o you think you’re a 90s fan? OK, Dirk Diggler, can you handle this? It’s I Love the 90s, and this is 1997! The flicks, the fashions, the trends, the TV, the tunes—a totally awesome year that brought us these burning questions:
Just what kind of message was Lilith Fair really sending?
Andrew Friedman: Realistically speaking, this was kind of an abritrary thing to base a movement around. Women? Making music?
And why did guys really watch Daria?
Josh Timmermann: This will undoubtedly be the geekiest thing I've ever written, but Quinn was hot!
Because you still love the 90s, because you still wonder what the fuck was going on in that Jamiroquai video, admit it: This is 1997!
*** South Park*** Verve*** Chicken Soup for the Soul*** Marilyn Manson***
*** Spice Girls*** Boogie Nights*** Puff Daddy***
*** Pop-Up Video*** Lilith Fair*** Nick Southall Remembers 1997***
*** 1-800 Wars*** Ian Mathers Remembers 1997*** Daria***
*** Big Beat*** Austin Powers*** Forgotten Films: Kundun*** Jamiroquai***
*** Forgotten Films: 4 Little Girls*** UK Championship Manager*** Loser of 1996: Bush***
*** Ska*** Titanic***
*** Ally McBeal/Buffy*** Beanie Babies*** Radiohead***
Ben Woolhead: Just the sort of deranged cartoon you might have expected from a pair of sickos whose previous work together included a musical about cannibalism.
Matt Chesnut: What 12-year-old can resist potty-mouthed, crudely animated Coloradoans? Certainly not I.
Andrew Unterberger: When South Park first aired in late ’97, it was a total phenomenon. In a pre-Adult Swim world, most of us weren’t used to bizarre non-sequitirs and existentialism mixed in with our shit and fart jokes.
Adrien Begrand: South Park didn't air in Canada until late 1998, so before then, those of us who had satellite dishes were frantically shipping videotapes of all the first season shows to everybody we knew.
Christina Adkison: It was impossible for me to enjoy watching South Park with my friends. I was quite mature for my age, so I enjoyed the social and political satire, but my fellow middle school friends were too enthralled with Mr. Hanky and Kenny getting impaled.
Gabe Gloden: I loved the original Santa VS. Jesus short. That must have received more viewings on my computer than any anything else. Even that one where the cat jumps and attacks the baby.
Christina Adkison: I grew up in a religious (read: strict) family, so my grandmother had to screen a few episodes before she would allow me to watch the show. Of course, she randomly decided to watch the one with the boxing match between Jesus and Satan. I’m 19 years old now and I still have to secretly watch the DVDs at 2:00 am out of fear from her wrath.
Andrew Unterberger: South Park was essentially about four10 year-old kids from Colorado—the sensitive, Jewish kid Kyle, the everykid Stan, the fat, evil bastard Cartman and the hooded, muffled and imminently doomed Kenny.
Ken Munson: 1997 was a BAD year to be named Kenny. Seriously, at the height of South Park’s popularity, I’d have between three and five people come up to me and yell “Oh my god! They killed Kenny!” every single day.
Brad Shoup: I always suspected Kenny was spewing obscenities under all that muffling.
Ken Munson: And then of course we’ve got Cartman. Cartman is just pure evil, with no redeeming human qualities whatsoever; he’s a mean, stupid fatass and he’s one of the greatest characters of all time.
Brad Shoup: Cartman was the breakout star. A mincing, bellicose little kid with the filthiest of mouths and yet no idea how procreation works.
Matt Chesnut: I remember my first episode. It was the Thanksgiving special in which a starving Ethiopian boy, appropriately referred to as “Starvin Marvin”, found his way to town. Cartman explaining to a little African boy what the purpose of appetizers is was awe inspiring
Nick Southall: I’m more of a Stan. I’m not Jewish, fat, and I don’t wear orange, so it has to be Stan.
Brad Shoup: It seemed like at the end of every episode, Stan or Kyle would face the camera and deliver an afternoon-special moral. And I never quite figured out if it was a parody of family sitcoms or not.
Gavin Mueller: I hated this when it came out, but my how it has aged into something really great.
Nick Southall: The potty humour was funny for about 6 episodes, which is about as long as it lasted, but as soon as they shifted into political and social satire they started getting really good.
Andrew Unterberger: South Park made the transition from “hehe you farted” jokes to attacks on US foreign policy so seamlessly that a lot of us got lost in the shuffle, only to tune in again years later and find out that the show had gotten more topical than The Daily Show.
Josh Timmermann: Unlike The Simpsons, South Park has yet to lose its edge. If anything, it's ballsier with each new season. The episodes on smoking and The Passion of the Christ are pure satiric gold.
Ken Munson: South Park has made some of the most gloriously unsubtle satire in the world, and it has only gotten better the less media attention it gets.
Steve Lichtenstein: I liked this, then felt it was rehashing The Simpsons too much, then didn’t watch it for a few years, then forgot it was still on the air, and now I sometimes catch an episode. It’s funny when inappropriate things are said.
Ben Woolhead: I’ve always felt that the toilet humor and the political satire don’t quite fit together. Sure it’s funny in places, but I’d choose Springfield over South Park any time.
Nick Southall: It’s probably more belly-laugh inducing than The Simpsons, actually, just because that warm family sheen is so regularly completely destroyed by South Park, something The Simpsons never quite had the guts to do.
Adrien Begrand: To this day, every Christmas, I play the "Oh Holy Night" cartoon, where Cartman is singing solo and keeps getting shocked with a cattle prod when he forgets the words. Not a single member of my family can sit through that song and keep a straight face. "It is the night, with the Christmas trees and piie...OOWWW!"
Ken Munson: ‘Cause it’s a bittersweet, symphony that’s liiiii-hiiiiife…
Pat Brereton: This song has always been amazing—it’s probably one of the best singles to come out of the late nineties. It came out of nowhere, probably even more so if you were familiar with the band. Completely fresh, accessible, and mind-blowingly simple.
Nick Southall: Oh undoubtedly “Bittersweet Symphony” is a great song, you can’t argue with that. It showed a whole different way for ‘guitar’ bands to make music, putting together different parts, working round a sample, not just going off a riff or a chord progression, but then
Andrew Unterberger: The days of The Verve being a haunted psych-kraut-shoegaze outfit were over, the days of them being monochromatic assholes had just begun.
Ben Woolhead: The video was essentially a shameless rip-off of Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Symphony”, and was ripped off in turn for England’s unofficial World Cup ’98 anthem, the allegedly hilarious “Vindaloo”.
Ken Munson: I’ve always wanted to do that thing in the video, where you just walk down the street and bump into people really hard. Except that instead of bumping into them, I’d punch them in the side of the head. Maybe that’s excessive, but you know it would make for a great music video.
Christina Adkison: The Verve stole the idea from their music video from me. I have been having physical contact with complete strangers for years. Except mine usually involves punches to the face. It’s very relaxing, especially if you work in retail like I do.
Ben Woolhead: Richard Ashcroft has his head so far up his own arse I bet he walks down the street like this even when he’s not being filmed.
Tony Van Groningen: The video was pretty awesome once you got over how ugly Richard Ashcroft was.
Ken Munson: Would someone Richard Ashcroft something to eat? ‘Cause I’m really sick of seeing his sad, emaciated face.
Nick Southall: I still do do this at least once a week. Have you ever been to London? There’s no other way to deal with the sodding place. Eyes front, walk like a bastard, knock pregnant women and disabled people out of the way.
Brad Shoup: I heard some of those people weren't extras. Tres rock'n'roll!
Ben Woolhead: The video could have been improved immeasurably if it’d shown him getting his scrawny arse kicked by someone he’d barged into. And if I just happened to be the extra who was allowed that pleasure.
Gabe Gloden: You know what… if I ever see Richard Ashcroft walking down the street, I’m totally going to walk into him and knock myself over. Do you think he gets that a lot?
Tony Van Groningen: Well, didn’t this song end up having one of the most ironic names in the history of music.
Brad Shoup: What a fabulous song, eh? Too bad the Verve stepped on the toes of the greatest rock and roll band in the world. You know the ones: the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra.
Nick Southall: What Loog Oldham did was disgusting, stealing credit for a song because of money. The sample is about four notes, that’s all, and there’s so much else going on in that song. It’s criminal.
Tony Van Groningen: I think it’s a great song, and I think it sucks that the Stones sued the pants off the Verve for using a fairly obscure sample, and I think that the Verve are stupid for thinking they could get away with using an uncleared sample in the first place on a song that was clearly good enough to become a big deal in a hurry.
Brad Shoup: Good for the Stones, man. Now only they can legally rip themselves off.
Andrew Unterberger: As reward for their breakthrough success, The Verve didn’t make a cent off of the song, they never had another hit in the U.S. they broke up less than a year later and their song was used in some Nike commercial.
Nick Southall: The Nike commercial nicked the string hook but nothing else, right? Well, history reveals the victor - I can’t remember the advert and I don’t own any Nike trainers.
Ken Munson: The saga of Bittersweet Symphony taught us all a sad lesson, that you don’t fuck with the Rolling Stones. You don’t even fuck with their Muzak.
Adrien Begrand: It's such a shame that America will always regard The Verve as being a one-hit wonder. Urban Hymns remains a stunner of an album, one that's epic and grandiose, yet down to earth and intimate at the same time.
Nick Southall: I can even imagine Jay-Z using the string hook on The Blueprint. It’s a massive song, and still fabulous.
Pat Brereton: The lyrics mean more and more to me as the days go by, especially now that I’m out of college, looking for meaningful work, and not really seeing too much hope in the eyes of people working a 9 to 5: “You’re a slave to your money then you die.” That about sums it up. But I’m still holding out hope that it doesn’t.
Gabe Gloden: When I saw them live, they played what must have been a 15-minute version of this song, and not one moment was boring. It’s impossible to get sick of it.
Adrien Begrand: Ever find yourself thinking that UK rock would be in better shape today if The Verve were still together?
Brad Shoup: To this day, I'll walk a street and the opening string figure pops into my head. A simple concept made indelible by Richard Ashcroft's arrogant coolness and a classic single.
Brad Shoup: Between “I’m OK, You’re OK” and Dr. Phil’s Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family, there was a huge void. America needed short, easy-to-digest stories about acts of kindness paying off in twenty years’ time. Enter the Chicken Soup series.
Gavin Mueller: Ooh, nothing makes my blood boil in that exquisite way like a preachy halfwit quoting one of these books.
Andrew Friedman: Did anyone under the age of 35 read these? Or anyone that didn't wear Christmas sweaters?
Ken Munson: Here’s a fact: No one reads these books. They skim them in the bookstore, go “Aww” and buy them as a gift for their relatives. A copy of Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul sits mostly unread in your parents’ bathroom, and your brother’s Chicken Soup for the Pre-Teen Soul gets chucked under his bed as he’s looking for his Game Boy.
Matt Chesnut: These things are novel-length Hallmark cards. Wretch.
Andrew Unterberger: 1997 was a sick year for this country. We desperately needed the chicken soup of short, inspirational stories of basic human ethics and life lessons to cleanse our teenage souls—just like Mom used to make.
Gabe Gloden: I got Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and was pissed when I found out it didn’t contain any actually recipes. What a rip-off!
Christina Adkison: This inspirational book series was initially a great idea. But then it got way out of hand. Before you knew it, everyone had their own Chicken Soup series.
Brad Shoup: Chicken Soup for the Canadian’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul…
Christina Adkison: Chicken Soup for the Vegetarian’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Olympic Fencer’s Soul…
Brad Shoup: Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul…
Christina Adkison: Chicken Soup for the Transsexual’s Soul…
Brad Shoup: Yes, no demographic of souls was left unmolested by the Chicken Soup series.
Ken Munson: I think at some point these things became too uplifting and ubiquitous to be very believable. I mean, I know very good things will happen to very good people, and it’s nice that they do. But to find all those hundreds of stories and print them seems kind of exploitative, not to mention an approach that ignores legitimate problems.
Andrew Unterberger: The Chicken Soup series was harmless enough until EVERYONE started sending them as e-mail forwards—like they hadn’t even read them, just though “oh, another inspirational Chicken Soup story—you know who’d like this? Everyone in my address book!”
Ken Munson:And besides all that, motivational speeches just don’t motivate me. They’re vapid and boring. What does work for me is fear, so Violent Threats for the Soul would be more useful.
Brad Shoup: “Don’t jump! This isn’t worth it! Quick, lieutenant, get me a fireman’s net and a Chicken Soup book. Now!”
Ken Munson: Ha ha, remember the 90s, when we were all actually SCARED of Marilyn Manson?
Christina Adkison: There’s nothing more attractive than a man with boobs who eats insects in his music videos.
Matt Chesnut: Oh, here’s a man surrounded by mythology. “I heard he sacrifices live chickens backstage!”
Andrew Friedman: “I heard he passed a bucket around and had the crowd piss in it, then drank it!”
Matt Chesnut:“I heard he had his ribs removed so he could perform oral sex on himself!”
Andrew Friedman: “I heard he was Paul from The Wonder Years!”
Gabe Gloden: Another goofy rumor was that he happened to be Paul, Kevin’s sidekick, from the TV show the Wonder Years. Untrue, but the resemblance is disturbing.
Ken Munson: At one point, Marilyn Manson didn’t even have to do anything shocking, because people were making up shocking stories about him anyway. And not just any rumors, but stupid rumors too, of puppy-killing and other such ludicrous stuff.
Adrien Begrand: Marilyn Manson was a complete joke. And this is coming from someone who used to listen to Alice Cooper, Kiss, Motley Crue, and W.A.S.P.
Joe Niemczyk:They didn't think that he was the Antichrist, but for a while, my Evangelical friends in high school seriously thought that Marilyn Manson was going to corrupt the minds of all our classmates and turn them into Satan-worshipping zombies. I was just pissed that by getting his breakthrough hit with the cover of an '80s synthpop song, he paved the way for Orgy.
Christina Adkison: Marilyn Manson single-handedly convinced my parents to ban me from MTV.
Ken Munson: “Oh no!! This Satan worshipper is targeting our kids!!” Marilyn Manson doesn’t worship anything but himself, and if your kid is a Manson fan, he’s an incurable idiot. Manson will tell you all this himself.
Christina Adkison: Marilyn Manson is not a true artist but simply a strategic businessman. All artists appreciate their fans. Marilyn Manson, like everyone else, hate Marilyn Manson fans.
Matt Chesnut: I remember a lot of “goth” folks at my school with the black lipstick feigned adoration for Marilyn Manson.
Gavin Mueller: The first rock concert I went to was Marilyn Manson. Some meek denizens of Dayton, Ohio held a candlelight vigil outside, sufficiently satiating my 14-year-old desires. Plus I got to see some goths fight!
Brad Shoup: Overrated. The truly scary artists aren't usually picked up on by the media. Manson was a one-man Hot Topic for underhugged little boys.
Joe Niemczyk: For being such a controversial shock rocker, it's funny that the most shocking thing he pulled off was getting engaged to the chick from Jawbreaker.
Adrien Begrand: Manson tried much too hard to be creepy. Let's face facts, the music just plain sucked. If you're going to do shock rock, you have to put some tongue-in-cheek humor in there, otherwise, as Manson proved time and again, it becomes too pretentious to bear. Give me Rob Zombie anytime, instead of this dummy.
Ben Woolhead; There was a time when I had a lot of time for Marilyn Manson. Mechanical Animals is a pretty decent album. The video to “Dope Hat” is a genuinely unnerving vision of Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory. And what he said in interviews made a lot of sense and set him apart from the inarticulate gruntings of Korn and Limp Bizkit.
Josh Timmermann: In spite of the apparent odds, Marilyn Manson actually made two really good records in Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. Upon recent reevaluation, both hold up as well one could reasonably expect. Antichrist, maybe; anti-pop, certainly not.
Ben Woolhead: Unfortunately, though, it was generally contradicted by some stupefyingly dumb lyrics and his antics now seem less like worthwhile acts of provocation and more like a desperate use of shock tactics in a bid to stay interesting.
Josh Timmermann: His lyrics range from inadvertently stoopid yet, at the same time, amusingly audacious ("I wasn't born with enough middle fingers") to inexcusably inexcusably awful (check out the lyrics for "Tourniquet"--or don't), but his band rocks with enough hedonistic abandon that a chorus of "FUCK IIIIIIIIIIIT!" seems perfectly appropriate.
Matt Chesnut: Marilyn Manson never seemed all that tough, though. He’s pretty wiry, so I’m guessing if I got in a fight with him, he’d probably resort to dirty tricks like kicking dirt in my eyes or summoning demons. He’s no match for Rammstein, anyway.
Andrew Freidman: Dude's always had my respect, except when he was trying to be Bowie. And even that wasn't that bad. Plus he dropped serious knowledge in Bowling for Columbine.
Brad Shoup: And I have to say: I saw Mr. Warner in "Bowling For Columbine". A lot of papers were lauding him for his erudite comments, but their expectations were pretty low from the get-go. All Manson said was "I'm persecuted... look at the government" and some people wanted to give him an opening slot for Noam Chomsky.
Gavin Mueller: Overall, I think he made bondage less abstract for the suburban set.
Adrien Begrand: Here's hoping the world never gets to see the video for "The Long Hard Road Into Hell" ever again. Please, Brian, put on some clothes.
Nick Southall: The world is a better place with Brian in it. He’s a very shrewd man. Much respect.
Joe Niemczyk: Boys that look like girls and girls who empower themselves like boys. Yes, it was a subversive year for pop music.
Gabe Gloden: I liked the Spice Girls, before they sold out and went all commercial.
Josh Timmermann: The Spice Girls were pop-feminism! Excepting Courtney Love, the whole riot grrl thing never really broke full-scale into mainstream American culture, but the Spice Girls took girl power global to an arguably unprecedented degree.
Ben Woolhead: The Spice Girls’ lasting cultural contribution is not their music but a slogan: “Girl Power”. They seemed to see themselves as feminists, sassy young independent women with something to say and glass ceilings to smash in Popworld. In truth, they were malleable puppets whose every movement and decision was in fact predetermined by shady svengali Simon Fuller.
Matt Chesnut: Their girl power shtick didn’t resonate very well because they never really exemplified the whole feminist movement very well. They were like a five-headed, multi-hair colored bumper sticker with a ceaseless mantra.
Ken Munson: To this day, the first two things I ask a person if I want to get to know them are their favorite Ninja Turtle and their favorite Spice Girl. Mine are Leonardo and Sporty.
Matt Chesnut: You see, Sporty was the athletic one, except so not a lesbian. Ginger is the slutty one, Baby is the youngest one, Posh is the trophy wife and Scary is the black one.
Christina Adkison: My favorite Spice Girl was Ginger Spice. After all, she was the only one named after a real spice. What do you season with Baby Spice? Babies?!?!?!?
Adrien Begrand: Out of all the Spice Girls, I would never have picked Baby as the one to outlast the others, but Emma has emerged as a damn fine pop singer, and good on her.
Gavin Mueller: I recall after lengthy debates over which Spice Girl was the hottest, I came to the conclusion that none of them were particularly attractive.
Ben Woolhead: Very early on it was clear that we weren’t exactly dealing with intellectual heavyweights. I remember reading an interview in which one of them claimed that the infamous “Zig-a-zig-ah” lyric of debut single “Wannabe” could mean anything you wanted it to.
Matt Chesnut: Zigga zigga aaaaah. Oh, it sounded so dirty back then.
Christina Akdison: I never understood their lyrics. “If you wanna be my lover….gotta get with my friends.” Now, that’s a really open relationship.
Brad Shoup: "Say You'll Be There" is how I met the girls for the first time. A brilliant tune. Girl power? Try harmonica-solo power, chumps.
Gavin Mueller: Best Spice Girls song: "Spice Up Your Life."
Ben Woolhead: The Spice Girls met Prince Charles and one of them pinched his arse. Just a shame they weren’t all shot for treason.
Matt Chesnut: Regardless of what you thought of their music, Spice World was so atrocious, I’m pretty sure it violates a UN charter.
Ben Woolhead: I don’t want to divulge the precise circumstances, but suffice to say that during a prolonged booze binge I once watched the Spice Girls movie three and a half times in four days. First time around it was poor. Second time, quite good. Third time, absolutely marvellous. Fourth time, so fucking rubbish I couldn’t make it all the way through. I still like when Meat Loaf is asked to fix the onboard toilet and he replies, “Look man, I love those girls, I’d do anything for them, but I won’t do that.”
Nick Southall: The Spice Girls weren’t very interesting because there was no actual sexuality to them beyond Geri’s masticated and engorged mammaries. Hanson were a totally different proposition though.
Andrew Unterberger: Hanson tricked an entire nation of teenage guys that they were pretty hot. My brother had the misfortune of saying this out loud, it took him years to live it down.
Christina Adkison: I honest to God thought for the longest time that there was at least one female in Hanson.
Nick Southall: I was VERY close to obsessing over Taylor Hanson before I found out he was a boy. Although to be honest finding out didn’t exatly put me off.
Ken Munson: Yeah, the joke that was all the rage about Hanson was that they were little boys who looked little girls, ha ha ha. A year later I saw Hanson on TV and the youngest one was bigger than I was.
Andrew Unterberger: Zach the guitarist was the oldest at 16, singer Taylor was 14, and the little drummer kid was only 11. Hanson were like the Olsen twins of mid-90s pop.
Gabe Gloden: The emergence of Hanson only meant one thing for me…I finally had to cut my flowing, golden locks, lest I encourage Hanson jibes from the bullies.
Adrien Begrand: I remember being totally wowed by "Mmm-Bop" when I first heard it. Then the little girls got their pubescent paws all over the song, and the rest of us wished the song would go away.
Christina Adkison: “Mmmbop” was the radio song of the 90s that was similar to “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”, the radio song of the 80s. Everyone pretends they are singing along to it and they have no idea what the fuck the real lyrics are so they run all their words together and shout the one word they know. For “It’s the End of the World” it was “Leonard Bernstein”; for “Mmmmbop” it was “bop”.
Josh Timmermann: Middle of Nowhere was a terrific record, "MMMBop" the closest thing to our "I Want You Back," so what went wrong? Why did Hanson fade into C-list obscurity as quickly as they'd exploded onto the scene? The answer, it seems, was beyond obvious: puberty.
Andrew Unterberger: Once they started getting facial hair and their voices dropped and it was clear what gender they were, it was over. See also: Leonardo DiCaprio.
Andrew Freidman: I was way too young for irony or pop appreciation, and I knew too many people (girls) who took them seriously. I thought they were both shit.
Matt Chesnut: The Spice Girls were both genders’ favorites. Why? Because they had nekkid pictures of ‘em on the internet. That 28.8 K modem couldn’t work fast enough.
Ken Munson: Both the Spice Girls and Hanson were not really as bad as I wanted to believe they were at the time. There’s nothing at all wrong about either of them, not like the teen music we got a few years later, but they’re no kind of classic pop either.
Brad Shoup: It's the craziest thing! All the girls I know still think Hanson is white heat! Time to call the Moffatts and BBMak for some club dates.
Andrew Unterberger: Boogie Nights was the Goodfellas of the porn industry.
Ken Munson: It’s your basic rise-and-fall story, only with more naked people.
Andrew Friedman: This movie was dope, if for no other reason, because it was Marky Mark's big return.
Ken Munson: Boogie Nights is an amazing movie with great direction, an amazing supporting ensemble, and a solid lead performance by Mark Wahlberg’s penis.
Ben Woolhead: Not the lazy frat-boy-pleasing endorsement of the porn industry I was fearing, but instead a moderately intelligent tale of hubris and vanity that traces Dirk Diggler’s rise and inevitable fall without too much in the way of glamorization.
Tony Van Groningen: The movie wasn’t especially erotic so it didn’t do much to get me more into porn, but then again, I probably didn’t need to be any more into porn than I already was at that point.
Adrien Begrand: It's a credit to Paul Thomas Anderson and all the actors for making you care deeply about people in an otherwise very seedy industry.
Christina Adkison: Although it’s hard for Burt Reynolds to surpass his performance in Smokey and the Bandit 2, he blows us away in Boogie Nights. (Sorry for the pun.)
Ben Woolhead:“Hey, that’s Burt Reynolds! But where’s Dom DeLuise?”
Ken Munson: Burt Reynolds’ quest to make a porn movie that’s actually a good film is a noble quest indeed. I wish someone out there had succeeded with this. Boogie Nights is indeed a good film, but it’s not very good porn.
Ben Woolhead: As Rollergirl, Heather Graham might be described as mildly attractive.
Andrew Unterberger: Heather Graham was second only to Jennifer Love Hewitt in terms of hotness in 1997. My parents wouldn’t let me see Boogie Nights back then, but judging from my reaction to the swimsuit scene in Austin Powers 2, I doubt I ever would’ve recovered.
Adrien Begrand: Philip Seymour Hoffman deserved an Oscar nomination. Without a doubt the most nervous, awkward, sweatiest performance ever.
Andrew Unterberger: And, as always happens in movies, coke and the 80s ruin everything.
Adrien Begrand: The moral of this movie's story: never anger a hot girl in rollerskates. You will pay dearly.
Andrew Freidman: There was that fucked up scene with the shotgun and "Jessie's girl" and the 10-year-old asian boy.
Adrien Begrand: That scene at Rahad's house, where it seques from "Sister Christian" to "Jesse's Girl" was thrilling. You felt as wired as all the drugged-up characters. "Sister Christian" sounds even better after seeing Boogie Nights.
Tony Van Groningen: The end scene was unexpected and shocking, but a strangely perfect conclusion to a movie that is pretty surreal when you think about it.
Steve Lichtenstein: My house got burgled (burgled?) in 2000, and all my DVDs were stolen, save for this and a few others. This has thankfully allowed me to not watch the last 35 minutes of this movie completely at my leisure.
Adrien Begrand: Again, it's a testament to Anderson's writing and directing, in that during the last, so sadly pathetic scene, you're not shocked at all.
Ken Munson: Ladies: Mark Wahlberg’s penis in the final scene is not real. It is a prostetic device that he wore over his actual wang. It probably does not exist, so forget about it.
Josh Timmermann: I saw Julianne Moore on, I believe, Conan one night talking about she'd gotten to keep the prosthesis used in the movie and how, when a robber broke into her house one night, that's the only that was stolen--no jewelry, no money, just Marky Mark's big, fake dick.
Ben Woolhead: In reality, I bet Mark Wahlberg’s got a tiny cock.
Tony Van Groningen: What a cool movie. It made me really morose in some parts (poor Buck), but overall it was so foreign and funny that you can’t help but enjoy it.
Andrew Friedman: Yeah, there was sex, drugs, more drugs, gay handjobs, but it was really seeing Marky Mark in a legitimate role that amazed me. And not just cuz we got to see his wang, hadn't everyone pretty much seen that already?
Adrien Begrand: Second best movie of the 90s, right behind Pulp Fiction.
Tony Van Groningen: I should watch this again, it’s been a long time.
Ken Munson: In a perfect world, there would be no Puff Daddy.
Gavin Mueller: Puffy proved the axiom "More money, more money."
Ken Munson: It probably goes without saying that Puff Daddy is one of the least talented men ever to hit the genre. At least Vanilla Ice had the extreme cheese going for him (and he was a better dancer!) There’s just… NOTHING GOOD… about Puff Daddy.
Matt Chesnut: Sen “Puffy” Combs: the only non-porn star who can go his entire career only saying “unh”.
Brad Shoup: The theory goes, if you can't do one thing well, do a lot of things well enough. Puffy figured, if you can't do the latter, do a LOT MORE things and say "uh huh". I think the results speak for themselves.
Christina Adkison: If you took all the props to Biggie out of Puffy’s songs, you would realize that they only contain the words “unh” and “yeah”.
Andrew Unterberger: Conspiracy theorists missed a big one with this. Rapper dies in a very shady and still unvolved assassination, “best friend” becomes the biggest star in the world off of his tribute single. The question is, who had the motive?
Tony Van Groningen: I really do think that he misses his old pal Biggy Smalls, but I also do think that whether he meant to or not (and I think he did on some level) he certainly benefited financially from the constant reminders of his relationship with Biggie.
Gavin Mueller.: It wasn't the exploitation of Biggie's death that upset me. What galled me was a dead 300-pound man could move thousands of units of incredibly crappy music without even being on the record.
Andrew Freidman: I don't think white people really understood what a big deal it was when Big got clapped, but I remember all the black people in my high school just bawling, and all us white kids just being confused and not really knowing what to do. It was also really hard for us to understand why he was getting away with that "I’ll Be Missing You" shit, which really was the biggest crock off shit I'd ever heard when it dropped.
Tony Van Groningen: I was a TA for seventh graders when Puffy started to really, truly become a huge star. The kids loved him. I hated him for calling himself a rapper when all he really did was jack beats, talk about how rich he was, and make other people famous so he could be more rich so he could rap about it in another song with another stolen beat.
Ken Munson: At the same time we had the electronica boom pushing sampling into new exciting directions, we had Puff Daddy setting back the artform years. There’s not a person reading this who couldn’t do the exact same thing Puffy does. Old hit + beat = new hit. A child could do it.
Adrien Begrand: The fact that Combs massacred the only great song Sting ever wrote was bad enough, but having Sting onstage during the MTV Awards singing the revised lyrics, that was too embarrassing to bear.
Tony Van Groningen: His music videos were so extravagant and over the top that it was borderline retarded, and they gave me another thing to hate him for.
Matt Chesnut: When he wasn’t nodding his head around in people’s videos, he was busy moguling it up, Russell Simmons style.
Ken Munson: More than any other rapper, Puff Daddy was about the benjamins. Big expensive clothes, big expensive clothing line, big expensive music videos, big expensive romances, big expensive checks paid to his ghostwriters.
Brad Shoup: Of course, the younger ones reading this installment won't remember when Puffy wasn't a critically-lauded stage actor or winning the New York Marathon in record time while carrying a Somalian orphan on his back.
Tony Van Groningen: Rap hasn’t been the same since Puffy blew up in ’97…it’s always been a materialistic genre, but he took it to a whole new level and it’s never gonna go back to where it used to be.
Andrew Freidman: Far and away the best thing about Puff Daddy was how when Biggie said "where my true playas at" in the "Mo Money Mo Problems" video, Mase and Puffy are looking directly away from the camera.
Andrew Unterberger: I guess after the deaths of 2Pac and and Biggie, it makes sense that this harmless pop-rapper would dictate the rap trends of the rest of the decade. There was no danger of a guy this mildly offensive getting shot.
Josh Timmermann: Unlike most everybody else, I genuinely like Diddy.
Gabe Gloden: For all the easy Puffy disses, you have to admit that this cat is hip-hop’s quintessential self-made man. The guy did everything: he was an amazing party organizer, master marketer, producer and MC. Now he makes clothes, I hear.
Josh Timmermann: I like "I'll Be Missing You" more than "Every Breath You Take." I like that the guy has the audacity to not only design clothes, but cars. And in this especially crucial election year, I really like that he's devoted his considerable celebrity to getting out the vote.
Brad Shoup: Seriously, Diddy needs his due. He classed the game up, made a lot of cash, and never let The Man tell him there was such a thing as too many parasols.
Josh Timmermann: A stand-up guy, in my book.
Andrew Unterberger: Pop-Up Video and Behind the Music--the death of VH1 the mediocre adult contemporary video station, and the birth of VH1, the heroin station for pop culture junkies.
Andrew Friedman: VH1 really solidified their position as the useless information channel with these shows. Behind the Music gets extra props for making "...and then they hit rock bottom" a cliche.
Ken Munson: Behind the Music was the program that taught that every band that has ever existed had the same exact story.
Andrew Unterberger: The first couple episodes were the best. I mean come on, how can you possibly resist the sob stories of the most hated artists in rock and roll?
Ken Munson: I watched every single Behind the Music I could find, from Bob Marley to the Bay City Rollers, from David Crosby to David Cassidy. The only one that really sticks out in my mind today is the Ozzy Osbourne one, which despite his current cuddly TV star status, is still a pretty fucked up story.
Brad Shoup: I watched the Black Crowes' Behind the Music years ago. The drug use and infighting kind of washed over me. What stuck was the thought that, "Wow, I had no idea these guys had a decent career at one point."
Matt Chesnut: This show started to fall off when it started covering bands that didn’t have any serious drug problems. Coming up next on Behind the Music: Jan Brady’s final mistake.
Ken Munson: After a while, the episodes began to just blend together, especially with VH1 scheduling it the same way MTV schedules Real World marathons. It did, however, establish VH1 as absolutely geniuses in the editing department.
Christina Adkison: Behind the Music was far superior to Pop-Up Video in that it contained relevant information. I’m sorry Pop-Up Video, but I don’t care how much a cat brain weighs.
Pat Brereton: (“Pop into Pop-Up Video” – blip!)
Ken Munson: Pop-Up Video was the TV show that blasted little bits of information over top of music videos for your edification. For example, one time it informed me that Daryl Hall was bi-curious. I didn’t exactly want to know that, but there you go.
Gabe Gloden: I loved the fundamental entertaining concept of Pop-Up Video. During moments of extreme musician narcissism and grandiosity, BLOOP! Some smart-ass comment smashes you out of your suspension of disbelief.
Pat Brereton: Yeah, this show was great. It took “useless information” and “colossal waste of time” to new, glorious heights, and then dropped us idiots from them.
Matt Chesnut: On the rare occasion they played a video you wanted to see, you would be obstructed by little droplet sound effects and banal details about the video, the artist, the artist’s hair dresser, and the video director’s idiosyncrasies.
Adrien Freidman: "Pop Up Video" was great for things like quotes (Tom Petty: "the best songs have three chords, four chords tops") and pointless information (Bonnie Tyler had an operation to make her voice less raspy, which made her voice more raspy).
Gabe Gloden: Where else could you go to learn how much a nose job costs while watching Billie Jean?
Matt Chesnut: Did you know: Billy Joel has a superfluous nipple embedded in his scalp.
Andrew Friedman: But they really shined when they ran out of things to say. At the end of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving," they just started a rhyming theme: "constant shaving causes irritated skin" or "constant waving," with a picture of Miss America. "PUV" really inspired my irreverant sense of humor.
Pat Brereton: Did I really need to know every detail behind Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Need a New Drug”? Or Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”? No, of course not. Is it pathetic that I remember these more vividly than modern European history? Probably.
Ken Munson: Pop-Up Video may have been a little too clever for its own good. One time it gave away that there was no Santa Claus. That’s not cool at all.
Brad Shoup: Pop-Up Video was probably ground-breaking. I don't know how, but I bet it was. The fourth wall of music video-watching was SHATTERED!
Gavin Mueller: For the love of Christ, bring this show back!
Brad Shoup: Lilith Fair was founded by Sarah McLachlan, who realized that women need a nurturing, supportive environment in which to listen to their bland crap-rock.
Ken Munson: Lilith Fair was and is a horrible idea. Somehow, Sarah McLachlan made being female a passing fad.
Gavin Mueller: Finally attractive women were getting noticed!
Andrew Freidman: Realistically speaking, this was kind of an abritrary thing to base a movement around. Women? Making music? This should not have been a revolution.
Pat Brereton: I didn’t go. All I could picture were pastel-colored guitars, unshorn armpits, and Sarah McLachlan. However, I’m sure it was fine.
Brad Shoup: The lineups read like a Who's Who of What the Crap.
Christina Adkison: Just I when I thought adolescence couldn’t get more painful, all I had to do was play a Sarah Mc song to bring me to the point of suicide. Awww, memories.
Adrien Begrand: I was blown away when I first heard Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery" and "Sweet Surrender". In Canada, we were all familiar with her older material, which, to me, was painfully boring, but the singles from Surfacing were so seductive, it was impossible not to give in.
Ken Munson: Sarah McLachlan has never written a good or deep lyric in her life, but the way she records her music makes her seem like she does, which I suppose is an accomplishment.
Adrien Begrand: Not long after that, though, the album was usurped by college-aged girls everywhere. My sister's university roommates played Surfacing every single day for an entire school year.
Christina Adkison: At the very end of my middle school formal, the DJ played “I Will Remember You”. Everyone, including my date who was on the football team, cried like babies. Nothing says party like a Sarah McLachlan song.
Matt Chesnut: The award for “Totally Fallen Off the Face of the Earth” goes to Sarah McLachlan. The award for “Going Pop and Cursing Out Your Audience At A Concert” goes to Jewel.
Nick Southall: I’m not even sure who Jewel is. Didn’t she go mad?
Christina Adkison: I honestly enjoyed some Jewel songs, but I hated all her poetry. This doesn’t make any sense if you think about it. Maybe she had a ghost songwriter.
Matt Chesnut: I knew things were going downhill when I saw Jewel performing at the halftime show of an NBA finals game last year. We’ll always have Pieces of You, though. And that snaggle tooth.
Christina Adkison: Yeah, Alaska. Way to represent.
Andrew Unterberger: Jewel was one of those performers that we liked more the less we heard from them outside of their music. See also: Fiona Apple.
Ken Munson: Fiona Apple, I think, doesn’t get as much credit as she deserves, mostly because she needs a great big cup of shut the fuck up.
Christina Adkison: Fiona Apple was a great singer, but the mike needs to be taken away before she starts preaching.
Adrien Begrand: The fact that Fiona was an ambitious, pissed-off, terminally flaky teenager who thought the world would be a better place if everyone would read nothing but Maya Angelou made her so weirdly charming.
Andrew Freidman: It also seems kind of strange to lump Fiona Apple in here, as her electronic funk-rock shit had nothing to do with Jewel, Sarah or Paula Cole.
Adrien Begrand: Fiona Apple's "Shadowboxer" had me torn...I was wondering, "Should I go buy an album by a teenager ten years younger than me?" I did, and I was glad I did.
Christina Adkison: Fiona Apple was my favorite of the bunch, as she was less yodel-y than the others. “Criminal” is still one of my favorite songs.
Adrien Begrand: It's impossible not to hear "Criminal" and picture Mark Romanek's video in your mind. Which, in all honesty, isn't a bad thing at all.
Nick Southall: Fiona Apple is at least sexy, and did a great cover of “Across the Universe”. Plus her boyfriend made one of my favorite films (Magnolia).
Andrew Freidman: Little known fact: Christina Aguilera did a her + a piano set on one of the Lillith tours, before she was all dirrty. I've always respected her a little for that.
Ken Munson: I never went to a Lilith Fair, but I did go to a Tori Amos concert once, which is similar. She was far less entertaining than the people in the crowd. Her fans mostly consisted of fat goth hippie lesbians (sorry if I offend, but this is exactly who they were), and they all got up and tried to dance. You don’t dance to Tori Amos. That’s ridiculous.
Andrew Freidman: As cool as it was to have the Lillith movement, Avril Lavigne is the unfortunate result. Not that I have anything against Avril per se, but the obvious descendant of creative, talented singer/songwriters are less creative, less talented singer/songwriters.
Christina Adkison: The women singer-songwriters of ’97 far surpass Avril and Jojo of today. Even though some of Jewel’s songs wanted me to kill myself, Anvil’s songs are so bad I want to kill myself, be reincarnated, and kill myself again, repeat.
Gavin Mueller: Today's female rockers walk an uneasy tightrope between angry Alanis and barely-legal Britney. I don't think they're doing much to advance the cause.
Christina Adkison: Still, I am a woman and I am ashamed of Lilith Fair. Estrogen, like alcohol, must be taken in moderation.
Brad Shoup: That's the problem with organizing a tour around nothing more than shared chromosomes. Who in their right mind would go to a show just because it's men performing? Besides Ozzfest, I mean. And Warped Tour. And Bonnaroo...
Nick Southall Remembers 1997
Radiohead’s Thumb Yorke and my brother JR share the same birthday—October 7th, 1969—and used to vaguely know each other when Thumb was at Exeter University in the late 80s / early 90s. My brother was at the time in a band called The Love Children and Thumb used to DJ occasionally where The Love Children used to play. JR tells me that the nascent Squint-Rock Messiah's DJ sets contained not the Richard D James and Thelonius Monk jazz work-outs you’d expect, but rather a blend of particularly bland and teary-eyed indie-bollocks. Anyway, to cut a long story short... Thumb Yorke fancied some bird. Said bird refused to go out with Thumb Yorke because he was a squinty little twerp with shocking taste in music and also she was vaguely seeing my brother the Local Pop Star. Said girl called Thumb Yorke a “creep”. Thumb pens song detailing the soul-rending existential horror of being called a “creep” by a girl that you fancy. Thumb gets in some indie band. Indie band release said song. Song goes massive. Thumb gets very very rich and very very pretentious. JR becomes big fan of Thumb Yorke's band. Bizarre, eh?
Steve Lichtenstein: As a culture frighteningly low on decisions, this gave us all an important one we could mentally debate long enough to forget we had ever planned on making a long distance phone call.
Christina Adkison: In the war of the 1-800 numbers we have the idiotic ramblings of David Arquette versus the grating voice of Chris Rock.
Brad Shoup: These ads were an excuse for talented comedians like Dennis Miller and C-list nobodies like Marlon Wayans to make some quick cash. It hurt me so much to see George Carlin doing these things, but I understand he needed to get out of debt.
Brad Shoup: I think someone forgot to tell Ed O'Neill that heading the Phone Patrol doesn't count towards community service.
Ken Munson: These are the commercials that taught us to hate a good number of minor celebrities we didn’t even know about. David Arquette? You mean the guy from Scream? No, I mean the idiot horror on the bajillion AT&T; commercials.
Matt Chesnut: 1-800-COLLECT is most obviously superior. First, Chris Rock said so. And, you can save up to 44%! Forty four percent of what, I don’t know. But, damn, 44%!
Joe Niemczyk: I always found the 1-800-COLLECT commercials to be really annoying, so on the rare occasions when I had to make a collect call, I chose 1-800-CALL-ATT. Little did I know that years later, those commercials would feature a coked-up Carrot Top.
Christina Adkison: Since Chris Rock’s career has been slightly better, I think he wins. Sorry Dave. This will teach you not to do any more wrestling movies. And you can’t be that great in the first place if you’re replaced by Carrot Top as a spokesman.
Matt Chesnut: Employing David Arquette alone is reason to boycott their services, but when they recruited Carrot Top, that was the final straw.
Christina Adkison: I personally use 1-800-COLLECT more because I kept confusing the other collect number. I was a huge Home Improvement fan at the time and kept dialing 1-800-CALL-JTT.
Gabe Gloden: Just dial down the center motherfuckers!
Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, CALL-ATT got me on the dialing down the center. Dialing COLLECT might’ve made more sense, but that shit was all over the keypad.
Joe Niemczyk: 1-800-CALL-ATT owned 1-800-COLLECT's ass. No question. But has anyone actually made a collect call since then?
Matt Chesnut: Collect calls really had no future once cell phones arrived. You can’t look hip when everyone’s pulling out their Nokias and you slink off to the payphone, hit a few numbers, pause, then say your first name really loudly.
Ken Munson: I have not made a collect call in my life. No one’s ever sent me a collect call. The ubiquity of these ads baffle me.
Brad Shoup: No call is so important that I have to front the bill. Your car broke down? Oh, you don't have two quarters? Start walking, jackass.
Ken Munson: Of course, MCI went bankrupt, so we don’t even get the option of 1-800-COLLECT. You win again, AT&T.; Except I use Sprint, so you still haven’t taken me!
Ian Mathers Remembers 1997
1997: The best year for music ever?
Okay, I’m a bit biased. 1997 was the year I actually started listening to music, as opposed to just watching it on TV. And the year has only taken on a rosier glow as I discover more and more great albums made then. But even at the time, 1997 was for me the year the floodgates opened, and all this wonderful noise came pouring out.
At first I was just listening to the punk stuff my brother was into, but 1997 was a pretty wonderful year for that too: Green Day’s Nimrod, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ Let’s Face It and Hellcat Record’s first Give ‘Em The Boot compilation still hold up surprisingly well. And of course 1997, there was also the mainstreaming of electronic music through the medium of big beat and Daft Punk; not only did Homework drop but so did Dig Your Own Hole and of course Prodigy’s The Fat Of The Land.
But this for me was mostly the year I got into British rock. And what a crop there was; Urban Hymns and Blur’s self-titled “indie” record, Mogwai’s amazing Young Team, but mostly the Big Three that dominated my year: Primal Scream’s Vanishing Point, Radiohead’s OK Computer and Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, for me the record of the year. All of a sudden I wanted to rush out and amass dub, space rock, krautrock, abstract techno, hardcore, and tons of other types of music; these albums were just the beginning.
1997 just seems blessed with a disproportional amount of greatness, with future classics (acknowledged and forgotten) popping out almost every week. Since then I’ve found a strangely high number of records I love that originated then (Readymade’s The Dramatic Balanced By and Superchunk’s Indoor Living being just two), and so I’m not entirely kidding when I submit that 1997 may just have been the best year for music. Ever.
Ken Munson: La la, LA la la.
Matt Chesnut: Daria was quite easily one of my favorite shows ever. For Christ’s sake, she had a Kafka poster in her room. What Hot Topic did she manage to find that in?
Ken Munson: Oh oh oh, was I a Daria fan. I desperately wanted to be friends with a girl like Daria. Sadly, none of them wanted to be friends with me.
Andrew Unterberger: I may or may not have known what the words “deadpan” and “sarcasm” meant before Daria entired my life, but the girl defined both perfectly and left me craving more. That voice!!
Christina Adkison: Daria was the show about the girl adopted by Brady-wannabe parents who spent the whole episode proving how smart she was by making witty comments constantly. Boring. I watch TV in order to escape from my own life.
Andrew Unterberger: The best parts of the show were still with the inter-family negotiations. Those Morgendorfers were all business.
Josh Timmermann: This will undoubtedly be the geekiest thing I've ever written, but Quinn was hot!
Matt Chesnut: Daria and her lone friend Jane would poke fun at the absurdities of public high school in upper middle class America. Daria was one of the most unique main characters on TV. She was socially awkward, bookish, and clever as all hell.
Ken Munson: Something about Daria was hot. I don’t know what it was. Probably personality more than anything.
Adrien Begrand: Jane Lane ruled.
Andrew Unterberger: Daria and Jane were like the precursor to Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World. Daria was a bit smarter, a bit funnier, maybe a bit cooler. But the sex appeal was all Jane’s. And though I didn’t find this out until very recently, apparently the ladies had quite a thing for Trent as well.
Matt Chesnut: The show also sported Trent, Jane’s bum of a brother who fronted a struggling band called Mystik Spiral.
Andrew Unterberger: ”Hey everyone…we’re Mystik Spiral…but we’re thinking about changing our name…”
Matt Chesnut: They had some of the best rock lyrics ever written. “You put me on a short leash/And threw away my hydrant/You ate up all my kibble/Now my coat’s no longer vibrant.”
Andrew Unterberger: “You’re cutting off my nose just to spite my face! / OUCH—MY NOSE!! / OUCH—MY FACE!!”
Ken Munson: Daria was great catharsis for people who wanted to believe they were smarter than all the popular kids. You bet I was one of them.
Matt Chestnut: Towards the end of the series, they made a mad grab for ratings by introducing a new character (Tom) and some weird supernerd love triangle with the new guy, Daria, and Jane all getting teen soap opera on us.
Andrew Unterberger: When Daria started having Dawson-esque deliberations over whether or not to “go all the way” with new beau Tom, both Daria and myself lost a good deal of our innocence. I don’t think I ever watched it again.
Ken Munson: Looking back, although it was a great show, Daria was not really healthy for me to watch, because it just fueled my hatred of people cooler than me.
Gavin Mueller: Even as a teen I thought Daria was banal pandering to the great disenfranchised youth of America. The character had barely more depth than the shallow sketches that made up her nemeses.
Andrew Unterberger: Much of Daria was a cheap shot, yeah, and I don’t think I could even watch the re-runs today, but a whole bunch of us might very well not have survived the Sick, Sad World of teenagerdom without it.
Matt Chesnut: It is a wonder that this show was both on the air and a Beavis and Butthead spinoff. You can now catch sanitized reruns on Noggin, or rather, The N.
Brad Shoup: Electronica was like another two-tone boom; great singles, a focus on unification, and a shelf life of six months.
Joe Niemczyk: In the wake of the Macarena, it was easy to think that dance music would ever be interesting or relevant ever again. So when this new sound suddenly showed up out of nowhere, it came as a huge shock to anyone who was looking for an alternative to cheesy pop and, well, cheesy alternative.
Gavin Mueller: All of a sudden, the future was European again!
Gabe Gloden: This was the year I finally discovered electronic music. My 1997 was spent gobbling up anything with a big beat, scratchin’ samples and a squelchy bass line.
Tony Van Groningen: To be totally honest, I was really into this stuff although I didn’t know it as “big beat” at the time, to me it was more like “electronic party music.” It happily coincided with the time of my life when I was able to begin to afford good stereo equipment at home and in my car, and a lot of this stuff began to phase out some of my gangsta rap listening habits.
Charlie Frame: I think Big Beat must have originated in Britain with bands like the Chemical Brothers and then later the Skint label, but didn't the Americans get really into it? I remember reading about "this quaint crazy new Limey music that's, like, totally made with computers and turntables and stuff" in an American rock mag.
Andrew Unterberger: Big Beat was the first remotely underground electronic music to even make a dent in US markets with the success of groups like The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy and the debut of AMP, the electronic equivalent of Yo! MTV Raps.
Gavin Mueller: AMP was really a life-changing show for me. I'd never really heard much electronic music before I caught the TV show late at night; afterwards, I was hooked. The AMP compilation was an essential starting point, containing tracks from the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Aphex Twin, Photek, Atari Teenage Riot, and, um, Tranquility Bass.
Tony Van Groningen: MTV’s AMP was one of the best shows they have ever done as a network, and I would stay awake until ungodly hours of the morning to watch it. Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Bros, Freestylers, Daft Punk, Prodigy, Headrillaz, Propellerheads, even FSOL and Death in Vegas on some tracks… I ate it up.
Charlie Frame: I hope that this really wasn't the first wave of Electronica to hit the mainstream was it? It was supposed to sound like screwy instrumental hiphop but louder and dafter. I think instead it ended up like Happy Mondays instrumentals.
Andrew Freidman: The whole scene seems bigger in hindsight because The Prodigy were so controversial.
Ben Woolhead: From underground rave heroes to chart-incinerating firestarters, Essex boys The Prodigy hit the big time in 1997, the dance act it was OK for metalheads to like.
Andrew Freidman: Between the creepiness of their videos and the fact that there was a song called "Smack My Bitch Up," all the teenagers wanted in and all the parents flipped out.
Ken Munson: I’ll never forget the first time I heard The Prodigy. I was in my cousin’s car, in New York, and “Firestarter” started playing. I had never heard anything like that before. It truly expanded my mind, by which I mean it was the most horrible sound I could ever imagine.
Josh Timmermann: I kind of forgot about Prodigy altogether until I heard "Firestarter" played at a strip club the other night. Hey, at least it's still good for something.
Andrew Unterberger: “Firestarter” was the first blow, and I thought it was the best thing ever. And that video—that glorious black & white video with demonic Keith Flint in the darkest of tunnels—“I’M THA FIH-ERSTART-AH! TWWWWISTED FIH-ERSTART-AH!”
Adrien Begrand: As great as "Firestarter" was at the time (the Breeders/Art of Noise sample was inspired), the video is rather silly today. Sorry, a clown wearing pajamas stomping around in a sewer is not scary.
Ben Woolhead: With those two tufts of hair Keith Flint looked like a demented crack-smoking teddy bear – in other words, very very silly. Whereas Maxim had the scariest eyes ever and looked like he ate babies for breakfast.
Adrien Begrand: Whither Keith Flint? Anyone? Does he still look like a clown with a pierced septum? And what was with that tall, Bez knockoff that was in the band? Did he even serve a purpose? At least Bez supplied the Happy Mondays with drugs.
Ben Woolhead: Leeroy was a spare part, The Prodigy’s answer to The Fugees’ Pras. Did he ever actually do anything constructive?
Christina Adkison: The only thing I remember about the Chemical Brothers is that their songs mostly served as background music for racing games on PS2 and Nintendo 64. I think this fact alone proves how important and exciting their music was.
Joe Niemczyk: Dig Your Own Hole was definitely my favorite album from that bunch. I can remember coming home from school every afternoon, throwing some Hot Pockets in the microwave, and dancing around the kitchen to "Elektrobank."
Ben Woolhead: The Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole is a fine album, not least for opener “Block Rockin’ Beats”, Beth Orton collaboration “Where Do I Begin?” and final track “The Private Psychedelic Reel”, but I still can’t abide “Setting Sun”. Probably just a consequence of my antipathy to all things Oasis.
Andrew Freidman: Incidentally, "Block Rockin Beats" and "Setting Sun" only got through because rock absolutely sucked in the late 90's, and lots of good electronic music was gettin done overseas. And "Setting Sun" only got played because the guy from Oasis was on it.
Adrien Begrand: Nothing Noel Gallagher has written for Oasis since 1996 can match up to "Setting Sun" and "Let Forever Be"
Josh Timmermann: "Setting Sun" is, to date, the only thing I like, without reservation, that features one of the Gallagher brothers. Can't remember which one, but, whatever, same difference.
Brad Shoup: I remember cutting out of pre-calc with a bathroom pass and a hidden CD player. I walked around the B-wing while my mind dissolved to the Chemical Brothers' "Where Do I Begin," with Beth Orton. The jackhammer ending was one of my first lessons in dissonance.
Adrien Begrand: The beats on Dig Your Own Hole are absolutely monstrous. The closing one-two punch of "Where Do I Begin" and "The Private Psychedelic Reel" is spectacular. The aural equivalent of fireworks.
Ben Woolhead: Daft Punk came from a completely different place to either The Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers, most obviously in geographical terms but also in musical terms. Rather than emerging from the British rave or indie dance scenes, Daft Punk had their roots in stylish French disco.
Adrien Begrand: Most of the UK Big Beat stuff is boring. There, I've said it. The French, namely Daft Punk, were the ones who got it right.
Andrew Unterberger: “Around the World” and “Da Funk” are big beat classics, but Daft Punk didn’t stay on that track long. Not incidentally, they were the only group to really survive the Big Beat fallout.
Brad Shoup: The best big beat track has to be "Renegade Master" by the late, decent-to-fair Wildchild.
Gabe Gloden: Although they weren’t much of an “albums” duo, The Crystal Method produced two of the genres greatest singles, “Busy Child” and “Keep Hope Alive”. Many a motorist had a good laugh seeing me flailing wildly to those songs on my drives to and from school that summer.
Brad Shoup: Lo-Fidelity All-Stars. My friend still swears by How to Operate. I just shook it to "Battle Flag".
Gavin Mueller: There are some good DJ Swamp remixes floating around. They'll make you nostalgic for the days before breakbeats were in car commercials.
Adrien Begrand: Electronica singles were awfully good around this time: "Born Slippy", "Life is Sweet", "Firestarter", "Da Funk". You can't blame the press and music geeks for getting just a smidge excited about it. Who knew that many of the albums wouldn't live up to all the excitement? Listening to The Fat of the Land seven years later, I'm left thinking, "We got all excited over this?"
Andrew Unterberger: The Prodigy’s album debuted at #1, but it was more like the beginning of the end than the cementing of electronica as the next big thing.
Nick Southall: It didn’t last because almost all of the prime movers were taking A LOT OF DRUGS, a situation which almost invariably leads to major physical and creative burnout.
Charlie Frame: Wanna know why Big Beat didn’t last? Right about now. The funk soul brother. Check it out now. The funk soul brother.
Andrew Freidman: When everyone realized that Fatboy Slim wasn't as scary, the sound quickly got relegated to car commercials.
Charlie Frame: Sometimes I think I'd like to shake Norman Cook by the hand for managing to put the last nail into Big Beat's turgid little grave. Then I remind myself how he did it.
Brad Shoup: Daft Punk survived. Fatboy Slim died on the floor at the Boutique.
Joe Niemczyk: The problem with electronica was that the tweens who were buying Hanson CDs and setting the agenda for radio and MTV weren't buying into it at all.
Andrew Freidman: Even if it was short-lived, the Big Beat Invasion caused a sudden interest in electronic music from people besides ravers and the british; that is, once nerds figured it out, IDM was born for real for real.
Andrew Unterberger: Some say the stuff dated horribly, and they’re probably right. Still, the only CDs I bought in ’97 that I still listen to are my Big Beat albums.
Tony Van Groningen: It sounded awesome when you played it loud. It had no staying power because it was 90% vacant beyond the fact that it sounded awesome when you played it loud.
Adrien Begrand: Plus, at the time, with Pulp not doing too much, Oasis on autopilot, and Blur trying to be Pavement, where else were we to turn?
Tony Van Groningen: They aren’t, for the most part, the kinds of songs that you can say are your all-time favorite songs because they have very little actual content or meaning…but it still sounds damn good when you throw on “block rockin’ beats” once every two years.
Ken Munson: The American public sure will latch onto some weird things sometimes. Who the hell would care about a spoof of old spy movies that no one has watched in thirty years?
Matt Chesnut: Before it was a Mike Myers cash cow, Austin Powers was a clever spoof of spy movies and 60’s nostalgia.
Ben Woolhead: As a James Bond spoof, this was not only very funny first time around but also stood up to repeated viewings. I should know – I must have seen it 30 or 40 times in one year.
Ken Munson: After seven years of constantly repeated catchphrases, parodies and sequels, it’s easy to forget how honestly funny the first movie is. Like, the scene where Dr. Evil and his henchman laugh maniacally, and then it just kind of dissolves into uncomfortable chuckling.
Steve Lichtenstein: Dr. Evil was good stuff.
Ben Woolhead: The film raised some important and hitherto-unexplored issues, such as the fact that evil henchmen have families and friends too.
Christina Adkison: Doctor Evil will always be my favorite villain. He had his own faux evil hilarity going for him until Fat Bastard came along and ruined everything.
Ben Woolhead: Christian Slater’s cameo is genius. “Go to the shop and get me some orange sherbet…”
Ken Munson: Having Burt Bacharach show up in each movie is class.
Matt Chesnut: Another Will Ferrell appearance: “I am very badly burned!” C’mon, don’t act like you don’t know.
Ken Munson: Or every scene with Seth Green.
Matt Chesnut: “Meet Frau Farbissina: she’s the head of the militant wing of the Salvation Army.” Most underrated Austin Powers line ever.
Ken Munson: Or “begin the unnecessarily slow dipping mechanism!”
Ben Woolhead: I wouldn’t fancy being thrown into a pool of ill-tempered mutated sea bass. Who knows what they might do when they smelt blood? I guess their viciousness might depend on quite how angry they were.
Pat Brereton: Genuinely funny movie, but…goddamn. I’ll say it right now: if you repeatedly attempted to imitate any of the catchphrases, not only were you not funny, but there are probably people today who still hate your guts.
Ben Woolhead: Unfortunately the movie furnished leather-faced office lechers with a new phrase: “Oooooh, behave!”
Andrew Friedman: I knew this one kid, and I'm sure everyone can identify, who knew the entire movie front to back. He was really annoying. On its own, "yeeeah baby" wasn't that annoying. As a stupid catch phrase, it sucked. (Same with "do I make you horny?")
Steve Lichtenstein: The official plunge into pop-culture ubiquity came when six of my coworkers had plush stress toys that said ‘oh, behaaave’ when you threw them against a wall.
Andrew Friedman: I never saw the third one, but the second was all the same jokes again. Literally. I remember thinking much less of my friends who thought The Spy Who Shagged Me was amazing. Even though Heather Graham gets the D.
Ben Woolhead: Who would have thought that Liz Hurley would turn out to be a femmebot?
Gavin Mueller: The joke was good enough for one movie, and barely that. \
Matt Chesnut: Yeah, it got annoying once it started springing up in Heineken commercials, but I’ll never forget some of the funniest lines ever committed to celluloid.
Christina Adkison: I don’t care what anyone says. I am a girl and if I use the line “Shall we shag now or shag later?” I get action.
Ken Munson: I count Austin Powers in my top five favorite movies of all time. It remains Mike Myers’ most inspired work. Sadly, he would rather sit on his ass pumping out sequels that come up with something new, and that is a shame.
Josh Timmermann’s Forgotten Films of 1997
When people think of Martin Scorsese, they naturally think of New York, from signature classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to period ventures like New York, New York and The Age of Innocence, and Gangs of New York. Kundun, Scorsese's biopic of the Dalai Lama, consequently, sticks out curiously within his filmography like a sore thumb of sorts. An auterist anomaly, it's perhaps his most neglected work. Which is a real shame, since, I would argue, it's the best and most seamlessly poetic feature he's made since Raging Bull.
Gavin Mueller: The almighty label bestoweth unsurpassed wealth upon Jamiroquai in the form of a video production budget. And they saw that it was good.
Ben Woolhead: Jamiroquai aka Jay Kay is a horrible little prick who owns an assortment of stupid hats and who believes that releasing a few unspeakably awful funk / disco songs entitles him to drive his sports cars around at speeds well in excess of the legal limit with impunity and generally act like an arrogant wanker for every second of every minute of every fucking day.
Tony Van Groningen: I have very mixed feelings about this song. I recognize it for the cool, funky, fun party jam that it is, and I appreciate that…but nonetheless I really dislike the song for reasons that I can’t even put my finger on. I never liked Jamiroquai’s blend of lite jazz and lite funk.
Brad Shoup: Stevie Wonder should be rolling over in his grave.
Ken Munson: This is a great song. I don’t get why more people don’t like Jamiroquai. Okay, the lyrics are pretty dumb. Humanity is being taken over by machines? How clichéd. Can you imagine if someone made an entire album around that trite theme? We sure wouldn’t accept that, no sir.
Ben Woolhead: Even my normally mild-mannered girlfriend confessed she’d like to scoop his eyes out with a spoon if she ever had the chance.
Andrew Unterberger: The success of this mediocre lite-funk outfit was fairly bizarre. It probably had more to do with the VMA-winning “Virtual Insanity” video than anything.
Ken Munson: And what an awesome video. Just Jay Kay dancing around in his stupid, stupid hat. And for some reason the furniture is trying to attack him.
Pat Brereton: It took me the longest time to figure out how they shot it. Turned out that the walls moved, not the floor (thank you “Pop-Up Video”).
Brad Shoup: I thought the coolest special effect was how they got that hat to stay on his head.
Andrew Unterberger: It was this strange, minimalist, expressionistic video with Jay Kay looking like Cat in the Hat and doing a ballet with some bleeding furniture.
Matt Chesnut: Oh snap, the couch is bleeding. At what bizarre Ikea store did he get that thing?
Andrew Unterberger: And there are these scarab-looking bugs, crows, guys in white suits and goggles that all just appear for a second or so. It’s best not to think about, really.
Tony Van Groningen: The video for Virtual Insanity is a lot of fun to watch, but even that is tainted for me because I honest-to-god have had a nightmare about a giant room where the furniture moved around at breakneck speeds and crushed me to death.
Ben Woolhead: Moving floor, static walls – surely there was the potential for a good-hearted member of the crew to do us all a favour and rig up some kind of accident that might leave him unable to sing again?
Andrew Freidman: I don't think this was all that weird. It had a good groove and a ridiculous video. And having a good front man really does wonders for appeal.
Gabe Gloden: Great song, great band, great video. It’s deserving of most of the praise heaped upon it.
Josh Timmermann’s Forgotten Films of 1997
4 Little Girls
To be sure, Spike Lee's oeuvre is, to put it lightly, more than a little uneven, but this powerful documentary on the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that resulted in the death of four young black girls is a masterpiece, and one of the most thoughtful examinations of the repugnant effects of racism on film. An absolute must-see.
Ben Woolhead and Nick Southall Remember UK Championship Manager
Ben Woolhead: Every man has a nerdy obsession, and mine’s football. For someone like me who routinely gorges on statistics – results, goalscorers, transfers – Championship Manager truly is the computer game of the gods.
Nick Southall: Never has anything lost me so much sleep. One more game, one more game. The compulsion to just keep playing until you managed to get David Hirst to score that career-defining hat trick was unbelievable.
Ben Woolhead: You can become as involved in it as you want – either simply moving quickly from game to game, or, like me, poring over every result and monitoring the progress and form of potential transfer targets in leagues at home and abroad to such an extent that navigating a week of management can take well in excess of half an hour. I dread to think how much time in total it takes me to complete a full season.
Nick Southall: The programmers of this game managed to make slaves out of hundreds of thousands of young and not-so-young men across the country AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN GET TO PLAY FOOTBALL, IT WAS ALL NUMBERS.
Ben Woolhead: Unlike normal football computer games, you don’t actually play the matches – or at least you don’t on the versions I’m used to. Instead, you manage the side, doing everything from buying and selling players, offering new contracts, setting up specific training regimes and assessing the strengths of opposition teams as well as picking the team and deciding on tactics on match-days.
Nick Southall: There wasn’t anything to look at even, and it took so bloody long to do anything. How did it work? Why are so many people still addicted to this thing? It goes beyond addiction, even; a cursory glance through the numerous fansites reveals that people are seriously and compulsively IN LOVE with this game, because it removed a layer of projection and made fantasies explicit.
Ben Woolhead: Of course there’s an element of wish fulfilment there – I get to manage Newcastle United and lead them to league and cup glory, whilst selling undesirables and getting in Zidane to play at left-back and Del Piero to hammer home 30 goals a season from central midfield.
Nick Southall: Because you’re not playing as an entire football team all at once, not pretending you’re Zidane or whoever doing things that you yourself could never physically do, it makes the fantasy all the more compelling – it’s YOUR name you’re using, YOUR decisions which affect the outcome of games.
Ben Woolhead: It also allows you to indulge your vindictive side, or at least the old version I usually play does. As it allows for multiple managers, you can invent an alter ego to take over at another club (say Man Utd…) and get them relegated whilst selling all their best players on the cheap. (This is much harder on newer versions, as the board of directors will veto any transfer decision they’re not happy with.)
Nick Southall: Plus, like real life for many football fans, it was boring and intensely anal.
Andrew Unterberger’s Loser of 1997
When recording their follow-up to Sixteen Stone, the album which spawned five hit singles and arguably made them the biggest band in the world, Bush decided that they wanted to be taken seriously and hired Steve Albini to produce “their In Utero”. Sound thinking, except that this assumes that Bush both a) originally recorded an album as good as Nevermind and b) deserved to be taken seriously, neither of which was the case. Razorblade Suitcase must go down as one of the biggest flops in alternative rock history, spawning four singles that went absolutely nowhere and a bizarre succession of absolutely horrendous music videos, the worst of which—“Greedy Fly”—is quite possibly the most dreadful music video ever made. Gavin Rossdale had truly come back down from his cloud, never to return.
Gavin Mueller: Count on white suburban kids to come up with the most embarassing cultural trends.
Ken Munson: Has there ever been a genre that spat out as few interesting bands as third wave ska?
Gavin Mueller: Was this the second wave or the third wave?
Brad Shoup: Jamaica = first wave. England = second wave. SoCal = third wave. Third wave was faster, goofier, and had one foot in alt.rock. My brother can correct me on this; he's the Matt Pinfield of ska.
Gabe Gloden: Ska was a happy music… but one of those happy musics that made you very sad for pop culture.
Tony Van Groningen: Looking back on it, the ska revival was a really weird thing. I don’t know how bands like Save Ferris and Reel Big Fish became as popular as they did. Just goes to show how far catchy choruses and funny songs will take you in the world of popular alternative radio.
Ken Munson: I loved the ska revival, but it’s sad to see how it quickly became a cheap way for third chair trombone to join the band, or an excuse for a bunch of guys in ties to jump around like spazzes.
Adrien Begrand: Boy, the late 90s sure was a golden age for out of work trombone players. First the ska fad, then the swing band revival.
Joe Niemczyk: Thankfully it didn't get too out of hand, but there were a few kids at school that started wearing plaid. And chain wallets. And finally, the pork pie hats. Unfortunately none of them had Vespa scooters. That would have made it all worth it.
Brad Shoup: Racial equality for some, pool parties for everyone else!
Ben Woolhead: It also seemed to be some sort of legal requirement that every ska punk band had to have at least one enormous fat guy.
Andrew Friedman: It was easy to plug in: skanking was easy to pick up, and jumping up and down is universal. On the downside, it was hard to tell what was good from what was bad, and there were way too many bands trying to cash in.
Ken Munson: Mighty Mighty Bosstones had good vocals and songwriting, Reel Big Fish had good guitar work, Sublime had their cool genre mix, and the others… fuck them, who needs them.
Andrew Unterberger: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were and still are my favorite. And “The Impression That I Get” is still a surefire way to get the rock kids on their feet at dances. Trust me on that.
Brad Shoup: A band called Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the adult top 40? Eat THAT, Britain.
Andrew Friedman: Sublime was barely ska by the time they blew up, but I'll let that slide.
Ken Munson: In my opinion, Sublime makes the best possible case for frat music. It’s like a mix of everything stupid white guys in baseball caps would like, without any of the crappy parts.
Christina Adkison: Sublime is an ultimate band. Everyone likes Sublime. Have you ever met anyone who says “Oh, I hate Sublime!”? I didn’t think so. There’s nothing better than a bunch of people in your car shouting about how they want to bust a cap in Sancho and slap that bitch down.
Josh Timmermann: Sublime is one of those bands that, as soon as they're namedropped in conversation, I'm tipped off instantly that the person I'm talking to is most likely someone I'm not going to "gel" with and they needn't waste any more of my precious time. Others include: Tool, Alice in Chains, the Doors, Insane Clown Posse, 311, Dave Matthews Band, pretty much any hardcore group.
Gabe Gloden: Sublime still influences people today, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are fondly remembered for the most part, and Reel Big Fish is seen as a disastrous laboratory mistake.
Ken Munson: Reel Big Fish played my tiny private college last year. They seemed pretty pissed about being there.
Brad Shoup: There were some decent singles from the third wave boom. Reel Big Fish, "She Has a Girlfriend Now". Anything the Aquabats did was great. Less Than Jake provided the love theme to Good Burger, with backing vox from Kenan and Kel. I'm going to ignore Stylus' snub of Good Burger for now.
Joe Niemczyk: Does anyone still remember Save Ferris? I mean, their cover of "Come on Eileen" was so wildly imaginative and unique.
Brad Shoup: Operation Ivy was it. Everyone from Green Day on down owes a debt to these guys. They proved that hardcore punk could grow up without growing old. Yeah, they've been given the Hot Topic treatment, but dust off that copy of Enegry and skank, mofos.
Matt Chesnut: A friend of mine was in his brother’s Christian ska band and he gave me a couple of stickers that I promised I would pay him back for. It’s seven years later and I still owe him a dollar.
Tony Van Groningen: It was doomed to fail though, so much of it was so gimmicky, it clearly didn’t have the staying power of time-honored alternative music genres like faux-grunge and guy-with-acoustic-guitar.
Matt Chesnut: This fad was doomed to failure because nothing can be cool if your grandparents can relate to it.
Tony Van Groningen: The super-quirky fashion outdated itself instantaneously, and that probably didn’t help the genre much, but I think the real death of the ska revival was due to the fact that they used so many damn horns. You turn on the radio today, and not a single song will have a horn (unless they are playing old No Doubt songs.)
Ben Woolhead: It’s taken a long time and a lot of persuasion to be convinced that horns can actually be a good thing.
Adrien Begrand: You know why this fad never lasted? Because bands soon realized how much it sucks to have to divide royalties between nine members.–
Tony Van Groningen: Plus, I think that anybody who wasn’t naturally attracted to ska before there was even a revival for it got really annoyed with the ska-ness of it all. If you know what I mean.
Nick Southall: The fact that I’m British means I know nothing about this at all, and for that I am thankful.
Gabe Gloden: As far as second or third waves go, it could have been a lot worse.
Andrew Friedman: There came a point where if the band name had "ska" in it (Bim Skala Bim?), I turned off the radio. But overall it was a cool revival.
Christina Adkison: The movie industry treated Titanic like parents treat vegetables they feed their babies. We were told that it was good for us despite our own tastes. As much as we attempted to refuse consumption, it was forced down our throats. We were forced to digest it, but eventually it revealed itself as the crap that it is.
Ken Munson: Titanic taught me a lot about the fickleness of public opinion. It was so loved and yet so, so hated. Even as it rode the waves of overwhelming praise to box-office records and multiple Oscars, its critical reputation was on its way to sinking like a great big sinking thing.
Andrew Unterberger: There is no overstating just how big this movie was. If it wasn’t for the attention diverted by the Clinton / Lewinsky scandal, Titanic might have permanently conquered all of pop culture. It was insane.
Ben Woolhead: Just like the doomed vessel after which it was named, Titanic was a huge hulking ludicrously expensive waste of money.
Adrien Begrand: Okay, let me be the first to go on record as saying that Titanic is a good movie. That said, I will never understand what the hell possessed millions of women to see the thing thirty times.
Brad Shoup: Didn't some people see this ten times in the theater? Was this romantic tragedy really escapist fare?
Andrew Unterberger: All my female friends at the time went nuts with the number of times they saw this movie in the theaters--truly the Star Wars of chick flicks. Why was it so popular? One word.
Ken Munson: Leo. I hated Leo at the time. I’ve since learned to respect Leonardo Dicaprio as an actor, but he is seriously not good in this movie.
Christina Adkison: I remember there being an outcry before the 1997 Oscars because Leo was not even nominated for Best Actor, but Kate Winslut was up for Best Actress. I don’t realize what the big deal was. Dying in frigid water is easy compared to being forced to undress in front of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Steve Lichtenstein: “Jack! JACK!? JACK!?!??”
Ken Munson: That scene where Leo is dead, and Kate Winslet is like, “Wake up, Jack! There’s a boat, wake up!”… I laughed at it, and so did a lot of other people in the theater.
Matt Chesnut: Leonardo Dicaprio star rose so high, it had only one place to go after that. Countdown ‘til rehab…
Steve Lichtenstein: If there were a support group for people who were ushers in a movie theater during Titanic’s theatrical release, I would host it at my house and serve many dips.
Andrew Friedman: I went to see Titanic on opening night with my girlfriend at the time. I really didn't want to go, as going to see a chick flick guarenteed you wouldn't get any "play", but my mom drove me down to the theater and I got the tickets. I remember the movie as kind of entertaining.
Tony Van Groningen: I saw this once voluntarily, and got dragged to it again the following night…and it definitely lost a lot of the magic in the second viewing. It is such an insanely melodramatic movie, and usually I am repelled by that, but it worked for this movie because the actual sinking of the Titanic was insanely melodramatic to begin with.
Andrew Friedman: The best part of the movie was when the guy fell off the back of the boat when it was vertical, and bumped the giant propeller on the way down. You know there was a meeting in which someone said "we gotta put something in here for the fellas," so they added the propeller bump. I swear, simultaneously, all the men in the theater went "haha" *slap* "ow."
Brad Shoup: My male friends tried to sucker me into going by saying that this guy falls into a propeller. I'd forgotten there was even a boat.
Ken Munson: As a thirteen-year-old boy at the time, I was watching for two things: foreshadowed nude scene, and disastrous shipwreck. Like I gave a crap about the romance.
Matt Chesnut: Do you wanna know a deep, dark secret? I’ve never seen this movie. I know Kate Winslet shows her tits and Leo dies.
Gavin Mueller: I still haven't seen all of this. My dad said the boob shots were good though.
Matt Chesnut: This was a landmark movie for many kids my age. It was the first hint of nudity most people had seen in the presence of their parents.
Andrew Friedman: The men also got to see Kate Winslett in her full glory. She looked good, but I also applaud letting someone with as much chub as she had (well within attractive standards, but not within Hollywood standards) bare it all on camera.
Tony Van Groningen: The movie does a good job of capturing the historical elements of the event and successfully gives most of the characters (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character aside) believable personalities. The other cool thing about this movie is that I’m an artist and very briefly it was trendy for girls to want to pose for “life drawing” sessions.
Christina Adkison: My family and I only own the second volume of Titanic because we were willing to admit to ourselves that the only reason we went to see that movie was to watch that big bitch sink. And the ship too.
Brad Shoup: Shhh. Haven't seen it yet. Don't. Ruin. The. Ending.
Andrew Unterberger: The ending was fucking intense. I don’t care what you thought of the first half, I’m 99.9% sure you’re lying if you say you weren’t completely engrossed in the second half.
Nick Southall: I’ve still never seen it all the way through. I think I’ve seen about an hour of it, which for any other movie would be ‘most’ of it. But not here, oh no.
Adrien Begrand: The movie is quintessential James Cameron, really. Completely over the top, the only thing Cameron knows how to do. "Not enough emotion and romance in my movies? Okay. Here's some. And some more. And some more. And some more. And some more. Too much, you say? Fuck you, here's some more."
Josh Timmermann: Titanic is ridiculous on so many levels that we'd be have to waste some serious space to actually count them. Pretty much everyone realizes how bad Pearl Harbor was, but Titanic, really, is only marginally better.
Ken Munson: I’d say the film would have been only mildly disliked by people, if it hadn’t been for “My Heart Will Fucking Go On”. It’s a truly disgusting song, and the billions of jokes about it doesn’t make it any less true.
Andrew Friedman: A side note: I was in extreme burgeoning music snob mode at that point, and that same girl gave me blank tapes for my birthday, because she didn't think she could ever get me any music I'd like. And I think my endless ridiculing of her affection for that damn Celine Dion song might have contributed to our break-up.
Ben Woolhead: After hitting the iceberg of critical opinion, it should have sunk without trace, for all our sakes. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and now those poor unfortunates who try to make an honest living by putting on karaoke nights must face up to the prospect of being plagued with teary-faced drunken women wailing along to “My Heart Will Go On” for all eternity. There is a hell.
Christina Adkison: At the time every one (well, every woman) said that Titanic was there favorite movie and they all watched it 80 times. Now, no one claims that Titanic is even in their top ten. This will soon be true for Phish as well.
Ken Munson: I wouldn’t say all the bile directed towards Titanic is quite deserved, but it’s definitely not a good movie. At its core, it’s just a lame period romance on a big ship, but stretched way too long. I’ll say this, though, James Cameron deserved his Oscar. He took a movie with a terrible plot, terrible acting and terrible, terrible dialogue and made a halfway watchable film out of it.
Tony Van Groningen: I will never watch this movie again, but I don’t regret watching it in the first place either.
Andrew Unterberger: 1997 was the year for female empowerment in pop culture. The Spice Girls and Lilith Fair for music, and Ally McBeal and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in TV.
Steve Lichtenstein: Ally McBeal. I think the waifish girl was a lawyer. And that one guy’s hair totally looked better before he dyed it.
Matt Chesnut: I think this series can be summed up by Bender’s impromptu parody of the theme song on Futurama: “Single Female Lawyer, fighting for her clients, wearing sexy mini-skirts and being self-reliant!”
Adrien Begrand: The first couple of episodes were hilarious, but oh, did this show get old fast.
Ken Munson: Ally McBeal was ANNOYING. Her search for true love: ANNOYING. Listening to her even talk: ANNOYING. Everyone else on the show: ANNOYING.
Christina Adkison: All of Ally’s fantasies were so unrealistic. I actually tried having sex in a cup of coffee and it was NOT as enjoyable as she imagined.
Ken Munson: And the dancing baby? Let’s not even go there.
Christina Adkison: I don’t mean to be cynical, but everyone on the show knew it was physically impossible for Ally to have a baby. The embryo’s weight would far surpass her own weight.
Ken Munson: I think I only ever saw one episode of Ally McBeal. It was the episode where she makes out with another woman. Not the one with Lucy Liu, the other episode. Now that I think of it, was this show really designed for women?
Andrew Unterberger: I don’t think the “woman’s perspective” of Ally McBeal really attracted as many male viewers as the hot teenage or near-teenage female vampire-killers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Ken Munson: It’s so brilliant I can’t believe someone didn’t come up with it earlier: A show designed completely for geeks, but with about half the cast consisting of hot girls. Goldmine.
Christina Adkison: When I heard about this show coming out, I told all my friends, “Please. I bet this won’t last more than one season. No one will like it. No guy will become obsessed with Sarah Michelle Gellar and spend all his free time downloading pictures of her off the internet. And it most certainly won’t spawn any terrible spin offs”. For the sake of humanity, I need to stop making bets.
Brad Shoup: This was the worst good show on television. I've watched about twenty episodes, and I just got sick of the cutesy kill-puns and snappy asides.
Adrien Begrand: Buffy was never a guilty pleasure. It was well-written television: action, satire, sweet romance, high drama, brilliant storylines, and often very, very funny.
Josh Timmermann: While I take pleasure in dissing the Star Wars or Trek or Tolkien fanboys (and fangirls), I am myself an unabashed Buffy cultist. I don't believe in "guilty pleasures," and even if I did, a show as consistently brilliant and inventive as Buffy would not be among them.
Adrien Begrand: This was a rare TV series, in that Joss Whedon was such a skilled writer, he was able to stick in novelty episodes like the no-dialogue one and the musical episode, and not make it seem like a gimmick at all.
Brad Shoup: The all-singing episode just proved that you can get away with anything on the ratings-starved WB.
Josh Timmermann: The soundtrack to "Once More, with Feeling," the classic musical episode has spent as much time in my stereo as nearly any CD I've ever owned.
Nick Southall: I’ve never really seen it, but I know so many cultural studies academics who fucking worship this programme. OH MY GOD IT’S LIKE TOTALLY A LOAD OF MENSTRUAL METAPHORS, QUICK QUICK WRITE A PAPER!
Brad Shoup: If some high school drama student gets empowered, hey, good for her. Just don't dedicate a college course to it.
Adrien Begrand: One of the few 90s TV shows that I'm not ashamed to say I was very fond of.
Gabe Gloden: 1997, the year people traded in their pogs for other crap.
Ken Munson: Even among all the stupid fads of the world, throughout history, Beanie Babies are pretty damn stupid.
Matt Chesnut: Lonely housewives, prepare to meet your match. Beanie Babies were the life destroying collector’s items that sometimes went for hundreds of dollars, thus replacing Tickle Me Elmo as the most ridiculous shit I’ve ever witnessed in my short life.
Joe Niemczyk: I never had any, but for a while it seemed like you could walk into any office in the country and find one sitting on top of someone's computer monitor, or in the back window of a dozen cars in the mall parking lot.
Steve Lichtenstein: These things were heroin for my mom, after the gateway drug of collector’s plates. There are armoires filled to capacity.
Ken Munson: I worked at McDonald’s during the Beanie Babies craze. Whenever I worked drive-thru, I’d have people holding up the line because their kid already had Dollie the Dolphin or whatever and they needed me to go fetch a different one.
Joe Niemczyk: My friend's mom was pretty obsessed over these, buying and selling them online, and had an entire house filled with them. If it weren't for those overpriced beanbags, she probably would have collected roadside garbage and cats.
Josh Timmermann: My grandma spent a considerable chunk of her Social Security on Beanie Babies. I think she paid like $350 for one of them. She still has a bumber sticker on the back of her minivan that reads "WILL SWAP HUSBAND FOR BEANIE BABY."
Chrstina Adkison: Everyone realized just how useless the bean bags were when McDonald’s began giving them away in Happy Meals. After all, if the hamburger they give away is only worth a dime, the toy can’t be worth much more.
Joe Niemczyk: Beanie Babies were the product of the common '90s misperception that everything was not just collectable, but a safe investment that had nowhere to go but up.
Christina Adkison: As a 12 year old child, I learned that capitalist society can be a cruel place. My $70 dollar investment in a fifteen Beanie Babies is worth like $20 today.
Brad Shoup: Still, they were much cheaper to collect than regular babies.
Ken Munson: For some reason, just thinking about Beanie Babies works me into a frothing rage. Why the fuck would anyone want these? Why the fuck would you pay hundreds of dollars for them? I mean, at least with Furbys you can smash them with a bat. Beanie Babies aren’t even fun to break. And they’re not even that cute!
Brad Shoup: I'm sorry, I got distracted with this hang tag chart. "Example: If your Beanie has a 1st generation hang tag, it should have a 1st generation tush tag with a 1993 date..." Did these things come with Happy Meals or instruction manuals?
Ken Munson: Goddamn Beanie Babies.
Ben Woolhead: Whilst 1995’s The Bends sounded a note of glorious discord amidst the leering and jubilant Britpop carnival, OK Computer was the timely bullet that finally put the bloated and bedraggled beast to sleep.
Gabe Gloden: OK Computer delivered the death blow to Britpop. Here was an album from some Britpoppers that was anything but pop, yet infinitely listenable. A new, weird-ass British genre was born.
Charlie Frame: I think if "OK Computer" did anything, it reminded people that it's okay to make big rock albums. The Britpop movement was about hit singles and cheeky tunes whereas Radiohead were all about the prog styles.
Ben Woolhead: Just as The Bends was a quantum leap forward from their pretty-dull-nondescript-indie-with-“Creep”-thrown-in debut Pablo Honey, OK Computer was light years ahead of The Bends. The latter is a brilliantly executed exercise in modern rock, whereas the former is something else altogether.
Charlie Frame: It's hard to believe that an album like Pablo Honey could have been made by the same five people who would end up doing Kid A. I like the fact they changed a lot – all the best bands evolve and twist their style and with Radiohead, every albums been a huge stylistic leap.
Adrien Begrand: After the excellent The Bends, OK Computer was hardly a surprise. Radiohead pulled off the prototypical three-album arc: ordinary debut, a sophomore album that turned heads, and a triumphant third album that made them gods. Every single rock band on the planet would kill to do a similar thing.
Andrew Friedman: For someone who played his cassingle for "Creep" until it broke, "Paranoid Android" was a bit to handle.
Ben Woolhead: “Paranoid Android” was the perfect first single to lure the listener in – a twisted, turning, fractious epic that never allows itself to be burdened by the weight of its own ambition.
Adrien Begrand: "Paranoid Android" was the song prog rock fans had been craving for ages. One of the most audacious lead-off singles, ever...and what a fantastically weird video, too.
Andrew Friedman: It was seven minutes long, with an odd-time rock breakdown. And the video was off the handle.
Gavin Mueller: The video for "Paranoid Android" transfixed me. I watched it again and again, like I would figure out some sort of plotline, or maybe tie it to the music. Nothing doing.
Matt Chesnut: The “Paranoid Android” video is so awesome. That dude totally gets his limbs chopped off! And there’s some really unflattering nudity.
Andrew Friedman: This song and video was much weirder than "Virtual Insanity," which had some kind of universal groove. "PA" was straight up prog-rock, nerdy like what. Given that the alternative was, um, alternative (was was, at that point, mostly shit, save The Wallflowers), I guess anything works.
Ben Woolhead: Sometimes as a music critic you just have to resign yourself to the fact that songs can take you to places that language cannot go. Straining and striving to describe songs like “Subterranean Homesick Alien”, “The Tourist” and “Lucky”, I can’t think of a better word than “celestial”.
Tony Van Groningen: My love of this album has diminished a little bit since I first heard it, but I can say that very rarely has an album affected me as strongly on an emotional level. Thom Yorke’s voice is incredible (the bridge on “Let Down,” my god) and original, especially at the time this album came out.
Brad Shoup: "No Suprises" is the kind of lullabye you play for the bad babies.
Ben Woolhead: Words fail me entirely when it comes to “Exit Music”. Saying nothing is perhaps the best tribute I can pay it.
Charlie Frame: OK Computer was the first sign that Thom Yorke could and would take over the world. Before this album, Radiohead were another fairly large alt-rock band. After it they were the new U2.
Ben Woolhead: The record’s status as a modern classic was cemented by a triumphant headlining set at Glastonbury barely a month after its release, which showcased its beauty and power to the delight of a festival crowd who’d been plagued by apocalyptically muddy conditions but who could suddenly see the light.
Brad Shoup: Once OK Computer dropped, the mags stopped pitting bands against each other. Then it became a game of Topping Radiohead. Never mind that Neutral Milk Hotel made a pretty good case the next year; the mags are still looking.
Charlie Frame: The problem is I don't think they expected all the attention. Even the record label predicted a drop in sales compared to The Bends. But suddenly everyone's talking about OK Computer and they're playing packed out stadiums. Q magazine readers voted the record "Best Album of All Time". No wonder a lot of people get put off.
Brad Shoup: Just stay away from "Meeting People Is Easy". Fred Durst hasn't whined as much about making arenas full of cash.
Christina Adkison: Radiohead was the prophet that told all future bands that it was perfectly alright to be bland. Originality was thrown out the window and replaced by mind numbingly simple melodies.
Ken Munson: I have a friend who has very teenybopper taste in music--once amidst her records from Pink, Justin Timberlake, and The Spice Girls, out of nowhere I found a copy of OK Computer. I asked her about this anomaly in her music, and she told me that she went through a Radiohead phase once, but she grew out of it. This makes me incredibly happy, and I want to know why everyone else hasn’t outgrown them yet. What’s your excuse?
Steve Lichtenstein: Aren’t artists supposed to evolve? Bah.
Ken Munson: Radiohead is more than just bad, overrated indie rock; it’s the progenitor of all bad overrated indie rock since.
Josh Timmermann: I used to really love OK Computer, but I'd be hard-pressed to be recall the last time I actually listened to it.
Ken Munson: Indie rock will always be seen as a haven for snobs and assholes as long as we keep championing shit like Radiohead, people.
Tony Van Groningen: It’s almost pointless to discuss this album at all, I think everything there is to say about it has been discussed ad nauseum.
Josh Timmermann: It's futile, at this point, to try to say anything interesting, much less original, about OK Computer. Is it a great album? Sure. Is it the best album ever made? Nah, even Kid A is better.
Pat Brereton: It’s difficult to add anything new to the discussion of this album other than what’s been said before. However, I think it’s safe to say that, six or so years since it was dropped, there have been few records as consistently rewarding or monolithically enduring
Matt Chesnut: OK Computer vs. Kid A will be a battle that rages on for years. Long after Thom Yorke’s spawn grows up and starts his own short-lived musical career, kids in the schoolyard will develop rival factions and participate in regular wars over which is better.
Tony Van Groningen: I really like the album and think it deserves the love/maniacal reverence it receives to this day. Everything about this album, from the song themes to the singing to the album art, has since been imitated thousands of times. Very rarely does a band manage to crystallize all of its potential into such an absolutely focused statement as Radiohead does on OK Computer.
Adrien Begrand: It's an undeniably great album. Play OK Computer, and then Hail to the Thief, and you'll realize just how lost Radiohead sounds today.
Tony Van Groningen: The production is amazing, the compositions are amazing, even the sequencing is amazing. To be sure, a defining album for our generation.
Ben Woolhead: Expressing a dislike for Radiohead should be an offense punishable by death. If pushed, I’d probably say this is the best album I’ve ever heard.
Nick Southall: They’re an alright band, aren’t they?
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-10-12