The Year in Music: And the Concert That Changed Me Forever
Updated: May 8, 2021
#PearlJam #GunsNRoses #Metallica
#Nirvana #RedHotChiliPeppers #Soundgarden
Happy Mother's Day Weekend everyone!
Since I have dealt with some pretty heavy topics in the prior weeks on the Social Musings blog, I thought I would share a more light-hearted story this week, somewhat inspired by my Mom, who took me to many concerts as a kid, including Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Guns N' Roses/Metallica.
If you haven't read the past two weeks, please see my interview on equality with Susan B. Anthony here: https://www.socialmusingsbyaustin.com/post/my-interview-with-susan-b-anthony-and-a-confession-from-the-author
and my thoughts on why we are all living in a liminal space currently here:
It was the end of the summer of 1991.
I returned home from camp during the midsummer and was appreciating those last few, stifling August summer days in Texas before the dreaded and inevitable first day of school.
Even with the trepidation of the prospect of another school year (7th grade), I knew in my heart that something special was afoot. The radio waves had a brand new sound, and I was enthralled.
On August 12, 1991, Metallica released its legendary Black album which ended up being the 8th highest-grossing album of the entire ‘90s decade and sold over 20mm copies worldwide. One was unable to turn the television to MTV without seeing the famous “Enter Sandman” video.
Not to be outdone, Pearl Jam released their first album, Ten, on August 27, 1991, which ultimately sold 13mm copies in the US and countless more worldwide. The first music video released, “Evenflow”, showed Eddie Vedder literally climbing on the scaffolding around the stage then leaping into the moshpit.
This was only just the beginning of what felt to me like a new epoch in the world.
Four short weeks later, and with great anticipation, Guns N’ Roses released Use Your Illusion I and II, which collectively sold over 35mm albums worldwide.
Then, and significantly - as if the ultimate cherry on top, on September 24, 1991, The Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which ultimately sold almost 14.5mm records worldwide and Nirvana released Nevermind, which ultimately sold 30mm copies worldwide. Almost forgotten and released on the very same day was Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, which sold 2mm copies in the first five years of its release.
This was mind-blowing. Literally two of the most influential albums of the decade were released on the same very day and within a month of Pearl Jam, Guns N' Roses and Metallica’s releases. MTV was blowing up both the original and Unplugged versions of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Give it Away”, “Jeremy” and “Under the Bridge”, including on my favorite late night program MTV’s Headbangers Ball, which I would watch after Saturday Night Live and American Gladiator at times well past my bedtime on Saturday nights.
Weird Tangent*: YouTube views I started thinking about whether these songs are still relevant to generations these days, and I did some research on Youtube, using views as my benchmark. Here are the Youtube views statistics of a sample of songs from the aforementioned albums - this accumulates to multiple billions of views on Youtube as of early May 2021: “November Rain”, Guns N’ Roses, 1.6 billion views**,*** “Enter Sandman”, Metallica, 466mm views “Alive”, Pearl Jam, 76mm views “Jeremy”, Pearl Jam, 125 mm views “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Nirvana, 1.2 billion views** “Come as You Are”, Nirvana, 400mm views “Give it Away”, Red Hot Chili Peppers, 76mm views. “Under the Bridge”, Red Hot Chili Peppers. 198mm views “Black Hole Sun”, Soundgarden, 183mm views “Fell on Black Days”, Soundgarden, 46mm views These are timeless tracks obviously, still being enjoyed by viewers of all ages today. * Keep Austin Weird is the motto, right? ** There is a rarefied air of music videos which have surpassed 1 billion views on Youtube - this is called the Billion View Club. Here is the list. You will never believe what is #1 (Note to self - this would be a very good trivia question) … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-viewed_YouTube_videos *** Interesting article from NPR on this… https://www.npr.org/2018/07/18/630184713/november-rain-is-the-oldest-song-with-a-billion-youtube-views-whats-that-mean WEIRD TANGENT OVER (for now).
I turned 13 years old in October. Having received a guitar for my birthday, and lessons, I became even more attuned to music than I was before (which was a lot - I used to listen to music to go to sleep on my Sony Walkman up in my bedroom).
My newly teen-aged mind was literally exploding. The Seattle scene was taking over the world, and I was loving it.
Fast forward a few months to Spring 1992. I am living in Dallas, Texas. Back in those days there was only one outdoor amphitheater in Dallas to see the biggest bands - Starplex in Fair Park - and only one way to get tickets - the now-gone-the-way-of-the-buggy-whip music retailer Blockbuster Music. Yes, Blockbuster Video had music stores and that was where the Ticketmaster outlets were. There was no internet. You had to go get tickets at the record store. I KNOW, so inefficient, right?
Well, Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction had just created Lollapalooza in 1991, and the all-important lineup for 1992 was to include future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees along with popular musicians of all varieties.
The lineup is below (in order of appearance):
The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
I begged my Mom to let me get tickets for Lollapalooza 1992. The tickets were so in demand that you had to pick up a wristband with a number on it from Blockbuster Music, and then a day before tickets went on sale, they would announce which wristband number was to be first in line to purchase tickets the following day.
You are not going to believe this - I have never won the lottery or any raffle drawing in my entire life; however, the winning wristband number was announced on the radio, and it was my number. Seriously. I kid you not. I can’t make this stuff up. I don’t even properly remember my feelings that night, but I am sure they were euphoric.
So here I am, a 13 year-old, nerdy kid who goes to an all-boys private school, is a member in an all-boys Boy Scout troop, attends an all-boys camp during the summer, and I bought THE very first two tickets sold to Lollapalooza ‘92 in Dallas.
I get the front row: row AA, seats 1 and 2. I invited a buddy of mine to go with me.
The concert date is Sunday, September 6, 1992.
The day of the festival arrives, and I am about to see my idols up close and personal. This has the potential of being one of the greatest days of my life.
Lush came on, and festival-goers were dribbling in. My friend and I sat in our front row seats, enjoying the view when we peered behind us.
Pearl Jam is set to perform second. It is probably 3pm. Eddie Vedder and the band come on stage. As the first chords of “Sonic Reducer” are played, I look behind me to remind myself to gloat at such great seats and see a sea of people (literally the entire arena it seems) stampeding the stage.
By the end of the first song, the metal seats AA1 and AA2 belonging to me are torn from their steel screws and removed by the mosh pit along with the rest of the front 2-3 rows. My friend, who wrestled with me in the 100 pound weight class at that time (so we were not big 13 year-olds), in desperation to escape the mosh pit, actually crowd surfed to the front during the set and was saved by security. I watched as they pulled him over the fence to safety in front of the stage as I was pressed to the front barriers holding on for dear life trying not to suffocate from the crush of the crowd. If you could only imagine the terrified look on his face as he passed by overhead...
Here is the Pearl Jam Setlist from Lollapalooza '92 in Dallas
Sonic Reducer (Dead Boys cover)
Baba O'Riley (The Who cover)
Anyway, it was legendary. Life-changing. I have loved music and musical performances ever since.
Even Ticketmaster’s own blog lists the 1992 Pearl Jam Lollapalooza performances as of one of their 10 best of all time:
1992: The Year Pearl Jam Broke
“It’s common for the bands at the bottom of an all-day festival bill to play for a thinner crowd. But that wasn’t the case in 1992. When Pearl Jam were initially booked to play Lollapalooza, they were still building word-of-mouth buzz one club gig at a time, and were thus scheduled into one of Lolla’s early, mid-afternoon slots. But by the time the festival hit the road in the summer of ‘92, their mega-selling debut, Ten, had made them one of the biggest bands in America, and the tour essentially served as their basic training for a future spent playing arenas and amphitheaters in perpetuity (though the opportunities to see a crazed Eddie Vedder scale a stage scaffolding became more scarce).”
Music has real, tangible benefits to one’s mental health (Happy Mental Health Awareness Month)! I don’t know why music is so powerful or therapeutic; however, it is, and the mindfulness app Headspace has done a nice series with John Legend on the scientific benefits of music. Spiritually, music's greatest power may be lifting your spirits precisely at the moment when you need it the most.
Walter Benjamin, a European thinker from over 100 years ago believed music (and language, art, etc.) was a medium for humans to not only understand but also express life's existence. Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous nihilist, even admitted that "by means of music, the very passions enjoy themselves", and this glowing statement coming from someone who famously said: "God is dead."
Four years after Lollapalooza '92, I was fortunate enough to matriculate at The University of Texas at Austin, and the first class I ever took my freshman year was History of Rock Music, which still exists in the curriculum to this day.
Music has been an important part of my life throughout the years, and I hope you all can find joy in music this weekend and in your lives overall.
Let me know your favorite or most life-changing concert by commenting below!
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Note to readers:
“The Year in Music” is a special new series on the Social Musings blog, where - upon occasion - I will explore music throughout the formative years of my life and its effects on popular culture.