Today I was flipping through the channels, for the first time in a long time. When I am at school I don’t ever have a chance to watch television, and my apartment doesn’t have cable, so often times I’m out of the loop when it comes to current events. I just keep my nose to the grindstone and plow forward with my head down, ignoring pretty much all that is around me. This makes the passage of time seem to me very quick.
While I was flipping through the channels I came across one of the extended cable channels, MTV Hits. I don’t know what their normal programming is, but as long as it is nothing like Fuse (R.I.P. MuchMusic USA) or like any of the other MTV channels…..(remember when they promised MTV2 would ONLY show videos?) I’ll give it a shot. Today they were playing Nirvana unplugged. There was a scroll across the bottom of the screen stating that “Finally, nearly 14 years to the day after this session of unplugged, Nirvana Unplugged will be available on DVD“.
I thought to myself, 14 years? That can’t be right, it’s 2007, and this is from 1993, that’s only…..14 years! When did this happen? Where has the time gone.
I remember waiting to see Nirvana Unplugged, it was in this house actually, just over there. I remember afterwards, I think the next day, my brother hooked up our stereo to the VCR and we stripped the audio from our video tape and listened to it in our walkmans (cassette walkmans). We were so ahead of our time, but I digress.
So much has happened since then. I was in 7th grade, now I’m halfway through 2 master’s degrees. My brother was a Sophomore in high school and now he lives in Chicago with his wife and has a real actual career. Where has the time gone? I remember lots of things happening, but I can’t believe it has been 14 years. I guess it is just getting to the point in my life, and the lives of everyone I know where we are starting to realize that somewhere along the way our lives have begun without us knowing. I think we are all still trying to resist.
I get notifications on facebook or myspace about people getting engaged, or having kids and I usually just scoff like people that I graduated with shouldn’t be worrying about that stuff yet. But in all honesty, their timing is just about right. I’m the one that is in denial.
Somewhere along the way Nirvana’s entire career became legendary. This was already happening to some extent while they were still around and touring. It was solidified when Kurt died. Nirvana would be legendary, the gold standard for quality in music for years and years to come. They became our generations band, not only being our voice but our representative for our feelings, our politics and our middle finger to the establishment. Finally we had a band that our parents would never understand. While they cling to the Beatles we have Nirvana.
Nevermind was an important album, and stands up to the test of time, as does In Utero. The Unplugged performance is a wholly other thing, raw, emotional, honest, great. I guess part of my disbelief in that it occurred so long ago was that I can’t believe that I was lucky enough to have lived in the right time to have witnessed it all. Things going on in music now just aren’t as exciting.
We had Pearl Jam. Yes, they are still around today, but haven’t done anything worthwhile since No Code in my opinion. We had Soundgarden, Sonic Youth, and on and on.
Pearl Jam’s “Ten” I remember listening to until my tape wore out and I had to buy another. I couldn’t believe how awesome the guitar solo on “Alive” was. I still listen to that album on occasion and remember how I felt back in 199—-whatever staying over at friends houses and listening to it over and over again.
Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” is another one that got fairly constant rotation on my walkman. Also “Down on the Upside”, their brilliant swan song. These albums defined me as a teenager, wandering around the town I lived in wondering what the hell I was doing, what I was going to do and hating everyone and everything just like any good 14 year old should. Growing up and not wanting to, being too smart for my own good and having dreams that I could never achieve.
No album exemplified these feelings better than the Smashing Pumpkins “Siamese Dream”. I remember stealing that tape from my brother and going on a camping trip with my friend Dave. We listened to that album probably 50 times in those 2 days. Sure the singles were great, “Today”, “Cherub Rock”, but we were always more interested in “Soma”, “Hummer”, and “Mayonnaise”. We formed a band. We were terrible, we tried to play those songs, it rarely, if ever worked, but it was fun.
These albums, with Sonic Youth’s “Dirty” and “Experimental, Jet Set, Trash and No Star” were all so important to me, and still are. There is no way that they ever won’t be. My life is forever defined by these albums, it is undeniable. The noise on “Dirty” was so unbelievable when I first heard it, and the sound, the rhythms, it was everything I ever wanted in an album. I remember thinking to myself when confused about something going on in “Dirty”, “Well it’s Sonic Youth, they can do whatever they want”. This seems just about right, yeah, but I had no frame of reference, that was the first SY album that I had heard. I just knew, you can just tell with some bands that they are worthy.
I spend countless hours downloading, or trying to download new music, fueling this need to hear what is going to be my next soundtrack. Very rarely does anything fill such an important spot. The most important and influential holes have already been plugged. Radiohead was in existence with my Smashing Pumpkins obsession, there was an overlap, but they never really reached the same status. Although Radiohead apparently has much more in terms of staying power with their phenomenal “In Rainbows” up against the forgettable “Zeitgeist” by the Pumpkins, my poor, poor fallen Smashing Pumpkins. They should have just stopped after Adore, that was their peak. I could slap Billy Corgan if I was given the chance.
There is nothing wrong with embracing these albums as generation defining. I will never listen to adult contemporary factory produced garbage. These albums are my life, Nirvana is my Beatles, and that is something to be proud of. Music evolves, defines us, takes a snapshot of society, and culture. We can hold on to our memories and our childhood while time forces us to become all the things we never wanted to become but are inevitable, and the music will help with that. Our music is honest to a fault and will never lie to us.