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Summer of '93: What Was Happening On The Pop Charts

Monday, July 15, 2013

U2's 'Zooropa' was released on July 5, 1993. U2's 'Zooropa' was released on July 5, 1993. (Courtesy of the artist)

Chris Molanphy, chart columnist and NPR Music contributor, calls the summer of '93 a "dog's breakfast of assorted stuff." We're not exactly sure what that means -- but he says it's a good thing. On the charts, "there were two songs that dominated that summer -- one was by Janet Jackson, 'That's The Way Love Goes,'" he says. "And the other was a light reggae cover of the Elvis Presley classic 'Can't Help Falling In Love' by the reggae band UB40." 

But those weren't the only big songs of that summer. "There was a record that peaked at number two that summer that I would argue was even more omnipresent," Molanphy says. "'Whoomp! There It Is' by the Atlanta duo Tag Team.... it was very bass heavy, kind of booty shaking music, kind of perfect for blasting out of your Jeep." 

The summer of '93 was also a big one for Pearl Jam -- even though they hadn't put out a new album in several years. "Pearl Jam's 'Ten' was by this point a little less than two years old," says Molanphy. "You can kind of think of Pearl Jam in the summer of 1993 as the presence or the elephant in the room. They were still everywhere." 

Gangster rap also was also in the air during the summer of '93 -- particularly Dr. Dre's "The Chronic," which was released at the end of 1992. "In the spring, [Dr.] Dre and his protege, Snoop Doggy Dog, as he was known back then, had a huge number two hit with 'Nuthin' But a G Thang,'" says Molanphy. "And in the summer of '93 he had another followup hit called 'Dre Day' and he had a third followup hit called 'Let Me Ride.'" 

What were you listening to during the summer of '93? Leave us a comment below, or leave us a voicemail at 866 939 1612.


Chris Molanphy

Comments [13]

Espe from Chicago, IL

It was the best summer of my life! I was llistening to Stone Temple Pilots, Plush was playing all over the place. Sublime, U2, Zooropa, Cyprus Hill, Pearl Jam, Mazzy Star, Veuca Salt and Blind Melon. Also, a lot of Whoomp there it is because the Chicago Bulls again that year. Good times :)

Jul. 18 2013 05:22 PM
Jen from Chatham, NJ

My 'dog's breakfast of assorted stuff': A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders; Matthew Sweet - Altered Beast; Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way; and Harry Connick Jr. - When My Heart Finds Christmas. Got me through a tough year 'trying to find myself' in Boulder...found myself in NYC a year later!

Jul. 16 2013 10:30 PM
H M from Queens

In the summer of 1993 I was getting ready to go to college and playing Living Colour's "Stain" (on cassette, no less) for anyone would listen. The addition of Doug Wimbish on bass gave them an new edge and rhythmic daring that wasn't on their prior records.

Fortunately, they're playing selections from the album on their current tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of "Vivid."

Jul. 16 2013 09:22 PM
Terence from Bergen County, NJ

What the US considers the first full summer month (June) is the beginning of the school year in the Philippines. At the time, I was a mere 8 years old and had just moved from SoCal to Davao City, Philippines with my mom. One thing that eased the transition was a friend I made the first day of school. As the first show mentioned, one of the common ways you find out about good music is an older sibling. He had an older brother who was into all sorts of good stuff, and we'd secretly open his cassette tape drawer, and while we weren't allowed to play them, we'd commit the band and album names to memory and buy our own copies.

I set aside my Kris Kross and MC Hammer tapes and bought U2's "Zooropa", Duran Duran's "Wedding Album", and Depeche Mode's "Songs of Faith and Devotion". The nice thing was that tapes in the Philippines were cheaper, albeit more cheaply made. They ran me just under the equivalent of $4 USD, so I'd save up every week for a new tape.

So, my musical tastes were pretty precocious, even if I didn't quite understand the angsty lyrics. The sound and energy provided enough of a catharsis and respite during what was a very confusing time. At some point, my friend and I also bought Nirvana's "In Utero", and one of my favorite memories was rocking out in his family room spinning on our backs on the floor while thrashing air guitars to the 1.5-minute madness that is "Tourette's".

I was pretty voracious for more music, and that year - 1993 - was the important beginning of my geekery for it. I'd buy issues of Guitar World and other magazines and read reviews, though I didn't understand the more technical verbiage. Because what's sold in the Philippines are mostly hit albums, I'd keep a list of albums I was interested in, and wait 'til I could check 'em out while visiting my dad in SoCal over summer vacation. To cheat a little bit: in the *fall* of '93 I bought Guns 'n' Roses' "Spaghetti Incident" after reading in a review that it wasn't their usual sound, which I really wasn't into. From that album, I first discovered that these seminal punk bands of the 70's and 80's existed. So, come March of '94 (beginning of our summer vacation), I had quite the list of bands to check out...

Jul. 16 2013 11:26 AM
Cate from Manhattan

Bjork, Soundgarden, Ministry, L7, Alice in Chains, PJ Harvey ... all huge favorites. I also completely loved Annie Lennox's first solo record.

And, yes, 'Zooropa' was a "very odd record" as Chris notes, but it was also adventurous and sonically beautiful, picking up themes of urban alienation, unrequited (or fulfilled) lust, the longing for family and a fixed sense of home and identity, as well as anticipating the inevitable technological storm on the horizon. "Lemon" is about a lost mother; "Dirty Day" is about relating (or not) to a distant father. In many ways, 'Zooropa' was personal, painful, and deeply profound. Though it certainly has Brian Eno's identifiable fingerprints, the album is still an incredible symbol of a mondo-sized band willingly stepping into experimental territory, stretching themselves in new and vibrant (and frankly, sonically thrilling ways). It frustrates me to think it's been widely sloughed off as U2's "weird" record. A band of U2's magnitude simply isn't allowed to be so adventurous and experimental in today's music industry environment.

Oh, and it did spawn hits in Europe and Sputh America (and inspire what is arguably Bono's last interesting stage persona, MacPhisto). Also, yes, Pearl Jam were ubiquitous in '93 -but they opened for U2 in Europe that summer.

Jul. 16 2013 11:20 AM
Jonathon from Tacoma

In the summer of 1993 my family lived in Des Moines, Iowa. I had just finished my freshman year of high school. My little sister had been packed off to Seattle to visit my grandparents. My big sister, who was my personal taste maker, had gotten a job for the summer as a nanny in Maryland. I had the house to myself and was probably poised to start developing my own taste in music. Then the floods came. The water covered a large portion of the downtown of the city, and inundated the water treatment plant. We lived on high enough ground, so we didn't have to worry about the floods themselves, but there was no drinkable water in the city, and no water coming through the pipes in the houses. We had to take any kind of container we could find around the house and walk half a mile to the nearest emergency water station - usually a tanker truck of water trucked in from any other midwest city not hit as hard by flooding of their own. After a couple of weeks of that, my father packed my mother and I off to Seattle as well. In those two weeks we didn't listen to the radio except to listen to the news, and music was the furthest thing from my mind. While on the west coast, my mother and I fell out of a boat while white-water rafting with my aunt and uncle. I thought I was going to drown. My family was concerned as well, as it took almost a minute for me to surface in the rushing waters.

By the time my mother and little sister and I arrived home, life was mostly back to normal. The flood had receded, the water was back on and safe to drink, and my big sister was back too. As always, she wanted us to hear her favorite new music. She turned up her stereo, said "listen to this!" and played Whoomp! There It Is, by Tag Team.

I lost a little faith in my sister's taste at that moment.

Jul. 15 2013 11:24 PM
Nonie from New York

Ohio State University Smashing Pumpkins, Bjork, Cranberries, And Blur.

Jul. 15 2013 09:56 PM
Meret Lenzlinger from Brooklyn, NY

That summer, I had just relocated from Berkeley to Cambridge in order to start graduate school in fall. I was mostly listening to alternative stuff. One night, I met a cute musician at a bar, we flirted, and he invited me to his record-release party the next weekend, guest list and all. The band was excellent, I bought their CD and listened to it non-stop. That Christmas break, I'm in a bar in Zurich, Switzerland, and I hear this really familiar music--from my CD! I had no idea Morphine was an internationally known band! That summer, I saw and heard so many fabulous bands in tiny bars around Cambridge who would make it big later.

Jul. 15 2013 09:43 PM
Nonie pegoraro from New York

Lenny Kravitz! Ohio State University Junior Year

Jul. 15 2013 09:28 PM

I was trying to finish Grad school, [my older brother was just married & younger sister was getting ready for her wedding and I was listening to too much Bob Dylan and British Indie Rock and George Harrison

Jul. 15 2013 09:21 PM
Arwen R from Exiled in NJ

When I had the radio on, it was almost exclusively WNYC. (There was a *lot* more music programming back then.) When it was other than radio... I was revisiting a lot of favourites, so when I was on the subway or walking around, my portable cassette player (!) was usually occupied with any one of a number of The Art of Noise tapes, or The Police, or Sting. I think that was the summer that Ten Summoner's Tales was released, yes? I wore out that tape. ::grin::

Jul. 15 2013 09:19 PM
Santiago from New York City

And what about Madonna? She was the most relevant pop-star during the summer of 93. I remember watching the music video of "Rain" over and over...

Jul. 15 2013 09:19 PM
John McG from Huntington, NY

At first I thought, who knows? Then I thought about it for a few minutes and remembered that '93 was the first of 6 consecutive summers that our young family took vacations in Cape Cod. The first of several minivans was soundtracked with four albums from that time that would end up being the music we would listen to on all those trips and forever associate with some happy summer getaways....

Donald Fagen - Kamakiriad
Bruce Hornsby - Harbor Lights
Neil Young - Harvest Moon (a '92 release, but hey)
Neil Young - Unplugged

I think these were originally taped to cassette from CD for the car, then the cars got upgraded with CD players/changers and even now these albums occasionally get played from the ipod in a smaller car by the empty nester dad.

Not the hippest playlist, especially in retrospect I guess, but sweet memories nonetheless.

Jul. 15 2013 08:54 PM

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