The “Importance” of Grunge

Posted: January 8, 2012 in Seattle-Related Lists

I recently read a comment by someone, and I’m paraphrasing, that went something like: “grunge is the most important movement ever in rock n roll.”  So, I thought I’d write my take on the genre as it fits contextually within rock music history.  My hope is not to offend the person who wrote that comment, but I felt a need to write a response.

In the scheme of things, grunge does not represent the ultimate movement within rock n roll.  It does, however, represent the last time rock music mattered on a mass scale.  Grunge was the last sort of unifying force that brought together a generation or so.  It consumed kids in junior high, high school, college, and even folks like me, then in my late twenties.  It was passionate, exciting, and as I said before–unifying.  Most important in rock history, though?  Not even close.

Let’s take a look at the competition:

1) Early Elvis and the initiation of the country/blues hybrid.  This ’50s movement essentially created the genre of rock n roll, although one could make the argument that Jackie Brenston’s 1951 single “Rocket 88” did it three years before Elvis.  Nonetheless, this movement is more important than grunge.

2) Early British invasion.  Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds, etc.  They all brought a British personality to American rock and blues, and tore apart a generation as a result.  Conclusion: more important than grunge.

3) Early garage/pre-punk like Iggy and the Sonics.  These folks essentially represent ground zero for punk rock and all of it’s offshoots (including grunge)…more important than grunge.

4) Psychedelia.  Psych represents arguably the longest running thread throughout rock music and crossed into underground in the ’80s and beyond.  It’s still with us, unlike grunge.  Same conclusion.
5) Punk rock.  Duh.  More important than grunge.
6) Post-punk.  Here comes my bias.  I can’t hack post-punk…too melancholy and boring for my taste. I’ll give grunge a nod here.
7) Hardcore.  Hardcore became the basis for the flourishing ’80s alternative rock era, but the genre was limiting musically and basically existed during Reagan’s first term.  Advantage: grunge.
8) ’80s alternative rock…and that includes the rich array of underground bands that helped create scenes all over the country…Sonic Youth, Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, the Wipers, Mission of Burma, the U-Men, Husker Du, the Replacements, Tex & the Horseheads, Rain Parade, etc. etc. etc.  Hands down more important than grunge.
So, grunge makes the top 8 in my un-biased view.  Feel free to bash me…but only in a republican frontrunner kind of way.

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