I was never a Soundgarden fan. I never saw them play. From the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, I saw a bunch of Seattle bands play, but never them. I remember I was in Madison, WI, when their record, Louder than Love was released, there was this huge display in the record store. I knew who they were, but didn’t know them well. I bought the CD, and it’s never made the rotation in my household.
As a matter of fact, grunge was a genre that rarely transferred to recorded media. Those bands were incredible live. How many people have heard of Cat Butt? One of the single most enjoyable shows I’ve ever seen – at The Vogue – I still remember; loud psychedelic guitars, and a badass singer; drums prevented any voids in the wall of sound. Their record sucks. One exception was Nirvana; I’ve never felt so much energy in a room as when Nirvana played. Physically daunting; unbridled joy, noise, and sweat. And their records are good, too.
Celebrity death is always weird, with the clueless media providing empty words and hallow emotions. What really bothered me in the wake of Chris Cornell’s death last week was the journalists that kept saying, “Now only Eddie Vedder is left”. What the fuck does that mean? Lots of people from the Grunge Era are still around. Several are still working in music. Mark Arm, godfather of grunge is still in Seattle; funny as ever, still plays, if not as prolific. There were a lot of good and great bands in Seattle at the time, not all grunge, and they all deserve their day. Because during and within an era, the importance is the community, not the few that break out to million$. I mean, great for the few! But, it took a community to grow them, as a flower sits atop stems and leaves and roots you’ll never see.
I wanted to share some of those guys, just because the clueless journalists pissed me off. And because some of the unknown music is really really good.
Because what Seattle’s scene was really about was a bunch of people playing and a bunch of people listening, and everyone having a fucking great time. Some folks reached stardom, fame and fortune: Kurdt Kobain, Chris Cornell, good for you guys! Big deal. The greatness was the everyday blokes that just played – Kurt Block, John Massoni, Roderick Romero, Scott McCaughey.
There was this band, Freak Scene. My friend, Kerri Ann figured out the lyrics (I’m aurally challenged).
Mother’s a test tube
Father’s a creep
Freak, freak, freak of nature
I am a freak, freak of nature
I’ve never forgotten that.
So, that’s your history lesson for the day. Seattle’s grunge scene was much much more than the outer world will ever understand.
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Photo credit, of course, is the great Charles Peterson.