I have a confession to make: I’m a reluctant hipster. I like to be the first to know about the latest craze just so I can dabble in it for a sec, declare myself an expert on it, and then scorn it. It’s fun to alienate people by convincing them that you were a fan of the Spice Girls when they were on an indie label.
(Truth: they never were, and I am extremely full of it. I just liked the fact that they were Bri-ish and said “massive” all the time.)
There is nothing better for a hipster than a group of like-minded outsiders who they can flaunt their supposed individuality with, and that’s why I embraced alternative music when I was in middle and high school. During math class in the seventh grade, the teacher was instructing us on statistics. Our assignment was to create polls that our classmates could answer, and then make a graph that reflected the results. My highly imaginative poll asked, “What’s your favorite kind of music?,” and the overwhelming majority of the class answered “alternative.” Our pre-teen uniformity was decidedly…eclectic?
I loved alternative music. The best was that there was an entire radio station in Memphis devoted solely to playing it. 96X was edgy and cool, and it dubbed itself “The Modern Rock Alternative.” I was willing to overlook the fact that it played The Wallflowers because it also played Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder’s growl cancelled out the cheap K-Mart hair extension version of Bob Dylan. (A billion bonus points if you get the reference.)
My very very very favorite alternative group was The Smashing Pumpkins. YOU GUYS. Billy Corgan was so alternative and screechy and awkward and perfect. I lurved him and his posse of outsiders, which included James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, and D’Arcy. I have started countless posts where I’ve tried to describe what they meant to me back then, and each time I’ve abandoned the post because it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the hugeness of a teenage band-crush in 500-700 words.
Seattle served up a heaping pile of alternative goodness, too. I really liked Soundgarden and once wrote a letter telling Seventeen magazine that Soundgarden’s lead singer Chris Cornell should do a duet Gwen Stefani*. B and I were in the car a few weeks ago taking Wee Cee to the park and Pearl Jam’s “Dissident” came on. We ended up talking about the epicness of Pearl Jam nonstop for the rest of the ride, throughout the duration of the walk, and then until we got home. I think the baby was there the whole time, but I can’t be sure.
*Related: I also once thought that watermelon and pot roast would go really well together, and I asked my accountant if he could make that happen for me.
There were lots of other bands and singers who filled out the 96X playlist. I liked Porno For Pyros, Jane’s Addiction, and Red Hot Chili Peppers a lot, but honestly could not tell them apart really at all. All I saw was a bunch of possibly gay shirtless guys jumping around to a beat. Also, Stone Temple Pilots? They were a group that I am now kind of embarrassed to admit I liked as much as I did. The best thing about them was this poster I had of them where they were all holding their detached heads in their hands. I can’t find a picture of it on Google, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it that it existed.
Did you like alternative music in the ’90’s?
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