My husband and I share a bond around our taste in music. It amused me to no end that after getting my number at Bar Sinister, he STILL had to check my MySpace profile to be sure that I had what he calls “decent taste” in music before he asked me on a date. I hear that there are couples out there who do not share the same taste in music, but we are not one of them. Instead, sharing our love of the genre loosely referred to as “alternative” is a huge part of our relationship. I copy his playlists, laced as they are with Cut Copy and Grimes. He listens to the same goth podcasts I do. My taste goes a little further into synthpop (Depeche Mode), his goes further into indie rock (the Pixies) but it’s a wide range of overlap.
So when I read that the 1992 VMAs were up on YouTube, I wanted to watch them with Paul. He initially questioned why I would want to spend two hours watching a twenty-four year old award ceremony, until he remembered that was the performance where Kris Novoselic from Nirvana clocked himself on the head with his own bass. Then he was in. Not only do Paul and I share a love of Nirvana, but we also share a love of mocking things!
This has kicked off a two night mini-marathon of mocking the 90s by watching the 1992 and 1993 VMAs. Do not get me wrong: Paul and I love the 90s. Despite it being a decade that gave us Stone Temple Pilots, it also produced a lot of earnestly emotional artists like Tori Amos. Paul and I both came of age in the 90s and can happily yap about music from that era for hours. It’s just so strange watching a pop culture event from that era, a perfect time capsule, a moment captured forever.
Media from the 90s also has a weird quality of being from a parallel dimension. There was no Internet and no texting. People still had to dial a 1-900 to vote for a video! The culture and mores are so close to our own, but the underlying access to instant information and communication is missing. It’s like an alternate reality with no Internet or cell phones. It’s so strange to see that and realize that the access to instant written messages would take place so quickly that culture wouldn’t even have a chance to dramatically change before it became ubiquitous.
And somewhat ironically, the Internet’s inexhaustible trove of information is what makes these things fun. As each celebrity showed up on stage, we immediately started discussing why they were there. How would we know why Christian Slater was hosting the 1993 VMAs unless we could use IMDB to verify that True Romance had just come out? (OK, also, he said it about a minute after we looked it up)
PAUL: Why was Lyle Lovett a thing?
ME: Didn’t he marry somebody famous?
PAUL: Cindy Crawford?
ME: No. Someone else leggy.
PAUL: (wikipedia entry) Julia Roberts!
Now, we have to Wikipedia everything about the MTV VMAs because we genuinely do not care about any of the music being “honored”. But 1993 had REM! We know all the facts we need to know about REM by heart:
PAUL: What REM album came out that year? Monster?
ME: No, Automatic. Monster was 1994. It was the soundtrack to my senior year of high school (Ironically, Out of Time is the soundtrack to my college senior year in 2003)
Also, we have both agreed that Soul Asylum, in hindsight, were an OK rock band, but wow, was their big hit whiny:
ME: Look how earnest Dave Pirner is with his white boy dreads!
PAUL: Wow, impressive you still remember the name of the lead singer of Soul Asylum
ME: I also know that the lead singer of Counting Crows is Adam Duritz
PAUL: Nope. Not as impressive.
Other things we agree on:
- Vs was Pearl Jam’s best work because they were still angst ridden. Whereas now they are just a bunch of hippies.
- Similarly, In Utero is astonishingly better listening to it in our 30s than it was when we were teenagers who didn’t quite fully appreciate it
- Paul knows more Tori Amos than I gave him credit for, but I still know all the lyrics to Under the Pink (He listened to more Liz Phair instead)
Things we do not agree on:
- Sunny Day Real Estate. I loved their first album. Paul seems to think they are the source of all things emo and makes a face every time I point out that I had this album cover poster:
- I admitted to knowing all the words to Counting Crows’ August & Everything After and got a look of WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY GOTH WIFE
- Hair rock bands. I suspect Paul still has a soft spot for the Def Leppards of the world; I literally cannot name one of their songs.
It still makes for an entertaining discussion, being able to converse with my husband about this kind of shared pop culture background. The last few years before the Internet gave us a less diverse view of the world, one that was clunkier, but less splintered, than the access to popular culture we have now. In 1992, if you wanted to hear alt-rock, you picked up the college radio ‘zines and SPIN magazine and learned the bands names’ without hearing them. Post-internet, post-iTunes, everything is singles, everything is one song only, and it’s easy to find single after single in one sub-sub-genre of music.
We will be the last generation to remember a world without the Internet. We may as well get the chance to mock the culture as it was on the cusp of that change.