“Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm by David Kirby” by David Kirby

Reading by the author

Grunge! It’s fun to just say it, though like everything that’s fun,
of course you want to know why it’s fun and how you can make it
even more so, which is why I’m reading Everybody Loves Our Town:
An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm, according to whom
grunge came out of the Seattle area as part of that whole two-or-three-
jobs-one-of-which-is-your-band thing that was what high school
would have been if there’d been no classes and everybody smoked pot,
although this isn’t a review of or even a poem about that book but a poem
called “Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge
by Mark Yarm by David Kirby” in that I have indeed read Mark Yarm’s
excellent book but am also thinking my own thoughts and incorporating
them as we poets do, beginning with the fact that, in those days, people
in their mid-twenties were already old. You didn’t have to play
an instrument to be in a band, just own one. And when you got kicked out,
you formed a revenge band. Nothing succeeded like excess: there’s nothing
funnier than a drunk naked guy if you’re the drunk naked guy. Musicians
were magnets for trouble and liked it that way; they’d break out in felonies
or bandages or both.
                                    What is grunge, though? Complaining, really,
but complaining set to a drop D tuning, meaning the bottom or E string
on a guitar is tuned down a whole step so that the songs sound like dirges,
like the rain in Seattle that falls 152 days of the year. In other words,
the grunge bands wanted to mess with the corporate sound of the music
they hated, though musicians have always done that: the young Bob Dylan
adored Brylcreemed teen idol Ricky Nelson, whose studio polish couldn’t
have been more different from Dylan’s snarls, just as a lot of grunge musicians
say their first crushes were on stagey bands like Cheap Trick and Kiss,
though the kids from Seattle liked to rough up the surface of their art,
and, by doing so, guess what, a lot of them achieved enormous success,
meaning they took on their fair share of the problems all young rockers have:
pot turned to cocaine and cocaine turned to heroin, and the last half
of Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm
is strewn with dirty needles, revolving-door visits to rehab centers,
and far too many young corpses.
                                                     Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains said,
“I never had a whole lot of money and stuff. But when my mom passed away,
I got a little money that she left to keep me jamming. So I just totally
went crazy. I bought a bunch of amps, did a lot of drugs, and was an idiot,
but fortunately it turned out okay.” That nutshells the whole grunge scene
right there and it’s why I came away from this book with a big smile on my face.
A lot of it is like a gray day in western Washington; you’ve been kicked out
of yet another band, and your girlfriend is spending far too much time with
the drummer from the Melvins or 7 Year Bitch or the Screaming Trees.
In the end, this book made me want to be young, stupid, and lucky again.
Mainly, it made me want to be young, and that’s why I wrote the poem
called “Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge
by Mark Yarm by David Kirby” because now you can feel that way

David Kirby teaches at Florida State University. His collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for both the National Book Award and Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense” and was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 Black History Non-Fiction Books of 2010. His latest books are a poetry collection, Help Me, Information, and a textbook modestly entitled The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them.

Image: Nicole Monroe

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