Liner Notes

The Year That Was: 1990

by Benjamin Ray

1990 was one of those transition years, the period where ‘80s pop and hair rock was coming to an end, alternative/grunge bands were releasing debuts and getting major-label notice, and hip-hop was continuing to be taken seriously as an art form and a political statement. There weren't a lot of stone cold classic albums from this year, but there was some pretty good stuff worth revisiting.

Seattle-area bands were taking over hearts and airwaves; this was the year Alice In Chains hit the scene with Facelift and "Man In The Box," which had more heart and guts than any hair metal song of the previous five years. Soundgarden released Louder Than Love and Queensryche offered the excellent Empire ("Silent Lucidity," "Jet City Woman"). A band called Mother Love Bone was poised to hit big with Apple, but lead singer Andrew Wood died before the album's release; the remaining members united with Soundgarden to record the tribute album Temple Of The Dog. (They would, of course, reach out to Eddie Vedder later, the final piece of what would become Pearl Jam).

Rock not of the Seattle variety included the Scorpions' Crazy World ("Wind Of Change"), Megadeth's Rust in Peace and Living Colour's Time's Up. Other highlights included Jane's Addiction's second album, Ritual De Lo Habitual, the Stone Roses' fine single "One Love," the Black Crowes' Shake Your Money Maker ("Hard to Handle") and INXS' X ("Suicide Blonde").


In It's Still 1985, Right? rock, listeners endured Billy Idol's "Cradle Of Love," the Damn Yankees' "High Enough," Poison's Flesh & Blood, Nelson's "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," Bon Jovi's solo "Blaze Of Glory," Warrant's "Cherry Pie" and Extreme's Pornograffiti (which made a hit out of the ballad "More Than Words," pissing the band off to no end.

The non-Seattle alternative scene offered up some gems, including Sonic Youth's major label debut Goo, Fugazi's Repeater, Superchunk, Pantera's Cowboys From Hell and The La's. Alt-rock with a sense of humor, however warped, manifested in They Might Be Giants' major label debut, Flood, Ween's Godweensatan – The Oneness and Frizzle Fry, the debut from Primus. While not alternative, Depeche Mode also turned in one of the best albums of the year, the dark electro pop Violator.

In pop, Madonna hit with both "Vogue" and the Immaculate Collection, a hot seller that combined all her hits to date and closed the chapter on the first part of her career. A handful of one-hit pop wonders skewed toward the dance floor, such as "The Power" (Snap!), "Gonna Make You Sweat" (C+C Music Factory), "Poison" (Bell Biv Devoe), "The Humpty Dance" (Digital Underground) and "Groove Is In the Heart" (Deee-Lite), while Sinead O' Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love," Stevie B's "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)," Go West's "King of Wishful Thinking," Wilson Phillips' "Hold On," Paul Young's "Oh Girl" and New Kids On The Block's "Step By Step" all got airplay. Perhaps the biggest pop debut came from Mariah Carey and "Vision Of Love," an emulation of her idol Whitney Houston (who also had a hit with "I'm Your Baby Tonight").


The best classic rock album of the year was Neil Young's Ragged Glory, a return to his Crazy Horse days that directly inspired the grunge movement. AC/DC had a hit with The Razor's Edge and both "Thunderstruck" and "Moneytalks," while Roger Waters assembled an all-star cast in Berlin to re-enact The Wall. The ensuing soundtrack disc is good, though not much different from the original 1979 studio release.

In hip-hop, two vastly different approaches marked the year. One side saw mainstream hits like "Ice Ice Baby," "Just A Friend" and "U Can't Touch This," while the other side saw Ice Cube's debut AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, Run-DMC's Back From Hell, 2 Live Crew's political Banned In The U.S.A. and LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out.

And that, friends, was the Year That Was in music.

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