The Rise Of The Grunge

It was a raw, heavy abrasive sound born out of geographic isolation, boredom and economic despair. The grunge revolution began in Seattle, Washington. Grunge, sometimes referred to as the Seattle Sound is a sub-genre of alternative rock that emerged during the mid-1980s.

Seattle was one weird place because it was sort of a city, not many bands made their way to. We were just kind of left with our own devices to create our own community. It had a lot to do with people staying in garages due to bad weather and making a lot of noise. Vandalize, smoke pot and listen to music.
~ Band members, Nirvana and Soundgarden

The early grunge icons claim to be inspired by punk rock and heavy metal bands like Venom, Black flag, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Motorhead. Fusing the sonic distortion (of electric guitar) of metal with onstage chaos of punk rock. Characterized by the raucous guitar sound, strong riffs, heavy drumming and lazy vocal delivery. Lyrics are typically angst-filled, often addressing themes such as social alienation, apathy, confinement, and a desire for freedom. Grunge became commercially successful in the first half of the 1990s, due mainly to the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Alice in Chains’ Dirt, and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core. The success of these bands boosted the popularity of alternative rock and made grunge the most popular form of hard rock music at the time. Although most grunge bands had disbanded or faded from view by the late 1990s, their influence continues to affect modern rock music.

Back to Seattle, by 1986, many bands had enough material to record entire albums but few could afford studio time. So a local producer put out a compilation called Deep six featuring the bands Green river, Melvins, Malfunkshun, Skin yard, Soundgarden, The U-men.

Deep six was a really good snapshot of what was happening in Seattle. It announced to the world that Seattle has this wild and crazy and energetic scene. Along the way somebody decided to call it Grunge.

Grunge is dirt and scum, which is a descriptive word for the raspy rock sound.
~ Mark Arm; vocalist, Green River
who called his own group; “Pure Grunge, Pure shit”.

70s heavy band – Long hair, jammin’, Zeppelin..that’s what they sounded like and they were good at it. ~ Charles Aaron, Music journalist.

Two people who loved the music scene but didn’t play started a label called Sub Pop and released Soundgarden’s – Screaming life as it’s first record.


By 1988, Sub Pop had put out records by half a dozen bands including Green River – Green River made little commercial impact outside of Seattle, but what the band lacked in commercial success it made up for in influence. In general, Green River is widely regarded as being one of the originators of the grunge. The band split due to difference of opinion among the members and bassist Jeff Ament along with Guitarist Stone Gossard started playing with the vocalist Andrew Wood (loved for his humor, on-stage acts and vocals; often claimed to be surpassing that of Eddie Vedder’s on online forums.) to form Mother Love bone – A band which made deliberate attempts to become popular. Following Andrew Wood’s death from heroin overdose on the eve of Mother Love Bone’s major debut in 1990, Jeff and Gossard soon met Eddie Vedder and founded Pearl Jam – which as we know catapulted to rock-stardom.

Simultaneously during this time, a hundred and fifty miles from Seattle, in a town called Aberdeen; Buzz Osborne, from The Melvins introduced his friend Kurt Cobain to punk rock magazines, bands and concerts. Kurt started playing with a fellow Melvin’s fan Krist Novoselic in the year 1986. In the following year they were calling themselves Nirvana. After recording a 10 song demo, the band was signed by Sub Pop. The debut album “Bleach” was released in the year 1989. Following that, it wasn’t long when the Nirvana took the nation by storm with it’s second album Nevermind – first grunge album to feature highly on lists like Billboard 200 and the Rolling Stones list.


There really is no “grunge” style besides the fact that they came from Seattle and had distorted guitars. Is Grunge just a term to reference a certain time in history? We leave that for the rock enthusiasts to wonder about.

VH1 News Special: Grunge * Grunge Wiki * Nirvana Wiki


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