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EVERYBODY LOVES OUR TOWN: An Oral History Of Grunge - Mark Yarm (596 pages, Three Rivers Press)
First off, let me tell you I was never the biggest fan of what is known as Grunge. Yes, I loved NIRVANA and MUDHONEY and have records by TAD, SCREAMING TREES, GREEN RIVER, GITS and a few others but Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and particularly Pearl Jam were, to me, nothing more than acceptable Heavy Rock bands. The reason I state that is because this book is, put simply, one of the best oral histories I have ever read - right up there with Gimme Something Better and Please Kill Me.
Itís a book that gets everything correct on every level. Right from the first chapter that tracks the history and importance of the often over-looked U-MEN, it makes compulsive reading. From there, every major and minor band, label, record, producer, venue, scene, roadie and general hanger-on that made up Seattle Grunge gets mentioned. Every pivotal show is documented; itís obvious Yarm has done an unimaginable amount of research to make this so comprehensive. Without any Ďmusic journalistí hyperbole linking, he lets the people who were actually there making the scene themselves talk and it flows with incredible fluidity.
Itís apparent Yarm has asked exactly the right questions to provoke such informed answers also. Over 250 exclusive interviews make up the contents of the book and those interviewees have opened their hearts and memories to Yarm. Some of those stories are contradictory, some hilarious, others insightful while yet more tell of violence and downright vindictiveness. It seems unfair to suggest some of the characters are more readable than others, but those who make the best reading are Mark Arm (MUDHONEY), Courtney Love (who reinforces her public image of being simply repugnant), assorted Pearl Jam guys (who, as people at least, I now have a newfound respect for thanks directly to their words in this book) and assorted Alice In Chains guys who come over as ultimate Rock Ďní Roll party animals carrying all the hilarious stories with them.
Anyone who has a passing interest in Grunge will also be aware of the Heroin addiction that befell many of the main players. Wisely, Yarm does not gloss over it, nor down play the tribulations of ODing and death to make this a more palatable read. Some of the comments are graphically gut wrenching in the clarity of description, many other cases come across as simply pitiful. Mia Zapataís (GITS) murder is also not shied away from, with those closest to her describing their feelings in a frank, blunt style.
Finally Yarm has included the latter day, alleged bandwagon jumpers, like CANDLEBOX. The book is filled out with two sections of photos and a few additional notes.
Finding fault is virtually impossible. Maybe a selected discography would have been useful. I also found it strange there are no interviews with either BLOOD CIRCUS or SWALLOW; given both bands were there at the start of Sub Pop (and both were better than some that followed) I thought their inclusion would be mandatory.
That aside, what Yarm has created here is not just an in-depth look at Grunge; itís the definitive look encapsulating highs and lows, victories and loses, fun and resentment, life and death, charismatic and repulsive individuals and, ultimately, some fucking great music. Best book of 2012? Totally!! (02.01.13)