Saturday, September 24, 2011

Has it been 20 years already?

"No sir, I don't like it."

That's a quote from one of my favorite '90s cartoons "Ren and Stimpy." (More about that in a minute.)

That's also how I feel about a sudden rash of 20th anniversaries that are cropping up. Not so much the anniversaries themselves - who doesn't love to celebrate important milestones? - but the fact that I've been around long enough to remember when the events were current...and that I was old enough even then to enjoy them. I know, I know: anyone older than, say, 30 is in this boat with me. But seriously. When did we get that old? Why do I find myself telling the "when I was your age" stories? Why do I find myself saying "oh {shoot} ! It can't be 20 years already? Wait, how old am I now? oh man."

20 years ago, Little Chrissy was in 8th grade (incidentally, a 20th class reunion was just scheduled), watching the world break open and events unfold that would define a decade and a generation, and influenced the quirky girl you know today. And now we're remembering, 20 years later:

  • Ren & Stimpy: This show on Nickelodeon was cutting edge, and I'm convinced it wasn't designed at all for children but, more likely, stoned college students. But I enjoyed it anyway, as did my best friend, and together we would burst out at random times with the "Muddy the Mudskipper" song or the fake commercial "Log" as a parody to the real "Slinky" commercials. And who could forget "Happy, happy, Joy, joy"? Go ahead - judge me. You know you love it, too.

  • Nevermind: The quintessential album of the '90s. You couldn't escape the urgency of "Smells like Teen Spirit" or the dark, flannel-wearing introspection that surrounded it. My older sister had the CD and played it a lot, and so I listened, a lot. Being the confused kid that I was during a poignantly dark period of my life, the angst of every song appealed to me. It didn't matter that my adolescent mind couldn't fully comprehend the context of the lyrics, nor that the majority of kids in my class were listening to R&B and had no idea "alternative" music existed. I didn't follow the trendy grunge look, nor did I understand at the time how important this album was to the sea-change that would befall rock music. It's only within recent years that I came to appreciate the poetry of the lyrics and genius behind the composition. Kurt, you are still missed.

  • Pearl Jam and Ten: Yes, the grunge scene was bursting open. As a kid of the sparkly '80s and more in-tune with sparkly new wave than the underground punk scene, grunge was...well, kinda grungy. I remember seeing the video for "Alive" and thinking, that's kind of a cool song. Who would have thunk that they would last 20 years? At the time, I thought they were trying to be a Nirvana knock-off. Boy, was I wrong. Eddie Vedder was like the modern-day storyteller (much like Bob Dylan or Billy Joel, if you will) that spoke to a generation. How many times do we think of "Jeremy" whenever there is a tragic school shooting? Unfortunately, too many.

  • Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I and II: Kids, I know it's hard to imagine that Axl Rose used to be cool...but 20 years ago, he was. And so was his band. And this double album made them maybe just a little more acceptable by pop radio - with the likes of "November Rain", one of the all-time top rock ballads. Who would have thought the crazy, alcohol-soaked "hair" band could create something so significant? Polar opposite of Nirvana? Sure. But no less important.

    There are many, many other 20th pop-culture anniversaries being celebrated - the release of Thelma and Louise (I was too young to appreciate), Wiggles (I was too old to care), the launch of Lollapalooza (I'm still uber-jealous of my sister who attended), and some of the other events noted in this timeline. Still, as Tears for Fears once said, I find it kind of funny and I find it kind of sad to look back, think about our culture and our world 20 years ago, how far we've come and how far we still need to go. In 20 years, what culturally significant events will we celebrate? That Snookie was able to stay out of jail, or that anyone without talent could become an overnight star? Oh...Nevermind.