It’s only because The Letter S was so full that I didn’t mention “Sonnet” in Alphabet Soup. It’s one of my very favorite Verve songs. I love the strings.

Yes, there’s love if you want it / don’t sound like no sonnet / my love

The Verve and Oasis toured together briefly for the releases of Urban Hymns and Be Here Now, respectively, and if I had to choose a moment to visit in the past, that would certainly be a contender.

Both Hands – Ani DiFranco

Another orchestral offering. Ani DiFranco’s first live album, Living in Clip, really captures the essence of so many of her songs. “Both Hands” was recorded with symphonic backing, and it’s beautiful. How much fun would this have been to play?

I am writing the story of how hard we tried…
And I am watching your dress rise and fall
like the tides of my life
and the rest of it all
and your bones have been my bed frame
and your flesh has been my pillow…

Avenues – Whiskeytown

Guys, how great is 1997 that I get to talk about so many of my favorite musicians? Well, okay, maybe it’s only great if they are also your favorites, but I do what I want.

This is Ryan Adams performing one of the Whiskeytown songs he wrote for Strangers Almanac, since YouTube is not particularly forthcoming with the band’s songs, and I’m not sure why. Previously, I’ve talked about “Dancing with the Women at the Bar,” “16 Days,” and “Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight,” which are all from this album, so what I’m really saying is: Go buy this if you haven’t already, jeez.

Something in the air here is keeping me away…

Not If You Were The Last Junkie on Earth – The Dandy Warhols

I can’t help but feel responsible
I always knew that you were insane
with your pain
but I never thought you’d be a junkie
because heroin is so passe…

This song and video are so mid-90s, aren’t they? Bright colors, heroin addiction as pop culture, men wearing eyeliner, asylum imagery, me coveting the keyboard player’s haircut… Well, I’ve since had that haircut, roughly a decade after this video came out.

I know the singer from The Dandy Warhols is apparently an entitled giant pain in the ass, but I like this album.

I Hope, I Think, I Know – Oasis

Indulgent spouse-like fan that I am, I certainly will not hate on Be Here Now, even though both Liam and Noel Gallagher enjoy doing so. Nope, won’t do it. There’s a lot of good in here, even if a lot of it was OTT, production-wise. Sure, maybe it isn’t Oasis’ strongest album, but it’s no sloucher. Every time I put it on, I rediscover why I loved it in the first place, and “I Hope, I Think, I Know,” is one of my favorite tracks on it.

And if I stumble, catch me when I fall
cos baby after all,
you’ll never forget my name…

Not as long as I’m breathing, mate.


All right, friends, take a gander at 1997 in music and tell me your favorites.

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.

10 replies on “30 Years of Music: 1997”

Wow, short list from me this time. Of course you already covered some of my picks. Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth is so much cheesy pop it’s in a class by itself.

I’m Afraid of Americans – David Bowie (Bowie and Trent Reznor? Be still my heart.)

Clumsy – Our Lady Peace

Last Cup of Sorrow – Faith No More

Train in Vain – Dwight Yoakam (The Clash meets zydeco. Fucking stunning)

Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve (To be honest the only part I really care about is the sample from the orchestral version of The Last Time, the part that got them in legal hot water with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards)

Ahhhhhh. The year of my high school graduation. I remember Notorious B.I.G. was big on prom night. Jesus.

I in fact loved Live and saw them in concert my senior year. It was one of the best concerts of my young life and I have an unashamed love for Fleetwood Mac (I’m seeing them in May).

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