Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music

January 01, 1970






Success was the best and the worst thing to happen to the Seattle music scene. On
one hand, major-label deals for such 90s acts as Soundgarden, Nirvana, and
Alice in Chains not only introduced metal thunder and punk fury to the
arena-rock mainstream, but also put food on the tables of many struggling
musicians. Hell, it even gave some of them actual homes.


On the other hand, it became nearly impossible to talk and
think about such ‘80s acts as Malfunkshun, Green River,
and Truly on their own terms. Instead, they entered the rock pantheon as merely
way stations to bigger, more popular acts. Therein lies the need for a book
like Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of
Seattle Rock Music,
by Greg Prato, who has also authored books on Blind
Melon and Tommy Bolin. By approaching the subject as an oral rather than a
written account, he gives the story back to Seattle, allowing more than one hundred local
musicians, label execs, designers, girlfriends, and assorted hangers-on to tell
their own stories in their own words.


A few voices are notably absent. Of course Andrew Wood, Kurt
Cobain, and Layne Staley can’t tell their own stories anymore, but the passages
on Wood’s heroin O.D. and Staley’s mother’s reminiscences of her son as a
hair-metal adolescent are surprisingly moving. Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, and
Courtney Love neglected to contribute to Grunge
Is Dead
(one assumes for legal reasons), which means Nirvana’s rise and
fall is told from a distant third-person perspective. Prato wisely and
judiciously organizes the book around such gaps, offering an admirable and
informative range of voices and perspectives-often contradictory or contentious
nearly twenty years later-but all creating a multifaceted portrait of the music
that pretty much defined the decade.




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