Jen Kehl at My Skewed View and Kristi at Finding Ninee host Twisted MixTape Tuesday, a blog hop that’s all about music. The premise is to create a five song mix based on the week’s theme. (You can click on the button above if you’d like to play along).
Here’s Jen’s instructions for today’s topic: If you were going to make a mix for a friend in the Nineties, what would it contain? This is NOT a best of. This is If You Were You, in the 90′s, and You Were Making A Mix Tape For A Friend (on any topic) What Would It Be?
Before I get into the “meat” of this post, let me warn you up front…the language in this post, in the songs’ lyrics, and the material featured in the videos is NSFW…Not Safe for Work, or small children, or pets, or house plants, or anyone easily offended by language or controversial subject matters. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk.
In 1990, I took a job with an international import company and moved overseas to Hong Kong. In addition to completely flipping my life upside down, I was exposed to more of a global musical culture while drinking Carlsberg or San Miguel in (now) classic HK bars and pubs like Scotties in Lan Kwai Fong. The tiny dance floor was usually so packed on weekends you only had room to jump up and down. The DJ was hot, serving up international dance tunes, most I hadn’t heard before.
But there was also a song, played twice nightly, that stuck in my brain, Special AKA’s Free Nelson Mandela, which was gaining popularity once again due to Mandela’s release earlier in the year and his negotiations to end apartheid. What I didn’t realize I was missing back home in the good ole US of A, was the beginnings of the commercial grunge movement and the cyclical re-emergence of a subset of political/protest music moving away from the apathy of the origins of the genre. Censorship, the first Gulf War, the events surrounding Rodney King and the L.A. riots were all fodder for this generation’s music with a message.
1. We Care A Lot – Faith No More (1987). This “anti-protest” manages to bridge the gap between the isolated Seattle grunge subculture and the evolution to mainstream grunge in the early 90’s. The parody of celebrities jumping on the bandwagon for “causes” in itself became a message and was one of the forerunners of the re-emergence of political and protest rock in the grunge musical style.
2. Man in the Box – Alice in Chains (1991). A very simple lyrical denouncement of censorship through the filter of a very high Layne Staley. “Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut.”
3. Hush – Tool (1991). I love Tool’s big old Fuck You, both musically and visually, to Tipper Gore and her PMRC bobbleheads. Attacking the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) became one of the common themes of much of the protest music in the late 80’s and early 90’s. What the PMRC ended up with (the advisory stickers) was very much different from their original agenda of censorship and limiting access to music that didn’t meet their ambiguous and restrictive moral codes.
**side note: the next band on my list also protested against PMRC in a unique way. They spent their whole set time at Lollapalooza standing silently naked on stage with their mouths covered in tape like this:
4. Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine (1992). RATM’s one of most well-known of the political rock giants of this era. Killing in the Name takes on the protest darlings of racism in military, government and police agencies. I can’t wax poetic about this song when its own lyrics say so much more (and so much better) than I could ever manage myself. Just listen.
5. Warfair – Clawfinger (1993). This Swedish rap-metal group is primarily known for its political and anti-racism messages in its music and signifies how the new uprising of political themes in music evolved from grunge to other genres towards the mid-90’s.
“The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” ~Kurt Cobain