Why Nirvana & Pearl Jam Didn’t Create Grunge


May 1, 2018 is the day that my 23rd book overall was released, 100 Things Pearl Jam Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, which as the title suggests, is comprised of facts, trivia, lists, and places to visit – all pertaining to Pearl Jam and its members, past and present. And here is a sample for you to enjoy (entry #10 in the book), “The Great Grunge Gold Rush of 1991”…

By 1991, mainstream rock music had become completely predictable, played out, and stale—especially within the realm of hard rock and heavy metal. It seemed like if you enjoyed loud ’n’ proud rock, you were split into either one of two factions—glam/hair metal (Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Poison, etc.) or thrash metal (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, etc.). But to listeners of college radio and viewers of the MTV program 120 Minutes, there was something bubbling under the surface of the mainstream—bands that had obviously studied their Sabbath and Zeppelin records, but were open to a variety of other styles, especially punk rock.

Looking back, it’s easy to say, “One day, Warrant, Slaughter, and Winger were the top dogs of rock. The next day it was Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.” Not the case, dear readers. To wit—the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Faith No More, Pixies, Jane’s Addiction, Living Colour, Primus, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and Smashing Pumpkins, among others, all helped pave the way for the great grunge gold rush of 1991. Then, if you were looking for rock ’n’ roll that wasn’t as predictable as what mainstream radio and MTV were peddling, there were other options available if you dug a bit deeper.

So, with those bands having blazed the trail, the stage was now set and the spotlight ready. A precursor of things to come occurred during the summer of 1991, when Seattle’s own Alice in Chains broke big on MTV with their dark anthem “Man in the Box.” The single made their nearly year-old album Facelift almost slither inside the top 40 (peaking at No. 42 on the Billboard 200), eventually obtain platinum certification, and thanks to tours opening for a multi-bill featuring Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax (as part of the Clash of the Titans tour) and Van Halen, it introduced the little-band-that-could to a massive audience.

By the fall of 1991, it seemed as though a new, interesting, and original rock artist was being discovered each week. Amongst the artists leading the charge were three bands from the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, with Nevermind; Pearl Jam, with Ten; and Soundgarden, with Badmotorfinger. Comparable to such past musical movements as hippie/psychedelia in the 1960s and punk rock in the 1970s, the grunge uprising showed once more that when multiple artists share the same ideals and approach in a natural and organic way (while not afraid to speak their mind nor forfeiting originality) they can reach far beyond just music—they can influence society. In other words, they can cause an adjustment in fashion, other forms of art, and even political views and opinions.

But just as with the other aforementioned musical movements, once the initial wave of bands broke through commercially, major labels soon swooped in and started signing bands that were pale imitations of the originators. And with the emergence of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains came what can be described as the “grunge uniform,” featuring a combination of flannel shirts, ripped jeans, Chuck Taylor sneakers, cargo shorts, Dr. Martens boots, and thrift store–worthy jackets. Many of the top fashion designers and clothing stores took notice.

When will the next group of artists who are so fed up with the mainstream that they decide to take a stand, unite, and come up with new and original approaches that reflect their own personalities and the region they hail from? As of this book’s release, we are still waiting patiently…

For more info/to order 100 Things Pearl Jam Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, click here.