It’s hard to believe 1991 was 25 years ago.
It was a turbulent time in the world–the Cold War officially ended as the USSR split into 15 different countries. The controversial Gulf War came to its conclusion, but marked the beginning of a constant American military presence in the Middle East. It was an exciting year for Toronto sports fans, as the Blue Jays won their third AL East Division title, and the Argos won their first Grey Cup in eight years. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the highest grossing movie in 1991, making over half a billion dollars worldwide.
Perhaps what 1991 is most known for is the music. The year was full of classic rock debuts, memorable LPs, and breakthrough albums that changed music from then on.
Below is a list of some of those albums that still shine 25 years later.
The Tragically Hip – Road Apples (Released February 19)
This album was The Hip’s first #1 album in Canada and was recorded entirely at Barris Studios in New Orleans. “Little Bones” and “Twist My Arm” became a couple classics in The Hip’s repertoire.
R.E.M. – Out Of Time (Released March 12)
Out Of Time turned Athens, Georgia’s R.E.M. from an 80s indie cult band into international stars. The album spent over two years on the US album charts, and over three years on the UK charts. “Shiny Happy People” was one the album’s biggest hits, yet the band later hated the song and refused to play it live.
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Into The Great Wide Open (Released July 2)
Considered one of Tom Petty’s greatest efforts, it is best known for the title track as well as the hit “Learning To Fly.” The video for “Into The Great Wide Open” features a young Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, and cameos from Terence Trent D’Arby and Matt LeBlanc.
Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album) (Released August 12)
Metallica’s self-titled album was their fifth and most successful. It marked a change in Metallica’s sound from a thrash metal style to a slower pace. During a concert promoting the album at Tushino Airfield in Moscow (described as the first free outdoor Western rock concert in Soviet history, as many as 1.6 million people attended.
Pearl Jam – Ten (Released August 27)
Ten was Pearl Jam’s debut album following the dissolution of guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament’s previous band Mother Love Bone. The album remains Pearl Jam’s most successful album, with over 10 million albums sold, and was instrumental along with Nevermind in bringing alternative music to the mainstream.
Guns N Roses – Use Your Illusion I & Use Your Illusion II (Released September 17)
Only GNR could release two albums on the same day and have them debut at #1 and #2 on the album charts. The ambitious follow-ups to Appetite for Destruction featured several hit singles including covers of Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney & Wings. It also was the last GNR album to feature original music from Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff MacKagan, and Matt Sorum.
Nirvana – Nevermind (Released September 24)
Nirvana’s record company originally only pressed 50,000 copies of their second album. Eventually, Nevermind started selling 50,000 a day, and to date has sold over 30 million copies. The album with its first single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” literally killed the hair metal scene of the 1980s, and remains one of the most influential rock albums of all time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Released September 24)
Anthony Kiedis and company had been around for eight years already when their fifth album came out. But it was this one that proved to be their most successful. Songs such as “Suck My Kiss,” “Breaking The Girl,” “Give It Away,” and “Under The Bridge” propelled the Chili Peppers into superstardom.
Prince & The New Power Generation – Diamonds and Pearls (Released October 1)
This was Prince’s 13th studio album, and his first with his backing band, The New Power Generation. Recorded mostly at his home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, the album included the hit singles “Gett Off,” “Insatiable,” and his #1 hit, “Cream.”
U2 – Achtung Baby (Released November 19)
U2’s seventh album was produced by Canadian Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. As was apparent for music in 1991, this album signaled a musical change for the band towards more alternative, industrial, and electronic influences. It went on to sell 18 million copies and won a Grammy in 1993.