First Class: Seattle Grunge Rock, 8/28/12

Posted: August 28, 2012 in The Strangest Tribe: the College Course

Wonderful first class. We ended up with 18 students, and they contributed heartily to today’s “grunge phenomenon” topic.  First, I asked them to take the “Which Seattle Band Are You?” quiz at http://www.gotoquiz.com/which_seattle_band_are_you and the results are…brrrrrrr (that’s a drum roll):

Pearl Jam: 11

Skin Yard: 2 (and that includes me)

Nirvana, Young Fresh Fellows, Fastbacks, Squirrels, U-Men, Soundgarden: all had one vote apiece

I spent the first part of the class discussing my journey into Seattle-dom, from my boredom with late ’70s mainstream rock in high school, to my hatred of the ’80s MTV era (when I discovered the ’60s), to when Seattle went mainstream in the early ’90s. We talked about motivations, communication, and class structures relating to music scenes in general.  Finally, I gauged the students’ reactions to this week’s assigned music:

Nirvana: “Blew,” “Lithium,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

The students recognized the evolution of this band from the noise-rock of Bleach to the more melodic and pop-oriented Nevermind.  They mentioned how they could actually understand the lyrics to “Lithium” versus the unintelligible rants of “Blew.”  They all enjoyed the Weird Al “Smells Like Nirvana” parody, which I asked them to watch after viewing the “Teen Spirit” video.

Pearl Jam: “Alive,” “Black.”

The general reaction to Pearl Jam was that they sounded more mainstream and polished than Nirvana…the latter band referred to as “raw” and “garage.”

Soundgarden: “Hunted Down,” “Outshined,” “Black Hole Sun.”

Someone mentioned how “Hunted Down” sounded similar to “Blew,” and I had to make a crack about both songs having the same producer.  The students recognized how this band became more polished over time.

Alice in Chains: “Them Bones,” “Brother.”

Reaction was similar to Pearl Jam.  I had to point out Ann Wilson’s guest vocal on “Brother.”

I also asked them to listen to Mudhoney’s “Fuzzgun ’91,” Screaming Trees’ “Nearly Lost You,” and Love Battery’s “Foot.”  They seemed to enjoy these lesser-known bands, commenting on the brevity of the Mudhoney selection.

Next week, we’ll turn the clock back to the mid-’70s, at the dawn of punk rock….and we will have a guest speaker, live from Seattle via Skype: Mr. Rob Morgan! More on him and the rest of next week’s class soon! (Rob is shown seated below during a Squirrels practice last April.)

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