The Best '90s Alternative Rock Videos, All in One Place
As if we couldn’t admire the ’90s more than we already do…
Did anybody else catch Veruca Salt’s performance on Conan last month? After an 18 year hiatus, the band got back together to perform their 1994 hit, “Seether“. Feeling inspired, we decided to dust off our old CD towers (you know, the ones that stood 5 feet high in the corner of your childhood bedroom) in hopes of reviving some tunes from the from the good old days. You’ll be surprised to read the stories behind some of these favorites:
Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box (1993)
Predictable, I know. But this list wouldn’t be complete without at least one video from Nirvana. Between the red skies, fake crows, hanging fetuses and religious imagery, I was was scared sh*tless when I saw this video as a kid. Kurt Cobain and photographer/director, Anton Corbijn, joined forces to create this video, which went on to win “Best Alternative Video” and “Best Art Direction” at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.
Garbage – When I Grow Up (1998)
In a 1998 interview, Shirley Manson said this song was about, “that delirious state of wishing and hoping and dreaming of things, not giving up”. She then went on to quote Flaubert, saying, “Sometimes the forces of the world hold us back for a while, but not forever.” It’s no wonder this song reminds me of the defiant, unwavering spirit of ’90s youth.
Smashing Pumpkins – Today (1993)
Even though, “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known” may sound uplifting, Billy Corgan actually wrote this song during a deep depression. When you read the rest of the lyrics, you’ll find it’s more apparent than you may have initially thought. Despite the song’s darker roots, the video features Corgan dressed in as an ice cream man, driving around in his pastel blue truck. The concept for the video was reportedly inspired by a memory Corgan had of an ice cream man when he was younger. When the ice cream man decidedly quit his job, he went around and gave free ice cream to all of the kids. The video’s director, Stephane Sednaoui, also used inspiration from the 1970’s Italian film, Zabrinske Point.
Side note: The famously bald Billy Corgan actually has hair in this video.
Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike (1991)
If you know this song, you’re singing along to it in the car – no questions asked. Initially, the band had no idea “Hunger Strike” would be a big hit. In fact, Chris Cornell had written it thinking it would just be a filler. When they started rehearsing the song, Chris found the deeper notes more vocally challenging. He later revealed in a 2001 interview with Spin magazine that Eddie Vedder, “walked up to the mic and started singing the low parts for me because he saw it was kind of hard”. There you have it — a perfectly balanced duet with Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell just kind of happened. Just goes to show you that some of the best things are unplanned.
Alice in Chains – Would? (1992)
For me, this is one of the band’s most poetic and passionate songs. Jerry Cantrell wrote this song thinking about his friend and lead singer of Mother Love Bone, Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose not long before the song was written. According to Music Bank, Jerry didn’t like the “people who [judged] the decisions that others [made]”. “Would?” was, presumably, directed toward the people who had judged Andrew Wood after his death. The video went on to win Best Video from a Film at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards for their musical contribution to Cameron Crowe’s movie, Singles.
Foo Fighters – Everlong (1997)
If you’re going to watch a surrealistic nightmare, it might as well include the Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. They’ve consistently made some of the funniest, most memorable videos of the decade. 4:15 is still one of my favorite moments in music video history.
Honorable mention: Learn to Fly and Big Me (Mentos spoof)
Beck – Loser (1993)
The outrageous lyrics of “Loser” have a fascinating explanation behind them. In a 1997 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Beck revealed that when he played small venues, “the whole audience would be talking, so maybe out of desperation or boredom, or the audience’s boredom, I’d make up these ridiculous songs just to see if people were listening. ‘Loser’ is an extension of that”. Beck kept up the improvisational song writing even during the recording process. The video itself was shot by Beck’s friend, Steve Hanft on a $300 budget, since Haft had insisted on shooting with film, not video. They were later granted $14,000 to edit and master the video once Beck signed with Geffen Records.
Bush – The Chemicals Between Us (1999)
I appreciate the straightforward and intelligible nature of this song. This video is also a great excuse to look at Gavin Rossdale.
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (1994)
Much like “Hunger Strike” Chris Cornell never fancied “Black Hole Sun” as much of a hit either. In a 1994 interview with RIP Magazine, Cornell said that the song is, “just a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of a song”. The video certainly reflects the song’s surrealism, featuring some creepy neighbors with cheshire cat smiles and googley eyes.
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993)
There’s not much information available on the background of this song, but I don’t think we need an outside source to tell us that this is, hands down, the dreamiest song of the ’90s.
Local H – Bound for the Floor (1996)
Marcy Playground – Sex and Candy (1997)
Fiona Apple – Criminal (1997)
Incubus – Pardon Me (1999)
No Doubt – Just a Girl (1995)
Weezer – Undone (1994)
Blur – Song 2 (1997)
Hole – Celebrity Skin (1998)
Everclear – Father of Mine (1997)
Oasis – Wonderwall (1995)
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