Tag Archives: Seattle

Everybody Loves Our Town

mark yarm

I’m a 90s child, or better said a 90s teenager. It’s impossible that someone who is acquainted with me has any doubt about it. Not that I got stuck in this decade, but in many ways it was the most defining in terms of music and personality. 2000 could be acknowledged as the settlement time, of what I started experiencing and discovering in the nineties.

This been said, you should also know by now, I’m deep into 90’s music. Not all the genres, that’s for sure, as it’s impossible, at least for me, to cover all the styles, and also because there was lots of crap too. I never dug into industrial music, although I’m currently interested in NIN, and enjoyed Marilyn Manson lots, but Fear Factory and other currents never caught my interest, same as nu metal and those guys in Adidas trackies. Never cared about The Deftones or Korn, and BritPop was something I was punished to listen to with when I was working at the laundry factory in Essex, so even though I enjoy listening to Suede nowadays, I wasn’t a diehard fan of Pulp, Oasis or Blur.

Anyway, I don’t think at this point I have to justify and give explanations on why I don’t have any CDs of this or that band. You just can’t cope with everything if you have a “normal” life.

What I do reckon is that grunge, I prefer to call it Seattle sound even though isn’t still very accurate, crossed my life when I was 14-15, and hundreds of stories of bands immediately were part of my life. Thus, when I heard of Mark Yarm’s Seattle oral history was available, I knew I had to read it as soon as I had the chance. Thanks Mr Benavides for discovering this treasure to me.

This book is a compilation of interviews the author made to around 200 people: musicians, producers, sound engineers, managers, record companies A&Rs… basically people who had been involved with the several bands which propelled the ignored Northwest area of the States, and Seattle in particular, to be a huge worldwide attraction, thanks to the scene created  throughout the years, since the early 80s to late 90s. It’d be a huge mistake if only the most prominent bands, you know, Nirvana, Pearl Jam Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, would have been covered, but luckily all the different bands previous to those, and many other such as Melvins, Mudhoney, TAD, 7-Year Bitch or even Candlebox, are also included.

Seattle scene

Many stories, different confronted opinions, and people’s feelings are reflected, respecting a very well structured timeline, showing a family tree whose branches extend to many bands with different projection and fate. Of course, there are certain key figures which are never to be forgotten, which are pillars, or even breaking points at certain times, to situations and changes of events, such as the deaths of Andrew Wood, Mia Zapata, Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley. Addictions and substance abuse are too present, excess and delusions of grandeur can be found in many stories, ambition, friendship, hard work, love, disasters and drama, and most of all talent, are part of this big cocktail, and lots of stories, I used to listen thanks to overseas magazines and the damned MTV, are now told in first person.

For all these reasons and more, Everybody Loves Our Town, immediately has become a must read for all the music lovers, and those who used to wear flannel and Doc Martens, no mattered what their parents or people at their high schools could think of their appearance, trying to emulate their music heroes, which in the end were human beings.

One last thing, not trying to spoil anything: COURTNEY LOVE is even more asshole than I thought.

ALBUMS OF WEEKS 39 & 40: MOTHER LOVE BONE / TEMPLE OF THE DOG

I’ve been listening to so much varied music, the task of choosing just one album per week becomes a difficult one, incurring into this unacceptable delay. I’m sorry, for sure!

Few weeks ago, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the release of Singles, this Seattle spirit invaded me for a couple of weeks and I started recovering a couple of albums from that time. on one hand the compilation album of songs by Mother Love Bone, , and on the other, this super band created to tribute the memory of Andy Wood, precisely the former leader of Mother Love Bone, who passed away in 1990, of a heroin overdose.

Recovering these albums from my teenage days, when I was turning 36 seems kind of a response to midlife crisis, huh?

To be honest, till I didn’t listen to Temple of the Dog, I didn’t know much about Mother Love Bone. In Pearl Jam’s universe, this band was a referent, and Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard were part of it, same as Green River, thus they were something in the queue of compulsory listening, but not preferential.

If I had to relate this band to a song, I’d say Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns immediately, the song which was included in Singles’ soundtrack. This two-part song, evolved from Crown of Thorns, is simply epic, with a rising and growing structure I had never listened to something similar before. Not many songs have this kind of intensity. Of course, this was the theme which opened the gates to Andrew Wood and Mother Love Bone.

This album, aka Stardog Champion, includes songs from  their EP Shine and their album Apple. Unfortunately here’s not much more stuff available, as the band just lasted for two years, till Wood died from heroin overdose. Apple, their debut album was released after he passed away. The whole story was quite tragic, especially because he was trying to rehab, and he was just 24.

When you listen to Mother Love Bone, you realize there was actually a Seattle scene, and musicians from different bands, were also close friends, sharing their influences and style. This album is typically end of 80’s production and means the birth of a style, after the combination of rock and metal. You listen to Come Bite the Apple and Alice in Chains come to your mind, and Heartshine makes me think of Soundgarden too. Considering Alice in Chains dedicated Facelift to the singer, and Would? was inspired by him and others deceased due to drugs overdose, and Chris Cornell was Wood’s former roommate, it’s easy to find the boundaries.

Despite the quality of the band, formed by remarkable musicians nowadays, the soul of the band was definitely Wood. He had talent, and a voice, and his style was quite unique. I’d say what I like most was that he was elegant and very glam singing. I have no idea of his main influences but I’d bet David Bowie and Marc Bolan would be two of them. This glam combined to metal and rock, made the difference.

Temple of the Dog was the Bible, and it was a very expensive album and hard to find back in the day. I remember those who owned a copy, it was like their most valuable treasure, and we used to admire and envy them.

When we discovered this album, Pearl Jam were already one of the hottest bands in the world and in our lives, but Temple of the Dog was a tribute to Andrew Wood, conceived by Chris Cornell, no less. Thus, he recruited his drummer mate in Soundgarden, Matt Cameron, the former members of Mother Love Bone, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, the lead guitarist Mike McCready, and Eddie Vedder, coming from San Diego for an audition with the ex-MLB, also provided lead and backing vocals. This project was actually responsible for the birth of Pearl Jam.

Hunger Strike, with both Chris Cornell and Vedder on lead vocals, became an anthem for many of us. I think whenever I sing it, I still do it as passionate as 20 years ago. The magic of music I guess…

Apart from this clash of titans, there are amazing songs included in this album, wonderful Say Hello 2 Heaven, written by Cornell for his friend, Call Me a Dog, Times of Trouble and Wooden Jesus are simply brilliant.

The Seattle scene, the grunge scene or whatever you want to label it, could be easily summed up in this album and Singles motion picture soundtrack. A different style, a pessimistic contrast to 1980’s careless attitude of LA hard rock bands, coming from a place where drugs were hitting the youth, and burying many of them, and the voice of a generation unable to fit in society. For some this was a fake attitude, an aesthetic movement, so was punk and still remains, and nowadays probably on a global scale, many who didn’t feel the current society was reflecting them still have the same opinion.

But do not talk about politics, society or frustration, just let the music do the talking

SINGLES, THE PORTRAIT OF A GENERATION

I’ve heard this morning that the 20th anniversary of the release of Cameron Crowe’s film Singles had been early this week. Unbelievable! This is the kind of things which make me realize I’m not a youngster anymore, and at the same time, the awareness of this fact also invades me with nostalgic memories.

I don’t know how much you’re familiarized with this film, catching a moment of emotional mess  in the lives of a group of six friends in their 20s, living in Seattle. It is basically a cakey compilation of love stories, with one of these generational stunning casts, including Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Bill Pullman and Eric Stolz. And the added value of guest appearances which had to do with the current local heroes at that time.

To be honest, not only the plot is quite simple but also the movie is not big deal. It’s nice and entertaining but it’s not overwhelming. However the great achievement by Crowe was to portrait a generation of American youth in that time, affected by a wave of pessimism caused by the Persian Gulf War, which in a way awoke the ghosts from Vietnam.  And more accurately, he approached the grunge movement in Seattle, the epicenter.

 It took quite a long time to release the film in order to find the most suitable marketing strategy. The big bosses were confused about the bait to attract the audience. Love? Seattle? The voice of a generation? Grunge? Singles eventually saw the light in September the 18th 1992. Here in Spain things took even longer time and the film was released the year after in August, worse timing ever as most Spanish people are away on holidays, so it just lasted one week in cinemas and Singles was unnoticed.

Cameron Crowe has a taste for romantic and mild stories, but also, and this is what makes his movies worth watching from my own point of view, the director is a music lover, and the soundtracks are essential in his films. They are awesome.

What happened to the Americans with Singles and its soundtrack, was the same which occurred here. Officially the soundtrack of the film was released about 2-3 months before the film was released. It included songs from the hottest bands in Seattle: Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and Screaming Trees. The first ones released two songs for the film, Breath, and my personal favorite, State of Love and Trust. Chris Cornell also recorded the wonderful Seasons, and the presence of Nancy and Anne Wilson (Heart) as The Lovemongers was also remarkable. This soundtrack was a compilation of the current Seattle scene of the time, and it was the final push to consolidate grunge and turning it into mainstream.

As commented before, Singles was released in Spain in summer 1993 which was a complete disaster. All of my gang, approx 20 boys and girls, were on holidays, and never heard of Singles in town. It took more than half a year to be re-released for just one week again and it was in English with subtitles, something unbelievable in that time, which made the whole experience even more exciting so we could hear “their” voices for real.

Therefore, in early Spring 1994, a gang of 20 went to Eliseos movie theater in our coolest outfits to watch Singles. You can imagine, wool hats, plaid t-shirts, Doc Martens, XL tees with our bands there… it was like attending a live concert. By then we had learnt the soundtrack by heart, thus when we were hearing Nearly Lost You or Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns subtly, we were all singing low. And we were out of control when Eddie Vedder (I was in love with him for many years) and Chris Cornell were appearing. I think we really didn’t pay so much attention to the film because when it was over we thought it was one of the best movies ever, and we were hugging each other as if congratulating for sharing the experience. I kept the film advertisement on the local newspaper for ages. We were 17. We were a bunch of teenagers, genuinely innocent and easily affected, crazy about our most recent discovery and passion: rock, and Singles was the peak of it. And we all were trying to start our bands hahahah

Few years later the gang was missing members day by day, and everybody grew up and moved on.  Most of them are into music, but we’ve separated paths and our tastes are different. We are spread in the world, some are married, some have kids, guys cut their hair, girls left their Martens in their wardrobes… Still in touch with some of them, but in the distance.  Probably I’m closer to what I was back then than the rest of my friends, and it’s funny, because I wasn’t the coolest, nor the toughest, not the most badass in the gang. The truth is that I’m still devoted to rock and music, even more committed than I was as a teenager.

Anyway, at the end of the day what Singles really means to me is the tangible summary of the most intense period in my life, when I started being myself, growing up, taking decisions, getting acquainted with many things, experiences… Singles is the witness of my lifetime choice. Positive, one of the best times in my life.

(*) Johanssen, Vane and Lorenza, hope you read this. I love you!

ALBUM OF WEEK 38 – SWEET OBLIVION

Dark days, black nights, same old story. I was so fucked up and pissed off last year, I didn’t remember I usually pass through down days in September.

Not sure what’s the reason for feeling not blue, but estranged. This year weather is still warm and don’t have a strong feeling of Fall coming, although I feel like a bit of introspection and chilling out, and it’s time to start making some decisions on what to do the coming months, because I’ve been self-indulging the whole year and now I’m seriously broke… with plans ahead though (which of course imply dough).

Also my birthday is coming, and depite I enjoy getting older and celebrating, most likely deep inside I feel weird.

Anyway, my latest listenings reflect my inner situation more than expected, and here is another example.

Play the CD, and the first song is Shadow of the Season, repeating In the Shadow of the Season, To Find a Reason to Carry On. Such a declaration of principles to start the album, which somehow I currently feel identified with.

Sweet Oblivion has many things, but it’s mainly sour, yet an amazing album. Marked by Lanegan’s deep sad voice, almost singing in despair and slovenliness, I always think of him as a poor soul who’s managed to find inspiration from his inner demons.

Nearly Lost You is probably the most popular song of theirs, for being part of Singles motion picture soundtrack, but I reckon all songs are amazing. More or Less, Troubled Times, The Secret King… your choice. You know when you listen to an album and can’t find a song for filling purposes? For one reason or another, all of them are special, and that’s the greatness of this album

Some months ago I commented on Dust. I really thought it was my favorite album. I’m not so sure about it, and Uncle Anesthesia is on its way to my Hellhouse.

What can I say? I discovered Screaming Trees in a proper way very late. Not the most popular, I’d say, personally speaking, of course, that my usual Seattle top 3 bands, formed by Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, is to become a top 4, by adding these guys. Who knows, in a couple of years I might have a sacred top 5 if I get to focus on any others.

Aaah! Nostalgia is being present lately, the 90’s was the decade that marked my life undoubtfully, and feel really proud of having been able to be with my ears wide open to the music wonders of that time.