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Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 5/26/16 – The Year 1991

Hard Rock Music Time Machine - 1991 Theme

Hard Rock Music Time Machine – 5/26/16 – May Theme…The Year 1991

Each Thursday, Hard Rock Music Time Machine takes a journey back in time to feature a variety of songs that date back as far as the ’70s, the ’80s (the glory days of hard rock), hidden gems of the ’90s and hard rock/metal songs of the new millennium (as recent as a few years ago).

Whenever possible, it will also contain interviews from featured artists discussing the inspiration and meaning behind their songs.   On the last Thursday of each month, we will be doing special themes that feature songs based on specific categories or years.

This month’s special theme is the year 1991, which was chosen for specific reasons.  For fans of ’80s hard rock and heavy metal, this was the year that one era ended and a new one began.  This stark transition is more notable than the typical changing of a decade because of the seismic shift that took place towards the end of the year.

In addition to appearing on the embedded YouTube playlist below, all songs featured on Hard Rock Music Time Machine can be listened to individually by clicking on the hyper-linked song titles above each review.



 ADAM WALDMAN – (Publisher, Hard Rock Daddy)

LENNY KRAVITZ – “It Ain’t Over Til Its Over” (1991)

We tend to group musical time periods by decades.  However, 1991 is notable because it created a line of demarcation, due mostly to the grunge movement that would alter the hard rock music landscape for a good portion of the ‘90s.  The debate rages on as to whether Nirvana was the cause of this seismic shift in the genre.  My personal belief is that they set the wheels in motion at the very least.

The summer of 1991 is memorable for personal reasons, so it’s understandable why some of my favorite songs from that year helped to form an indelible soundtrack of a time and place in my life.  However, the summer of ’91 was an important time in general for hard rock because it was the end of an era that focused on an upbeat, feel-good mindset.  What would follow is a darker, more angst-ridden period that, quite frankly, was more than a little depressing.

Lenny Kravitz may not the be the first name that comes to mind when you think of hard rock, but having seen him perform live in the fall of ’91, I can tell you that his show rocked more than many artists who are considered heavier than him.  “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” was going to be featured anyway, but this decisioin was validated when it was announced that Kravitz will be the supporting act on some of the upcoming Guns N’ Roses reunion shows.  Like Prince (but with much less fanfare) Kravitz’s appeal in the hard rock world is undeniable.  His entire 1991 sophomore album (Mama Said) is outstanding.  The lead single on the album (“Always On The Run”) is a heavier track, but “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” got the nod because of its meaning to me.  This one is a very special dedication to a journey that began 25 years ago.

MR. BIG – “To Be With You” (1991)

Although Mr. Big’s sophomore album (Lean Into It) was released in the spring of ’91, it is also an album that brings back memories of the summer of that year, especially “To Be With You.”  The closing track to a memorable album is arguably one of the greatest power ballads of all-time.  Songs like this were a staple of the decade that preceded its release, however, in what seems like one fell swoop, they simply disappeared from the mainstream.

Even though this song falls well within the category of power ballad, there is something about it that differentiates it from most.  Perhaps it is the soulful vocals of Eric Martin or the beauty of the harmonies in the chorus.  Or maybe, it is the fact that the acoustic instrumentation never deviates into the shredding guitar solos that defined most ‘80s power ballads.

Like the Lenny Kravitz track above, this song holds special meaning to me and always takes me back to the summer of ’91 whenever I hear it.  If you’re a fan of ‘80s hard rock and metal, power ballads never go out of style, but they do have a definitive sound of the decade.  Because “To Be With You” didn’t feature all of the usual elements of a power ballad, it manages to avoid sounding “dated” even when it comes on the radio today.  A lot has changed since this song came out 25 years ago, but thankfully, some things have stayed the same.  This one will always be a classic and a personal favorite.


 ANDY CHEUNG – HRD Music Scout


Funk in metal?  That’s never been done before!  Anyone familiar with Infectious Grooves knew what a great supergroup they were in 1991, and were NOT hair metal nor grunge.  Fronted by Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies, a young Robert Trujillo (now In Metallica), Adam Siegel from Excel, Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction and a host of guest guitarists and vocalists including Ozzy Osbourne, Infectious Grooves was a funky heavy metal party.  Their album The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move…It’s the Infectious Grooves is an essential in your metal collection.  I miss 1991, a time when everyone didn’t take themselves so seriously.


SEPULTURA – “Arise” (1991)

One of the founding fathers of modern death/thrash metal is Brazil’s Sepultura.  Founded in 1984 by Max Cavalera (vocals and guitar), Igor Cavalera (drums), Andreas Kisser (lead guitar) and Paulo Jr. (bass).  “Arise” (the title track off of the band’s fourth studio album) was released during a time when metal was dominated by big hair and spandex on one spectrum, and flannel shirts and cargo shorts on the other.  This song is the epitome of great thrash metal; the crunchy, fast guitars, drum fills from hell, low gruff vocals and a memorable guitar riff throughout the whole song.  Everybody scream with me…“I see the world old!!  I see the world dead!!!”




CRIMSON GLORY – “Deep Inside Your Heart” (1991)

Progressive metal pioneers Crimson Glory brought us this moving power ballad back in 1991. The band’s amazingly talented frontman, Midnight, died in 2009.  He was replaced for a stretch by Todd La Torre, who has since gone on to front Queensryche following their breakup with Geoff Tate.


YES – “Saving My Heart” (1991)

In 1991, then current members of YES (Chiris Squire, Trevor Rabin, Tony Kaye, and Alan White) came together with past members (Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe) to release Union.  The album was a collection of songs by both, but with no overlap between the two groups.  This beautiful ballad was written by Trevor Rabin and performed by his group, who were then the current members.




BADLANDS – “The Last Time” (1991)

1991 saw the second album from Badlands, led by the legendary vocalist Ray Gillen and guitarist Jake E. Lee.  “The Last Time” is a track that showcases their fantastic, bluesy metal style.  Lee’s continuously active guitar work, along with Gillen’s emotional vocals, makes this rueful track a great kickoff to the Voodoo Highway album.


ARMORED SAINT – “Last Train Home” (1991)

One of Armored Saint’s best has it all…great vocals, rhythm, guitars (especially the solo), and an introspective message that urges the start something new: “It’s a sign to make a change among the platform crowd, words clear as clouds say you can’t remain the same…”  This track is from Armored Saint’s lauded Symbol of Salvation album, which is ranked 424 in Rock Hard magazine’s book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All-Time.

Why the 80’s was the Greatest Decade in the History of Hard Rock Music

The 80's Ruled

Every generation is partial to the music that defined their youth, so it stands to reason that 80’s hard rock will always be the decade of choice for those who grew up during that time period.  As a member of Generation X, I fall squarely in the middle of those who grew up on 80’s hard rock and heavy metal.  However, that is not the reason that I believe that the 80’s are the greatest decade in the history of hard rock music.  The main reason for this opinion has more to do with the culture than the actual music.  Truth be told, I spend much more time these days listening to the modern-day hard rock bands played on stations like Octane than I do listening to the music of the 80’s played on Hair Nation (see Hard Rock Daddy’s Top 52 Hard Rock Songs of 2013).

So, if it isn’t the music that made the 80’s the greatest decade in the history of hard rock music, what is the determining factor?

While the music was definitely a large part of it, the unity that was felt between fans of the genre created an “us against the world” mentality that made the decade the most memorable one in hard rock music history.  There was a magic that will never be captured again because of the splintering of one powerful genre into numerous subgenres.

People the world over are proud to call themselves “metalheads,” but nowadays, the word is open to interpretation by fans of the various subgenres.  The division of the once-united fanbase has caused infighting amongst the genres at both the fan and band levels.

Because of technological advances in the way that we consume music today and the ubiquity of social media, there will never again be a united front when it comes to the hard rock and metal genres.  If anything, there will be more splintering into niche subgenres that will continue to divide the fanbase in the future.

Because of the subgenre mentality of today’s metal fan, it has become increasingly difficult for bands to push the envelope of musical creativity without feeling the backlash from a portion of their fanbase on social media.

In the season 13 premiere of That Metal Show, Avenged Sevenfold frontman, M. Shadows, discussed the intense scrutiny that the band is under with each new record because of their constant change of direction.  Shadows said that the fan reaction to the band’s transition from metalcore to traditional heavy metal was so vitriolic that you would have thought that the band had murdered someone’s newborn child.  He also said that he stays offline to avoid the immense amount of negativity that exists on social media.

Avenged Sevenfold is one of the most successful hard rock bands of this era, but Shadows admitted that it was difficult being one of the first major acts to contend with the pitfalls of social media while trying to build a career.

While there was an eventual backlash against hair bands in the 80’s after Nirvana came onto the scene in the early 90’s, most metal bands were revered by fans of the genre.  They were, in many cases, larger than life and put up on a pedestal.  Even if they were criticized at times for their musical direction, they didn’t experience constant negativity and impossible scrutiny of their every move.

In the 80’s, most hard rock bands had at least one power ballad, and the fans embraced them whole-heartedly.  Fans filled arenas, and would sing along in unison when the power ballad was played live in concert.  The entire audience swayed together and held up their lighters as a show of support.

Today, bands are mocked for selling out and becoming soft if they deviate from their normal hard rock sound.  The arena show is something of a dinosaur in America, although it still exists in other parts of the world.  And the pain of a burning finger from a lighter has been replaced by a much less intense show of support from illuminated smartphones.

In the 80’s, the cost of attending a concert was so reasonable, that hard rock fans attended virtually every show that came to town.  To this day, I still remember the exact area of the parking lot where the metalheads from high school would tailgate before each arena show.  We didn’t necessarily travel in the same groups within the confines of the school, but we were bonded just the same by a shared passion for all things hard rock and heavy metal.

The world was a very different place in the 80’s, and the music and lyrics reflected the joy of simpler times.  We never gave a moment’s thought to terrorism in America, and with the exception of learning about current events for homework assignments, by and large, we were blissfully ignorant of the pain and sadness in the world.

We were the “youth gone wild.” We desired “nothin’ but a good time,” and found it in hard rock and heavy metal.  We simply wanted to “rock and roll all night, and party every day.”  Our music made us feel happy to be alive, and bonded us in a most powerful way.

We worked menial jobs and spent our hard-earned money buying records, concert tickets and other band paraphernalia.  And if, by some good fortune, we were given the opportunity to meet one of our rock and roll heroes, we treated them with reverence for the gifts that they had given to us, not disdain for a song or two that might not have been to our liking.

Hard rock bands today must work harder than ever to earn a living playing music.  All the while, they must deal with constant negativity from the squeaky wheels who would rather spend their time bemoaning the things that they don’t like instead of praising the things that they do.

Admittedly, time has a way of turning nostalgic moments into glorified memories.  A generation from now, today’s youth may very well long for the way things were when they were growing up.

While hard rock music of today is arguably as good as it has ever been, for my money, the 80’s will always be the greatest decade in the history of the genre because of its profound impact on an entire generation.