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Any Major ABC: 1990s

In every decade there seems to be a cultural revival of eras that are 15-30 years in the past. I suppose these revivals are the natural consequence of people who grew up 15-30 years ago becoming the cultural decision-makers of the day, resuscitating their happy days of growing up, of being teenagers, of being consumers of music, movies and TV. And if those days weren’t always happy, these people always had music, TV and film to comfort them. So the culture of past generations is revived by middle-age decision-makers and consumed by both their peers and by young people, together and apart.

That generational nostalgia cycle really took hold in the 1970s, when the 1950s revival started with movies like American Graffiti and The Last Picture Show, and bands like Sha Na Na, and then TV shows like Happy Days (a title that signposts that nostalgia I mentioned above) and revival groups like Showaddywaddy in the UK. The death of Elvis gave it further momentum, and it culminated with the musical and movie Grease. Even in the mid-1980s the ’50s revival still had currency, with the Back To The Future film presenting a particular version of 1955.

By then, the 1960s revival was in full swing. In Britain, Mods were already in a Battle of Revivals with Teddy Boys in the late 1970s. Then the murder of John Lennon in 1980 drove ’60s nostalgia into overdrive, bringing us Dirty Dancing and, in the UK, Levi jeans commercials soundtracked by soul hits of that era. And in the 1990s and 2000s, nostalgia for the 1970s even brought bell bottoms back into fashion, their death certificates from the ’80s having been declared briefly invalid.

Now we are in the midst of a 1990s revival, which is unnerving for those of us who are still coming to terms with the advent of the third millennium AD. But suddenly 1990s sitcoms have become all the rage, and the Spice Girls have been artistically rehabilitated by many! Has Garth Brooks started touring again, flying above the cheering crowds?

The 15-30 year revival cycle suggests that the nostalgia for the 2000s should be in full swing now, which means baggy T-shirts must be in soon (or they already are; what would I know?). But the 2000s never really went away, and that is probably the key to nostalgia and the revivals it generates: the eras must have died before they can be revived.

The 1990s is in the grey area of nostalgism: some of it never went away, and yet some of it seems like a different country now.

This mix of music — one act representing each letter of the alphabet — will, I hope, make the 1990s present as an interesting decade. It’s a decade that had its own culture — grunge or Brit pop, for example — but also served as a bridge between a segmented past and the blur of slowly shifting culture in an age when the spirit of the past couple of decades is ever-present, through the Internet and Netflix.

Politically, it was the last summer of relative peace, before 9/11 and the devastation of personal rights that followed that event. It was still a decade of hope, with the fall of the Eastern Bloc, Germany reuniting, South Africa’s peaceful transition from apartheid, the appearance of economic stability (the price for which we paid after 2008, with the lie of austerity), and the optimism that the new-fangled World Wide Web would be a force only for good.

The writing was already on the wall, of course. In the US, there was rise of Republican obstructionism and ultra-partisanship in the 1994 midterms — which came to full bloom in the Tea Party and the social dystopia of Trumpism. The Columbine massacre in 1999 proved to be not an aberration but the starting salvo for a culture of mass shootings so frequent that they have lost the power to truly shock. And in South Africa, the liberators turned out to be just as corrupt as their racist predecessors. But it is not an act of nostalgia to observe the 1990s were better than the two awful decades that followed them.

But back to the music… These ABC mixes are a bit like nostalgia radio stations, though here the playlist compiler has better taste than many of those who decide which old song should play twice a day on the radio. Your kids (or gandchildren) might be pleased to hear something from the 1990s that’s not Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston or “What if God was one of us”.

The mix couldn’t be timed to fit on a CD-R, but I made home-shellsuited covers anyway, in case these come in handy. The text above is included as an illustrated PDF booklet.

1. Arrested Development – People Everyday (1992)
2. Barenaked Ladies – Brian Wilson (live) (1996)
3. Crowded House – Distant Sun (1993)
4. Duran Duran – Ordinary World (1993)
5. En Vogue – My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) (1992)
6. Fastball – Out Of My Head (1998)
7. George Michael – Spinning The Wheel (1996)
8. Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sitta (1997)
9. Indigo Girls – Galileo (1992)
10. James – Laid (1993)
11. Khadja Nin – Wale Watu (1996)
12. Lemonheads – It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)
13. Mango Groove – Hometalk (1990)
14. Nick Heyward – The Man You Used To Be (1998)
15. Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger (1995)
16. Primal Scream – Rocks (1994)
17. Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y. (1993)
18. R.E.M. – Man On The Moon (1992)
19. Shawn Mullins – Lullaby (1998)
20. Tasmin Archer – Sleeping Satellite (1992)
21. US3 – Cantaloop (1992)
22. Verve – Lucky Man (1997)
23. Weezer – Falling For You (1996)
24. Xzibit – Paparazzi (1996)
25. Youssou N’Dour feat. Neneh Cherry – 7 Seconds (1994)
26. Zhané – Groove Thang (1994)



Any Major ABC of the 1950s
Any Major ABC of the 1960s
Any Major ABC of the 1970s
Any Major ABC of the 2000s
Any Major ABC of Soul
Any Major ABC of Canada
Any Major ABC of South Africa
Any Major ABC of Country
Any Major ABC of Christmas

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  1. amdwhah
    April 1st, 2021 at 16:06 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. April 1st, 2021 at 22:53 | #2

    Good list, although I would have picked anything from R.E.M. besides “Man on the Moon.” It may be my least favorite song of theirs.

    If you can find it, check out Jeff’s Last Dance Vol. 1 and 2 by Shawn Mullins and Matthew Kahler. A stunning live show.

  3. Berni
    April 4th, 2021 at 03:49 | #3

    Thanks! I’ve been on a 90s kick lately so this was timely.

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