20 Years Since My Summer of (Music) Love

As I sit here waiting patiently for the summer to arrive so I can once again drive with the windows down and the radio cranked, I am reminded that we are just a few short months away from the *20TH ANNIVERSARY* of the musical summer of my lifetime.

Ah yes, the summer of 1991. By FAR my favorite time for music. I was 19 years-old and working full-time with no financial responsibilities. ALL of my income was “disposable”. I had just bought my first CD player and was anxious to expand my collection. I had also discovered the joys of the second-hand music store, where I could walk in with 20 bucks and walk out with 10 CD’s from bands you’ve probably never heard of but which I grew to love.

Musically, we were at a weird crossroads where the cheesy hair metal bands of the 80’s (which I couldn’t get enough of) were growing up musically and starting to produce the best material of their lives, while at the same time the grunge movement of the 90’s was about to reap it’s first big harvest. Consider this: in one SIX WEEK stretch, the following 4 albums were released…

August 13 – Metallica “Metallica”
August 27 – Pearl Jam “Ten”
September 17 – Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusion I & II”
September 24 – Nirvana “Nevermind”

That is mind blowing to me. A MONTH-AND-A-HALF and FOUR (ok, technically five) of the biggest selling and most influential albums of my LIFETIME were all released. I specifically remember buying all but “Ten” on the day they were released (and yes, I was on Nirvana that early; “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was all over MTV’s Buzz Bin weeks before the album came out). That is crazy!

Stretching it out to the four months of summer from June to September, a number of other seminal albums in my collection were released. Two legendary bands put out what I believe to be the greatest albums of their respective careers…

June 18 – Van Halen “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”
September 17 – Ozzy Osbourne “No More Tears”

…while two other long-time bands released highly underrated works…

June 18 – Foreigner “Unusual Heat”
September 3 – Rush “Roll The Bones”

(The Foreigner album is now pretty much disowned by the band because it was “the one without Lou Gramm on vocals”, but it’s a completely underappreciated gem.)

Then we have the aforementioned hair metal bands (my specialty), of which two of the better known released their greatest works:

June 11 – Skid Row “Slave To The Grind”
August 30 – Tesla “Psychotic Supper”

…and a number of unknowns released great albums even if radio and MTV never really played them…

May 28 – Junkyard “Sixes, Sevens & Nines”
July 2 – Tyketto “Don’t Come Easy”
July 9 – Kix “Hot Wire”
August 20 – The Scream “Let It Scream”

And mixed into that whole mess is what just happens to be my FAVORITE album of that year, the self-titled debut from a band most people don’t know…

September 10 – Tall Stories “Tall Stories”

Featuring vocalist Steve Augeri, who would go on to replace Steve Perry in Journey (and produce what is my favorite album of all time, the totally ignored “Arrival”), they were (no surprise) a Journey-esque band that I initially thought were the long-awaited Steve Perry solo album when I first heard them on the radio. With Journey being my favorite band at that time, I was needless to say hooked.

Even outside of my hard rock leanings, five other albums came out during that stretch which worked their way into HEAVY rotation in my playlist.

June 25 – Bonnie Raitt “Luck Of The Draw”
August 20 – Spin Doctors “Pocket Full Of Kryptonite”
August 27 – Toad The Wet Sprocket “Fear”
September 9 – Dire Straits “On Every Street”
September 24 – Bryan Adams “Waking Up The Neighbours”

That’s four months and TWENTY albums which have been essential to my collection over the years. These days I’m lucky if I even HEAR twenty albums over the course of an entire YEAR (never mind how many I might consider “essential”). Last summer when I began my ongoing project to try and rank my entire 2000+ CD collection, 1991 caused me the most pain. It was a year chocked full of the kind of music that I love to this day, even if most of it has fallen completely out of favor with the rest of the music listening public. And to think… they’ve been a part of more than half my life.

I may be getting older, but at least I have the music to keep me young.

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