Exhilarating in the sense that you have contributed something that has led to a paradigm shift and depressing because you will forever be associated with this moment, thus aging becomes worse than death.
Take the Beatles as an example.
No matter what you may think of them, there is no denying that the first image that comes to mind is of them in their suits and immaculate haircuts, not how Paul McCartney has morphed into Angela Lansbury. Likewise, John Lennon’s murder forever cemented a particular image of him in the popular conscience, whereas McCartney has lived long enough to gave us Mull of Kintyre, The Frog Chorus and Dance Tonight. ‘nuff said.
When it comes to grunge, Jay Hinman is correct when he writes that:
…for all the play and worldwide attention several Seattle-area bands got during the 1988–92 period, at the end of the day (and even at the time), there was Mudhoney—and then there was everybody else. To me, you, and everyone else paying close attention to underground rock music during those years…
Forming from the remnants of Green River (who would also give us Pearl Jam), Mudhoney play scuzzy rock n roll that tips the hat to garage rock and hardcore but is filtered through a particular sensibility that is uniquely Mudhoney such as Mark Arm’s vocals which have a primal howl necessary for rock n roll but are delivered with a wink and nod.
I don’t care what anyone else may claim, Touch Me I'm Sick is the definitive grunge anthem. Everything from the guitar tone to the speed embodies grunge and, to this day, Arm’s delivery of the phrase “fuck me I’m sick” at the 2:12 mark (coupled with that backing scream) is one of the most thrilling moments in rock n roll history. And they’re still putting out great records today.
Coupled with their influence on the likes of Nirvana, this memoir from guitarist Steve Turner should be a thrilling, engaging and inspiring read, looking at the origins of the US hardcore scene, how the Northwest’s love of the Sonics and ‘My War’ era Black Flag coalesced into the nascent grunge scene, the band rivalries, how fame can be approached and how the sincere love of music will conquer all.
It therefore saddens me to report that Mud Ride is safe, polite and lacking in passion and insight. Rather, it’s a very polished memoir, where Turner is pleasant about everyone and everything, whether it’s rebelling against his Catholic parents, touring with Nirvana before Cobain’s suicide, recording with Sir Mix-a-Lot and a failing relationship with the mother of his child. Even when discussing how certain records changed his life, it feels like he’s on autopilot. Take the following segment as an example:
I remember looking at some of those Pebbles records and reading the notes on the back – some of them were really sarcastic. I figured the bands on them must be punk rock bands…It was one of the best purchases I ever made. I discovered that the Pacific Northwest had a heck of a legacy of gnarly music from the ‘60’s. There were the Sonics and the Wailers, but it went even deeper. One of the Pebbles compilations… had a song on it called ‘You Must Be a Witch’ by the Lollipop Shoppe. I later realised that one of the members of that band, Fred Cole, was a current member of Portland punk band the Rats. (Cole would further cement his Northwest garage punk legacy in Dead Moon for another couple of decades.) That was a big, big deal to me, because of all the things I’d heard, that song was the closest to sounding like the Stooges. I couldn’t believe it was the dude from the Rats!
To the untrained eye, that segment probably reads as the narrator having a nerdgasm. To those of us who studied interviews where artists would discuss their favourite records, this is phoning it in. Of course, some might argue that such talk would put off the average reader who just wants to read anecdotes about Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl. But I ask: why would people who just want those pick up a memoir from someone they’ve never heard of on the off chance they’ll learn something about Nirvana that they didn’t already know?
Certainly, I’m not asking him to spill the beans on everything he’s seen in his time as a rock n roll foot soldier, but he could do a hell of a lot better than informing us that Sonic Youth read a lot of books, that Danzig brings weights with him on tour and that Bruce Dickinson does a decent Jack Endino impression.
Maybe this isn’t entirely his fault: when promoting his recently published memoir, Geezer Butler admitted that a good lot of anecdotes were cut by the publishers, fearful of legal action. This ties in with my belief that a lot of memoirs/autobiographies published today are corporate creations have a lot of text but say little of substance which, unfortunately, fits Mud Ride.
Not so muck sick as anaemic.
Steve Turner with Adem Tepedelen, 2023, Mud Ride: A Messy Trip Through the Grunge Explosion. Omnibus Press. ISBN-13: 978-913172671