Will my kids be as curious about the nineties as I was about the sixties? If they start asking tricky questions -- "Daddy, what's a Hootie?" or "Why didn't anyone know how to sew?" -- at least I have my newly obtained recording of Music Works to fall back on.
In February of 1996 my Ottawa-based band, Water Can, performed five original songs on the CBC-TV showcase for new artists. After the shoot in the frozen wastes of outer Nepean, we bundled host Pat Mastroianni into our rusty yellow Ford Club Wagon, slapped some 10,000 Maniacs on the dash-mounted CD Walkman, and headed to Barrymore's Music Hall to see the Dave Matthew's Band, which had just released Crash. (We had tickets, and Mastroianni was Joey Jeremiah, dammit!)
Does it get any more nineties than that? It does if you study the footage from the show:
0:05: "Brought to you by Music World." I rest my case.
0:08: Frosted Cheerios were launched in 1995. Coincidence? I think not.
0:11: Salon Selectives was the second most successful U.S. hair care brand in the late nineties, with annual sales topping $270 million. The sponsors go three-for-three!
0:12: Speaking of personal hygiene products, I think I can safely credit the video for 1991's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for all the chain-link fencing, gratuitous steel ladders and other industrial decor on the set.
0:14: Check out the guy in the Canadian tuxedo! Not nineties, just awesome.
0:15: Mastroianni, who was hilarious and hit on our lead singer Cheri mercilessly, is still best-known for his role as fedora-wearing Jeremiah on the Degrassi franchise. Since Degrassi High wrapped up in 1991 he has bounced between film and TV roles. His co-star Aubrey Graham, on the other hand...
0:34: Thermite welding was invented in 1893. Does that count?
0:45: This song, which never made it onto an album, was about as grungy as Water Can got. I wrote the lyrics, which reminds me of my favourite drummer joke:
Q: What's the last thing a drummer says before getting kicked out of a band?
A: "Hey guys, let's try one of my songs."
0:54: I wanted us all to wear plaid flannel unitards, but was overruled. So we went the other way and sported five completely different outfits, from a baggy business suit to a really ugly hockey sweater to a seventies-style polyester shirt. Borrowing from other decades was a hallmark of nineties fashion, after all. Mastroianni's stone-washed jeans and tucked-in corduroy shirt, meanwhile, were textbook nineties.
3:01: That was a sweet nineties fill if I do say so myself.
3:07: That guy's concert tee sure looks nineties to me, although I can't make out who it promotes. Candlebox? Spacehog? Help me out here people!
3:44: Mellower third verses? So nineties.
5:26: Minor keys? So nineties.
7:40: We should totally sue the Lumineers.
8:30: Many of the haircuts.
8:40: Pat Mastroianni, master of funk.
8:54: I'm pretty sure the merciless shoulder-squeezing started here.
9:09: Matthew Lawrence just called. He wants his haircut back.
9:23: How could any woman resist those dance moves?
9:31: It's been at least 20 years since anyone has tolerated a three-minute interview with a band they have never heard of.
11:58: Me not working? Nineties all the way!
12:30: I'm proud of this song. Beautifully performed by Cheri here. The lyrics are mine, although I would change a few lines to be less nineties if I could.
15:23: That's my nineties girlfriend, Angela, on the left. I hesitate to refer to her as a groupie for two reasons: One, drummers don't have groupies; and two, she is my 2017 wife.
16:11: Two chords, some bad-ass bass and guitar, a debatable "drum solo," and the truth.
20:52: I'm still bitter about not winning that CD Walkman.
20:55: No email address, no Twitter handle, no Facebook page, just snail mail. WELCOME TO 1996.
21:16: Songs named after the bands that play them were especially abundant in the nineties. There's “Damn Yankees,” “Belle & Sebastian,” "Green Day," "Pennywise," “Porno For Pyros” and, of course, "Water Can." Now, whoever can provide the best answer to the query in the song's chorus will receive a shrink-wrapped copy of 88 Fifth, our debut album. (Incredibly, they didn't sell out.)
And if it's a really good answer, I might even throw in a badly-scratched Spacehog CD.