Archive for June, 2011

The following excerpt didn’t make the book, but it comes from a chapter addendum, entitled “Pop Lust for Life: Rob Morgan and the Squirrels,” that does appear in the final manuscript.  I don’t know how to properly introduce this piece, other than to say the Squirrels used a variety of props during their performances, including the once popular ’80s toy, the Cabbage Patch Kids.  They named one Baby Cheevers, but you’ll have to read the book to find out about him (her?).

The Squirrels soon added trunk loads of unwanted Cabbage Patch dolls to their ever-growing stage arsenal. In the early ’90s, Bumbershoot invited the band to play at Seattle’s annual Labor Day festival, the same festival which saw the U-Men set the outdoor moat on fire in 1985. The Squirrels offered the dolls to the audience in interesting ways.

 At their final Bumbershoot performance, the Squirrels played inside at a large exhibition hall. The band brought their Cabbage Patch dolls with them. Morgan had also purchased surgical tubing to construct a makeshift slingshot. You can imagine what happened next. The Squirrels’ front man tied each end of the tubing to a microphone stand, using a pirate flag to pull the slingshot back. As security guards assisted by holding the stands in place, Morgan drew the slingshot all the way back to the drum kit. He then placed a Cabbage Patch doll on top of the flag. Before fans could realize what was about to happen, they found themselves under a heavy artillery barrage from Cabbage Patch warheads. “And that sucker would fly like halfway out into the crowd,” says Morgan.

The band quickly emptied their supply of the toy, covering the crowd with remnants of the ’80s fad. “The next thing I know,” says bassist Craig Ferguson, “I look up and the audience is just a gigantic ocean of flying Cabbage Patch dolls.”

(aka “Only in Seattle”)

In this interview clip, Art Chantry recalls a 1985 show at Seattle’s notorious Gorilla Gardens.  After the overflow crowd spilled onto the street, the police and fire departments came to investigate.  Officials soon discovered the building lacked a sufficient number of fire exits, and threatened to close the place down.

Date of interview: April 12, 2007.  Used with permission.

(The following excerpt from the Introduction talks about that wonderful “Lexicon of Grunge” hoax perpetrated by Sub Pop’s Megan Jasper.  Sorry about the double spacing.  I can’t seem to rectify that one.)

The outside world just didn’t get it, and Seattle wanted it that

way. In 1992 a New York Times reporter phoned Megan Jasper,

then a sales rep at Sub Pop Records. The caller inquired about

the hip grunge slang. One problem remained, however: there

was no hip grunge slang. Jasper, by then completely tired of the

incessant media attention, decided to have some fun. She told the

reporter to name some common terms, and she would happily

provide the corresponding grunge expressions. As the reporter

rattled off phrases like “uncool person” and “hanging out,” Jasper

responded with “lamestain” and “swingin’ on the flippity-flop.”

The exchange was published in the November 15, 1992 issue of

the New York Times under the title “Lexicon of Grunge: Breaking

the Code.”* Jasper and Seattle enjoyed a good laugh.

 

Mudhoney, a Seattle grunge band then receiving international

attention, decided to take the joke a step further. After

the “Lexicon of Grunge” showed up in the Times, the band

gave interviews with the made-up terms sprinkled throughout.

“When we heard about that,” says Mudhoney’s front man Mark

Arm, “[for] our next round of interviews we threw out as many

of those terms as often as possible.”

* From The New York Times, (c) November 15, 1992 The New York Times all

rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the

United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of the

Material without express written permission is prohibited. The Material is available

online at http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/15/style/grunge-a-success-story.

html?pagewanted=5.

Scott during a quiet moment

From left: Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, Mike Mills, Scott McCaughey

In 1996, Pearl Jam invited the legendary Fastbacks to open for them on their world tour.  For those not aware, the Fastbacks are Seattle’s version of the Ramones, only better.  Kurt Bloch, guitar player, songwriter, and producer extraordinaire, drove the band during its long lifespan (1979-2002).  Joining Kurt on this ride were high school friends Kim Warnick and Lulu Gargiulo on bass and guitar, respectively.  Kim and Lulu also sang.  While the Fastbacks featured a rotating cast of drummers, Mike Musburger (the Posies) fulfilled that role for most of the 1990s.

For the Fastbacks, used to playing small clubs, the Pearl Jam tour became a dream come true.  For the most part, PJ fans enjoyed the opening act.  Then there was Rome, where the audience voiced its displeasure by heaving an eclectic mix of objects at the band.  Mike narrates.

Date of interview: December 28, 2009.  Used with permission.

Green River.  The quintessential proto-grunge band.  Formed in 1984, Green River were arguably the first to embrace the heavier aesthetic beginning to grip Seattle.  Its members combined styles then anathema to rock n roll…Iggy-esque punk rock, Black Sabbath-esque metal, Aerosmith-esque hard rock.  Back then, that wasn’t cool, so said the alternative music snobs.  But Green River didn’t give a fuck.

The band lasted until 1987 when it split into two pieces: the part that wanted to become rock stars (Mother Love Bone, then Pearl Jam), and the part that wanted to remain punk rockers (Mudhoney.)  In the summer of 2008, Green River’s original members reunited and headlined at Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary music festival.

I arrived that weekend in July for research purposes, scheduling my trip around the reunion show.  The day of the event featured perfect, cloudless weather.  I showed up at around 4:30 in the afternoon and took in newer Sub Pop bands like No Age (great…just a guitar player and drummer, totally dug it) and Red Red Meat.  I called my wife, who was worried I might get sucked into a mosh pit.  I assured her that wouldn’t happen, as I looked around and saw parents feeding their kids hot dogs.

Then Green River took the stage.  Ear plugs installed, I parked myself about 20 feet from the front, near enough to experience the band, but not too close should things get out of control.  Immediately, the earlier congenial atmosphere became rowdy, as people began slamming into each other in front of me.  Still, I felt removed from that, and had no desire to experience an “I’m too old for this shit” moment.  That would change.

Green River featured all six members including Steve Turner, who quit the band in 1985, and later formed Mudhoney.  The band consisted of guitar players Turner, Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam), and Bruce Fairweather (Mother Love Bone), bass player Jeff Ament (PJ), drummer Alex Shumway, and singer Mark Arm (Mudhoney).  I was fortunate to interview Gossard, Shumway, and Arm for my book.

The band opened, to the best of my recollection, with the Black Sabbath-influenced “Come on Down.”  I thought to myself, ‘If grunge exists, this must be it.’  It’s like pornography. You know it when you see it.

I took a bunch of photos, then put the camera away to enjoy the band.  Arm stole the show in some ways when he announced—likely tongue-in-cheek—that the Melvins had ripped off a Green River song some years back, and, “in Led Zeppelin-like fashion, credited it to themselves.”  For those not aware, Zeppelin became notorious for re-working old blues songs without acknowledging the composer.  “Whole Lotta Love” was arguably the most egregious, stolen word for word from Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love.”  Thus, I lost it when Arm referred to Green River as “the Willie Dixon of grunge.”

During the last song, the bemused band members looked around and noticed they no longer had a percussionist.  Ament ventured behind the drum kit, grabbed the sticks, began playing the cymbals, and asked aloud where Alex went.  Next thing I realized, Shumway, a forty-something like me, had decided to go crowd surfing.  Yes, this show was a lot of fun.

Ament then began heaving Green River shirts into the crowd.  Before I could realize it, a pack of T’s headed towards me, and I reached out to grab one.

For some reason, and perhaps a sociologist can explain this to me, crowds get irrationally greedy when stuff gets tossed their way.  That’s why people will physically accost one another to get a foul ball at a baseball game.  I think you could throw dog shit into a crowd, and people will stomp each other for it.  I was about to experience that behavior.

I’m fairly strong, but I couldn’t match the inertia of twenty or so people tugging at the same shirts I had grabbed.  The next thing I knew I was down, the shirts torn from me, my glasses knocked to the ground and smashed.  I stood up and brushed myself off.  Fortunately, a woman picked up what remained of my lenses and handed them to me.

I’m pretty much blind without glasses, and thus could not drive back to the hotel. So I had a problem.  Luckily, I found someone with some first aid tape, and I crudely reconstructed my glasses.  I may have looked like Spaz from Meatballs, but at least I could drive home.

Later, I spoke with Jack Endino, who laughed when I told him my rowdiest concert experience occurred at a Green River show.

The next day, Brother James Burdyshaw unexpectedly set up an interview for me with the U-Men’s legendary Tom Price.  Tom is a critical piece of my book, and I had spent nearly two years trying to get the interview.  I just couldn’t meet him, however, looking like the quintessential nerd.  So, I bought some crazy glue, which allowed me to remove the geek tape. I showed up, met Tom, and did the interview…which was great by the way.

Man, I love Seattle.