When Nirvana broke the levee barricading the swirling waters of American alternative rock, avid Billboard readers opened a February issue and saw a fact that chilled them. Jesus Jones’ sitar-baited and FX-dependent “The Devil You Know” began a weeks-long reign at the top of the Modern Rock chart. A bulwark. To Americans who distrusted limeys already, this was as frustrating as watching Bill Clinton being reelected three years later yet still facing a Republican Congress. When I bought Jesus Jones’ Perverse out of brand loyalty, a friend said, “Why?” as if I’d announced I’d voted for George H.W. Bush. “Real Real Real” had hit the Hot 100 top five fourteen months ago. A world had changed (not quite enough, as Madchester fellow traveling third raters Ned’s Atomic Dustbin got a hit too).
The 1993 chart was like that. The big British acts on which the charts, KROQ, and modern rock-reporting stations had depended suffered no loss of verve. No one can call New Order’s almighty “Regret” or Depeche Mode’s U2-indebted “Walking in My Shoes” revanchist assaults. If there’s a person who thinks “Regret,” the #1 song of 1993 on this chart, isn’t one of New Order’s most perfect singles, then this person deserves exile. And Morrissey, selling in greater quantities than ever now that Soundscan accurately reported purchases, got his biggest American hit — very nearly a top forty! — with a coquettish and rather gay come-on. But no matter how often Kurt Cobain praised The Raincoats in his canny interviews, he wasn’t — he couldn’t be — responsible for sending female-fronted bands to scale the charts. In 1993 we contented ourselves with Belly’s “Feed the Tree” and The Juliana Hatfield Three’s “My Sister,” two singular depictions of young women dealing with newfound power: angry, rueful, and, above all, tuneful. I would rather have seen Throwing Muses and L7 get their due instead of Crash Test Dummies, among three of the decade’s most execrable drips I sent to the Hague after filing my briefs in 2017 and 2018.
So, take your hat off, boy, for an era has ended. Henceforth the chart would forego lighter, effete pleasures — that is, if you discount Toad the Wed Sprocket’s “Fall Down,” six weeks at #1 in the early summer of 1994.
And I’ll still defend Perverse.
Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Blind Melon – No Rain
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – Not Sleeping Around
Porno For Pyros – Pets
The Cranberries – Zombie
The Lemonheads – Into Your Arms
R.E.M. – Bang And Blame
Jesus Jones – The Devil You Know
Counting Crows – Einstein On The Beach (For An Eggman)
Live – Selling The Drama
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Soul To Squeeze
Sound, Solid Entertainments
Depeche Mode – I Feel You
Tears for Fears – Break It Down Again
Morrissey – The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get
Pearl Jam – Daughter/Yellow Ledbetter
R.E.M. – What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
The Juliana Hatfield Three – My Sister
Nirvana – About A Girl (Live)
The Offspring – Come Out And Play (Keep ‘Em Separated)
Toad the Wet Sprocket – Fall Down
Good to Great
New Order – Regret
Beck – Loser
Belly – Feed the Tree
Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box
Tori Amos – God
Green Day – Basket Case
Depeche Mode – Walking in My Shoes
Nirvana – All Apologies