In September of 1991, Nirvana released their second album, Nevermind. The album went #1 in January of 1992 and hit the top spot again in February. It would go on to sell over thirty million copies.
The album was not just another hit record. Fueled by the success of its lead single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, the album changed the rock music landscape as nothing else had since the debut of the Beatles in 1964.
Before the release of Nevermind, rock was ruled by the hair/glam/pop-metal bands. Guns N Roses had somewhat changed the scene when they hit big in 1987 with their tattoos and the punk undertones sprinkled in their hard rock. It was Nevermind that created the 360-degree turn in the genre that would define rock for the rest of the nineties.
Seattle replaced the Sunset Strip as rock’s home base. Alternative rock stations popped up everywhere. Grunge and music that was mostly played on college rock stations were now mainstream. Flannel was everywhere!
While hair, glam, or whatever you want to call it, was the primary sound of rock for much of our teenage years, it was, for the most part, made by people who were in high school in the seventies. Nirvana and the other artist and bands that broke through with the alternative explosion were mostly Gen Xers.
Some of us did not buy into the new sound. Some of us wanted to keep the big hair and flashy guitar solos. Even if you were not down with the change, there is no way you can deny the influence of Nevermind on our generation and the music world.
2020 has been a cruel year and it’s not letting up as it prepares to say goodbye. On December 30th Dawn Wells passed away due to Covid 19. She was 82.
She was famous for her iconic role of Kansas farm girl Mary Ann Summers, one of the seven castaways on Gilligan’s Island. The show aired from 1964 to 1967. Before she got shipwrecked on the island, Wells appeared on some of the biggest shows of the early sixties such as Maverick, Wagon Train, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, and many more. In 1960, she represented her home state of Nevada in the Miss America Pageant.
So why are we talking about a star of a boomer era show on a blog devoted to Gen X media? Yes, the show premiered in 1964 on CBS, but it is just as important to our era as it was to the boomers. After the show was canceled in 1967, it went into syndication and started to appear on local stations all around the country. Many of these stations aired the program in the afternoon after kids got home from school.
The reruns were so popular with kids, ABC aired an animated remake of the show called The New Adventures of Gilligan from 1974 to 1977 on Saturday mornings. NBC went even further and reunited the cast (minus Tina Louise as Ginger) in 1978 and aired the two-part made for tv movie, Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. The castaways get rescued only to be stranded on the island again at the end of the film. This got huge ratings which of course lead to another tv movie the following year, TheCastaways of Gilligan’s Island. In this one, the castaways are rescued again and Mr. Howell turns the Island into a tropical resort. In the eighties, there was one more tv movie, TheHarlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island, and another cartoon, this time on CBS. Gilligan’s Planet had the castaways build a spaceship on the Island which took them to another planet where they got stranded. Wells did the voice of both Mary Ann and Ginger.
The show was always appearing somewhere on cable. From the seventies to the early 2000’s the program aired on TBS. In 2004, TBS aired a reality show called The Real Gilligan’s Island that aired for two seasons. In the last two decades, the program spent time on Nick at Night, TV Land, and the Hallmark Channel. The nostalgia network, MeTV currently airs the program on their over-the-air digital affiliates around the country.
So you see the show has never really left the airwaves. It was Gen X that discovered the reruns in the seventies and kept the legacy going for all these years. It is part of our media history just as much as it is for the Boomers and Generation Jones.
Dawn Wells was perfect as the young wholesome midwest girl from Winfield, Kansas who won a three-hour tour on the S.S. Minnow. Ask the average Gen X guy to name his celebrity crushes from his youth and more than likely the name Mary Ann will be included in that list. It has been reported that Wells beat out over 350 other young ladies for the role of Mary Ann including future movie star Raquel Welch and Pat Priest, who went on to play Marilyn on The Munsters.
We end this post by asking one of the most enduring questions of pop culture: Ginger or Mary Ann?
From now until the 25th, every day we will celebrate Gen X Christmas on all of our social media sites. We will look back at the Christmas related music videos, films, TV episodes, and specials from our youth. There will also be some holiday blogs coming out on this site as well.
Does your family have a special film that you always watched during the holiday season? Do you have a favorite Christmas episode? Is there a favorite album of yours from the Gen X era that is now a Christmas staple in your household?
Let’s kick this off with the 1987 rap classic, Christmas In Hollis by Run DMC. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Thanks to everyone who took part in our month-long salute to horror of the Gen X era. We will be back next year with an even bigger #31daysofgenxhorror.
When it comes to scary movies, the Gen X era is as important as the Universal horror movies of the 1930s. The biggest names in horror: Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Wolfman, and The Mummy were all introduced to the mainstream audience on a grand scale via those classic movies from Universal.
They stayed the dominant stars of horror until the Gen X era came around and new folks joined the group. Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Freddie Kruger are A-listers when it comes to movie monsters. The era also produced Pinhead, Chucky, and Candyman.
The creatures of the thirties lived on in the monster mashup movies of the forties and remade in the fifties and sixties with a British twist in the Hammer horror films. Our generation’s monsters were in sequels well into the nineties and early 2000s. They also rose again in remakes and reboots.
The classic monsters never really went away, as movies are still being made about them and neither will the ones of our generation. The makeup and special effects will just keep getting better. Nothing will be able to kill them off, not silver bullets or a stake in the heart!
The world lost Eddie Van Halen this week. Generation X lost one of the main creators of its soundtrack. The guitar hero passed away on Tuesday at the age of 65 to what his son Wolfgang called “his long and arduous battle with cancer”
First wave Gen X rock fans first learned about Eddie via the release of Van Halen’s first album in 1978. The record introduced the world to his amazing guitar playing and his signature and often imitated two-handed tapping technique. The self-titled album which still sounds fresh and un-dated went on to sell 10 million copies and kicked off an almost two-decade run of platinum recordings.
The band quickly became the hottest new band in rock and was soon headlining their own tours. Eddie became well known to people outside of the rock world by way of his marriage to TV star and America’s sweetheart, Valerie Bertinelli. Mainstream superstardom came to the band with the release of 1982’s Diver Down which contained the hit cover of Roy Orbison’s Oh Pretty Woman.
By this time the band was America’s top rock act. They headlined the US Festival in 1983 and received over a million dollars for the performance. The band was our generation’s Led Zepplin. Eddie was our Jimi Hendrix. He also played the guitar solo on Beat It from the biggest selling album of the time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Soon a slew of bands hit the airwaves that all sounded somewhat similar to Van Halen. Most of these bands had guitar players who performed the tapping technique. Eddie’s red, white and black striped guitar called the Frankenstrat was the most recognized musical instrument of our generation. When Eddie started playing a Kramer guitar, other rock stars followed his lead. In fact, Kramer became the #1 guitar manufacturer for a time in the eighties.
The band’s stardom went to another level with the release of 1984 which featured the #1 classic Jump. When David Lee Roth left the band in 1985 and Sammy Hagar took over lead vocals, the band continued right along with hit after hit. The streak lasted almost two decades with the last top forty hit coming in 1995 with I Can’t Stop Loving you. The band created hits for the entire Gen X era of the late seventies to the mid-nineties.
Eddie Van Halen was not a member of Generation X. He was born in 1955, so that would make him a late boomer or an early member of Generation Jones, however you wish to label it. Although not one of our generational tribe, he never the less made a huge impact on us. When the news of his death broke, so many people, especially Xers took to social media to share their grief and shock of his untimely death. Many wrote about how he was a part of their childhood and teen years.
He had a huge musical influence on our generation. The tone of his guitar was one of the defining sounds of our generation. He was the gold standard of playing guitar in our era and to many, he still is. His sound was timeless but it also represented our era and the two scenes in Back to the Future that features the sound and style of his playing solidifies that point.
The music made by Edward Lodewijk Van Halen will live forever on classic rock radio, YouTube, and by tribute bands playing bars and festivals all over the world. It will also live forever when a kid picks up a guitar and attempts to learn a riff from Unchained or Ain’t Talkin’ bout Love.
Thank you Eddie for the great music, the memories and for being part of the soundtrack of our lives.
Happy Labor Day and we hope you had a great holiday weekend. Labor Day became an official federal holiday in the United States in 1894. For many of the Gen X kids who grew up in the seventies and eighties, there are two distinct generational memories associated with the day.
We all remember watching The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. The show aired with Lewis as host from 1966 to 2011. At its peak, it aired on 213 stations around the country. In many of those markets, it aired on the biggest station in town. Often the local TV News anchors would put on tuxedos and ball gowns and host the local segments. You would also see local citizens on the phone banks and the town’s big wigs present a large check to the host. You might hear or see your name on TV if you called in and made a donation.
In our day, the telethon would come on at 9 pm Sunday and air until around 6:30 pm on Labor Day. When that tote board would appear with the final tally, it would mark the end of summer for many of us. A majority of our kids and grandkids now start the school year in August, but back in our era, the first day of school usually was the Tuesday after Labor Day.
For the kids who ruled the hallways, the ones who found refuge from troubled home life, or the students who truly loved school, there was excited anticipation in the air on Labor Day Night. For the bullied, ignored, unpopular or the kids who just struggled, the night was filled with dread and June could not come fast enough. For others, it was a drag because you could not watch The Price is Right at 11 am anymore.
What are your favorite memories of the telethon or the holiday?
It’s May 4th and this is the day that we celebrate Star Wars. The original film released in 1977 is by far the most important film of our generation. From the first film and the two sequels, and for all the toys, t-shirts, lunch boxes, and posters we purchased, there was never another film franchise in the Gen X era that came close to it in terms of profit or influence.
Here’s how some of us first found out about a new movie called Star Wars that would be hitting theaters soon. This is the original TV spot that aired in 1977.
These are the essential 25 Gen X films that we feel every member of our generation should watch at some point in their lives. The list is made up of films that are about us and not just the biggest hits that came out during our era. That’s why you don’t see a Star Wars, Rocky, or Indiana Jones movie on the list. Tell us what you think about our choices and let us know if you think we missed a film.
Generation X by all accounts lies in between the Baby Boomers and Millennials. What is in question though, is exactly when does Gen X start and when does it stop. Gallop says 1965-1979. The Pew Research Center has it listed as 65-80 while the Harvard Center uses 1965 to 1984. We have even seen the first year listed as early as 1961!
For this site, we will agree with Gallop and start with 1965, but we will end in 1976. In the last few years, a new term called “Xennials” has been used to describe a micro-generation of folks born between the late seventies and early eighties. This group would be the middle ground between Gen X and the Millennials.
For this website, our main focus will be on media related to those whose childhood was mainly in the seventies, those who came of age in the eighties and the young adults in the nineties. We also understand and respect the fact that many folks who are considered Xennial refer to themselves as Gen X. We consider this group to be a sub generation of Gen X, so there will postings designed to reach this audience as well. If they prefer to call themselves Gen X, that is fine with us.
What do you think? Do you agree with the starting point being 1965 or should it go lower? Do you agree that Xennials are the middle ground between X and the Millennials and that there is a difference between the three?
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