To say that 1994 was a monstrous and defining year in music is an understatement.
“Grunge” was in full swing. “Alternative” and “indie” rock flooded the airwaves. Punk and punk-inspired ethos reverberated from amplifiers, not just within countless garages, but across arena-sized stages.
The very spirit of rock was seemingly undergoing a resurgence, a rebirth, a resurrection. New bands, fueled generally by pure, authentic rage, angst and hell, frustrated boredom, exploded. Older bands along the same vein re-emerged, were re-discovered or continued to be ignored (which in some cases was sort of a good thing since nearly every once-overlooked, secret killer band were now open to being lip-synced by drunk Danny Ponces whenever they came on the jukebox at pretentious bars). It was that rare moment in music where the anti-heroes became mainstream—in a way, delivering this colossal, sonically distorted F-You to the entire system itself.
Lollapalooza was in its fourth year. Woodstock ’94 happened. Kurt Cobain killed himself.
1994 also birthed a slew of albums that now, 20 years out, can easily possess the titles “Quintessential,” “Epic” and “Classic.” These were not just big chart-toppers—well, they were, in many cases, catapulting groups from near obscurity to international stardom seemingly overnight—but rather, many of these records captured, as most truly great albums somehow do, the very essence of the time, its aura, its being, its, for lack of a better word, zeitgeist.
They’re just really, really great fkn records lol—and as time moves along, as it always does, they somehow, impossibly only get even better.
A few of them released that year:
Green Day’s Dookie. Weezer’s self-titled “Blue Album.” Soundgarden’s Superunknown. Alice In Chain’s Jar of Flies, Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral, Sonic Youth’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, Built to Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by fkn Pavement.
Jeff Buckley’s Grace was dropped. Beck’s Mellow Gold. Parklife, by Blur. Oasis’ Definitely Maybe. Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell and Under the Table and Dreaming by Dave Matthews Band (if we’re going to add in some mega-chart-toppers, though obviously not in line with the third graph of this article).
Also that year, was Live’s Throwing Copper.
Though not as groundbreaking, immortal, or perhaps even as respected (sorry) as some of the aforementioned drops, the 14-song collection by York, Pa. quartet Live, was, for many then-high school and college students, the soundtrack of that year. Or at least, it was a cherished part of it.
The disc was loaded with hits. Rockers “I Alone,” “Selling the Drama” and “All Over You” (not to mention the stage presence, theatrics and vocal emotional intensity of Live’s lead singer and songwriter, Ed Kowalczyk, who often performed shirtless) propelled the disc to multi-platinum status.
The album remains one of that year’s biggest sellers (more than eight million copies) and is forever inextricably seared into the soundtrack of countless dorm rooms, whether you were a fan or not.
“Lightning Crashes” was perhaps its most sparkling gem, or at least the one most ingrained into the minds of those around to hear it. Catchy, bizarre and haunting, the number was a slow burn that caught fire somewhere along the way before exploding and becoming completely engulfed in flames—Kowalczyk in a controlled feverish fury by its last few chords—before it simply disappears in an ill-fated attempt at wiping away the chaos that had just been unleashed.
Though wiping away the chaos, and pain, of his 2009 split with his former Live bandmates, Kowalczyk has been embracing his future as a solo artist.
Currently touring in support of his second and most recent solo record The Flood and the Mercy—and celebrating the 20th anniversary of Throwing Copper—he’ll be searing new infectious songs into the minds of all those in attendance Saturday, August 2 at The Paramount in Huntington, creating new memories to a new soundtrack, one forged from the saving turmoil of his split with Live, and also in celebration of his heartfelt and timeless music.
Of course, he’ll be pouring his soul into Throwing Copper’s hits, too—conjuring up all those feelings, all those emotions, all those priceless swirling colors and nights out and friends and loves and irreplaceable moments that so defined 1994 for so many.
Damn, what a year.