We’re honoured to have Aussie rock legend Sarah McLeod from The Superjesus contribute to our new feature segment 'I Like: The 90s' this month.
We hinted recently that some special guests may pop up to share some stories on the I Like Your Old Stuff site, and we are privileged this month to hear from one of the coolest and most respected rock chicks in Oz, Sarah McLeod from The Superjesus. A band that burst onto our radio’s and TV screens in the late 90s and stayed there till the mid 2000’s with hits including “Shut My Eyes”, “Down Again”, “Gravity” (still a rock radio staple), “Second Sun” and “Secret Agent Man”. They picked up multiple ARIA Awards and recently received their hometown’s highest honour by being inducted into the South Australian Music Hall of Fame in Adelaide. Keep an eye out for Sarah's brand new solo album Rocky's Diner hitting stores in August.
Lucky for us, Sarah really knows her stuff as an accomplished singer, guitarist and songwriter; so we’ve asked her to give us a run down on some of her favourite songs from the 90s, including her own, and she’s picked some absolute rippers.
We'll be including some more guest contributions to the ILYOS site really soon to get a first-hand glimpse into the music scene in the 90s from those who lived it.
Over to Sarah...
CATATONIA - ROAD RAGE
I love this song; the singer Cerys Matthews has a really unique voice. It’s a real 90s chick voice, like the speaking voice of the girl who plays Amy in Chasing Amy. Catatonia are so 90s they even have a song called “Mulder And Scully”. I chose “Road Rage” though because it’s a better song. They're from Wales and this track is from an album called International Velvet which came out in 1998. This song peaked at #5 in the UK. Great name too; Catatonia is another word for 'insanity', which is such poetic justice because the entire record business is insane! I saw these guys live at The Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd in their prime; she was a magic, wonderful performer that you couldn't take your eyes off.
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS - INTERSTATE LOVE SONG
If you liked 'grunge' in the 90s you were sure to like Stone Temple Pilots. Filling the gap between Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots had all the angst and edge of their piers with a more pop delivery. Where Eddie Vedder sang in a deep tone and Kurt screamed, Scott Weiland had a scratchy croon. His voice was still filled with angst but he was more of a singer to me than the other guys, I really love his tone. The songs are very well crafted pop songs. They were big influences of The Superjesus, in fact if you listen to the opening 8 bars of this song you may recognize it from the middle 8 of “Shut My Eyes”. The band obviously had a thing for 3 word names because they used to be called Mighty Joe Young before they were Stone Temple Pilots. It was very unfortunate that these guys were riddled with interband issues, law suits and drug problems. Scott Weiland had a very public drug addiction and was booted out of the band in 2013 in favour of the guy from Linkin Park, a choice which didn’t exactly lift the band to new heights. Scott later died in 2015.
JEWEL- YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME
Jewel came on the scene with a mighty explosion. In 1995, her debut album Pieces Of You went 12 times platinum!! The first single from this record was “Who Will Save Your Soul” but I didn’t think it was as good as this one. Singles kept peeling of this record and it stayed in the charts for three years. As time went on she eased more into the country scene (weird for a girl from Alaska) but it was this song “You Were Meant For Me” that drove her to huge international fame. When The Superjesus were in Atlanta making Sumo in 97 this song was everywhere and I loved it. I wrote the song “Now And Then” during this time and this Jewel song was a big inspiration to me on that track. There was a part that we chopped out of the middle eight that was quite similar, I fought for it but Matt the producer didn’t like it, so it was left on the cutting room floor! Probably for the best.
MAX SHARAM - COMA
Max is one of the most original and amazing artist of our generation but astronomically underrated. She began her journey weirdly enough by performing on the TV talent show New Faces in 1992; a variety show of sorts hosted by Burt Newton. The response from TV audiences around Australia was overwhelming as she performed and sang in a very different fashion to the usual artists that appeared on the show. Soon after, she was signed to Warner and released an EP followed by her debut album A Million Year Girl in 95. The record went gold and reached #9 in the ARIA albums chart. It was nominated for 5 ARIA wards but she only came home with one for best cover art. Her thunder was unfortunately stolen by Silverchair and Tina Arena. This song “Coma” is an absolute winner though, I love the album version but check out the clip of her playing it on New Faces, it will give you goose bumps.
REGURGITATOR – POLYESTER GIRL
From Brisbane rose this quirky/ dirty/ futuristic / punk / pop band with a style that’s hard to pin point. They may have been signed to a major label but they were very much an indie thinking band. From songs like “F.S.O” to “Polyester Girl”, Regurgitator's sound is diverse and very unpredictable. Explicit lyrics mixed in with smiley pop sensibilities seemed to mesh into the mainstream. With song titles like “I Sucked A Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am” and “I Will Lick Your Asshole”, it’s amazing that this band were never banned from the airwaves. To the contrary, they did it with such a catchy pop hook that no one seemed to notice! The Superjesus were big fans and knowing Regurgitator were signed to Warner by Michael Parisi was a very large reason that we signed as well. We thought "if it's good enough for Regurgitator... It’s good enough for us!"
FRENTE! - BIZARRE LOVE TRIANGLE
The shiny smiley abstract package of Frente! was welcomed with a warm response from Australian audiences. In 1992 they released the singles “Ordinary Angels” (which peaked at #3 on the singles chart) and “Accidentally Kelly Street” (peaking at #4 and going platinum) . Cooky pop was big in the early 90's (take Max Sharam) and Frente! were the kings of it. In 1994, after affirming their place in Australia, the band found international success with a cover of New Order's “Bizarre Love Triangle”. The song snuck into the top ten of the Billboard Charts in the U.S. “Bizarre Love Triangle” was a cool song anyway but the way Angie sang it really brought the beauty out of the lyric and it connected with audiences across the globe. Angie Hart went on to date Alanis Morissette's guitarist Jesse Tobias and he soon joined Frente! which was soon the end of Frente! The pair married and began their own project titled Splendid.
THE SUPERJESUS - SATURATION
“Saturation” was the second single from our 98 debut album Sumo. We had released an independent EP prior to this called Eight Step Rail but Sumo was our big swan song. We signed to Warners Australia and America with a joint venture in 97, which was unheard of at the time. Sumo was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, at Triclops Studios. We chose Triclops because that's where our heroes Smashing Pumpkins recorded Siamese Dream. We also used the same engineer, Jeff Tormei... not to be confused with ‘The Velvet Fog’ Mel Torme! The clip for this song is actually hard for me to watch, that’s why I chose it. Guitarist Chris Tennent and I were fighting out of control on shooting day and you can see the tension in the clip, especially the scene where he is standing up the front glaring down the lens and I’m down the back trying to pop my head over his shoulder to see the camera. Weird times, but it’s one of my favourite songs from the album. Ritchie from Tumbleweed told me once he thought it was a 'great song' and I was ecstatic because I was a massive Tumbleweed fan!
SWERVEDRIVER - LAST TRAIN TO SATANSVILLE
UK outfit Swervedriver were pioneers of alternate tunings in rock n roll guitar playing. Led by Adam Franklin, Swervedriver wrote very unique and complex songs. There were two guitar players in the band Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge; they would orchestrate the guitar parts so that each player was playing in a different tuning and the tension between the two would give that slight uncomfortable feeling in the music. When they did come together and play the same part it would suddenly sound massive. They had loads of cool songs but “Last Train to Satansville” from the album Mezcal Head is my favourite. The lyrics are amazing. The way he tells the story of his dream blow by blow in that le se faire, super laid back vocal style is really engaging. All the while the beat underneath pounding down like relentless train tracks. It’s one of my all-time favourite songs.
SMASHING PUMPKINS - CHERUB ROCK
From the shoe gazing indie rock of Swervedriver we move into the sonic onslaught of Siamese Dream; arguably one of the best albums of the 90s. “Cherub Rock” was the first single from the record that was released in 1993. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was floored by the production of this album, in fact it is almost equally as important as the songs themselves. Recorded at Triclops Studios in Atlanta by Jeff Tormei and producer Butch Vig , who also did Nevermind for Nirvana, this record is a sonic masterpiece. The record took over a year to make. Butch and Billy Corgan worked tightly together around the clock, doing 16 hour days for weeks at a time. Legend has it that sometimes they would work on a 45 second section of the song for up to 2 days. The other band members would come in and out but it was most definitely a Billy and Butch production. I’m told they edited Jimmy Chamberlin’s drums by splicing the tape frame by frame because his drug addiction left him wavering all over the click. Knowing that and hearing the final product is incredible.
SOUNDGARDEN -JESUS CHRIST POSE
And now we have a band from the same gang but this time the singer can really sing. I think that was one thing that separated Soundgarden from the rest of their 90s counterparts. Chris Cornell’s voice had the grungy deep tone but he could also soar up high like a metal singer without sounding like a metal singer. His voice was thick in every register, which is super unique. This song was from the album Badmotorfinger, released in 1991. It was on the cusp of the transition between 80s metal and 90s grunge. The thing about grunge was that it was hip to not be very good at your craft; it was nerdy to know too much. In a way grunge killed music in the 90s because people stopped practising their instruments and just practised starring at their shoes! Soundgarden were not like that though, they masqueraded as grunge but were exceptionally talented musicians who could write a killer hook, or 12.
Here's all those tracks in our brand new Spotify Playlist called 'I Like: The 90s' which will be updated by special guest curators every month.
- Sarah McLeod