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.

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Bio: After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rolling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here.
  • Olga Stewart

    Corndog, look at your Uncle Eddie with his pretty hair. :).

    And man but Chris’s voice was out of this world.

    • Corndog

      He had a pretty voice back then too! Oh how things have changed:)

      I haven’t been on for a few days, and it seems i have some catching up to do. The wee speech bubble says i have 9+ replies to respond to!

      • Olga Stewart

        Pretty voice?

        Ha ha!

        • Corndog

          Yep, pretty damn good that is;)

          Sadly, that ship has sailed…..

  • Stone Gossardish

    I have no idea why anyone would event take a moment to debate whether they made grunge, were grunge, invented grunge. We’ve got to be 10 years plus past that

  • Hwang Sunghyeop

    But, you should know most people do not have to change their memories about grunge. Nirvana and the 1992 made what grunge means.

  • Bryan Maguire

    You’re conflating alt-rocks emergence with catapulting grunge to popularity. Anyone that knows anything about “grunge” knows the term was supposedly coined in reference to the sound of the band Green River. Guess who was in said band, Jeff Ament in Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam.