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DeadOn Round Table – Tied to…1990 Friday, November 21, 2008

Posted by Jerkwheat in the balls.
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We here at DeadOn clearly have a fondness for the 1990s. Blame it on a majority of the founding blogfathers and blogmothers here being in their late 20s and early 30s. A lot of folks have an unnecessary fondness for the pop culture of their youth, and we’ve decided to revisit it on a year-by-year basis. Here’s the rub though: the first few of these, they might be a little spotty in our memory banks. 1990 was 18 (nearly 19…) years ago afterall. But, we’re gonna do our best to recap what we recall best about each year. That’s right, we’re totally ripping off approximately 897 Vh1 series. And we’re darn proud of it. After the jump, please join me, Yostal, Matt_T, JB, and BTO as we recall the halcyon days of 1990…

We’ve had this first one ready for weeks. However, I’ve had some, uh, life changes in the past few weeks and my mind has kind of been elsewhere. So, in what will hopefully become a Friday tradition, let’s finally get started with the 1990 Round Table.


We’ll figure out how this is going to work as we go along I figure, but I’m fully expecting some form of organized chaos for the start. As a good starting point, lets talk to wikipedia…


In 1990, I was 10 years old and, clearly, I was already a full formed indie hipster listening only to the early recordings of the soon to be superstar grunge artists making up the Seattle scene. Or I was jamming
the hell out of Ice Ice Baby and U Can’t Touch This. From a quick glance at the top songs and albums of the year, 1990 is a weird year. Sinead O’Connor was still commercially viable, we saw the rise of terrible pop-rap from MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, and Enigma’s “Sadeness” were all in the Top 5 for the year. “Cherry Pie” was big in ’90, “Blaze of Glory”, Paula Abdul still popular, etc. It’s weird in retrospect because the early 90s felt like one big sad gloomy grungy song, but we clearly came into the decade still feeling poppy.

Let’s get some first impressions on the overall state of the year, talk about what stands out to you, etc and let’s see where this takes us.


The 1990s, I have always felt, began in 1991, with the symbolic felling of Dangerous from the top of the charts by Nevermind.  It’s like a clean break that will extend all the way through 2001.  But, as a stickler for numeracy, I must begin my examination here.

While I will cop to a crappy 12 year old music sensibility that had me listening to a lot of heavy metal, particularly  “And Justice for All” (what can I say, the kids who rode my bus with me in middle school REALLY liked Metallica.)  But I think we also need to be careful to remember that albums released in 1990 may not have surfaced until later (something I learned when doing Tied to the 90s.)  For instance, if I just sort by year, 1990 includes Temple of the Dog’s lone album, Shake Your Moneymaker, Social Distortion’s self-titled album (which, while awesome, I think gets a lot of play on Lithium 24 because they feel compelled to start before 1990 for the same reason we are.)  Ritual de lo Habitual, and The La’s.  Now, all of these albums are quintessentially 1990s albums to me, but I will cop to not having heard of them until I was well into high school.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a reality. Perhaps we get started with a “Song of the Year” where we name our favorite from then (no matter how embarassing) and our favorite song from that year now.


I too was jamming the terrible pop rap as a 9 year old, Vanilla Ice and Hammer were my jams.  It is interesting to note that in the midst of the pop that dominated the charts and pop culture, 3 big bands of the decade were formed.  Pearl Jam, Tool and 311 all formed that year.  Its hard to fathom that those three bands  are still going strong 18 years later.  Contrast that with New Kids on the Block who were on top of the world in 90, fell off and then decided in 2008 to come back.

My song of this year, in ’90 was Ice, Ice Baby.  It was a must to know all the words in school.  And I haven’t been able to forget them, as much as I’ve tried.


If it was still 1990 and I was still 10, there is no doubt in my mind that my song of the year was probably Ice Ice Baby. Like Matt, and just about every white suburban kid of the early 90s, I can spit out just about the entire thing in a totally non-ironic fashion. As I’ve gotten older and have developed an actual musical sensibility, my favorite song of 1990 (judging just from that wiki list) is likely another pop-rap concoction that is also likely high on the hipster irony meter – “The Humpty Dance”. I seriously can not hear this to
this day and not start singing along and dancing. It reminds me a lot of college (thanks Dave and Cowboy for immortalizing this song in my memories) and of a lot of ridiculous parties.

What’s most amazing to me about 1990 is looking at how many albums that were released that would shape me greatly in the latter half of the decade – specifically Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression. Granted I didn’t discover it on my own until about 1996/7 and 1990 me would have in no way been able to appreciate it (part and parcel of being 10 years old), but when I think of the lasting influence that particular album has had in my life and amongst a lot of musicians I love, it’s amazing to think that came out in the midst of NKOTB/MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice fever.


Crap – I even feel old in this discussion.  Not a good start for my ego.

Immediate memories of 1990 call up a handful of songs.  Like everywhere else in the country, “Poison”, “U Can’t Touch This”, “Vogue” and “Ice Ice Baby” dominated the radio stations and every junior high dance, despite the Sisters’ objections.  Of course, all the boys still stood against one set of lockers and the girls the other.  No one would make a move, and those were not really dance songs for seventh graders, regardless of how much Club MTV we watched.

My part of the country will always think of it as the year of Garth Brooks and “Friends in Low Places”.  The album “No Fences” was far better than that single, thankfully, and  which started to set the wheels in motion for the country rage that would hit.  The rest of you would catch up for Billy Ray Cyrus.  Sorry about that.

Lastly, my personal nemesis was “Blaze of Glory” by Bon Jovi.  My stepbrother became obsessed with it, and I feel reasonably safe in betting that was the only song he played that whole year on his kickin’ RCA boombox.  He never has seen Young Guns II, but he can still sing the song, word for word.

In retrospect, I probably wouldn’t remove any of those as the big songs of 1990.  Those are still the singles that jump out at me from the list we reviewed, However, I would add “Groove Is In The Heart” by Deee-Lite, since a roommate of one of my college girlfriends played it constantly freshman year, and “Fight the Power” from Public Enemy, a song I did not get exposed to until later.

As for complete LPs, I see several albums I got at the time that a) are still in my rotation and b) I will not apologize for:
Enigma, MCMXC a.D.
Poison, Bell Biv Devoe
No Fences, Garth Brooks

There are not many albums I would regret – mostly because I was always dirt broke at this time and couldn’t afford a lot of tapes – but it would be led off New Kids on the Block, which I cannot defend at all.  Later, though, I would discover “I’ve Got That Old Feeling”, bluegrass fiddle and sweet-singing goddess Alison Krauss; “Fear of a Black Planet”, Public Enemy; “Traveling Wilburys Vol 3”, Traveling Wilburys (which cost me a damn pretty penny in the late 90s); “No Depression”, Uncle Tupelo.

Put on the spot, I would say my favorite song that year would have been “U Can’t Touch This”.  With hindsight, I would probably now give the nod to Garth’s “The Thunder Rolls”.  Album wise, at the time my favorite would have been Bell Biv Devoe.  As much as I would like to say Uncle Tupelo is my favorite 1990 now, I would stick with Enigma, an album I listen to at different times but which never seems to get old to me.

The most telling thing to me is the variety of music that started to come out – among the developing mainstream “hip-pop”, the bubblegum pop phenomena, and what was a fading of hair bands are developing alternative and country booms.  I must have just missed it trying to be “cool” for the other seventh graders with the rolled pants cuffs.


Favorite songs then and now:

1990 Then: “Blaze of Glory” by Bon Jovi.  Even as a 12 year old, I liked the rock.
1990 Now: “There She Goes” by The La’s or “Jealous Again” by the Black Crowes.  Either one appeals to two of my favorite genres, breezy jangle pop or good old fashioned rock and roll.


Favorite songs then and now:

Then:  Ice Ice Baby

Now:  Hard to Handle but I still have some love for Ice Ice Baby


I remember 1990 as the year that I first started to expand my musical horizon, and I think that is in large part due to the variety of music (at least that I paid attention to) that came out that year. Prior to 1990 my
exposure started and ended with Metallica – Master of Puppets was the end-all, be-all for me, followed shortly by Anthrax and The Ramones (but only because I met members of the latter two, which was quite a treat for an 8th-grader). But then I opened my eyes.

Songs that stood out for me in 1990: (1) Epic by Faith No More; (2) Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks; (3) Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice; (4) Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor; (5) Poison by Bell Biv Devoe; (6) Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega; (7) U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer; (8) The Humpty Dance by Digital Underground; and (9) Unbelievable by EMF. I would be willing to bet that I still remember every word to at least 6 of those songs. Like most people of a certain age, I can drop Ice Ice Baby and The Humpty Dance with no warning, no backing track, and no back-up singers. These are the things that make me popular at parties (that’s a lie – no one invites me to parties).

My favorite songs of then and now (not listed above, since it would be redundant)? I think back then my favorite was Because I Love You by Stevie B. My neighbor (who was 2 years older) had just started going out to clubs in NYC, and she introduced everyone on the block to “house music” and “freestyle” which meant Stevie B, Noel, Lisette Melendez, etc. “Because I Love You” was stuck in my head for the next few years. My favorite now, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, is Blaze of Glory by Jon Bon Jovi. Yes, I’ve seen Young Guns II (and like that movie as much as the song – my shame is endless), and I will still absolutely rock out whenever this song comes on the radio or my MP3 player (I’m too poor for an I-Pod).

Influential albums of 1990? The ones that I had in heavy rotation back then were Flesh and Blood by Poison, Fear of Black Planet by Public Enemy, and Shaking the Tree by Peter Gabriel (which may be cheating since it’s a compilation of his earlier work, but it came together in 1990 dammit!). Of those, I still listen to Shaking the Tree (“Biko” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and does an adequate job of explaining the story if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie) and Fear of a Black Planet (“Fight the Power” and “Welcome to the Terrordome” were mind-blowing back then, and still incredibly powerful today).

Wrapping It Up

So, there you have it. A much delayed, much too long look at 1990 from the view of a bunch of dudes on the internets. For the 12 of you who read this, do us a favor and throw in some suggestions on the comments. We’re gonna get this streamlined as we go along and hopefully I won’t take 18 years to post 1991.

If we’ve learned one thing about 1990 though, it’s that this lives on forever…



1. apostles03 - Friday, November 21, 2008

Great post…I’m looking forward to the retrospective of the rest of the decade.

In 1990, I was 26 (!) years old and went out to L.A. in June to visit my college roommate who had just finished his 3rd year at UCLA law. I saw some cool bands in L.A.(including Jane’s Addiction)— but the most memorable was at a house party in Burbank. It was Sublime.

I was really into Bad Brains and Operation Ivy, so my buddy knew that I was ripe for what I was about to hear. I was blown away. Naturally, I assumed Sublime would follow the path to obscurity cut by all of my favorite reggae/ska/punk bands, and I was a shocked to hear them on the radio/MTV a few years later.

Bradley Nowell taking his own life is one of the saddest things…the guy had “it” nailed. And he threw it away.

2. Rockabye - Friday, November 21, 2008

Want to feel older? The song I heard most in 1990 was probably the one with my nom de blog and “Baby” in it.

There’s pretty much nothing on that list that really sticks for me (though obviously the PE and Tribe releases are big, and Ice and Hammer are important to hip-hop) because that was just as country was heading more pop with Brooks, just as metal was releasing its hold on rock, and three years or so before hip-hop burst out.

I love “Groove is in the Heart,” still a fantastic party jam, but I think you’re missing a couple of big songs: “Rhythm Nation” and “Love Shack” are nowhere to be found on these lists.

And whenever we want to do 2000, I’m game for heading up the Millennial Miniseries. (God, it would need a better name than that.)

3. Rockabye - Friday, November 21, 2008

And, in a double-sided coin, Trouble T Roy of Heavy D and the Boyz passed, which gave us “They Reminisce Over You” in 1991.

4. Rockabye - Friday, November 21, 2008

And I swear on Puppy Wheat I’ll edit the next one if it means getting it out sooner.

5. Jerkwheat - Friday, November 21, 2008

We missed on Groove, which came out late in ’90, but Love Shack and Rhythm Nation are both ’89 hits. Both songs carried on well into 1990, but Love Shack especially was more of an ’89 single, hence why I left it off my lists.

As for Rhythm Nation, it is a song I remember more for its video than being on the radio. I think “Escapade” was the bigger song.

6. Jerkwheat - Friday, November 21, 2008

“Escapade” getting mention merely for being a 1990 single – “Miss You Much” was the biggest (and the first) of the umpteen singles from that album.

Apostles, your story re:Sublime is awesome. I was never a huge fan and radio playing “Santeria” into the ground makes me twitch when I hear them sometimes, but it’s always great to be able to say you saw them way back when. Color me jealous of your experience good sir.

7. Bill - Friday, November 21, 2008

Glad to see The La’s get a nod. Their self-titled album was phenomenal and a cool throwback style to 60s British Invasion. And to show how cool I was even at the tender age of 13, I owned it upon release and sang its praises to anyone who could hear me over U Can’t Touch This and Poison. Please note my coolness was severely constrained by owning Vanilla Ice’s album as well. Such is the fractured and tormented soul of a young teenager.

Great list though and looking forward to more. Though I did check out of pop culture around the time of grunge (again I was so cool I was an alternative of the alternative) but I’ll be curious to see if you guys jog anythign loose I may have been so ashamed of I blocked out completely.

8. Frank - Friday, November 21, 2008

Was I the only 10 yr old listening to Sex Packets B-Side and Candy Man’s Knocking Boots?

9. Jerkwheat - Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh shit – Candyman! I very much recall listening to “Knocking Boots”, which is what happens when you have an older brother. It’s his job to introduce you to things you don’t quite understand…

10. JB* - Friday, November 21, 2008

Upon further reflection, I am going to say “Poison” has to be one of the top songs of the decade. It provided a lesson and a mantra that every every man should have taken to heart:

Do not – ever – trust a big butt and a smile.

If only I had stayed truer to those words…

11. dylancaseyjohnson - Friday, November 21, 2008

How does one earn knighthood into this round table?

12. CoachD - Sunday, November 23, 2008

A bit late to the party due to a swim meet. 1990 was a transiet year for me…going from 5th to 6th grade and into middle school! What I remember most of all is MC Hammer and Ice Ice Baby. I worked at a summer camp this summer and we went to Six Flags in Atlanta. The video was on while we were waiting for a ride and naturally I was singing along. All of the kids looked at me like “what is this?” yeah, i felt old. Looking at other overlooked songs are “More Than Words” by Extreme off the cooly-named (for a 6th grader) Pornograffitti. A couple others that got me going at the awkward middle school dances:
Nothing Compares 2 U
Poison (da da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da)
Any of the Rhythm Nation stuff

Looking forward to the next installments

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