Five Star Fridays: Life Before Grunge Edition

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

by Jason Kuznicki

I turned thirteen in 1989. At that age the mind kind of imprints on music — you notice it. Cosmically.

Everyone is at least a little crazy then, and sometimes more. Nothing fits. Nothing makes sense. You stand uncomprehending before the cruel, matter-of-fact changes of puberty. And the music starts talking to you.

What is it saying? You have no idea. No one’s ever said this stuff before.

The idiom varies. For whatever reason I never took to grunge. Rather the stuff that came right before it. When no one else was home I’d tune the family stereo to 97X — yes, that 97X (bang!) the future of rock and roll — and listen. And for once I wouldn’t have any words of my own.

My mom would get mad about 97X, which she hated. But I think you always remember the music from around that age.

I learned only today that 97X isn’t playing anymore. Neither broadcast nor online. There’s a song about that kind of loss, too:

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13 Responses to “Five Star Fridays: Life Before Grunge Edition”

  1. #1 |  Peter Ramins | 

    Haha, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin! This is really odd, because I had a conversation with a 90s-teen Canadian lass the other day and we started trading songs back and forth, and this was one of my picks. I was definitely alternative/grunge-oriented in high school.

    With a tiny smattering of punk.

  2. #2 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I don’t know which guest blogger this is. Seems more like the gay one than the Christian one, but I think there are others.

    Anyway, a few weeks back I linked a recent cover of a song I did from 1988. It was “Victoria’ as performed by the Fall. But, The Fall (my favorite band ever, btw) was merely covering an earlier Kinks song (never bothered to lissen to the Kinks version til I started the cover back in April). I don’t really like the song that much (turns out the Kinks version is better than the Fall version, but it is not one of the better Kinks songs). Arrogant guy that I am, I think my versh is best (mostly cuz I had good help). Here is the link again:

    “Oh, Buuuuuuuuuurrgers!” ™

  3. #3 |  Jason Kuznicki | 

    Yeah, it’s the gay one. Sorry ’bout that.

  4. #4 |  GÄC | 

    I guess I imprinted a bit early. Growing up in rural North Carolina during the late 70s and early 80s, there wasn’t much beyond the then modern rock (now classic rock) or country. But I was a punk. Not in the hairstyle or the dress, but in the music. I was listening to the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Generation X, Sex Pistols, etc before I was out of elementary school. Still listen to the same bands…

    I’ve always wondered – was I drawn to that sort of music because I had a more independent personality, or do I have a more independent personality because of the music I listened to at that age. I was very into music, much more so than books or tv at an early age, so I really do believe that it did play an important role in who I am now. But I think that having hands-off parents was the main factor – I swear they approached my childhood from a social darwinist perspective – “eh, if he lives to adulthood he’ll have learned his lessons”

  5. #5 |  GÄC | 

    Oh, forgot to add – I’ve always had an irrational animosity towards grunge. I blame those unwashed flannel wearing screamers for stealing the limelight away from some of the alternative bands that I thought were on the verge of hitting it big and really deserved fame. Guadalcannal Diary, The Connells, Drivin ‘n’ Cryin, etc. Come to find out, they did hit it big – they still play some of their songs on the radio here in Germany.

    Still not a fan of the flannel wearers though…

  6. #6 |  ClubMedSux | 

    I don’t know if this will make you feel any better about grunge bands, GÄC, but as somebody who was just being born when punk was starting to explode (1979), grunge actually led me back to all those early punk bands–many of which I now count among my favorite artists. I was actually listening to many of the bands Jason posted above when I was in Jr. High, but when Nirvana hit I realized there was all sorts of music under the surface I didn’t know about. Shortly after Nirvana hit it big, Cracker scored an alternative hit with “Low,” which led me to David Lowery’s earlier band Camper Van Beethoven. Camper covered Black Flag’s “Wasted” on their first album, and Black Flag led me to the “Decline of Western Civilization” documentary. So while the grunge bands may have stolen the limelight from your perspective, as a 13-year-old they basically tore down my perception of music fitting into neat little boxes. And for that I’ll forever be grateful.

  7. #7 |  Burgers Allday | 


    Have u ever met Christopher Nealon, or the late Dave Pasquerelli?

  8. #8 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    #2 – Burgers, if you look at the little grey box under the post it gives the name of the guest blogger:

    This entry was posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012 at 2:19 pm by Jason Kuznicki and is filed under Five-Star Fridays/Music.

    It doesn’t show up on the home page, but it does when you click directly on that post or arrive via a link.

  9. #9 |  Ted S. | 

    I was a junior/senior in high school in 1989. We didn’t have a diverse selection of radio stations where I was, however.

    Here is some more music from 1989 for you.

    Or try this classic.

    I thought this was from 1989, but actually it’s the fall of ’88.


  10. #10 |  johnl | 

    For punks who don’t like grunge, you might like 1990s post grunge pop-punk bands like the Smoking Popes or Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

  11. #11 |  GÄC | 

    ClubMed, I realize that the grunge grudge is irrational, and that some of the grunge is actually good (as much as I hate to admit it, I do like some of Pearl Jam’s early stuff, as well as a very limited number of Nirvana and Screaming Trees songs). I’m glad that it opened up other music for you, and that is always a good thing.

    I have always been an advocate for all different types of music being out there, even that Justin Beaver guy, if for no other reason than to provide a basis of comparison when people finally hear the music that speaks to them.

  12. #12 |  Ted S. | 

    Nowadays I mostly listen to the classical music station. I like to joke that there’s been nothing new in music since the death of Josquin des Prez.

  13. #13 |  Bulucanagria | 

    I miss WOXY. It was a beacon in a dark musical landscape…