There have been many surreal moments in popular music during my (and your) lifetime, moments in which you could consciously feel that something bigger than usual was happening. The most obvious (for me) was the release of the Smells Like Teen Spirit video, and then the ascendency of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Piolots, and Smashing Pumpkins, and then the floodgates opening after that. But there were other moments. Two that stand out in my mind are the MC Hammer release of “2 Legit 2 quit,” which basically buried party rap and it’s excesses of ridiculousness (bragging about how much a video cost to make is probably not a sustainable model), and the related moment of first seeing the “Nothin’ but a G Thang” video, and the onset of gangsta rap. Another one was the summer of ’94 and the meteoric rise of Green Day, culminating with them overshadowing everything at Woodstock ’94.
But perhaps my favorite single musical “event” of my lifetime is the incredible moment that was Danzig’s Mother 93 in late winter and early spring 1994…
Things were certainly happening in music at that point: the previously mentioned Nirvana / Pearl Jam / STP / Smashing Pumpkins moment had occurred. Ditto with the end of party rap and birth of gangsta rap. But none of the major events of 1994 had occurred yet: Counting Crows first album had not come out, DMB would not release Under the Table and Dreaming until September; Hootie and the Blowfish would not release Cracked Rear View until June; Green Day had not dropped the Longview video yet, and Weezer’s first album was not out until May. Heck, Cobain wa still alive.
Mother 93 fell out of the sky to fill the void. Starting off as something of a novelty in MTV’s Buzz Bin, the song was a rerelease of a 1988 song that caught exactly no airplay. But in March 1993 the moment was right. Fueled by a still-incredible live video, Mother 93 rocketed up the charts. It was seemingly everywhere. I can remember waking up each day and saying to myself, “Mother 93 must have peaked yesterday,” only to be stunned by another amazing revelation, like my sister talking about Danzig, or my mom humming along when it came on in the car. There was a point in late March 1994 when you couldn’t get away from the song. And you didn’t want to.
And that video! Simply incredible. Who were all the die-hard Danzig fans? I had never met a single person who had ever even HEARD of them before the “Mother 93″ video came out. But in the video — which obviously was shot before it took them psuedo-mainstream — they are playing a live show to a huge (and enthusiastic) crowd. And that’s when I realized that the serious heavy metal scene — stuff much harder than Metallica — was a world completely unknown to me, filled with huge bands that I had never heard of and a fan base that I had never even encountered. And what of Glen Danzig? He seemed larger than life. Has there ever been a rock star that jacked? Or that believeably scary?
And then, two weeks later, Cobain died. Mother 93 had probably peaked before that, but Cobain’s death killed it, as the popular music world came to a stop for the better part of a month. And we were never to hear from Danzig again. I do always wonder what would have happened to Mother 93 if Cobain hadn’t died. Maybe nothing. But who knows. Because that song was an unstoppable runaway train for 5 weeks.