Soundgarden Will Never be the First Seattle Band Anyone Mentions. But for Me, Soundgarden Was the First Band That Changed Everything

Comments

1
It's ironic, but PiL were the first band to crack the notion that Seattle could be a major rock music town. In the 80s, bands like the Allies and the Heats had some near hits, with songs that were still kind of new-wavey and 70s rock influenced, but none of them went anywhere. Punk rock had died long ago, and X had made a pretty big splash, along with the Pixies, but it was still mostly underground in the age of MTV. You had to watch days to see one play of 'Radio Clash' and then there was the 120 minutes underground music video show, but that channel focussed on the established circuit of the underground. One of the VJs was from Seattle, but I don't think he was on air when Nirvana broke through.

The U-men were making a lot of noise in various underground venues across Seattle, and seemed to be the most legitimate heirs to the punk rock throne, but they were decidedly experimental. The 80s had the best underground scene because none of the bands expected to be allowed above ground, and therefore, just played what they wanted, although, like Killing Joke, they got considerably tighter, and much better produced over the years.

Anyway, in 1987, PiL, who any self-respecting punk rock music fan had continued to follow because it included the former Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, released an album with a song titled 'Seattle' on it. For me, this was a never-before-seen stamp of recognition on my hometown, a place which noone knew existed when I went to Europe in the 1980s. I had to say 'up in the corner, north of San Francisco', and then they understood.

So PiL was step one for me of the rise of Seattle music, even though, of course, Jimi Hendrix had been born here (but he sure didn't make it here - that took NY and London). Heart, of course, had ruled, but they were a hair metal band by the mid 1980s (though they still did great work then, in retrospect). It was all behind us, though, by the mid 80s.

Soundgarden got semi-famous before Nirvana did, although Nirvana got attention for playing when the wall came down in Berlin, which was a huge deal at the time, finally being relieved of the hair-trigger nuclear war threat of the 1980s (and really earlier all the way back to the 1950s) I had never known anything but the threat of nuclear apocalypse and didn't think I would live to be old, and Reagan coming in just escalated that feeling to a fever pitch.

Loud Love was on heavy video rotation at the Tower Records which is now a QFC next to the Seattle Center on Mercer. It also ended up on MTV a few times, I think, probably on the metal show with Ricky Rachtman, who championed the band. Everybody thought the guitar riffs were legit hard rock, and the drumming really stood out for me, but of course, Chris Cornell was the second coming of Robert Plant. I picked up the entire album because of Loud Love, and happliy discovered Big Dumb Sex, which was hilarious, but also totally rocking. A friend of mine played Soundgarden's cover of Ohio Players FOPP while we did acid, and I could not fricking believe the singing on that song, and still can't. I also couldn't believe a rock band had pulled off a cover of a funk band. It was just random - or in the parlance of the day - 'out of left field'. A guitarist friend of mine had mentioned Ultra Mega OK to me a year earlier, and I thought 'oh, whatever', but he looked at me like I was full of it, and I was. Loud Love convinced me though.

WIthin a year or so, Nirvana exploded, and Pearl Jam behind them, although Pearl Jam were done after Vs, no matter how many albums they dumped out, but Soundgarden definitely cracked the Seattle wall first. And they were also the last ones out also. Their music got better and better up until they quit. Burden in My Hand is an incredible beautiful song. They also always seemed to have ti together. It's a shame this tragedy will overshadow much of what was a solid history of competent professional music.
2
Awesome. Thank you.
3
I was at UPS at the same time. Soundgarden were IT for me. Also, my friend Joann must have been your friend's neighbor in the A frames that year. It's a tiny world and a less beautiful one without Chris and his voice.
4
Thank you. Soundgarden was my first and it cemented my love for the "Seattle sound" although I can admit I was never really into Kurt. Nothing and no one sounded like Chris. I lived in West Seattle before I moved to AK for a few years that record store was my fav place to hang when I was homesick. I'm from the East Coast and we lived our lives in record stores. Great article ♥
5
"Soundgarden will never be the first Seattle band anyone mentions.... But for me, Soundgarden was first."
I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place, but this might be the most obnoxiously indulgent, presumptuous, and pontifical sentiments shared as tribute to Chris Cornell.
6
I was never a big fan of Soundgarden but I am definitely not a fan of apparently healthy people committing suicide, it's extremely painful for the loved ones left behind.