I think it must have been September 1992 when a school friend of mine handed me a beat-up C90 tape. He had borrowed some albums from his older brother and dubbed them on to the cassette. On the A side was Nevermind, by Nirvana. I don’t remember ever listening to whatever he put on the B side.
Listening to Nevermind was as close to an epiphany as anything I can recall. I’d never heard anything like it. I loved it. I played it to death. I made my own copy and played that to death. The deterioration in quality from over-played cassette to over-played cassette seemed to make no difference to me. It still sounded fantastic, vital. I still think the production is suited to radios and cassettes. The ‘sound’ as much as the songs still takes me back to that autumn.
Christmas Eve 1992, presents bought and wrapped, and we headed down the road that evening to get a Chinese takeaway. We always seemed to have Chinese takeaways on Christmas Eve. I popped in to the newsagents, just before it closed up for the holiday. I saw the front cover of Melody Maker, the weekly music newspaper. I’d never read it before, but there on the cover was Kurt Cobain. I had to buy it.
Over the next week I pored over the paper. I recognised some of the bands, R.E.M., The Cure. But most of the bands I’d never heard, didn’t know. The writing made them sound incredible. Some of them looked impossibly cool, others completely other-worldly.
1993 and I carried on buying Melody Maker, discovering new bands. Those bands would talk about other bands, or books or films or politics. It feels like 1993 was my formative year for developing my tastes and attitudes about the world, guided by a weekly music paper and the people within it.
Essentially, for better or worse, a lot of who I am can be traced back to that old C90 cassette and that first copy of Melody Maker.
20 years on and not only does 1993 still feel like a really significant year for me, but it also still feels like a great year for music. However, I can’t tell how much that year was genuinely good for music and how much that belief is rooted in nostalgia, or at least my first proper musical experiences being the most important ones.
I was on a schoolboy’s budget in 1993, so purchases that year were relatively few and far between. I relied on radio and the odd TV appearance for much of my listening. I read far more about music than I actually listened to it. As I got older and had more disposal income I did fill in some of the gaps from that year. Some are yet to be filled.
Which is suppose where this post, and potentially future posts, comes in. Across the year I plan on revisiting my favourite albums and singles from 1993 and perhaps exploring other releases I may have read about but have never actually got to hear. And, time and motivation willing, I plan on writing about some of that music, so that hopefully by the end of 2013 I’ll be in a place to properly reflect on that first year of me listening to consistently amazing music. Watch this space…
1993 was kind of a dead zone for me (except for “Creep,” which I might not have heard til ’94, I forget). I was just starting at a new school that year, so I spent most of my time either trying to fit in or trying not to be picked on. I’m interested to see where you’re going with this project. It’ll be fun to see where you take this–are you planning on doing more personal recollection posts, or will you look more at the artists’ careers?
I’m big into podcasts right now. One of my favorites is WTF? with Marc Maron. I mention it because he recently did an interview with Dave Grohl which might be worth your time. It’s fun to hear his reminiscing about Nirvana and the music he listened to when he was growing up.
It’ll be fun to see where you take this–are you planning on doing more personal recollection posts, or will you look more at the artists’ careers?
I don’t think there is much need for completely straight reviews of 20 year old records, nor Pitchfork-y pseudo-intellectual posts, but purely personal recollections could get a little cloying, or just might end up with several “I remember buying this record in this shop, playing it at home, and liking it”-type posts. So, probably a bit of a combination, but I imagine it will veer on the more personal side for some posts, as that will be more fun for me to write, and maybe I’ll be a little more objective with stuff from 1993 that I’m listening to for the first time in 2013.
Thanks for the podcast recommendation. I’m in a bit of a podcast phase too so will have to check out WTF?
Do you have any podcast recommendations? I’m always on the lookout.
Nothing much beyond the usual – Radiolab, This American Life etc.
The BBC In Our Time podcast can be hard work at times, but is generally worth the effort.
I like the Fangraphs Audio podcasts too – in fact I was mulling over whether to blog about my favourite baseball podcasts before the season starts.
Do blog about the best baseball podcasts, please. I haven’t had much luck. I tried Baseball Prospectus but it didn’t click with me.
I’ve heard about In Our Time. It’s on my list of things to check out. Is it one you have to start from the start, or can you jump in whenever?
In Your Time episodes are self-contained, so you can jump in wherever you fancy. Essentially three academics discuss a particular area of science, culture or history. It is not as dry as it sounds, mainly because Melvyn Bragg is such a good host. I’m working my way through a book of transcripts from earlier episodes which works really well as some of the concepts do need re-reading, at least for me.
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[…] finally I’m beginning my 1993-in-music-type-project in earnest, starting with a post on the Manic Street Preachers’ second album, Gold Against […]