Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge

Published by Crown Archetype, 2011

February 21st, 2012

Soundgarden. Source: Everybody Loves Our Town

Pearl Jam. Source: Everybody Loves Our Town

Kurt Cobain’s untimely death, though hardly unexpected, was a defining moment in our early adolescence and to this day we are overcome with nostalgia whenever we catch the opening riffs of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” As soon as Mark Yarm’s highly anticipated history of the grunge era, Everybody Loves Our Town, hit bookstores we eagerly picked up a copy and lost ourselves in this captivating and complex account of a cultural moment that was so integral to our youth. Yarm, a former senior editor at Blender, follows the history of grunge – a moniker universally despised by those it was used to describe – and its rise from the cultural backwater of Washington State to the most popular style of music in the world. Borrowing the approach used by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain in their definitive history of the Punk era, Please Kill Me, Yarm abstained from editorializing and instead compiled an oral history based on more than 250 interviews that he conducted with the major and minor players and hangers-on.

Everybody Loves Our Town traces the origins of the scene to Bruce Pavitt’s fanzine, and later record label, Sub Pop which he began in 1979 and would later have the distinction of first signing Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney. Beginning with the influential, though largely forgotten, U-Men in the early 1980s, Yarm affords almost equal attention to the bands that became household names – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains – and those that would toil in relative obscurity – L7, The Melvins, Mudhoney. The result is a riveting behind-the-scenes glimpse into era-defining recording sessions, disputes that would end careers, and the drug addictions that would claim the lives of many participants.

Nirvana. Source: Everybody Loves Our Town

Yarm deftly edits the rambling, convoluted, yet always fascinating accounts into a coherent narrative, which is no easy feat. Especially when dealing with a cast of characters whose heavy drug use has made their memories impenetrable and unreliable, and whose accounts are compromised by the dictates of ego, fame, and decades-old animosity. In fact, the most interesting moments of Everybody Loves Our Town emerge when Yarm weaves together a number of interpretations of the same event or conversation that differ greatly, those instances when the story becomes muddled and it is impossible for the reader to know who to believe. Everybody Loves Our Town is an enormous 500-page book, yet we plowed through it quickly, eager to find out what happened next. Somehow knowing how it all ends doesn’t make the narrative itself any less compelling.

A soundtrack is essential when reading this book, so we have assembled a list of our favourite tracks of the era to accompany your reading experience:

Nirvana – “Come As You Are”
Pearl Jam – “Nothingman”
L7 – “Pretend We’re Dead”
Alice In Chains – “Would?”
Soundgarden – “Spoonman”
Mudhoney – “Suck You Dry”
Melvin’s –“Revolve”
Nirvana – “Pennyroyal Tea”
Screaming Trees – “Nearly Lost You”
Soundgarden – “Outshined”
Alice In Chains – “Rooster”
Mother Love Bone – “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns”
Temple of the Day – “Hunger Strike”
Hole – “Doll Parts”
Pearl Jam – “Yellow Ledbetter”

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