I spent the 1980s discovering the 1960s and 70s, and now I’m looking for the 90s…even though I was there as a fully-functioning adult.
Music has meant a great deal to me for most of my life. It formed early creative inspiration, perceptions of love and fuel for passion and direction. Famous singer-songwriters were some of my earliest teachers and mentors.
Throughout middle school, high school and college (basically, for me, the 80s), I devoted more time to exploring and immersing myself in the likes of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and early Rush than I did with the metal-glam bands and techno-pop acts that made the Reagan era famous. (U2 was my one contemporary exception.) I studied album art, read and memorized lyrics, devoured issues of Rolling Stone, and lost sleep (and study time) in order to go to concerts whenever any aging rockers came within driving distance.
Something different happened during the 1990s, however. I lost touch with mainstream music in general. I was burned out on classic rock. I still listened to U2, but that was about it. I spent the latter half of the 90s discovering and getting completely absorbed in Christian music, and woke up in the early 2000s realizing I was quite clueless on the general market scene. I’ve become a lot more plugged-in across the past six or seven years in terms of who’s who and what’s good right now, and have re-subscribed to Stone; overall, my musical tastes are a healthy mixture of rock, pop, jazz and country.
But I’ve realized something in recent days, with great sadness…that I truly missed out on the richness of 90s rock n roll.
Looking back, I recognize how rock suddenly got very introspective as the 80s bled into the 90s. The angst of the vocals, lyrics and distorted guitars gave more voice to society’s angst—personified in bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Green Day, Creed, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. I briefly dabbled in each of these artists and more to some extent, but with far less time, commitment and passion than their ancestors of the 60s, 70s and even 80s.
I guess I have some good excuses as to why. I started working full-time in 1990, right after graduating from college. I got married. There was a lot less time to devote to music. Most of the people I worked around were older and did not naturally reinforce musical interests. At night I would watch sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Friends to wind down, and stopped going to all but a handful of concerts. And then there was that whole church involvement that kicked off around 1994 and consumed the rest of the decade, including three years as a full-time seminary student.
So, now I find myself in search of the artists and voices of the 1990s, much as I spent the 80s peeling back the layers of the previous two decades.
Is this my destiny: to live in one era but be enthralled by the art of an earlier one? Does this happen to you as well?