Volume I - 1991
An exclusive Generation Riff look at a song you know, possibly love, but may have forgotten about
Welcome to Remember This Song?, a new series from Generation Riff. The idea is simple. We take a look at songs from a specific year that were memorable, had cultural significance, radio and/or MTV play, but almost as quickly as you heard them, they were gone.
I chose 1991 as the starting point for this series because it mirrors the idea of the blog itself in terms of recognizing '91 as the musical and cultural dawning of a new revolution. We know there's much more to it than that, so we will feature plenty of years before and after 1991 to better explain where all of this music came from and what it led to.
Let's get on with it. shall we?
"Rush" - Big Audio Dynamite II
Anyone reading this certainly knows The Clash. Often referred to as "The only band that matters", The Clash has a permanent place as one of the best and most important bands in the history of music. Founding member, co-songwriter, and lead guitarist, Mick Jones is still active in music today. In 1991, his post-Clash band, Big Audio Dynamite II (aka T.R.A.C., Big Audio Dynamite, and Big Audio) released the album, The Globe, featuring the hit single, "Rush".
It's not easy to come from a band with such an impact and legacy as The Clash had and be able to duplicate anything resembling that success. For a moment in time, in 1991, Big Audio Dynamite did just that with "Rush" off of their fifth studio album, The Globe. The song was a number-one hit on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks, becoming the chart's most successful hit that year, it also topped the Australian and New Zealand singles charts.
"Rush" is interesting, especially for the time it was released. 1991 had many sounds, feels, and genres associated with it. It was before the digital age and experimentation was a widely accepted practice. One such example of that experimentation was sampling. Still, a relatively new addition to songwriting, sampling (lifting parts of other artists' songs and placing them in your own) was a popular approach to trying to create new sounds. It was mainly a tool for rap and hip-hop, but many genres took their turns utilizing the technique.
Mick Jones was always a fan of dance and electronic music going back to his time in The Clash and he wasted no time implementing these sounds in all the incarnations of Big Audio Dynamite. "Rush" was clearly his most popular example of this.
The track begins with Mick Jones, sans music, saying "If I had my time again" followed immediately by a dance groove and a light and simple guitar riff. It's easy to listen to and instantly catchy. Slowly but surely, the song takes many twists and turns. The main groove and melody usually stay intact, but the addition and subtraction of certain samples and instruments define the rest of the song.
At one point, halfway through the track, it morphs into a completely different song. After a few verses and choruses, just when you're sold on the song, it breaks down into a slower, lounge-type tune with spoken vocals, (not by Jones), then without warning, hurls itself back into the track it started as. It was unique for its time and still sounds interesting.
Along the way, you hear very well-known pieces of music used as samples such as The Who's "Baba O'Riley", "Child in Time" by Deep Purple, a line from The Sugarhill Gang's, "Rapper's Delight", and more. It's the dance-rock version of what the Beastie Boys were doing a few years earlier on Paul's Boutique, but using fewer samples of course.
It's an infectious song and in some ways, it feels like what The Clash could've been doing had they still been together. "Rush" is a feel-good, long-lost gem of a song that should be revisited now and again.