Mazzy Star – “Fade Into You”

When: Evening, April 1994
Where: My mom’s ’88 Corolla
Who: My mom
Weather: Clear

In the ’80s, “pop music” stopped meaning “popular” and started meaning “if we call it disco, people won’t like it.”

The meaning of “Alternative” similarly decayed in the early ’90s. Alternative music first began in the late ’60s with Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground, but it didn’t fully come together until punk rock.

“Alternative” lost its meaning the moment Nirvana released Nevermind. This is the month Kurt Cobain died, and when Weezer came out to take their place, they were similarly “alternative.” Calling an entire genre topping the charts “Alternative” is kind of unfair to actual alternative music like Shoegaze, which had spent the last six years cutting a plethora of records.

In America at least, shoegaze peaked with this #44 single, Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You. With downloading and payola and Clear Channel, it’s impossible to know what is actually popular. We’re told “Pop” is popular even though everyone outside of Jersey seems to hate it. And “Alternative” was popular, but it isn’t called popular. The alternative to the alternative is Indie, which is equally meaningless and likely more popular than the rest of the bunch; it just isn’t included because it’s bought by people who know how to use a computer. From now on, let’s call things as they are.

Next: Disney goes into the VHS market, takes over the world.

“Hakuna Matata”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t stomach listening to Hakuna Matata again.

When: June 1994
Where: Pacific Theaters Hastings Ranch (closed)
Who: My mother and grandma
Weather: Sunny

In 1994, my whole life got an upgrade. My Dad got a new car, and my mom got the old one. Before that, she had a wonderfully unsafe WV van without a radio. We got a deck, a patio, and a new backdoor, and I got a real bedroom. What was my bedroom was now the TV room, with a wall of 8-foot tall bookshelves from IKEA. And in the center? A brand new 24″ Zenith with, wonder of wonders, a Magnavox VCR!

The speed with which I accrued tapes was amazing. My neighbors were closer than most of my family and gave me tons of their kids’ old stuff. But that spring, a juggernaut struck: Disney.

The first movie I remember watching was Beauty and the Beast. Not the worst place to start, if a little dark, but children need to be terrified; it’s good for the brain. Watching the previews got me onto a new movie, Aladdin, and an old one, Pinocchio. Among the trailers for those videos? The Lion King, the first movie I ever saw in theaters, much to my parents’ credit, who would never take a screaming baby to Last of the Mohicans. People today should stop trying to pull that bullshit.

Whatever positive experience the movies had on me must have been tough on my parents. No more KROQ on the old stereo. For what felt like the longest time but was only about a year, it was kiddie music only. “Hakuna Matata” remains as a legacy to that mind-expanding time.

Big Mountain – “Baby I Love Your Way”

When: February 1994
Where: My mother’s ’88 Corolla (previously owned by my father)
Who: My mother
Weather: Unknown

This was the first version of this song I ever knew. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the original Peter Frampton version. As far as I am concerned, it’s meant to be a Reggae song. Bill Nye the Science Guy agreed with me when the show’s producers created a parody version of this version of the song, “Energy Comes in Waves.” And when I play this version for people, they like it better. And yet it was only created for the movie Reality Bites, as a nostalgia piece for an entire generation that was, for the most part, in their twenties.

I can’t imagine what my generation would use in its place. No product of the 2000s has the same level of popularity, crossover appeal, and positivity that that song did. But if we had such a thing, if we covered it, would four-year-olds get something completely different out of it?

Next: Hope Sandoval becomes the first of many to keep me out of latency.

John Cullum – “This Land is Your Land”


This Land is your land, this land is my land
From California…to Vancouver Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Blue Jays Stadium
This Land was made for you and me

When: After 10 PM, 28 February 1994
Where: The TV Room
Who: My mother
Weather: Unknown

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, Holling Vincour’s rendition of the Woody Guthrie song on Northern Exposure was my first introduction to Canada. I was able to comprehend that something was wrong with the song, but I’m fine with it now. I’m just glad I didn’t get Shelly’s singing stuck in my memory.

Next: Frampton Comes Alive, but only through someone else’s voice.

Fleetwood Mac – “Never Going Back Again”

When: January 1994
Where: My bed (in what would soon become our den)
Who: No one
Weather: Unknown

This was the last time I was in a junior bed. I was four, and the whole nursery was about to be refitted with a backdoor to become our den. This, along with a new patio and deck, were a drastic change and sure to upset the spirit that haunted our house. It wasn’t long before I moved into the TV room, and the TV moved into my room, and something floated over me while the opening horns of Masterpiece Theatre blared in the distance. I can’t say it was a ghost, but this song popped into my head.

As white people, it was required by law for my parents to have Rumours on both vinyl and tape, and I was overcome with terror every time they played this light melody. Today, as I have developed the habit of exploiting my childhood fears, it brings me a great deal of satisfaction to have it on my list.

Next: This land is our land, this land is their land.