….it was a very good year

… to quote Mr Sinatra.

So, after a period of hint dropping, it was confirmed that, in a rare move, Radiohead would be revisiting their past and would mark the 20th anniversary of the game-changing OK Computer.

My copy of OKNotOK 1997 2017 as it’s called (3 LPs featuring three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides, all newly remastered) has been secured in its indies-only blue variant with my new-favourite shop and I’m sure that I’ll be talking more about OK Computer when I’ve dropped needle upon it.

However, the fact that it’s now 20 years since 1997 has seen a few of those nostalgic lists appear on various sites (Spin published a pretty solid 79 Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1997 list) and it got me to thinking that, from an alt-rock point of view at least, 1997 was a very strong year for releases. Let’s take a butchers…

Yes, kicking off with the fact that if ’97 saw Britpop killed by Oasis’ abhorrently indulgent and tuneless Be Here Now, then Radiohead’s OK Computer nailed down the coffin. I remember catching the video for ‘Paranoid Android’ on MTV2 and being blown away.

Foo Fighters would release their second (first as a band) album The Colour And The Shape, an album which is still held up as their best by so many* and contains some of their biggest tunes like ‘My Hero’, ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘Walking After You,’ and, of course that barely-known song ‘Everlong’.

The ‘Everlong’ video was directed by Michel Gondry who also directed the video for Björk’s ‘Joga‘, which features on her album Homogenic which also came out in 1997. Built To Spill used their major label debut to mark a massive stylistic shift and dropped the sublime Perfect From Now On, Portishead released their self-titled album and, while Hand It Over isn’t the best Dinosaur Jr album (it would be the last issued under that name for some time), it features some belters in ‘Nothing’s Goin’ On‘ and ‘I’m Insane’ guaranteeing it gets pretty regular plays from me.

A chap called Elliott Smith released his third album, the beautiful and much-loved Either/Or containing some of the best songs he’d ever produce in his all too-short life.

The post-rock cannon got two very important débuts in 1997. Godspeed You! Black Emperor released their F♯ A♯ ∞ and would go on to become, to me at least, the most important band in the genre. Meanwhile, five blokes from Glasgow in a band called Mogwai released Mogwai Young Team on their way to also becoming a hugely important band in the genre.

Ben Fold Five’s Whatever & Ever, Amen, home to ‘Brick’, ‘Song For The Dumped’ and ‘Battle of Who Could Care Less’ was also released in ’97 and Pavement released Brighten The Corners.

Back into the less ‘alt’ side of things, that fella born Robert Zimmerman made a quick recovery from a life-threatening heart infection despite thinking he’d “be seeing Elvis soon” and dropped, seven years after his previous studio album, the hugely impressive return to form that was Time Out of Mind.

1997 was also the year that I started to get into Aerosmith  released a stonker of an album, even if it would turn out to be their last strong effort to date, in Nine Lives. Look at the evidence: Get A Grip in 1993 was a monster in sales terms but not that much critically speaking and not one I listen to too often. Nine Lives, however, is a powerhouse record of raw sounding rock with some real earthy tones and – for the genre – some pretty eclectic sound and instrumentation. There’s still not one song I’d skip, though I wouldn’t necessarily hold up ‘Hole In My Soul’ as exemplary the rest of the album – ‘Taste of India’, ‘Full Circle’, ‘Ain’t That A Bitch’, the Joe Perry showcase ‘Falling Off’, ‘Somethings Gotta Give…’ ‘Fallen Angels’ – is a classic. Even before they changed the artwork and it shifted like hotcakes thanks to the addition of that asteroid movie song.

There’s also… Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ The Boatman’s Call and, I’m sure, plenty I’m omitting that a look through over such lists will make me go “oh, of course…” but with a lot of strong albums released and the fact that I was earning a regular pay cheque  (weekend work at a supermarket) at this point to fund my growing habit, there’s an awful lot of music in my collection from 1997 that still gets a lot of play.

*I could do a Foo Fighters Least to Most…. The Colour and the Shape battles it out with Wasting Light in my mind for their best to date. Both represent their most consistent and one will have the edge over the other depending on the day.

7 thoughts on “….it was a very good year

  1. The new Rolling Stone has a cover article wherein Radiohead looks back at the making of OK Computer. Haven’t read it yet but looks interesting.

  2. I’m so nostalgic about the nineties. It was truly a great decade for music. Honesty I could seriously just write about 90’s music and feel content. Anyway, you have inspired me for the rest of the day at least to think about it. By the way, that little gem ‘Everlong’ is my favourite Foo Fighters song of all time!

  3. My turn to ask you, Tony – what the hell is going on over there? I know what’s going on here – nothing good. (I predict tRump resigns within a year.) Our papers say the election was an unmitigated disaster for May. And she has to align herself with some questionable group in Northern Ireland. And now Brexit is a mess. Is there any silver lining here?

    • Jim from where I sit (left of centre) it’s all silver lining. Chiefly because it’s still very much all to play for and that horror May is very much on the ropes. A deal with DUP is shaky at best (not least as it poses issues with the Good Friday Agreements) and isn’t a done deal or yet approved – Corbyn is very much looking to bring the fight and make his own play for mandate and PM. We were facing five years of the nasty party (as the Tories are here referred) and a a particularly right-leaning agenda in May’s desperation to win back ukip voters. For the first time in close to 20 years I voted Labour not because I like everything but because they would undo the horrific cuts on public spending and services the Tories has already started and would prevent May from selling off the NHS.
      Brexit is and always will be a mess because it’s a bad move plain and simple. Had May gotten the majority she sought it would have been an outright disaster for everyone but her banker chums.
      The woman is, thankfully, done for.

      • The nasty party. I like that. We couldn’t believe it over here when “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” went up on the charts when Thatcher died. No hiding the hatred there. It has always seemed to me that your Tories are analogous to our GOP, Liberals (more or less) to our Democrats, and, well, we have no analogy to Labour who are, I think, socialist. Unless you count Bernie Sanders. 😀 Anyway, are you familiar with the (I think) American expression, ‘screwed the pooch?’ That means somebody really fucked something up. Sounds like May did that by calling for the election. I will be reading and watching with much curiosity to see how this settles.

    • Ill also add I followed the Comey testimony with great interest. A lot of damning stuff as well as some appalling behaviour from Rubio who makes it clear who’s arse he has his nose up. Greatly amused by the twitter follow up a) by one of his inbred-looking sons and b) Trump himself jumping on the revelation that Comey has a friend give details of a non-classified memo to the press as evidence that he is “the leaker!” Does the whole of the Trump family have the one brain cell on time share between em?
      Very interesting times both sides of the pond.
      Let’s hope some great music will be born from it too!

      • Everyone here watched that interrogation the way you lot watch the World Cup. Bars in (especially) DC were open at 10 am. Serving White Russians! I would say that, considering how bad it could have been, the interrogators were remarkably evenhanded. What you likely would not have seen is that post-interview, Rubio – on meeting with reporters – was much more concerned than he would reveal in session. The real piece of work is Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, spine of jelly. He defended Trump as being “new at this job” and “not understanding protocols.” He understood them all too well when Bill Clinton met with the Attorney General on the airport tarmac. cHump assumed Clinton was lobbying for his wife and hammered away relentlessly on campaign trail. tRump will resign eventually IMHO, as otherwise, he would have to perjure himself in eventual Senate trial. Then he can claim to be Christ on the cross for his followers.

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