Soundgarden performing in Mansfield, MA, 2011Credit: xrayspx / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0 license

A Glance at the Past

Grunge music had a major effect on the course of music in the 1990s. 

Its sound was unearthed by bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Screaming Trees and Mudhoney, and was promoted as the next 'big thing' by music companies.

All of a sudden, grunge was on television, radio stations and magazines everywhere.

The Appearance of Grunge

With little warning, the popularity of grunge music grew to be a tidal wave in 1992, encompassing fans and followers all over the world – even reaching the shores of Auckland, New Zealand, where I was living at the time. 

Although grunge, as a movement, has fallen back into the shadows of mainstream music, its impact on young people was nothing short of dramatic. Finally, there was a breed of musicians that fans could relate to, identify with and emulate. There were songs and lyrics worth listening to, rather than the repetitions of parents, peers and society.

As much as grunge music was meaningful and personal, it was also unequivocally raw, dark and brooding. Deep anger and volatility featured in the all-too-often loud guitar melodies and strung-out vocals. Grunge music, at its best, was unpredictable. It could move in a slow, hazy slumber or escalate into something as noisy as a bulldozer in demolition mode. Grunge, for me, was the sound of creation in despair and I loved it.

Seattle Center as night fallsCredit: Jeffery Hayes / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 license

City of Grunge

Of all places in the United States, Seattle would become synonymous with grunge music right from its inception. It was a city that shaped and influenced many bands within Washington state, and carried them onto the commercial success they deserved.

Regarded as the birthplace, the ‘womb’, the starting point of all things ‘grunge’, Seattle spawned a new era in rock music, and hatched a new type of following and fan base. The music affected the lives of those who listened to it and those who played it. 

Suddenly, grunge became a fashion statement – stonewash jeans, plaid flannel shirts and long hair – the more untidy, the better. No longer was it considered an obscenity or distasteful to dress ‘homeless’ – a look made most famous by Nirvana's guitarist and lead singer, Kurt Cobain.

Eddie Vedder on stage with Pearl Jam, Albany, 2006Credit: User:Lrheath / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Remembering Grunge

I remember the years I listened to Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nirvana. They were my favorite three of the grunge era and I listened to them a lot. I enjoyed the albums Ten and In Utero the most. It was a great time in my life.

Looking back, it is a sad and unfortunate fact that drugs were involved in the demise of several key figures in the grunge music scene. Yet, even with the untimely passing of Layne Stanley, Kurt Cobain and Shannon Hoon, and others, grunge music still has its loyal following and will never disappear.

Eddie Vedder, and the rest of Pearl Jam, continue to work on albums, and have evolved their own music style beyond what it was two decades ago. Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden are also back making music. As like the original few, it goes to show when you get started with grunge – either as a fan or a band – it is not so easy to give up.