It was a time of flannel, cardigans from Good Will, and combat boots. The skies were gray-like, always- even in California. The music held angst. Musicians seemed to take pride in only knowing three chords. People emphasized the emotion, dude, not the musicianship. Except, the emotions expressed proved to be dark, disturbing, and slightly damp. Ugh.

Can a decade be moldy?

Okay, I exaggerate. While I found great joy in the nineties: I hooked up with the right guy (he was under my nose the whole time), graduated college, got married, bought my first house, and gave birth to my first child, the music scene felt dire.

When I say dire, I mean sucking away my joy and will to live. Bleak. Pretentious. Worst of all? No clean, soaring guitar riffs, well, not many. In a word? Rough.

However, I tend to veer to the positive, so while I bewail the nineties from a musical perspective, they remain great years. Naturally, one cannot exist through ten years without stumbling upon a gem here and there. In my humble opinion, I have gathered some of those gems below.


As stated in my earlier blog, The Eighties Called, please do not go searching for your boy bands, your pop princesses here. Google is a wonderful tool- your Top Forty Shangri-La exists out there, somewhere. My tastes run the scope of musical genres, but my heart belongs to rock and metal with a dash of progressive. You will not find The Spice Girls here. No bueno.

No matter how dark the night, light (or in this case decent rock music) will find a way into your heart. Amongst the coffee fueled wasteland emerged beacons of hope. Here are a few.

Based on a follower’s suggestion I have ordered my Top Ten in chronological order:

1.) July, 1991 Enter Sandman by Metallica from their Black Album. Just killer.

2.) October, 1991, The Show Must Go On by Queen off their album Innuedo– the single came out just six weeks before Freddie Mercury’s untimely death of AIDS. Brian May actually wrote the song after watching his bandmate struggling with the disease. When the band was recording the album in 1990 May wasn’t even sure that Freddie would physically be able to complete the necessary vocal. When he said as much to Mercury, the singer said, “I’ll fucking do it, darling,” slammed a shot of vodka and went into the booth and (in May’s words), “killed that vocal.”

3.) December 1991, Operation Spirit by Live from their debut album Mental Jewelry- probably the song that best sums up my religious views, see verse two. And with respect, that is that.

4.) May, 1992, Fear of the Dark by Iron Maiden, the title track of that year’s album– and an awesome album it is.

5.) June, 1992, I by Black Sabbath from the album Dehumanizer which reunited at long last riff master Iommi with vocal god Ronnie James Dio.

6.) May, 1993, Mother by Danzig from their EP Thrall: Demonsweatlive– I am sort of cheating here. Actually, Mother was first released in 1988 as a response to The Parents Resource Center and Tipper Gore’s ridiculous album parental advisory system. When Danzig released the remixed version in 1993, it became a metal hit in a time that belonged to rap and grunge, reaching number 17 on the Billboard charts in the US.

7.) August, 1995, The Hall of The Mountain King by Rainbow from the last album to feature Ritchie Blackmore in full rock regalia, as God intended, A Stranger In Us All. The album didn’t do as well commercially as well, anyone, wanted and Blackmore disappeared into the world of renaissance acoustics to sulk. Like most of his fans, I keep hoping for a recovery from this clear case of losing one’s flipping mind. Until then a true rock god travels Europe wasting his talent.

8.) October, 1995, Flood by Jars of Clay from their self-titled debut- Christian rock’s finest moment, no seriously, amazing song. No offense, Stryper.

9.) August, 1998, Dragula by Rob Zombie from his first solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe– I was torn here. I mean, I love More Human Than Human by his group, White Zombie, too. This is the stronger song though.

10.) November, 1998, The Kids Aren’t Alright by The Offspring off Americana– These guys were such a bright light in the Nineties. Their passion carried their music in a way that the dirges of grunge could never ignite my soul. But, hey, that’s a punk inspiration for you.

Honorable Mentions:

1.) February, 1992, Right Now by Van Halen (or Van Hagar depending on your musical political bent) from their album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge– Sorry, just a guilty pleasure. Can’t help myself. Gets me every time.

2.) September, 1992, Would? by Alice ‘N Chains from their mega-hit making album (it scored five singles), Dirt– sometimes even the enemy comes up with something brilliant.

So, there you have it, The Top Ten Rock Songs of the Nineties according to me. I realize that this list will look nothing like other lists on the web, but that’s because it’s my list. What songs would you put on your list?

The Nineties weren’t all bad pop culture-wise. They brought us Buffy. Next blog we look at the dawn of another decade and new rock- thank heavens!


Erika Gardner

Erika Gardner


This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.  Check out her contributions to the BBB Blog.