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The 90s: Each Year's Top Rock Bands

Updated: Aug 21

By Eric Fisher, CU Contributor


1990: Pixies

The Pixies capped an amazing three year run of albums with 1990’s “Bossanova,” which made more of a dent in the U.K. than the U.S. Still, the band’s music would prove highly influential in terms of where rock music would go in the 1990s.


1991: Metallica

Metallica’s self-titled 1991 effort, aka The Black Album, saw the band ditching its thrash sound for monstrous rock that would see them conquer the world. The Black Album came with five well received singles and stands today as one of the greatest selling albums of all time.


1992: Nirvana

And so grunge was upon us. “Nevermind” actually arrived in 1991 with the music video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” arriving the fall. Things skyrocketed from there, as Nirvana became, maybe reluctantly, the biggest band in the world for 1992 and beyond.


1993: Pearl Jam

Nirvana may be recognized historically as the greater band. But Pearl Jam was just as big, if not bigger for a brief period.. Eddie Vedder’s outfit released “Vs.” the follow up to “Ten,” in 1993. The album stayed on top of the charts for over a month.


1994: Stone Temple Pilots

Purple debuted at number one in the United States upon its release. The radio-friendly "Interstate Love Song" quickly became a big hit, spending a record-setting fifteen weeks atop the album rock tracks chart. Other hits from the album included "Vasoline" and "Big Empty". By October, just four months after its release, Purple had sold three million copies.

1995: Oasis

So maybe Oasis wasn’t conquering America as easily as they quickly conquered the world. But, to some extent, it felt that it was inevitable back in the mid-90s with the release of What's the Story (Morning Glory). The Gallagher brothers’ bravado, coupled with the back-to-back releases of “Definitely Maybe” and “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” made Oasis, unquestionably, the biggest band in the world.


1996: Smashing Pumpkins

If you thought Billy Corgan had peaked with “Siamese Dream,” you were wrong. “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” released in 1995, set the band up as one of the biggest rock bands in the world and one of the leading acts coming out of the grunge period.


1997: Oasis

Oasis' third #1 album, Be Here Now, achieved an uncomfortable yet still mythic status: the musical equivalent of a conjuring a magical spell with those behind it apparently unaware they were doing any such thing. There was beginning to be some belief in this "new" Beatles talk by 1997.


1998: Beastie Boys

They were already cemented at one of hip hop's greatest acts. But make no mistake – the Beastie Boys were as much rock stars as any band around thanks to 1998’s “Hello Nasty,” which fans and MTV ate up. The album stayed on top of the charts in the U.S. for three weeks.


1999: The Foo Fighters

Nothing Left to Lose was released in 1999 and won a Grammy for the Best Rock Album in 2001 - that speaks volumes. The Foo Fighters haven't matured, they've just gotten better. They are finally shaking free of whatever expectations their pasts have heaped upon them and just concentrating on making beautiful and devastatingly catchy music they can finally call their own.

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