Feb 23, 2010


Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st - Day 13 & 14

Lots of songs about Seattle. They just don't spring to mind easily. I suspect it's because the word Seattle is just too damn anglo-saxon to sound cool. Not that it stops people trying...

Roy Ayers - I Did It In Seattle (I know, I know... this blog has sorely under served the Jazz world.)
PiL - Seattle
Perry Como - Seattle
Jelly Roll Morton - Seattle Hunch (Score two for Jazz.)
Steve Vai - The Boy From Seattle
Nirvana - Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle
The Brighton Port Authority - Seattle

And there's a ton more by acts I've never heard of. In fact, the far from comprehensive All Music Guide lists 115 songs called Seattle. Plenty of these pre-date the 90s, but Seattle became ground zero for the commercial rebirth of ROCK in the 90s thanks to grunge and the bands who played it (or denied they played it).

Seattle may have been the focal city for the world when it came to grunge, but the whole of Washington State was home to disaffected white kids who liked heavy music. Kurt Cobain was from Aberdeen, The Melvins were from nearby Montesano. The witch Courtney Love named an album after the state's capital Olympia which also spawned the much better female rock band Sleater-Kinney who took their name from an intersection in the city. But Seattle was the magnet that drew in the kids and it was where bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and others formed.

Now everyone knows it rains a lot in Seattle and as such it's easy to jump to the conclusion that a dreary landscape fuels such intensely miserable music. But... news just in... Seattle is beautiful. And just like Spokane, Seattle hosted the World's Fair too. But unlike Spokane, Seattle got a worthwhile and lasting landmark out of it namely the wonderfully retro-futuristic Space Needle. Built in 1962, it's only 184 metres high, so it's not a super high structure. But looking like it's steeped straight out of The Jetsons it's as cool as hell. And as it's not that high it's a lot more fun to go up than say the CN Tower in Toronto. It's certainly high enough to see how unique Seattle is as a city, surrounded as it is by mountains and lakes and the huge Puget Sound. So I don't buy into this idea of a miserable, rain drenched city being the key factor in the birth of grunge. (Besides I love rain.)

Now admittedly the weather this weekend was beautiful... we hit 60°F! (Frigid Bones has now officially retired). And I can't dismiss the influence of the Harlem Globetrotters who were in town and when we visited the Space Needle we were surrounded by lots of kids on a high from seeing another defeat for the Washington Generals (yeah, take that whitey!) So maybe I was swayed by the mood... but still... what stood out for me was how... and forgive me for using this word... alternative Seattle is. I did hear it's the "least churched state in the union" but that's not what I mean. I'll give you an example. Some bars declare themselves hate free zones and we saw one with the sign "If you are racist, sexist, homophobic or an asshole, do not come in." (I passed the test on the first three criteria... just missed out on the last one.) There was certainly a big gay presence in the city. And walking round the Capitol Hill bars did put me in mind of the Northern Quarter in Manchester. Another independantly minded city, based far away from national media capitals that was once the focus of a music scene.

That said... it's high time both those cities kicked up some worthwhile new shit. Or at the very least some props ought to be given to the city for spawning Earth a pivitol band in the doom/drone/stoner/sludge spectrum which is so much more relevant today than grunge. They even gave Kurt his first gig.


  1. There are only two U.S. cities that have drawn me in so much I could enjoy living there if I ever left Chicago: Philadelphia and Seattle. Seattle is a perfect blend of the bustle of a city and laid-backness of a slacker culture. I think rain in Seattle is a myth to keep too many people from moving there. The three times I've been to the city, I've had great weather. For some reason this fact has always stuck in my head from taking a city tour over 20 years ago: 1 in 6 people in Seattle own a boat.

  2. Compelling factoid there H. We may have uncovered another weather myth. Plus I met a woman in Weed, Northern California, earlier today who said... "Oh thank God it's sunny. It reminds me of my hometown in Seattle."

  3. "The bluest skies you'll ever see are in Seattle"

    Remind me to tell you about my 48 hours in that town.