In future and past 96X Anthology posts, I’ll (hopefully) think about old songs in new ways. I’ll (probably) reveal a few things about myself. I’ll (maybe) better understand my own adolescence and musical education. I’ll (definitely) wax nostalgic on what I believe was the 2nd-greatest decade of pop music. I’ll (arguably) highlight how music in 2013 is impacted by music in the 96X era. And (certainly), I’ll write about 1000 words a week, try to have an idea, and try to make it worthwhile.
BUT NOT TODAY!
Today, I’m featuring a song from Volume 6 that still gets me so riled up that I can’t discuss it rationally. There are no ideas here. Just total, unrelenting, nostalgic joy:
Song of the Week: Toadies, “Possum Kingdom”
If you were a kid in the 96X era and didn’t hear Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom,” I’ll have a hard time relating to you. For me, this song is as much ingrained into anyone’s 90’s experience as their first kiss, or Bill Clinton, or the first time they kissed Bill Clinton. “Possum Kingdom” is not the best song (but is it?). Toadies are not the best band (but are they?). There are more important songs from the 90’s, more quintessential songs of the 90’s, more popular songs from the 90’s, and (if “grunge” was the defining sound of the 90’s) grungier songs from the 90’s.
Simply: there are a million better songs than Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom.” But there are only a handful of songs whose opening seconds bring me more joy.
Why is that?
Since I’m CLEARLY NOT TRYING THIS WEEK, my attempted answers will come in list-form:
1) It’s fucking awesome. Sorry for the language, but I need to be precise. This song just isn’t “awesome.” It’s fucking awesome*. I’ll outline this descriptor at the bottom of the post. Warning: more bad language.
2) “This is 96X music.” 96X had its own little commercial tags coming in and out of breaks. With faux-gravitas, The 96X Voice would say “THIS…is 96X music,” and then they’d splice together a few moments of a few recognizable songs to let you know their format. This moment of “Possum Kingdom” was always “96X music.” I don’t think they ever had a tag that didn’t include it.
2A) It was 96X music. This single came out in the fall of 1994 and only gained strength through the spring and summer of 1995. That was arguably the best nine months of the 96X-era: grunge had exploded, alt-rock had splintered in twenty different directions, and 96X’s format suddenly meant “everything we like.”
Think about it: the grunge torch-bearers were either in their prime (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains) or already legends (Nirvana). Second and third generation grunge bands (STP, Bush, Silverchair, Candlebox, Seven Mary Three, Toadies, Live, etc) had broken the mainstream and competed for airtime. College radio demigods were now headlining festivals and selling out arenas (Jane’s Addiction, R.E.M.). Countless iterations of “alt-rock weirdness” were popping up the charts (Green Day, Weezer, Better Than Ezra, Gin Blossoms, Cranberries, Everclear, Oasis). The Horde & Lilith Fair crowds were picking up steam. As disparate as these artists were, they all made sense under the tent of “96X music.”
So, not only did an average radio block put Dada’s “Dizz Knee Land” alongside Alice In Chains’ “Rooster” alongside Spacehog’s “In the Meantime,” nobody thought twice about it. For a moment, anything went. It was a thrilling time to listen to the radio. And “Possum Kingdom” was one of the biggest hits during a golden era for popular music. For me, “Possum Kingdom” isn’t a cool song or a fond memory: it represents the peak of the 96X era.
It wasn’t the best song on 96X, but it was 96X music.
Volume 7: Same time next week!
(*On my scale, a “fucking awesome” song rates higher than an “awesome” song. It’s more specific than “awesome,” because awesome is vague. A “fucking awesome” song rocks; it’s also usually “bitchin.” While an “awesome” song’s merits are more subjective, a fucking awesome song is, in some way, objectively great. Usually that way is “undeniable, incorruptible, irrepressibly lovable rocksauce.” A fucking awesome song often gets better with age, as it feeds off nostalgia. “Fucking awesome” songs resonate more if you’re wearing denim. “Fucking awesome” songs sound better if you’re in a mall parking lot. At its heart, a “fucking awesome” song is a “fuckin’ awesome” song.)