Grunge Music and Podcasting

ChucksI know I’m probably about a year behind the times, but I’ve only recently started listening to Google’s streaming “radio” stations instead of my own uploaded library. Music is a funny thing. You’re really into it for a certain phase of your life (typically pre-teen to college age), and then you get busy with other things and you stop paying attention to it. Subsequently, that era of music tends to become the standard by which all other music encountered is measured. In a sense, your musical tastes freeze even while artists and styles continue to wax, wane, and evolve. One day, you find yourself yelling down the hallway at your teenager to turn the volume down on whatever annoying bits of sound are passing for audio art nowadays. It happens to the best of us. Don’t laugh, your time is coming.

The era of music that I look back on with the most fondness is the 90’s. There was about a five-year period of time when frustrated GenX rock artists were eschewing all of the musical conventions and formulas that were successfully applied to the pop and glam bands of the 80’s. They focused simply on writing and performing great music with poetic lyrics and cared about little else. This was the era of grunge and alternative rock led by reluctant artists accidentally becoming the voices of a generation. I was fortunate to be the exact right age to be able to appreciate this genre as it was unfolding.


The best of that era came during the beginning of the decade. The first time I heard Ten by Pearl Jam, I didn’t know what to make of it. It was dark and different and beautiful. My collection was soon augmented with offerings from Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and of course Nirvana. As the genre matured and became more mainstream in the second half of the decade, some good music was still being released but the “edge” was mostly gone.

Now, when I punch up the 90’s alternative playlist on my mobile phone (I never predicted I’d type that sentence back in 1994), I find myself wondering: whatever happened to these bands? At one time, these personalities loomed so large on MTV and the airwaves. In 1995, I probably couldn’t have counted the number of times MTV anchor Kurt Loder uttered the name “Scott Weiland” in the course of a day.  But most of them have now been absent from the spotlight for ten years or more. So, to Google I go!

In catching up, I’m learning some interesting things. For example, in the early days of grunge there were quite a few collaborations and crossovers between these bands. I knew about Temple of the Dog, which featured members from both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, but I had forgotten about other bands such as Audioslave (Soundgarden/Rage Against the Machine).  This was a tight community. They all knew each other, and they all shared a love for honest, bold, untainted music. There was no competition among them, only collaboration and cooperation.

Something else that was evident at the time, but has since been further documented, was the discomfort most of these bands felt with their roles once they became popular. Paradoxically, they drew inspiration from a broken, unaccepting society that was now fully accepting of them and their music. They wailed against unjust institutions while signing lucrative deals with big record labels. The irony was not lost on Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain or Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, both of whom appeared increasingly uncomfortable with the spotlight outside of the music stage. British magazine Melody Maker did a feature on Vedder in 1994 called “I’m Not Your F*** Messiah” in which he bemoaned the burden of expectations placed on musicians by an entire generation of fans. Of course, Cobain’s inner turmoil is well known, and contributed to his suicide in 1994.

Kurt Cobain

Grunge’s heyday was bright and short-lived. It wouldn’t be long before more polished grunge-influenced pop bands like Creed and The Goo Goo Dolls dominated the musical charts. These types of successes simultaneously validated the genre and ensured that the gritty niche bands would never fully return.

In a conversation with Jessica Cook a few days ago, she referred to podcasting as “the last true art form”. She was speaking in hyperbole, but I do think she has a good point. The honesty and authenticity makes it a very unique medium that stands out among today’s clickbait culture and ad-dominated airwaves. I think of our little community of gaming podcasters and I wonder if this is what it felt like for those bands in Seattle back in 1990. Just a bunch of gamers having a blast creating content, showing up on each other’s shows, kicking  around questions like “what if we could make a living doing this?” without being delusional enough to believe that it will ever happen. But what if it did? What if a major network came knocking at my door? What if the money started to pour in? What if Beyond Bossfights became “The voice of the gamer generation?” I honestly don’t think I would be able to handle that kind of responsibility, either, to say nothing of the strain it might put on my current friendships.

No, I think I’ll just stay here as long as possible. Frozen in time. In the early 90’s.

Teenage Angst Has Paid Off Well by Jesse Millan on Flickr Creative Commons

It’s music Saturday by Silvia Maggi on Flickr Creative Commons

Kurt Cobain by bunnicula on Flickr Creative Commons

6 thoughts on “Grunge Music and Podcasting

  1. According to Jessica’s reasoning I am a true artist… 🙂

    Moving swiftly on, I use to have a broad overview across multiple music scenes up until the late 90s. It came to an end exactly because of the reasons you’ve stated. Family, work and other demands on my time.

    Between 2007 and 2009 I worked in an environment where the radio was on all day, usually tuned to popular stations playing material that was mainly in the charts. Simply by a form of audio osmosis, I became au fait with pop music once again. As soon as I left that work place for another contract then it all stopped and I reverted to my musical bubble.

    Nice post, now get off my lawn.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh my.. Where to start on this.. This is right in my wheel house…

    I was working at a “classic” rock radio station right at the start of the “Grunge” scene in 91. I was mid-days and also the Music Director (I would get to talk to all the Record Companies and get to listen to new music first, then suggest what to add and how to program the station, the Program Director, had the final say, but I had a TON of input) I remember when I was talking to the contact person at Epic Records, they said we have this great new band called Pearl Jam. She sent me an advanced copy of Ten. My life changed forever. After hearing Ten, and Soundgarden and Nirvana, I knew that Grunge/Alternative was going to be big (Remember this was at the very start, no one had heard of this bands outside of Seattle) I went to the program director and station owner, and conceived them to let me do a “Alternative/Grunge” show on Sundays nights. This was UNHEARD of in my town. I had to conceive them, that it would work with your normal “Classic Rock” we played all other times.

    They told me, if I could get 1 sponsor to pay for advertising for the show, I could do a test run for a few weeks. I went to our local music store (remember those!) and promptly got them to sponsor me.

    The show started with just 2 hours. that lasted 2 weeks. It took off like wild fire. It expanded into 4 hours.

    I got to interview lots of bands, before they were “big” (Weezer, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Nine Inch nails) I was playing new music first. I was one of the first stations to play this new band called Green Day. Not bad for a small town radio station in the midwest. (The closest station to me that was playing music like that, was q101 out of Chicago) which was 3 hours away. so We could not get it on the radio here.

    Pearl Jam is still my favotire to this day. I listen to Ten at least 2-3 times a week. and have saw t hem live 10 times..

    Oh and side note – Temple Of The Dog was formed as a tribute to Andy Wood lead singer of Mother Love Bone In the year following his death, Wood’s former roommate Chris Cornell of Soundgarden wrote two songs, “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”, in tribute to his late friend.

    Cornell then approached Gossard and Ament about releasing the songs as singles before collaborating on an album. Adding drummer Matt Cameron, future Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready, and future Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, they formed Temple of the Dog in 1990 to pay tribute to Wood,releasing one self-titled album in 1991. (And I was one of the first stations to play Hunger Strike 🙂

    Sorry to ramble, hope this made sense. But this post brought back many memories and is about the music I still love to this day. So thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I forgot to mention that I remember the day the news broke that Kurt Cobain had commuted suicide, I was on air doing my normal Mid-Day shift, this was the first time I had to announce anything like that on the air. I was surreal for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know if this phenomena will happen to me or not. I’m about to turn 33. I was around for all the acts you describe, and loved them the same as everyone else, but that lead me to search through other genres and my musical tastes have changed over the years.

    There hasn’t been that moment where my tastes froze. I haven’t let that happen yet. I don’t buy the amount of music I used to, but new albums from artists I’ve loved for years keep coming out. New artists catch my attention. I’ve managed to find bands I like from emerging genres. Maybe I’m weird. But I recognize the issue you bring up, I see it in others.

    My Dad doesn’t know much of anything musically past the 80’s. He basically stopped caring around then. I have a friend only a couple of years older than me that is like you and stopped caring in the 90’s. I never stopped caring. If bands I enjoy stop performing or break up, there’s usually another band to replace them popping up out of left field.

    Of course, this is more feasible if you limit yourself to one niche genre of music, like grunge. That window opened and shut. Similarly, Punk rock sort of did the same thing, though it lasted longer. Anyway, I guess maybe it’s because I don’t have kids to point out stuff that I wouldn’t like.

    And yes, let’s get paid for podcasting!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Eclectic in all things but in grunge and games I am consistent 🙂

    I find it weird how my interest in music waxes and wanes, how I suddenly explore new areas and then return to pastures old. Slowly building a collection of music I know I like.

    But one track: ‘Alive’ will I think always remind me of the early 90’s, a time when in my early teens, in my niavity, I truly felt alive.

    Grunge is dead, long live grunge!

    Liked by 1 person

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