THE 1990s IN REVIEW: ROCK AND POP - Samplers' paradise

Nothing was safe or sacred. Anything could be covered or parodied. By Nicholas Barber

The second-last number one single of the 1980s was "Let's Party" by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers. In case you are lucky enough not to remember it, "Let's Party" was the third in a series of novelty singles which pasted snippets from old Bill Haley and Glenn Miller recordings over perky rhythm tracks. The last number one single of the 1980s was "Do They Know It's Christmas", as revived by a gaggle of unmusical teeny- boppers who called themselves Band Aid II. Who would have predicted how large these two singles would loom over the following 10 years?

The 1990s were the decade in which the sampler became the most important instrument in pop. The methods pioneered by Afrika Bambaataa, among others, were standard practice: you made records out of earlier records. Portishead and Tricky created their best tunes by looping the same Isaac Hayes riff. The Verve and Robbie Williams built anthems on other people's string parts. The biggest hip-hop singles owed their sales to the melodies they lifted from the Police (Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You"), Stevie Wonder (Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise") and, again and again, the Bee Gees (Pras's "Ghetto Superstar").

It has been the karaoke decade. Pop ate itself, and sampling legitimised bands who were openly, deeply indebted to their heroes. At best, there was Britpop, an explosion of smart young guitar bands who countered American grunge with exaggerated Englishness; the "battle" between Blur and Oasis was front-page news, although the stylistic division between the groups amounted to which track on the Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake they preferred. At worst, the karaoke decade meant a deluge of cover versions performed by all the boy bands and girl bands and boy-and-girl bands who followed in the dance steps of Take That and the Spice Girls. Some wannabes went the whole hog and called themselves "tribute bands", only to achieve a bizarre kind of stardom of their own.

No wonder that a defunct band reformed every week in the 1990s. In some cases the reunions were welcome; more often the musicians were cashing in on nostalgia - going into business, in essence, as tribute bands to their younger selves. Some of the groups who buried the hatchet were Culture Club, Madness, Blondie, the Eagles, the Monkees, Kiss (the face-paint line-up), Fleetwood Mac (the Rumours line-up) and Led Zeppelin (almost). The ultimate reunions were the two which no one quite believed would ever happen: the Beatles and the Sex Pistols.

Alongside the sampler, the piece of technology that shaped pop this decade was the compact disc. In tandem with the proliferation of radio stations and TV channels devoted to yesterday's hits, the new format allowed old records to be rediscovered, re-issued and re-evaluated. Performers from Nick Drake to Noel Coward found fresh audiences. (The other effect of the CD was to add 15 minutes to the length of the LP. If I had to review every album of the 1990s in two words, those words would be "too long".)

The ever-accelerating hunt for something original to recycle - if that makes sense - has brought us to a place where anything goes. Easy listening, Seventies disco ... just pour on the elixir of postmodern irony and any pop corpse will twitch back to life. Not that I'm complaining. The trend has given us a decade of rich and varied music; any genre can be enjoyed if there is something enjoyable in it. Ten years ago, liking "world music" was sneered at as worthy and pretentious. Today, dancefloors everywhere resound to Cuban beats.

The rise of the compilation album can be seen as part of the same mix'n'match phenomenon. Instead of buying a whole LP by a band, the public now prefers to buy LPs comprising tracks by 20 or 30 different bands: no artist this decade has as many fans as Various Artists. And soon we'll all be compiling our own albums by downloading our favourite songs from the internet.

That isn't very different from what people who make records do already. Look back at the decade that looked back and you will see that if you wanted to be a pop star, you no longer cooped yourself up in your bedroom, practising your guitar - you cooped yourself up in a record store, digging out obscure funk LPs to sample. Fatboy Slim is a prime example of that. And more than one review of his last album compared Norman Cook to Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers.



A remixer/band collaboration.

1991 MASSIVE ATTACK: BLUE LINES Each track provided lesser groups with careers' worth of ideas.


Rock is reborn.


American pop of peerless intelligence and dignity.


Britpop's unbeatable template.


A blast - and the record that made it OK to copy the Beatles.


Sold 25 million copies. Almost as many copycats followed.


Hope for the future of the five-piece white male guitar band.


Arguably, the album that exemplifies the decade.


Marries rap, soul and reggae - and makes it look easy.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle