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.

NINETIES ROCK

1991 PRIMAL SCREAM: SCREAMADELICA

A remixer/band collaboration.

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

1991 NIRVANA: NEVERMIND

Rock is reborn.

1992 REM: AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE

American pop of peerless intelligence and dignity.

1994 BLUR: PARKLIFE

Britpop's unbeatable template.

1994 OASIS: DEFINITELY MAYBE

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

1995 ALANIS MORISETTE: JAGGED LITTLE PILL

Sold 25 million copies. Almost as many copycats followed.

1995/7 RADIOHEAD: THE BENDS/ OK COMPUTER

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

1996 BECK: ODELAY

Arguably, the album that exemplifies the decade.

1998 LAURYN HILL: THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL

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

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little