It just happened that 1993 was my last full year working in the lab as I was finishing up my classes in order to become a teacher and take a mighty 50% reduction in my pay. While it was a crazy year working full time and taking a couple classes each semester, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. At the beginning of 1994, I would be doing my student teaching at a very small high school in the county to the south of where I live while working part-time and using my PTO to supplement my income. But, that was still the following year.
No, 1993 began with a major hangover, as my fraternity brothers and significant others all met at one of the guys’ places for what we always called “fellowship.” Although we were all entering our thirties at the time, we still got together on New Year’s Eve. So, we were all reliving our college days on one night a year. At these parties, we always have some stupid event. In 1992, at our house, we had a lip sync contest. My wife and I unexpectedly did “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” which was taped and was, I guess, the winning performance. I think I speak for all who were there, I am glad that something happened to that video. Didn’t need any evidence left around.
For this year, it was a scavenger hunt, the brothers versus the others. Well, let’s just say we lit up the little town just west of Fort Wayne with this drunken mess. When we got back to the house, the owners, both of whom are lawyers and divorced today, held a hearing on whether each team’s items were submissible. It was funny at first, but it did get tedious. So I put on George Michael on his CD player and everyone ignored them by dancing. And, that’s when the details became murky.
Of course, the year ended with me having my first surgery, an emergency appendectomy. The surgeon thought I didn’t have a problem because my pain was not in the “correct spot.” My white blood cell count said otherwise, so into surgery I went. Come to find out, my appendix had grown to be 10 milliliters long and had flipped and was pointing in the wrong direction. No wonder my pain wasn’t located where “it should have been.” That dumbass surgeon even had asked my wife if I was a “wimp with pain.” Of course, she had to hold me down because I was ready to bounce up and deck the guy.
To top everything off, Frank Zappa died that day, and the only thing I remember my wife saying to me after the surgery was that! I teased her all the time about that information being the only thing she said to me after the surgery. Oh, but the fun didn’t stop there. Nope, I developed a post-op infection in the incision and was running a very high fever and was in pain. But, the idiot I am, I finished my final project for my last education class and went in to take the final. Afterwards, my wife rushed me to the emergence room to have the incision drained for the first time. Two days later, the incision was opened, drained and packed, which to my sick microbiology side I kinda loved it. From the ER phone, I called the micro lab to make my prediction as to which bacterium they would find. Luckily, that stupid phone call got me discharged to home so I didn’t have to be admitted. Hell, I worked in a hospital, I wasn’t about to let people I know take care of me.
Needless to say, I missed the last month of work before I started student teaching. Unfortunately, I missed the last New Year’s Eve gathering, as we all got caught up in our families’ events. But, they did drunkenly call me, but none of them probably remember doing that. Which, by the way, was the perfect way to end 1993.
So, here’s what I think are the best albums of 1993.
Blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993). With this album, Britpop had arrived in all of its glory. This modern take on the music of The Kinks, Jam and Smiths was a breath of fresh air during the age of grunge. Now, we were starting to get back to what I thought was the sweet spot of rock music – a tough sound with slightly jangly guitars, nice vocal harmonies and Beatlesque melodies. Who knew what was in store for the music scene in the UK?
Counting Crows – August and Everything After (1993). After a year of being bludgeoned by the sonic sounds of the grunge scene, everyone seemed a little bit ready for some acoustic-based music. Into that void stepped an alternative band that reminded me a bit of Van Morrison. I fell hook, line and sinker for this album, and it remains an album that I play often. Unfortunately, success came too quickly for this band as they really could not live up to expectations on further releases. Still, they did have a nice compilation of their hits.
Janet Jackson – janet. (1993). With this album, Janet became the creative force within her family. After first exerting her creative control, then tackling race relations, Janet continued to follow the Marvin Gaye playbook by releasing an album dripping with sex. Yes, I’ll say it. This is Janet’s Let’s Get It On. There, I said it. Next!
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993). Lenny became his own man on this album. He was a rocker. He was a soul man crooner. He was a Prince-wannabe. He was Hendrixian. He was it all, but he was still Lenny Kravitz. And, this was his masterpiece.
Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993). People seemed genuinely shocked by the lyrical content on this album. Seriously? Did you not just praise Tori Amos the year before? Therefore, why was it so surprising that a woman was openly singing about her sexual experience? Hell, didn’t Prince break down that commercial wall back in 1980 with Dirty Mind? Why would we ever think a woman didn’t think and say these things as well? I applaud Liz for having the guts to tackle this sexism straight on in very rock way. Plus, the stripped down sound is a perfect musical setting. She set the stage for what was about to come from rock & roll women this decade.
Nirvana – In Utero (1993). In 1993, Nirvana were the kings of the rock world. But, Cobain was freaked out by all the adulation. Unfortunately, he strove for it, honed his art for it, but when success did come, he decided it wasn’t what he really wanted after all. And In Utero was Kurt’s attempt at putting the genie back in the bottle. This album, although it still maintains those fantastic melodies, had abrasive instrumentation and painful screams throughout. The lyrics were darker. Yet, the public ate it all up, and that was the rub. And, we are left asking what if he could have just come out of all of this on the other side? We’ll never know.
Paul Weller – Wild Wood (1993). After building a successful career with The Jam and The Style Council, Weller released his first solo album in 1991. And, it was that album on which Weller found himself musically. He had let go of his past and moved forward into adulthood. Now, on his second solo album, Weller dives full on into his muse to create a beautiful album all about growing old in rock music. This album is a great introduction into the solo career of one of the unsung heroes of rock music.
Pearl Jam – Vs. (1993). Much like Nirvana, Pearl Jam were freaked out by how there popularity had exploded over the previous year. And like Nirvana, the band wanted to shed the bandwagon jumpers in order to get back to a more manageable audience. So, they too went abrasive. And, just like Nirvana, the album was abrasively beautiful, so the public devoured this one as well. The difference between the two bands was that Pearl Jam eventually just accepted that the public loved them and moved on. Unfortunately, Cobain did not. This album remains a great one in the Pearl Jam catalog.
PJ Harvey – Rid of Me (1993). 1993 seemed to be the year of the pint-sized woman talking directly about their sex and romantic lives. While Liz Phair attacked it from a Stones-ish sound, Harvey and her band dove into a more punkish mode, ala Nirvana. And, this album, much like Phair’s, is a fantastic statement and sound. Fortunately, Harvey’s career was much more consistent through the years than Phair’s. This is an important record that it a great listen.
Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club (1993). Sheryl Crow got her big break as a singer on Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour. So, when people heard she was recording an album, most thought she was going down the pop path. Interestingly enough, Sheryl had her own vision. And, what a vision it was. Crow had been playing with a coterie of crack LA session players in order to create this album. And, all of the work paid off for her, as this album had great sales and won Grammys.
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dreams (1993). This Chicago band led by guitarist/vocalist Billy Corgan was as steeped in the AOR world as he was in the punk world. And, you can hear both influences everywhere on this album. The Pumpkins’ sound was a Boston-like laying of what seems like a thousand guitars with a grungy tuning over some excellent post-punk rhythms for a new exciting sound. It’s as if all the music of my youth got together and had a baby.
Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle (1993). After making such a huge scene on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, the rap world was very excited about Snoop’s debut album. And, he and Dre did NOT disappoint. This album was played everywhere for about two years. And, any album that has a song as great as “Gin and Juice” has got to be a masterpiece.
Suede – Suede (1993). Britpop was just getting started when this band of Glam and Smiths influenced youngsters hit the UK airwaves with this stellar debut album. Where Oasis and Blur defined the Beatles’ side of Britpop, Suede took the Glam side, especially with all of their sexual ambiguity. This was definitely a British phenomenon that did not translate to the States. And, most of us lost out on it here.
The Cranberries – Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? (1993). This band was obviously a group that grew up loving The Smiths just from their sound. But, they were not limited by that influence and built upon it. “Linger” remains the band’s best song, but they did create one lasting album with their debut. This is a nearly perfect album.
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993). This conglomeration of huge personalities, egos and talent combined forces to create one of rap’s greatest albums of all time. What can I say? This album is a perfect slice of Nineties rap. And, it seems like everyone one of the guys in this group had their own successful solo careers. But, for one glorious moment, they channeled all of their hunger and might to make this earth-shaking album.
And, that’s the way it was in 1993. Peace.