There are TV themes you remember. “All In The Family,” with its way-back talk of President Hoover and LaSalle cars. Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams cooing together, “What would we do, baby, without us?” Bars where everybody knows your name. Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band’s familiar “hey, hey, hey!”
Then, there are the prime-time themes that just rock.
One of the great things about art is that as you grow, a piece of art — whether it be a painting, a piece of music, a book, a film, or whatever — grows with you. How you interpret and relate to it can change as you get older and acquire more life experience.
I was 15 when I first saw Singles (1992). Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, and set in Seattle in the early ’90s, it was widely considered the movie that most accurately portrayed “the Seattle scene,” though it should be noted that the film was conceived, shot, and intended for release before said scene exploded all over the place.
Crowe’s movie has intersecting story lines that center on a group of single people who (mostly) live in the same Seattle apartment building, and their search for love and success. Its cast features some of the most talented young actors of the era, including Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Sheila Kelley, and Bill Pullman.
I loved Singles when I first saw it, but I didn’t really relate to its characters or their problems that much — I was still in high school, still living with my parents, didn’t have a job, hadn’t started dating, and hadn’t fallen in love. That’s not to say I didn’t relate to it at all, though; there were aspects that resonated with me at the time, just not many.
But the fact that I couldn’t relate to Singles didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of it. I loved the cast, and I was obsessed with the idea of “the Seattle scene,” with its flannel shirts, Doc Martens boots, grunge music, and coffee shops. As a midwestern teenager, TV, radio, and magazines were the only connections I had to what’d become the center of the pop-culture universe.
It’s hard to believe (for those of us who lived it, anyway) that it’s been fifteen years since Kurt Cobain committed suicide. On April 5th, 1994, the Seattle native left the world with the same cold-water shock his band Nirvana had on the world when the album Nevermind broke in 1991.
But to a larger degree, Cobain’s death has become a coda-like representation in our pop culture vernacular as the beginning of the end for the “grunge” era in Seattle. Greg Prato’s new book Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music disagrees. The book attempts to set this (and gads of other misnomers perpetuated by “so-called experts, who didn’t show up until the ‘90s, as Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament has said) straight.
Prato’s nearly 500-page digest does what no other documentary on the subject has before—it leaves the reflection to those who lived it, in their own words, without a filter. To that end, this is a truly great oral history.