A few years before the Grunge Era began, music was in a state of ” at least music was good before”. Then the “Seattle Sound” started turning heads with bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but lets take a look back a few years before. Grunge’s roots can be traced to punk. You can say The Ramones or Black Flag, or from 1986’s Deep Six Compilation album. The record featured multiple tracks by six bands: Green River, Soundgarden, Melvins, Malfunkshun, Skin Yard, and The U-Men.
Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Screaming Trees signed to major labels in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s to moderate success. Then came Nirvana.
The first mainstream successful “Grunge Era” band. Their first album “Nevermind” became a monster commercial success with songs such as “Smell Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are”. They were riding the wave of stardom and brought along Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and new groups like Pearl Jam and California’s Stone Temple Pilots.
Nirvana never really faded out. Lead singer Kurt Cobain died in 1994, causing a major loss to the music industry and a hole in the soul of grunge. Out of the darkness of his death came shining light Pearl Jam.
Pearl Jam still continues to make wonderful music that transcends grunge. Twenty years after that era died, Eddie Vedder and company remain the only remnants of that time.
We honor some of the important bands that were pioneers of the grunge era and how they helped make it famous, if only for a little while.
Not the first band to come from the grunge era, but certainly the most important. When you talked of Seattle music, you spoke of Kurt Cobain. When you spoke of Kurt Cobain, you spoke of Nirvana. His screams pushed through the heavy, murky sound and made you listen. He screamed because he was tired like you, he smiled because you smiled, he was the John Lennon of the time. The leader of the wayward and the hopeless. It feels better when you walk hand in hand with someone going through the same things. His celebrity made no difference, he was one of us and you knew it. When he died, we all took a look around and felt alone. Powerful.
From the ashes of Green River and Mother Love Bone came Pearl Jam. They were what many consider second in command. Some thought that Pearl Jam were too “poppy” and slick, but there was no denying these guys stood up for the Seattle scene. Pearl Jam were more available than Nirvana. Willing to do more interviews and television shows, they were shown as the group that were more popular than Nirvana. Kurt Cobain said some negative words about Eddie Vedder and his crew, but later said it was the media pushing for a fight between the two. They actually pushed aside their differences and reconciled before Cobain’s death. Eddie Vedder was truly devastated about the loss of his friend and when he is asked about it, you can still see the loss in his eyes.
Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains was a strong force in grunge. Sometimes it seems that they were more metal than grunge, but were lumped in with Nirvana and the rest. They didn’t care. Lead singer Layne Staley was a tortured soul like Cobain and Jerry Cantrell was Staley’s Krist Novocelic. With slamming “Man in the Box”, haunting “Rooster” and hopeless “Down in a Hole”, Alice in Chains Layne Staley wrote about what he knew best, Drugs. Staley finally fell to his addiction in 2002. AIC has continued on with a new singer, but nothing will touch what they had with Layne.
There were other bands in the grunge era that made it all happen too. Mudhoney’s “Nearly Lost You” was frequently played on Mtv, Soundgarden had tons of hits, “Black Hole Sun”, “Rusty Cage”, “Spoonman”, and “Burden in My Hand” were big radio and video hits. Soundgarden were the first band to actually break through into the mainstream as they were featured on Headbangers Ball.