Saying that the summer of 1991 was the dawn of a new era in rock music might sound like hyperbole, but when you look at how Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam burst out of Seattle to topple the corporate hair-metal that continued to dominate after the close of the 80’s … it all seems clear.
Nirvana was the clear ‘poster child’ for the grunge and alt-rock movement, with Nevermind being the touchstone moment when the music went from local hit to nationwide phenomenon in a matter of weeks. But just before Nevermind, another Seattle group – Pearl Jam – released their own epic album “Ten”, that would go on to outsell Nevermind by a fair margin. The music of Pearl Jam brought more elements of ‘classic rock’ (which is why their occasional use of songs by The Who fit so well in their live performances) to the typical grunge mix of punk and heavy metal.
Grunge music touched the raw nerves of millions of teens and young adults, with songs like Pearl Jam’s Even Flow and Alive, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium, Stone Temple Pilots’ Plush, Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, Alice in Chains’ Man in the Box, and many many more. In 1991-2 MTV was still almost entirely playing music videos, and the videos for songs by these bands started getting heavy rotation – and also, MTV airplay contributed heavily to sales (I know, different era entirely – pre-digital, pre-reality TV, pre-YouTube).
I was too old and too married to be part of the disenfranchised youth so pulled by grunge (and my music preference leans this way), but I have always loved many of the songs and videos of these groups – they were amazingly creative groups working outside of the mainstream for the love of the music.
Here is the classic music video for Pearl Jam’s iconic Jeremy: