Friday, February 17, 2012

Everybody Loves Our Town...

Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge

Let me be honest, I don’t know much about Grunge.  Kurt Cobain was gone before I knew who he was and aside from a few songs, I’ve never really gotten into the likes of Pearl Jam or Soundgarden.  Jason however, grew up on the stuff which made this book a fitting Christmas present.  While on leave, I ran out of reading material and decided to give it a try.  I picked it up and started reading only to find that I couldn’t put it back down.  What really caught my attention is the fact that it is literally an oral history.   The book is made up of various interviews compiled into a narrative.  There are some obscure stories and different perspective are rife.  For example, a manager might say X and in the very next paragraph, the band member in question says Y or, more often, doesn’t remember the incident at all!  The author, Mark Yarm, does little to frame the goings on, although he obviously chose what to use and what not to use.  This makes the book feel like one long, interesting conversation.  It also makes for really easy reading.

Here are some things random bits and pieces I picked up:

  • Grunge is not a popular term at all. 
  • Courtney Love is a stain....there is no other way to put it.  I always felt a bit bad for her but the way she comes off in the book is just downright unpleasant!
  • There was a lot of beer and a lot of heroine consumed in a lot!
  • A lot of really talented people died young.  When they get to the part about Layne Staley from Alice in Chains dying, I actually teared up.  Self inflicted or not it was tragic and sad.
  • It’s amazing how many of the ‘big bands’ in grunge actually still had to keep day jobs to keep alive. With the hype around the scene you’d have thought everyone was making money but that doesn’t seem to have been the case!

What I liked the most about this book is the after effects.  I found myself scrolling through Jason’s iPod looking for the likes of the Green River, Mudhoney and the Screaming Trees - music I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at otherwise.  It was like an education in music that is different to my usual fare (aka screamy, loud and punky) and anything that makes you see beyond your norm is a good thing.  If you have even the remotest interest in Grunge, I’d recommend reading Everybody Loves Our Town.  For arguments sake, here are a few reviews and an interview with the author.  There is also an official tumblr here.  If you’ve read it yourself, let me know what you think.

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