Nineteen and ninety four. A year of change, for me and for the world. It was my first year in big school, meeting all these new weirdos and saw me trying to find some new people with similar tastes in music and movies. Most of my closest friends did not pass the good old 11+ exam (a British transfer test which miraculously ensures whether you get into a good school or crap school, though many could cheat and pay for the privilege) and those were the friends that I listened to Guns’n’Roses, Nirvana, and Alice Cooper with. Luckily I met a few like-minded folks, but in April Kurt Cobain decided to kill himself. After that, music sort of seemed shit. Even music I had previously loved. I went through a bit of a faff, listening to nothing, or more accurately I listened to stuff but felt no connection. Naturally that didn’t last and I fell back in love with music again.
The charts of 1994 were an odd place – we had the grunge from the US, the tail-end of 80s rock still hanging on to relevance, europop, boy bands, the continuing emergence of homegrown bedroom DJs and lady singer-songwriters singing about their lady problems. It was a wonderful diverse world away from today’s chart of Tosspot Feat. Wanker taking up every position. There was good and bad, as it should be. Elsewhere in the music world, Blur released Parklife and Oasis released Definitely Maybe, Tupak went to jail, Michael Jackson married a Presley, Jeff Buckley released Grace, and Woodstock 94 happened. In the rest of the world, Clinton and Yeltsin made sure no nukes would be flying, Lillehammer had some Olympics, Ayrton Senna crashed and burned, The Channel Tunnel opened, and a bunch of my favourite movies were released. What of October’s Top Ten Singles?
1: Pato Banton: Baby Come Back
This is one of those one hit wonders that was everywhere this year, and another which is almost entirely self contained within the year of its release. To add to the annoyance, it was a cover too, of a song from twenty years earlier. Make things worse by throwing in people from UB40 – one of my most hated bands ever. If there’s one thing I can’t stand in music, it’s anyone who isn’t Bob Marley doing reggae. So you get all these British guys adopting this culture and accent that they may or may not have anything to do with, and making shitty sub-standard knock offs with faux accents. In short – this is terrible. The only good thing about this is that I still will randomly shout ‘but a bye bye bye bye, bada bye bye by bye’.
This was a beast when it arrived, a one-hit wonder which transcended that odious nomenclature and permeated into pop culture. As a pop song it’s still perplexing as to why it became such a monster, but these are questions we’ll never find answers to. I suspect it had something to do with ecstasy. And yet, it’s a perfectly good pop/dance song. It’s repetitive as hell but there’s a cheery likeability to it, no doubt partly due to Whigfield’s smiling Scandinavian otherness. You can usually gauge a song’s true quality in direct relation to how much young girls dance to it – I have clear memories of roaming the streets near my house with my friends shortly after this was released and stumbling upon a group of girls from my school dancing and ‘doing makeup’ to it in their living room. Zoe – I’m looking at you. Somehow it remains both dreadful and not bad at the same time.
I’ve been going through the Bon Jovi albums elsewhere on this blog and this was always one of my favourites. I loved it upon release and I happily defend it now. Yes it’s cheesy and yes it’s Bon Jovi, but as far as well written effective rock ballads go, there are few better.
I mean, I avoided Take That as much as I possibly could back in the day, so looking at that song name I don’t have any memory of what this is. Watching the video in the link above for the first time presents a rather creepy introduction, with the lads swarming around a child and asking if she’s ready for bed. Why in God’s name is it seven minutes long? Was this the group trying to channel Michael or Madonna and make a video which was something more than an excuse to smile and unbutton their shirts? I’m gonna have to skip forward because this is painful. Oh fuck, here comes Robbie. Three minutes and still nothing has happened. Finally the song begins and what the balls is this? What in the name of all that is holy went wrong in peoples’ lives that made anyone this happen? Arguably the most bland song I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard Dido.
The 80s gets all the credit for being a decade of WTF, but with stuff like this you’d be forgiven in thinking the 90s should take the hotspot. Michelle Gayle was an actress in Eastenders who had a brief series of hits after leaving the soap. That kind of thing used to happen a lot, but to her credit at least she had more than one. I never liked this, but ironically I find myself singing the chorus every so often. The weird thing is that I don’t really remember the verses and when I sing the chorus I always do it with a strange accent and a faster pace which makes me think it must have been parodied somewhere and I’m doing that version instead. Otherwise I created my own parody when it came out and that’s what’s stayed with me. It’s not very good, just your typical slice of British 90s R’n’B – read – standard pop but with a black singer instead of white.
6: R Kelly: She’s Got That Vibe
Well. I’m not sure what we can really say about R Kelly these days. If I’m honest, I don’t remember him being all that relevant before Space Jam. Or after. I didn’t know that’s who did this song. Your typical light, commercial rap bollocks. Give it credit for a catchy chorus, but keeping things honest – it’s balls.
I like Cyndi Lauper. This is her basically remaking her best known song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but with added ‘hey nows’ and a slower pace and more annoying production.
Snap. Is that who I’m thinking of? No. No it’s not. And once again, what the balls is this? Look at the state of that video! Even in 94 this looked worse that Liza Minelli’s feces. There aren’t strong enough words to describe how bad this is – musically, visually. I don’t remember this at all, thank fuck, and I hope by tomorrow I’ve forgotten it again. Ladies and Gentleman, may I present to you, the Human Race. Yes, this actually happened. Someone wrote this, someone made this, and people actually paid money to own it. Looking at the comments, people still enjoy it. Reasons we should get nuked #42319877. The only positive thing I can say about this is ‘hey look, that lady has her legs spread’.
Sting was apparently still alive in the 90s. Who woulda known? I do remember this one. It was okay then and it’s okay now. Still bland and uneventful, but then it is Sting.
10: Lisa Loeb: Stay
Finally, one I actually liked at the time. What’s not to like, for younger me? A hot girl with that not-quite grunge look looking at the camera and singing sweetly. It’s not great or anything, but it does have that 90s grrl charm which bled into other artists and shows I enjoyed more.
That’s definitely a snapshot of parts of my childhood right there, and definitely a look at what was popular on these shores. It’s not a great depiction of what was actually good in 1994 though – it was genuinely an excellent year for music – so here’s my alternative playlist.
4: Jeff Buckley – Lover, You Should Have Come Over
6: Soundgarden – The Day I Tried To Live
7: Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You
10: Pink Floyd – Lost For Words
What are your favourite songs and memories of 1994? Let us know in the comments!