It’s fall, also known as flannel season. And it’s incredibly hard to think about flannel without thinking about grunge; the two are forever associated (sorry, lumberjacks). Fall is grunge weather, and with the heyday of the genre in our distant past, it’s a good time to look back at the genre’s early years, before bands like Bush and Stone Temple Pilots seized the reins. The beginnings of grunge were a time of collaboration, cooperation, and cohesion. Nirvana didn’t just come from a broken home in Aberdeen, Washington, and Pearl Jam didn’t come about solely because of five dudes’ mutual love for a comically under-sized professional basketball player. They came from other bands and were inspired by other musicians in a tight-knit circle.
The history of grunge’s formative years is a tangled mess of flexible band members, painful tragedy, and shared Rolodexes. Location, mutual admiration, and shared goals united them. Grunge didn’t start with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It began several years before.
Let’s start with The Melvins. So much of what would become grunge starts with them.