A personal account of how I remember popular culture of the time.
May 18, 2007
It may have been only been the second year of the last decade of the twentieth century, but 1991 was my absolute favorite year to be a kid in the 90s. It was the first year to be a palindrome since 1881 and last one of the millennium.

•C&C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat”

It kicked off the whole 90s dance music scene and was the first song that got me into techno/dance music. I remember hearing it for the first time at my aunt’s apartment building one evening when a neighbor had blasted it on the stereo. I didn’t actually see the music video until nine years later and when I did, I learned that Martha Wash, the one who actually sang on the track, was not present in it.

Instead, a skinny black woman, Zelma Davis, was lip-synching all of her parts. This was during MTV’s video conscious era, where it was all about being good-looking in a music video, even if you didn’t sing a note, å la Milli Vanilli. Personally, I liked this kind of music more than grunge, which came out later that year, although I admit to listening to a few songs from Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

*Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”- The 11-minute music video, or short film, as the king of pop would call it, made its world premiere on November 14, 1991. I remember very vividly watching it with my family in the living room on Fox after “The Simpsons”. It even featured cameos such as Macaulay Culkin, George Wendt, and even Tyra Banks and Cree Summer in the metamorphosis scene. Although Michael Jackson was singing about interracial romance in the song, it was a little hard to tell back then whether Michael Jackson was black or white because his skin color was getting lighter, although he is still identified as African-American.

The last scene is the one I remember the most with Michael Jackson dancing in a dark alley, grabbing his crotch, smashing a car, and breaking windows, which according to him symbolized his hatred toward racism in this world. As a kid, the scene confused me very much. Several angry viewers phoned into MTV to complain about the music video, and the end scene was later edited out.


*Hammerman- As MC Hammer’s fame got bigger, so did the backlash. A year prior, his single “U Can’t Touch This” became a smash hit. He had been criticized not only by the hip hop community for being “too soft”, but also for some of the bad investments he’s made, such as the $10 Million mansion in Fremont, California and $1 Million in thoroughbred racehorses. MC Hammer even went so far to have his own Saturday morning cartoon “Hammerman”. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of the episodes, which is probably why it failed so miserably. If Vanilla Ice had his own cartoon (something like “Iceman”) it might have done a hair better than “Hammerman”, but still would have bombed in the long run.

* “Get A Life”- This was Fox’s most underrated sitcom of its day. It starred Chris Elliot as Chris Peterson, a childish 30-year-old paperboy who still lived with his parents, Fred and Gladys Peterson. The storylines were usually very quirky and surreal. One episode I remember, in particular, was “Neptune 2000, where Chris gets a submarine and he and his father put it together and embark on a maiden voyage, in the bathtub. When I got a guinea pig as a pet seven years later, I thought of the mother on the show and decided to give her that name.

*Nickelodeon and the Premiere of Nicktoons- August 11, 1991 was a monumental date for the first kids’ network with the premiere of Nicktoons. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It was in my first article titled “Nicktoons Anniversary”. “Doug”, “Rugrats”, and “Ren and Stimpy” were the first cartoons to be produced by Nickelodeon. They also breathed life into future Nicktoons like “Rocko’s Modern Life”, “Hey Arnold”, and “SpongeBob Squarepants”. In 1991, Nickelodeon became a “cash-cow” network with several new programs of it’s own such as “Clarissa Explains It All”, “Salute Your Shorts”, and “Welcome Freshmen”, including game shows such as “Wild and Crazy Kids”, “Get The Picture”, and “Nick Arcade”.

*Prevue Guide- Although Prevue Guide was introduced three years prior, I had been exposed to it for the first time in the summer of 1991, just before the premiere of Nicktoons. It had a set of TV listings on the bottom half of the screen scrolling up, and TV promos, movie trailers, and commercials on the top half. Although it didn’t really take the place of TV Guide, it came in handy for finding out what was on TV at the very moment. Prevue Guide, the name, was changed to Prevue Channel in 1993, and was acquired by TV Guide in 1999, which was rechristened TV Guide Channel. Although it’s still the same basic channel concept, I miss Prevue the most for it’s synthesized background music and occasional Amiga "Guru Meditation" error.

* "Stark-Raving Dad"-This was probably one of the highest rated "Simpsons" episodes of all time. Homer is committed to a mental institution and meets a large white man who claims to be Michael Jackson. In the end, after he and Bart sing a birthday song to Lisa, it is revealed that the so-called "Michael Jackson" turns out to be New Jersey man named Leon Kompowsky with a deep voice. It was revealed years later that the king of pop himself did provide the speaking voice and that a pseudonym was used in the credits. The singing voice, however, was provided by Kipp Lennon.


*Super Nintendo vs. Sega Genesis- In 1991, Nintendo and Sega had been competing with eachother in the video game market with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, respectively. They were consoles for a whole new generation of video gamers. Sega released Sonic The Hedgehog that year, which quickly became the company’s main icon, similar to Nintendo’s Mario. I received a Super Nintendo on Christmas Day 1991, which came with Super Mario World and Hal’s Hole in One Golf. What I liked about the new system were the vivid colors, improved sound, and 16 bit graphics. I actually didn’t get a Sega Genesis until three years later, not that I couldn’t get one, but that I wanted the Super Nintendo instead.

*Apple Macintosh Classic- It was not the first time I had been seen a Macintosh computer. In 1988, my dad bought a Macintosh SE, which initially he used for his work. He did buy a few games for it, one of which was an early version of Tetris. In 1991, I finally got a computer of my own, an Apple Macintosh Classic. It came with basic programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel and MacPaint. I also bought programs such as “Where In The World Is Carman Sandiego”, “Kid Pix”, and “Connect Four”. Surprisingly, I had owned that computer for over six years, and it still worked well. I wish I hadn’t given it to the Good Will though. It may be a piece of junk to today’s standards, but it’s still one of my favorite computers of all time.
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