'90s Songs: The 12 Best Obscure Gems & Lost Classics
The 1990s: A Defining Era of Music
Being that I was a teenager in the '90s, much of my musical tastes were shaped by that decade. For example, Nirvana was a definitive band of my youth. To me, Nirvana was a musical gateway drug. Much of the music I got into was a result of liking Nirvana first.
Just like with any decade, the '90s also produced its share of obscure gems and lost classics. Right now we are going to focus on some great '90s tunes that you may not have heard of.
This list is not in any numerical order. If you feel any songs have been excluded, feel free to include that in the comments.
Lifter Puller - Let's Get Incredible
Lifter Puller was a Minneapolis indie band which featured Craig Finn and Tad Kubler, who would go on to form The Hold Steady. Just like with The Hold Steady, Lifter Puller is known for Craig Finn's narrative lyrics. The infectiously rocking "Let's Get Incredible" is from their 1998 EP The Entertainment and Arts. Even though mainstream success eluded them, they have maintained a certain amount of cult success (especially among fans of The Hold Steady).
Let's Get Incredible by Lifter Puller (Video)
Ned's Atomic Dustbin - Kill Your Television
Ned's Atomic Dustbin did have some chart success in their native UK and they had a few US Modern Rock hits (including "Not Sleeping Around" which hit #1 on the US Modern Rock charts in 1992), but for the most part they kept a fairly low profile. "Kill Your Television" was originally released as a UK single in 1990. It would go on to be included on their 1991 full length debut God Fodder. The song is truly rocking. The band's sound was also shaped by the fact that they had two bass players.
Kill Your Television by Ned's Atomic Dustbin (Video)
Moxy Früvous - Green Eggs and Ham
Moxy Früvous was a satirical folk band, which built a fairly decent following for themselves in Canada. "Green Eggs and Ham" their hilariously satirical reworking of the Dr. Seuss's classic, was recorded for their 1992 self titled demo cassette tape (yes, I said cassette). Their 6 song demo cassette sold over 40,000 in Canada, which is pretty significant for an independently released demo tape. Be cause of that buzz it lead to them being signed to a major label. "Green Eggs and Ham" was the only song on the tape that was not included on their 1993 full length debut, Bargainville. This was due to legal issues with the Dr. Seuss estate.
Green Eggs and Ham by Moxy Früvous (Video)
Hayden - Bad As They Seem
Hayden is a Canadian indie singer-songwriter. His music was an eclectic blend of many different musical genres. One example of this is the grungy folk of his 1995 debut album, Everything I Long For. This album featured one of his trademark songs "Bad As They Seem". This song and the album definitely fitted the angst of the time period.
The original 1995 Canadian release is out of print. The international release, which was released in 1996, does have 3 fewer tracks and an alternate version of "Bad As They Seem". Also as a note, in later years, Hayden has modified the lyrics of "Bad As They Seem". Instead of "she is only sixteen" it is now "she is only twenty-three".
Bad As They Seem by Hayden (Video)
The Braids - Bohemian Rhapsody
The Braids were an obscure R&B duo that had fairly limited success in the 90s. The closet thing they had to a hit was their radical reworking of the Queen's classic "Bohemian Rhapsody" which peaked at #42 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. This song is a bit of a jury splitter, which is going to anger classic rock purist. But it does possess an irresistible groove and Lauryn Hill-esque vocals (which has caused the song to be mislabeled as a Fugees tune on some file sharing sites).
Bohemian Rhapsody by The Braids (Video)
Local H - Fritz's Corner
Local H is a Rock & Roll power duo from Chicago that formed in 1987, and they are still going strong. "Fritz's Corner" was from the band's 1996 album As Good As Dead, which was a loose concept album about how life in a dead end Midwest town was sucking the life out of it's youth. "Fritz's Corner" managed to be minor hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, and they did manage a few other modern rock hits (most notably, "Bound For The Floor" which hit #5 on the US Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1996). But for the most part they have kept a lower profile than what they deserve. In many ways they have to be considered the unsung heroes of the rock & roll tag team division.
Fritz's Corner by Local H (Video)
Victoria Williams - Crazy Mary
Victoria Williams is a singer songwriter who released her first album back in 1987. She did receive some attention back in 1993, due to the release of the album, Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams. The album featured other artists covering her songs, and the proceeds of the album helped Williams cover her medical expenses, in connection with her fight with multiple sclerosis. One of the more well known songs from that album was Pearl Jam's version of "Crazy Mary".
Williams' version of "Crazy Mary" was first released on her 1994 album Loose. Despite the attention from Sweet Relief, she still remained criminally overlooked.
Crazy Mary by Victoria Williams (Video)
Vic Chesnutt - Sad Peter Pan
Just like with Victoria Williams, Vic Chesnutt was an artist who first received attention through a benefit tribute album. The 1996 album, Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation was released to raise money for artist in need of health care, such as quadriplegic musician Chesnutt. The album featured more well profiled artist covering his songs.
The achingly beautiful "Sad Peter Pan" (which was covered on Sweet Relief II by Smashing Pumpkins with Red Red Meat) is from Chesnutt's 1995 album Is the Actor Happy? Just like with Williams, Chesnutt maintained a lower profile than he deserved. He tragically died on December 25, 2009.
Sad Peter Pan by Vic Chesnutt (Video)
Brute - Blight
Speaking of Vic Chesnutt, Brute was a collaboration between Vic Cesnutt and Widespread Panic. On paper Chesnutt's dark folksy music doesn't seem to have a whole lot in common with a jam band like Widespread Panic. But there two styles mesh perfectly. "Blight" is from their 1995 debut album Nine High A Pallet.
Both Widespread Panic and Vic Chesnutt were from the Georgia music scene and they released one other album as Brute, 2002's Co-Balt.
Blight by Brute (Video)
The Go - Meet Me At The Movies
The Go are a garage punk band from Detroit. The scorching "Meet Me At The Movies" is from the bands 1999 debut Whatcha Doin' and it was a precursor to the garage rock revival that would take place in the early 2000s. For this album the band featured as their lead guitarist Jack White. Afterwards Jack White would go to form The White Stripes, while the band would continue without him. They are considered an important part of the Detroit rock & roll underground.
Meet Me At The Movies by The Go (Video)
Goober & the Peas - Hot Women (Cold Beer)
Speaking of the Detroit underground, Goober & the Peas were a Detroit cow punk band who where formed in the late 80s and established a reputation locally for their entertaining live performances. They initially broke up in 1995 but would later reunite for a live performance on December 26th, 2009 and they performed a series of sold out shows with in the Detroit area.
"Hot Women (Cold Beer)" was from their 1992 full length debut, The Complete Works of Goober & the Peas. Just like with The Go, the band also has a Jack White connection. Jack White played drums for them (as his birth name John Gillis) just before the band initially broke up (so he is not featured on this song).
Hot Women (Cold Beer) by Goober & the Peas (Video)
Flat Duo Jets - Froggie Went A-Courtin'
Flat Jet Duo were an influential but commercially overlooked rockabilly duo who first formed in 1983. They ended up becoming a huge influence on Jack White and have to be considered pioneers of the rock and roll tag team division.
Their raucous take of the traditional children tune, "Froggie Went A-Courtin'" was from their 1991 album, Go Go Harlem, which was also reissued by Jack White's Third Man Records.
Froggie Went A-Courtin' by Flat Duo Jets (Video)
How many of the 12 songs (or versions of these songs) listed here did you know?
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© 2012 CJ Baker