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Reminiscing the 90’s from the old school entertainment channels to the 90’s bands on the charts brings revolutionary music into focus.
Rock music is a type of hard music played on instruments like guitar, drums, bass, etc. It was a way of breaking the 90’s genres, as a rock vocalist had a more assertive singing style compared to the soft pop singer.
Only in the latter half of the 20th century do we see both vocalists and musicians joining together to form rock bands. Let’s look at its origins and different rock genres introduced by the famous artists of the 90s bands.
History Of Rock
A very interesting fact in the rock world is that its past goes back to Slavery in America, where the slaves’ music style influenced southern gospel music, gaining its term rock and roll literally from the movements to music in a church.
Apart from rock, there were also other genres like jazz, blues, and country music. Still, it was only during the Second World War that a lack of resources led to smaller bands turning to instruments like guitar and bass, thus paving the way for an American rock band.
One of the early and popular American rock bands formed was ‘Rockability,’ a mix of the earlier genres, consisting of famous artists like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Their popularity was due to the cultural shock among parents as a sense of freedom came that appealed to the youth of the ’90s, shaping further into different types.
Types of Rock bands
Hard rock and Heavy metal
One of the most favorite 90s rock bands that appealed to the youth of the 1970s – Rolling stones is an example of this kind of rock. The instruments defined the hard music ranging from electric guitar to bass, and the guitarists were divided into the lead and rhythm categories to provide a synthetic course of music.
The difference between hard and heavy metal was very few due to artists shuffling between both categories.
The famous band – Pink Floyd consisted of members like Syd Barrett and David Gilmour, who defined this British genre. Inspired by psychedelic elements, they created a more complex style of music compared to Heavy metal.
Due to its more aggressive tendencies, any punk rock band appealed to the teenagers of the ’90s. Some of the popular ones like Sex Pistols, defined the British national style of teen music, which further encouraged other bands to be formed in America.
Compared to punk rock, post-punk had a more reserved writing style. With bands like Depeche Mode and R.E.M, who roped in the traditional structure of bands, appealing primarily to college students. They provided a different direction, coming into shape as alternative rock.
This was a modern emergence of rock music which is still prevalent. The type can be seen as a mix of punk and poppy elements – pop-punk ( a separate style of the ’90s), moving from college crowds to local music stations.
Famous bands include Nirvana to those acquiring international fame like Coldplay (their massive success accounts for them being an inspiration and collaborating with one of the world’s biggest boy bands – BTS).
Despite the distinctive types, during the following decade, many mixed genres emerged, blurring the lines of hardcore rock and soft music, like pop-punk. However, the dominant type is hard to define due to the versatile nature of music in the 21st century.
Due to many mixed genres phasing from the 1950s to 2000, the nature of the band and the singer’s popularity mattered when one had to identify the best bands. The rock bands with popular songs, the maximum hit singles, with the contemporary generation’s favorite music, were some of the biggest bands, like the ones listed below.
Pearl Jam (Alternative category)
Pearl Jam is one of the most renowned 90s rock bands. Receiving awards like the ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ to ‘Favorite Rock Album of All Time,’ their music defiled alternative rock and indie music.
With experimental trials due to their favoritism with members like Eddie Vedder (lead vocalist with emotional charisma), they were able to achieve fame through popular guitarists and drummers. Their first album, ‘Ten,’ even outsold Nirvana (the popular alternative rock band).
Despite facing criticism due to their more experimental attempts and lack of tours, they managed to release several successful albums, even featuring collaborations.
Some of Pearl Jam’s popular songs include ‘Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in the Small Town,’ ‘Better Man,’ and ‘Even Flow,’ which also reflect their personal histories and band ideologies.
There were said to be many unknown facts about the band like:
- The band wasn’t always referred to as Pearl Jam; their previous name was that of a Basketball Player for New Jersey – Mookie Blaylock, even their debut album ‘Ten’ being the player’s jersey number.
- Before their debut album, they already had a team of 3 drummers.
- Kurt Cobain, the frontman of the American Alternative rock band – Nirvana, made claims of them not representing true indie rock after their album ‘Ten’ was a hit.
- Their ninth album – Backspacer, was the first among their independent record labels.
- ‘Alive’ could be considered their signature song as it helped them enter into rock music.
Nine-inch nails (Alternative category)
The Nine Inch Nails were among the bands that focused more on the rock metal industrial genre, falling under the alternative metal category. They received two Grammy for Best Metal Performance in the 1990s.
From their earlier songs like ‘Downward Spiral’ topping the charts to their recent releases – the ‘Ghost series,’ their style has changed from the experiences and partnership of the oldest members like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Musical exploration, on their part, also led to singing with bands like Guns N’ Roses, increasing the band’s popularity in America.
Other facts about the band are:
- They once sent fans packages of black powder with a warning, but it turned out to be their photos and postcards.
- Their sophomore album, ‘The Downward Spiral’ ranked two on the Billboard 200 and sold around 3.2 million copies.
- The Woodstock ’94 performance helped them achieve mainstream success.
Smashing Pumpkins (Indie category)
When it comes to alternative rock bands, the American rock band – Smashing Pumpkins makes a list. The band started in Chicago in 1988 founded due to the efforts of the songwriter and guitarist of the band – frontman Billy Corgan.
Smashing Pumpkins had a mix of styles in their music, from psychedelic to grunge (a style varying between heavy metal and alternative rock). Their songs were multiple hits, with some even making the billboard charts for most album sales like ‘Mellon Collie’ and ‘Infinite Sadness‘ (released 1995).
The band had to suffer a hit to the popularity and regroup due to the death of a member, Jonathan Melvoin (the keyboardist). Despite all the difficulties, Smashing Pumpkins won two Grammy awards for ‘Best Hard Rock Performance,’ between 1996 and 1997 and ‘Favorite Rock Album’ in an all-year music review.
Fans still adore their music due to their recent releases in 2020. During the ’90s, the Smashing Pumpkins were said to be among the rock bands less influenced by the original rock music due to their composite style.
Other fun facts about the band are:
- The frontman, Billy Corgan was referred to as a ‘perfectionist,’ due to his talent of playing all the instruments in their first album ‘Gish.’
- Who said romance didn’t come within a rock band? Two members of Smashing Pumpkins – D’Arcy Wretzky and James Iha were a couple one time.
- ‘Adore’ – their fourth album sold enough money on a North American tour, which was all given to charity.
- Remember the famous cartoon Simpsons? Smashing Pumpkins starred in one of its episodes – Homerpalooza.
To know more geeky facts about the band, click here.
Red Hot Chili Peppers (funk and punk rock category)
Among the 90s rock bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers created a new musical style combining punk rock and their impressive stage performances. The band started from the friendship between three schoolmates – Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, and Michael Balzary.
Like other bands, they lost members due to heroin addiction but proved themselves as one of the best American Alternative 90s rock bands.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers won 3 Grammys for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Album, and Best Hard Rock Performance between 1992 and 2006.
Some intriguing facts about the band are:
- Despite friendship tying the band together, one of the original members, Anthony Kiedis, has been called ‘worse than Trump’ due to his multiple tiffs with other members.
- Flea founded the ‘Silverlake Music Conservatory’ in Los Angeles to encourage music education among the youth.
Stone Temple Pilots (grunge category)
The Stone Temple Pilots were an alternative rock band said to be quite experimental with their music, blurring the lines between classic rock, pop music, and psychedelic tunes found in each of their signature music.
They won the Best Hard Rock Performance in 1993 at the Grammy Awards. The band’s image also came in the form of mixed reviews – in Rolling Stone’s 1994 Music Awards, the band won Best New Band by readers and Worst New Band by critics.
Drama ensued many times between Weiland and the rest of the members of Stone Temple Pilots, as once in 2013, a statement was issued firing the former. He responded with a statement that addressed how he was fired from a band he created. However, Scott Weiland died later on.
Their band had faced other issues as well. In one of their tours, Shangri-La Dee da, Stone temple pilots had to appoint a sober coach to keep them in check.
But, they were known for their big music. Stone Temple Pilots’ recent album in 2020 – Perdida, even hit 21 on Billboard’s Top Alternative Albums chart.
Guns N Roses (Heavy metal category)
Truly bringing in elements of heavy metal- ranging from the violent to sensitive parts, Guns N Roses can be considered one of the best 90s rock bands under this category. They were a great band of the 90s due to their raw rock and roll style.
In 2018, in All Year Music Review, they won the Favorite Box Sets for their album ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ which is also the best-selling debut album of all time.
The Artists of the bands showed their broad character – Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose carried out more violent guitar tunes and subjects, while the drummer Steven Adler kept the music warm and powerful.
The band was known for several records:
- One of their hits – Sweet Child O’ Mine, rose their significance to number 1, becoming one of the most known bands in the world.
- Despite their fan base, the band has never won a Grammy.
- Their album ‘Chinese Democracy’ is considered one of the most expensive rock albums of all time, the price reaching almost 14 million dollars.
- ‘Not in the Lifetime Tour’ is one of the best-selling tours of all time.
Blind Melon (grunge category)
One of the alternative rock bands that stuck to the classical taste was Blind Melon. The name ‘Blind Melon’ itself comes from a term used by Brad Smith’s father for hippie neighbors.
Despite the fame they received, certain members like Brad Smith felt that their tours which were beneficial from the financial point of view, were not good over time. It felt like ‘too much of a good thing’.
After their short duration with their final album (Nico) being released in 1996, members of Blind Melon went in separate ways, either joining a band or doing regular jobs like their founding member Roger Sevens becoming an employment lawyer in Philadelphia.
Soundgarden (grunge and heavy metal)
An American rock band blurring the lines between heavy metal and alternative rock is the Soundgarden. They were inspired by Led Zeppelin’s punk rock and more unconventional styles.
The members of the band – the lead guitarist Kim Thayil and the vocalist Chris Cornell, were a power duo releasing popular albums like ‘Superunknown’ and ‘Badmotorfinger.’ The funny thing was that Cornell named the Superunknown song after the title ‘Superclown,’ which he accidentally mistook for.
Soundgarden also became a grunge band due to Cornell’s vocals. They also won two Grammy’s in the ‘Best Hard Rock’ and ‘Best Metal Categories’ both in 1994. Holding the image of being an old rock band, even before Nirvana, their transition from heavy metal to grunge was well received.
Rush (hard rock category)
The Canadian rock band – Rush, with its members Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart, made a mark in the heavy metal and hard rock genres. They were nominated for seven Grammys and sold around forty million records.
The band is also known for some of their humanitarian efforts; for example, in the album ‘Songs for Tibet’, they featured along with other celebrities to support Tibet and Dalai Lama.
This Canadian rock band made it to the list of Country’s ‘Music Hall of Fame’ in 1994 and the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 2013. The band’s highest-selling album was ‘Moving Pictures,’ they currently stand disbanded.
Nirvana (alternative to grunge category)
An American rock band formed in 1987, called Nirvana, revolutionized Alternative Music as they brought indie rock, punk, and post-punk to most of American bands. Along with Indie rock (a sub-genre of alt-music), they also tried out post-industrial tunes.
The Nirvana drummer, and lead vocalist, Kurt Cobain, along with his members, released a major record label -‘Nevermind’ and other successful albums. In MTV Unplugged New York, they received ‘Best Alternative Music Performance’ in 1995.
Nirvana was known for several strange to fascinating things:
- Their simple name ‘Nirvana,’ also denoting a Buddhist concept of ending suffering, was settled on after several tries. The previous ones were quite bizarre, ranging from Fecal Matter to Skid Row.
- The drummers of the band were changed many times.
- They even received a lawsuit from an English rock band formed with the same name.
- Their debut song, ‘Love Buzz,’ was a cover for the Dutch band – Shocking Blue.
- ‘Nevermind’ is Nirvana’s best-selling album, with around 10 million sales. ‘In Utero‘ was second with 5 million copies.
- Some of their songs were inspired by true-life events, like ‘Polly’ was the aftermath of real rape.
- Imagine being thrown out of an occasion celebrating you! That’s what happened to the band when they showed up drunk and started a food fight at the ‘Nevermind’ release party.
For more of such entertaining facts, click here
Above are listed ten rock bands of the 90s that fall under the category of hard rock bands to alternative rock, receiving mainstream success in terms of their musical genres, hit singles, musical styles, etc.
Why were the rock bands of the 90s so popular? It was because of the notorious news of certain bands, and some of them even openly revealed and lost members due to drug addictions. The famous Billboard list still reminiscence the song, like November Rain by Guns N Roses is the longest song in the top 10 categories of Billboard 100.
What is the Grunge Revolution?
Certain mixed styles, where bands combined pop and metal, came from the grunge movement that started in Seattle, with rock bands like Melvins. The literal meaning of ‘Grunge’ – dirt/scum, became the musical genre for bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana, and even singers like Cornell applied it to their musical development.
The grunge bands that moved to other cities due to their fame took this genre to new heights. The grunge movement soon developed from a sub-genre of music to a fashion style that was posed neutral.
It was in 1994 that the grunge movement dialed down, around the same time when bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana released their number-one long-playing records.
Can the 90’s rock band’s music be revived?
Many bands of the ’90s are still performing like Pearl Jam and Nine-inch Nails; maybe their style is more vogue to that of the present generation. Still, there is no doubt that it was their charisma and musical style from when they started as one of the rock bands that have created loyal fans who are still looking forward to their tours.
Currently, with the millennials and Gen-Z butting heads over the music of their respective times, it’s tough to determine where rock music stands now. The appeal that the bands of the ’90s held out to the young generation back then doesn’t apply anymore.
The 21st century might no longer carry on the traditional zeal and appeal of the 90’s bands, but efforts are continually made to keep the history of rock, its development, and relevance alive.
Certain bands have brought a new edge to rock, like the Killers and Foo Fighters specializing in alternative music, more relevant now than the bands of the 90s.
People think that there might be a new comeback for rock, especially with the efforts of famous artists like Post Malone and Miley Cyrus, who are releasing old covers of the rock bands, like the latter made one for Nirvana’s song ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Just Breathe.
The more adaptable part about rock artists of today as compared to the 90s rock bands is that they are not only concerned with rock but span across various music genres, which only adds to their stardom. Music today is defined by the artist who can mix and match their style with the current generation’s diverse tastes.
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