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Being A Teenager In The ’90s

As things change, things also stay the same. A mystery assailant with a grudge against high-profile officials sends bombs in the US Mail. Sabrina The Teenage Witch gets up to silly magical hi-jinks with the help of her two kooky old aunts. RuPaul hosts a chat show crammed with celebrity guests. You might think I’m referring to current events, but unless you haven’t read the title of this column – gasp -I’m talking about The ’90s!

Ah, The 90s. It was a strange time, wasn’t it? But don’t look back in anger, because I’m here to spice up your life…no, stop it…okay, no more puns. In all seriousness, a mystery assailant with a grudge against high-profile officials has sent some parcel bombs in the US Mail. RuPaul is hosting a new chat show crammed with celebrity guests. And the most chilling aspect of Sabrina’s ’90s adventures was Melissa Joan Hart’s insistence on playing a teenager, but that’s going to change with the new series on Netflix.

I actually find myself pining for Britpop, which is hilarious because I didn’t actually care for Britpop outside of a handful of bands. But things seemed simple to a teenage version of me – even though clearly, the world was just as complex and confusing.

Back then, I spent every Saturday in Glasgow with friends. First we visited Avalanche Records. Then we’d head to Forbidden Planet on Buchanan Street (still a rite of passage for all young geeks), then work our way down to The Arches (now gone) where we’d take a turn until we reached Missing (also gone). Missing was really something. It was a smelly, murky, dank dungeon of a record shop…and completely essential to anyone who wanted to buy rare CD albums, the latest imports, or video cassettes. I discovered a lot of alternative rock in these compilations. I found Juliana Hatfield – my favourite – and can honestly say these CDs were a lifeline for someone who really wanted to find new music from America’s alternative scene. They’re a nice snapshot of the time. I also bought the Scream soundtrack. I loved Scream. I still do. It made a generation smarter, wittier and more ironic.

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Back in The ’90s, Romeo And Juliet was hands down the coolest album at my school. Everyone passed it about. The Cardigans! Radiohead! Garbage! Butthole Surfers! My other favourite compilation – that wasn’t a self-made cassette mix tape – was a Vaselines compilation. Kurt Cobain had name-checked them a few times and I really wanted to hear them. The internet wasn’t the thing it is today, so I couldn’t just stream their music. I found it in Missing. It was a moment of real happiness for me.

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I spent hours watching The Box with my mum’s phone in hand, waiting for the number to dial up that new song by a band called Dubstar. ‘Stars’ was beyond-this-world beautiful. The Spice Girls ruled, bringing much needed fun to the charts. An array of female singer/songwriters and riot grrl bands from America brought a sense of grit and a much needed female sensibility to punk. Not just from America though. We had a TV show in the UK called The Word and that’s where Huggy Bear appeared, perfect and fully-formed fierceness.

I remember the first time someone used a mobile phone in front of me. It happened at school. Leon had a stubby contraption in his hand while we all went to our next lesson; I asked him what it was, he proudly boasted of his fab new phone. I asked him to order pizza for everyone. He said no. ANYWAY, the other best thing about The ’90s was Mortal Kombat II. The SNES version was a faithful recreation of the arcade smash. We played it forever and ever, coming up with new ways to brutalise each other. Then The PlayStation arrived and in a flurry of pixels and pentagons, we found Tekken.

Teens in the early ’90s didn’t have Harry Potter, not until later on that decade. We had Point Horror. I’d already started reading Kathy Acker and Jeff Noon, but Point Horror was a phenomenon and I happily read tales of teen harassment. Really, Twilight was far more punk rock – it made a story about teen necrophiliac into a huge romantic blockbuster. You have to wonder about the terrifying mind of Stephenie Meyer, her fertile creativity conjuring up a tale more horrific than any found in a Point Horror book.

Doctor Who existed only as a collective memory among fans. It was passed down from parent to child through book and VHS Video. The New Adventures continued The Doctor’s adventures with Ace and Bernice and I read them obsessively. I have a real fondness for that era of Doctor Who.

I’m still playing Mortal Kombat, watching Doctor Who, listening to alternative punk and rock. Juliana Hatfield has a new album out soon. I even popped into Forbidden Planet this week. As things change…things also stay the same.

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