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Thirty years ago today, one of the most influential albums of my life was released. That would be Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine

You need to understand that by 1989, a vast majority of what I'd listened to in my life was rock, metal, classic rock, and hair bands. Sure, I did deviate from that small range of music to listen to some electronic and synth pop, but it was limited. I didn't know what to listen to because I didn't have the World Wide Web to guide me through my musical education. I had friends and they all listened to -- you guessed it -- rock, metal, classic rock, and hair bands.

But there was one friend, Jeff, who tried to be a little different and I think that's why we got along so well. He was the buddy who was a geek with me. We loved Star Wars and other science fiction and fantasy movies. We built, raced, and modded remote control trucks. We went to movies. We lived in hobby shops. We read comics. We traded sports cards. We did it all.

So, of course I trusted him when he showed me this cassette with an odd blue and pink patterned cover and said that I had to listen to it, yanno, pretty much in the same way that Natalie Portman introduces Zack Braff to The Shins, with the line, "It will change your life." And it did. In so many ways. Trent Reznor's hardcore industrial electronic sound was unlike anything I'd heard before and set the bar for anything I'd try to listen to from that point forward. 


In the 30 ensuing years, I've owned multiple copies of this album on cassette and CD. I've dubbed copies on cassette and minidisc. I've burned copies on CD. I've included songs on all kinds of mixtapes and mix CDs and playlists. I downloaded it from Limewire. I bought it from iTunes. I've favorited it on Spotify. It has never gotten old or boring or inconsequential. 

It has just always been there. And I firmly believe it always will be. 


I know many people who prefer The Downward Spiral and think that album is Trent and Co's best. Hey, you can believe what you want. Pretty Hate Machine is both the start of his career and, I argue, the peak of it. He's still great now and I love his more recent offerings, but nothing will ever compare to my first NIN.

Happy birthday, Pretty Hate Machine!

Screen Shot 2019-10-20 at 3.34.22 PM

And, yes, I did vote for Nine Inch Nails to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Damn right. And you can, too, via Google.

Read more: The Independent | Spin | Yahoo


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Kevin Spencer

I love this album so much. Lucky enough to see him on this tour in London. Man that seems like a lifetime ago.


You saw him on the PHM tour? How cool! I have yet to see him live. I wonder if his modern tour would still be the same.

Marty Mankins

I liked that you owned this album on Minidisc. 30 years is a great milestone for a great debut album. The story of how PHM was made is great and took Trent into another realm of creating some great music over the years. This album holds up well here.

BTW, awesome that Kevin Spencer saw the band on the PHM tour. Having seen NIN a few times over the years, I can attest that it's one of the best concert experiences.


To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t a retail copy of PHM on MD. I do t think that was ever released. I dubbed it down from CD to MD.

Marty Mankins

Gotcha. I still have a lot of retail MDs so wasn't sure if you had an original or dubbed (which I dubbed a lot to MD as well).


Do you still have a working player? I’ve debated getting one but the cost of MDs is much more prohibitive than cassettes (better than vinyl, though). I also got rid of all my dubs but kept my three factory copies. I had some great mixes, too, dammit.

Marty Mankins

I do still have a player. It's a portable one that takes AA batteries. I used to have a MD deck that was part of my stereo system years ago. I still have all of the retail MDs as well as all of my dubbed MDs. I need to put together a blog post for what I have MD. I loved that format.


I always wanted an MD component for my stereo. Alas, I only had the portable. It was a fantastic format. Wish I had stuck with it long enough to try the MP3 compression MDs. A lot of promise there.

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