86' was a great year, it marked the beginning of great things to come. The first ever compilation to feature grunge made it's way. Deep Six brought us a sex(six)fector to the mix with Green River, Malfunkshun, Melvins, Skin Yard, Soundgraden, and U-Men. Later that same year another slam into the alternative world was released with Sub Pop's "Subpop 100" as well as a few contibutions from Olympia's K radio station. Grunge had begun...
The had just fallen down and Dave(hasselhoff) with his electric tie is up singing to what looks like million making an @$$ of himself. Who cares because down the street Berlin has a special moment and your on your way to experience it. Nirvana and Tad are playing infront of at most twenty people givng you all they got. After the show you leave satisfied having seen quite a performance. Though something crosses your mind, you seem to notice some similarities and styles of bands before them...That's because Grunge had been deeply inspired by Hardcore Punk, in some cases Heavt Metal, and of course popular music(pop). Kurt Cobain(Nirvana) had in fact admitted to leaning towards a more pop direction with "Teen Spirit." Though grunge's roots had served them all well and gave us Seattle's sound and a boom of entertainment for nearly a decade(depending on who you talk to).
Popping in your favorite alternative band to listen to is a great moment in life. From song one all the way to the end, leaving you with so many emotions to deal with. How do they do that, is the impression one could be left with. Many characteristics you'll find in a typical grunge band are your fuzz drenched, distortion soaked, ear shattering feed back from the guitars. Band synchronization delivers much slower tempos and unstable harmonies, putting you at ease after being in fear of another 80's ballad. But of course! How can you leave out the poets and speakers of "Generation X." Lyrics spelled out grunge in a very distinct way often being dark and/or funny; challenging their sanity in disgust, or the occasional dieing of laughter...Mexican Seafood anyone? Kurt Cobain desperatley called out in apathy! Layne Staley wanted to see it once his way and made a big mistake. Eddie Vedder apparently bit the recess ladies breat while feeling alive. And of course Chris Cornell busting out of that damn rusty cage. Infamy or not they left a mark, and gave us amazing songs to shout back.
89' happened to be a great year for the race to a major label, and bring this new sound out into the open. Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Screaming Trees led the way as the first to be signed. I get arguments that Alice In Chains were never grunge and a disgrace to call them that, only using that cameo as a way to continue being a mainstream success. Regaurdless if they're Metal or Grunge, they paved the way in influencing and entertaining like no other. After the trifectors' of 89' two of the biggest icons of alternative were signed just a year later. In 91' Nirvana released "Nevermind" and it exploded off the shelves with eager fans to race home and blare Smells Like Teen Spirit for hours. It was so popular that it knocked Michael Jackson of the Billboard 200. Pearl Jam around that time gave us all a truely remarkable album "Ten," which was a big hit with songs such as Alive and Jeremey. Though they couldn't quite match to their competitors in the run, they soon blew right past em' with the release of "Vs" which demolished Nirvana's In Utero with no mercy. It was reported in the first week or two In utero only sold around 400k, while Pearl Jam's Vs took the majority with a staggering 950k. America now officially took notice and began to flock Seattle in efforts to cash in, creating a coorperate nightmare of the locals.
Now it'd be rude to say that it was all Seattle's fault or glory for alternative music to be so popular. In fact there were many outsiders ranging from the midwest and as far as the east coast. No one will forget the impact from Sonic Youth, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, and Stone Temple Plagarists...Pilots, excuse me. R.E.M truely had us convinced that it was the end of the world in Georgia.
It would also be rude of me to view this a male dominant genre, and leave the ladies completely out of the picture. While we were hogging up all the grunge the women decided to take the reigns as well. Giving us the Riot Grrrl movement and their protest against male authority. Feministic views poured out and they wanted rights, just they already had them, but it was quite entertaining. The band Hole led her fellow comrades against the evil cheuvanistic (pardon my spelling) cooperate pigs. As well as L7 pretending their dead, Bikini Kill, Babes In Toyland, and 7 Year Bitch. They made grunge sexy and added spice to the scene.
Alternative had now made a name for itself and those were some days when looking homeless became a statement. Going as far as going weeks without a shower, or a bath if your from Olympia. It was kind of outrageous going to GAP seeing a pair of of $80 ripped jeans on the rack, or Old Navy having a $50 special on flannel shirts. C'mon it's the Northwest, I've lived in Seattle myself for quite sometime it can get pretty cold, who would have thought being cold could be a trend. By far the most iconic fashion apparel was Subpop's infamous "Loser" t-shirt. These were a badge of honor and a privelage to own one.
With grunges unique sound, and outrageously priced clothing came the lingering aroama of the 80's. Love it or hate it without the leather pants, high heels, huge hair, stripper glitter, and pink guitars, alternative music wold have one less reason to exist. Glam was destroyed for good, even Motley Crue in 94' looked as if they were living put on the streets. This genre was dead and all the rest of the sub-genres roaming without a casue. After the signs of Grunge becoming big 80's acts packed up and left LA and headed north. You've got to eat somehow; what better eay than to change your name from Cinderella, and sell out once more. During this time it was cited from a lot of the local bands that things just weren't right anymore, enough said.
Yes of course I have to go a little off topic and mention Metal, it's only fair, plus Chris Cornell has stated that Metal was a driving force to Soundgarden as an influence. Metal was definately not dead in the 90's and nor will it be twenty, thirty years from now. Some of our most popular bands then led the struggled and gave hope to metalheads out there. I don't like to mention the Black Album all too much but Metallica's 1990 release blew people away with Enter Sandman, Sad But True, ext... Of course Guns N' Roses who set records in 92' with their longest and most successful tour, and the hits from wide selling Use You Illusion I&II. And last but not least the intorduction of newer acts that set boundaries like none other before such as KoRn's self titled debut, along with Machine Head's "Burn My Eyes" release. It showed that Metal was still strong after a low blow from grunge. Which ironically played a part in Alternative's downfall.
Scenes come and go and it sucks to see your favorite bands fade away. A downfall is inevitable in some cases, but we adapt. Things were getting heavier both musically and lyrically as time progressed and grung was weeded out soon after, unable to keep up wit hthese progressions. After the down-ward spiral Major labels and critics gave one last hopeless attempt with a something called "post gunge." These acts instead were commercially polished and radio friendly, no where near as entertaining to the audience as the warriors before them. The youth began finding more appealing groups in the Rap/Hip Hop as they showed a more agressive approach. Bands such as Rage Against the Machine and Faith No More used rap to their advantages being one of the first to incorperate that with Metal, Nu-Metal as they soon were to call it in a 95' interview with Coal Chamber. More bands were to follow like Likin Park, early Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock. Peal Jam ended up in a fued with Ticket Master putting their career on hold, boycotting the company and anyone accosiated with them making it difficult to tour, cancelling their whole summers worth of dates. During that time a new wave of Brit Pop came to America which proved to be troublesome to grunge. Blur frontman openly stated his uninterest with Alternative bands. While Oasis displayed redicule towards what these people stood for. One of the big reasons grunge had a falling was band break-ups. Nirvana as well as fans who loved them dearly lost Kurt Cobain to Suicide/Murder (which ever one you personally believe) in 94'. Alice In Chains left in 96' and later lost Layne Staley to an OD in 2002. Finally Soundgarden and Screaming Trees both said good-bye in 95' with their final studio albums. The rest is history.
We lived, lost, and loved, but in the end it was truely a ride worth taking and an amazing era that will remain to all forever.
P.S If I forgot any bands worth mentioning I apologize, there are so many and it proved difficult to incorperate every single one in here without creating a long tasteless list that would prove both useless and offensive. Each and every group were important and talented and brought us something special that no others could describe.