Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rekkids of My Youth Part 2 (or AKA How the Yanks Appropriated the Term Grunge and Made It Their Own)

So here we are folks. Welcome back to Part 2 of my nostalgia trip to end all nostalgia trips. Last time I talked about two very important Australian albums. Foot and Mouth "Philosophy of Fossoss" and Black Eye Records Comp "Waste Sausage."

This time I've got another thing which was very much a part of my growing up. Imagine you're 14 years old. You're trying to find out who you are. You're into A-ha, Kenny Loggins, Bananarama and Billy Ocean because, well, everybody else is but while watching top 40 video on a Saturday morning that horrendous shlub John Farnham comes on, with his chart topping You're the Voice bullshit, so you switch it over to the ABC because there's another music type show on there called Beatbox. For those of you who remember this was the youth programming supplement on Aunty. This show has mutated and evolved over the years, other incarnations were the Factory and then REcovery.

This is such a blast from the past and if you watch the REcovery clip (above), yes that is Leigh Wannell the star and co-creator of The Saw films.

But I digress, like a i said, imagine you're 14, Top 40's all you know and then you see this clip.....The Southern Fried Kidneys-Graveyard

Yes. 14 year old mind  BLOWN!

It wasn't til a couple of years later when I was 16 that my post-punk/Alt Rock verve really kicked in and I bought the single for $3.99 at "Underground Music" (yes the shop was literally called that!!) in Rundle Street Adelaide. I loved them, implored everyone to listen to them and adored their swampy fuzzed out tone. It was a new type of rock and the young kids across Australia were calling it Grunge.

That's right. It wasn't all shotguns and heroin and No.1 selling albums back in the day and it was happening here, in our own backyard. IN and around 1986 there was a groundswell of music coming off the east coast of oz that, although it was difficult to define,  was becoming a recognised musical movement that had its own moniker.... Grunge.
SO what happened? How come we haven't gotten our day in the sun for creating an era-defining genre of music? Well... in a way i guess we have and a quick search of the interwebs reveals that it did  originate here but how has it gone overlooked? And why aren't we  staking more of a claim to it?

Well i think i've worked out why.

You see in the late 80s there were some  great Australian bands making a great impact on the scene. King Snake Roost, Cosmic PsychosThe Scientists, Lubricated Goat and Bloodloss
 to name few, were all getting a good name for themselves through extensive touring. Although these bands could all fall under the term of Noise Rock and sound very little like the Grunge we know of today, they were part of an underground scene that was completely overlooked by mainstream music and therefore were really at the whim of their fans as to determine what  style they would be called. Music fanboy-ism hasn't changed much since the late 80s and therefore over genre-fication of bands was rife in the day. A symptom which Metal has fallen under the spell of almost  since its inception.

No no no no no no this isn't post-folk, symphonic-operatic, necro disco metal!!!
It's  pre disco folk-symphonic necro opera metal!!!!

So in short one man's grunge is another man's noise rock and so on and so forth. But how did it get over there??

Well a lot of the aforementioned bands would tour the US quite regularly and low and behold one of the nicest places to go gig while on the west coast was none other than Seattle Washington. With a lively little scene already in place the denizens of Seattle really took to the new Australian sound. Alliances were made, friemdships were formed and local record label Amphetamine Reptile started putting these band's records out there. So when it comes to the term Grunge being taken over by America/Nirvana/Seattle et al it really starts to makes sense. Cosmic Psychos, Lubricated Goat and King Snake Roost were already  part of the Seattle landscape. The term Grunge had no doubt been blathered around a lot already. It was just another way to categorise a lo-fi punk aesthetic which a lot of these bands were all aspiring to,  another way to loosely define the undefinable.

Now (well 1989-1990) enter A & M and  Geffen records. Two labels who went on to sign Soundgarden and Nirvana respectively. Scanning the rock landscape for the "Next Big Thing" they happened upon Seattle and as they say the rest is history. No doubt the word grunge would've been heard somewhere in the mix and alas a genre was born. By the time Nirvana was number one, the term Grunge had taken on a life if its own albeit co-opted by the corporate music industry and the mainstream. We gave it it's name and they gave it worldwide recognition, millions of album sales and baby face mascot of angst in the likes of Kurt Cobain.

I don't know what happened to Southern Fried Kidneys, if anybody knows I'd love to hear  about where they ended up. There are a few clips on Youtube including a long live set in Sydney. This goes to show how unique and exciting they really were..... check out part of the set here.

I found the "Graveyard/Psychedelic Clothes"  7 inch in Melbourne last month and couldn't resist grabbing it. Suffice to say I paid a little over 5 times as much as I paid for it way back when.

Anyway peeps. Part 2 Finito. Lots more to come with "Why on Earth Do I Collect Soundtracks?" and of course Part 3

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