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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, 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.


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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, 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.

30 review for Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mischenko

    Please visit www.readrantrockandroll.com for this review and others... I'm going to admit right off the rip that I've been told I'm still living in the 90's. I am-really. My teen years literally consisted of listening to music and playing in band. Grunge was and very much still is a large part of my life. So, when I recently discovered this book, I had to get it. I think when many people hear the word "grunge" they instantly think of the four more popular 90's grunge bands including Pearl Jam, Please visit www.readrantrockandroll.com for this review and others... I'm going to admit right off the rip that I've been told I'm still living in the 90's. I am-really. My teen years literally consisted of listening to music and playing in band. Grunge was and very much still is a large part of my life. So, when I recently discovered this book, I had to get it. I think when many people hear the word "grunge" they instantly think of the four more popular 90's grunge bands including Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden. Many don't realize that the movement emerged before these "big four." Deep Six was released in 1986 and this is where it all started, of course I didn't discover these bands until years later when they became huge and I was a little older. There's a lot to learn in this book that was going on prior to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It starts in the 80's and progresses up into 2011. I loved the oral history format the author used for this book. The way it's written, you're basically reading quotes from scads of different people including band members, producers, managers, photographers, roadies and more. You'll learn about some of the stuff they did, places they went, relationships they had with each other, pain they endured from deaths, and more. There are pictures included, but I wish there were more. How sad is it when listening to a favorite online "grunge hits of the 90's" music station, I'm reminded of the fact that the singers from the last four songs I've just heard are dead, and all from drugs. It's very depressing, but at the same time, I remind myself that grunge is not dead-at least not to me. I'll be ninety and still listening to this stuff. Many of these bands went forward and continued to be successful including, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl from Nirvana), Candlebox, and Alice in Chains, even with Layne and Mike gone, they're still going. There are things you'll never know about the grunge movement if you don't read this book. Some of the artists that I believed had it all together, really never did. Some never finished school, many performed drunk and high, barely hung on, died, and some fought like crazy. You had band members switching around to different groups. It's wild and adventurous. If you listen to grunge or have been a fan in the past, read this... 5*****

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This should be compelling for anyone who likes grunge, 90s music, or just reading about the lives of musicians and creative people in general. The first couple of hundred pages or so were admittedly somewhat less compelling for me, at least initially, just because I didn't know who a lot of these early bands were- The U-Men, Green River- but I gradually came to appreciate the scope of the story the author, Mark Yarm, was trying to tell, recreating the feel of Seattle in the late 80s, before Amaz This should be compelling for anyone who likes grunge, 90s music, or just reading about the lives of musicians and creative people in general. The first couple of hundred pages or so were admittedly somewhat less compelling for me, at least initially, just because I didn't know who a lot of these early bands were- The U-Men, Green River- but I gradually came to appreciate the scope of the story the author, Mark Yarm, was trying to tell, recreating the feel of Seattle in the late 80s, before Amazon- "a cowboy town back then", as Hiro Yamamoto of Soundgarden puts it, not known for a history of music, a blank slate - through a fugue of conflicting memories, old resentments and nostalgia. "The day Reagan was elected, I got on a Greyhound bus to Seattle", one of the minor players remembers, and the book allows you to vicariously experience that sense of romance- feeling as though you have an infinite amount of time in front of you, and heading as far west in America as you can get (that's the beauty of Greyhound, as well- it might not be quick or glamorous, but it gets you where you need, or want, to go, at least within the contiguous 48 and parts of Canada). One of the book's blurbs, from The Wall Street Journal, describes the Seattle music scene as "a revolution that ate its own children." I guess that would make Kurt Cobain Lenin; Chris Cornell Trotsky (they even looked somewhat similar, or is that just me?); Stalin would be, well, heroin, or maybe Courtney Love; and Axl Rose would be Nicholas II. Speaking of whom, by the way, Axl Rose that is, these guys really, truly did not like Guns N' Roses...not that I blame them. There's a funny anecdote recounted by Susan Silver, who was both Soundgarden's manager and married to Chris Cornell:...I had a box of T-shirts, some new designs. And I was so excited. Oh my God, I was so excited: 'Hey, guys! I have something to tell you! We got an offer today...to go...on tour...WITH GUNS N' ROSES!' They [the members of Soundgarden] didn't say a word. After about 30 seconds- it felt like an eternity- one of them said, 'what's in the box?'It would be silly to stretch the WSJ's analogy too far. The diffusiveness of the voices here belies the idea that there was some shared ethos that everyone in the scene believed in; also, as many people have noticed, Nirvana and Alice in Chains, for example, just don't really sound all that similar. And yet there was a commonality, aside from the fact that they were all from the same city (most of them, anyway- Screaming Trees were from central Washington, after all, not Seattle)- even if the bands differed from each other stylistically, their music shared a vision of spiritual alienation that contrasted sharply with the superficiality of the hair-metal that was so en vogue in the late 80s. Kurt Cobain has become such a mythological figure that his inner life seems especially inaccessible to me, no matter how much testimony we get from people who knew him; but the impression I got from the book is not very different from the impression that I had before- he was a gifted and introverted songwriter who, practically overnight, achieved a level of fame he probably never could have imagined, became the 'voice of a generation' by his mid-20s, and, as a real artist, felt ambivalent about what was not just fame or attention, but reverence. As Krist Novoselic, Nirvana's bassist, remembers:We were these young people from southwest Washington, ill-equipped. We didn't have the emotional support and the experience at all to deal with this. And we were just whisked away- whisked...up into it, and it went up and up and up, like the spaceship Challenger. And then it exploded...Dave and I landed, right? But Kurt didn't.Cobain also had serious stomach problems (he mentions his stomach in his suicide note), and became addicted to heroin along with his wife Courtney Love, who never seems to have experienced any ambivalence at all about fame or attention. Years later, she's still bitching that Kurt should've been on the cover of Time, goddammit, instead of Eddie Vedder. They were all riding Kurt's coattails- Kurt wasn't some small-dicked beta male (her words)! At one point she very strongly insinuates that Buzz Osbourne of The Melvins attempted to murder Cobain with an overdose of heroin, and the author gives Osbourne the opportunity to respond: "that is a complete fabrication made by someone who is insane." The more Courtney spoke, and the more apparent it became that she was incapable of telling an anecdote that didn't in some way reflect positively on herself, the more dubious I became of anything she had to say. She also hates Candlebox and Alanis Morissette. To be fair, it sounds like everyone hated Candlebox, and a short chapter is devoted to treating them with the kind of derision reserved within these pages only for Bush and Stone Temple Pilots- every revolution has its johnny-come-latelies, after all, and none of the interviewees seem very open to the suggestion that 'Comedown' and 'Glycerine' might actually be great songs. But I decided to look up a couple of Candlebox's singles on YouTube, unable to remember what they sounded like or even if I'd ever heard them, and I have to say that 'Far Behind' and 'You' aren't half-bad. Either one at least, if you happen to have spent the 90s listening to Jersey Shore's 95.9 The Rat or some equivalent, will cause you to mumble, "oh, that song..." Mark Arm, of the band Mudhoney, remembers traveling with Kurt Cobain.Kurt and I were on the bus between Davenport and Chicago, and Kurt said something like, 'I don't know how you do it.' Kurt was just fuckin' loaded on pills, and I said something like, 'You just gotta want to do it bad enough.' What I regret not saying is, 'You need to dump your junkie wife, because you're not going to be able to do this while you're in a partnership with someone who's also an enthusiast.'A number of the interview subjects wrestle with the idea that there was something they should have done or said to help a friend escape addiction. Alice in Chains is my favorite of the Seattle bands, and so it's especially sad to read about Layne Staley and what was essentially his prolonged suicide. He died in '02, but started using heroin in the early 90s with his girlfriend Demri. As a friend named Johnny Bacolas remembers,Layne and Demri [told] me they started doing dope and how wonderful it was, and right then I knew they were goners. You can just tell [with] certain people...they're lifers. Someone- don't want to say who- brought [Layne] some heroin because they couldn't find any coke. And he tried it, and he said that was the first time he really thanked God. He literally looked up to the sky and said, 'thank you for this feeling.'By most accounts, Staley was a sweet, humble and unassuming guy who really was tortured. Bacolas remembers a night they spent together at Lake Chelan, in Washington:Layne was trying to kick heroin that weekend, as well. That was really the reason he went on that camping trip, to try to clean up...one night, he drank quite a bit, and him and I are on this beach. We ended up sitting at this little bridge over the lake. He was very, very depressed- it was basically the withdrawals- and he just grabbed me and started crying. And he told me that he wanted to kill himself. He, in my mind, was considering doing it right then and there at that bridge... We ended up going to this parking lot, and there's probably 30 cars there, all blasting music. People smoking weed and drinking beer. All teenagers. We had the windows down, we were just parked, smoking cigarettes. Some kids recognized Layne, and they were like, 'Dude, there's Layne Staley!' And the other guys were like, 'no, it's not. He wouldn't be in Lake Chelan.' And they all came up to the car, probably 15 kids, and they're like, 'If you're Layne Staley, prove it.' And Layne was just looking straight ahead. Sunglasses on, 2 o'clock in the morning, wouldn't even acknowledge them. Finally, one of the guys pulls up in a truck, cranks 'No Excuses', and he goes, 'If you're Layne Staley, sing along!' And Layne started singing. Verse, chorus. Nailed it, exactly like it sounded on the record. All the kids were like, 'holy shit, it's fuckin' him!'...and then [Layne's] like, 'Let's get out of here!' And then we drove off.'A few years later, after the band's success is behind them, Nick Pollock runs into Layne, now around 30, in downtown Seattle:I was in such shock because he was like a skeleton. His skin was gray. I don't remember him having any teeth. We had a nice conversation- "let's get together", the usual things people say- but this is surreal. This is a nightmare. I don't even know who I'm talking to. My friend, but not my friend.I'd prefer to picture him that night at the lake, though. There were survivors, of course, or provisional survivors. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden had gotten clean and eventually created Audioslave with the former members of Rage Against the Machine- 'Like a Stone' was always nice to hear on the radio in the mid-00s- and had seemed to transition into that phase of life when the days of self-hatred and compulsiveness were behind him, and he'd made it through (or it might have at least seemed that way to younger people like myself, who would like to believe in the existence of such a stage of life). But he hanged himself in a hotel room in Detroit in spring of '17, possibly having taken too much or the wrong mixture of prescribed medications- I still don't really understand what happened, and I'm not sure that anyone does. Less than a year later, Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries, whose voice was just as distinctive as Cornell's and puts me just as much in mind of the 90s (more so, actually, even though The Cranberries obviously were not from Seattle, considering that The Rat used to play 'Zombie' and 'Ode to My Family' about 10x as often as 'Outshined' and 'Black Hole Sun'), died in a hotel room in London, drowned in her bathtub while drunk, which seems to have been an accident. But then there's someone like Mark Lanegan, singer of the Screaming Trees and one of Kurt Cobain's closest friends, reflecting years later:...there was a time when I thought I didn't have any choice in the matter, when I spent almost a year in various 'situations': jail, rehab, halfway house. And just through the sheer fact that I wasn't able to get outside, so to speak- and also because I really just did not want to live that way any longer- for me it wasn't hard. It was the end of a nightmare that had lasted for years and years. I had always hoped that I would be able to stop, but I never was able to. Eventually, I was. A lot of that had to do with changing my way of thinking on a great many things...some battles you just have to give up. I was pretty stubborn, I thought I could do a lot of things myself...[but] the smartest guys I knew are not around anymore, because they thought they could think their way out of an unthinkable situation.Never heard of Mark Lanegan? I hadn't, either. But that's okay. He didn't become especially famous, didn't become the voice of a generation, but he got to stay alive. Or, as an Alice in Chains song goes, ...but that don't last forever, something's gotta turn out right.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    I nearly gave up on this book shortly after I started it. I was born in late 1980, so I was only ten years old when Nevermind hit the stores and brought grunge into mainstream America, so during the years that grunge was vital and relevant, I was a little too young to connect with it. My friends’ cool older siblings liked Soundgarden and Nirvana and Pearl Jam (although the fourth big grunge band is consistently listed as Alice in Chains, I have never had a personal relationship with anyone inter I nearly gave up on this book shortly after I started it. I was born in late 1980, so I was only ten years old when Nevermind hit the stores and brought grunge into mainstream America, so during the years that grunge was vital and relevant, I was a little too young to connect with it. My friends’ cool older siblings liked Soundgarden and Nirvana and Pearl Jam (although the fourth big grunge band is consistently listed as Alice in Chains, I have never had a personal relationship with anyone interested in that band), and I had a couple of Pearl Jam CDs on my shelf collecting dust (because my mom had heard somewhere that all the cool kids liked Pearl Jam, and she wasn’t going to tolerate a kid who wouldn’t even try to be cool), but I was never really an active grunge fan. I mean, I liked flannel because it was a style that was kind to fat kids, but I didn’t personally connect to the music. Even today, I generally reference Kurt Cobain when I’m helping people who want clarification on how I spell my name, but I’m certainly not a devoted Nirvana fan. And the first 100-150 pages of this book are largely concerned with the regional roots of grunge. Many vapid observations about bands you’ve probably never heard of: “Man, I went to that U-Men show at that venue, and I was sooooo drunk...” “Yeah, there was a dead cat at that one show, and it was crazy...” “Yeah, I met this member of my new band in my high school, and we smoked pot at his mom’s house, then I met this other member of my new band in my high school and we smoked pot at my mom’s house...” It was a bunch of people telling inane stories about when they used to be cool in their hometown. And with no connection, I was prepared to give up on the book and write a polite review about how it’s only geared toward those who are already intense grunge fans. And then Courtney Love showed up. Into a world of rational observations and shallow analysis, Yarm starts sharing quotes from Courtney Love, who thunders in like a hostile unicorn stomping around in an uncovered septic tank. She spills her trash-mouthed crazy sauce all over the pages of this book and turns it into something amazing. I recognize that Love is generally portrayed negatively, with different figures complaining about her toxic influence, and her own quotes being almost unfailingly agitated and disrespectful. And in the context of the whole book, she has a small role, only a few quotes and a few more references to her by other participants in the project. Still, the book changes at a fundamental level when she appears. It gets wild and unpredictable, especially since that’s about the point where the narrative picks up speed. Bands start taking off on a national level, and the sources interviewed start sharing not only their thoughts but also their responses to the ways they were portrayed at the time. The book develops a sense of purpose, an epic scale like a collection of Shakespearean tragedies, and a grand historical perspective, and Yarm’s gifts as an historian really begin to shine. Yarm is, by all the evidence in this book, a phenomenal historian. The range of perspectives is simply astounding - nearly every member of every significant band, plus the music executives, the venue owners, the roadies, the random fans... In a few haunting moments, Kurt Cobain even speaks, as Yarm shares contextually appropriate excerpts from Cobain’s suicide note and his journals. Yarm also shows a great deal of precision and care as he takes disconnected interviews and weaves them together to make clear moments and clear timelines. Yarm’s sense of humor is wicked and brilliant, as he often juxtaposes contradictory memories or allows his stars to laugh about what their friends have said about them. After the first rough couple of hundred pages, I loved this book at a level I can’t really explain. I was excited for band members who would enjoy things that they did well, and when tragedy would occasionally strike, usually in the form of an overdose and a gripping memorial service (beautifully captured with reverent memories of the participants, sharing pain that hasn’t really gone away in twenty years), I almost always had to put the book down and walk around the house for a while before I could get centered enough to return to the story. Band members still mourn the emotional wounds inflicted by their record companies, and producers still regret the hard choices that they had to make. Some people still nurse grudges, but most have grown enough to try to forgive those who hurt them twenty years ago. This book was honest and it was wise and it was powerful, and I recommend it to anyone. The long introduction is really only for fans of grunge and its origins, but the rest of the book is for fans of humanity, and this book is a treasure.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book was so amazing to me...I was and remain a huge fan of all of the bands discussed in the book. I was 15 when Nevermind broke and count myself as being truly lucky to have grown up with this music as having defined my generation. This book shared numerous interviews from all of the band members, record people, band managers, etc with tales from their teen years until after the death of Layne Staley. I really felt like I was able to learn so much more about all of them as people and get a This book was so amazing to me...I was and remain a huge fan of all of the bands discussed in the book. I was 15 when Nevermind broke and count myself as being truly lucky to have grown up with this music as having defined my generation. This book shared numerous interviews from all of the band members, record people, band managers, etc with tales from their teen years until after the death of Layne Staley. I really felt like I was able to learn so much more about all of them as people and get a feel for just how much fun the whole scene was before all the tragedies. I stayed up until 3AM reading furiously until the end. In an odd coincedence, about a minute after I had closed the cover, the radio station I was listening to played Mad Season's "River of Deceit" and I admit that I just started bawling. The world lost a lot of brilliantly talented musicians with the deaths of so many of the major players of this scene and Layne Staley was by far one of the best. Thank you, Mark Yarm, for putting together not just a book but a real experience for those of us who were heavily influenced by these bands.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    I have read a lot of non-fiction books about music in my life and most have them have been subpar. But you're a fan of a certain band or genre, and so to get one or two tidbits of information you didn't have before, you drudge through badly-written purple prose and information you find on wikipedia. Thankfully, this book is different. It's a lot better. It's entertaining, well-edited and informative. I'm a big fan of Pearl Jam, and also a fan of Nirvana. I like some Soundgarden and Mudhoney song I have read a lot of non-fiction books about music in my life and most have them have been subpar. But you're a fan of a certain band or genre, and so to get one or two tidbits of information you didn't have before, you drudge through badly-written purple prose and information you find on wikipedia. Thankfully, this book is different. It's a lot better. It's entertaining, well-edited and informative. I'm a big fan of Pearl Jam, and also a fan of Nirvana. I like some Soundgarden and Mudhoney songs, but I'm by no means a Grunge expert. I don't think you need to be to enjoy this book, but if you're not a fan of any of the bands, an interest in music history or cultural history in general would probably help. Oral Histories can get really messy, but Mark Yarm used this technique in the best way possible, letting people who were there explain the music scene in Seattle from the 80s to the late 90s. As a reader you really get a feeling of having been there. My criticism would be: a) sometimes there were maybe too many different voice speaking, from too many bands, record company executives, MTV VJs, girlfriends and hanger ons - sometimes it got a bit confusing. Especially at the beginning, when the book covers the pre-Grunge era, and most people talking are people I (and most people) don't know. b) I wanted to hear more of the most interesting people. I understand the author tried to create a narrative and he couldn't choose who was willing to speak to him, but I would have loved to hear even more from the members of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Susan Silver and some others. Sometimes their soundbites were just a bit too short and I would have preferred more context. I get that maybe that would have made the book feel bloated, but I was just left wanting more. One thing I didn't expect was to laugh so much while reading. Courtney Love's bit about Kurt Cobain being an alpha male was just hilarious (even though I think she was being serious...). There were a lot of funny, and also some very disgusting anecdotes. The part about Eddie Vedder drinking bile literally turned my stomach.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jay Hinman

    A few things to get out of the way before we start this review. I didn't purchase this book, nor solicit it in any way. It was sent to me for review by its publisher, Crown Archetype. I assigned about a 25% chance to ever reading it once it arrived, and only dove into it as a respite from some much more intense books I'd just finished about the Holocaust and whatnot. Second - the journalist who wrote the book, the book about grunge, is named Mark Yarm. One of those strange coincidences of histor A few things to get out of the way before we start this review. I didn't purchase this book, nor solicit it in any way. It was sent to me for review by its publisher, Crown Archetype. I assigned about a 25% chance to ever reading it once it arrived, and only dove into it as a respite from some much more intense books I'd just finished about the Holocaust and whatnot. Second - the journalist who wrote the book, the book about grunge, is named Mark Yarm. One of those strange coincidences of history, I suppose, that his name is nearly identical to one of the book's "prime movers", Mudhoney's Mark Arm. Finally, there's that word that everyone deservedly hates, "grunge". Yarm apologetically justifies it as a the all-purpose descriptor that, for worse or for better, came to describe heavy punk/metal/glam hybrid music that came from Seattle in the late 80s and early 90s, then allows the oral history participants to dispatch and denigrate it in a number of ways throughout the book. Knowing that this book showcases a style of music I truly ceased to listen to almost two decades ago, a style that has not worn particularly well, I hoped at least it would tell some good Mudhoney, Courtney Love & Nirvana drugs & drinking stories. I got that and then some - in fact, once I got rolling with "EVERYBODY LOVES OUR TOWN", I was totally on for the ride and really enjoyed it. Something about the oral history, especially a musical oral history about an era I either experienced firsthand or just missed, can be totally addicting. I've read the NY punk history ("Please Kill Me"); two LA punk histories; the San Francisco punk history; "American Hardcore", and I'm sure a few other oral histories of other scenes that I'm forgetting. This particular book, even with my previous caveats about the Seattle scene's overall musical worth, felt pretty close to home, as I know several of the people in the book personally and had brushed closely against many others during my time as a radio DJ, fanzine dork and frequent show-goer. Kurt Cobain even hung out at my house by happenstance one evening in 1991, which never ceases to impress people at my work or in any all-purpose occasions for scenester braggadocio. Most of my involvement in this stuff came from having been a big GREEN RIVER fan during my college years. Then the colored-vinyl Sub Pop 45s started coming out – Soundgarden, Blood Circus, Swallow, and the granddaddy of them all, Mudhoney’s “Sweet Young Thing/Touch Me I’m Sick” single. These were all accompanied by over-the-top PR theatrics – everything from the amazing Charles Peterson photos showing Seattle fans of this stuff going bonkers and diving off stages (semi-manipulated by the photographer, as it turns out), to the limited-edition vinyl, to the PR one-sheets themselves. I was squarely an elitist indie-rock dork at the time, with my taste going for the loudest and rawest stuff I could hear. Sub Pop was more than all right for me, and as a 20-year-old with an underdeveloped bullshit detector, I fell right into their trap. While a college radio DJ at KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara, I remember excitedly talking to Sub Pop head Jonathan Poneman about their upcoming “Singles Club”, a yearly 45s club where you paid up front for a record to be mailed to you each month. He was trying to sell me on the first one from a band called Nirvana, which bummed me out because I hadn’t heard of them yet. “They’re like Cheap Trick meets Kiss, it’s totally awesome, they’re going to be huge”, he said as I gagged on the other end of the line. I was totally a Mudhoney guy, instantly my favorite band from the time that first record came out. Some friends and I travelled to catch their 1988 Northern and Southern California shows with Sonic Youth across 5 different nights, one of which was live on my radio show because I politely asked them to since I knew they had a day off between San Francisco and LA, and they politely concurred. This began a friendship with the band and especially their manager Bob Whittaker that continues to this day, and helped open the door to me meeting some of the other folks quoted liberally throughout this book. I graduated college in 1989, and some music-obsessed friends and I could think of nothing better than to reward ourselves with a driving trip up to Seattle for a week in June. Once there, we saw a couple live shows with Swallow, Cat Butt and the debut of “Dickless” at the long-gone Vogue club on 1st Avenue. Seattle friends were already then complaining of their town’s oversaturation in media, about “grunge” etc. And this was years before Nirvana-mania, the invention of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and all that. But the excitement in the Vogue club that night was real – and jesus, it was just Cat Butt, Swallow and Dickless. Seems like the entire “scene” turned up – there goes Chris Cornell, there’s Mark Arm, there’s Bruce Pavitt etc. – and bodies really were being passed around, hair was flying and all that. Later, I’d see a 4-piece Nirvana open for Vomit Launch and Mudhoney at a tiny club in San Jose, CA; encounter Kurt & Courtney backstage in Los Angeles at a Mudhoney show there, and then almost plow into them in my car as they ran across the street arm-in-arm after the show; and get turned on to “microbrewed beer” by Chris Pugh of Swallow, who schooled me on the concept at the Virginia Inn over my first bottle of Red Hook. Wait a minute, weren’t we reviewing a book here? Back to “EVERYBODY LOVES OUR TOWN” by Mark Yarm. Yarm sets up Seattle noise/voodoo band The U-Men as the prototypical fount of grunge, which is ridiculous on its face, but which has been repeated so often that it’s more or less true at this point. At any rate they were beloved by many who later went on to start the most celebrated of the Seattle bands, as were The Melvins, so both figure strongly in the early oral history chapters. Then thing really start rolling, and to my surprise, it was all quite interesting and extremely entertaining until the very end. You get Mark Arm admitting to some pretty intense heroin usage (with heretofore widely-unknown OD’s); Cobain’s slow, sad dissolution; some disgusting Cat Butt/L7 tour stories; a bizarre character named John Michael Amerika whom I need to learn more about; the Sub Pop financial implosion; jealousy; drug use; alcoholism; band feuds and best of all – COURTNEY LOVE – in spades. She is absolutely as batty as ever, is quoted multiple times in the present, and always the best chip-on-her-shoulder read in show business. Rock and roll excess comes as no surprise to any of you, I’m sure, but the further away I am from this lifestyle, the more surprisingly graphic & pathetic the drugs and the drinking-to-stupor appear. I’m still naively surprised that bands I really liked were routinely shooting up before their shows. Of course, Seattle was famous for this even then, both in and out of the rocknroll milieu. Part of the reason I bonded so well with Bob Whittaker and the Mudhoney fellas is because they were such a blast to drink with. I’ll admit that I skipped all parts of this book that dealt with Alice In Chains, but I know there’s a sad junkie story in there somewhere. If you do read this book, do not skip the section on “Candlebox”, a post-Nirvana grunge band whom I have never heard but whom I knew to be popular at the time. Resentful, angry, and still hating each other, the band recounts how badly they were verbally beaten up on in the post-Cobain era by Seattleites and others who saw them as interlopers. It’s as good as any reality TV you’ll watch this week. In fact that’s a pretty good way to sum up this book – the printed equivalent of some really decent reality TV. I absolutely expected to quit it after a quick brush through a couple of chapters, and there I was, three days later & having read every single word except the Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone and most of the Pearl Jam stuff. (All right, I admit that’s not a small bit to skip, but I simply could not bring myself to care). What sounded somewhat preposterous when I first got the book – “the grunge book” – ended up being a pretty right-on read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nettie Grey

    Oh grunge, how I miss thee. And now that we are facing down the (yikes!) 20 year anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, the media's nostalgia machine is going into overdrive- reunion tours, remastered albums, SBS specials. Reissue, repackage, repackage as Morrissey once said. I have to confess I'm sort of all for it. Grunge was a great time in my life- lots of popular bands were also actually good, scruffiness was in fashion, and being smart was cool for a while. Why would I not want to return to t Oh grunge, how I miss thee. And now that we are facing down the (yikes!) 20 year anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, the media's nostalgia machine is going into overdrive- reunion tours, remastered albums, SBS specials. Reissue, repackage, repackage as Morrissey once said. I have to confess I'm sort of all for it. Grunge was a great time in my life- lots of popular bands were also actually good, scruffiness was in fashion, and being smart was cool for a while. Why would I not want to return to those dark and rumbly days? No Autotune! No X factor! Just lashings of credibility, and a whole bunch of addiction and death. Okay, so it wasn't all marvellous. Dark art is kind of inclined to lead to dark ends, I suppose; still, it's a shock to realise just how fast things got ugly within this scene, as drugs, egos and music industry machinations took their inevitable tolls. But for anyone who remembers this era as fondly as I do, the sadness is part of the story, certainly not something to be brushed aside in the blind adulation of doomed rock gods or killer riffs. And a book that tells the whole tale, from every participant still around to be asked, is naturally something I will buy as soon as it comes out of the carton. That said, the first 80 or so pages are a bit of a slog. Generally I love oral biographies, but you'd probably have to be an original member of one of the incredibly obscure bands featured to get much enjoyment out of the opening chapters. But persevere and soon enough you get to the good stuff- scandal, suffering, heroin and jail- and that's just Courtney Love! Joking aside, the quotes from Courtney are worth the price of purchase alone- her decidely unique take on things is consistently jaw dropping and frequently hilarious. Comprehensive, (mostly) evenhanded, often contradictory and endlessly fascinating, this has got to be the last word on Seattle's place in music history. Reading it has made me dig out all my old Soundgarden and Mudhoney albums, to my bliss and my housemates' irritation. So it's a book for a niche market, sure, but dwellers in that niche are going to be very pleased indeed. Because sometimes feeling stupid and contagious can be a good thing

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jandrok

    I am lucky enough to have been born in 1964, the year the Beatles first made their way to America to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show and make history in the process. I grew up listening to music. My brother was a huge fan of British Invasion bands like Herman’s Hermits, and my mother was listening to groups like The Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company. I count myself as being fortunate that I had a ringside seat as rock music grew from restless teeanger to world-weary adult I am lucky enough to have been born in 1964, the year the Beatles first made their way to America to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show and make history in the process. I grew up listening to music. My brother was a huge fan of British Invasion bands like Herman’s Hermits, and my mother was listening to groups like The Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company. I count myself as being fortunate that I had a ringside seat as rock music grew from restless teeanger to world-weary adulthood. So many great bands, so many great scenes….punk...metal...New Wave…..the MTV revolution….I’ve been here for all of it, and even today I enjoy searching out new sounds. I’m also a collector of rock music histories and biographies, and there seems to be an endless supply of said journalism hitting the racks every year. Everybody has a story to tell or a decade to document. A lot of it is fluff, some of it is interesting, and every now and again the lucky reader will stumble upon something that has significant social and historical value. “Everybody Loves Our Town” is not one of those books, though it is an interesting and occasionally relevant piece of nostalgia for a regional musical movement that hit the zeitgeist at JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT in history to become the defining sound of its era. Grunge. Just hearing the word evokes memories. First and foremost I have mental images of flailing guitars and flannel, hipster noise-rock, and a sludgy sound that would make Black Sabbath proud. I remember Nirvana and Pearl Jam blasting out of the Pacific Northwest with enough sound and fury to reinvent and reinvigorate rock music for a new generation of kids who just really didn't get Van Halen and Motley Crue. Grunge seemed like a totally indefinable term. Was it referring to the scraggly look of most of the bands, or was it describing the music itself, an uneasy fusion of punk rock and old-school, '70s-era hard rock? Author Mark Yarm has trouble defining the term as well, and he admits as much in his introduction to "Everybody Loves Our Town.” In reality, of course, there is no way to pin it down. Trying to define grunge would be a waste of time, better instead to talk to the folks who were there as it began and attempt to make sense of it from that angle. In essence and form, "Everybody Loves Our Town" is basically the grunge version of "Please Kill Me,” Legs McNeil's seminal oral history of 1970s punk rock. The words of the people who were there tell the tale, from the early progenitors of the scene (the U-Men, the Melvins) to the bands that eventually broke out nationally (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains). Yarm includes material culled from hundreds of hours of interviews with the musicians, producers, agents, record label owners, and other various and assorted scenesters who witnessed it all first hand. INTERLUDE: Fun fact: Candlebox was a legit Seattle band, even if they roundly got panned as the Nickelback of their day. Another fun fact: TAD was an awesome group, so awesome that they deserve a book all their own. Those guys got way overlooked. Last fun fact: Alice in Chains was much more of a metal act than a grunge act. They get included here because of the geographical and chronological associations, but they transcended the limitations of what defined grunge much like Led Zeppelin transcended what constituted heavy rock back in the day. You’re welcome. A big part of the narrative focuses on a band named “Mother Love Bone,” a group whose sole intention at the time of their formation was to be Seattle’s answer to “Guns ‘N’ Roses.” Fronted by a charismatic singer by the name of Andrew Wood, Mother Love Bone COULD have and SHOULD have been the big breakout from the Seattle scene. The problem was that Andrew Wood was a heroin junkie, and his death from overdose would set the tone for the darkness and self-flagellation of the entire Seattle grunge ethos. Mother Love Bone would regroup with a new singer and a new name, and as Pearl Jam they would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world. Maybe it was just me, but "Everybody Loves Our Town" seems to have a very melancholy feel to it. The pervasive drug use (especially heroin) and dysfunction that seem to engulf just about everyone leaves little room for any type of celebration or real reflection of the historical significance of the grunge phenomenon. Author Yarm is himself an outsider to the Seattle scene, he being from Brooklyn. Part of the strength of Legs McNeil's book was that he was at the center of the New York punk movement as it was developing. In point of fact, he was one of the people who DEFINED the New York punk scene in the '70s. Yarm has no such advantage with his subject matter, and the book loses a little bit of authenticity for me because of this fact. I still don’t feel like the definitive history of the grunge phenomenon has been written. That’s not to say that this book doesn’t have value, it does. But I also don’t think that it needs to be the last word on what was truly an era-defining musical revolution. CODA: I got to see Pearl Jam a couple of years ago when they headlined the Austin City Limits festival. They were good, great even. Yeah, they were older. Yeah, Eddie Vedder still got drunk on wine halfway through the set. But DAMN, man…..if you just closed your eyes and grooved on the music then you knew that they still had it….the magic was still there….the memories still alive. It was a good show, and it was nice to know that this band that had been touched by so much darkness in the early days had managed to come through it. You can read this book if you want….in fact I’d probably encourage you to, if only for the nuggets about the more obscure bands. But in some ways you’d really be better off dusting off those old Nirvana and Alice in Chains records and giving them a fresh spin. Let the music tell you the story. It’s best that way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Engrossing does not to begin to describe how good this book is. I am old enough to remember when grunge got big and listening to never mind obsessively but I never understood what a big scene it was and how it happened. This book was hard to put down and at points hard to read(as people started to die). Total five star reading!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie Powell

    I wrote about this book on my blog - http://804-notassigned.blogspot.com/2... When I was in high school, a chunk of my friends were skater boys. In the mid- 1980’s, skater boys in our town were typically middle-class and generally pretty sunny in disposition and future. They were going to college and going to wind up lawyers and doctors just like their fathers. One of my friends, with red hair and the sweetest boy smile I had ever seen, went to Seattle and he died. We’ve never quite known what hap I wrote about this book on my blog - http://804-notassigned.blogspot.com/2... When I was in high school, a chunk of my friends were skater boys. In the mid- 1980’s, skater boys in our town were typically middle-class and generally pretty sunny in disposition and future. They were going to college and going to wind up lawyers and doctors just like their fathers. One of my friends, with red hair and the sweetest boy smile I had ever seen, went to Seattle and he died. We’ve never quite known what happened to John. I’ve always had a hundred, thousand questions about his last two years, but there’s no one to ask. His family shut that door firmly, not even posting an obituary that any of us can find, so all that we have is speculation and rumors. I’ve always wanted to know if he was in college or working, was he a junkie? We’ve always heard that heroin was involved, but that can mean too many things to be any answer. I’m reading Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge this week and I’m not sure why. I mean, I really will read an oral history on almost any topic, but grunge is not my music. Grunge really isn’t a music at all, just a label slapped on bands from a specific place and time. And, while I am from that time, I’m not from that place. Seattle in the 1990’s is a dark, violent place. The musicians profiled in the book talk a lot of about how fun it was in the early days, in the 1980’s, but by the time the Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden are getting big, the scene doesn’t sound so fun anymore. (Guns ‘N’ Roses toured with Soundgarden and nicknamed them Frowngarden.) I guess when a handful of your friends get famous, it’s normal to think that it should be you getting the money and the record deals. And by the time Nirvana has come and gone, everyone is a cannibal. A surprising number of people in the book blame all the problems of Seattle on Courtney Love, which is kind of fascinating to read. It’s like she’s the Yoko Ono of an entire region, creating factions and isolations and death. She could have gone so many ways with her widowhood, becoming the beatific saint of musicians gone too soon, but I guess she really could only be what she is – too damaged and self-promoting and angry to do anything but lash out. Oh, the deaths. The first few are shocking to Seattle musicians and they still remember that rawness these 20 years later. As the ‘90’s wear on, the scattered names of the dead become a roll call, with no surprise left. There are only a small handful of musicians profiled who didn’t die at some point. Apparently there are lots of ways to revive a dead man and the people in Seattle learned them all the hard way. They didn’t all come back to life, though, and I’m reading this account thinking that there must be dozens of dead audience members for every dead musician. There are people just like my friend in every concert photo. Kids who though moving to Seattle would fill some empty space in them and didn’t get to grow up. I guess that’s why I’m reading intensely - I’m looking for John on every page.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marc Horton

    Much in the manner of previous oral histories (see Legs McNeil'sPlease Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk) on broadly defined musical movements centered on specific geographic locations, this is a book about a cultural time and place [Note: while most of the chapters in McNeil's book end "...and then I caught the clap from Nico," in this one, the analogue seems to be: "...and then Courtney Love threw her shoes at me."]. The chapters detailing the life and evolution of Sub Pop Records a Much in the manner of previous oral histories (see Legs McNeil'sPlease Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk) on broadly defined musical movements centered on specific geographic locations, this is a book about a cultural time and place [Note: while most of the chapters in McNeil's book end "...and then I caught the clap from Nico," in this one, the analogue seems to be: "...and then Courtney Love threw her shoes at me."]. The chapters detailing the life and evolution of Sub Pop Records are particularly fascinating, and the various perspectives and recollections on the most important events in the Seattle "alternative rock" zeitgeist confirm the subjectivity with which we are forced to recall history in the pre-internet age, but you should read this for the bawdy anecdotes and revealing musical insights by the actors themselves, not for any kind of historical accuracy. Though it's a tale suffused with more than its share of tragedy [apparently, everyone in Seattle from 1988 until 1998 was, in fact, a junkie, so it wasn't just a Rolling Stone-propagated myth. Who knew?], fans of the music of that time and place will find this a worthwhile read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    East Bay J

    I moved to Seattle from Spokane in 1998 with my then girlfriend, Cid. Before moving back to eastern Washington, she had lived in Seattle during the time that bands like The U-Men, Green River, Malfunkshun, etc. were coming up, through the formation of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, TAD, etc. She was friends with those people and, as a result, I got to meet a truckload of musicians who played in bands that I adored. This was weird for me and I was a bit star struck, but it was also very, very cool. I liv I moved to Seattle from Spokane in 1998 with my then girlfriend, Cid. Before moving back to eastern Washington, she had lived in Seattle during the time that bands like The U-Men, Green River, Malfunkshun, etc. were coming up, through the formation of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, TAD, etc. She was friends with those people and, as a result, I got to meet a truckload of musicians who played in bands that I adored. This was weird for me and I was a bit star struck, but it was also very, very cool. I lived in Seattle for almost eight years, got to know a lot of people, forged some fine friendships and had an all around good time. I played in a band called Bottle Of Smoke with David Duet (Cat Butt), Greg Stumph (Crows), Tommy Clark (Morlocks) and Charlie Ryan (U-Men) that was a HOOT. I also played in a band with Garrett Shavlik called Alta May, which I loved. Why am I telling you this? Full disclosure. Draw your own conclusions. Mark Yarm has done a fabulous job compiling interviews with a tremendous number of Seattle rockers, bookers, managers, etc. into a cohesive narrative that does a pretty fine job relating the events that took place between The U-Men burning up Bumbershoot ’85 to… the end, I guess. You’ll learn how bands formed and deformed and all the victories and tragedies in between. In fact, you’ll learn more than you ever needed to know. I am so, so happy Yarm decided to make this an oral history because, having read his introduction, my deduction is, had he written the book, it would have been bloody terrible. However, while reading Everybody Loves Our Town, I had to keep reminding myself that the subtitle is An Oral History Of Grunge, especially during the second half. I just don't care about a lot of bands included in this book. For example, Alice In Chains. I’m not an Alice In Chains fan. To me, those guys are a hair metal/butt rock band. They don’t tell you they started as Alice N’ Chainz. Y'know, with a "Z." Sounds pretty butt rock to me. By the time they were getting started, the wheels that created the “Seattle Scene” were long since set in motion. I’m not saying they jumped on any bandwagon, because I don’t believe they did. I just don’t care. Once upon a time, when I wrote for Intensity fanzine, I got free passes to see TAD and Alice In Chains at the Spokane Arena. However, when my buddy and I got there, we weren’t on the list. We could hear TAD playing inside and it was a heavy bummer. Eventually, the door people felt sorry for us and let us in, just about the time Alice In Chains was going on. We stood there, devastated that we’d missed TAD, watched the hair band for five minutes then split. This same buddy of mine and I saw TAD in Kennewick at the Skate King when we were in high school. Tad took his pants off, inspiring a significant amount of nudity from the crowd. Someone took a dump in the back of the rink. It was an awesome show. Then there’s Candlebox. I don’t know from Candlebox. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single Candlebox song, let alone hum a few bars. I don't think there's any way I could care any less about Candlebox. But I guess I won’t say these guys jumped on any bandwagon, either, because they insist they didn’t. They did, however, benefit fantastically from all the bands that came before them and would never have gotten signed to ol’ Madonna’s Maverick Records without those bands. Reading their quotes, they strike me as horribly delusional, egomaniacal and ignorant. Candlebox drummer, Scott Mercado: “There were only a couple other bands that I thought were equal to Candlebox, if not better, music-wise, and one of those was Soundgarden.” Um… wrong. Soundgarden blew you out of the water. Drunken street musicians blew you out of the water. The Thrown-Ups were at least 1,000 times more interesting and meaningful than you. Candlebox says it themselves, talking about how people mistook them for Collective Soul. They should have been flattered as hell to be mistaken for Collective Soul. Good grief. All that aside (because we all have opinions and opinions are like… well, you know), I found this a fascinating read. It gets more in depth with these bands than anything else, with the possible exception of the various Nirvana/Soundgarden/Pearl Jam/Alice In Chains bios or Clark Humphrey's Loser. Even people who lived it will very likely learn something they didn’t know before reading this book. At well over 500 pages, the scope is vast. Perhaps too vast. Just as the chapter on Malfunkshun ended, I found myself wanting to know more about their story. Same with The U-Men. Same with TAD, Mudhoney, Melvins, Soundgarden, etc. I would love to have seen more coverage of Bundle Of Hiss, Feast, The Fastbacks. I’d argue those three bands are more important to what happened in Seattle than Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains or especially Candlebox. But that’s my opinion. I love the oral history format because it puts the “biographer” in their proper place and leaves it up to the participants to tell their story. I suppose what I really want is a 500+ page oral history of Seattle music from 1975 to 1989. As far as I’m concerned, that’s when everything important, fun and interesting happened. Your opinion may differ. Ultimately, though, I can’t knock this book because, like I said, it’s fascinating. I gobbled it up in about two days. Mark Arm’s quotes are best. You get him and Steve Turner in a room together, look out! Hilarity times infinity! I could hear Garrett Shavlik’s voice when I read his quotes. “Hollywood Records was in the Disney complex studio area and all the boulevards are named after characters. They were on the corner of Dopey and Goofy boulevards. Really. Could this be a f*ckin’ sign?” I love you, Garrett. Also, I have to applaud Yarm for his choice of Courtney Love quotes because each and every one was a perfect illustration of how utterly batsh*t crazy that woman is. I’ve heard so many Courtney stories from people I know, they could fill a book. I’d put that book together if I wasn’t afraid she’d have me killed. If you’re a “Seattle music fan,” if you lived there between ’85 and ’99, if you like oral histories, you’ll dig this book. The picture of Malfunkshun is worth the price of admission alone. And remember, kids, as Jeff Gilbert said, “Grunge isn't a musical style. It's complaining set to a drop D tuning.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Keevill

    Interesting deep dive into the origins of the 'Seattle Sound'. Narrative approach is novel but it works. Well worth a read if you're keen to understand the scene and its cast of characters.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Barney

    At first I thought this was by Mark Arm, lead signer of Green River and Mudhoney. Either way, this was an excellent piece of oral history; it is up there with Legs McNeil's book on punk. The book focuses on more of the little known yet important bands to the grunge movement: The U-Men, Green River, The Melvins, Skinyard, Malfunkshun, 7 Year Bitch, The Fastbacks. In a word, excellent. I am planning on using this in the future in my rock history class. The main source of tension in this book is, of At first I thought this was by Mark Arm, lead signer of Green River and Mudhoney. Either way, this was an excellent piece of oral history; it is up there with Legs McNeil's book on punk. The book focuses on more of the little known yet important bands to the grunge movement: The U-Men, Green River, The Melvins, Skinyard, Malfunkshun, 7 Year Bitch, The Fastbacks. In a word, excellent. I am planning on using this in the future in my rock history class. The main source of tension in this book is, of course, Courtney Love. I actually am kind of afraid that she will Google "Courtney Love", see my blog complaining about her, and then attack me. I mean, she is batshit insane. Her comments for this book sound about as coherent as a 5 year old who broke into the parents liquor cabinet and drank that Peach Schnapps that has been sitting in the back since that party in 1994. Most people in the book have nice comments for her, with the most common being "gold digger". There is a of hate here for her. Frankly, it is absolutely deserved. Second to her is Candlebox, which is described "not as the nail in the coffin of grunge, but the actual fucking coffin". (344) If anything, one of the few voices of reason in this text is fucking Bret Michaels. He says this "My career didn't end with grunge. My career with the media ended with grunge." (303). That is the real thing to take away from this text, that after Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Candlebox, most folks in the corporate rock world did not care about anyone else. Eddie Vedder and Mark Arm both describe a sort of "scorched earth" Seattle, where ex-members of pioneering bands wander around in confusion after the trend muffins have left town. A land in which the punk roots of grunge were overlooked in the race to sign "the next Nirvana" and where shitty derivative bands got fat record deals. Exhibit A: Stone Temple Pilots, who weren't even from Seattle. Far be it from me to wish for a return to the spandex and Aqua Net days of the 1980s, but this book, as the Michaels quote points out, is about the bloodsucking creeps that are most record executives. Cobain is quoted as labeling Mark Arm and Jeff Ament as "careerists", honing in on the one thing that I could never stand about Kurt Cobain. As Arm put it, "For me, playing music is the difference between me having a career and working in a restaurant for my entire life. If that makes me a careerist, fine." I agree with that assessment; Cobain never wanted to be popular and was never happy when he was. He is the archetype of the tortured artist. Without "Teen Spirit", Cobain is the 90s version of Alex Chilton. With Teen Spirit, he becomes a self-righteous prick. That's not to say I don't like his music. Perhaps in this way he was the Bob Dylan of his generation, someone you could absolutely dislike and mock as a person who continued to record music that ranged from awful to transcendent regardless.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tom Gase

    This book was seriously awesome. Anyone who loves "grunge" music and grew up with it in the 90s will love this book. This book is by author Mark Yarm, but it is told by the people who lived it, whether it be members of bands, roadies, management, filmmakers, etc. Probably over 500 sources easily. Well-researched. All the bands are here--Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, TAD, Green River, Mother Love Bone, L7, U-Men, Melvins, Mad Season, Candlebox and ma This book was seriously awesome. Anyone who loves "grunge" music and grew up with it in the 90s will love this book. This book is by author Mark Yarm, but it is told by the people who lived it, whether it be members of bands, roadies, management, filmmakers, etc. Probably over 500 sources easily. Well-researched. All the bands are here--Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, TAD, Green River, Mother Love Bone, L7, U-Men, Melvins, Mad Season, Candlebox and many, many more. Basically the book starts with the origins of Sub Pop and ends with Layne Staley's death. Not only are the stories about how Nirvana formed and ended here, but there are other great stories I didn't know as much about like the feud between Pearl Jam and Nirvana for a while, why Soundgarden broke up, why nine people died at a Pearl Jam show, how the second side of Alice in Chains' Dirt album actually tells one story (yeah it involves drugs), how everyone seemed to hate Candlebox even though they probably had the most local roots, why Hiro left Soundgarden, what saved Dave Grohl and made him decide to make music again after Nirvana died, why the Melvins didn't exactly get along with Nirvana's management, why Pearl Jam got rid of their first drummer, why and how Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone died, which actors had fun making the movie Singles and which ones didn't, why Screaming Trees broke up, why Eddie Vedder changed as a person after the Ten album, how the song ended up being called "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and how EVERYONE seems to hate Courtney Love. All those stories and hundreds more are in this book. I suggest you buy it, put on some of these bands on your cd/vinyl player and just relax and go back to a time where the music was a thousands time better than it is today. Five stars all the way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenn Estepp

    There are few things I love more than a good oral history. They are absolutely the best bathroom reading (t.m.i.? oops, don't care.) And this is a very good one. Although, needs more pictures, but I guess that's what the tumblr is for. p.s. I feel old.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eric Sutter

    500+ pages of proof that Mudhoney are the coolest band ever and Courtney Love is an idiot.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    This rocks! Finally, the musicians tell it their way! I laughed. I cried. I felt good feelings towards just about everyone: Eddie Vedder (despite his music), Chris Cornell (despite his posturing), Courtney Love (despite her forked tongue). Typically, as soon as I got it from the library I dipped into it at the key points, re-educating myself on everything to do with Nirvana (not much new here, to be honest) and neglecting the earlier parts about the scene's formation. But when later (having rifl This rocks! Finally, the musicians tell it their way! I laughed. I cried. I felt good feelings towards just about everyone: Eddie Vedder (despite his music), Chris Cornell (despite his posturing), Courtney Love (despite her forked tongue). Typically, as soon as I got it from the library I dipped into it at the key points, re-educating myself on everything to do with Nirvana (not much new here, to be honest) and neglecting the earlier parts about the scene's formation. But when later (having rifled through early Soundgarden and Alice in Chains) I started again at the start, to my surprise I found myself enjoying it on a whole other level. The U-Men! I've got no idea what they sounded like (probably never will either, judging by their scattershot recording history), but these guys were dudes! Just the photo of them with their infamous schoolbus ('Tacoma Hillbillies' painted on the side) is enough to spark your imagination. Birthday Party meets the Kingsmen. Granddaddies of the scene. First Seattle punk band to tour! (They drove down to Texas for a festival and ended up staying on people's floors for 2 months because they were too broke to get back.) And then it gets real interesting, following this lineage in this smallish, isolated city as bands form and break up and intermingle and local stars are born and die before ever breaking out. Andy 'Landrew' Wood from Mother Love Bone - another dude! Plays in this cult band, Malfunkshun, with his brother - both of them hicks from Bainbridge Island - for years before Green River breaks up and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament (both future Pearl Jam members) get him to sing in Mother Love Bone. Major label deal, Landrew already an unquestioned star in Seattle even though he washes dishes for a living (Gossard's a barista), and now he overdoses on heroin a few days before the album release. But what's so touching is that this community really feels it. All these bands come together and mourn him, and you really get a sense that - before the major-label scramble, before Nirvana and Alice broke through - there was some kind of innocence there that maybe is pretty rare. It's funny, I had a dream about Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament the other night. I was working in some cavernous warehouse-cum-retail outlet which I knew was owned by the two of them, and I could see it needed a major restructure. I'd started the job but it just seemed to get bigger and bigger, and meanwhile the dark room yawned away down a slope into some ominous shadows where I would have to go to finish the task. I guess you could read all sorts of critiques of commercial music or major-label dealings into this, but the important part was that I didn't dislike these guys. Despite f**king Pearl Jam, I had affection for them. Again, an early photo of Green River seems illuminating: Stone is the dude in this one, kind of like a tougher-looking and more well-adjusted Roland S. Howard with his top off, while Jeff Ament pouts like a proto-hair metaller and Mark Arm (ostensibly the front man) is almost squeezed out of the picture altogether by his more glamorous bandmates. Arm, he's kinda like the Iggy of Seattle: all manic enthusiasm and death-defying feats but with an intellectual bent that lends more than a hint of irony to everything he does, even getting on junk and shacking up with a stripper at the height of his Mudhoney success. And I guess what makes a couple of shameless careerists like Ament and Gossard OK in my books is that they'd even play with a guy like Arm - a tuneless agitator - in the first place. Then Landrew and his Kiss-meets-Bolan schtick and, when that fails, this would-be Anthony Kiedis ring-in from San Diego, Vedder. As if they really had no idea 'what', 'who' or 'how' but just sheer drive and belief. So they have to play 'Jeremy' for the next 20 years - that's punishment enough for their crimes against punk rock. There's a scene in here where Kurt, Courtney, Eddie and a couple of friends are watching from the side of the stage as Eric Clapton performs 'Tears in Heaven' at the Video Music Awards. It's bizarre, but touching. They start slow-dancing, then swapping partners, and Courtney whispers to Amy Finnerty (Nirvana's champion at MTV): 'We've gotta get them dancing together,' pointing at Kurt and Eddie. And they do it! After all the bad blood, after Kurt slagging Pearl Jam for not being punk rock (even though Eddie wanted to do the Dead Boys' 'Sonic Reducer' for Pearl Jam's slot). And it's great. And again, I can't hate Eddie after that, or Courtney either. There's an oft-repeated theme concerning Nirvana and their 'selling-out' to the forces of evil: how they surrounded themselves with sharks and bottom feeders, how they became what they had hated. And yeah, I can see it. Buzz Osbourne (from the Melvins) voices it most harshly, and it's hard to miss his message, even if he does sound maybe a little jealous that his little-brother band so totally eclipsed his own in the popularity stakes. But when you consider that these kids could hardly look after themselves as it was - Kurt a depressive introvert with health problems and Krist an alcoholic drama-queen/exhibitionist - it's hard to blame them for taking the easy route. I mean, virtually every other band in here does the same thing but on a lesser budget, just drinking and blagging their way through, and the fact that Nirvana remain faithful to their scene is in itself an achievement. At the height of his fame, Kurt Cobain organised a Seattle (or Washington state) invasion of Reading Festival in England, bringing over Mudhoney, the Screaming Trees, the Melvins. That says to me that he hadn't forgotten his roots. Krist Novoselic: We were these young people from southwest Washington, ill-equipped. We didn't have the emotional support and the experience at all to deal with this. And we were just whisked away - whisked, whisked up into it, and it went up and up and up and up, like the spaceship Challenger. And then it exploded. It's like, Dave and I landed, right? But Kurt didn't. But enough about Kurt. John Bigley from the U-Men has this to say about bumping into Seattle's other most famous son in L.A.: Tom goes, 'That's fucking Duff!' There's this fucking wanker wearing a bullet belt , with his pants tucked into his cowboy boots. His hair is all teased out and long and crazy. You know, Hollywood butt-rocker guy. 'Duff, what's goin' on? Look at you, man!' He goes, 'Got this band goin'. It's goin' really well.' 'What's it called?' He sighs. 'It's the singer's name.' He whispered it: 'It's called Guns 'n' Roses.' Yeah, he was embarrassed. He used to be in a band called The Vains, man. Guns 'n' Roses?! 'The singer is calling himself Axl.' Guns 'n' Roses. Axl. We're all laughin'. 'Wow, how magnificent!' I go, 'That sounds like fuckin' shit. Good luck with that, you freak.' But he was super good-natured about it. The band laughed about it for a couple of days. 'Duff's doing metal!' Then, fuck, two years later: 'Welcome to the jungle!' I wish I could remember all the funny scenes in this funny book. It's just so great to hear the musicians tell it, with an absolute minimum of authorial intervention and none of that tedious so-called analysis of songs or lyrics that so many books on rock are padded with. It's pretty exhaustive too. There's a bit where Alice in Chains (an ex-hair band) meet Poison, and we even get a few quotes from Bret Michaels about the occasion. We hear from record-company guys, managers, friends, bystanders. Someone slags someone else and next quote that someone else responds. It's a big dialogue and it works - it flows. It's as good and illuminating as John Robb's The North Will Rise Again (a history of the Manchester scene), even if that book has the better title. But I ain't gonna lie to you: it's a sad story. By the time Layne Staley dies - crusty, sick, aged beyond his years, a shut-in with too much money who plays video games and shoots junk 24/7 - you feel, for a moment, maybe as tired and as stunned as the survivors of this scene must still feel now when they let themselves reflect. Sub Pop sells out; C/Z goes broke. The singer from granddaddies Skin Yard - once the only gym-toned musician in Seattle - survives a coma and the removal of a large percentage of his major organs only to stagger around gaunt and alchoholic till his death in his 40s. The frontwoman of The Gits gets raped and murdered, for f**k's sake! But it's all told with so much charm - and the memories that linger after you close the book are so warm - that the overwhelming impression is inspiring despite it all. Mark Lanegan, man! Another dude. A problem child. But he survives - he makes it - and by all accounts Courtney plays a part in this; she loves the guy. Again, much props. Late in the piece Charley Ryan (the cool-looking guy from U-Men) tells how his dad would hassle him when Nirvana got big and Charley and his pals weren't making any money. A cheque for mechanical royalties arrives - 48 cents - and his dad frames it and hangs it up behind the couch. Best part? You don't detect a shred of jealousy in this guy, or in his bandmate Bigley when he sees Nirvana at Seattle Centre Arena on the In Utero tour and is knocked out by how tight they are: 'This is fucking wild.' Better still, when Kurt is herded backstage in the midst of 'the Geffen army' he catches sight of Bigley and acts like a fan: 'John? John Bigley? Did you see our show? What did you think?' It's about respect. And home. And it makes me wish I had one - a home, that is. A community that strong. RIP the lost. Long live the survivors. And long live rock 'n' roll!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    This is a thorough, insightful, charming, funny, and ultimately melancholy look at the Seattle scene. If you are a fan of Nirvana or Soundgarden or Pearl Jam, you'll get the whole arc of those bands' successes, but the real heroes of the book for me were the guys from Mudhoney and the Melvins. The main villain, as anyone could probably expect, is Courtney Love, who shrugs off the thousands of easily verifiable awful things said about her with charming jibes like "gay" and "retarded." The easiest This is a thorough, insightful, charming, funny, and ultimately melancholy look at the Seattle scene. If you are a fan of Nirvana or Soundgarden or Pearl Jam, you'll get the whole arc of those bands' successes, but the real heroes of the book for me were the guys from Mudhoney and the Melvins. The main villain, as anyone could probably expect, is Courtney Love, who shrugs off the thousands of easily verifiable awful things said about her with charming jibes like "gay" and "retarded." The easiest example of this duplicity is that she admits (now) to shooting heroin during her pregnancy (only the first trimester, so chill) while simultaneously threatening to assault the journalist who reported that she shot heroin during her pregnancy. She is a completely untethered person and only her bandmates seem to want to say anything remotely kind about her. One big thing that stuck out to me was the brevity of Nirvana. Dave Grohl joins the band in late 1990, "Nevermind" comes out in 1991, Cobain basically alienates the band forever by demanding to reorganize the songwriting royalties in 1992, In Utero comes out in 1993, and Cobain was dead in April 1994. Pat Smear was in the band for six months! I wonder how much he even talked to Cobain, since Cobain was sadly circling the drain at that point with his heroin dependency and overdoses. Courtney Love was only with him for a little more than two years. It's very difficult to see her as anything less than an opportunistic hanger-on that drags Cobain into his death spiral. It is a miracle that their daughter is alive. At one point, infant Francis is sleeping on a hotel bed when a rock star junkie OD's and gets CPR from another rock star junkie as a third and forth rock star junkie is trying to destroy the evidence of drugs. Yeeesh. But man, Mudhoney and the Melvins... their deadpan humor combined with the timing of their careers make them outstanding tour guides. Buzz from the Melvins is so delightfully caustic and musically pure. Mark Arm from Mudhoney has a great eye for the ridiculous while also enthusiastically participating in it. They each have a bunch of great lines and provide the meat of the narrative. An unexpected treat was the story of Candlebox. The book makes a convincing case that the timing of their career was both perfect and disastrous - they were able to go from barely playing shows to signing on Madonnna's label and selling three million records (I was one of those three million, natch). But, at the same time, despite every member of the band hailing from the Seattle area, get brutalized by the suddenly very serious-about-legitimacy press and local bands. Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips rambles into the story from Oklahoma City to declare them the "coffin" of grunge. Well, ok? Except Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains went on to sell a bajillion "grunge" records and the genre was replaced by nu-metal, so what are we so excited about? It's funny how old beefs against Candlebox, who seem like nothing more than professional musicians, still cannot be buried in this book. It's especially weird to me because Mother Love Bone - a band so revered in Seattle that Chris Cornell created Temple of the Dog as tribute to their deceased lead singer - is basically Use Your Illusion era Guns N Roses. Look at their band pictures! Listen to their songs! They wanted to be wearing tights and writing double albums with pianos and orchestras. Then two of them make Pearl Jam and all of a sudden anything theatrical is illegitimate. So for anyone to be self-righteous about Candlebox... I don't really get it. Pearl Jam in general seem to be exhaustingly self-righteous, while at the same time I appreciated that they care so much. Even if they care about dumb stuff a lot of the time. I didn't find the parts about Sub Pop to be that interesting, but if you're into the dynamics of independent labels, there's a lot of discussion about it. Since I've never really cared to understand what it means for a record to be put out by one label and distributed by another that's a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, it never really grabbed me. The interoffice politics were interesting, as well as Buzz's explanation about how labels pressure bands to spend too much money on the road, as well as learning that the success of "Nevermind" brought new attention to Bleach, which Sub Pop put out, and saved the label. There were plenty of nuggets in that section to keep the pages turning for me. The stories about TAD and the Screaming Trees and other bands that came up with the juggernauts and toured with them are great. The story ends with TAD kinda wrapping things up as a band, having seen most of their friends either die or achieve great success or both. And since it's an oral history of a scene, it ends with Seattle as a wasteland, which is a bummer. Great book! Don't do heroin!

  20. 5 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    I dig these oral history books. You know, the kind where the author assembles quotes from different sources, along with his/her own interviews, to tell an era's/construct's story. Let me think...I've read oral histories on the New York punk scene, the Los Angeles punk scene, The Replacements (Maybe? I can't remember if that book was pure oral history), ESPN, and NBC's Must-See TV era. These books tend to flow, rivet, and illuminate in ways traditional cultural analysis can't. Everybody Loves Our I dig these oral history books. You know, the kind where the author assembles quotes from different sources, along with his/her own interviews, to tell an era's/construct's story. Let me think...I've read oral histories on the New York punk scene, the Los Angeles punk scene, The Replacements (Maybe? I can't remember if that book was pure oral history), ESPN, and NBC's Must-See TV era. These books tend to flow, rivet, and illuminate in ways traditional cultural analysis can't. Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge is the best of the bunch. Mark Yarm (no relation, before you ask, to Mark Arm), loves the shit out of the grunge era, refuses to publish a half-assed chronicle, or both. This book is 500+ pages long and you get the sense Yarm could crank out a couple hundred more coherent, interesting pages. He wisely includes much more than musician commentary; the best passages, in my eyes, come from managers, engineers, and various hanger-ons. Honestly, I was never a huge grunge guy. I consider Nirvana overrated. I can only name one Alice in Chains song (don't argue with me about including Alice in Chains in this conversation, they're featured prominently in the book). I saw Soundgarden once, mostly because they shared a bill with Danzig, and I might have seen Screaming Trees but I can't be sure. So I'm not worshipping the ground Kurt walked on or whatever. Yarm transcends mythology, or worse, drooling fandom. It's fascinating how often different figures' memories clash on key events, and Yarm doesn't shy from letting the reader navigate numerous perspectives. I wasn't there, of course, but I like the Seattle scene's feel, at least as portrayed in Everybody Loves Our Town, for a couple reasons. First, the scene seems small. These people all seem to know each other (except maybe Candlebox, who showed up late to the party and gets shit on by longtime scenesters). Second, especially compared to the New York and Los Angeles oral histories, this scene seems more fun and less pretentious. Until, uh, the heroin. Heroin's decimation of key players was tragic. Success also seemed to breed resentment. The people who bugged me the most were the “oh, Kurt and I were so close...we were bonded souls” types. Fuck you. Your life is sad. Stop it. Get some dignity. I looked forward to reading Everybody Loves Our Town and bummed myself out when I left it at work over last weekend. Respect to Mark Yarm. Nice work.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    A fantastic history of the Seattle music scene labelled grunge. Yarm's strength, aside from the wealth of material he culled from his interview subjects, is the fact that he knows the scene. The book begins back in the early 80s and successfully traces the rise of the huge bands as well as the ones (like TAD) that could've made it big but didn't for reasons random, sometimes cruel, sometimes understandable, but ultimately fascinating. Working with the structure of an oral history still leaves Yar A fantastic history of the Seattle music scene labelled grunge. Yarm's strength, aside from the wealth of material he culled from his interview subjects, is the fact that he knows the scene. The book begins back in the early 80s and successfully traces the rise of the huge bands as well as the ones (like TAD) that could've made it big but didn't for reasons random, sometimes cruel, sometimes understandable, but ultimately fascinating. Working with the structure of an oral history still leaves Yarm room to create a narrative. Juxtaposing contradictory perspectives allows for a certain sense of tribulation -- who do we believe if there are only two presentations of an event? Well, Yarm's done us the service of staying out of the way. Put another text might make conclusions based on the comments/quotes, but Yarm emphasizes that the issue here isn't really the factual trajectory of the individuals, but the overall movement. For example, who knows if Courtney Love is telling the truth. Ever. And who knows if anyone talking about Courtney Love is telling the truth or has a grudge. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but ultimately how people talk about the scene tells you more than the facts. Maybe that's not what everyone expects but if you go in looking for a beautiful mix of insider gossip, facts, perceptions, and caricature (not one of those things but all). A highly satisfying presentation that moves quickly and doesn't seem to lack anything essential (except maybe Chris Cornell's post-Soundgarden decent into drugs and alcohol, though I suspect the blind spot was intentional and not due to a lack of interest or work on Yarm's part).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Mcelroy

    You think you know the Seattle music scene, but unless you lived it, you don't. Read this oral history and you will. A concise and gossipy account of how Seattle grunge came to be. Before gourmet coffee and IT experts took over, the Northwest's isolated, damp environs and a squadron of disaffected, talented youth formed the most soulful and humorous rock of any regional music scene. But when Nirvana blew into mass-public consciousness, the industry came barreling up north and the result was a gr You think you know the Seattle music scene, but unless you lived it, you don't. Read this oral history and you will. A concise and gossipy account of how Seattle grunge came to be. Before gourmet coffee and IT experts took over, the Northwest's isolated, damp environs and a squadron of disaffected, talented youth formed the most soulful and humorous rock of any regional music scene. But when Nirvana blew into mass-public consciousness, the industry came barreling up north and the result was a grunge gold rush of epic and at times, tragic proportions. The last gasp of old-fashioned music-industry tactics wiped out much of the small-town camaraderie due to endless touring and pressure to record hits. We know what happened to Kurt Cobain, but what about all the other musicians who didn't make it? Or the promising bands that imploded amidst financial despair and drug abuse? Mark Arm from Mudhoney and Courtney Love provide startling doses of narrative commentary, his absurdly pointed, hers barely lucid. Mark Yarm is an expert interviewer and editor and although it's difficult keeping track of all the bass players, the whole thing sucked me in. Read it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caryn Rose

    Simply amazing. Not a quick read but a worthy item to add to the rock and roll bookshelf. If all you know about Seattle is Nirvana you probably can't appreciate how impenetrable the scene there was/is (even now) and how hard it is to find the right people and get them to tell you the truth. I hesitate to use the word "scholarship" with a book about rock music but there is definite scholarship here. I wondered how Yarm would be able to get even close to the truth by being an outsider but I think Simply amazing. Not a quick read but a worthy item to add to the rock and roll bookshelf. If all you know about Seattle is Nirvana you probably can't appreciate how impenetrable the scene there was/is (even now) and how hard it is to find the right people and get them to tell you the truth. I hesitate to use the word "scholarship" with a book about rock music but there is definite scholarship here. I wondered how Yarm would be able to get even close to the truth by being an outsider but I think that actually worked in his favor - he wasn't part of anyone's camp, but had trusted individuals who crossed borders speaking up for him. It's also a picture of a forgotten time, when bands made their bones playing live, about forming alliances, about community, about how music can change the world. It was a herculean task, and Yarm nailed it. I'm glad he got people's stories before they forgot any more or we lost anyone else.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ben Walton

    Excellent overview of the Grunge scene that sprang out of Seattle. It's a must read for anyone who is a fan of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Hole, Screaming Trees and Mudhoney. I love all of these bands and each gets a good bit of space. It isn't the usual Nirvana/Kurt Cobain worship that these sorts of things usually are. In fact, I found the book painted Kurt in a fairly poor light, when compared to his contemporaries going through a similar situation. The main highlights of Excellent overview of the Grunge scene that sprang out of Seattle. It's a must read for anyone who is a fan of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Hole, Screaming Trees and Mudhoney. I love all of these bands and each gets a good bit of space. It isn't the usual Nirvana/Kurt Cobain worship that these sorts of things usually are. In fact, I found the book painted Kurt in a fairly poor light, when compared to his contemporaries going through a similar situation. The main highlights of the book are 1)How well researched the book is. There is interviews with all the key players (Grohl, Vedder, Pavitt and Poneman, Silver, Cornell etc) and a special mention to Mark Arm of Mudhoney who contributes probably the biggest chunk to the book. 2) As a result of the huge amount of research, the book hangs together really well, and as the words are coming straight from those that were there, it seems to be quite honest and gritty.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    I caved and bought the hardcover because it promised a lot of new photographs, and I can't stand photographs/illustrations on the Kindle. I forgot what reading a nicely printed, designed book feels like. So much less offensive to the aesthetic sense, and the retinas. - Not sure the photos were worth the extra price tho. Dislike the habit this guy has of weaving in quotations from other interviews so it looks like it's part of the same conversation as his tapes, but I guess all "oral historians" do I caved and bought the hardcover because it promised a lot of new photographs, and I can't stand photographs/illustrations on the Kindle. I forgot what reading a nicely printed, designed book feels like. So much less offensive to the aesthetic sense, and the retinas. - Not sure the photos were worth the extra price tho. Dislike the habit this guy has of weaving in quotations from other interviews so it looks like it's part of the same conversation as his tapes, but I guess all "oral historians" do that. But it seems dishonest. -- Also it's confusing because people constantly respond to what other people say and I was thinking, wait, did they listen to his tapes or something? But no, it's contrasting interviews. ....damn, there's a lot of Courtney in this book. I love Live-through-This-era-Courtney, but Courtney v 4.0 (5? 6? 7? by now?), not so much.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David R. Dowdy

    One should always brace herself or himself when reading a biography. (OK, this is an oral history, but what’s the difference?) You’re going to learn fascinating things about people you never knew or had merely peeked at through a haze. You’re going to learn things that upset you. Maybe truth is a good thing. Finding out you were in the dark the whole time. And, so that’s how it is with this book where you learn about the genesis, the growth, and end (maybe that’s too strong of a word because idea One should always brace herself or himself when reading a biography. (OK, this is an oral history, but what’s the difference?) You’re going to learn fascinating things about people you never knew or had merely peeked at through a haze. You’re going to learn things that upset you. Maybe truth is a good thing. Finding out you were in the dark the whole time. And, so that’s how it is with this book where you learn about the genesis, the growth, and end (maybe that’s too strong of a word because ideas and styles bend as they mature) of a new kind of rock and roll. Grunge (or sub pop or alternative metal) flourished. What was it? Candlebox’s Kevin Martin said, “It’s what I call dirgy rock — slow, down-tuned, heavy — which is what everybody named grunge.” It was the false chemistry of people coming together in a way where elements bond without electrostatic energy, through a force you’ll never learn from science, and create a compound unknown before. That’s art. And in Seattle, the joke and the whisper of the new sound answered a need for community amongst the musicians who created it. It started slowly with a spark from U-Men, the Melvins, Green River, Malfunkshun, et al. Fire erupted when Nirvanna, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden flamed like dry wood. Suddenly, grunge went national and international. Smells Like Teen Spirit. Man In the Box. Jeremy. Fell on Black Days. Not only were bands formed, but musicians slid in from and out to other bands. I know this is nothing new, but to hear it in such detail one can imagine it diagrammed like a royal house with its lineage. You can feel the spirit of the music in the words of one devotee: “You took the bus for an hour to go to a club and stand there for three hours and watch a band. It was solely wanting to see people play music.” Self-destruction and co-destruction seems to be the rule for too many highly creative musicians and bands. Throw in all manner of hard drugs, inner torment, boredom, and negligence. The beautiful dream comes down hard. As easily as the beats, lyrics, and riffs once came. Some (notably Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley) died and some (notably Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder) outlived a tragedy. Cobain died by shooting himself in the head. Staley from shooting heroin into himself too often along with smoking crack. One particular quote from drummer Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam) adroitly portrays how hard band life was (he survived when he was forced out) in these terms: “There’s absolutely no comparison between the place I was at when I had to leave and where I’m at now. It’s like being on fire versus being a little bit warm.” When the original rockers faded, the grunge rocket refueled on Candlebox, Bush, and Stone Temple Pilots, among many others, who emulated the sound and took it higher than ever and profited. Was that so bad? We are led to believe so by some of the “founders” and that’s sad because, once a great movement starts it takes many roads. The photographs, oh my Mother and Father in heaven! I can look at pages and pages online and never feel the life that went on in the grunge rockers. To read the quotes about themselves and others in the genre, they stand there in the room with you. The photos take on meaning in the context of their words about what was going on at the time. And the words. That’s what so great about the book. It’s a vicarious journey, an arc which maps the rise and change in flight of the spectacular grunge rocket.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    Full disclosure. I am neck deep in an Alice In Chains hyperfixation that came the fuck out of nowhere like a month ago. As if I haven't been listening to them for the past two decades. IDK. I can't shake it. So the choice of this read was fully informed by said hyperfixation. Anyway. Context. I am a millennial. An older one but one that was still a full child when grunge had it's whole mainstream hayday. I grew up always knowing Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. Their songs ha Full disclosure. I am neck deep in an Alice In Chains hyperfixation that came the fuck out of nowhere like a month ago. As if I haven't been listening to them for the past two decades. IDK. I can't shake it. So the choice of this read was fully informed by said hyperfixation. Anyway. Context. I am a millennial. An older one but one that was still a full child when grunge had it's whole mainstream hayday. I grew up always knowing Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. Their songs have always been on the radio as much as I remember. But I don't remember Kurt Cobain dying. I don't even remember Layne Staley dying. So I wan't really a part of this whole movement. I just grew up with it's extended influence. That being said, this book is fucking fascinating. Oral histories are amazing. It really emphasises how subjective history is. It's very "Oh... so-and-so said that? Well that's not how I remember it." The human brain is unreliable as hell but it makes for interesting reading. Mark Yarm takes you right back to beginning of the ~Seattle Sound~ starting in the eighties and blowing right through the explosion to the overexposure and the implosion. And for a group of musicians who seem to consistently claim that it was all about groups of friends who all knew each other and were like family, man were they very bitter and picky about it. This band shouldn't have blown up, this band ripped off this band, this band rode on someone's coattails, this band was from this particular area and weren't really part of it, this band did this and that wasn't punk rock of them... blah blah blah. No one comes out of this book looking good. Not one person. Everyone is a raging arsehole at some point and it's not always the drugs and alcohol and addictions talking. Though. I guess you could argue that book is a great sort of look at how corporate greed can destroy people pretty effectively. Or just greed in general. Or even posturing because it still feels like there's a tonne of posturing going with a certain way to be "authentic" which... vomit. Also. HOLY GOOD LORD the language. I mean, I guess, this book is very white and mostly male. The whole movement was. I guess. Maybe that's a Seattle thing? IDK. But whew we really like to throw around words that aren't really acceptable anymore. Especially ret*rd. And f*g. And the sexism, homophobia, and general toxic masculinity. It doesn't detract from what a great read this book was but it does really feed into how many people are just come out of this looking like raging arseholes. Anyway. If you're fan of alt rock nineties music this is a really great read. OMG. The irony. As I am writing this review I'm watching the Rage Grunge special (spooky coincidences) and they just started playing Stone Temple Pilots and all I can think about is all the people in the book who WOULD NOT BE HAPPY ABOUT THIS. Lemme giggle.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Missy Litton

    I have so many feelings having finally finished this mammoth of a book. I would give it 5 stars just for the sheer scope of the thing. Mark Yarm must have days and days of recorded interviews. And then for him to put everything together in such a cohesive, relatable way?! Wow. I actually shed a tear or two reading the final page. It’s not just an oral history if grunge. It’s a freaking history of humanity—friendship, loss, god-like fame, destruction, redemption. Damn. Too bad it’s so long that I I have so many feelings having finally finished this mammoth of a book. I would give it 5 stars just for the sheer scope of the thing. Mark Yarm must have days and days of recorded interviews. And then for him to put everything together in such a cohesive, relatable way?! Wow. I actually shed a tear or two reading the final page. It’s not just an oral history if grunge. It’s a freaking history of humanity—friendship, loss, god-like fame, destruction, redemption. Damn. Too bad it’s so long that I’ll probably never try to tackle it again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    “Forget that I did heroin in the first trimester of my pregnancy, because I did, that’s no big deal.” - Courtney Love Fascinating time & place marred by too much tragedy. The first time I saw “Smells Like a Teen Spirit” on MTV was an absolute lightning bolt. “Forget that I did heroin in the first trimester of my pregnancy, because I did, that’s no big deal.” - Courtney Love Fascinating time & place marred by too much tragedy. The first time I saw “Smells Like a Teen Spirit” on MTV was an absolute lightning bolt.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Felipe Schuermann

    Although written in the same style as Please Kill Me, it can be said the book is a thorough documentation of the whole grunge Era. As a bonus, I've also learned Ed Vedder has always been a blatant wanker. Tee hee.

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