Musically, I came of age in the early to mid-90s. I had a radio in my room and listened to Q104.3 in New York almost non-stop. At the time, it was a modern/alternative rock station. A few years later, Q104.3 went classic rock, and 92.3, which was classic rock, went modern/alternative. The number on the dial didn't matter to me; all that mattered was the music.
The mid-90s, for me, is the best time in my life for music, or really 1991-1997.
Also around that time, 30 years ago this month, I turned 12 years old, and for my birthday, my parents gave me my first CD player.
This accelerated my obsession with collecting music — anything I could get my hands on. If I had an extra $20 somehow, it went towards a CD. All I wanted for gifts were CDs or gift certificates to music stores.
At this point in my life, having my own CD player was like a 16-year-old getting keys to their first car.
I had that CD player in my bedroom, on a shelf right over my headboard. The stereo speakers fed right into my ears, and I would drown in the cacophony of modern alternative radio and my small but growing CD collection.
By the time I graduated high school and in the few years after, I had close to 400 CDs in my collection. Today, my vinyl collection now dwarfs that number.
In 2023, my CD collection is gone, radio is terrible, and vinyl is not portable at all; I consume a lot of music via streaming now.
But for me, nothing can ever compare to alternative rock radio in my early teen years. Maybe it's nostalgia, and radio wasn't that great back then. I mean, every song couldn't have been a winner, right?
But there was definitely a Murderer's Row of bands back then. You had the titans of grunge and alternative — Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains. But there were so many great bands... Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows, Gin Blossoms, Sublime, Collective Soul, Better Than Ezra - and on top of that, so many one-hit wonders.
We now live in a world of streaming music where literally every song you'd ever want to listen to is readily available as long as you have a data connection. If you don't like a song that's playing, you can skip to the next song — any song — with one tap.
But the thrill of alternative rock radio in my early teen years will be a high I will forever chase. Nothing can replace the anticipation of what song would be coming on next. It's kind of a weird mental thing that's still with me today. I'll have a playlist on shuffle, and after a minute of the current song, I get so hyped up about what's next that I just have to skip to the next track and ride that excitement of what comes up. It drives my wife insane.
Back then, there weren't many songs on those stations that I didn't like, but I didn't have any alternatives, so I'd have to listen to the songs when they would inevitably come up.
I don't know for sure why the music of this era pulled me in so hard and has never let me go. I can't even remember what the first song was that hooked me. I have vivid memories of Nirvana's Nevermind album and Pearl Jam's Jeremy video early on, and those two bands were probably the gateway for me - and likely millions of others just like me - into this new emerging world of music that was coming to life as I was. My own personal Musical Big Bang.
Over the years, my tastes have evolved and changed. Some of those bands back then that I liked, I now loathe (Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers), some that I liked but didn't appreciate as I do now (Counting Crows), and then there was the music that I didn't listen to, but should have (punk). But back then, almost every song on alternative rock radio was a gift — and the anticipation of what the next song would be was a huge rush that I am still chasing 30 years later as I continue to expand my musical exploration.
This month’s playlist features Chase Petra, Sorry Mom, Nataly Dawn, Joyce Manor, Cat Power, Clara Joy, and more!
Listen to this month’s playlist on
Quick Listening and Other Links
We sadly lost Sinead O’Conner earlier this month. She took a stand against the Pope and Church in defense of kids 30 some-odd years ago and paid for it dearly. She was 1,000% correct and didn’t deserve what came her way.
I’m seeing Less Than Jake this week, so in honor of that, I hope you’re ready for some ska content…
Some SKAtent. 🎺🎸🎷🥁
The Hard Times ranked 50 Ska songs by how good they go with eating mozzarella sticks. This list contains a ton of bangers if you are cool and like ska.
The Hard Times also renamed some ska bands with puns. These are way better.
Sticking with ska, here are some youths reacting to ska music:
The kids, as they say, are alright.