Songs of the Year: 1996

Songs of the Year — 1996

Songs of the year: “California Love” Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur
“Bulls on Parade” by Rage against the Machine
“Novocaine for the Soul” by the Eels
“Where it’s at” by Beck.
Songs I hate: All No doubt songs, Quad City DJ’s, the Macarena

1996 was a hell of a year, in numerous ways. First and probably most important to my existence was the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Bradley Nowell, two pillars of my generation’s music. Growing up in a rural and relatively poor area, Pac was huge among the youth because I think in our minds trailer parks were like the hood.

Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but rap is huge here and has been since the early nineties. Pac is easily one of the biggest rap stars and his rhymes are  still canon for local youth.

As for Brad and Sublime, I think every single person between the ages of 15 and 35 right now knows and enjoys at least one Sublime song. I know I do, my cover band does like three songs by them and I don’t even like them that much anymore due to just hearing it so much. Its party music that everyone knows and loves. Also, it is pretty good music. Now at the time of his death, I didn’t know much about them but I had heard the hit songs of the era. It turns out he was whacked out on heroin right through recording their biggest album, even pawning his guitar for drugs at one point,  which to me is a bit of a let down. I guess I just wish he’d been able to work out his problems so we’d still be getting new music from a clearly talented individual. But, his legacy stands and so does Pac’s so rest in peace thugs.

Just to add a few more highlights of the year, Silverchair was accused of spurring some youths to commit murder because of their song “Israel’s Son” and Garth Brooks refused his award from the American Music Academy because he thought Hootie and the Blowfish deserved it more. I mean, c’mon, for both accounts. You can’t blame music for murder and everyone knows Hootie blows.

Snoop Dogg was acquitted of murder this year and I remember him saying at the end of “Murda was the Case” that he was innocent on the Video Music Awards of 1996. Also, Rob from Milli Vanilli was hit in the head with a bat when he was trying to rob somebody in L.A. The poor bastard later killed himself, so I do feel bad, but it is strange how fast those boys fell. Lastly, one couldn’t escape Oasis songs this year which I don’t really like that much so that’s why they don’t pop up here. I mean they are good and I do love “She’s Electric”….but they just seem like pricks.

“California Love” by Dr. Dre and Tupac was probably the first hip-hop song that I truly embraced and that probably had more to do with the post-apocalyptic style video, at least initially. I love the Mad Max movies and these actors are basically dressed in Thunderdome attire.  Again, we go back to the idea that music videos once were viable marketing for a band and many songs were made on the uniqueness of the video.  Then I realized that rap is cool, that some of the older kids in school actually knew what was up. It’s a fun jam and references things I could relate to, like The Untouchables which was a mainstay in my VCR at the time. I just found a version that isn’t nearly as gangster so be weary of that one, but if you haven’t heard this song you need to. I know everyone my age will know it but I worry the young kids are really suffering with the quality of hip hop nowadays, but that story is for another day.

I used not to like Rage against the Machine actively. I liked “Bulls on Parade” when it first came out because I was young and it was loud and a friend of mine whom I’d admired really liked it. He was like the “cool” kid and I always felt lucky to be friends with him and this seems absurd as I write it but everyone who was an adolescent knows what I’m talking about.

Anyway, the lines of “rally round your family with a pocket full of shells” always translated in my mind to something about a guy killing his family, while of course it was clearly another call to arms for the rebellion song that the band is known for  doing. I didn’t like them for a long time specifically for this reason that this band represented to me a large group of white people who wore designer sandal and thought they were revolutionary because they listened to Rage. This is a stupid reason for not liking a very good band and I can fully admit that now. This song was ill in 96. Check out “Bombtrack” too.

“Life is hard and so am I, you better give me something before I die” is how “Novocaine for the Soul” by the Eels begins and I can think of few songs whose opening lyrics grab me as much as this song. Besides that, it has a lot of clever lyrics, such as referencing “Jesus and his lawyers”, but those first lyrics draw me right in. This is sort of the Superhog type of sound that was popular in hit singles in that year and this one right here is probably the best. The Eels were really a group to showcase the talents of the lead singer/songwriter Mark Oliver Everett who actually is very interesting and worth a solid ten minutes on Wikipedia. The salient points are that his done a bunch of songwriting and his dad is the originator of the “many world interpretations of quantum theory”, whatever the hell that is. Sound impressive, doesn’t it?

For the last of the likes of this year, let’s glance at one of my favorite songs of the nineties period, “Where it’s At” by Beck. Beck is a genius musician and song writer and lamentably, I don’t know a lot of his work past Midnite Vultures but I’m sure it’s all good. The Odelay album was something else I copped from my brother and is a whole cd of different types of songs and music largely played by Beck. With the help of some cool hip hop producing from the Dust Brothers and mad samples, he really souped up and moved evolved the sound Mellow Gold.

Almost everyone knows “Where it’s at” and it’s refrain “I got two turn tables and a microphone” or at least they should. I have talked of a Talking Heads cover band called Fear of Music that I loved from college and at their last show before the keys player moved to Japan, they did a cover of the song to start the second set and I can still remember the blast of cheers as he rolled into the organ intro. This will be a timeless song from this era and you’re goddamn right it should be.
So with all the goodness of this time period, much of which I didn’t even touch on in this piece, there must be some shittiness. There indeed is and it comes in the form of No Doubt, the Quad City Dj’s and the Macarena. I really don’t like No Doubt now and there’s more because of a show of theirs I saw on the fucking Today show during their reunion tour that sucked. I mean it was out of time, tune, and focus. Gwen just hopped around and yelled, not singing at all. Maybe they were huge back then but they suck now…..or were maybe never good at all.

The DJ’s had that song about coming on and riding the train and we had a family’s friend daughter who as an idiot who loved this song. They had a really nice jukebox and they had this song on it. Lame. In conclusion, what can I say about the Macarena that hasn’t been said about leprosy? It’s old, terrible, and annoying that it still exists. They still jam this at weddings which I can attest to from one I attended just last night, This song came on at the end of an epic three hour open bar and people still left the dance floor. We need to stamp this out because I can remember the years of everyone doing this dance and I cringe at the idea. Granted, the music isn’t terrible, but there’s something Third Reichy to me about everyone across the world doing the same dance in such a rigid fashion with all the hand motions.

6 comments on “Songs of the Year: 1996

  1. kate58 says:

    I absolutely love your blogs. This was a really good one – you hit on all the songs that were important to me back in 96. Pac remains da man as fas as I’m concerned, & I fell in love with Snoop when he did the Deep Cover theme song with Dre. The hip-hop that’s out now is of a lamentable standard…….

    • theelderj says:

      Kate58, my brother did do a nice job on this one. How can we explain a year that gave us “California Love”, “Where it’s at” and the Macarena? You’re right about the hip-hop artists of old, they left some pretty high standards. Now we are left with Blake and his rumble in NYC? Tony Parker suing for 20 Million over a corneal tear? Maybe the world needs a little more Sug Night. (Or maybe not).

    • theyoungerj says:

      Thank you so much! I apologize for the lateness in reply here, I have been quite sick. Anyway, yeah I don’t know what’s up with hip hop now, it all sounds the same and there’s too many strange noises. Back then, it seemed a lot more real.

  2. professormortis says:

    Macarena is bad…but is it worse than The Electric Slide or The Chicken Dance? I think group dances like that that get pegged to be forever played at weddings are just heinous things.

    Quite a few songs from 1996 that most evoke the year for me are on your list: “California Love” makes me think of our lame ironic “Waltham (Knows How to Party)” parody (“In the citttttyyy….city of Watches…”); the combo of No Doubt’s first hit and Beck’s “Where It’s At” makes me think of driving around in the summer of 96, the last summer I spent in my hometown…though I’d have to add in The Smashing Pumpkins “Tonight, Tonight”, which was also seemingly always on the radio that summer and was the soundtrack of a crush that nothing ever happened with and a longing for a girl from college on the other side of the country.

    I never liked Rage’s fans, but it’s hard to deny that they made some rocking songs that sounded like I thought revolution should sound.

    Busta Rhymes “Woo Hah!!” was a hell of a lot of fun as well.

    Now as for terrible, cringe inducing music that also makes me think of that year…how about Joan Osborne’s “One of Us”? Anything at all from Alanis Morrisette would do as well. Or maybe “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, which is the sound of “alternative” dying. Hootie….fucking Hootie.

    • theyoungerj says:

      Its funny you mention Joan. In my college years. she toured with the Dead and I almost went to see her. I want to imagine them doing “One of us” all trippy with a ten minute jam….then I throw up.

  3. theelderj says:

    Hootie. How can we forget and forgive Hootie and the Blowfish?

    Quickly and quietly I hope.

    To this day the grammar of Joan Osborne’s hit drives me nuts. She was, if only briefly, the poor man’s Jewel. All three groups were on the radio all the time.

    And you’re right, professor, about Smashing Pumpkin’s “Tonight Tonight”. At the time, I found that and “1979” annoying and evidence of the band losing it. But now, when I hear both songs, I wonder which is the band’s greatest song.

    Although, the band shouldn’t be forgiven for the title “Mellan Collie and the Infinite Sadness…”

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