1992-1997: Those were the years I graced the halls of a suburban high school in my oversized flannel shirts and backwards baseball caps. I dated girls (held hands that is!) and secretly crushed on David Chokachi and Doug Savant. I was a bit of a band/drama/student council geek who played hockey on the side. I stole my brothers’ cds so I could make mixed tapes for my 1989 Silver Ford Taurus with burgundy interior. My friends called it the “CliTaurus”. I loved those mixed tapes. It was so much better when you had to hunt down cds or record shit off the radio. Napster wasn’t around yet and MP3s were still some tech geek’s wet dream.
I used to risk life and limb to steal music from my older brother Jeff’s ghetto blaster. I had friends with a very particular grunge-light point of view. And of course, I can’t overstate the impact of Canadian content laws in an era when music mostly came from the radio and MuchMusic. Those three things absolutely shaped my mid 90s mixed tapes. The latter is the most interesting. In high school, we had a program called BRAT – Broadcasting Recording Arts Technology. In other words, we had our very own radio station. It was so Saved By The Bell. So 90s. It was called C-FLY and was broadcast over the school’s PA system. My group was the definitely the grunge-light group. Think Empire Records meets Lilith Fair.
After spending some time updating my iPod with some of my faves from that era, I thought I’d share with you the best of the best. Here are the 10 best musical acts of my formative mid 90s high school days….
10. Goo Goo Dolls
Before they smashed into the mainstream with “Iris”, their 1995 album A Boy Named Goo was one of my favourites to steal from my brother. The song “Name” still pops into my head every once again. “Naked” was another song I would belt out of that old school Taurus.
9. Sarah McLachlan
Sarah at number 9?! Gasp. Many people might put her higher, but I was so the teenaged boy who thought girls who listened to Sarah McLachlan were all lesbians. As a result, I resisted her amazingness, especially in the face of the girls in my BRAT group. They LOVED Sarah. Once I gave in, I secretly fell in love with her too. Her 1993 Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album connected with me first. Gotta love “Possession” and “Ice Cream”. Once I looked at her older stuff though, it was hard not to be blown away by 1989’s “Vox” or 1991’s “Into the Fire”. Gorge.
8. Jazzberry Ram
Who? Okay, here’s where the list takes a turn for the obscure. Jazzberry Ram was a local breakout ska band for the Richmond/Delta crowd. Their debut CD, Super Fishy Allah Tea sold over 10 000 copies in 1994… and I (well my brother) had one of them! Awesome. “Land Mine”, “Two Mice” and “Pablo Jack Horner” would probably be high on my iPod’s most played list if such a thing existed back then. It took me a while to figure out what they were saying… to the D to the R to the U to the G to the S. No YouTube videos, but you can check out “Pablo Jack Horner” on their MySpace page.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers
I was still in elementary school when Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out, but these guys HAD to be on this list. Not only did their videos give poor closet cases something to look at, they also delivered some amazing songs. I loved “Breaking the Girl” and “Under the Bridge”. I remember this one day in Grade 7 when the whole class stayed in for lunch. For some reason, we all started singing “Under the Bridge”… word for word, standing around in a giant circle. WTF! As if a bunch of 12 and 13 year old suburbanites had ANY clue what it was about. It didn’t matter. It was that good. It’s still that good.
6. Mathew Good Band
Vancouver’s own Mathew Good Band makes it onto the list because of the 1997 album Underdogs. It spawned the massive hit “Apparitions” and my faves “Rico” and “Everything Is Automatic”. To this day, “Rico” is still on my iPod. It’s on a playlist I use to get me angry and pumped up for work. Weird I know. I’m not normally an angry person, but every once and a while I have to write something with an angry tone. This song helps me get there. Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off, fuck off! No embedding for this Rico video…you have to click here.
Released in 1995, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory was a huge album. We would sing along to “Wonderwall” word for word. I loved “Don’t Look Back In Anger” at the time and still play it on RockBand for old time’s sake today. My favourite song though was “Champagne Supernova”. Where were you while we we’re getting high? So many good memories. Check this one out by clicking here.
4. Alanis Morissette
I know there is still great debate about whether or not it actually WAS ironic, but I loved “Ironic”. I even did an amazing mash up of it and “Bohemian Rhapsody” for an air band competition. One black wig, one chair, some chips… equals amazing Wayne’s World/Alanis tribute. 1995’s Jagged Little Pill album was huge. It blasted her earlier MuchMusic pop tart image out of the water. “You Oughta Know”, “Hand In My Pocket” and “You Learn” were all monster hits. I remember having to ask my older brother what “going down on you in a theatre meant”. Awkward.
3. Chantal Kreviazuk
What is it about Canadian chicks! All three on this list are still going strong. Chantal beats Alanis because her songs meant something more to me. I’m not sure why. I still have an entire Chantal playlist on my iPod, whereas Alanis has dropped off. Before she hit it big with a song on the Armageddon soundtrack she made her mark in 1996 with Under these Rocks and Stones. “God Made Me”, “Believer”, “Surrounded”, and “Wayne” are all AMAZEBALLS.
2. The Tragically Hip
Any good Canadian kid is going to have The Hip on their list. This Canadian kid is no different. I pushed hard for “Long Time Running” to make it as our grad song. Sadly, it lost the vote to some trash by Vanessa Williams. The first stadium concert I ever went to see was The Hip at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum. My friends and I made my brother boot for us too. Mike’s Hard Lemonade all the way! It’s a hard call, because there are so many, but I’d say my mid 90s favorite songs are “Ahead By A Century”, “Long Time Running”, “Little Bones”, “Scared” and “Nautical Disaster”.
1. The Watchmen
Without a doubt, The Watchmen are at the top of my list… even ahead of Canadian icons like The Hip. “All Uncovered” and “Middle East” from their 1994 In The Trees album are still two of my favourite songs. Ever. There’s a line in “All Uncovered” that has always stuck with me… “so buckle me in on the highway of sin, ‘cause that’s just the way that I want to be”. Awesome. Their other albums like Brand New Day and Silent Radar still get play in the odd cd player I come across. I had a mixed tape completely filled with their songs. It got me through one of the most disastrous European backpacking misadventures ever. If I hear a Watchmen song, I always know which song should come next because I listened to that tape so much.
Honorable mention to Moist, Big Wreck, Bush and the Smashing Pumpkins.