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WYEP Decades Week: 1994 brought grunge, fuzzy guitars and acid-folk sounds


As host of WYEP’s classic alternative rock show Slacker Rewind, WYEP's Mike Sauter is often playing tracks from 1994. Since we’re going to be playing all music from 1994 today for Decades Week, here are a handful of songs from that year both well-known and under-the-radar.

Blur, “Girls & Boys”

While Blur began with dance-rock songs, by 1994, the band was focusing on very English-centric Britpop on their third album "Parklife." This song was an exuberant if satirical Eurodance pastiche, a burst of synths and programmed drums and gender-bending lyrics.

Todd Snider, “Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues”

By 1994, the grunge rock explosion was well-established enough that songs were being released commenting on the movement. Todd Snider’s “Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues” is a classic Dylanesque talking blues, using only voice, acoustic guitar, and harmonica to lampoon alternative rock by envisioning a Seattle band becoming famous for refusing to play a note. (Also in this vein was another 1994 single, “Me and Eddie Vedder,” by Steve Poltz’s early band The Rugburns.)

Beck, “Loser”

So many songs in the first half of the ‘90s were self-deprecating anthems about being a creep or dumb or crazy, so “Loser” felt very on-brand for alt-rock of the time. The track’s acid-folk sound and impressionist lyrics (“a termite who’s choking on the splinters”? “get crazy with the cheez whiz”?) captured listener’s ears in a new and unique way.

Velocity Girl, “Sorry Again”

This fuzz-pop band out of Maryland released three albums between 1993 and 1996, and their biggest claims-to-fame were getting a song on the "Clueless" movie soundtrack and this song being used in a Jetta car commercial. They deserved better, but at least we got those three enjoyable albums from them.

Cowboy Junkies, “Sweet Jane” [movie edit]

Yes, the music is from the Canadian band’s 1988 album "The Trinity Session," but it was used in the 1994 movie "Natural Born Killers," and the song was included on the soundtrack with dialogue from the movie added. This version of the song got a good deal of alt-rock radio airplay and peaked at #9 on the Billboard modern rock chart.

Spearhead, “Hole in the Bucket”

In 1994, Michael Franti had just emerged as a member of The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and launched the new band Spearhead. At the time, Franti said that while the Disposable Heroes were about confrontation, Spearhead was to be about “soulful seduction.” Franti still kept his commentary sharp — “Hole in the Bucket” analyzed social circumstances surrounding homelessness — but he toned down the beats while adding more soul and jazz to the mix.

Veruca Salt, “Seether"

This Chicago quartet named after the bratty kid from Willy Wonka never broke through to the mainstream, but as their catchy debut single, “Seether” became their signature tune. Fuzzy guitars compete for attention with layered vocals from the band’s singer/guitarists Nina Gordon and Louise Post, with the whole three minutes designed to capture your ear and make you sing along — even if you’re not exactly sure what it all means.

Sheryl Crow, “Run, Baby, Run” (live)

Looking back 30 years ago, one can’t overlook Woodstock ’94 as a key musical moment from that time. (To jog your memory, this Woodstock was the televised mud-covered one, not the one made into a movie or the one that attendees burned down.) And while there were the requisite repeat performers from the original Woodstock like The Band, Santana, Joe Cocker, and CS&N, there were quite a few new names taking the stage as well, including The Cranberries, Live, Arrested Development, James, Nine Inch Nails, Salt-N-Pepa, and Porno for Pyros. For Sheryl Crow, just a year after the release of her debut album, Woodstock was a new experience — it was the first time she played for an audience that was moshing during her set, back in a time when the practice of “moshing” still had to be explained in newspaper articles.

Mike Sauter started at WYEP in 2004 and held various positions, including Midday Mix host, music director, program director, and station manager.