I find it very hard to believe that 1994 was 20 years ago. I was such a young pup then. The music was fantastic, hard rock ruled the radio, and two bands released the best records of their careers. Yes, I am referring to Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails, who are touring together on a double bill this summer.
And while I would love to hear Superunknown and The Downward Spiral performed in their entirety, I realize that probably won’t happen. A fan can dream though.
Seeing those two bands in concert this summer is certainly going to be a journey down Nostalgia Avenue. 1994 was one of the greatest years in my life and it was also one of the greatest years for rock music. Here now are some of the rock release highlights from 20 years ago.
In August of 1994, a little known band out of England named Oasis released their first record, Definitely Maybe. The album got the band all sorts of attention with critics loving the release and fans buying it in droves. With such wonderful songs as “Live Forever,” and “Rock And Roll Star,” it’s no wonder the record was such a hit. Oasis went on to become a force in the world of rock music, recording numerous hits over the next few years, but in-fighting amongst brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher ultimately led to
the demise of this wonderful band.
The all but forgotten group The Toadies released their debut, Rubberneck, which was a solid album and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The lead single, “Possum Kingdom” received a plethora of radio play, helping to cement The Toadies as a band to watch. I still don’t understand why they never got more traction.
In 2001 the band released their sophomore disc which quickly flopped and the band went into limbo.
Earlier this year, The Toadies announced that Rubberneck would receive a 20th complete with 5 previously unavailable bonus tracks. The band will be out on the road performing the album in its entirety.
Bush debuted Sixteen Stone, which was one of the best selling debut albums in rock. Upon its release Sixteen Stone was slow to gain any movement, but after several months and the release of “Everything Zen,” and “Come Down” as singles, record sales picked up. The album would eventually sell over 6 million copies and launch Bush into short lived superstardom. When their second album (Razorblade Suitcase) tanked, most fans quickly forgot about the band. Bush split up in 2002, only to reform eight years later. They are currently in the studio working on a new record.
Green Day had their major label debut release, Dookie, and in 1994 there was no album that 21-year old Ryo Vie loved more. From start to finish, this record was a pure masterpiece. Dookie was my first real exposure to punk rock and it opened many doors for my music loving ears. The fast chords, the hard hitting, overpowering vocals, and themes of anger, doubt, and confusion resonated within my young mind. After hearing “Longview” just once, I was hooked and considered myself a Green Day fan. Songs like “She,” “When I Come Around,” and “Coming Clean” were played endlessly and at maximum volume.
For a young man still trying to find his direction in life, Dookie served as my soundtrack.
Classic Veteran Releases
While 1994 contained some exceptional debut albums from a new crop of soon-to-be-famous rockers, the veterans of rock and roll would not allow themselves to be outdone.
In July, The Rolling Stones released Voodoo Lounge, proving they could still make new music that fans wanted to hear. This was the first Rolling Stones album without bassist Bill Wyman, who departed the band in 1991. Daryl Jones would fill in on bass and become the group’s regular bassist from that point on, although he never became an official member of the Rolling Stones. It was the first Stones record in five years and was released to critical and commercial success. Voodoo Lounge reached number 2 on the
US charts, eventually going double platinum. Four singles would be released from the record including “Love Is Strong” and “You Got Me Rocking.” The Stones would head out on a world tour that would last the next 18 months. Voodoo Lounge would ultimately win a Grammy for best rock record.
Tesla released Bust A Nut which sold well behind the strength of the super amazing “Mama’s Fool.” This was the tail end of Tesla’s reign on the rock world. They had been lumped in with the “hair” band category of rock, and as fans turned more toward grunge and punk they turned away from this style (or perceived style) of music. Bust A Nut would be certified Gold by 1995, but Tesla would split up that year and eventually reform in 2000.
Vitalogy from Pearl Jam hit the record stores, affirming that the band was one of the hottest groups around. The album included some of the band’s biggest hits including “Immortality,” “Corduroy,” and “Not For You.” And while the band was still battling Ticketmaster and still struggling to find venues where they could perform live, it didn’t halt record sales. Vitalogy would sell more than 877,000 copies in its first week of release and go on to become certified platinum 5 times over. Not bad for a record that never received a proper tour.
Not to be outdone by their fellow grunge rockers, Nirvana released their MTV Unplugged performance which was quickly gobbled up by the Nirvana faithful, ultimately going 5x platinum. Fans attempting to survive in a post-Cobain world were treated to one last great live album which featured spectacular covers of “The Man Who Sold The World” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” The record debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and is one of the band’s most successful releases.
Motley Crue’s lesser known (but still quite fantastic) self titled album with John Corabi on vocals was put out on March 15th of that year. It was the first Motley Crue album released since 1989’s Dr. Feelgood. And while I personally feel that “Hooligan’s Holiday” and “Misunderstood” are two of the greatest Motley Crue songs recorded, most fans did not feel the same way. Record sales were flat, in fighting continued amongst the band, and within two years, John Corabi was out as the Crue’s singer. Motley would reunite with Vince Neil in 1997 and release the horrendous Generation Swine.
Does anyone remember the rap/rock conglomerate that was Body Count? The Ice-T led hardcore outfit, put out their second record, Born Dead, in 1994. After much controversy over their debut album, the song “Cop Killer” in particular, Body Count had made a name for themselves behind all the publicity and negative connotations. Riding that wave of success, the band put forth their second record, Born Dead, which included a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.” The album would peak on number 74 on the
Billboard charts, but never got any real traction. Body Count continued to tour and record new albums sporadically over the next twenty years. Their fifth record is due out this summer.
1994 saw the end of yet another great 80s metal band. Cinderella released their final studio album, Still Climbing. Their last album contained all of the material that Cinderella fans had come to love over the years—bluesy, gritty, rock and roll, with songs about parties and beautiful women. The album even had a couple of power ballads. It’s a shame that most of the songs from this record are either forgotten or ignored by the fans as well as the band. Still Climbing is a great record that does not get any recognition. For a swan song, Still Climbing delivered some great memories that are still cherished to this day.
The Best Of The Best
Stone Temple Pilots put out their sophomore effort, Purple, which is unquestionably their best record. The album was released on June 7, 1994 and debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Fantastic hit songs “Vaseline,” “Interstate Love Song,” and “Big Empty” all helped contribute to the record’s success. STP would go on to enjoy their fame and popularity for the rest of that year and a few more years beyond. Unfortunately, personal demons attacked singer Scott Weiland and the band rapidly went downhill. Weiland and his bandmates would have an on-again/off-again relationship that would last into recent years. Ultimately, the band would never recapture the level of success they had in the summer of 1994.
Hard rocking punk band The Offspring came out with Smash which went on to be the best selling independent album of all time. With hits such as “Come Out And Play” and “Self Esteem” it’s no wonder the disc was so beloved. Smash was the breakout album that The Offspring had been waiting for.
Although they had recorded two records prior to Smash the band was relatively unknown. All of that changed when “Come Out And Play” got some airtime on modern rock radio stations. Something about the originality and freshness of the song connected with listeners and torched the path for The Offspring (and Smash)’s success. The Offspring is currently working on their 10th studio release and plan to tour this summer in honor of the 20th Anniversary of Smash.
As I already mentioned, Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral both came out in 1994, on the same day as a matter of fact (March 8, 1994). Both records would go on to achieve unfathomable amounts of success and launch both bands into the stratosphere of hard rock gods.
Superunknown was just larger than life. Soundgarden was hitting their stride when the band released this record. It was their breakthrough gem that included huge hits “Black Hole Sun,” “Spoonman,” and “Fell On Black Days.” At the height of the grunge movement, Soundgarden had released their best album ever and was able to ride that wave of popularity. The record debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, selling 310,000 copies in its initial week of release. The single “Black Hole Sun” would spend seven weeks at number one and would ultimately net the band a Grammy Award. Superunknown is still considered Soundgarden’s greatest release and probably always will be.
Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails had an exceptional 1994 with the release of The Downward Spiral. The band found an entirely new level of fame when the song “Closer” was released as a single. Receiving constant airplay on MTV and radio stations across America, “Closer” exploded and was one of the biggest hits of the year. A music fan couldn’t turn around without hearing “Closer” somewhere. The controversial video filmed for the song only helped to fuel its popularity and by the end of 1994 “Closer” was at the top of everyone’s “Best of…” list. Other fantastic songs included “Heresy,” “March of the Pigs,” and “Hurt,” which would be covered by Johnny Cash many years later. The Downward Spiral is one of those phenomenal albums that still sound terrific to this day.
All in all, 1994 was a grand year for rock music lovers. It was one of the best years for music releases and contained some of the most celebrated, amazing records of all time, most of which are still listened to on a regular basis. How many years can make that claim?
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