How did you discover music in the 90s?

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Without the ease of high-speed internet, we had other ways of finding great music.

Remember, in the 90s, how the internet wasn’t really a thing?

Sure, you probably had a dial up modem towards the end of the decade. But if you were using it to download music, you would have been spending a hell of a lot of time tying up the phone line, and a stack of money on your hourly internet plan and miniscule download limits. 

While the earliest music blogs started cropping up with the advent of relatively affordable home internet, there’s a very good chance you weren’t finding most of your favourite new music online in the 90s.

So, how did you do it?

We asked that question of Double J listeners this week, and the responses brought back so many memories.

Radio

The power of radio was as strong in the 90s as ever. The fact that triple j was a national station meant that it was a great musical educator to people in all parts of the country.

“Growing up in the country we only had Cash FM,” Helen Kelly said. “I then moved to Brisbane the same time my region got triple j. Life changed!”

“It offered a new world of sounds,” Ben Clayton remembered. “Not the same recycled popular braindead crap.”

“No one in my crew was triple j; I was the odd one out,” Tammy Edden said. “I was the only one listening to Inspiral Carpets and Kula Shaker. Ange Catterns was and still is my fave triple j presenter. [Plus] Tunny, The King and Francis.”

“Razer and Robins in the morning was the best,” Todd Smith said. “And Maynard F# Crabbs before them.”

“When I discovered the Js, it not only opened up my eyes to new types of music but I think it helped with acceptance of different types of cultures,” Shane Healey said.  

But it wasn’t just triple j that was turning listeners on to new music. Tom Serna remembered tuning in to RTR in Perth, Richard Garfield loved 2SER is Sydney and there were community stations across the country pumping out exciting sounds.

TV

When you’re talking about music TV in Australia, you can’t go past one of the staples of Australian music for the past 30 years; the almighty rage.

“Growing up in the country we had no FM radio,” Marcus Paul said. “So, I would set the video to tape rage overnight on a Friday night/Saturday morning. Always the very best new non-mainstream music. Was brilliant. What an era!”

Sometimes a song strikes with such power that you remember everything about that first time you heard it. 

“I still remember the moment I first heard a Muse song,” Amie O'Callaghan recalled. “I'd recorded rage and sat down on Saturday to go through the video for clips I liked. ‘Elevation’ by U2 came on so watched it.

“Then this interesting piano melody started playing, leading into ‘New Born’. Bought the album off that one song, then the next weekend bought their first album without listening to any songs! Still the only band I'll buy a new album of without listening to it first.”

There was of course that other ABC show that still looms so large in the memories of music lovers across the country.

Recovery with Dylan Lewis,” Carley Cullen said. “Angus Sampson as The Enforcer and Leigh Whannell as the movie guy… I miss Recovery.”

“Rage, Recovery on Saturday mornings, Video Hits,” Lindsay Goedings said. “When we got Austar/Foxtel put on in 1999 I pretty much sat glued to Channel [V].”

Magazines

In an era before the music blog or website, magazines were the best way to read about new music.

Whether they were glossy local publications, prestigious UK and US imports, or hard-worn, gritty street press mags grabbed from the floors of bars, record stores and unis in the city’s capital cities, there were hundreds of pages to pore through every month.

“I used to get my local newsagent to import NME magazine for me - the highlight of my week!” Tina Litza Clayton said.

One local magazine that sadly no longer exists seemed to be a favourite among the audience.

“How good was Juice?” Rob Clements recalled. “And the occasional sampler CD that you would get free with the mag sometimes? I remember I had one with Shihad's ‘Home Again’, Kula Shaka's cover of ‘Hush’, Bully Rag's ‘Frantic’ and a remix of Bush's ‘Swallowed’ by Goldie! Class stuff.”

They’re still out there, too.

“Loved Juice mag, still have a bunch at home,” Sally Chilcott said.

“Just putting it out there, I still have every edition of Juice if there is a good home looking for the complete collection,” Samuel Corless offered.

While Nicole Marshall loved Hot Metal, Juice, Spin, Kerrang and, of course, Rolling Stone.

Gigs

There were plenty of chances to see live music if you lived in a city. Often it didn’t even matter if you knew who was playing.

“The Punters Club in Fitzroy and The Evelyn across the road,” Julian Wells remembered. “Not to mention the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, The Great Britain in Richmond.”

“Got into Something for Kate after seeing them blow Automatic off the stage one night,” Jeremy Johnston said.

“Watching live music at Sydney pubs and making sure I didn't miss the support acts,” was Kirsten Benhiam’s way of finding new talent.

Friends

Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful ways of finding new music, just like it was in the 90s. Michael Es shouted out a bunch of his buddies.

“Xenia gave me a Stone Roses tape, Jade introduced me to Sonic Youth, Bec made a "Cool Stuff From Bec" tape,” he said.

“Good friends at boarding school used to send me cassette tape recordings of Triple J,” Aalita Bell said. “From Perth to Kununurra.”

“Parties were always an eye opener for me and the ride home with the older kids from work,” Shane Healey said. “Music can bring people together & a song a bring you back to a place, moment in time.”

“Burning CDRs for each other, which came after recording LPs onto cassette tapes for each other, and inviting mates home to listen to new music,” Mark Leon Addison said.

Record Stores

The humble record store is more than a place to buy records, the best of them foster a kind of community and good staff will always turn you on to something you never knew you loved.

“Countless hours digging through crates at the record shops,” was how Groco Loco found his favourite new sounds.

“Rocking Horse and Skinny's ftw,” Cath Fryer said.

“Polyester Music store in Fitzroy,” Jonathan Bowlbs said. “Back when record stores had listening stations.”

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