Category Archives: The Vinyl Review

‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana (1991)

One song defines the 1990s like no other: “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

With just a few power chords, Nirvana defined grunge rock. If you haven’t heard this song before, there must not be radio on whatever planet you are from.

There might be a decent chance you haven’t heard the song on vinyl. You should. Kurt Cobain’s voice is accentuated well by needle on plastic. The static picks up on hidden raspy strains.

The song is simple and the lyrics are unclear. So it is with many Nirvana songs. But that doesn’t make them any less impactful. This one is perhaps the most recognized from that era.

Several area used record stores have shelves of singles. You can likely find this song on one cheaply — and it’s worth every cent.

The B-side, “Even in his Youth,” isn’t bad either.

Why it’s important: A culture-defining song.
Emotion it defines: Angst.

‘Third Rock from the Sun’ By Joe Diffie (Single, circa 1995)

You like to know there is order in the universe.

Cause and effect — it makes perfect sense.

Joe Diffie wrote a song in the 1990s that speaks to your Vulcan-like mind. “Third Rock from the Sun,” which was a popular radio hit, uses fast-paced rhythmic lyrics to spin a yarn about how an adulterous small town police chief’s actions at Smokey’s bar leads to town-wide panic, including the possible involvement of a giant alien. It is not as serious as it sounds. But the story provides for a unique perspective on how seemingly singular, chaotic events interact to form a result — or something like that.

The song was written after the twangy country era of Waylon, Cash and Haggard, and before country music turned into southern rock.

If you don’t have a lot of country in your vinyl collection, this would be a good place to start. Diffie had a lot of good songs, so any of his albums that you find in a used record store is worth a listen. But the best way to hear “Third Rock from the Sun” is on an old 45 that used to be in a barroom juke box, maybe from Smokey’s bar.

Best Lyric: “When you’re spinning ’round, things come undone.”
Best time to listen to it: When your life is in the middle of a lot of random crap.

‘LET’S LIVE FOR TODAY’ By The Grass Roots

Best lyric: “We were never meant to worry the way that people do.”

Best time to listen to it: Any time your worries have you weighed down.

You are a worrywart.

You dwell unduly on thoughts about your health, money and other “worries people seem to find.”

There is a prescription to tame your unsettled mind: The Grass Roots song “Let’s Live For Today.” One 2 1/2-minute dose should leave you feeling a little more peaceful.

The lyrics are as true today as they were in 1967. People drive themselves crazy “chasing after money and dreams that can’t come true.” The song suggests the best way to spend time is with someone you love — not worrying about tomorrow.

It is advice that has been given by wise men throughout generations, in religious texts — and by The Grass Roots. But most people fail to heed the guidance.

Worrywart or not, this is a good song that is worth being part of any vinyl collection, whether as a single, on the title album or as part of a greatest-hits collection. It is worth taking the time to look for the next time you go record hunting.

Steppenwolf – “Steppenwolf 7”

For you, 5 p.m. comes at midnight.

Your “Happy Hour” is an 8 p.m. coffee break before the next round of work orders.

You are the second-shifter.

When the work night finally closes a silent home and re-runs of “Law and Order” await.

There is a better way to relax after work.

Enter “Steppenwolf 7” — on vinyl, of course.

Listen to it with a Pabst Blue Ribbon and a bag of peanuts. By the time track No. 6— “Snowblind Friend”  — spins around, you will have forgotten the bull from work.

The songs and lyrics on this album are a mixture of blues and hard rock. The crackles and static of a strongly used copy of the record add to the music’s unique flavor.

The songs can be enjoyed by those on day shift as well. But a drowsy, late-night listen brings the most out of this 1970s music.

Dig around for a copy the next time you are in a used record store. It will provide for the best 40 minutes after work that you have had in a while.

“Steppenwolf 7” by Steppenwolf (1972)

Available at used record stores (if you look hard enough.)

Best Lyric: “He only had a dollar to live on ’til next Monday. But he spent it all on comfort for his mind.”

Best time to listen to it: After midnight when you are stressed out.