Music
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Formative Years

i have always been a music lover. i would often sit in the living room on my parents’ brown corduroy couches (yeah) listening to their old records and cds. when my older brothers weren’t around i’d sneak into their bedrooms and sample hits from the eighties (a-ha is still a favourite.)

i’ve had the idea for this mix in the back of my mind for a while. a selection of songs from some of the artists & albums that were on high rotation when i was a teen: 1995-99. a time when i was finally receiving enough pocket money to go out and buy CDs – when i began to discover the music that would come to define my adolescence.

but CD’s were pricey, and like everyone else i mostly relied on borrowing discs and actually copied them onto cassette tapes. TAPES! i spent literally hours making those tapes, deciding on the order of the songs and then attempting to squeeze the entire track list onto that stupid little paper sleeve that would go into the tape box… that you would inevitably lose anyway.

i could write a paragraph about every one of these artists and how they fit into my history. it’s weird to think that the youngest song in this mix is 12 years old. playing them now brings back so many memories – i hope some of them do the same for you.

formative years. listen to it on Spotify here.

playlist in chronological order:

  1. the cure – boys don’t cry (boy’s don’t cry, 1980)
  2. pixies – here comes your man (doolittle, 1989)
  3. cranberries – linger (everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we? 1993)
  4. nirvana – the man who sold the world (nirvana unplugged in new york, 1994)
  5. portishead – it could be sweet (dummy, 1994) *
  6. blur – girls & boys (park life, 1994)
  7. foo fighters – big me (foo fighters, 1995)
  8. red hot chili peppers – my friends (one hot minute, 1995)
  9. no doubt – sunday morning (tragic kingdom, 1995)
  10. smashing pumpkins – thirty-three (mellon collie and the infinite sadness, 1995)
  11. fugees – fu-gee-la (the score, 1996)
  12. jamiroquai – virtual insanity (travelling without moving, 1996)
  13. beck – devils haircut (odelay, 1996)
  14. radiohead – let down (ok computer, 1997)
  15. bjork – hunter (homogenic, 1997)
  16. lauryn hill – to zion (the miseducation of lauryn hill, 1998)
  17. air – all i need (moon safari, 1998)
  18. chemical brothers – music : response (surrender, 1999)

* i originally had portishead – sourtimes, but it’s not available on Spotify! i listened to this entire album though.

if you’re outside the US, use Hola to access Spotify.

ps: there are a few artists i could have included in this mix who i didn’t. daft punk, faithless and a bunch more electronica come to mind. there are also some i have left off simply because they irritate the crap out of me now. alanis morissette / jagged little pill: i’m sorry, i did love you once.

i’d like to know – what music did you listen to as a teen?

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78 Comments

  1. Did you sneak into my high school bedroom and steal my mixtape?! The only things I’d add would be Ace of Base and UB40 (What? Let’s not pretend we didn’t all furtively listen to that stuff)

  2. I have silently been following your site for a long time, and have come to find myself excitedly waiting each month for your playlists. Some of the artists I know, others I love getting to know. This month’s contribution made me smile, although my teens were in the mid aughts I had most of the same artists on heavy rotation. The Pixies, Nirvana, Radiohead, Beck and the Pumpkins especially so, except that these bands were intermittently spaced between Modest Mouse, Weezer, and The Strokes instead of Jamiroquai and Air. It just made me smile.

    P.S. I still play Girls and Boys before I go out with my friends sometimes. It would be fantastic if you could make a playlist for a night out, just to get a little hyped before hand!

    • @ marina – modest mouse + the strokes were my uni years :D .. and i will definitely make a night out music mix some time! thanks for silently reading / lurking.

  3. Wow, you’re the first person I know who managed to compress seven years of angst into five. ;)
    My teen years (all seven of them) were spent listening to Nirvana, RHCP, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins and SUBLIME!

  4. @ ian – hehe, perhaps i should have clarified that by my ‘teen years’ i meant ages 12-16. i don’t really consider 17/18 as being a teen any more… perhaps that’s just my own skewed timeline!

  5. I love it! i can relate to almost all of these – my sister’s band covered ‘Linger’ at our school talent quest and seeing ‘Big Me’ live was a huge highlight of my teen years. Sorry but Alanis Morisette ‘Jagged Little Pill’ and Jewel’s ‘Pieces of Me’ were big hitters too. Aaah, I could go on forever! Nice work,.

    • @ aydekay – i never had a pair of docs! sad face.

      @ delany – i actually had alanis in the mix, and gave it a few run through listens like i usually do. every time she came on i cringed – for some reason she is like nails on a chalkboard to me now. i just couldn’t do it! but i did play that album many times over, and won’t hesitate to admit it. funnily enough i never listened to jewel… weird that. ps: love that you got to see foo fighters live! i’m hoping that i have the chance to some day.

  6. Let me think. As far as similarities on your list – lots of No Doubt. Lots of The Fugees. Lauryn Hill (I loved spitting out all the lyrics to That Thing). But then a bunch of much less reputable stuff. My 12/13/14 years were right in the midst of NSYNC / Britney Spears / etc. and I fully admit to listening to a LOT of all that and all the other similar bands that played on TRL in the states during that time period. Like 1999/2000/2001. I graduated from high school in 2004.

    But I also just listened to a lot of “old” music when I was in high school… I started appreciating the Beatles as more than just the band that my mother loved… Joni Mitchell. Queen. I liked to drive around screaming along with Janis Joplin singing Me and Bobby McGee. The Moulin Rouge soundtrack haha.

    But in general – I didn’t really settle down into my real musical tastes until I graduated.

    • @ mallory – hahaaa i was totally the same re: lauryn hill. i still do that! britney & christina aguilera came onto the scene when i was about 16, and by that time i was in a thorough ‘i hate commercial music phase’. in that terrible sneering teenage way. even though, ironically, all of the music i did listen to was commercial (alternative, but still commercial.) HOWEVER – i did know all the lyrics to baby one more time. thanks mtv?

      i also listened to a lot of oldies. plenty of the beatles, elton john and most certainly queen (still favourites of course.) i opted not to include all of the music that i inherited, so to speak, from my parents because then the list would have been 3 x as long.

  7. All of these! It’s like looking at one of my own mix tapes, right down to squeezing the titles in with […] at the end. Who else? Pulp, Shed 7, Space.. you’ve already got my most played bands on there! Talk about a blast from the past…

    • @amy w – pulp! i can’t believe i left them off… i still know all the words to common people. though there are many artists i could have included solely for their singles – verve / bittersweet symphony would definitely have been one, though i didn’t listen to any of their other music.

  8. I dont know what this says about my formative music years.

    As far as I can remember the first tape I stole from my parents was The Buddy Holly Story – Buddy Holly & The Crickets, the first tape I stole from my older brother was Waltz Darling – Malcolm McLaren and the Bootzilla Orchestra, and the first tape i bought with my own money was Ten – Pearl Jam.

  9. Love it. I was all about Hole, Garbage and Veruca Salt, also Blur, No Doubt, Smashing Pumpkins, Goo Goo Dolls (ew). I used to make playlists of only the most depressing songs on repeat!

    Also.. *cough*Hanson*cough* Don’t tell anybody.

  10. we have quite a few similarities in teenage musical taste. i had a little grin on my face when i was saw the inclusion of blur – brit pop was definitely my thing in the nineties.

    great mix!

  11. OH GREAT MIX!

    I remember my frustration around age of 9: my only casettes were the Smurfs’ ones, (and at that time, I was soo past it) that I literally died to listen to something ADULT.
    So, one day, I found Sting’s casette, and I literally shrieked with joy (if that’s even posible). “Mooom, why didnt you tell me we have Sting?!” – only, at that time, I didn’t know who that was. I knew the name, but actually I thought Sting was a black woman.
    Score.

    I envy you people who had older relatives with great music taste. I had Smurfs.

  12. Listened to all of the above after leaving school (late teens), but in high school it was mainly a huge obsession with U2 (until they released Achtung Baby in 93 and I boycotted them in disgust). I also was a tape cassette fiend, I used to tape from the radio and carefully edit with my “high speed dubbing” button. Hee hee, still have most of them.

  13. Thank you so much for this mix!!!
    I listened to more or less the same stuff, I only miss Pearl Jam, New Model Army, REM and Selig (a German Grunge band) on your list.
    Some weeks ago I played “Smells like Teen Spirits” to my Highschool English class (“Mrs K., are you THAT old?!”); and an alltime-favourite of pupils is “Ironic” (after listening to that song on their parents’ radio for a thousand times they finally understand the meaning).

  14. smashing pumpkin’s – today totally reminds me of being 14 and kissing my first boyfriend. love it!

  15. Love it and will be emailing my friends, made in my teen year, as they will love it too!
    I do still love eighties bands and would have definitely included some A-ha and also the Smiths.
    We listened to a lot of Morcheeba, Mazzie Star and Tricky, but also Hootie and the Blowfish, Goo Goo Dolls and some other dodgy stuff.

  16. This post made me smile, as I remember very well my “formative years” in music and everything you wrote sounds like something I would do back then..Nirvana, Lauryn Hill, Smashing Pumkins, Radiohead they’re all there so this could totally be my music mix, except I would have included Pearl Jam, I was crazy for the Suede at that time and still love Alanis Morrisette…:-) thanks for bringing back good memories!

  17. Loved this. I felt like I was home again. I suppose I would have had to have squeezed ‘Green Day’ (Basket Case) and some home bru ‘Just Jinger’ (Suger Man or Like you madly) somewhere in that list. Great post, and a lovely start to my day. :)

  18. Wow,the bands in your list was pretty heavy rotation for me as a teen. I had every single Jamiroquai album, single AND remix single and knew every beat, word and inflection..still do.

    Also listened to a lot of:

    Brand New Heavies
    Artful Dodger
    The Smiths
    The Clash
    and garage music in general.

    Thanks for the trip down nostalgia lane.

  19. I am a few years younger than you, so your uni music was my high school/middle school music, but I looove this mix regardless! Thank you for sharing!

  20. I definitely listened to the cranberries A LOT. and smashing pumpkins! I didn’t listen to the cure until my 20’s tho. but love love love them!

  21. like most everyone, your picks were on heavy rotation. also, weezer and green day, james, U2, and the smiths (i think i’m a bit older than you, at 17 in 1995). spent a lot of time recording songs off the radio – the SF Bay Area’s Live 105 – so many of my friends and my mixes had snippets of djs introducing the songs, or talking over the end.

  22. Oh man….I would totally sit patiently by the radio and “tape” songs (talk about being thrift and dedicated to music). Now…do you remember Pocket Rockers…I LOVED my pocket rocker (this was mid to late 80s). Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

  23. I was just listening to the new REM and thinking back to all the stuff I listened to in the 80’s and 90’s and here you are, with almost the exact list of the songs I listened to constantly! And I love your pic for the post! I think I need to go and find my tapes now… they are so much more fun than Spotify…

  24. i was so not as cool as most of the world. i listened to green day, spin doctors, dave matthews…. i loved the cranberries too. indigo girls. some smashing pumpkins, some lauryn hill. ooh, also, sugar ray. we all had GIANT crushes on mark mcgrath and his “irish” tattoo. eek!

    love your list– nowadays my taste has changed to reflect what is on your mix. (better late than never?) teehee. thanks, miss.

  25. This mix is pretty spot on for me – also Pulp, the Smiths, Tori Amos, Tricky, Massive Attack and Underworld among others. The mixtape thing was huge for me too – my friends and I used to make them for each other. A bad mixtape from a boy could signal the end of a relationship, as could an unappreciated mixtape from me to a boy!

  26. I LOVE making lists like this…. I just found an old journal a couple of days ago where I tried to list the most influential song each year of my life. Some of yours definitely would have made it onto my high school list. I also loved Counting Crows, Jewel, The Wallflowers, Collective Soul (yuck), Hootie and the Blowfish (yuck again), and tons of oldies… I would say that my most formative years for music were in college, though. It wasn’t untll I was 19 (in ’99) that I discovered music that wasn’t played on mainstream radio… stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle and Sebastian, and Built to Spill…

  27. Aww.. Thanks for this mix. Some of it I’ve never heard before during my formative years. I used to listened to Oasis a lot and Blur without really knowing what it meant. And also to Celine Dion? A bunch of BSB and 911, Code Red. I only came alive whit the dawn of the internet and with that I mean broadband. I’m so glad I listen to pretentious music now like jazz and most of those things they have as movie soundtracks.

  28. Great mixtape picks!! Sonic Youth, Lush, My Bloody Valentine, Throwing Muses, Faith No More and Depeche Mode were some of my faves. I love a lot of music that is out right now but nothing beats 90’s alternative!!

  29. It’s amazing how every playlist you make has at least a couple songs I already love and the rest I grow to love – the teen years were all about the wonderful and captivating lauryn hill.

  30. Holy cow! I can honestly say that I love EVERY song on your list. Those are some of my favorite adolescent “lying on my bedroom floor being emo” tunes. Haha! Agree with the above comments that The Smiths would be a perfect addition. Thanks so much for putting this together!

  31. loving this mix (as always). loved these songs back then and still love ‘em now. i might have just added a song from r.e.m’s automatic for the people.

  32. Freaky! This tape could represent my exact same listening habits from the same time period. Maybe add a little Liz Phair and the Breeders in the ’95-’97 range, and a some Modest Mouse and Blonde Redhead in the ’97-’99 range, and you’d have my CD collection down pat. I started despising commercial music in about ’94 as a disaffected 16-year-old, and haven’t really looked back.

  33. @ richard – i also listened to a lot of music inherited from my parents

    @ kate – i also loved hole! haha @ hanson. i still know all the words to mmmbop

    @ fathima – oh. my. god. those kind of ‘monster hits’ were pre-teen days for me.

    @ laura – i listened to a LOT of radiohead (still do). romeo & juliet soundtrack too.

    @ danica – there was so much more brit pop i could have included!

    @ ola – loved that story. “why didn’t you tell me we had sting??” haha.

    @ marisa, marie, cat – i also taped loads from the radio, it became a precise skill after a while to cut out the DJs voices at the beginning & end of songs. that’s why a double cassette tape player was the best thing ever.

    @ anja – “are you THAT old” – we are!!!

    @ morgan – i can’t listen to these songs without thinking of first boyfriends either

    @ alex – i was very close to including mazzy star & tricky, but the list was already overflowing

    @ richard, anja, mariella – pearl jam was one of the bands i could never get into for some reason!

    @ dale – oh yes, just jinger! i am actually sad i didn’t include springbok nude girls, they should definitely have been on this list in hindsight.

    @ alex, saer, tricia, marie, maryli, kelley, cynthia – i only started listening to the smiths when i was in university (late morrissey bloomer)

    @ celine – i started listening to the cure around age 9 / 10 – mega thanks to my big brother for that.

    @ cat – i had to google that, don’t think they ever came to south africa (or was before my time) – looks like something i would have nagged my mom to buy me, though.

    @ maryli – i love the ‘meaning’ of mix tapes, and the time & effort that go into them.

    @ eva – i LOL’d at hootie & the blowfish – everyone listened to them though!

    @ sherry – the police! yes!

    @ eves – you know, i kind of liked REM but didn’t listen to them all that often. i think i missed the REM boat, somehow.

    EVERYONE ELSE – glad you enjoyed it!

  34. Diana – this playlist is epic. I remember listening to these with you… Chemical Brothers reminds me of my 16th on the farm… do you remember the insanity of it all?

  35. Love! I’m 23 this year and this was stuff I discovered nearly 10 years ago and fell in love with. I spent more time listening to 90s music than new stuff.

  36. Actually listened to much of the same music as you.
    Memorable music from Pre teen years~
    the B-52’s/Cosmic Thing
    Ace of Base/The Sign
    DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
    Salt N Peppa/Very Necessary
    Real McCoy/Another Night
    Nirvana/Nevermind
    NIN/The Downward Spiral
    Tool
    Beck
    Primus
    Beastie Boys
    Smashing Pumpkins/Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
    Madonnas Immaculate Collection
    and then I went totally gangsta gangsta
    2 Pac
    The Notorious B.I.G.
    Bone Thugs and Harmony
    and of course ~Wu Tang Clan~ Changed my life!!
    WOW this could go on and on for much too long……..
    Music=Nostalgia

  37. I love this play list!! I’m a few years younger than you, but so many of these songs were in my discman back in the day. Mostly, CDs stolen from my cooler, older sisters. Takes me back.

  38. i am all over this shit. i realised hte other day that the only thing i have been listening to lately is this one compilation put out by my favourite radio station in nz when i was 15. thats right, i’m listening to the cardigans, what of it!

  39. In the ’90s I was an elementary-aged kid taping songs by Spin Doctor and Eagle Eye Cherry off the radio. My first cassettes for my walkman were Savage Garden and Spice Girls. But I got into the bands above in my college days!

    (High school in the ’00s was emo music, for the first few years, and moody stuff like Cat Power. Age 16 I discovered the Beatles and the ’60s and never looked back from that obsession. Funny how music affects our whole perspective and interests sometimes!)

    Can’t wait to listen to this and imagine the HS era I missed out on! Makes me want to watch “My So-Called Life” :)

  40. I was a bit younger in the 90s, but I liked all of these songs and most of them I still do. I got my first CD when graduating from high-school, so my casette collection got pretty impressive – mix tapes recorded from the radio and from friends mostly :)

  41. It’s amazing how listening to a song and just take you right back to high school! So many great songs on this list. Here Comes Your Man is one of my favourite songs of all time. My taste was more emo-screamo in high school haha Billy Talent and Dashboard Confessional.

  42. seriously. wow. this hits home for me because mix tapes were my heart and soul in high school. trading with others and creating cover art. zine clippings. if i had to add anything from these years it would be sonic youth. bikini kill. free kitten. nine inch nails. tori amos, beck.but definitely yes to pixies and nirvana- those are given. i used to actually listen to radio shows and press record on my tape player to get the songs i wanted. thanks for sharing and being awesome…

  43. Adore this mix, the artwork, and enjoying reading all the comments too! The musical journey that has led to my current taste in music started with a chance viewing of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged concert (on VHS) at a friend’s house in 1999… Gave me goosebumps.

    Before that day i was only into R&B (Boys II Men), Rap (Puff Daddy), Pop Rock (Sugar Ray) and those horrible Bump compilations (I’m blue da ba dee da ba die?). After Nirvana it was a short jump to Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Radiohead… then Portishead, Bjork, NIN… then Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Pantera… then Deftones, Tool, The Mars Volta…

    From Boys II Men to The Mars Volta in less than 3 years. Formative years indeed.

  44. Pingback: This Week | handy as a small pot

  45. loved this….brought back SO MANY memories, especially the artwork for it. I was a mix tape nerd, totally like “high fidelity” movie. I always think it’s really fascinating the way music brings you back to the girl you were in such a powerful way…it really reminds you of what you were doing and thinking about.
    in terms of my music in HS….which was 1993-1997, I had a lot of the same taste. I was obsessed by The Cure & Morrissey/Smiths. Still am. Also bands like Nirvana & Pearl Jam, Tori Amos, Jewel (yikes), soundtracks like Singles, Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows, had a strong 60’s and Doo-wop phase but had to hide it.

    I had to laugh out loud about the Jagged Little Pill comment. I remember how much I loved that, and if I hear even 2 seconds of it now, I shudder. Poor Alanis.

  46. I turned 13 at the end of 1996. You know what that means, a lot of Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys! It also means Brit Pop, so a lot of Blur, Oasis and Pulp. Then my late teenage years came round and it was all about skate punk. Anything that made me feel like I was growing up in California, oversized shorts and wallet chains.

  47. we were listening the same stuff in very different places of the world…
    i was in buenos aires.

  48. Sarah Lindsey says

    Thank you for this great compilation! I also spent much of my formative years lounging on my parents’ brown corduroy couches. I still have a tape deck component to my stereo system and cannot bring myself to throw out my tapes. Especially since many of them are my mixes that I spent so much time on.

  49. there was a time in high school when i only listened to japanese pop music. that kept me kind of anti social haha. but the last few years of high school i got into american music and a lot of it was filled with mae (r.i.p.) and jimmy eat world.

  50. Gah, those were my teen years too, and this could easily be my own mix tape. I love your blog; I’m steadily working my way through the archives. So many treasures!

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