Throughout my tenure as VP of Content at CREEM, so many people have complained to me about how “there’s too much music nowadays” and “it’s too easy to release your record,” which might be the most insanely stupid shit I’ve ever heard. I chalk it up to “I don’t have time to actually look” or “I’m fucking lazy” more than anything.

The ’90s were a different time for music, and good riddance. Never forget that it was the era when Van Halen became Van Hagar, the “Thong Song” was an actual thing that existed, and Aerosmith officially became a steaming pile. But nostalgia makes it easy to forget that for every Soundgarden or Oasis or Massive Attack there were four or five instances of the Baha Men or Right Said Fred or some other indignity. They’d be shoved down your throat with all the grace of a Guantanamo facewash, repeatedly and without mercy, over and over, until finally, drooling with blood and sporting two black eyes, you’d look up at Casey Kasem/Rick Dees and gurgle out, “Jesus, fuck, I relent. You win, you are the master.” And to be perfectly clear, even if you were staunchly into outer genres like hardcore, indie, and underground rap like I was, you still knew everything about the Top 40 because it was everywhere, and it was constantly, mercilessly beat into you.

On top of that, if you wanted to hear something new, you had to earn it. You couldn’t just listen to a record to decide if you wanted to buy it unless you lived near a Blockbuster Music [retch], where they’d open the CD for you and then try to sell it to you for $19. Not to mention most independent labels were just beginning their glow-up, which kept much of that music out of the hands of the general public, unless you lived near a major city or had established a connection with a distro. The deeper dives weren’t available at just any given record store. So the result was trial and error, and when you’re young and learning about the world of music, most of the time that shit was a big fat error. I can’t tell you how many lunches I skipped to buy records without having heard them already and ended up with pieces of shit like Kill Uncle.

Forget about listening; how did you even hear about new records, even if there were fewer records in existence? Obviously through friends is one way; but although reliable, that wasn’t 100 percent. So you had magazines, and zines like MRR. And then there was the dreaded record clerk who, although my experiences were much different, seemed to be immortalized by Jack Black in High Fidelity. You had band shirts and mentions in the liner notes, but that was pretty much it. It was waaay harder to find what you liked, and a lot of times you’d buy a record to give it a shot based on one of those methods and end up listening to it even though you hated it, simply because you ponied up the cash for it.

Even the so-called “hits” were hard to think of as true successes because they were basically force-fed to the starving masses. I remember living in the South when the Hootie & the Blowfish megahit “Hold My Hand” was everywhere, and as much as I wanted to place my head under the tire of a moving SUV to avoid another irritating mumble vocal (death to Eddie Vedder soundalikes including Scott Weiland who I wish a happy resurrection and subsequent re-death), you just plain couldn’t. There weren’t that many songs in the zeitgeist, and the sheepish masses had somehow determined that THAT SONG was cool (fuck you very much). So I just bitched about it, everywhere and to everyone, at all times. Thankfully, I made friends because of it. On second thought, shout-out to Hootie—and, for that matter, Blues Traveler and Rusted Root, too!

The point is that with all this music everywhere these days, songs aren’t quite as omnipresent as they used to be. People can choose to live in their own musical bubble based on what they like and search for stuff within those realms. Granted, there is something to be said for the algorithm taking your taste and spitting it back out at you. You aren’t hearing Rob Thomas bleating, “I want to push you around,” over and over unless you’re shopping for shampoo or it’s sung by a chorus of Kens around a campfire in Barbieland.

But don’t think for a second that I won’t look back fondly on the old days with a sense of humor until I’m 10 toes up and six feet down. In fact, I’ve prepared what I like to call The Final Insult for my last moments aboveground—a game plan for my funeral, if you will. After I’ve been wheeled down the aisle and my casket is lying in the middle of the church with all my mourners in a single room, someone will lock the fucking door, wheel out a sound system big enough to make the Dead’s Wall of Sound look like a Bluetooth speaker, and blast all of Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching” or Rusted Root’s “Send Me on My Way” or Blues Traveler’s “Hook” or anything by Frank Zappa or Jimmy Buffet at deafening volume. Just one last song, but one I won’t have to suffer through. Ever again.

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Fall 2023 issue. Explore the full mag in our archive, buy a copy here, and subscribe for more.




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