Layne Staley

“Come As You Are” – Music from then is still good now

Musically, I’m stuck in the 90s…and the 70s…and the 60s…and the…you get the point.

My sister recently wrote a blog about her love of music and how her and I came to be so enamored with it. We both have a wide variety of music we enjoy and, for the most part, we enjoy much of the same stuff. After reading her post about how listening to music, at least for her and I, is a very emotional undertaking I felt the need to throw in my two cents on the topic.

Yesterday, April 5th, marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Nirvana’s iconic front man, Kurt Cobain. Being a child of the Grunge era and a resident of Seattle this anniversary was one that made me reflect on my musical life since that clear, sunny Southern Alabama day after school back in the early 90s when my buddy, Jason Cosper, introduced me to an album that altered my musical taste forever.

"Nevermind" changed music in a way few albums have ever done.

“Nevermind” changed music in a way few albums had ever done or have ever done since.

Nirvana released Nevermind  in late September 1991. So it had to be late ’91 or early ’92 when Jason put in, what I believe was, the cassette of Nevermind, turned the volume up on his parents’ stereo and hit play. Thirty seconds in to song 1, side A (more commonly known as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) I was hooked! The loud blasting, distorted guitar playing of Kurt and the thundering sounds of Dave Fucking Grohl on drums (I, too, was a drummer back then so I much appreciated Mr. Grohl’s skillz) during those first 30 seconds made me realize I really, really…REALLY liked harder rock music.

Up to this point in my life, the hardest music I had listened to was probably Boston’s Party…possibly The Beatles Helter Skelter, though I don’t think I listened to much of the White Album until years later when I was in high school. The vast majority of my musical selections prior to this musical awakening were that of rockers from the 60s and 70s (Steppenwolf, The Beatles, Boston, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, The Rolling Stones and The Doors)  mixed in with some modern country (Allan Jackson, Randy Travis, Clint Black and Garth Brooks).

The Beatles had always been (and still are) my favorite band. I grew up watching the Yellow Submarine cartoons as well as their movies (“Help!” was and is my favorite of their flicks). I listened to a lot of their music at a young age because, well, it was The Beatles – everybody listened to The Beatles. But it was about two years before I discovered Grunge that I really started getting into the boys from Liverpool.

But I wasn’t quite at the “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” stage of my Beatles maturation. No, it was these Beatles I rocked out to whilst playing my awesome Sega Genesis and sifting through my new stack of Donruss baseball cards:

beatles-1964 croppedThat’s right, I was rockin’ out to “Help!,” “Love Me Do,” “Please Please Me” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”

These guys came a little bit later on in life for me:

67_beatles_maharishi-mahesh_yogi_002 B

So with a nice base of musical tastes set – I had learned to love and appreciate the great rockers of yesteryear – I was well prepared for “the next big thing.” But, I didn’t know I was ready for what Grunge was (as we said in the South) fixin’ to do to me, musically speaking.

I wish I could say this next paragraph was going to be about how I idolized Dave Grohl, convinced my dad to buy me a drum set and became the next in a long list of wicked rhythm setters: John Bonham, Dave Grohl, Danny Carey and …Matt Smith? Yeah, not so much, though I do play one hell of a mean steering wheel! What did happen was my musical tastes began catching up to current times. And though I never left my favorite classic rockers behind, I found myself buying tapes of the Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day and Metallica.

MTV Unplugged: NirvanaA series of events happened over the next few years and I found myself living, of all places, in the Pacific Northwest in the Fall of ’94.  In Utero came out a year earlier and Kurt killed himself just a few months before I moved to his neck of the woods…there would be no more Nirvana.

To say I was sad when I heard on MTV of Kurt’s death is a bit of an understatement. To say I was devastated and torn to pieces is a bit dramatic.  Suffice it to say it really sucked. Kurt’s death was my generation’s version of Jimi Hendrix’s death. Ironically, both were from Washington and gained their fame in Seattle.

Even though Kurt left us with only three studio albums, his music, particularly on Nevermind, has touched and influenced an untold number of people and musicians. The two things Nirvana did for me was, first, introduce me to Grunge and all the bands that were painted with that very broad brush (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Candlebox), and secondly, understand each of those bands, though similar, were very different from each other. This understanding helped me to continue broadening my musical tastes.

Because of Nirvana (and kinda sorta Green Day), I discovered I enjoy me some Punk music (Dropkick Murphy’s, Refused, Pennywise, Rise Against). Because of Soundgarden, I found myself really getting into Led Zeppelin (this was a re-discovery of sorts as I had listened to Led Zeppelin but wasn’t really in to them until later on). And Alice in Chains led me down a bit darker path of music i.e. Tool, NIN and even Evanescence.

Though I went through this musical awakening of sorts through the 90s and early 2000s, I have found myself in quite a lull in the past 10 years or so. Sure, I’ve found a band or two that I really like here and there (check out John Butler Trio if you haven’t…very bad ass!), but overall there just seems to have been a death of music that doesn’t suck or sound like every other band out there.


Of course, bands such as the Foo Fighters, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains (with a new lead singer…RIP Layne Staley) are still making new music that rocks and I listen to that stuff. But there really aren’t any generation-defining acts out there right now. To be a bit more clear, this is how I defined music between 1950 and the 90s: 1950s – Elvis, 1960s – The Beatles, 1970s – Led Zeppelin, 1980s – Nobody really gives a fuck, 1990s – Nirvana.

Argue with me if you will, but I think those choices are pretty solid. My point is there haven’t been any bands in a long while that have made an impact on music in the way the aforementioned did.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting older. Maybe our parents said the same thing in 1991. But I imagine the emotions they felt when they first heard “Hey Jude,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” were very similar to the ones I felt when I first heard Kurt Cobain screaming “Here we are now, entertain us!” at me through the speakers of my friend’s parent’s speakers that sunny Alabama day back in my youth.

Either way, this is what Smitty Sayeth.