I’m not entirely sure when I discovered grunge. I’d like to think it was a little before everyone else, maybe sometime after my introduction to Zeppelin at the age of ten by my Uncle Mark.
Since then it’s been pretty much down hill.
Aged 14 I landed a weekend job working in the local independent record shop where come 5 p.m. every Saturday I’d put the contents of my wage packet back into the till and in its place take vinyl straight off the shelves. I was into cock-rock during the later years of secondary school , a natural progression from Uncle Mark’s 60s metal and I guess discovered Nirvana via 'Nevermind' in the last year of Sixth Form. I’ll be made a pariah for saying this, but it didn’t really do it for me.
Then came Pearl Jam’s 'Ten': "What did you think of it?"’ asked the singer in my cock-rock covers band.
"Good music to make toast to’" was my reply.
How wrong could I have been? This album became the soundtrack for the next four years. It started my love affair with all things grunge, an affair I’ve never really recovered from. That summer 'Ten' never left the Fiat Panda I’d driven to Cornwall in with my friends. It was a pre-Uni sound track, the summer before friendships would be tested and those people we thought we’d be friends with forever would disperse to the four corners of this island and come back altered.
My love for 'Ten' turned out to be just infatuation and, like so many overplayed albums before it, became relegated to the shelf, although I’ve always treated it with the respect it deserves.
Pearl Jam led to Dinosaur Jr to Hole to Mudhoney to Alice In Chains to Rage Against The Machine to Pavement to Mother Love Bone to Temple Of The Dog to Jane’s Addiction to Brad but most importantly it lead to Soundgarden.
Soundgarden were always a little more metal than the grunge counterparts that they were so often compared to. The interchange between Kim Thayall’s screaming guitar and Chris Cornell’s incredible voice always gets me, and are as good as Hendrix and Plant before them. Matt Cameron’s drum work is solid and understated, something I didn’t appreciate till seeing him in the flesh hitting the skins with Pearl Jam in 2000. I’m now convinced he is the best musician in the world.
Soundgarden’s 'Badmotorfinger' is the only album older than two years that I still religiously listen to. I I shamefully admit, it’s the only album I copy for new friends: " Whaddaya mean you haven’t heard Badmotorfinger?" And off I go, fully aware of the industry-damaging act I’m about to undertake, but adamant in my belief that this is an album everyone should hear, that everyone should have in their collection and, Goddamit, everyone should worship.
I never tire of it and the thing that makes it stand out, that makes me assign it the coveted title of favourite album is that every time I press play it's as though I’m hearing it for the first time again. 'Badmotorfinger' is just angst enough. Not as dark as the 1994 follow up 'Superunknown' and not as raw as earlier effort 'Screaming Life'. It didn’t capture every mood of my early 20's but then all the albums I consider pinnacle in my life hardly ever get near the deck now I’m pushing 30. It’s the only silver disc in my ever expanding collection which still makes me feel empowered and reminds me what it was like to be skulking my way through further education.
Soundgarden are a band who fascinate and titillate, astound and amaze, intrigue and engulf, but that said I’ve never seen a good photograph of them .