Year in Rock '97
MTV · Dec '97
(MTV talks to various people)
COMBS: I think this year should be applauded as far as like, there has been so much
diversity in music.
FIONA APPLE: Missy Elliott's cool.
MARILYN MANSON: She's very creative.
JAY KAY, Jamiroqaui: Erykah Badu grabs my attention every time.
FIONA: Sarah McLachlan's like the realest person you'll ever meet.
PUFFY: I think Fiona Apple... I think she has a lot more to offer.
MARILYN: Her being naked in the video didn't hurt her, either.
PUFFY: If I had to put my money on anybody it would be on her [Fiona].
PUFFY: If I had to put my money on anybody it would be on her [Fiona].
FIONA: Wallflowers are cool but the people need to get off of Jakob's face, 'cause I mean, it's not the end all be all of his existence.
MARILYN: I find myself humming along to their [The Wallflower's] music. I should smack myself for doing it.
PUFFY: I can't forget Jamiroquai.
MARILYN: I kind of like the video where he's [Jay Kay's] dancing around... but that's all of them, probably.
JAY: I don't think that we're an overnight success. Five years is not overnight. There's nothing more I can say.
DICKY BARRETT, Mighty Mighty Bosstones: If it was an overnight success, it was one long, hard, sleepless night.
MTV: For every artist who blitzes the pop culture consciousness with one quick push, there are countless others who reach success the hard way. Ten years of touring and recording finally paid off for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones when their fifth album found more than a million takers; but the band seemed uncomfortable being caught up in ska's pop breakthrough sparked by No Doubt's recent chart stomping spree.
DICKY: "Ska" and the word "trends" is something we don't care to hear 'cause it's a passion of ours. We love the music and we don't like to think of it as just the latest hoola-hoop or something.
MTV: Boosted, perhaps, by the attention she received as the founder of the Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan finally cracked the top of the charts with her fourth album, the aptly titled "Surfacing." And the third time was the charm for Jamiroquai, whose two previous albums landed on American soil with a thud. Their formula this time: an eye-catching video and a touch of humility.
JAY KAY, Jamiroquai: You've got to be working all the time because otherwise, people forget who you are. And when you're called Quamirajawj, you're screwed!
MTV: The Wallflowers have no name recognition problem in the lead singer department, but without taking advantage of a famous father on their second album, Jakob Dylan and his new line-up found success at last.
Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott spent much of the 90's rapping, writing and producing hits for others, but in 1997 she broadened the definition of the female MC, creating funky rhymes without resorting to sex kittenish mewing or hard core posturing, but merely by being her own sweet self.
MISSY "MISDEMEANOR" ELLIOTT: The radio is stuck right now. Everything sounds the same. As far as video-wise, everything looks the same, so we feel like we're coming in here and we're gonna change the whole thing.
MTV: With her own unique blend of jazz, blues and hip-hop, Erykah Badu stood headwrap and shoulders above... well, just about everybody. Her album ultimately went double platinum, but sudden success didn't seem to faze the self-possessed singer.
ERYKAH BADU: I was very happy. But I wasn't surprised 'cause I planned it. You never expect for your music to do not well.
MTV: Someone with a more predictable reaction to her first brush with fame was Fiona Apple. A shy teenager who had yet to perform live when she released her rookie album late last year, she treated 1997 as one long on-the-job training session.
FIONA APPLE (at the Lilith Fair tour): I just started taking the mic off the stand, so I'm not bored, yet. I'm still kind of naive and curious and bewildered by this whole thing.
MTV: And what would a year be without those catchy hooks you just can't stop humming? Of course, who stays and who goes once the calendar turns is up to the fates. But for now, isn't the rock 'n roll good life good enough?
KEVIN COLEMAN, Smash Mouth: Used to be we got kicked out of backstage. Now we get invited. It's great.
MARILYN MANSON: I've never been a fan of ska. It pains me to have to listen to it. There's a genre of Sugar Ray, Sublime, Bosstones and there's one other one...
MTV: Smash Mouth.
MARILYN: Smash Mouth! These bands... I'll be happy when that fad goes away. I don't dislike any of them personally or even their songs. That type of music hurts me. I have to have some kind of morals.
SEAN "PUFFY" COMBS: I could really care less if you want to waste your time and speak for hours on what records Puffy is sampling because Puffy doesn't really care what you think.
MTV: What are you thoughts on his [Puffy's] music this year?
MARILYN MANSON: His music or Sting's music?
FIONA APPLE: First of all you think, oh genius. It was a hit before, what do you think is going to happen now? Especially if you integrate it with hip-hop -- like the world's most popular... You know? Like, (laughs) what's that going to do? People will like what they think sounds familiar to them. "Oh I like that, oh I remember how that goes, yeah yeah yeah." These new lyrics -- whatever you sing -- and it sounds good.
MARILYN: I did like rap music before I got into Kiss and heavy metal. I remember buying The Sugar Hill Gang and some of that stuff and it seemed much more ambitious and much more inventive than what rap music has evolved into now.
PUFFY: I like borrowing old pieces of music that I admire and putting them together with new styles and new flavors.
JAY KAY, Jamiroqaui: Hey sure! We can all take somebody elses's tunes and slam our stuff over the top -- I personally don't get a sense of pride and satisfaction out of that.
PUFFY: I think people need to get over it. I don't care, I will sample until the day I die.
MTV: Call it what you will: "interpolation," "replaying," or maybe just plain "stealing," the digital technique of sampling was a major factor in many of the hit tunes of 1997. Of course, rappers have been cleverly lifting discreet sounds off old records since way back in the day; but not until this year did we see the wholesale importation of recognizable hits.
WYCLEF JEAN, Fugees: Sampling is, that's our generation. That's what we do. When I sampled the Bee Gees for example, my little sister is 9 years old. She don't have a clue who the Bee Gees is. She just wants to sing along with a 'Clef song. When I put on the original CD, she'd go, "'Clef look, they took your song!" I said, "Girl, that's the Bee Gees!"
MTV: No one sampled more industriously this year than Puffy Combs, the producer and performer who sometimes layered two or more different samples into one track. There are, of course, those who didn't look upon this sort of thing as an art at all.
KURT LODER: What do you make of the thing where these guys, where Puffy Combs will take the Police track, the whole track...?
KEITH RICHARDS, The Rolling Stones: What a... They are just bereft of imagination. What a piece of crap. Come up with something of your own.
METHOD MAN, Wu-Tang Clan: I feel it takes away from the creative side of this, 'cause that's the best part of doing hip-hop.
PUFFY: The critics say I'm wack and I don't know how to make a record 'cause I use samples. Like I take an old beat and go over it and it's just because of the old... Naw, it ain't that easy, buddy, you know what I'm saying? I know what I'm doin'.
MTV: Crazy indeed. Each one of the five number one singles Puffy produced this year contained at least one sample.
MARIAH CAREY: I think it's what you add to that sample, and the way you loop it, and the way you change it, what you put on top of it, what's sung on top of it, and all that, that contributes to how successful the record's going to be.
DAVID BOWIE: I like sampling. I think both Trent [Reznor, of Nince Inch Nails] and myself and a number of others in the kind of area we work in, we presume that's what the late 20th century in fact is all about -- is juxtapositions of different information. And I applaud that way of working. I'm delighted he did something with it. As long as I get paid, I never worry.
MTV: And in 1997, sampled acts were getting paid for their old riffs, a major change from rap's wild old days. As for the future of wholesale hit sampling... well, ultimately, consumers will decide just how many times they want to hear the same old song.
METHOD MAN: The hip-hop crowd ain't stupid. They see it for what it is. It's like,"They remade this, they remade that." Then when they start seeing the pattern and everybody start falling into place after of it, it's a straight up fad. Next year, it'll be us. . .
PUFFY: That's the basis of hip-hop: sampling different drum sounds. That's what makes hip-hop sound like hip-hop. But as far as sampling the hit records, I think that's a fad. I may be a little bit responsible for creating it, maybe I created a little monster with it, but that's the way things go.
SEAN "PUFFY" COMBS: Electronica? What is that?
MTV: Electronic dance music.
FIONA APPLE: Are we talking about rave music?
JAY KAY, Jamiroqaui: Electronica my a**. I'm sorry, it is not "electronica" at all. It's just good solid rough beats.
PUFFY: I've never heard of "electronica." Sounds like a good name, though.
JAY: Everything has to have a category and a name. Why? Because it makes it easier for some people to market.
MTV: Music fans were restless, record sales were stagant, alternative was over. Then, a new music emerged... one that captivated listeners, created new stars, and dominated the charts. And that sound was... ska. Of course, 1997 was supposed to be the year that technofied dance music known as "electronica" -- a catch-all marketing term encompassing a farrago of different U.S. and U.K. club genres -- would reshape the American pop landscape. The media were quick to put a face on this newest British invasion, as the star-making machinery hyped the crossover potential of the multi-pierced Keith Flint, ultrakinetic frontman of Prodigy.
KEITH FLINT, Prodigy: If I was very uneventful to look at, I'd be another guitarist. Who wants to see that? You've been watching that for the last 50 years. This is new.
MTV: Prodigy hit the buzz bin even before the year began.
LIAM HOWLETT, Prodigy: We've come across here on this huge hype and been made to look like we're part of this electronic scene when we're strong enough to stand up on our own. We don't need to be put into a scene.
MTV: But being electronica's leading light didn't hurt, either. In July, Prodigy released "Fat Of The Land," which sold more than 200,000 copies in its first week, and entered the charts at number one.
TRACEY THORN, Everything But The Girl: It's no great leap of faith to go from seeing Nine Inch Nails to going to see the Prodigy.
BEN WATT, Everything But The Girl: I think it's a re-definition about what rock n' roll is about. And that's why those gigs are packed out with 17-year-old teenagers.
MTV: Second only to Prodigy this year, the sample-savvy dj duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simmons known as the Chemical Brothers, saw their "Dig Your Own Hole" LP approach gold.
TOM ROWLANDS, Chemical Brothers: When we play live, we play live a lot in clubs and we expect our gigs to be like a party. And it's weird when people are turning up thinking it's gonna be like a gig where they just have to watch. But when we play, it's more audience participation.
MTV: While Daft Punk championed the anti-star ethic -- not appearing in their videos, wearing masks in public -- others followed the lead of Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers, and embraced the effort to turn a dance club genre designed for all night ecstacy-fueled raves into song-structured, radio friendly, arist driven music. Too bad the public wasn't buying it yet. Mainstream America missed out on much of this year's cutting-edge electronic dance music. But it did get its first taste of electronica -- elements of it, anyway -- in a modified form, as utilized by some of pop music's most familiar faces, who were looking to freshen their image but not totally reinvent their sound.
DAVID BOWIE: It's an album that really tries to hybrid rock persay with a more technological feel.
GOLDIE: With dance music, in general, something happens on the underground and it surfaces, and it's taken up by the masses, and explodes, and gets watered down.
THE EDGE, U2: I'm not in the least bit intimidated by the way that music is now so electronically created. I think that that is acutally the future.
KEITH RICHARDS, The Rolling Stones: The idea of being able to control music is, to me... Well, they'll all find out.
KURT LODER (laughing): They'll learn someday.
KEITH: Well they aren't selling a lot of records this year.
MTV: True enough. Despite the media tsunami, electronica's two biggest artists moved less than 2 million units in calendar year '97. Meanwhile, a handful of dance music festivals sputtered, and Lollapalooza, which showcased trip-hopster Tricky and the high-techno Orbital alongside Prodigy, reported less-than-stellar receipts.
|KEN JORDAN, Crystal Method:
For a few years, this type of music has been doing well all over the world except for in
America. And sometimes I think that America needs to be beat over the head with new music
and new sounds before they finally accept it.
FIONA: If I were sitting in a room and having a good time and you put on Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers, I'd be like, oh this is good... I don't really listen to it, but it's okay.
MARILYN: People would think the smartest thing to do would be to be more electronic, but I think the smartest thing would be to be farther away from it.
FIONA: Watch me come out with an electronic album!
MARILYN: You just always have to stay true to what you are about.
MTV: Have you ever wanted to explore any of that kind of sound in what you do?
PUFFY: There hasn't been enough drum n' bass records out there made yet. So I have to wait for a couple more of them to be made so I can sample them. Then I'll be using them. (He laughs)
MARILYN MANSON: I think the Lilith Fair was far more subversive and satanic than anything that I could have done because here you have people playing this very innocuous folk music that's providing America with love and very dangerous ideas about women's sexuality. And I think a lot of Christians would be upset if they knew.
FIONA APPLE: All the women there were just so cool and it was fun. It was summertime... But I got really sick of the "women in rock" question!
JAY KAY, Jamiroqaui: I love festivals with a passion. I love that thing of no sound check -- on! There they are! Arrrrggghh!
MARILYN: I did a small run on the Ozzfest and I think you're more likely to find me in a church than to go on another metal tour because those fans, at some points, were more closed-minded than the Christians were. I got hit with a lot with bottles of urine.
MTV: At first glance, 1997 seemed like any other year in tours. But there was something different, something unusual in the air.
MÖTLEY CRÜE FAN: Mötley Crüe is the s***!
MTV: ...well, enough said.
KURT LODER: Is the stage set the Stones are taking up going to be the biggest stage sets in the history of stage sets?
KEITH RICHARDS, The Rolling Stones: It's beyond the last one, I gotta say that. But let me put it this way... either it's gonna be fantastic or we'll die in the attempt.
MTV: The Stones found success by keeping their bigger is better formulam while U2 earned less than rave reviews for their current venture into pop culture gluttony. But the story of the year belonged to package tours, which boasted some of the more eclectic rosters of recent years, and catered to everyone from classic rockers... to hip-hoppers... to hippies... to hippy-haters... to Deadheads... to club kids... to skate punks... and anyone in-between.
LILITH FAIR FAN: I'm a grandma, I'm 66 years old and I never want to grow up. I just like to be hip with kids.
MTV: The only two packages, however, to grab significant attention also provided the year's most conflicting images, from the line-ups to their fans. Ozzy Osbourne continued his 30 year conquest to rile up audiences with his testoterone-heavy Ozzfest, highlighted by some of rock's newest noise-makers and a still-ticking Black Sabbath.
OZZY OSBOURNE: I suppose I got a guardian angel. I've just got this incredible love for my audience and they've got an incredible love for what I do. It's just kind of like the biggest love affair I've ever had in my life.
MTV: Younger, softer, and a bit more polite was the all-female Lilith Fair tour. The Sarah McLachlan-mothered festival gathered this year's largest collection of chart-toppers, as well as plenty of criticism of the founders' agenda.
SARAH MCLACHLAN: One of the objectives of this tour was to create a sense of community for women in the industry and defy some of those myths of you can't put two women on a bill, you can't play two women on the radio back-to-back. Why? Those are ridiculous rules that don't apply anymore.
NIKKI SIXX, Mötley Crüe: Hey, you don't see that s*** at a Pearl Jam show, do ya!
Nineteen eighty -- I mean '97 also saw its share of reunions. Vince Neil returned to a
more intellectual Mötley Crüe, who concluded each show with a question and answer period
for audience members; Fleetwood Mac, one of rock's most colorful personifications of sex,
drugs, and rock n' roll; and Jane's Addiction, with Flea, began the year with a surprise
rekindling for Howard Stern's Private Parts premiere and ended up on tour.
DAVE NAVARRO, Jane's Addiction: Wow.
PERRY: I look to my right [toward Dave Navarro] -- and I'd be kind of happy. Now I look to my left [toward new bassist Flea], I look to my right -- both of my breasts grow big!
MTV: Rounding out this year of the unexpected was the highly successful pairing of rock and rap extremes, Rage Against the Machine and the Wu-Tang Clan.
TOM MORELLO, Rage Against The Machine: This is a very unlikely tour package to be playing in venues this size. You've got Wu-Tang Clan, like the least commercial, least radio friendly, most raw hip-hop group on the planet, who also, coincidentally, has the number one album, and then Rage Against The Machine, whose politics make Ralph Nader look like Ghengis Khan.
MTV: Unfortunetly for fans, Wu-Tang exited the tour abruptly following a well-publicized run-in with the law and repeated difficulties with keeping all nine members of the group in one place at one time.
MTV: But no other controversy this year -- not even Ozzy's riot-inciting laryngitis -- shook the established like rock's newest storm trooper, Marilyn Manson.
MARILYN MANSON ('97 Video Music Awards : We will no longer be oppressed by the fascism of Christianity.)
MTV: But fighting that "fascism" with a shock-rock show and a free-thought message hardly made it an easy road for Marilyn Manson. In town after town, the forces of the right tried, with varying degrees of success, to shut the band down. In Oklahoma, even the governor got involved.
GOVERNOR KEATING: It's important for us to say we're not going to shut you down by law, we're not going to shut you down by right of the censor. We're going to shut you down because what you propose is not uplifting.
MARILYN: If it weren't for people like me that stood up for things like freedom of speech, people like him wouldn't be allowed to voice his stupid opinion in the first place.
MTV: Helping to mobilize much of this self-righteous opposition was the American Family Association, which used the Internet to distribute wild unsubstantiated rumours about Manson concerts.
MARILYN: I think people like that really will reap what they sow. And if there is a hell, I'll see them there. Here's a group that sits around and creates all these stories about me having sex with minors and killing animals and things of this nature. But it's these sick ideas they've developed in their own heads. I haven't told them these things.
MTV: Along with shaking his tail at the Video Music Awards, feathers were ruffled elsewhere. Manson was sued by former guitarist Daisy Berkowitz for breach of contract, and, while the band worked on several soundtracks, one for "Spawn" went sour when the Brits slammed the track.
KELLI DAYTON, Sneaker Pimps: They're just so talentless.
MARILYN: I wouldn't waste my time having hard feelings. I've already forgotten their names.
MTV: Manson's status as a cultural lightening rod was confirmed at a Senate subcommittee hearing in November, when a North Dakota father testified the band's music drove his teenage son to commit suicide.
RAYMOND KUNTZ: From what my family has experienced, this music is a cancer on our society.
MTV: Did you ever have any idea going into 1997 that you would cause the level of commotion that you did?
MARILYN: I had hoped that I would get a lot of people's attention so that they would listen to some of the ideas that I was trying to express. What I didn't anticipate was the rumor campaign, the lies and confusion that went with it. But I guess when you write a record called "Anti-Christ Superstar," you're not going to make too many friends.
JAY KAY, Jamiroqaui: I think he is bloody awful. I think he's awful. Yeah, you can be different and all that, but what's all this satanic crap? I'm sorry, don't give me all that devil rubbish. It's rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Go back to the graveyard where you come from.
SEAN "PUFFY" COMBS: I was starting to be a fan of his and then I heard him disrespect God. And I can't really get down with nothing like that, no matter if it's even something for theatrics. You just don't exist once you disrespect God. You really stepped over the line.
FIONA APPLE: Yes, I think that it was disrespectful of God -- if you are somebody who believes in God. Like when all of those Christian people kept him out towns, it really wasn't very Christian of them (laughs). You can't just say he's a nice guy, he's a crazy guy, he's a mean guy, he's a Satanist guy. He's all of these things.
MARILYN: I feel like we may have lost a few battles the last year, but overall, we won the war, and I think that we made an important stance for rock music.
MTV: What do you think the biggest music story of 1997 was?
MARILYN MANSON: Well if it wasn't the ruckus that I was creating, I guess it would have been the Spice Girls.
"SEAN "PUFFY" COMBS: I had put out a record, "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," and there was a record in front of me that was stopping me from getting number one. It was the Spice Girls! And I was like, what is this?!
FIONA APPLE: It's like going to Graceland and seeing all of that tacky, disgusting design, but it's just so brilliant because there's no apology for it whatsoever.
MTV: Do you have a favorite Spice Girl by any chance?
PUFFY: No, I don't really have a favorite Spice Girl.
FIONA: In every single picture they're going (she smiles hugely) like that. And you always look and it's always like Baby Spice or... whatever that is -- what is it?
MTV: Can you name their nicknames?
PUFFY: No, I don't really know them like that. (Laughs)
JAY KAY, Jamiroqaui: What is it? Mel B., Mel C... Geri D.
MARILYN: There's the red-head one that was naked.
JAY: Uuhhh, Sporty E.
MARILYN: Spicy Spice? I don't know, I don't know all of their names.
JAY: And there's another one -- Baby. Yeah? No.
MARILYN: There's Baby Spice. She's the one that allegedly slept with her manager. That's the one that I can name.
FIONA: Baby Spice and Sporty Spice and they're all always like yay! And then you look over and Posh Spice is always... (she puts on a stone cold face). Everything that I ever say about the Spice Girls, what I can say is that, they wouldn't care that I was saying it and that's what's cool about them.
PUFFY: They just trying to entertain you. They not trying to say they the greatest singers, they have the greatest songs.They just wanna have fun. People just wanna have a good time. I mean like f*** the critics and what they wanna say!
MTV: Can you believe it's been a whole year since the Spice Girls first came to cavorting onto our culture radar -- and they still won't go away? Not that you'd want 'em to, right? Becuase the Girls -- admit it, you know their names: Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty -- have back-flipped their way up the charts and into more than a few normally hardened hearts, displacing at last the whiny alterna-rockers of yore, and ushering in a new era of pure, youthful, pop sparkle and fizz. Even those troglodytes who hated this act could at least enjopy having somebody new to smack around.
MEL C., Spice Girls: We don't really care what anybody says! As long as we're having fun, that's the whole vibe of it all.
MEL B., Spice Girls: This is about a Spice adventure! This is about girl power!
KURT LODER: Well, I'm sure it is.
MEL B.: IT IS! Not "sure it is."
MEL C.: You can't please everybody, So what we do is we do what we enjoy and we please ourselves and the bonus is that like, the rest of the world has sort of fell for it, you know what I mean? And they're enjoying it, too.
VICTORIA, Spice Girls: And hopefully, if you don't like us, you can look at us performing and at least laugh!
MTV: So, okay, they're not all great singles, and as a group they're frankly maufactured. Nevertheless, through sheer force of giddy high spirits, they have prevailed. The Spice Girls' first single went to number one on 14 different planets. Their debut album "Spice" sold 18 million copies worldwide. Their first three singles went top 5 here in the States, and they're only just getting warmed up. So, what next? The Spice Girls signed on for an endless series of endorsements, played their first full-length concert -- underwritten by a cola company, of course -- and completed work on a feature film. Spice mania seemed likely to continue unbated until late November, when the firing of manager Simon Fuller sparked a series of break-up rumors. Adding insult to injury was the rather disappointing American debut of the "Spiceworld" album, leading many to start checking their 15-minute timers. But whatever their future, the Spice Girls owned 1997. fin