Jump to content
  • The Computer Audiophile
    The Computer Audiophile

    What A Time To Be Alive: 1991

     


    I was a 15 year old freshman at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, in a suburb of Minneapolis, when the calendar flipped to 1991. Over the winter of 1991 I continued listening to music that would soon populate greatest hits albums such as Motley Crue's Decade of Decadence (released 10/19/1991), Ratt's Ratt & Roll 81–91 (released 4/6/1991), and plenty more testosterone fueled anthemic albums. I grew up on a steady diet of Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Pink Floyd before succumbing to the new shiny object that was hair metal. It's no surprise that the "pioneers" of hair metal aren't mentioned in the Jim Collins and Jerry Porras book titled Built To Last. That said, I was about to embark on the best year for recorded music in my lifetime and one that would change my life forever. 

     

    On January 27, 1991, at Super Bowl XXV, Whitney Houston and The Florida Orchestra, directed by Jahja Ling, performed the most memorable rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" the world had ever seen or heard. Sure, Marvin Gaye's rendition at the 1983 NBA All Star Game was silky smooth and soulful, but it wasn't performed on the biggest stage in the world to 750 million viewers and it wasn't performed ten days into the Gulf War. America was hungry for patriotism and Whitney stepped up to deliver the yet to be topped rendition. The recorded version of Whitney's "The Star Spangled Banner" was released on February 12, 1991 with "America The Beautiful" as the B-side. 

     


    Under Appreciated, Missed, and Holding On

     

    In the first seven months of 1991, several albums were released that would later become absolute favorites of mine, but I just couldn't appreciate them at the time. Take for example Marc Cohn's self-titled debt album, release February 8, 1991. Years later I purchased the MFSL version (UDCD 767) and now consider it a favorite. There isn't a bad song on the entire album. Who can argue with "Walking in Memphis," "Ghost Train," "Silver Thunderbird," "Walk on Water," "Saving the Best for Last," and "True Companion?" As a 15 year old, I certainly could, and likely did, argue against the album's significance. 

     

    A few other albums from early 1991 would be brought back into my life after starting this very website. Natalie Cole's Unforgettable... With Love and Aaron Neville's Warm Your Heart, both released on June 11, 1991 and mastered by Doug Sax. Oh yeah, throw in Bonnie Raitt's Luck of the Draw, released on June 25, 1991, also mastered by Doug Sax. In January 1991 Divinyls released its self-titled album, also mastered by Doug Sax. This one was 100% on my radar for the same reason every 15 year old boy had it on his radar. The video for the hit single "I Touch Myself" was banned from television in Australia. Need I say more?

     

    Other early 1991 albums that I didn't appreciate at the time of release, but would circle back to me by the end of the year were Dinosaur Jr.'s Green Mind (2/19/1991), REM's Out of Time (3/12/1991), Massive Attack's Blue Lines (4/8/1991)The Smashing Pumpkins' Gish (5/28/1991), and one that would rock my world in a few short months, Temple Of The Dog's self-titled album (4/16/1991).

     

    I finished the first half of 1991 listening to music from Lenny Kravitz's Mama Said album (4/2/1991), Seal's self-titled debut album (5/1/1991), Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers' Into The Great Wide Open, it squeezed into my CD collection just after the first-half buzzer on July 2, 1991, and Van Halen's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (6/18/1991). During this time I was still hanging on tight to Van Halen and Tom Petty, but opening my ears to Lenny Kravitz. I spent countless hours in the cars of older friends cranking Van Halen's "Top of the World," via my CD to cassette adapter, and feeling like I was on top of the world because of the freedom that riding in an adult-free automobile can provide a 15 year old.

     


    WTF Was That?

     

    It all started with unforgettable opening chords played by Stone Gossard and a striking vocal from Eddie Vedder. 

     

     

    Son, she said
    Have I got a little story for you
    What you thought was your daddy
    Was nothin' but a 

     

     

    My friend Mike and I looked at each other and said, What the fuck was that! It was Pearl Jam's "Alive." Pearl Jam's debut album Ten came out August 27, 1991 and my life was never the same. Needless to say, the second half of 1991 was the most transformative time in my music loving life.   

     

    Pearl Jam's Ten was busting at the seams full of music that mattered to me and the sound was like nothing I'd heard previously. In no time, I memorized every lyric on every track. These guys cared about people and stood for something. They were angry at the man. They supported women as equals, as opposed to the debaucherous and demeaning actions of my old favorite hair metal bands. I felt every lyric and every riff as if this was an album made just for me, but at the same time I felt the movement that just had to be coming. There was no way to hold this down. Everyone was going to hear this stuff very soon. 

     

    After reading the liner notes, front to back and back to front, many times, I sent a letter into something called the Ten Club, P.O. Box 81429, Seattle, WA 88108. I wanted to be a part of whatever the club was about. It turned out to be Pearl Jam's official fan club. I received a response asking for around $10 to join the club. At the time, $10 was a bridge too far. I could either buy a CD or be a member of this club. I skipped the club membership, went back to Down in the Valley, and purchased Toad The Wet Sprocket's album Fear, also released August 27, 1991. Toad's album Fear began my decades long interest in the band and the solo work by singer Glen Phillips.

     

    One month later my musical world was rocked by an embarrassment of riches. September 24, 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind and the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Both albums blew my mind for different reasons. Nirvana's hit single "Smells Like Teen Spirit" didn't do it for me at the time. My throat hurt every time I listened to Kurt Cobain scream. There was something about it that I didn't get at the time. The other tracks were absolutely amazing. "In Bloom," "Come As You Are," "Lithium, Drain You," "On A Plain," and the song "Polly," which was played on repeat while my friends and I, may or may not have, indulged in a certain psychedelic substance with a famous three letter acronym.

     

    Blood Sugar Sex Magik blew my mind because it was so different, so funky, and so strange. I'd never heard of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or producer Rick Rubin. Plus, the bassist went by the name Flea. That was intriguing. Right from the opening track, "The Power of Equality," this album both sucked me in and pushed me away. The music was out of this world cool, but also so strange to me that songs like "Funky Monks" made me think these guys weren't a serious band. I quickly got over the strangeness and embraced it. "Give it Away," "Suck My Kiss," "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," and "Under the Bridge" are all tracks I still love to this day. 

     

    Two weeks after Nevermind and Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out, Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger. Whoa! This is some heavy shit, thought my friend Mike and I, as we cranked it on his RCA stereo with speakers nearly as tall as we were, in his 7x9 bedroom. After the first four tracks, "Rusty Cage," "Outshined," "Slaves & Bulldozers," and "Jesus Christ Pose," we needed a break, or perhaps a level-headed adult in the room. What the hell was this guy singing about? Plus his voice was like nothing we'd heard. For the most part it was way over our heads, but the musicianship, heavy sound, and the voice of Chris Cornell was another nail in the coffin of the hair metal music to which I'd spent the last several years listening.

     

    Ten, Nevermind, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and Badmotorfinger set me on a course from which, at my core, I haven't varied. It's nearly impossible to live through the six weeks in which these albums were released, be as invested in music as my friends and I were, and not have it imprinted on one's brain for life. I still love bands and music that stick it to the man, whatever and whoever that may be. I still love bands that let their freak flags fly and don't care what people think. I still love bands that make music for themselves and hope people like it. Perhaps this is why I dislike most music made by committee, by an artist whose image has been approved by a focus group and branding agency.  Perhaps this is also why I can't let something like MQA tax every music loving consumer, without getting the facts from those much smarter than I, and speaking out about what I think is wrong. Disagree with me all you want, I'm OK with that. I have respect for those who speak up, even if it's against me. 

     


    Hair Metal Out, Seattle In, and Hold Up...

     

    Those who didn't live through 1991, with music on their brains 24/7, may think it was all Seattle all the time. Oh no. It was a great time to be alive for music lovers. Going back to August 12, 1991, two weeks before Ten was released, Metallica released its self-titled album often called the black album. This album went on to sell over 16 million copies and found its way into all of our Case Logic CD holders. Metallica's first album with producer Bob Rock was the album that changed the band for better or worse. I remember playing this album until my ears hurt. We played it in the car, in the hockey locker room, on our headphones, and everywhere else. "Enter Sandman," "Sad But True," "The Unforgiven," "Wherever I May Roam", and "Nothing Else Matters" were all masterpieces of heavy metal made palatable for the masses. This wasn't music that lead me to new social causes, but it was fun music to just crank up and let go. 

     

    One month after Metallica's biggest album to date, Guns N' Roses released Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II (9/17/1991). This was a huge deal. Two albums from one of the biggest, most volatile bands in the world. I was a fan of Appetite for Destruction and the acoustic side of G N' R Lies, but I was more curious about the "Illusions" than anything. At the time the albums were released I couldn't get into them. It seemed like epic secretary rock to me (no offense meant). "Don't Cry," "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," "Civil War," and the nine minute "November Rain." The one track I really liked, and still do to this day, is "You Could Be Mine" from the second album. Matt Sorum's opening drum and Duff McKagan's opening bass sequence, followed by guitar from Izzy and Slash, is unforgettable. 

     


    Cruisin' In My 64, or the White Suburban Kid Version

     

    In 1991 I wasn't old enough to drive, but my friend Bob sure was. Bob also had a 1991 convertible Ford Mustang 5.0 with an aftermarket Alpine stereo. It was a recipe for disaster, that we managed to survive and from which we have some great memories. In the summer months with the top down, Bob, Mike, and I would take the long way to wherever we were going and blast rap and hip hop. In the colder months, we did the same thing, just with the convertible top buttoned up. 1991 was also a good year for our favorite driving music. We listened to several albums that would go on to influence generations of artists, and other albums that wound up careers of successful groups. 

     

    On May 28, 1991 N.W.A, one of my favorite rap groups of all time, released its final album titled Niggaz4Life (also known as the mirror image Efil4zaggin). The tracks "Niggaz 4 Life," "Appetite for Destruction," and "Alwayz into Somethin'" fascinated us, just like the tracks on N.W.A's album Straight Outta Compton. Of course one track amazed our juvenile sensibilities, that was the track titled "She Swallowed It." And, we knew every word. It's amazing that this album went to number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. 

     

    Former N.W.A lyricist and vocalist Ice Cube released his second solo album, Death Certificate, later in the year on 10/29/1991. The album debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and contained tracks "The Wrong Nigga To Fuck Wit" and "Steady Mobbin'" that received plenty of spins in Bob's CD player. 

     

    2Pac Shakur released his solo debut, 2Pacalypse Now, on 11/12/1991 but I didn't really get into it. I couldn't connect with it and didn't find the issue of teen pregnancy in "Brenda's Got A Baby" fascinating like I found other gangster rap. If anything, it freaked me out.

     

    On July 23, 1991, Dj Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince released the album Homebase, and what would become our summer driving anthem. That anthem was appropriately titled "Summertime." We drove around the lakes in Minneapolis, to friend's parties, and even to the convenient store blasting "summer, summer, summertime." To nobody's surprise, that song remained the summer anthem throughout high school.

     

    Other favorites that emanated from Bob's "5.0" were from Public enemy's Apocalypse 91, released on 10/3/1991. Bob was likely the biggest Public Enemy fan I knew and made sure to crank "Can't Truss It," "By The Time I Get To Arizona," and "Bring The Noize." As a 15 year old white suburban kid riding around in a new Mustang, I couldn't have been further from really comprehending the message behind "Arizona," but I loved it nonetheless. The collaboration between Public Enemy and the heavy metal band Anthrax on "Bring The Noize," was ahead of its time. I still really like this track. 

     

    Two other albums that have had long lasting effects in the hip hop and rap world, also came out in 1991. Cypress Hill's self-titled debut album (8/13/1991) and A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory (9/24/1991). Cypress Hill later became known more for the hit Insane in the Brain and marijuana culture, but this album went on to be copied by artists for decades. The track "How I Could Just Kill a Man" was covered by Rage Against the Machine. At the time, Cypress Hill wasn't for me, but A Tribe Called Quest was up my alley. 

     

    The tracks on The Low End Theory weren't the type that my friends and I would blast in Bob's car. They were much more sophisticated and smooth. The tracks on "Low End" were the stuff I played through my headphones at night, trying to catch all the nuances and understand lyrics. This album introduced me to the artist Q-Tip, and to this day I've listened to much of his music. I can't drive through Southern California without thinking of the song "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo." This track was released before The Low End Theory and coincidentally has the track named Public Enemy on its B-side.  

     

    I understand that many audiophiles won't be into the aforementioned rap and hip hop, but if anything, A Tribe Called Quest's blend of jazz and hip hop on The Low End Theory is the most accessible of anything I've mentioned and it has been listed as one of the best albums ever made on many lists over the years. 

     


    Wrap Up, and There's More

     

    1991 was a magical musical year. Fortunately, before my 16th birthday near the end of November, even more magic was released. On November 5, 1991 Stevie Ray Vaughan's posthumous album The Sky is Crying came out. At the time, this album was way beyond my reach. In the years since, I purchase the MFSL version (UDCD 723) and love this album as much as any in the genre. 

     

    The last album of 1991 that I purchased remains an album to which I listen today. U2's Achtung Baby came out 11/18/1991. I wasn't a fan of U2 prior to this album, but that all changed with "Mysterious Ways." This track has a perfect mix of seriousness and fun, with a great beat and guitar riff that's unforgettable. I played tracks such as "Zoo Station," "Even Better Than The Real Thing," "One," and "So Cruel" endlessly through my Sony Discman as my family drove to relatives' houses over the holidays in 1991. Achtung Baby remains my favorite U2 album of all time, and it isn't even a close contest.

     

    One last note about the equipment used to play all this life changing music. At home I had a Technics receiver and a pair of Kenwood speakers my parents purchased for me for $32 each. I still owe them $64 plus tax, no interest though. While on the go, I had a Sony Discman and whatever headphone came with the unit, until I discovered upgraded Sony headphones. I have no clue which model they were, but the sound was fantastic and it's something that'll be in my head forever. I remember listening to Toad The Wet Sprocket's album Fear before a hockey game, through these headphones, and letting a friend listen because I loved the album. She was very impressed by the sound quality, not so much the album. My friend Mike, who I still text daily, talk to weekly, and see monthly, had an RCA stereo that seemed like separates but it was really just indented where the separate chassis would be in a real separate system. This was connected to giant RCA speakers. Man we had fun cranking that system. 

     

    By audiophile standards, all of these systems were laughable. Judging by how much fun we had listening back then, I don't think it really mattered. 1991 was a special time to be alive, and to be a 15 year old kid with nothing but time on his hands, to listen to music.

     

     

     

     

     


    A small sample of the albums released in 1991, chronologically 

     

     

     

     

     


     




    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    37 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    You have to be an engineer 🙂

     

    A lot of “here are the requirements” and “are the requirements met.” Seems like you need an RFP for music. 
     

    If it makes you happy, that’s what counts. 
     

    All meant in good fun 🙂

     

    I am not an engineer, but I am in IT at a fairly high level.

     

    It is not like I have to go through a checklist until I figure out if something is good or not. I didn't make a conscious decision to only like music with those attributes I listed previously. I just found myself, over time, being less and less interested, and more bored, with music that does not meet them.

     

    It is not even an intellectual process, for the most part, it is almost completely emotional. 

     

    And let me also add, that my mind is very opened to new music. And when someone recommends something to me in some genre I usually don't listen to, I will almost always listen to it.

     

    Unlike the vast majority of people, my tastes in music were not set in my early 30's. Discovering new music is still a great joy in my life.

     

    Something Strange Happens To Your Taste In Music At Age 30

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    5 minutes ago, Simon Moon said:

     

    I am not an engineer, but I am in IT at a fairly high level.

     

    It is not like I have to go through a checklist until I figure out if something is good or not. I didn't make a conscious decision to only like music with those attributes I listed previously. I just found myself, over time, being less and less interested, and more bored, with music that does not meet them.

     

    It is not even an intellectual process, for the most part, it is almost completely emotional. 

     

    And let me also add, that my mind is very opened to new music. And when someone recommends something to me in some genre I usually don't listen to, I will almost always listen to it.

     

    Unlike the vast majority of people, my tastes in music were not set in my early 30's. Discovering new music is still a great joy in my life.

    It’s all good Simon 👍🏻

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    1 hour ago, Simon Moon said:

     

    "..., my tastes in music were not set in my early 30's. Discovering new music is still a great joy in my life.

     

    ..."

     

    This!!  Why I listen to Radio Paradise.  I spent so much time listening to just few bands/artists for so long, I missed some great music.  RP is great for some obscure, great music.  Right now Appliance is playing...also The High Violets, Durutti Column, and others...

     

    @The Computer AudiophileGreat topic...of 1991 the only one I gravitated to was the PJ album...but it took me awhile.  I was used to a more "refined" presentation of Pink Floyd and Bowie...

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    20 hours ago, edn4x4 said:

    Forgot to mention because of that storm I missed:

    https://www.rush.com/tour/roll-the-bones/

     

     

    I had a banger of a halloween party planned for that evening and 2 people showed up. The kid that lived next door and the girl from down the block that had a crush on me. We went snowmobiling and ate pizza.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    37 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

     

    That wiki is wrong, I lived in St Cloud then and we had far more than 9 inches of snow.

    Yeah, much more.  My entire car was buried under that snow.  Everyone’s car was buried down in the Oaks apartments. I remember getting off work early at the Holiday Inn and met some friends at the Press bar.  We drank til closing and it took the rest of the night to get home.  We went to Schweggies (sp) bar the next day were my roommate bartended, bought a keg and through a stranded party. Dam St. Cloud was fun.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    1 hour ago, ShawnC said:

    Yeah, much more.  My entire car was buried under that snow.  Everyone’s car was buried down in the Oaks apartments. I remember getting off work early at the Holiday Inn and met some friends at the Press bar.  We drank til closing and it took the rest of the night to get home.  We went to Schweggies (sp) bar the next day were my roommate bartended, bought a keg and through a stranded party. Dam St. Cloud was fun.

     

    The Press Bar used to be owned by a person who was affiliated with my extended family somehow... Much fun was had in St Cloud back in the day.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    27 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

     

    The Press Bar used to be owned by a person who was affiliated with my extended family somehow... Much fun was had in St Cloud back in the day.

    I was sad to hear/see it was burned down intentionally.  My girlfriend bartended upstairs, free beers and pool tables, hurray.  

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    3 hours ago, JoeWhip said:

    Ah, 1991, the year before kids! I kinda recall it, barely.

     

    Same here. Hard to believe our son is turning 30 in a few months...

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I'm pretty sure in '91 I said I would never, ever, have kids (I was 27). I lied and now I'm saddled with a nine and thirteen year old. Took awhile to get the spirit of '91 out of the system. Glad I did, but it's also probably why I listen to mostly ambient and classical these days to calm the nerves, LOL. Also destroyed ears. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    3 hours ago, charlesphoto said:

    I'm pretty sure in '91 I said I would never, ever, have kids (I was 27). I lied and now I'm saddled with a nine and thirteen year old. Took awhile to get the spirit of '91 out of the system. Glad I did, but it's also probably why I listen to mostly ambient and classical these days to calm the nerves, LOL. Also destroyed ears. 

    '64 was quite a year. ;-)
    Started university in 91', fathered just the next year and 2 years off campus as I thought fatherhood pays ... My sons are "nearly" 30 (14 days to go) and just 18 by now, and both ere far away from home ...
    I still need to adapt to my empty taxi and the lack of support for our dogs ;-)

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I can pinpoint a particular day, that was one of the greatest for me as it pertains to music.

     

    Sept 19, 1971, SUNY at Stony Brook, the stoned out brainiacs decided to schedule The Allman Brothers concert, one of the last with Duane, on Rosh Hashanah weekend at a school that would normally empty out by 50% on weekends but almost a 100% that weekend because of the holiday.

     

    Two amazing concerts back to back that lasted for hours to a mostly empty gymnasium. They loved the small venue and we loved it. Greatest music day of my life, even better than Watkins Glen

     

     

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    1 minute ago, Priaptor said:

    I can pinpoint a particular day, that was one of the greatest for me as it pertains to music.

     

    Sept 19, 1971, SUNY at Stony Brook, the stoned out brainiacs decided to schedule The Allman Brothers concert, one of the last with Duane, on Rosh Hashanah weekend at a school that would normally empty out by 50% on weekends but almost a 100% that weekend because of the holiday.

     

    Two amazing concerts back to back that lasted for hours to a mostly empty gymnasium. They loved the small venue and we loved it. Greatest music day of my life, even better than Watkins Glen

     

     

    Amazing!

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    9 minutes ago, Abstraction said:

    I  like your youth enthusiasm, but the time to be alive was 1968. 

     

    Certainly some great ones in ‘68 that’s for sure. 

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    The time to be alive is every day. Or, at least, to be awaken 🙃

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    6 hours ago, Abstraction said:

    I  like your youth enthusiasm, but the time to be alive was 1968. 

     

    6 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Certainly some great ones in ‘68 that’s for sure. 

     

    Definitely '68 (esp. flower and psych)

     

    Also '73 (dsom, bowie, glam etc)

     

    and '56 - '58 (rock 'n' roll without which ...)

     

    I was 15 in '77 so not complaining.

     

    I do think formative years for me were earlier too ... I'd go back to age 7-9 maybe even earlier.

     

    I barely remember the '90s ... but the case for '91 is made nicely here.

     

    I have only 2 of my 3 sons remaining. As you might expect me to say, adore the children while you can.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites




    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now




×
×
  • Create New...