Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jammin' with the Worm

By Robert Nelson

Be sure to catch Wednesdays
with Woody, a midweek snack
served only at the Sanctuary.
This past weekend Dennis Rodman was deservedly inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Everyone knows Rodman, the gregarious, tattooed freak who married Carmen Electra and, most notably, himself (the most hideous bride ever). Fewer, fans of the game like me, know “The Worm,” the mercurial rebounding machine for the championship Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. Far fewer know Dennis, whose heartfelt, albeit awkward, speech at the HOF ceremony was as touching as it was confounding. But the sentiment wasn’t lost on everyone. Not on me and probably not the guys from Pearl Jam.

In 1991, Worm was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in a row, and on August 27, Pearl Jam released their first album, Ten, and became the most commercially viable artists of the Grunge Era, often cited as the last great era in popular music (sorry, Latin Invasion fans). But from the early to mid-90s, it was a veritable smorgasbord of important music across genres. Metalheads got new Guns N’ Roses & Metallica in 1991. Grunge had Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and, of course, Pearl Jam. Rap came into its own with Tupac, B.I.G., and Snoop. Punk Rock gave us Green Day, and Funk Rock gave us the Red Hot Chili Peppers. To steal a phrase from Charlie Sheen, we were all “Winning.”

In 1996, the Bulls went 72-10, still the best single-season record in NBA history, and won their sixth championship. On August 27, Pearl Jam released No Code, though the band hardly toured to support it, spiteful of Ticketmaster. Around this time, the band befriended Dennis, who often cited their significance to him publicly. On stage at a rare show in September, Eddie Vedder gave Dennis a piggyback ride. That same month, Tupac was shot and killed, and in 1997, Worm played his last meaningful games as a Bull. Soundgarden broke up, and the Backstreet Boys debuted in America.

This September, Pearl Jam will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert in East Troy, Wisconsin. I might go, at least for the sake of nostalgia. There was never such a robust, eclectic selection for music lovers. Since then, borrowing from The Worm, you might say music is still on the rebound.

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