Which song have you been playing all your life?

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Oh, it’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Who knew?


It’s an interesting topic. As a music geek (who lived through the 90s), it’s hard not to note:

  1. “Teen Spirit” may not have had a high chart peak in 1991/2, but it was maybe the biggest song of the period. Difference: we didn’t have a bunch of Alternative stations back then, and Billboard rank was based largely on airplay and single sales. Top 40 stations ended up playing “Teen Spirit”, but only because they had to. At the same time, songs like “I’ll Make Love to You” were getting pounded with daily airplay on Top 40 radio, but often weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as the charts suggested. (Unlike most alternative singles of the decade, “Teen Spirit” was at least released as a physical single, but that audience was mostly buying albums, not singles.)

  2. “Bohemian Rhapsody” may have been big in the 70s, but it had its moment again in 1992 with its association with the first Wayne’s World movie. It had pretty much disappeared from public consciousness before that. I’d argue that its current “timelessness” is more a product of 1992 than 1976.

  3. Hadn’t really thought about Pearl Jam being “lost to time”, but I think it’s more that they don’t really have one iconic song along the lines of something like “Teen Spirit”. Neither “Alive” nor “Even Flow” were really big hits upon release, though the latter is their most-played song live. “Jeremy” was their breakthrough single, and it’s not exactly a song people crank up for fun times. Officially, their biggest single was their cover of “Last Kiss” in 1998, originally released as a vinyl single for their fan club. (Vedder pretty much got what he wanted when he nuked their popularity after Vitalogy.) If anything, Pearl Jam is almost more like the Grateful Dead (who’s only chart hit was “Touch of Grey”) - hugely popular for their catalog and their live shows, but not for one song.


Everything you said sums up precisely what I came in to say. I turned 13 in 1991, so that grunge/alternative scene is my comfort music. Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Temple of the Dog remain my top albums from the era, hands down. While I love hearing the occasional Nirvana song (well, anything but Teen Spirit), I was WAY more of a PJ guy. Even into the early-mid 2000’s. I’ve sorta lost track of them with their more recent stuff, though I quite like Vedder’s solo work.


About 80% of the list I would turn the channel if it came on, but it was nice to see Fast Car on there, and yes, Smells Like Teen Spirit is on my Crank it to 11 playlist for when I need something to play very very loud.

Also, I hate Journey with a passion and is anyone else wondering why they remain popular? They are very very popular up here in NY. Despise their boring sound.


Also, Journey’s current popularity is almost entirely a result of being the most popular song from Glee.

Queen seems to have gotten more popular in the last few years, though I’m not sure exactly why. I kind of think it might be the Muppet version of Bohemian Rhapsody, but there must be something else as well, since I don’t think that has quite the reach of some of the other bits.

In 20 years, I’m really wondering what people will make of gagnam style, which probably has more plays on youtube than all of spotify put together.

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Smells Like Teen Spirit is one of my #1 “change the channel” songs. Primarily because our local alternative station (102.1 in Toronto) went all “Let’s play the same 50 songs on repeat, over and over and over” for a while. See also: “Aeroplane” or “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s like they had a “play at least one Chili Peppers song an hour” policy going there. They still do, a little bit, but have improved dramatically since they brought back Alan Cross (whose Ongoing History of New Music is a superb listen, but is sadly unavailable for download due to music licensing issues).

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There’s a video of Steve Perry leading all of Candlestick Park in Journey’s “Lights”. He was at the ballfield, the camera found him, and they showed him on the Jumbotron conducting and singing. It was kind of a moment, I started liking the band again after that. (Maybe that’s a regular thing, I don’t know.) Also, the Sopranos finale (and, right, Glee) gave them a lift.

Two thumbs up for Fast Car.

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Not surprised to see Journey up there. Both because of Glee, and because Don’t Stop Believing is a staple of high school and middle school dances. (Or at least, was in the early '00s, No idea now)

So as an early Gen X, (possible very tail end boomer) I dunno… St. Louis was very very much what is now classic rock. If I don’t hear it all the time I do like a lot of stuff in moderation and then there are bands like Led Zeppelin that while good I could probably be just as happy never ever hearing again. I didn’t start really getting into music till college with a wonderfully eclectic college radio station thanks KMNR. And even a lot of that stuff (R.E.M, Siouxsie, etc) I would never have on heavy rotation forever compared to say after I really started discovering jazz and early blues. The artists that never come off (though the specific songs change) are along the lines Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Jimmy Smith, Dave Brubeck, Bessie Smith, etc.

Plus there is so much new and new to me stuff out there to feed me new sounds why keep listening to the same old stuff over and over, well except maybe Kind Of Blue as after 20+ years of hearing that album it still is just amazing.

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I think that it has to do with Adam Lambert playing him and doing all the campy Freddie Mercury bit on American Idol.

Why can’t music be popular because it’s good, and not because it’s new or featured in something new?

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If this is from Spotify data, then the result probably isn’t “the biggest songs of X decade,” but “the biggest songs of X decade that people never bothered to buy at the time or rip/P2P later.”


That’s what I think contributes some to the “No Diggity” placing, yes. But who from that era didn’t buy (or later rip/p2p) Smells Like Teen Spirit?

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I think it’s just a matter of what people get exposed to. Back when I was a kid, my brother and I used to play my parent’s records. They happened to have a good selection of things, but certain songs appealed to us more than others. The most played was definitely the American Graffiti album. And the Muppets exposed us to a lot of things as kids. But now I think it’s these competition shows, Glee, that really drive what’s popular. We were shocked, and amused, when visiting colleges with my daughter how every single one talked about their acapella groups - and learned that it’s Glee and some other show that’s driving that trend.

For me, I do not have regular cable so my exposure is mostly through the local public radio station, and I attend a New Orleans music festival every year and see new live bands there.

I rarely listen to my own music list unless I am in a very particular nostalgic mood and want to hit certain emotions.

Weirdly enough the Guns and Roses Sweet Child o’ Mine is associated with me by several different people. I think it’s the general Southern feel to it + the line “She’s got eyes of the bluest gray,” which is a pretty accurate description of my eye color. Although I am flattered that anyone has a song that makes them think specifically of me, and this is a good nostalgia trip, it’s not the one I would choose to express myself.


OK, I’ll grant you that. Guessing most of them bought it on cassette tape, explaining the need to get it through Spotify later.

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For me, this, since about 1967:

Edit: Note that the picture with two Moogs is misleading – this was done with tape and scissors, and an Ondioline.


ELO’s Out of the Blue was one of the first albums I ever owned. Still find myself putting on the headphones and listening to it front to back, laying back, no other tasks or thoughts, every so often.


Well, we are all influenced by whatever makes music popular in our times. Like this documentary talks about how Columbia House pushed Nirvana and voila, it’s still popular.

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I don’t even like SLTS anymore and I’ve been a colossal Nirvana nerd since 1991.

If I had to pick a song off Nevermind, at this point it would be Breed. That track just slays.