Music

Here are the most ’90s moments from the ‘Recovery’ box set

The recent release of the Recovery 20th Anniversary DVD/CD reminded us that it’s been two whole decades since the show first aired. It just didn’t seem that long ago that we were waking up at an ungodly hour to watch our favourite local and international bands tear up the ABC set.

However watching the DVD, the passing of time is made very apparent. The kids in the studio audience watch attentively as the bands play, with no screens to distract them, no cameras to take photos with. They’re wearing Zero t-shirts, or cargo pants, or are toting a Gerling backpack—the coolest kid has all three items. Between segments, claymation clips are shown, the type that make Gumby look sophisticated.

What a time capsule it is. Here are the most ’90s moments on the Recovery box set.


Jabiluka mine protests

One of Australia’s biggest environmental issues in the ’90s was the mining of uranium at Jabiluka in Kakadu National Park. Built on the land of Mirarr Aboriginal people, Jabiluka’s mine was met with fierce protest and a blockade where 500 people were arrested. Amongst those opposed to the mines were many a musician, who took their Recovery appearance as a chance to educate the kids. Regurgitator wore ‘Stop Jabiluka – Stop Uranium Mining’ t-shirts during their spot, and Midnight Oil went even further (as expected).

The band played their rendition of the national anthem, while suited up in red, Peter Garrett beckoned kids on stage to graffiti the set’s white backdrop with protest slogans. He then flung kids from the audience onto the stage to join in on his unique form of frenzied dance to show that you can cut loose despite impending environmental doom. The good news is that Jabiluka’s mine didn’t end up going ahead, proving that people power and frenzied dance can actually enact change.


The Mavis’s

Despite forming in the ’80s, The Mavis’s oozed ’90s. The colourful band was fronted by brother and sister duo Matt and Beki Thomas. He had spiky gelled hair, she had bright hair clips; both had high-pitched voices, platform shoes and chokers. Special effects, possibly cutting edge by the ABC’s standards in 1998, were added to the band’s rendition of ‘Cry’, making them seem more cartoonish than ever.


Eskimo Joe

Eskimo Joe could never wear that sweater, for Weezer wore it first.


Cargo pants. Lots of cargo pants

Technically cargo pants have been around since the 1930s, but it was in the ’90s that this functional fashion item started popping up all around the place. A staple of the Recovery set, the multi-pocketed pants and shorts (as shown on all the members of Jebediah at once) proved that even rock stars needed the support that cargos have to offer.


Zero tees

Speaking of fashion, a must-have wardrobe item for every 90s disaffected youth was a Zero tee. You couldn’t go to a Big Day Out without seeing at least one, and the same applies to a Recovery episode. A scan of the crowd sees the garment (in short-sleeved, long-sleeved and hoodie varieties) as a constant on the show. It was there dancing on stage with Midnight Oil, making eyes at dreamy Dave McCormack, being trampled on by Jon Spencer during his chaotic crowd invasion. If only the Pumpkins had appeared on Recovery…


Gerling backpacks

Not content with simply keeping their items in cargo pockets like their peers, electronica/indie trio Gerling instead sported backpacks while they played. Gerling branded backpacks became official merchandise and even featured in a Festival Records exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in 2001.


J Mascis

It’s strange to be reminded of a time when Dinosaur Jr frontman J Mascis had pigment in his long locks—much like remembering that Billy Corgan once had hair. In 1997 Dinosaur Jr toured Australia with their album ‘Hand It Over’, with a lineup leaving Mascis as the sole original member of the band (before the successful reunion with Lou Barlow and Murph in 2005). Fittingly he appeared on Recovery alone, adorning a black hat over his brown strands as he played a couple of songs including ‘Sure Not Over You’. Could that be about J’s rumoured ex, Pulp Fiction’s Uma Thurman? How ’90s would that be?

Recovery 20th Anniversary CD/DVD Box Set is out now through Universal/ABC.