Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music

Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music

by Greg Prato


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Grunge Is Dead weaves together the definitive story of the Seattle music scene through a series of interviews with the people who were there. Taking the form of an “oral” history, this books contains over 130 interviews, along with essential background information from acclaimed music writer Greg Prato. The early ’90s grunge movement may have last only a few years, but it spawned some of the greatest rock music of all time: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. This book contains the first-ever interview in which Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was willing to discuss the group’s history in great detail; Alice in Chains’ band members and Layne Staley’s mom on Staley’s drug addiction and death; insights into the Riot Grrrl movement and oft-overlooked but highly influential Seattle bands like Mother Love Bone/Andy Wood, the Melvins, Screaming Trees, and Mudhoney; and much more. Grunge Is Dead digs deeper than the average grunge history, starting in the early '60s, and explaining the chain of events that gave way to the grunge movement. The end result is a book that includes a wealth of previously untold stories and insight for the longtime fan, as well as its renowned story for the newcomer. Grunge Is Dead collects the whole truth of grunge music in one comprehensive volume.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781550228779
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 04/01/2009
Pages: 478
Sales rank: 584,966
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Prato is a writer who contributes regularly to All Music Guide,, and Classic Rock magazine. He lives in Wantagh, New York.

Read an Excerpt

As my high school days were drawing to a close, there was certainly something bubbling in the hard rock world. Bands like Faith No More, Jane’s Addiction, Living Colour, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were showing that not all rock bands had to sing about “fast cars and fast women” or dress like goofball spandex cowboys. Having only attended strictly big arena rock shows up to this point, I didn’t know quite what to expect when I agreed to attend a show on Saturday, March 17, 1990, at a club called L’Amour in Brooklyn, New York. The two main reasons I purchased a ticket for this three–band bill were to see the aforementioned Faith No More, as well as sci–fi metal headliners Voivod. After FNM’s fantastic set, the next band, which I was least familiar with, came onstage.

The singer didn’t wait long — upon the first notes of the opening number, he was climbing over the crowd on pipes attached to the ceiling (if my memory serves me correctly — already shirtless, and wearing shorts that were completely covered in silver electrical tape), before dropping himself into the sea of “moshers” below. The guitarist looked like something out of Cheech and Chong, with a full–on beard, and his eyes seemingly constantly closed — as if he were reaching a state of nirvana playing monstrous Sabbathy riffs. The bassist’s large mop of curly hair bobbed in time to the music, while the drummer bashed out some impressively complex yet primal beats. This, my friends, was my introduction to the mighty Soundgarden.

Needless to say, soon after, I was a major convert, buying just about every Soundgarden recording that I could get my hands on, and reading all the interviews on the band that I could gather. And in most of the articles, it was mentioned that there were other similarly styled bands from Soundgarden’s hometown — Seattle — that were on their way up the ladder as well. Over the next year or so, it appeared as though each month, there was a new band from the Seattle area to discover — Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains, Tad, Temple of the Dog, Mudhoney, the Melvins, the Screaming Trees, etc. And of course, when Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit, the rock world had thankfully shifted towards music that was both honest and real. And along with it came the word that would forever be associated with the movement: grunge.

While the movement didn’t turn out to be as long lasting as many figured it would, what it packed into a four–year period (1990–1994) was pretty darn extraordinary. How many songs from this period are still being played on the radio? How many of these albums sound as great today as when they first came out, continue to sell, and are still being discovered by younger generations? I rest my case. It may have only lasted a few years, but for a few brief and shining moments, grunge certainly shifted the direction of culture (and even fashion), and brought in an unmistakable feeling of change — just as the ’60s hippie and ’70s punk movements had.

The original idea for doing this book came about when I was doing a Soundgarden article for Classic Rock magazine back in 2004. While interviewing the group’s early producer, Jack Endino, he mentioned that almost every single article being written about grunge bands nowadays were by writers who were not from the Seattle area, yet were giving their “revisionist take” on what happened. Which got me thinking … what if a book was comprised of nothing but quotes from the actual people that experienced the movement firsthand, tracing it from its very beginning to its end? In other words, letting them tell the entire story as it unfolded (with only chapter intro paragraphs from yours truly). Nearly 130 interviews later, here we are.

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1 — "It was mainly isolation": 1960s–1970s,
CHAPTER 2 — "Seattle was the closest city": Transplants,
Early–Mid '80s,
CHAPTER 3 — "It was so easy to freak people out in those days": Early–Mid '80s,
CHAPTER 4 — "'79 through '84 was hopping": Power Pop, New Wave, Heavy Metal,
CHAPTER 5 — "A floodgate of creativity in the Northwest": Blackouts, Fastbacks, U-Men Mr. Epp and the Calculations, Duff McKagan,
CHAPTER 6 — "Church was really in session": Venues, The Rocket, Record Stores, Radio,
CHAPTER 7 — "The punk rock David Lee Roth": Malfunkshun,
CHAPTER 8 — "Godzilla knocking over buildings": The Shemps, Soundgarden,
CHAPTER 9 — "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should": The Melvins, Green River, Screaming Trees,
CHAPTER 10 — "The next logical step is to start a label": K Records, Sub Pop Records, C/Z Records,
Mid–Late '80s,
CHAPTER 11 — "If we can just keep it a secret": Mid–Late '80s,
CHAPTER 12 — "How do three guys sound like nine?": Nirvana,
CHAPTER 13 — "The sloppiness was essential": The Thrown Ups, Mudhoney,
CHAPTER 14 — "GET OUT OF THE WAY!": The Melvins, Screaming Trees, Skin Yard, Tad,
CHAPTER 15 — "Dark, black, and blue": Soundgarden, Alice in Chains,
CHAPTER 16 — "He's going to be one of the biggest rock stars in the world — no question": Mother Love Bone and Andy Wood's Death,
CHAPTER 17 — "OK, this thing is going to happen": 1990–1991,
CHAPTER 18 — "If you can sell 40,000, they'll let you make another one": Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog,
CHAPTER 19 — "A 'testosterone period'": Alice in Chains, Soundgarden,
CHAPTER 20 — "You guys will be bigger than Hüsker Dü": Nirvana and Nevermind,
CHAPTER 21 — "That they didn't reach a broader audience baffles me": Mudhoney, Tad, Screaming Trees, Truly, Melvins, Jesse Bernstein,
CHAPTER 22 — "Rebelling against the predominant macho grunge scene at the time": Riot Grrrl,
CHAPTER 23 — "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it": 1992–1993,
CHAPTER 24 — "It was on the radio, people were talking about them, people had shirts on and their posters up": Pearl Jam,
CHAPTER 25 — "Things change, and things change quickly": Soundgarden, Alice in Chains,
CHAPTER 26 — "We might as well start talking to majors": Mudhoney, Tad, Skin Yard, Screaming Trees, Melvins, Brad,
CHAPTER 27 — "If you were there, you were part of it": Riot Grrrl,
CHAPTER 28 — "Everything is not OK anymore": Nirvana,
1994 and Beyond,
CHAPTER 29 — "It felt like the world had gone seriously wrong": Kurt Cobain's Death and 1994,
CHAPTER 30 — "Where I go, you go": Kurt Remembered,
CHAPTER 31 — "The demise of the entire scene": Drugs,
CHAPTER 32 — "Preparing for the worst": Alice in Chains and Layne Staley's Death,
CHAPTER 33 — "The final magic": Soundgarden's Breakup,
CHAPTER 34 — "There was definitely a big Seattle backlash": Mudhoney, Tad, Screaming Trees, Melvins, Truly,
CHAPTER 35 — "Standing up for something they believed in": Pearl Jam,
CHAPTER 36 — "Finally — new growth": Post-Grunge,
CHAPTER 37 — "Maybe I'm a geezer": How Will Grunge Be Remembered?,
Cast of Characters,

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Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
EdVonBlue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There was a chapter at the end of the book that asked people how Grunge will be remembered. Some folks said it changed music, it changed the industry, etc. Maybe. The only thing that I can see that it did was it helped the corporate powers-that-be to have another pigeonhole which to exploit. Musically, as Jack Endino said, Grunge was basically 70s hard rock with a bit of punk attitude. And personally I agree. I dont feel that there is anything special about the Seattle scene or Grunge when compared to other scenes or movements in late 20th century western civilization. I don't see where Grunge accomplished anything meaningful. Still, I enjoy a regular share of the music, and I dress--even 20 years later--basically in a Grunge style, a style I have been dressing in basically since I was first able to pick my own clothes--probablly around 9 years old.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was aqesome i loved it
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Prato has great organizational skills, the year order and the cast of characters- very outstanding talented characters. I was impressed by his kind dedication to the Washington based musicians, who are no longer with us, was a good start. Greg has quite a way with words and I truly enjoyed reading his book. My husband and I went to Easy Street Records Cafe in Seattle, Washington on Sat., April 25. 2009, for the author appearance and he signed our book!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago