What can I say about 1992? There have been all kinds of documentaries made about the year. It all seemed to begin with the four white LA police officers being acquitted in the Rodney King beating which launch the city of LA, and the Watts and South Central neighborhoods specifically, into several days of rioting. Later, former Reagan cabinet member Caspar Weinberger was indicted for his role in the Iran-Contra affair. US President George HW Bush and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin put a formal end to the Cold War. And two Southerners by the name of Bill Clinton and Al Gore were nominated for, and, eventually, elected President and Vice President of the USA.
And in music, 1992 was the year in which the underground became the mainstream. All of a sudden, everything that I had been listening to had become popular with teenagers across the country. As a man closing in on his thirties, it was comforting to hear the strains of Dr. Dre, Beastie Boys and R.E.M. blasting from the windows of the dorm rooms across the Ball State campus. Alternative music was so hot that even my early-80s stalwarts such as XTC and The Cure were having pop success in the States.
Now, the music of MY twenties was cool. And the second Lollapalooza tour blew the doors off the pop cultural phenomenon. We had Time magazine with Pearl Jam’s lead singer Eddie Vedder on the cover. Additionally, I went into a Kohl’s department store only to see tattered flannels being displayed everywhere as if this were some fashion trend they could cash in on. Even Top 40 radio was picking up the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Dre, Ice Cube and any other flavors of the moment. The only thing that allowed these artists radio airplay was the fact that they began to release edited versions of their “hits” to be played on the air, a practice still in use today. Remember, NONE of us cuss.
However, as you get older, you know this trends will never last forever. Sure, they upset the cart, but eventually the horse learns to pull that cart, then the revolution is over. In this case, the horse is Wall Street. And when they see that money is to be made, they will go into every scene and suck the life out of it. For example, all kinds of Seattle bands started to be signed to the major labels. In the wake of the city’s Big Four’s success (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains), all the bands starting hooking their careers up to the industry gravy train. One by one, these little punk bands from the grunge scene were picked off. First, Mudhoney, then Tad, Screaming Trees, until, when the dust finally settled, a new lesser band called Candlebox and the unrelated-to-the-scene Presidents of the United States of America were signed.
And, the signings did not quit. No Wave noisemakers Sonic Youth was with a major label, as were Ice-T’s thrash metal band Body Count and even way-out-of-the-mainstream The Butthole Surfers were signed. It got to be ridiculous to read about all the stupid signings taking place at the time. But, that’s how the US economy works; suck it until the well’s dry.
However, for the next three to five years we were blessed with some outstanding music. But, at the same time, rock music may have been killed in the process, giving way to Nu Metal, teen music, pop punk and some other last gasps of the old way of doing things. Unfortunately, the music scene really has not recovered from this feeding frenzy. That era of gangsta rap and alternative music has given way to whatever is being pimped on YouTube and Spotify. All of each have replaced a city’s unique scene with its own sound. Perhaps, one day, we will get back to that. Yet, you have to admit that the pandemic has set things back a bit. Still, after observing the enthusiasm people displayed at the recent Elton John concert I saw a couple of weeks ago, people are itching for a communal experience. Personally, I hope that experience is for live music and won’t settle for the DJ culture of electronica, which is a nice little genre, even though I feel it has run its course.
With all of that said, let’s take a look at 1992 in all of its glory with my countdown.
50. Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
49. Body Count – Body Count
48. Blind Melon – Blind Melon
47. Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
46. Bruce Springsteen – Lucky Town
45. Ministry – Psalm 69
44. Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
43. They Might Be Giants – Apollo 18
42. 4 Non Blondes – Bigger, Better, Faster, More!
41. TLC – Ooh…on the TLC Tip
40. L7 – Bricks Are Heavy
39. White Zombie – La Sexorcisto!
38. Suzanne Vega – 99.9°F
37. Morrissey – Your Arsenal
36. k.d. lang – Ingenue
35. PJ Harvey – Dry
34. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Henry’s Dream
33. Ice Cube – The Predator
32. The Tragically Hip – Fully Completely
31. The Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
30. Phish – A Picture of Nectar
29. Various Artists – The Bodyguard [The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
28. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes
27. Bruce Springsteen – Human Touch
26. Sonic Youth – Dirty
25. Madonna – Erotica
24. Mary J. Blige – What’s the 411?
23. Annie Lennox – Diva
22. Faith No More – Angel Dust
21. Los Lobos – Kiko
20. Arrested Development – 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of…
19. Sade – Love Deluxe
18. Stone Temple Pilots – Core
17. Peter Gabriel – Us
16. The Cure – Wish
15. XTC – Nonsuch
14. Alice in Chains – Dirt
13. The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall
12. Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
11. En Vogue – Funky Divas
10. The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray
9. Neil Young – Harvest Moon
8. Prince & the New Power Generation – (Love Symbol)
7. Various Artists – Singles [The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
6. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
5. Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience
4. Sugar – Copper Blue
3. Paul Weller – Paul Weller
2. Dr. Dre – The Chronic
1. R.E.M. – Automatic for the People