Grunge (Also known as the Seattle Sound) and Alternative rock were unusually big sub-cultures to come out of the end of the 80’s. Grunge itself is actually a sub-genre of Alternative Rock but the term was coined to describe the kind of music that came out of Seattle and Washington around the end of the 80’s. As far as I can tell, the media never cited any moral panic around Grunge culture among the youth of the 90’s.
Most people agree that Grunge is a mixture of Punk Rock and Heavy Metal with “the distorted electric guitar”, but Grunge also uses deep lyrics and angst filled subject matters to appeal to its audience. Usually Grunge songs would address problems such as apathy and a desire to be free. In Pearl Jam’s case with the song ‘Jeremy’, violence in schools and Eddie Vedder’s memories of a boy he once knew. Alice in Chains also had a song called “Rooster” which was about Jerry Cantrell’s Father and his nickname during the Vietnam war.
As a sub-culture, Grunge typically involves people dressing in flannel shirts with a band tee beneath, ripped black or grey stone washed jeans and long, unkempt hairstyles. These traits were shared by both genders with the exception of ripped tights or a skirt for females and was popularised by the way Kurt Cobain dressed; like he didn’t really care about what he wore as long as it lasted and it was cheap. Grunge became especially big after 1991 with Nirvana’s release of ‘Smells like teen spirit’ and Pearl Jam’s release of the album ‘Ten’ in 1992. Also, the other two popular Grunge bands of that time were Chris Cornell’s SoundGarden and Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell’s Alice In Chains.
With the fact that Nirvana had started gaining massive air play on the radio and on MTV, Grunge took off and received massive commercial success in the mid 90’s, with many bands making massive record deals. Although by the end of the 90’s, most Grunge bands had either faded from the scene or disbanded. Pearl Jam are currently the only original Grunge band from the 90’s who are still majorly active, having released their last album ‘Lightning Bolt’ in 2013 and a tour planned for the 25th anniversary of ‘Ten’ in 2016/17. On a side note, Audioslave (2001) featured Chris Cornell as it’s lead singer.
Typically, Grunge gigs were rather small, with a dozen or so people attending them. However, with the use of clever angles, photographers were able to portray a massive crowd of people at these gigs and suddenly their popularity soared. Grunge has played a massive part in the lives of teenagers growing up in the 90’s. With relatable lyrics and subject matter, coupled with an easy to access and cheap wardrobe. It is easy to see how most men and women in their mid 30’s were once associated with Grunge. To this day, I often see people my own age wearing flannel shirts with a band tee underneath. I myself own at least 3 flannel button downs and numerous band tee’s, as well as stone washed grey jeans. This is mostly due to the music my older Brother listened to when we were growing up, which had imprinted on me from a young age. Because of this I would consider myself as a bit of a Grunge enthusiast.
Below I have included some ‘other’ snaps from the Pearl Jem gig I attended in 2014 (more can be seen here), giving an example of how the spirit of Grunge lives on in the youth of today and the tribute bands that have sprung up because of the likes of Kurt, Eddie, Chris and Layne.
The featured image is from that night in 2014 and was taken by me on my Canon DSLR. I’ve also included an image of the album “Ten” and Eddie Vedder from the video for “Jeremy”.