Seattle, Washington, 1990. Little of note—apart from the Space Needle, Starbucks, and Boeing—was associated with the northwestern city. Bill Gates is from Seattle, but Microsoft was merely a reputable company in that period, so truly to the outside world, there wasn't much to say about the city. Perhaps pro sports made the tranquil metropolis a recognizable name, but one NBA championship wasn't enough to transform it into a cultural haven as its music soon would.
|Eye of the hurricane: before the big band status|
Never mind the constant stream of press material on Time, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The New York Times, and other outlets in America and eventually the world; when something hit the TV, by all means, it had to be bought. Once Smells Like Teen Spirit reached the tube, the avalanche began. It started with innocent appearances on Saturday Night Live on behalf of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, touring, and the MTV phenomenon that drew the attention of so many young teens and adults to "grunge," a term so loosely coined that even Seattleites had trouble grasping it. Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and the stories of the bands we all know followed.
|Weird Al and his tasteful parody|
While Seattle was just a city, with all the perks and flaws of any other city with similar demographics, it was a strange time and place to be growing up. Either you were one of the jocks or upscale rich kids, or you were a geek bound to work in a record store, K-Mart, or someplace similar. There wasn't an appreciated culture of cosplay (otaku or gamer) where you could geek out all you want and still get the girl; these were loser's havens back then. In Seattle, it happened to be bands. The music underground was already respected by other underground scenes from various places in the U.S. thanks to the Sub Pop label, but once it all switched over to mainstream, it comically became super important to know what type of snack was a favorite among the Seattle fans.
|Cast of Singles|
Perry Ellis also cashed in (or rather, struck out) on the grunge thing. There was a Spring/Summer '93 collection designed by Marc Jacobs, which was a fiasco. The opposite must be said for the genuine style: Torn jeans were a religion for me as a kid, and plaid was the uniform of choice in school.
Let's not forget that the media is a beast of many heads. One of them is Hollywood. There was a genuine movie that was coincidentally released before the hype, called Singles (1992), a romantic comedy by director Cameron Crowe depicting Seattle's music scene and the young adults involved. After its warm reception, Warner Bros. contacted Crowe to create a sitcom whose tone resembled the movie's. When Crowe declined, it's an educated guess—and probably true—that Warner proceeded to create Friends in 1994 based on this up-and-coming Generation X, though they opted to set it in New York given the exhaustion of the whole "Seattle thing."
|Cast of Frasier|
|Beavis and Butthead defined what|
rocked and what sucked—grunge ruled!
It is highly recommended that you seek out the documentary Hype! (1996), where this is all portrayed. The film interviews many bands of the grunge scene, and they describe the "before-and-after" in ways that I will never be able to credibly document here. No matter how cynical and ridiculous the constant craving for the next big thing was, the truth is Seattle enjoyed the courtship, albeit in a timid fashion.
I know several people who lived in Seattle in recent years, and they claim it is a great city. Does anyone share that view? Did things change drastically for the better since the '80s? Or was it nice all along, only bleak to a few? The more you comment, the better the closing article on Nirvana will be. Don't be a lamestain!