Chicago Music History – 80’s and 90’s Rock

The 80’s in Chicago came with a lot of monumental moments as well unfortunate losses for the city but the music vibe never slowed down. While Spider Dan was climbing the Sears Tower in ‘81 and Michael Jordan was being signed to the Bulls in ‘84, the music scene had never been better, especially for rock n’ roll.

In 1980, punk rock band Naked Raygun hit their stride in Chicago releasing four albums during the next decade including Throb Throb LP, Jettison and Understand?. Although initially formed by Marko Pezzati and Santiago Durango, the members of the group changed frequently, but their popularity never swayed. They released multiple singles as well as an EP titled, Basement Screams. The band is still together today, performing for its Chicago fans at Riot Fest in 2006 and opening for the Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field in 2015.

In the late 80’s, the Smashing Pumpkins formed not knowing that they would go on to be three time Grammy winners. Billy Corgan left Florida after splitting with his previous band, The Marked. James Iha, future guitarist for the Smashing Pumpkins, wrote songs with Corgan and performed for the first time in a bar called Chicago 21.

Jimmy Chamberlin and D’arcy Wretzky were added months later to officially perform the Smashing Pumpkins. Their first performance was in Chicago’s own music venue, Metro. After signing with a Chicago Record Label, Limited Potential Records in 1990, their popularity only increased from there.

Amidst, some drama with band members, the band still managed to release multiple singles and albums in the 90’s. The band collected three Grammys in the 90’s, Best Rock Performance for songs, “Cherub Rock”, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “The End is the Beginning is the End”. Albums released include “Gish” , “Siamese Dream” and “Adore”. The band is still around today and returned to Chicago this past August, selling out a two night performance at the United Center.

John Stirratt and Jeff Tweedy have stayed with the band, Wilco since 1994. The band made a big impact in Chicago’s alternative rock music scene even though some band members came and went. They made their debut after originally departing from country group Uncle Tupelo. They went on to release popular singles such as California Stars and Outtasite (Outta Mind).

In the 80’s and 90’s, not only was rock big, but another genre was taking over in Chicago, specifically in the south side. Next time, we talk about artists like MF Boyz and Twista, and the rise of hip hop on the South Side that slowly great throughout all of Chicago. We’ll also touch on Chicago natives Chance the Rapper and Common, and where they got their start.

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