Turning 25 Never Sounded So Fresh

This is Radio ROCKthusiast, 1994 edition

You have to be living under a pretty heavy rock not to know that 2019 is the 25th anniversary since Kurt Cobain’s death. His presence is still such that his former manager wrote a book (which I reviewed for the Toronto Star), but even such a weighty event couldn’t completely overshadow the fact a lot of great music lived on despite Nirvana being gone.

Actually, according to a data exercise I did where I amalgamated the year-end lists of eight radio properties* so as to get an idea of which artists’ albums were heard the most in 1994, Nirvana didn’t really go anywhere when you think about it. In Utero singles such as “All Apologies”, “Dumb” and “Rape Me” remained in continuous rotation, eventually surpassed by the tenderly sweet “About a Girl” from their mythmaking acoustic session. This playlist isn’t necessarily an analytical song ranking, although every track I chose did appear on at least one best-of countdown. My only other real caveat is these songs are all from CDs that appeared sometime in 1994; sorry Counting Crows, had to exclude your August and Everything After as it’s a 1993 baby whereas Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy came in just under the wire. Now listen if you haven’t clicked on the play button already!

*In case you’re wondering, the radio stations I had data on are KROQ in LA, 91X (San Diego), San Francisco’s Live 105 now Alt 105.3, Q101 (Chicago), the legendary WHFS (Washington/Baltimore), Triple J (Australia), Virgin Radio (UK) as well as the Radio & Records trade publication.

Green Day – Welcome to Paradise
The hippies of 1969 may have had Hendrix at Woodstock (OK, a day later than planned). Us Gen-Xers can point to how Green Day’s epic mud fight propelled their Dookie to mainstream approval like it was a sluice-y enema. A little gross granted, but c’mon how punk rock is that?

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
by Soundgarden continues to hit hard, as does the realization Chris Cornell and his guttural howl that could reach the heavens is gone forever. “Black Hole Sun” was appropriately the final song performed at the tribute to the iconic singer’s memory back in January.

Pearl Jam – Spin the Black Circle
On the heels of the fastest-selling album in history, Pearl Jam followed up Vs. with something deemed “experimental” at the time even though it featured huge hit “Better Man”, a slow burning Uncle Neil Young-type jam in “Not for You”, and the very rockin’ “Spin the Black Circle”.

Stone Temple Pilots – Vasoline
Purple went a long way towards proving STP weren’t grunge coattail riders. It’s a shame Scott Weiland couldn’t hold it together long-term in the manner his vocals seem to do here, seamlessly alternating between psych, country, blues and harder rock over the course of eleven cuts.

The Offspring – Come Out and Play
Along with Green Day, The Offspring are guilty of corrupting North American youth with California-sunburnt punk. I would have loved to include swear-happy “Bad Habit” off of their Smash-ing indie hit, not that any commercially-aspiring radio station would have ever touched it.

Nirvana – About a Girl (Unplugged)
More than a quarter century after seeing Nirvana abandon their amps on MuchMusic, I still get chills whenever Kurt Cobain says “Good evening”, before strumming the one off their first record he naively thought most people didn’t know that opens MTV Unplugged in New York.

Live – Selling the Drama
It still may be the dumbest band name ever, no matter how you typeset it (i.e., LĪVE / +LĪVE+). Cue ball Ed Kowalczyk’s voice is no joke, selling the proverbial drama that this newfangled alt-rock didn’t always have to sound like Redwood trees being chopped down with guitars.

R.E.M. – What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?
The band that crawled from the South hadn’t toured full-scale in six years prior to Monster’s release. Once the alternative pioneer Athenians finally did, their high-octane shows served to remind the then-current crop of artists none of them would be there without R.E.M..

Nine Inch Nails – March of the Pigs
Once regulated to the dankest of the underground, industrial music as engineered by Nine Inch Nails went supernova in 1994 and made Trent Reznor a pin-up star akin to Corey Hart in the ’80s with Tiger Beat. Not bad for a morosely gothic occupant of the infamous Tate House, huh?

The Tragically Hip – Grace, Too
Let’s face it, CanCon wasn’t on the radars of the radio stations I measured despite our country’s emerging music talent. Alanis, Shania & Celine would take a little longer to break through. The Tragically Hip’s moody Day for Night did place 7th on CFNY’s Top 102 Albums that year.

Weezer – Buddy Holly
Twenty-five years and thirteen albums later (six self-titled informally named after colours), the geeks in Weezer look to have finally inherited the earth. Spike Jonze’s nostalgic romp of a music video back to Happy Days blows my mind whenever I see it. Every. Single. Time!

Hole – Miss World
I realize this playlist doesn’t adequately reflect how Courtney Love wasn’t the only woman making noise in 1994. What a tumultuous period; few however were as uncompromisingly loud, brash and determined to succeed, or quite frankly as good as her band Hole’s Live Through This.