Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let Your Inner Rock Star Shine

Whether you’re in Seattle on vacation, here for business, or you're lucky enough to have lived  in this awesome city for years – you have to know that Seattle’s musical history is as important to our city as The Gold Rush, shipbuilding, Boeing or Microsoft. Seattle music has broken the sound barrier in its own unique way for decades and as a city we seem to have the gift of creating and discovering the newest best (and sometimes craziest) of our times.
Want to be a rock star? Want your garage band to win a few Grammys? Want to drop a breakout solo album? Perhaps your forte is promoting other musicians. I’m just saying – if your heart is into rock, pop, metal, or breakthrough music of any kind, Seattle is the place to give it a chance. If you don’t play it, sing it, or promote it, then Seattle is still a great place to listen. With clubs galore, music is a part of what makes this city breathe.

Don’t get me wrong. We have an amazing Opera company and the Seattle Symphony is breathtaking to experience. Classical music is just as important a part of our organic sense of local rhythm and we are fiercely proud of its presence here. It’s just that I can only focus on one thing at a time so this blog is my tribute to the remarkable music of the Seattle rock, grunge and metal bands. PLEASE use the comment section to add your own favorites. It’s a subject bigger than all of us. Who knows? Maybe reading this little taste of music will trigger a spark in you to let your own Inner Rock Star Shine!

                                                                                                               Death Cab for Cutie CoverArt
The "Seattle Sound"

Seattle is the birthplace of rock legend Jimi Hendrix and also the music style known as "grunge” which was made famous by local groups Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The “Seattle Sound” is known everywhere and highly respected in rock music circles. It’s hard to explain how a very polite city quietly tucked away in the Northwestern corner of the USA could produce such groundbreaking (and loud) artists, but that’s exactly what Seattle has done, and continues to do. Current groups like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie are making their own mark and are carrying on the tradition of alternative music. It’s almost like Seattle has been crowned with a magical commandment that we go forth and sow musical genres and artists like no other. Or maybe it’s just the rain. Maybe we have more time for inner thought and creativity because we don’t have to be bothered with gardening and playing in the sun from December through March, so we have more opportunities to create from within.
From Wikipedia: “Inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal and indie rock, grunge is generally characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars, contrasting song dynamics, and apathetic or angst-filled lyrics. The grunge aesthetic is stripped-down compared to other forms of rock music, and many grunge musicians were noted for their unkempt appearances and rejection of theatrics.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be right not to mention the incredible contributions to rhythm and blues that Seattle brought to the world of music. Ray Charles and Quincy Jones started here. (picture from IMDB) “ Ray Charles was a poor, blind, newly orphaned teenager living in Tampa, Florida, in 1948 when he decided to move to Seattle, picking the city because it was as far away as he could get from where he was. He stayed only two years, but during that time he cut his first record and began to develop the genre-bending musical style that would make him an international star. Charles often spoke of Seattle as a pivotal point in his long and hugely successful career.”
That to me is what Seattle does best. We take something that’s already a part of music history and then bend it to our own sound. From heavy metal to rock to alternative grunge, the Seattle Sound is brave enough to not only be different but to celebrate that difference. It takes courage and we’ve got it. People might not always know where we are, but they sure do know what we produce.

Fun Break:___________________________
Watch Pearl  Jam surprise Conan O’Brien fans in Seattle 2010 - here.

It probably won't surprise you to know that one of Seattle’s most famous genre-bending musicians, Jimi Hendrix, was influenced by blues artists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, and Elmore James. In the early years, Jimi worked with Little Richard and once said he wanted to do the same thing with his guitar as Little Richard did with his voice.
photo from The Music Court

Before Jimi got his first guitar at age 15 he would carry around a broom and basically play air guitar, or he’d play with an old ukelele. Born in Seattle Jimi’s family was not only disadvantaged financially but the disfunction ran rampant. He was self-taught in every way and for those who believe in destiny, it was the only imaginable explanation for how he could have become famous enough to change the world of music. He had nothing in his upbringing that would indicate becoming a legend. But maybe that’s what gave him the drive. Maybe having nothing stirred up a drive to do everything. Hendrix has received many musical honors and awards both in life and posthumeously. Paul Allen’s own  Experience Music Project
Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame was inspired by the name of Jimi’s band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and his first US album, Are You Experienced?

From my "Hard to Visualize" file:  If Jimi Hendrix were still alive today, he'd be turning 68 in November of 2010.

Visit this Giant Page of Seattle Music and find out how many bands move to Seattle in 24 hours. Also check out a list of Seattle bands past and also Seattle labels. The site is dated but still very informative. I wish they’d update and continue. It was a great idea.

Thank you to Wikipedia for lots of the information below:

Alice in Chains- original name, Diamond Lie - (Staley's picture from here) is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell and vocalist Layne Staley. Mike Starr was Alice in Chains' original bassist from the group's formation in 1987 to 1993. He played bass for albums Facelift, Sap, and Dirt and left the group in the middle of the Dirt tour. He also sang back-up vocals on the song "Confusion" on the Alice in Chains album Facelift. A student from Burien High, Mike is also known for his deep and touching honesty on a recent season of Sober House.

Although widely associated with grunge music, the band's sound incorporates heavy metal and acoustic elements. Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with other Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. The band was one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over 17 million albums worldwide. Sadly, the band had a serious problem with substance abuse and Layne Staley passed away in 2002.
Layne Staley Fund, a non-profit 501(c)(3) created in 2002, provides hope, education, support and treatment funds for heroin recovery in the Seattle music community.
Seeking to turn the tragedy of Layne's death into hope for those that suffer... see here.

Soundgarden is a rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1984 by lead singer and drummer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. Matt Cameron became the band's permanent drummer in 1986 while bassist Ben Shepherd became a permanent replacement for Yamamoto in 1990.

Soundgarden was one of the seminal bands in the creation of grunge. Did you catch them at the 2010 Lollapalooza Concert?

Q. How did they come up with the name Soundgarden?

A. This from Kim in Rip, 1990: "It's a name that conjures up powerful visual images, although at one point we thought it might be too soft. But there was something about the name we liked. One of our hopes is that people come to see us thinking they're gonna get something pretty, and then get their heads blown off...".

The real physical inspiration for the name came from "A Sound Garden," a pipe sculpture that stands in Sand Point Park in Seattle. A music of sorts is produced when wind whistles through the structure's hollow metal pipes.

By electrastore, Pearl Jam "Backspacer
Pearl Jam – “is a rock band that formed in Seattle, in 1990. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), and Mike McCready (lead guitar). The band's current drummer is Matt Cameron, also of Soundgarden, who has been with the band since 1998.

Formed after the demise of Ament and Gossard's previous band Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten. One of the key bands of the grunge movement in the early 1990s, Pearl Jam was criticized early on as being a corporate cash-in on the alternative rock explosion. However, over the course of the band's career its members became noted for their refusal to adhere to traditional music industry practices, including refusing to make music videos and engaging in a much-publicized boycott of Ticketmaster. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having "spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame."

Since its inception, the band has sold over thirty million records in the U.S., and an estimated sixty million worldwide. Pearl Jam has outlasted many of its contemporaries from the alternative rock breakthrough of the early 1990s, and is considered one of the most influential bands of the decade. Allmusic refers to Pearl Jam as "the most popular American rock & roll band of the '90s."
(Pearl Jam with Band of Horses tour dates for 2010 ) Band of Horses link.

Take Five – (More After This):

Do You know the answers?

1. What grungeless Seattle band's name is affectionately abbreviated "Pot USA"?  (Picture from here)

2. What grunge band after deciding not to name itself after NBA player Mookie Blaylock , titled its first album after his number Ten?

3. What 1991 Seattle ditty did Rolling Stone dub the "grunge national anthem"?

4. What band did drummer David Grohl audition for at the Dutchman rehearsal room in Seattle? (The Dutchman and Calleye first opened in 1984 and had been rehearsal space for many Seattle music legends including Nirvana, Mudhoney, The Screaming Trees, and The Gits.)

5.  When Modest Mouse first started, there were 5 band members - True or False?
Extra Challenge - name them!

1. The Presidents of the United States 2.  Pearl Jam 3. Smells Like Teen Spirit 4. Nirvana 5. False - there were three:   Isaac Brock, Eric Judy, Jeremiah Green
Nirvana - (Nirvana picture from here) We all know how sad it was that Kurt Cobain died so young. I still can’t get over what a waste of a life and talent that was - but his impact lives forever.
Nirvana was an American rock band that was formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana went through a succession of drummers, the longest-lasting being Dave Grohl, who joined the band in 1990 and later started the Foo Fighters.

The band established itself as part of the Seattle music scene, releasing its first album Bleach for the independent record label Sub Pop in 1989. After signing to major label DGC Records, Nirvana found unexpected success with "Smells Like Teen Spirit", the band's lead single from its second album Nevermind (1991). Subsequently, Nirvana entered into the mainstream, bringing along with it a subgenre of alternative rock called grunge. As Nirvana's frontman, Kurt Cobain found himself referred to in the media as the "spokesman of a generation," with Nirvana being considered the "flagship band" of Generation X Cobain was uncomfortable with the attention and placed his focus on the band's music, believing the band's message and artistic vision to have been misinterpreted by the public, challenging the band's audience with its third studio album In Utero (1993).

Nirvana's brief run ended with Cobain's death in April 1994, but the band's influence and popularity endured in the years that followed. In 2002, "You Know You're Right," an unfinished demo from the band's final recording session, topped radio playlists around the world. Since their debut, the band has sold over twenty-five million albums in the US alone, and over fifty million worldwide. 
Bassist Krist Novoselic is still active in Seattle music and politics, writes a blog for Reverb, and is chairman of FairVote.  Check it out.


Foo Fighters picture from here                                                                       Tiny Vipers Picture from here
From Ray Charles to Jimi to Nirvana and on to Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie – Seattle has a list of successful musicians that would make any city proud. Green River - QueensrycheSir Mix-A- LotIndigo Girls - Blue Scholars - VisqueenThe Maldives -Final SpinsFriday Mile - Tiny VipersGrand Hallway - The Album Leaf - and David Grohl's Foo Fighters are all Seattle artists worth mentioning. There are too many to list here but I hope you might feel inspired to look up more. 

The bottom line is: Seattle ROCKS!!!!

FUN FACT: You probably already know this but I’ll say it anyway – Did you know that music lovers of all ages are going retro and buying record players??? A lot of bands make records as well as CD’s.
Check out sites like Shockhound for all sorts of vinyl (and CD) choices both oldies and newbies. And while you’re there, the music scene clothes, gear and posters are worth checking out, too.
                                                                     Shockhound Logo

A Few Music Resources in Seattle to Get You Started:

Seattle Music Weekly - Easy Street Records; (206) 691-3279 - Wall of Sound; (206) 441-9880 - Sonic Boom Records; (206) 568-2666 - Everyday Music & The Future Home of Elliott Bay Book Company; (206) 568-3321 - Sub Pop Records; (206) 441-8441 -  Music & nightlife Seattle Times Newspaper: Matson on Music. News, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by Seattle Times music writer Andrew Matson - Sound Magazine (Northwest Music Life) - MusicPrep -All things (Seattle) music, including recording studios and labels. Reverb - Seattle Weekly Music Blog

ATTN: Local bands: Be HEARD!!! Upload your music here - The End 107.7

Don't ever be afraid to

A Pearl of Wisdom - Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, says:
"It's so important - Every day we wake up, we're creating our memory. We have to create the best ones we can, even if for one day. Find your goals and take them one step at a time. Your happiness and control form responsibility. It takes work and you MUST do things yourself. Don't expect anyone else to do it for you. Don't feel sorry for yourself. I've learned that about myself. I once thought I was under the lion's paw but when I decided to take on responsibility, I became much more free."

Amazing bands and venues and it all helps TEENS.

_______Northwest Hip Hop ALERT!_______

It would take a whole separate post to give proper props to Northwest Hip Hop. (We might tackle that some day.) ln the meantine, please check out this Wikipedia site and learn more for an enlightening read.

About the Author

Clearly Me Luise ™ is a published author living happily in the Seattle area with her husband and son. Her inspirational blog is very popular and her romantic poetry has been published online and in several romance magazines.


  1. Very cool site. Fun and interesting.

  2. So cool thanks for sharing!!!

  3. I love this. So glad I found it.

  4. I read every word. This is really entertaining and includes alot. Great job.

  5. I can think of some others but you got the best in my opinion. Excellent.

  6. Fun journey. I got a lot out of it.

  7. I like the whole page including seattle news below the rock stuff. Nice

  8. Love the Pearl Jam info.

  9. Quick reading and good facts. Thanks.

  10. I love this whole blog!


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