Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 3rd 2019
It does feel like 25 years ago
1994… 25 years ago.
Yes, twenty-five years ago! This was brought home to me by one of my friends missing training two weekends ago because the night before had been her daughter's twenty-fifth birthday party. We got talking about twenty-five years ago, what we were doing, what we'd already done. Well, of course, that got me thinking and… well…
In 1994, I was working for the YMCA, and part of my job was doing aerobics classes and fitness classes. And that meant I heard a lot of (then) modern music, and bought more than my fair share. Going back through my music collection, it is amazing how much music I have from 1993 to 1995. Nowadays, listening to it again, I do not like a large chunk of it. But there is still a huge selection that I really enjoy.
Like this, but with a fatter instructor, less equipment and a lot more sweat and swearing.
Needless to say, this was quite a fun look back on that time in my life. Now, the songs do not resonate with me as much as the music of 1987 or 1981, and yet there are still a heap of tracks I like.
1994 was a strange year for music as well. Dance music really started to make itself known and grunge was the dominant rock format. But the old horses still released albums and soundtracks were quite dominant and, it must be said, quite good. So there was a bit of something for everyone.
Now, as usual, I have some rules for these things. Only tracks released in 1994 or from albums released in 1994. Also, only one song for an artist in my final 10. I have included live songs this time, so long as they are different from the studio versions and not straight-forward. Having said that, my favourite song of the year was not released as a track, but came from a live TV show in front of a studio audience, and is here as a bonus track. We'll get to that one.
So, first, the runners up. Like I said, so many great songs from the year, but, probably more than any other year, your mileage may well and truly vary: '7 Seconds' by Neneh Cherry & Youssou N'dour; 'All I Have To Do Is Dream' by Cliff Richard & Phil Everly (no, really); 'Black Hole Sun' by Soundgarden; 'Buddy Holly' by Weezer; 'Closer' by Nine Inch Nails (very close, but there is another NIN song I like more); 'Cotton Eye Joe' by Rednex (great for aerobics); 'Don't Stop (Wiggle Wiggle)' by The Outhere Brothers (I feel I'm being judged here), 'Doop (Sidney Berlin Ragtime Mix)' by Doop (only that one mix, not other mixes); 'Eyes Of A Ranger' by Chuck Norris (yes, the Chuck Norris); 'Forever Young' by Interactive (stop judging – great for fitness classes); 'Girls & Boys' by Blur; 'Here Comes The Hotstepper' by Ini Kamoze (stop judging…); 'Here's Johnny' by Hocus Pocus (very close to making the main list); 'High Hopes' by Pink Floyd; 'Hotel California' by Eagles (so close to making the top 10, this acoustic version is beautiful); 'I Like to Move It' by Reel 2 Real (tell me you don't think of lemurs when you hear this song nowadays); 'I'm Gonna Be Strong' by Cyndi Lauper (new recording from her greatest hits album); 'If I Only Knew' by Tom Jones; 'Just Like Nancy' by DM3; 'Lightning Crashes' by Live; 'Loser' by Beck; 'Lost In America' by Alice Cooper (another one very close); 'Love Is All Around' by Wet Wet Wet (stop judging me…);'Picture Postcards From L.A.' by Joshua Kadison; 'Pirates Of Penzance Megamix' by Jon English and the cast (no, seriously); 'Return To Innocence' by Enigma; 'She's So Fine' by The Fargone Beauties; 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Abigail and also by The Flying Pickets; 'Sympathy For The Devil' by Guns N'Roses (gets hate, but undeserved); 'Take It Back' by Pink Floyd (The Division Bell is an under-rated album); 'Tighten Up Your Pants' by Audio Murphy Inc feat Melinda; 'Tomorrow' by Silverchair' 'What's the Frequency, Kenneth?' by R.E.M.; 'When I Come Around' by Green Day; 'Wild Night' by John Mellencamp; 'Zombie' by The Cranberries.
So, the top ten of the year (in my opinion). Well, eleven, but… yeah, we'll get to that.
'Tubular World' by Mike Oldfield
Regular readers will know that I am a fan of Mike Oldfield, and often his albums are just superb. Well, his 1994 album Songs Of Distant Earth was a mellow outing, but a strong one. And the best track was this one, a remix of sorts of his classic 'Tubular Bells' but made new and different and it felt like it worked in the context of the album. Great track.
'Basket Case' by Green Day
"Do you have the time to listen to me whine…" One of the great opening lyrics. I like a lot of Green Day's work, and always have. I was in my late teens, early 20s when they first hit the scene, and was probably close to their target demographic. This song didn't really speak to me, per se, but I love the simplicity of their music, and the lyrics are actually surprisingly intelligent and deep. No, they are. Because of their music style, I think they are under-rated in that regard; American Idiot from 2004 was brilliantly written. But this track – yeah, it's cool.
'Rocks' by Primal Scream
This is a great workout song, with a constant beat that is fast enough to lift weights too but not too fast you kill yourself doing it. Yes, I still use it in the gym. The pounding beat, the guitar, the tambourine sound – it's like The Rolling Stones on steroids (as much as I hate that cliché). It's a simple, straight-forward rock song, eschewing the dance sound they had used in the album Screamadelica. Some fans didn't appreciate it; I still enjoy this track.
'Sabotage' by Beastie Boys
Like most people of my age, I first discovered the Beastie Boys through their track '(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)' in 1986. But I prefer this track personally. The video is great, but the music is close to the perfect mix of hip-hop and rock. It pounds along relentlessly and the chorus is one of those scream-along ones so beloved of people who can't sing everywhere. I used to use this as a warm-down track, and still bring it out at times just for fun.
'Get Over It' by Eagles
Hell Freezes Over was an interesting album. The first new Eagles album in fourteen years, it was a mix of studio tracks and live tracks. Their acoustic version of 'Hotel California' is stunningly beautiful and well worth tracking down. But I really like this new track. The lyrics are as poignant now as they were 25 years ago, and those people who say it is one of the worst songs ever are full of themselves and probably feel the song calls them out. As far as I am concerned, it is a worthy addition to the Eagles' canon.
'Swamp Thing' by The Grid
Take some banjo playing. Add it to a techno beat. Incorporate drum machines. Sounds like something dreamed of in the mind of some-one with a random music generator. But, damn, if it doesn't work! This straddles the fine line between "wow" and "WTF?", and I think it falls on the wow side of the ledger. It's insane but I enjoy it.
'Route 66' by Brian Setzer Orchestra
Time for some jazz. I am an unabashed fan of Brian Setzer, dating back to his days with Stray Cats, and I love his swing/big band jazz albums. They are so full of fun that it is hard not to get caught up in the joy he is having. This is a slightly subdued version of the famous old track and it swings along quite nicely. Very pleasant.
'Gallow's Pole' by Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant really need no introduction to any fans of classic rock, and in 1994 they came together to record No Quarter (also referred to as No Quarter: Unledded). It was sort of a live album, sort of an Unplugged style album, but the way it was recorded and dubbed has had it placed in that nebulous area of sort of live, sort of not. But this track has a definite live feel to it. Doesn't matter – it is awesome and this version of it is stunning.
'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails
Confession: this is one of those rare songs where I prefer a cover to the original. Johnny Cash's cover is heart-rending and beautiful. But that should not take away from this, the original, which is a cry of pain and anger, building up like a tsunami of emotion. It is controlled rage, and then the outro of the song, guitar droning and static… wow. Barely keeping it together is what this song is about when Trent Reznor sings it. Fantastic.
'Hallelujah' by Jeff Buckley
And a cover version to finish of the main section. I rate this as good as Leonard Cohen's original, that is to say, glorious and stunning. Grace, the album it comes from, is a spectacular album, and it's hard to believe it was the only album released while he was alive. This song is the highlight, and is so beautifully done. His voice captures the emotion so well you'd think he wrote it, that it was personal to him. Like I said, though, it is an equal to the original; I can't tell which I like better, so whatever one I hear is the one I listen to. Still, Buckley's version feels a little more haunted, as though he is in pain as he sings it. There is a Romantic feel to it. Buckley was taken from us way too soon.
Now, my favourite song from 1994, but it was never released as a single or on an album. 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' by Doug Anthony All Stars
DAAS were a live trio of comedy performers. I saw them live, and at one concert was the butt of a string of jokes. That was cool; the other guy they picked on cried. But they mixed their comedy with singing, and some of their comedy songs are hilarious. But then, one night while watching The Big Gig (on ABC-TV in Australia), which they tended to be the closing act on, they suddenly did… this. It was incredible. A good friend of mine at the time Dom and I had to talk about it next time we saw one another; she said she almost cried. It was/is such a beautiful rendition of the classic song. Three voices and a guitar. Paul McDermott went on to become a TV host, Richard Fidler is now one of Australia's most acclaimed interviewers and Tim Ferguson is an advocate for disability rights, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). But at the time, and for a while, they were one of the best things in Australian entertainment. And this is one of their highlights.
DAAS in 1994 on 'The Big Gig'
And there you have it, my favourite songs of 1994. I cannot believe how long ago it was, but it is amazing how many of these tracks are still quite cool, listenable and great. So I hope you all enjoyed this walk down memory lane…
As usual, comments, etc can be left below. And if there are any requests, please, leave a message as well!
By and large I was never a fan of '90's music BUT.....the Doug Anthony Allstars "Heard It Through The Grapevine"......divine. Heavenly. Superb. and any other adjectives you can think of. Great to know I'm not the only one who thought so!
By and large I was never a fan of 90's music...BUT the DAAS "Heard It Through The Grapevine". Divine. Heavenly. Superb. And any other adjectives you can think of. Great to know I wasn't the only one who thought so!