For this special edition of Bootleg City, I’m spotlighting the top 17 songs of the ’90s, a decade we can all officially start nostalgicizing on January 1, 2010. Until then we’re in limbo, if you’ll pardon the expression — the untimely deaths of Michael Jackson and John Hughes in the past six weeks have put a damper on the last blast of ’80s nostalgia in this decade. But life goes on, of course, as does pop culture’s never-ending look backward.

From top to bottom, here are the top 17 songs:

1. But Anyway (Blues Traveler)
2. Put a Lid on It (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
3. 6th Avenue Heartache (The Wallflowers)
4. It’s a Shame About Ray (Lemonheads)
5. Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow)
6. Hey Dude (Kula Shaker)
7. The Freshmen (The Verve Pipe)
8. The Good Life (Weezer)
9. Where You Get Love (Matthew Sweet)
10. Mom’s a Surfer (a.k.a. My Mom Can Surf) (G. Love & Special Sauce)
11. St. Teresa (Joan Osborne)
12. Low (Cracker)
13. Landslide (Tori Amos)
14. Desperately Wanting (Better Than Ezra)
15. Who Will Save Your Soul (Jewel)
16. Super Bon Bon (Soul Coughing)
17. Galileo (Indigo Girls)

God bless the lists and the children.

But why 17, you ask? (Or just pretend like you’re asking for the sake of this paragraph, okay? Much obliged.) Because that’s how many songs are on the first volume of Y100 Sonic Sessions, a collection of live-in-the-studio performances recorded for WPLY 100.3 FM, Philadelphia’s premier alternative-rock station from 1995 to 2005. In the weeks and months ahead I’ll be featuring the other seven volumes that have been handed to me by Matt Wardlaw of Addicted to Vinyl, but I figured it was best to start at, you know, the top.

If you feel a bit hoodwinked, don’t take it personally. Tourism is down in Bootleg City, and I need to do whatever I can to refill the coffers. I decided that an easier way to lure people to town for a visit was a subject heading like “Top 17 Songs of the ’90s” rather than “World’s Largest Collection of Live Music That May Sound Dead on Arrival If You Weren’t at the Concert and Drinking Several Overpriced Beers to Begin With.”

I know cheap tricks like this one are just a stopgap solution, though. That’s why I reached out to Jimmy Buffett to help me with my tourism problem: as the mayor of Margaritaville, he’s never had any trouble attracting tourists to his little island community, especially mildly depressed drunks, who never go out of season. Unfortunately, he was on tour when I called. And when I called back every five minutes for the next two hours just to make sure, I was told, “He’s always on tour. Forever. So you’ll never reach him. But it’ll only take me a few seconds to reach the police if you call one more time.”

When I asked the receptionist if he could at least patch me through to Jimmy’s brother, Warren, for some financial advice, he hung up. I considered calling back to apologize, but I didn’t want to push my luck with the Margaritaville PD, which is reportedly at the breaking point after a fruitless 32-year search for the city’s missing salt shakers. I wonder if they’ll ever crack that case.

Speaking of cops, Lindsey Buckingham is working out great as Bootleg City’s new law-and-order go-to guy. Once he enters an interrogation room looking all Geithner-y and making those “ooh” and “ahh” lovemaking noises while staring directly into a suspect’s eyes, they all invariably start yelling, “This guy is seriously creeping my shit out! I’ll confess! Please let me confess!” I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that neighborhood kid “accidentally” getting his Frisbee stuck on my roof ever again.

So, the search for a new Bootleg City Chamber of Commerce go-to guy continues. Wait a second — Jimmy Buffett is good friends with Bill Withers, who hasn’t recorded an album since 1985, but he did make a rare appearance on Buffett’s 2004 album License to Chill, for which he wrote the song “Playin’ the Loser Again” and cowrote “Simply Complicated” with Buffett. Two years later he and his daughter, Kori, sang the chorus on Maroon 5’s cover of his classic song “Lovely Day,” which showed up on the soundtrack to Hoot, a film produced by Buffett. Most important of all, Bill Withers never tours!

There could be a problem, however — since he’s been out of the public eye for so long, nobody seems to remember what Bill Withers looks like. So I can’t expect him to be any kind of celebrity draw for tourists, but if I ever needed to hire a master thief who could easily blend into a crowd after stealing, say, a prized salt shaker, I wouldn’t hesitate to—


You know, I could give the Margaritaville PD a helpful tip right now, but since I’ve already gotten the cold shoulder from the mayor’s office, I think I’ll call it a day.

About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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