Why September 24, 1991 Was the Best Day in Music History
That day saw seminal releases by Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and more
(Originally published in 2016, we’ve updated this ode to the best record store release day ever for its 30th anniversary.)
September 24th, 1991:
Vinyl is dead. Metallica has just gone mainstream. Pearl Jam is “that band that used to be Mother Love Bone” and playing for 200 people at a dive bar in my college town. And I am a week removed from lining up at midnight to buy Use Your Illusion I and II, the two new Guns ‘n Roses albums that are supposed to shape the rest of the music year.
(Oh, and I buy them on cassette.)
The September 24th in question was never supposed to be special, but even just a year later it looked monumental — the albums released that day literally reshaped the entire music spectrum. Mainly in the rock world, but also in the hip-hop and dance realms.
Which is why it’s the greatest music release day in history.
Yeah, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde came out on May 16, 1966 — and this list does a pretty good job compiling other instances of album-release synergy — but Sept. 24 of Bush Sr.’s penultimate year in office featured a wider musical range and simply more releases of seminal impact.
Anyway, here’s a look at the best releases from Sept. 24, 1991:
Let’s go over this album’s superlatives. A niche scene before it was released, Nirvana’s second studio album broke open the entire Seattle grunge movement, and therefore the entire alternative rock movement of the ’90s. The album destroyed glam metal. It (eventually) knocked Michael Jackson off of top of the charts. Nevermind initially shipped about 46,000 copies to stores … and ended up selling over 30 millions copies worldwide. It gave us “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and 11 other anthems of disillusion and distrust. Hilariously, Rolling Stone initially gave the album only four out of five stars, while Spin bypassed the record for the Scottish indie rock band Teenage Fanclub for Album of the Year. Meaning: Even 30 years ago, you couldn’t trust a rock critic.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik
If Nirvana brought in grunge, the Chili Peppers brought funk, punk and California to the alt-rock scene. While Blood Sugar… isn’t as fun as its predecessor Mother’s Milk or as accomplished as their later work (particularly Californication), the Rick Rubin-produced album is probably the band’s most well-known work, and a great distillation of what makes the band great/annoying (Flea’s bass, Anthony Kiedis’s mishmash of words, John Frusciante’s exquisite guitar work). The record is seven times platinum in the U.S. and had several huge singles, most notably “Under the Bridge” — the closest RHCP ever got to writing a power ballad.
The Pixies, Trompe Le Monde
Yeah, it’s not their best album, and it’s more of a Frank Black solo release. But as the surf/indie/noise band was closing in on their (first) breakup, Trompe serving as a fitting close to a band that had influenced … well, most directly, Nirvana, a band who feared that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just a Pixies ripoff.
A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory
The second album by the pioneering Queens group was a jazz/rap masterpiece with socially conscious lyrics and a bit more edge than their debut. It earned a few “Sgt. Pepper’s of hip hop” accolades, with The Source calling it one of the 100 best hip-hop albums of all-time and Time magazine simply saying it was one of 100 best albums ever.
If you want to go deeper on September 24th (or the 23rd, when some of these came out … thanks, England), you also got one of Van Morrison’s better-received albums (Hymns to the Silence), an industrial-metal-post-punk masterpiece by Prong (Prove You Wrong), the birth of modern stoner rock made by 3/4 of Queens of the Stone Age (Kyuss’s Wretch) and a dance/psychedelic masterpiece by Primal Scream (Screamadelica, which won the inaugural Mercury Music Prize). And, uh, a Bryan Adams record (Waking Up the Neighbours) that sold a zillion copies, for what that’s worth.
Time to dig out the tape player.
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