Christmas of '94: I was in the basement of the bookstore, talking music with my co-worker friend, and he said, "I'm thinking Beck might be the Dylan of our generation."
I looked at him. "Really?"
He nodded. My friend wasn't being ironic or provocative -- he was serious, so I had to give this some thought.
At the time, this observation seemed bang-on. Calling 1994 a "breakout" year for Beck would be an understatement: Beck's "Loser", from Mellow Gold was the Gen-X anthem -- our "The Times They Are A-Changin'" -- padding Beck's bank account with his first several-mil. Success bred confidence, and Beck quickly released two more CDs of older material that same year, both of them divergent from Mellow Gold as well as from each other. Lyrically, it was anyone's guess what he was up to, which put him in good standing with the Boomer Bard. Three radically different albums in one monumental year? Maybe my friend was right.
Twelve years on, the point is moot. My generation never had a Dylan, and it's just as well. We never had a Beatles, or a Stones, or a Hendrix, either. In 1994 we were still very much in awe of Bill Gates. It wasn't at all uncommon to find his picture taped to our lockers (usually the college shot of him in his savant-crouch in the hallway, a knit toque pulled down to the bridge of his beak). Just think about that for a second: Bill Gates.
Who else do we have from 1994? Kurt Cobain (and Courtney Love), of course. Douglas Coupland, Radiohead, River Phoenix. Chip Kidd and Dimebag Darrell, if you're in a catholic frame of mind. Madonna, if you're gay.
Which is why I link to a piece on Timothy Leary. The man may have been his own lethal Barnum & Bailey show, but I don't mind admitting that when it comes to lethal Barnum & Bailey shows, the 60s were colorful enough to cover several decades.