Spillyear 1990

It would be interesting to plot people’s favourite years for music against their ages.

I can see the merits of 1970 and 1980, and I enjoyed both playlists. But neither comes close to the explosion of amazingness that was 1990 – the year that I first began (in the last couple of months of) listening to pop music.

Sure, you can probably argue that, objectively, Led Zepellin III or Joy Division’s Closer are better records than EMF’s “Unbelievable”. But my 12-year-old self is playing Radio 1 loud in his bedroom and can’t hear you.

Listen to the TOTALLY AWESOME playlist here

Add your top 3 (what? only 3? No!) here

90 thoughts on “Spillyear 1990

  1. This was terribly hard. I’ve started the playlist with these 3:

    1. Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro
    I remember my brother telling me about something called indie music, which was apparently cool, but I didn’t know what it sounded like. Then I heard this the first time I ever listened to the top 40. “Son, I’m 30 / I only went with your mother coz she’s dirty” is the best opening couplet ever, right?

    2. Dee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart
    “You are going to dance.” Fact.

    3. The Beautiful South – A Little Time
    I bought my first album because of this song.

    So many others that I want to add, but will let other people have a turn first.

  2. Not too difficult to pull a few out –

    Public Enemy – Fight the Power

    Jan’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing

    Alice in Chains – Man in the Box

  3. I think it has to be:

    Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U

    Primal Scream – Loaded

    KLF – What Time Is Love?

    The Sinead song could easily have been Three Babies. Was tempted also to pick De La Soul’s Magic Number since it was a single that year although a briefer album track in 1989.

    • I’d completely forgotten that Loaded was a single in 1990. I always think of it as an album track and Screamadelica came out the year after, so good time donds.

    • Seems Sev managed to get Loaded 1st, so will replace with:

      Gary Clail & The On-U Sound System – Beef

      From probably my most played album of 1990.

  4. Okay there is some difficulty choosing from 1990, I was going to say Three Days by Jane’s Addiction, but as Amy has selected a track by them, I’m gonna leave that one.
    Of course Primal Scream’s Loaded is amazing, donds to Severin’s suggestion there, fond memories of that on the dancefloor.

    I have to go to my roots though and
    1) Fields of the Nephilim – Psychonaut
    2) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – The Ship Song
    3) The Pale Saints – Sight of You

    Well, once a goth always a goth really.

    • yep – pure brilliance – I’ve just got lost listening to 101 Damnations as Sheriff Fatman came on

      ‘perfect day to drop the bomb’ seems a bit close to the world attitude today:

      And meanwhile in the butcher’s shop
      another turkey gets the chop
      outside there’s a blazing sun
      it’s a perfect day to drop the bomb

      (if we where being lazy we could slip Happy Daze CD on at the indie club and down enough Southern Comfort for the choice of music to not matter later in the night).

  5. “I can see the merits of 1970 and 1980, and I enjoyed both playlists. But neither comes close to the explosion of amazingness that was 1990”

    So wrong (imho of course, would be boring if we all liked the same things , etc, etc)! Spoilt for choice with 1980, I could have donded half of the nominations from my fellow spillers. Thin pickings from 1990. I’ll start off with a curve ball before retreating to safer ground.

    Happy Mondays – Step On

    Cowboy Killers – Supply And Demand

    The Exploited – Sick Bastard

    • Step On was undoubtedly my favourite mainstream hit of the 90s. Years later I heard the original and that’s good as well.

      Cowboy Killers were one of the few bona fide punk bands that seem to have been at their peak around this time. This song I find traumatic, but powerful as well. Beddis’ vocals are very distinctive and really get the feeling of this song across.

      The Exploited – in the early 1990s the laughably badly researched Guiness Book Of Indie & New Wave said of them “they have retained a small but ever declining cult following…today they appear a musical curio from a previous era” – The standard , patronising viewpoint of many a music journalist, but just plain wrong. The Exploited were getting heavier and heavier musically, and winning over metal fans without alienating too much of their hardcore following. I saw them play to a packed Forum just a few weeks ago. I actually haven’t listened to this song for years but it sounds as good as the last time I heard it.

    • I actually agree with you. Save for the bit of grunge and hip hop and the odd single, there wasn’t much for me in ’90 either. I’ll take ’70 and ’80 no contest. But I’m old. And then again, very different things were happening in the US and the Uk.

      • A lot of people in the UK seemed to be getting predominantly into US bands around this time though, at least once the whole Stone Roses/Happy Mondays “Madchester” thing had died down. There’s not a lot from the late 80s/early 90s that grabbed me, once the 90s got underway there was a lot more stuff, it’s just that it was stuff that no one’s heard of apart from me!

  6. This year somehow not very memorable for me…the first two songs are a bit grim, the last mor cheerful number is to very well-known and still good to listen to…was it 25 years ago? Really??

    The Wake of the Medusa – The Pogues
    Susie Cleland – June Tabor and Oysterband
    Sit Down – James

  7. Fatima Mansions – Viva Dead Ponies
    The Heart Throbs – Kiss Me When I’m Starving
    Grateful Dead – Victim Or The Crime (live, a whole different beast from the studio attempt).

    1990 was a year of change: went to Egypt and was amazed, met Stone Roses (lovely lads) in Heathrow on the way back and was surprised, split with wife and was quite relieved.

    • Donds for Fatima Mansions – personally I would have gone for Blues for Ceausescu but anything from Viva Dead Ponies would do for me…

  8. Not one of our best years, in some ways. Newly, and very happily married, but on a year’s sabbatical from Pristina and teaching for Olivetti in Ivrea, northern Italy, for a pittance. Did see the Pope in his pope-mobile when he visited the company, and as this was like a ‘local’ visit, the crowds were sparse. And I did get the day off so we could go and see him.


    Unbelievable – EMF. Still hold some affection for this.
    Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) – CC and the Music Factory. Still a great video
    Hold on – En Vogue. Still one of my favourite black, soul female combos (hope I’m not breaking any PC rules here)

    I don’t think I bought a single new record that year. Watched a lot of MTV, though.

    • Donds for Unbelievable – that was one on my shortlist. But my memory of the song is of Tom Jones singing it at Glastonbury a couple of years later!

  9. First off, donds for all the Happy Mondays noms.

    Not sure where I’ll go with this. I am pretty sure that my musical brain was deeply divided in 1990. I didn’t mind a lot of the dance stuff, but I wasn’t actually buying it, except that I did buy Madonna‘s Immaculate Collection, having never owned any of her stuff before.

    What was I buying? Well quite a few, to be honest. Manic Nirvana by Robert Plant, Goo by Sonic Youth, Without A Net by The Grateful Dead, Time’s Up by Living Colour, Heaven Or Las Vegas by The Cocteau Twins, Still Got The Blues by Gary Moore and Bossanova by Pixies were all getting played a lot.

    Picking three is going to be the problem.

    I’ll plunge right in;

    Robert Plant – Tie Dye on the Highway
    Sonic Youth – Dirty Boots
    Pixies – Velouria

    I didn’t pick anything from Without A Net although it was probably my favourite album in 1990 because it is a live album.

  10. There was a heck of a lot of good bands playing hard in 1990. I approve.

    Replacements – Someone Take The Wheel
    Archie Roach – Took The Children Away
    Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – The Sinister Minister

  11. Damn you Barbryn and your ‘three tunes’ restrictions!

    After much thought and soul searching, and having rejected The Cocteau Twins, 10,000 Maniacs, The Sundays, Martin Stephenson, Jonathan Richman, The La’s and The Blue Nile, I give you:

    Prefab Sprout – Jordan: The Comeback
    Aztec Camera – Good Morning Britain
    Trashcan Sinatras – Obscurity Knocks

    • I almost went for the La’s, and was surprised barbryn didn’t, until I checked and saw There She Goes was ’88, and the album was ’90.

      • This is the trouble I have with determining when a song was actually first released. Last week I was in a rush to get Blondie’s Atomic on the list, only to be told that it was first released on an album the year before and the single was also released – but a remix single was released in 1990 which is what I’d gone for. Confusing! I try to check and double check, not always successfully! Anyway my first 2 suggestions were deffo released on albums – Hell’s Ditch, the last Pogues album with Shane McGowan, and Freedom and Rain the first of June Tabor’s collaborations with Oysterband. Neither were released as singles. Sit Down was 1990 ok so hopefully I’ve got it right now. For me, not a very memorable year, musically or otherwise!

      • Suzi. Shhh! James’ “Sidown” was first released in ‘ 89. And I think the version that most everyone is familiar with is a 1991 rerecording and release. It’s an all time fave and means ever so much to me, so I’m pretty sure about these dates. Sorry.

      • This is the trouble I have with determining when a song was actually first released.

        Complicated by albums being released on different dates, and sometimes different years, in different parts of the world.

        We Are Augustines’ Rise Ye Sunken Ships, a TinFave, debuted on iTunes June 2011, was released on CD in August 2011 in North America, Australia, and New Zealand only and not released worldwide until March 2012.

    • Ticks three more off list…

      Inspirals were my 4th and 5th record purchases.

      That Sundays album is in my 10 most-played records of all time, and that’s my favourite track, although I didn’t discover them until a couple of years later.

      Vapour Trail is just gorgeous, especially the strings at the end (as is the Trespassers William version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh4lhjI8p30)

    • Donds for The Sundays. My then-partner was a huge fan and kept the CD when we split up (well, it was hers anyway). I bought it again about 6 or 7 years ago.

    • oh dear, I checked more than once and still didn’t get it right. Yes, an all-time favourite – one of those songs that stays with you

      • But now you get to suggest another great song. 😀

        A quick check on the Internet gives it as being listed on Gold Mother (1990). But it wasn’t included on Gold Mother until 1991 when the second version of the album came out with the really excellent Crescendo dropped for Sidown. It’s very confusing.

      • Well if you think I’m allowed to add another song have messed up (yet again) with the year for Sit Down, I’ll add Lou Reed and John Cale with Style it Takes.

        Have not discovered a way to delete anything from the list.

      • I don’t think it’s possible to delete anything from the list. One day soon, somebody will come up with a more user-friendly collaborative playlist app than Boombox, but it seems to be the best there is at the moment. Anyroads, no complaints about having Sit Down on there, and delighted to have a bonus song for Drella.

  12. blood outta stone – the fall
    fortunately gone – the breeders
    big – nufads

    i’d pick Kool thing but RR has programmed me to expect rejection for it!

    Jefferson in drag- bastro and one evening – Jesus lizard were highly tempting.

    • Don’t worry about Kool Thing. I’ve got the perfect theme for it. It’s more fixed than a FIFA vote.

      You never give up. That’s how it should be. Don’t get caught. Make your own play. Express yourself. Don’t give it away. You’ve got to hold and give. But do it at the right time. You can be slow or fast. But you must get to the line.

  13. Looking at the lists of 1990 releases, I see that Songs For Drella came out then. Suzi or I should probably have picked one from the record that showed us Lou Reed’s almost-nice almost-humble side; I’d have Faces And Names, I think.

    Oh, and there’s The Charlatans’ Some Friendly, too…. and Mazzy Star’s She Hangs Brightly and Eno and Cale’s Wrong Way Up…yep, some great music sloshing around.

    • oh *@%**!!!! (insert swearword of your choice. I know we’re allowed to swear in the Guardian but it somehow doesn’t seem right here.) Only one of my fave albums and I just didn’t think of it. I’d have gone for Style It Takes.

  14. I’m with Wyngate and Amy on this one, struggling to pick 3. Can’t believe how long ago it was, I was 31, still working in Bristol, a job I actually enjoyed (involving rights of way and access to the countryside). I find it easier to place the year by looking at my CV to see what I was doing at the time – that’s a bit sad, really, defining your memories by work. But hey ho, get on with it Ali …
    … no, I’m stumped. Anything I look up is either 1989 or 1991. Sorry.

  15. It has just crossed my mind that 1990 was my last ever completely vinyl year. 1991 was the crossover year for me, because it was when I first owned a CD player and I bought both vinyl and CDs. 1992 onwards has been all CD.

  16. 1) Queensrÿche – Silent Lucidity Because the world needs epic Floydian metallic-umlaut lullabies every now and then

    2) Lightning Seeds – Pure Sort of arrived about four years too late because it would have been the ultimate totally awesome 1980s teen flick romantic song. Always had a John Hughes-y Andie and Ducky feel to it.

    3) Paul Simon – The Obvious Child It was destined to disappoint after Graceland, but just you try to listen without wanting to play air drums.

    Honourable mention: Anything Box – Living In Oblivion (The best song New Order never wrote), Enigma – Sadeness (Monastery life just got a whole lot sexier!), Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (Country needed a good kick in the ass at the end of the 1980s.), Nine Inch Nails – Head Like A Hole (My inner angry teenage rebel made me do it. Blame him.)

    Massive Sundays donds above. That sound you’re hearing is me kicking myself for overlooking them during a whole week of songs with accents.

  17. 1) Slack Motherfucker – Superchunk
    2) Brand New Love – Sebadoh
    3) Sliver – Nirvana

    I’ve always been mystified by Superchunk’s lack of popularity and this is one of the best ‘punk’ singles to ever come out of the US.

  18. RDF – Surplus People

    LFO – LFO (Leeds warehouse mix)

    808 State – In Yer Face

    that will have to be my top 3 – here’s a playlist Spill mix 1990

    happy mondays – bob’s yer uncle ~ (original version)

    Ultra Vivid Scene – Special One (Official Video)

    Lush – De-Luxe (Official Video)

    Carter USM – Rubbish

    the young gods – longue route (remix)

    BEAT INTERNATIONAL – dub be good to me

    Madonna – Justify My Love (Orbit 12″ Mix)

    Carter USM – A Perfect Day To Drop The Bomb

    Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart

    My Bloody Valentine – Soon (Andy Weatherall Mix)

      • I’m tempted to go and nominated Speak & Spell by Dopplereffekt in the results comments (that is incorrect – the correct spelling is: READ THE HEADLINE – just to see who blows their top first.

    • Great stuff. “Dub Be Good To Me” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” were both knocking around my top 3. 1990 seems to have produced a lot of music that’s equally good for dancing and listening.

      • I nominated ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ in it’s original form but like you with TMC ‘Song to the Siren’ – this is my desert island version.
        I left collage in 1990 – and had nothing to do for a decade (ish) Bournemouth still had small clubs with diverse playlists – the super clubs were gearing up (I found a house/rave playlist from 1990 with 186 tracks on it! – only dancing for most people; driving and working music for me) .. the crossover tracks work really well in retrospect – good listening and dancing year for me.

        I did an RDF poster when they played at ‘our’ club – which is why they get top billing (had to leave the date blank in the end ‘cos they kept on failing to make it).
        Good times – except for the state of the nation… and my mental health!

  19. Been a while since I’ve had the time to spare to post on the Spill and noting all the cool tunes you’re all nominating I’m probably best staying away.

    1990 seems a desolate year for me, can’t recall a decent album and most of the songs I remember were from films. Anyway here goes:

    Alannah Myles – Black Velvet
    Marian McKee – Show Me Heaven
    Roxette – It Must Have Been Love

  20. Slim pickings for this year, with choices being of the hip-hop variety :
    ‘After Hours’ – A Tribe Called Quest
    ‘Humpty Dance’ – Digital Underground
    ‘I Got Ta’ – Master Ace

  21. I’m always so late to this. Have great memories of 1990. I was 14, the summer seemed to never end and me and my brothers and sisters seemed to have nothing better to do than sit around and watch MTV all day.

    Will go for:
    Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring
    Betty Boo – Doin’ The Do
    Adamski – Killer

    Honourable mentions for Charlatans, Mondays, Roxette – Must Have Been Love, Technotronic, Soup Dragons …so so many!

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