Following on from yesterday’s post, in which I described a few of the albums that formed the basis of my musical taste in my early teens, here I will list a few from the next stage – my late teens. They occurred in the second half of the 90s, which will naturally be reflected in my choices here. It was an exciting time in my musical life, one in which I was as constantly seeking out new experiences, buying an album or more every week, and expanding my horizons from the metal and punk that filled the previous half-decade.
As before, this list will include albums that were important to me at the time, and that I still listen to today. Some albums have aged less well, and they won’t be included here.
The Presidents of the United States of America – I randomly discovered PUSA back in 1995. Having seen a video of their song Lump on the ITV Chart Show, but thinking it was an old 70s punk song, I was surprised to find it when I visited Strawberry Fields – the music shop on Rickmansworth High Street. They had a crate of 99p singles on their counter (CD and Vinyl) that I would raid every week after collecting my paper round money. This one was in there, so I bought it and fell in love. The album came soon after, and it became my mission to make sure everyone in my school year heard it, whether they wanted to or not. In Summer if 1996 they became the first “proper” band I saw live, age 15. We had to travel through a tube strike to Brixton on the other side of London, where they played the Academy, supported by Kula Shaker. A defining moment in my life, one that had us buzzing all the way home on the night bus and into the following weeks.
Oasis: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory ? – Still in 1995, there’s not a person alive at the time who wasn’t impacted in some way by the album. Naturally, many already knew the band thanks to their excellent debut album, but this was the one that blew up. Full of fantastic singles, with not much filler, the flow of this album is superb. I finally saw Oasis at Wembley Stadium in 2000 (having sold my Knebworth ticket to see Metallica in 1996) and even those five years later it was the songs from this album that got the crowd singing the hardest. Wonderwall may elicit a groan at an open mic night or as you walk past a busker, but there’s no denying the impact it had on popular music at the time.
Skunk Anansie: Stoosh – Oh my this was a big album in my life! As a budding guitarist there was plenty of fun to be had playing along to this album, with elements of punk and metal and occasional acoustic softness. When I started to play bass three years ago, this was again one of the first albums I turned to. When I saw Skunk Anansie at Watford Colosseum (March 1997, supported by Stereophonics and Gravity Kills), an already favourite band was burned into my soul. Hugely powerful sound, superb musicianship, topped by Skin’s fantastic voice. So still play this one regularly, with two of the songs on my “bass” playlist when I’m practicing.
Reef: Glow – There’s a pattern forming here, for Reef is another band I saw live, in 1997. This one was at Shepherds Bush Empire where they were supported by Number One Cup and Feeder. This is an album to make you feel good. With unmistakeable elements of Led Zeppelin, there’s not a bad song here. Place Your Hands was the big single that may class them as one hit wonders, but there’s a lot of good to be found in this album.
Pulp: Different Class – I didn’t actually own this album until the early 2000s when I received it as a gift, but had a copy on cassette and the singles Common People and Disco 2000. A slow burner in some ways, a lot of the songs start off slow then open up with the first chorus. A collection of anthems to normal, or “common” life, this album spoke to us as we grew up in the grey town of Watford. I never saw Pulp live, but I do remember staying up one night to record their Glastonbury set from Radio 1, and enjoyed listening to it many times.
Radiohead: The Bends – Everyone knew Creep, one way or another. I first heard it on the CD album Go Ape!, which came free with Donkey Kong Country on SNES. A good friend had the game and lent me the CD, which introduced me to this band and Pop Will Eat Itself (who would also be in this list, except that I don’t really listen to them any more). Thanks to that introduction, I grabbed this album as soon as I could and it became one of my favourite of all time, and remains so to this day. Some will tell you OK Computer was the finer work, but not for me. This is where Radiohead peaked.
Blur: 13 – I remember the first time I heard the lead single from this one, Tender. I was in Phoenix Records in St Albans, having a browse, and the song was playing over the speakers. Not quite able to place who it was, I asked and was told it was Blur’s new single. Wow. Blur has reinvented themselves with every album before this, but still it was a shock quite how far they’d moved from their poppier past. I bought the limited edition of the album, and absolutely loved it in all its dark, depressing glory. I actually met the band in December 1999. My girlfriend’s dad had represented the band’s chauffeur and managed to get us passes to the aftershow party! What a night, until she ran off and puked and kept puking for the following week, by which point I caught it too! Still, I met Blur! 😀
Various: Fat Music For Fat People – A compilation of songs from the Fat Wreck Chords stable, showcasing their talent, this album soundtracked a school trip to Barcelona in 1998, shortly before my 18th birthday. I could listen to this one over and over, and many of the bands have remained favourites ever since.
Silverchair: Frogstomp – Another favourite for the guitarist in me, there are so many good songs on this album. Grungey by nature, and owing more than you may realise to Pearl Jam, Silverchair had a harder edge to their sound, and this first album of their had a particularly raw sound to it. Dealing with various angsty topics, it was perfect for teenage me.
Alice in Chains: Unplugged – For my 16th birthday I received from my stepdad The Blues Brothers on VHS. After our VCR chewed the tape on the first viewing, I was taken to the shop and told to choose whatever I wanted. It was this. And what a choice! This album floats around my top five albums of all time. Alice in Chains are a favourite band of mine, but I don’t always enjoy the tone and production of their albums. This one though, with everything stripped back to acoustic instruments, is very raw and full of emotion, and essential listening for fans of the band.
Queen: Greatest Hits – This will be the last one, this list is getting a bit long, but I couldn’t leave without mentioning this one, which should honestly have been on yesterday’s list of formative albums. I can’t get enough of it. Every song (except Flash, which irritates me no end) is perfect, and as a collection there is no finer compilation of songs in the history of all music. Absolutely my favourite album of all time, one I return to frequently, this is the most influential album on me. It even influenced the name of my son. Strangely, it was many years before I listened to any Queen except for this and its sequel (Greatest Hits II would you believe), and a cassette copy of The Works that if found in my Dad’s collection. In fact, I was 30 before I heard any of their other albums, at which time I certainly made up for lost time by repeatedly listening to many of the albums until they sank in. But still, it’s Greatest Hits that remains the perfect collection overall.
Well that was cathartic. I hope you enjoyed this insight into the second phase of my musical awakening. I’ll soon be tackling some favourites of the 2000s!
Find me on Twitter @BitlandComic, I’d love to chat about your favourite albums.