Seattle seems to be a center point for strange developments. Its lasting influence on rock music has yet to subside and lingering rumors of an alien congregation spawning the city’s innovations still holds weight with the public. Space Needles aren’t helping the situation much.
Monuments aside, the birth of grunge music in Seattle is of particular interest. We’ve seen music breakout from a single place throughout history, but Seattle’s angsty, musical brainchild is an outlier, with the bulk of its sound, style, and influence developing completely on-site And shortly after taking over the city, grunge spread, like some benign disease, to the rest of the nation.
What Sparked Grunge?
The importance of independent musicians and labels is often underplayed, but grunge serves as a prime example of independent innovation within music. In fact, 3 of the biggest acts in the genre got their shot at fame after signing with indie label Sub Pop.
Wondering just who these big acts were? None other than Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden.
…3 of the biggest acts in the genre got their shot at fame after signing with indie label Sub Pop.
These weren’t the only grunge bands to form in the area though. Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Candlebox and more joined the fray – lifting the wave of grunge to the impressive heights it reached shortly after becoming a thing. Just like that, in the late ’80s, Seattle, Washington was put on the map for more than its alien born big needle.
A single city became the birthplace of an entire musical movement – its underground music scene a discarded cigarette soon to ignite the nation’s rebellious teen sentiments.
The Grunge Aesthetic
…grunge as a musical movement was the embodiment of rebellion by way of withdrawal from society into an unofficial cult of loserdom.
The vibe and look of grunge bands was that of homeless working class – jeans, flannel, boots, and trucker hats were the fashion, but by necessity rather than choice. Seattle’s burgeoning musicians were particularly poor at the time. Kurt Cobain himself was reputedly living in his car at the time Nirvana’s breakout album, Nevermind, began topping charts.
Grunge was the musical expression of the Seattle-based Generation X’s outlook on the surrounding world of emergent corporatism and an eroding middle class. Far from being a mere ‘act,’ grunge as a musical movement was the embodiment of rebellion by way of withdrawal from society into an unofficial cult of loserdom.
With such a serious motive backing its development, it’s little wonder the genre took shape as it did.
Grunge was Self-Contained
Grunge was fully realized before anyone else knew about it.
Seattle’s underground music scene had given the entire genre its identity before the general public became aware of it. Bands like Green River lead the way with an air of angst and high-strung spirit of rebellion for later, more recognizable bands to follow.
…the entire genre had sprung up abruptly within the bounds of Seattle, just beyond the reach of commercial radio stations, blazed bright in the face of the public upon its discovery and faded into a cloud of ash…
By the time grunge reached mainstream, there was little growth left for it to endure. Its style was solid. Its sound was complete, and by the late ’90s, the movement had largely concluded. Like grass fire, the entire genre had sprung up abruptly within the bounds of Seattle, just beyond the reach of commercial radio stations, blazed bright in the face of the public upon its discovery and faded into a cloud of ash as multiple bands slowed down or stopped producing altogether.
Overall, the movement hardly left Seattle, and when it finally did, it was basically over.