THE WOOF 200 FOR 1993
This’ll probably come as a shock to most of you, but there was a day several years ago where I was sitting around at work and found I was completely bored out of my mind. Seriously, when does that EVER happen? Anyway, as a way to amuse myself/kill time/admire my own genius, I started re-reading my Top 100 Songs of 2013 countdown (posted right here on this very blog!). I was already hard at work on a 2014 version at the time (which ballooned into The Woof 200), but I needed a break from the newer stuff, so I got to thinking about what it might be like to try and attempt a similar countdown with an older year, one with which I had much more familiarity. As is often the case with me, an idle thought soon became an intense obsession which later morphed into an arduous project which eventually wound up as a forgotten mess. At some point along the way I climbed onto Facebook and announced my intention to try a Woof 200 for 1993, but due to a number of reasons (which I’ll probably get into as we go along), the project stalled sometime this past fall. Today is the first step in kick starting things in the misguided hope that if I just start writing some of this crap down I might actually get around to finalizing the actual countdown. I find it’s good to have goals I most likely won’t ever reach. It builds character.
PART ONE: WHY 1993?
So I suppose the first thing I need to address is just exactly why the hell I chose 1993 as my test year. Was it just a random year I pulled out of my ass or was there something more interesting at play? The answer is multi-layered, although whether any of those layers are truly interesting is up for you to decide. For openers, and perhaps most importantly, 1993 was my first full year working at Tower Records, and as a direct result the year when I completely immersed myself in music. Not just the stuff that I was already listening to, but stuff that I had never even heard before and wasn’t likely to if I limited my tastes to what I was exposed to by my radio and my friends. It was an eye-opening year (or is that ear-opening?) to say the least. It also meant that the size of my personal collection was about to skyrocket, and since I’ve always tried to get my money’s worth out of the albums I buy, the stuff from ’93 got a LOT of playtime.
The year 1993 was also a very significant one for the state of music itself. Nirvana and Pearl Jam dropped the grunge bombshell in late 1991, although it took well into 1992 for the effects to really be felt on the radio and on the charts. What that also meant was that it wasn’t until 1993 that the record labels were able to really get a handle on things. As a result, ’93 ended up being this weird meeting ground where the now tired and stale acts of the late 80’s were pumping out the last unaffected albums of their careers, the newer acts of the early 90’s were adjusting on the fly in hopes of staying relevant, and the glut of copycat bands was just heading into recording studios to make their initial splash on the market. And grunge wasn’t the only change of the day. What was once considered “college rock” suddenly became “alternative” and started shifting over to the mainstream, gangster rap and hip-hop pushed old school rap to the back of the bus, and formulaic country music slid into the void being left by the death of pop and the lighter spectrum hard rock by beefing up their sound just enough to catch a few people reeling from all the massive shifts in what was suddenly “radio friendly”. It truly was a year of seismic shift in the industry that led to a pretty whacked out landscape when the calendar turned to 1994 and we had to look back on what just happened.
As for me, at 21 years old this vital turning point in American pop culture was also the center of my own personal storm. Old enough to have developed my own tastes, but not yet too old to shutter out something new, I got caught in the middle of it all. I mean, the music that was beginning to be made was the music that my generation would be making, so there was something to love about it all. While I was bemoaning the death of the MTV driven pop metal of my youth, I was also happy to see many of those same bands maturing just enough to stay alive, even if record sales were plummeting. And as much as I was resistant to some of the “alternative” movement at first, I soon began to realize that there was a lot there to like. Music was getting grittier and more thoughtful (although melody was getting sacrificed along the way much to my chagrin). Which probably explains how I got into a country phase for a while, ’93 kicking off about a 3 year run of me actually paying attention to country radio long enough to at least absorb most of the hits and find myself digging more than a few of them.
So what will follow over the next several weeks (okay, months) is an amalgamation of this weird time in music and in my life. Whereas my 2013 & 2014 lists were focused heavily on hard rock with a sprinkling of more thoughtful alternative and songwriter-ish stuff (plus a stray pop song or two), 1993 is littered with country, hip-hop, alternative, and even a few extreme metal tunes, the likes of which I probably wouldn’t give a second listen to today. Of all the years I could revisit, 1993 represents the most diverse, so it seemed like as good a place to start as any.
In preparing to do this countdown I rifled through my existent collection and grabbed any tune which jumped out at me by title alone from among the albums I was intimately familiar with thanks to 20+ years of repeated listening. I then dove deeper into the bottom end of my catalogue for those albums I didn’t remember much about to ensure I wasn’t missing any hidden gems and came away with more than a handful of tracks that fit the bill. Then, in the interest of obsessive compulsive completeness, I researched all albums that were released within the year and noted any artists whom I recognized as being from within the genres I was likely to care about and gave each of them at least 1 full listen (where available) online. Needless to say I discovered quite a few tunes that I had missed back in the day and it really altered what will eventually be the final countdown. In the end these “newer” songs didn’t climb as high as they might otherwise have done given that they were up against songs who had a long history with me, but at least they got recognition. And really, what could an artist from 22 years ago really hope for more in 2015 than to have their genius retroactively recognized by yours truly?
In the end I wound up with 595 songs in total which I threw onto my iPod for “consideration”. This is of course a ludicrous number for both the writer and the reader, so before you tell me to go to hell for daring to suggest you skim a countdown of such epic proportions, please note that I intend to keep The Woof 200 at the level its name suggests. There are those who would argue that 200 is already a ridiculous number, but those same people couldn’t stop me in 2014 so I’m unlikely to let them derail me now. Remember, I do these lists for me – not you, even if I do secretly crave page views and encouraging feedback. I JUST WANT MY MUSICAL RAMBLINGS TO BE LOVED, IS THAT SO WRONG?!
Anyway, that’s why 1993. Stay tuned for more soon.