I was thinking yesterday about how much I miss MTV’s Unplugged. This show was a REALLY BIG DEAL when I was in high school, and it absolutely influenced my musical tastes and direction as I grew older. My nostalgia made me pine for acoustic versions of current hits, sung with more passion and personality than the album version.

But then I realized that what I really missed were the good Unpluggeds. What we tend to forget is that many of these shows were downright terrible. We gloss over the Roxettes and the Ricky Martins of the canon and just remember the great performances. My personal lowest Unplugged moment? Dashboard Confessional, probably the worst band of all time, and without a doubt the band I would most like to punch in the face if I ever met them (well, him) in person. I could write an entire post about how much I hate Chris Carrabba and his lame band and his lame fans, but I won’t do that right now.

But there were plenty of great moments. We all remember Eric Clapton and Nirvana and REM. Those were the huge ones that really stuck on the cultural dart board, at least in their day. But there were a few performances on this show that completely floored me when I was younger, and they are ones that are probably lost in obscurity to most folks. I’ll link a couple and then post one video here (I didn’t want to post all of these, that would have been way too many videos).

First, this was easily my favorite version of Plush, and it’s pretty much the last time we ever saw Scott Weiland looking coherent and sounding great. Other great things about this video:

  1. Scott’s sitting in a giant rocking chair
  2. You can easily understand all of the lyrics here, and they still don’t make any sense. “And I feel when the dogs begin to smell her, will she smell alone?” Ahh, heroin.

Next, a more obscure band, Midnight Oil. I’d never heard of them when I first saw this Unplugged, but I loved the whole show, especially Beds Are Burning. This is apparently a politically motivated song about Australian politics, but who really cares? It’s just a cool song.

Finally, my favorite Unplugged performance of all time. When I was a junior in high school, I saw this Melissa Etheridge Unplugged. The whole show is great, it’s just her and her guitar and a microphone for the entire set (truly unplugged, if you ask me). But the real gem is below, when she has Bruce Springsteen come out and perform Thunder Road with her. At the time, I’d never heard this song, and this performance made me a Bruce fan for life. It also may have been single-handedly responsible for every song I ever wrote (since they were all either about being in love or getting out of a small town, both of which are covered extensively in this song). I still think it’s the best performance I’ve ever heard of this song, and if you knew how big a Bruce fan I was, you’d know that’s a pretty big statement.

That’s the pinnacle of small town angst songs. It will never be done better.