Oh the 90's. What a decade. I was born in 1987, so I am one of the fortunate souls that existed throughout the entirety of a decade that is known for the falling of the Berlin Wall (Yes the wall came down in November of 1989, but that was just the physical wall. The aftermath lasted well into the 90's.), the first Gulf War, the Clinton Administration, and so much more. One great thing to come out of the 90's was Alternative music. The surge in popularity of bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (all of whom will be featured later in this article) led to a demand for the formation radio stations that would play this brand of music. Enter 99x. I remember countless mornings getting ready for school and turing on Morning X with Barnes, Leslie, and Jimmy. Was the subject matter fit for my young ears? Probably not, but they were very entertaining and the music they played was awesome. So without any further ado, here are the top 10 bands you would have heard on 99x in the 90's.
(Note: Okay, there is some further ado. This list is EXTREMELY subjective and I know that a large chunk of you will disagree with parts or maybe all of it. That, my friends, is what the comments section is for. I welcome any disagreements and debate on the list and am very much looking forward to you all's comments and critiques. Also, some of these songs are NSFW.)
10. Third Eye Blind
We'll start this list off with San Francisco's Third Eye Blind. The band has seen some changes over the years, but one constant has been lead singer Stephan Jenkins. While Third Eye Blind might not have the extensive catalogue that some other bands on this list have, they've got four songs that 99x played constantly: "Semi-Charmed Life", "How's It Gonna Be", "Jumper", and "Never Let You Go". The first 3 were on their self titled debut album that came out in 1997 and the fourth was on 1999's Blue. I recently saw them live at the Georgia Theatre in Athens and that place came unhinged when they played this little number (filmed by yours truly):
9. The Smashing Pumpkins
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest Smashing Pumpkins fan, but there's is no doubting their popularity back in the 90's. They were on 99x ALL THE TIME. They were as close to the embodiment of the alternative movement as you can get. Their lyrics were dark, their lead singer had a voice that could be both soft and harsh, and their music videos (remember those?) fit the era perfectly. The two songs I remember hearing most from them were "1979" and "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", both off of 1995's incredibly successful Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
8. Green Day
Up next is a band that got super preachy and annoying, but during the 90's were incredible. 1994's Dookie and 1997's Nimrod are still albums that I go back and listen to today. The former was so good that it won the Grammy in 1995 for best Alternative album and was named number 193 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". With hits like "Welcome to Paradise", "Basket Case", "When I Come Around", and "Longview", 99x could have put Green Day in rotation a bunch and nobody would have been upset about it. NImrod was very good in it's own right, with hits like "Hitchin' a Ride", "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)", and "Nice Guys Finish Last" (a highly underrated track).
No list of top 90's Alternative bands would be complete without this foursome out of Los Angeles. 1994's Weezer (The Blue Album) would go on to receive triple-platinum status and give us these 99x gems: "Undone - The Sweater Song", "Buddy Holly", "Say It Ain't So", "My Name is Jonas", and my favorite "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here". I don't think anybody is saying that Weezer is the greatest band of all time, but they are a very good band whose sound totally fit into the 90's alternative scene. Their next album, Pinkerton, would give us my favorite song by Weezer (video starring a young Mary Lynn Rajskub)...
6. Rage Against the Machine
My parents might not have liked the loud, head-banging sounds coming out of my bedroom, but it ended out working out much better for them when I worked out my youthful angst by jumping around in my room rather than by yelling at them. No band was better for that than another group from the city of angels: Rage Against the Machine. Zack de la Rocha's mix of rapping and screaming plus Tom Morello's epic guitar shredding gave us some incredibly meaningful songs from a time when there was a lot of political unrest around the globe. Their band name wasn't just a band name; they lived it. I still remember the first time I heard "Bulls on Parade" on the radio. I was in the car with my mom and she went into the bank and left the keys in the car so I could listen to music. I flipped over to 99x and after a commercial or two, that infamous guitar intro hit. The best part was my mom just looking in the car and laughing at me, as I must have looked like The Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes...
Yes, R.E.M. started in the 1980's and gained much cult fame then, but with the release of 1991's Out of Time, the band jumped to international superstardom. That album spent 109 weeks on the US album top sales chart and gave us the smash hit "Losing My Religion". With more fantastic albums to follow from the Athens, Georgia group, such as 1992's Automatic for the People and 1994's Monster, R.E.M. really was one of the biggest bands in the world in the 90's. Lead singer Michael Stipe had such a unique singing voice, often accompanied by various chants or yodels, and even he says that a lot of his lyrics are "nonsense". It was really more than that though. It was poetry. With Stipe's iconic voice out front, and the rest of the band doing some fantastic work behind it, many people wish they had not broken up in 2011 (me being one of them). Many car rides as a kid were accompanied by "What's the Frequency, Kenneth? or "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" thanks to 99x.
Having 3 brothers of my own, I get it. Brothers fight. Brothers get mad at each other for the dumbest things, but usually find ways to put that stuff behind them. That's not the case for this next band. Noel and Liam Gallagher HATE each other. It really is a shame because when they could stomach being in the same room with each other, they made some incredible music as part of the only British band on this list: Oasis. Noel is the more talented one, as he wrote all the songs on their two best albums: their debut Definitely Maybe (1994) and its follow up (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1995), but Liam has that indescribable "it". They have a vast catalogue, but "Wonderwall", "Don't Look Back in Anger", and "Champagne Supernova" alone probably would have put them on this list, all 3 of which featured a lot on 99x.
3. Pearl Jam
One of my favorite albums ever is Pearl Jam's Ten for numerous reasons. First, it's an incredible album with great tracks like "Even Flow", "Black", "Alive", "Why Go", "Jeremy", "Porch", and "Oceans". Second, it's named after Atlanta Hawks legend Mookie Blaylock (who has had a pretty massive fall from grace since then). The band's original name was actually "Mookie Blaylock", but they had to change it after their record label became concerned with intellectual property rights after Blaylock signed with Nike. Wanting to pay tribute to their old name, they used Blaylock's basketball number, 10, as the name of their album. Ten also checks in on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" at number 205. Just like Oasis, their catalogue is enormous, but they would have made this list just for their efforts on Ten.
Back to back Seattle grunge bands? Yup! It wouldn't be the 90's, it wouldn't be alternative, and it wouldn't be 99x without your fair share of Seattle grunge. I don't think I can adequately describe how good of an album Nevermind is. Let's go back to that Rolling Stone list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Nevermind is number 17(!) and Rolling Stone also named it the best album of the 90's... the entire 1990's. "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "In Bloom", "Come As You Are", "Breed", and "Lithium" all got consistent airplay in Atlanta, mostly on 99x. The first time I heard "Breed", well, it was very similar to the first time I heard "Bulls on Parade". To this day, it's still one of my favorite songs to listen to when I need to get amped up. Their MTV Unplugged performance also got a lot of airplay, and their cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" from it (also played a lot on 99x) is probably one of the best covers ever (right next to a certain band that you'll see later's cover of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground). They might have been number one on this list if not for their short run. Kurt Cobain was one of the best singer/songwriters ever at getting the listener to feel what he was going through. This version of "Breed" live at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle is one of my favorite live performance videos ever (and features a very young/very skinny Dave Grohl on drums):
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Full disclosure: The Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are my favorite band. That being said, here are some statistics for you. RHCP had four singles hit number one on the Billboard alternative charts in the 90's: "Give It Away", "Soul to Squeeze", "My Friends", and "Scar Tissue". The band spent a record 27 weeks in the number one spot on that chart in the decade. In terms of radio play on 99x, no other band on this list comes close to having had as many different songs played on the station. The band released three albums in the 90's: Blood Sugar Sex Magik, One Hot Minute, and Californication. I don't have a way to verify this for sure, but here are all the songs that probably would have gotten at least a few plays (besides the 4 previously mentioned ones): "Fight Like a Brave" (not a 90's track, but I'm almost certain I heard it on the station) "Fire", "Higher Ground" (Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder covers respectively. Both were on 1989's Mother's Milk, but the first time I heard "Fire" was on 99x. That's what lead me to discover Hendrix and all that awesomeness.) "Under the Bridge", "Suck My Kiss", "Breaking the Girl", "If You Have to Ask", "Warped", "Aeroplane", "Coffee Shop", "Shallow Be Thy Game", "Around the World", "Parallel Universe", "Otherside", "Road Trippin", and "Californication". The main reasons they ended up at number one on this list (besides my personal bias) are longevity and sheer dominance of the charts. The bottom line with RHCP is this: they bookended the 90s with two of Rolling Stone's top 500 albums of all time with Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) and Californication (1999). The first rock concert I ever went to was RHCP with the Foo Fighters opening for them in Spring of 1999 and it was sponsored by, you guessed it, 99x.
Well, there you have it. As I said earlier, hit the comments section with your thoughts on the list. I look forward to a lively debate. One thing we all can agree on though, 99x in the 90's really was the best.