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Twenty years after the release of Nirvana’s landmark album Nevermind comes Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, the definitive word on the grunge era, straight from the mouths of those at the center of it all.
In 1986, fledgling Seattle label C/Z Records released Deep Six, a compilation featuring a half-dozen local bands: Soundgarden, Green River, Melvins, Malfunkshun, the U-Men and Skin Yard. Though it sold miserably, the record made music history by documenting a burgeoning regional sound, the raw fusion of heavy metal and punk rock that we now know as grunge. But it wasn’t until five years later, with the seemingly overnight success of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” that grunge became a household word and Seattle ground zero for the nineties alternative-rock explosion.
Everybody Loves Our Town captures the grunge era in the words of the musicians, producers, managers, record executives, video directors, photographers, journalists, publicists, club owners, roadies, scenesters and hangers-on who lived through it. The book tells the whole story: from the founding of the Deep Six bands to the worldwide success of grunge’s big four (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains); from the rise of Seattle’s cash-poor, hype-rich indie label Sub Pop to the major-label feeding frenzy that overtook the Pacific Northwest; from the simple joys of making noise at basement parties and tiny rock clubs to the tragic, lonely deaths of superstars Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley.
Drawn from more than 250 new interviews—with members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees, Hole, Melvins, Mudhoney, Green River, Mother Love Bone, Temple of the Dog, Mad Season, L7, Babes in Toyland, 7 Year Bitch, TAD, the U-Men, Candlebox and many more—and featuring previously untold stories and never-before-published photographs, Everybody Loves Our Town is at once a moving, funny, lurid, and hugely insightful portrait of an extraordinary musical era.
An Interview with Author Mark Yarm
Q.) Why do you think grunge took off in Seattle as opposed to somewhere else at that time?
A lot of it had to do with geographical isolation. Many people don’t seem to realize that in the ’80s--before the Starbucks/Microsoft/Amazon boom era--Seattle wasn’t the cosmopolitan place it is today. People in the rest of the country pretty much considered it the hinterlands; a couple interviewees told me that back in the day, people who weren’t familiar with Seattle would ask them, in all sincerity, “Seattle? Aren’t there cowboys and Indians out there?” Often times, touring bands would simply skip Seattle because it was too far out of their way. So, in effect, musicians in that region had to make their own fun. And in the process, they honed their own sound.
Q.) What are the biggest misconceptions people have about grunge?
Probably the biggest one is that all these musicians were overly earnest gloom mongers sticking needles in their arms. Of course, a few were overly earnest and some were sticking needles in their arms, but for the most part--and I think this comes across in the book--these musicians were just super-funny and huge jokesters.
Q.) Where does the book’s title come from?
Speaking of humor in grunge… “Everybody loves our town” is a lyric from “Overblown,” an extremely arch song Mudhoney wrote for the Cameron Crowe movie Singles. It pretty much deflates the hype surrounding the scene at the time and takes a semi-veiled jab at at least one grunge superstar.
Q.) What’s your favorite grunge song?
It almost seems too obvious an answer, but Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” is pretty much perfect--and perfectly encapsulates the scuzzy “grunge” guitar sound and scabrous humor of the scene. Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” comes to mind too.
Q.) Is there a grunge band that should have made it big that did not?
Had their super-charismatic lead singer Andrew Wood not died of a drug overdose in 1990, Mother Love Bone--the band from which Pearl Jam sprung--would likely have made it big. Also, TAD--a band fronted by Tad Doyle, who was marketed as a 300-pound ex-butcher from Boise--appeared primed for success in the early ’90s. But TAD was beset by bad luck at nearly every turn. Their downward spiral began when their album 8-Way Santa had to be yanked from shelves because the band used this hilarious, very saucy photo of a couple on the cover without their permission. (Google it.) Legend has it that the woman in the picture had since found God, and the couple took legal action.
Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge author Mark Yarm put together this list of 15 grunge tracks (ranging from the obscure to the chart-topping) discussed in the book.
1. Mudhoney “Touch Me I’m Sick”
2. U-Men “They”
3. Green River “Ain’t Nothing to Do”
4. Soundgarden “Nothing to Say”
5. Nirvana “Love Buzz”
6. TAD “Jack”
7. 7 Year Bitch “Lorna”
8. Mother Love Bone “Crown of Thorns”
9. Temple of the Dog “Hunger Strike”
10. Pearl Jam “Even Flow”
11. Alice in Chains “Fear the Voices”
12. Screaming Trees “Nearly Lost You”
13. Melvins “Sky Pup”
14. Candlebox “You”
15. Mudhoney “Overblown”
A Look Inside Everybody Loves Our Town