Walk into the Rock And Roll hall of fame, and their is a cadre of objects you would expect to see. Clapton’s guitar, Entwhistle’s Skeleton Suit, that dumb shit Steven Tyler wraps around his mic stand, and a selection of Elvis’ clothing. These symbols are valued things, things that we not only associate with the artists but also recognize are important and somehow “expensive.” This is in part due to the fact that the artists themselves also valued these items, imbuing them with meaning. But what about grunge artists?
With it’s aesthetic so informed by anti-materialism, general disregard for possessions and the imposed cultural value of them, Grunge’s history has instead been propagated orally, or through diaries, piercings, boxes of old ripped clothes and scuzzy tape recordings. But what about the objects? No matter how scuffed and dinged they may be, it’s still thrilling to see a chunk of Cobain’s smashed guitar, or the pedals Mark Arm used while recording Superfuzz Bigmuff.
And that’s where Taking Punk To The Masses: From Nowhere To Nevermind comes in. The book, which will be released on Fantagraphics in early May, is a visual history of the genre built around the various things donated to The Experience Music Project, a curatorial collective in Seattle. Each lovingly photographed flier, sweatshirt, zine, or microphone is accompanied not only by a crib-notes on it’s importance, but also quotes from the people closest to it.
Some of the things they have are hilarious (handwritten Hüsker Dü tour expense sheet from 1984 that includes “muff”) others inspiring (early handwritten lyric shirts for a few acts) and some just plain awesome (Charles Burns art!). The latter half of the book sort of turns into the Nirvana show, but I suppose that’s sort of how it went down in real life. It’s a good read, especially for people who lived by the Sub Pop 200.
Those of you itching crazily for some 90s Grunge nostalgia right fuckin’ now and can’t wait ’til May may we recommend getting Greg Prato’s Grunge Is Dead in the meantime to tide you over. It’s a fantastic oral history of the Seattle scene from the late 70′s ’till the 00′s as given by such lumenaries as Mark Arm, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Layne Staley, Kim Thayil, Dale Crover and many many more.
Sadly there’s no Dave Grohl, Krist Novaselic or Courtney Love to give their version of Nirvana and Hole’s history but between everyone else’s take you get the picture of what was going. There’s also heart wrenching chapters on everyone speaking on the deaths of Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley. Seriously like everyone was on Heroin in those days. This, like Taking Punk to the Masses are great companion reads if you took our previous advice and picked up Girls to the Front. And if you really wanna take it way, there’s always Loser by Clark Humphrey. Long live the 90s!- Whole Milk