As history seems to dictate, things in life seem to be cyclical. Clothes come back into fashion, classic movies always get remade, and musical styles and genres fall in and out of popularity every few decades. This is certainly true when discussing the generation of bands that rose to fame in 1991 and throughout the rest of the decade.
This blog's main focus will be from 1991-1997 or so but you cannot tell the story of those bands and that music without first discussing when and why many of those bands formed in the first place. The explosion may have occurred in 1991 but the fuse was lit nearly ten years earlier.
Diving into a topic like this is more of a history lesson than it is a discussion solely about music. Most people reading this certainly know the bands that became world famous by 1991 but I'm willing to bet some people don't realize that many of the musicians in those bands started their careers in the early 1980s and in some cases, the bands as we know them from 1991 also started almost a decade or more before they exploded. A few examples would be Soundgarden who formed in 1984, Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1983, Beastie Boys in 1981, Green River (whose members were made up of musicians who would eventually form Mudhoney and Pearl Jam) in 1984, and so on.
You can't tell the story of 1991 or the bands we all know from that era without first talking about the bands that influenced the scene. While it's true that some classic rock and punk bands (think Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Ramones, and The Clash) did influence what would become Alternative and Grunge, there was a fervent underground of bands from the 80s who deserve credit for even making a year like 1991 and a decade like the 90s possible.
Bands like The Stone Roses (1983), Pixies (1986), Jane's Addiction (1985), Fugazi (1986), R.E.M. (1980), Husker Du (1979), The Replacements (1979), and others laid the foundation for what was to come. It's not a stretch to say that without these bands, we would not have had the game changing decade that the 90s became. No further proof is needed than the adulation heaped onto the Pixies by Kurt Cobain of Nirvana:
"We’d been practicing for about three months. We were waiting to sign to DGC, and Dave [Grohl] and I were living in Olympia [Wash.], and Krist [Novoselic] was living in Tacoma [Wash.]. We were driving up to Tacoma every night for practice, trying to write songs. I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it [smiles]. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band — or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard." - Rolling Stone/January 27th, 1994
That quote was Kurt discussing the writing of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the obvious influence the Pixies had on him. Like I said earlier, there wouldn't be a 90s explosion without the bands that came before. If "Smells Like Teen Spirit" had never been written, the 90s could have been more Warrant, Winger, and Poison. Thank you Pixies, thank you!
Generation Riff will continue to highlight the bands from the golden age of Alternative music in the 90s but we must pay homage to, review albums from, and keep alive the contributions from the bands that made it all possible as well.