1993 was a pretty good year for alternative rock. I know, because I watched the whole thing on MTV in my basement, with a remote poised to hit record when a promising video came along that I could document for posterity on my “Great Music” video tape. The tape came in particularly handy as a supplement whenever MTV saw fit to punish one with, say, Bill Bellamy’s MTV Jamz or those awful people in that awful beach house or, God forbid, the dreaded Grind.
Among a number of other hot jams, 1993 yielded “Two Princes”, “Hey Jealousy”, and “Creep”, which were the first three cassette singles I ever bought. Along with those indelible classics, “Great Music” had songs by Soul Asylum, Guns & Roses, Pearl Jam, Snow (“Informer”), Primus, Blind Melon, Arrested Development, Megadeth (“Sweating Bullets”), Genesis, Candlebox, and Faith No More. It was last called into service two years later when R.E.M. surprised everyone by playing an unreleased new song (“Wake Up Bomb”) live at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, which, at the time, was the best song I had ever heard.
“Great Music” might well still exist somewhere in my parents’ basement. It’s probably worth millions by now. Here are 20 more songs:
Suddenly and unexpectedly the rain began to fall. A great torrential downpour to mirror the stormy passion that was muddling around inside Trixie’s supple body. James stood there, calm and stoical, as the incredibly wet rain made his ruffled white pirate shirt seethrough so that pecs and stuff. “Trixie?” he said. “My darling. Let’s make love to each other in (and despite) this rain.” James pulled her towards him and the wet raindrops mingled with her tears of joy and also of being a bit surprised about the unexpected kissing, as she swirled her tongue rhythmically and professionally around the bottoms of his pearly white teeth and the roof of his mouth.
After they were done Frenching, they got back on their horses (as mentioned previously, James was riding a white stallion with a mane that was as white as the snow and Trixie was riding a mare with brown splotches) and rode very quickly through a meadow, each consumed by their own steamy thoughts about what had happened (Frenching). It was still raining.
In 2004, Jan and I started Sonnet Club. No one else wanted to join.
Sonnet Club was like Fight Club, except with more dactyls and less posturing. I am Jack’s half-assed attempt at a rhyming couplet.
Each week, we both wrote a sonnet, then met at Jan’s house to discuss and critique each other’s poems. The point of the exercise (apart from being pretty much the most fun two people can possibly have without being on really expensive drugs) was to get a feel for the art of writing within a rigid and strictly defined formal mode, with the idea that it would probably be extremely good for our writing in general. It was. It was also immensely difficult. Writing sonnets is a terrible pain in the ass.
But anyway, I was going through some stuff the other day and found all of my sonnets from Sonnet Club. Here are four of them – they’re all Shakespearean (Italian sonnets are hard as fuck to write), and they’re all focused, to some extent, on the difficulties of trying to write a sonnet and to almost no extent on, like, feelings and stuff.
Happy Sunday! I’ve tried really hard to keep my sad-bastard tendencies in check a bit on this one. The tone I went for is “Wistful but Optimistic”, which seems about right for a lovely Spring Sunday afternoon.
As far as I was concerned, the soundtrack to everyone’s lives in the Washington/Baltimore area between, say, 1992 and 1997, was a collection of tunes lovingly assembled by the venerable Disc Jockeys at 99.1 WHFS, Baltimore’s only alternative rock radio station.
On the way to school, we were tended by the careful ministrations of Zoltar, the Brother From Another Planet; on the way home we were gently serenaded by the beautiful (I assumed) Catherine. And if you happened to be near a radio on a Sunday evening, you would have the spectacular treat of listening to Dave Marsh’s “Now Hear This” in its entirety, where you could discover actual new bands making music you probably actually hadn’t heard before. A rarity in rock radio.
Towards the end of high school I began to think that HFS wasn’t really all that cool anymore, and though that eventually came to be true (to be specific, on a cold day in September, 1997, when the station’s new ownership deliberately and irrevocably played, for the first time, a short musical number by the band Puddle of Mudd), it was probably an ungrateful way for me to treat an institution that for years had given me new music by Sonic Youth and Pavement and Sebadoh in equal doses with the latest from, like, Harvey Danger and Eve 6.
Here are 20 more songs from the countdown: