Sonic Youth blog - top 5 proto-grunge anthems
- By Greg Rose -
- Nov 29, 2011
Sonic Youth documentary maker Dave Markey names the songs that really made grunge, from Black Flag to Black Sabbath. And yes, that is an exclusive photo of Dave with Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon above. OK, here are Dave Markey's top five proto-grunge picks and some verbiage...
5. Redd Kross - Notes And Chords Mean Nothing To Me
The South Bay (of Los Angeles) has produced some pretty heavy and influential artists over the years from the Beach Boys to Quentin Tarantino. Hailing from Hawthorn, CA; The brothers Jeff & Steve McDonald have been through several line up changes, and long periods of in-activity, yet the music they produced in the late 70s and early 80s clearly influenced everyone from Sonic Youth to Mudhoney. While they were taking their cues from the New York Dolls and west coast punk like The Avengers, this band laid the blueprint for grunge. Just listen and you will see. This originally appeared on a 1981 hardcore punk compilation LP titled 'American Youth Report' with liner notes written by Sub Pop's (then just a fanzine) Bruce Pavitt.
4. Flipper - Earthworm
San Francisco's Flipper first became known to me via the Dead Kennedy’s (then with a "cross-over" KROQ radio hit 'Holiday In Cambodia') had them open up a show for them at the Whisky on the Sunset Strip in 1981, after which a 16 year old me was never quite the same. Flipper seemed to infuriate and taunt the crowd with their sludge sound and plodding tempos (which was in start contrast to the one-two hardcore beat of the time). This made them more punk rock to me than any dude from the valley with a leather jacket and a mohawk. For influence go straight to The Melvins & Nirvana.
3. Black Flag - Jealous Again
The premier LA hardcore outfit, influenced by the two bands above, grew their hair and slowed their tempos (albeit after this 1980 scorcher), and to me were the primary influence and starting points to many bands and many scenes across the continental United States. This band took it to the stage, planting the seeds to a vast underground network. We are still living in their wake even although they disbanded in 1986.
2. Black Sabbath - Symptom Of The Universe
This band invented the "G" word without knowing it or trying to. Just ask any band that's been labeled “grunge" and they will tell you this is where it all started. Listen to this slamming track from 1976. Almost proto-punk in a way. Intense drum and bass lock-up, heavy-riffage on top. Lyrics that are decidedly darker than most music of it's day. Hell, when they first appeared in 1970 there wasn't even a label invented yet for their kind of music, but soon after something William S. Burroughs had written in one of his books became the moniker ("heavy metal"). One thing was for sure, this was not hippie music.
1. The Dicks - Hate The Police
Austin Texas' own sons lead by the great Gary Floyd were really on to something with this song. Yes, Mudhoney covered it years later, but that's not the reason I selected this. This is just one of those songs from 30 plus years ago that I can still listen to and have it sound fresh and relevant. Perhaps the world became a darker place since then, perhaps things were f**ked up long before this. All I know is, to me, this is real music. As real as it gets!
1991: The Year Punk Broke, featuring Sonic Youth, Nirvana, The Ramones, Dinosaur Jr., Babes In Toyland and Gumball is out on DVD now.