There have been plenty of meccas for rock & roll over the decades. From its birth place in the Mississippi Delta, to shores of England for the British wave of heavy metal, to Haight/Ashbury and hippies in San Francisco, to the glam scene of the Sunset Strip of Los Angeles.
However, for this writer, there hasn’t been a music scene that has stuck quite like the music which came down from the rainy Northwest town of Seattle. When you think of the two, music and Seattle, the image of flannel’s, Doc Martens, and dirty hair of the 1990s most likely come to mind. Truth be told, you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking such things, but there were copious amounts of talented musicians that came out of the coastal seaport city – folk hero Judy Collins; jazz legend Kenny G; 60s rockers Paul Revere & the Raiders; R&B giant Quincy Jones; Rap icon Sir Mix-A-Lot; 60’s garage rockers The Sonics; and of course the greatest guitar player of all time, Jimi Hendrix. They all came down from Seattle to spread their music across the globe.
When commissioned to write about my ten favorite Seattle bands, it was a tall task of sifting through the list of bands and musicians which came from the Emerald City and knight them as one of my ten favorites. Always up for a challenge, and a little bit of music history, I was glad to give it a shot.
In alphabetical order…
Alice in Chains:
Of all the bands to come out of Seattle, Alice in Chains is arguably one of the darkest. With front man Layne Staley’s doom and gloom drug addled lyrics he weaved his words poetically as Mike Starr’s (later replaced by Mike Inez) bass and Sean Kinney’s drums thundered from the speakers. Staley’s partner in crime, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, added in heavy metal riffs along with shared vocals. The band’s debut ‘Facelift’ put the band on the map, but it was their follow up, ‘Dirt’ which was their masterpiece.
As the band’s career grew, so did Staley’s appetite for drugs. The band managed to release their self-titled third and final studio album before Staley overdosed. Many know Alice in Chains for their first two albums, but don’t overlook the latter as it is easily one of their best and often overshadowed.
The band reunited a few years back with guitarist and singer William Duvall taking over for Staley. No disrespect to Duvall, but for this writer, Alice in Chains will always be Layne Staley.
Key Albums: Facelift (1990); Dirt (1992); Alice in Chains (1995); MTV Unplugged (1996)
There have been countless side bands to come out of Seattle, frankly that is one reason to love the music scene there. Of all these great side projects none rang more true for me than Brad. Two parts Satchel (Shawn Smith, Regan Hagar), one part Pearl Jam (Stone Gossard) and a rotating cast of bassists, Brad is simply longtime friends making music for the fun of it.
Mixing 70’s rock and soul with some funk and groove, Brad is not like any other band to come out of the Emerald City. They have a strong history, a funny back story to their beginnings and a lot of musical prowess.
The band gets together and records when schedules allow, which has only amounted to five albums in 20 years, but each one of those releases is an adventure into sound.
Key Albums: Shame (1993); Interiors (1997); Best Friends (2010); United We Stand (2012)
Before the Seattle music scene went mainstream, before Sub Pop became the “It” label and before the major labels invaded Seattle and swallowed up any band with a pulse, there was a humble musician/producer named Jack Endino. Some cite him as the architect of the “grunge” sound and rightfully so, but Endino is way more than just the producer who controlled the knobs for Nirvana’s debut.
Endino is a musician. He plays guitar, bass and sings. fronting his own band Endino’s Earthworm. His history in the Seattle music scene is vast from his early beginning in one of the forefathers of local music, Skin Yard, where Endino played guitar. The band was a revolving door of who’s who in Seattle music: Daniel House (owner of C/Z Records); Matt Cameron (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam); Steve Wied (TAD); Jason Finn (Love Battery, The Presidents of the United States of America); Greg Gilmore (Mother Love Bone); Scott McCullum (Gruntruck); Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season).
Endino has continued releasing solo records through the years and seems to be in a band or helping a band in need – Kandi Coded; Slippage; Lateral Drift; Upwell, just to name a few. There is a reason bands keep coming to Jack Endino, he is a musician’s musician and nothing short of genius.
Key Albums: w/ Skin Yard: Fist Sized Chunks (1990); 1000 Smiling Knuckles (1991); Solo: Permanent Fatal Error (2009); Rumble (2013)
The constant since Heart’s inception in 1973 is the Wilson sisters – Ann and Nancy. In four decades of music, the two have battled not only record companies, music trends (like MTV and big hair) and a myriad of members; the Wilson sisters have consistently released great rock music. Cutting their teeth on Led Zeppelin and other guitar-driven rock, Heart owned the airwaves in the early 1970s and had a resurgance in the 80’s thanks to MTV. In the past 20 years, Heart has released solid records including ‘Desire Walks On’ (1993); ‘Jupiters Darling’ (2004); ‘Red Velvet Car’ (2010); and most recently ‘Fanatic’ (2012). So if you aren’t aware that Ann and Nancy Wilson have continued churning out rock and roll, don’t miss out on their back catalog, you will be pleasantly surprised what you will hear.
Key Albums: Dreamboat Annie (1976); Little Queen (1977); Heart (1985); Bad Animals (1987); Desire Walks On (1993)
The debate has lingered since his death in 1970, is Hendrix the best guitarist that ever lived? In short, yes he was. Moreover, Hendrix was a visionary, an innovator and