I remember the first time I heard “grunge” in 1992

I love music and always have.

I have super eclectic taste in music and appreciate almost all of it.

I used to say that country was the only kind of music I didn’t like, but then I moved to Ohio where I heard more of it whether I liked it or not.

I’m still not a huge country person, but I do love Carrie Underwood and Shania Twain – and there are many country songs that I like.

I love rap, hip hop, pop, disco, classic rock, 80s alternative, dance/EDM, punk, R&B, show tunes, indie rock, folk, funk, jam bands, bluegrass, a capella, classical, choral and just about everything in between.

My lifetime favorite artists are ABBA, Madonna, Duran Duran and John Denver. I also adore Prince, George Michael, Guns n Roses and KISS. I’ve seen Phish live about nine times, though to be honest most of my memories of those shows are pretty darn fuzzy.

But there will always be a special place in my heart for the grunge rock sound that started in Seattle and made it to the mainstream (aka MTV and the radio) by about 1992.

In particular, my five favorite grunge bands from that era are Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Stone Temple Pilots.

I still remember the first time that I realized I was hearing not just a new song or band, but an entirely new sound – a new type of rock music that had never been heard before. I got goosebumps!

It was late in 1992. At the time, I was dating someone who wasn’t a particularly big music fan, so while I knew he’d like the music, he wouldn’t be as wowed as I was. That evening after work, I called an ex-boyfriend who had always loved music as much as I had.

“Have you heard this new grunge sound out of Seattle?” I yelled excitedly. “Can you believe how amazing this new music is?!”

Of course, he had already heard it – and in fact, he jokingly told me I was a bit behind the times. But then we shared our mutual excitement and talked about which songs we’d heard, which bands we liked best, etc. It was so nice to talk and share grunge notes with a kindred spirit.

Sometime later, I was fortunate enough to see Soundgarden open up for Guns n Roses. I will never forget hearing and feeling Chris Cornell’s honey-coated roar in-person – talk about goosebumps!

Regrettably, I never got to see Nirvana live, but I did see the Foo Fighters some years later and they were awesome.

As a 20-something PR professional working in Manhattan, I doubt I was ever the target audience for grunge rock. I wasn’t particularly angsty, disenfranchised or grungey – I barely owned a flannel shirt in those days. I hadn’t found my edge yet; I didn’t even have any tattoos!

But something about the pain and emotion in those grunge singers’ voices and lyrics – and the unique guitar sounds and rhythms – really spoke to me more than the “toxic masculinity/excess metal” that had come before it. Nirvana, in particular, was culturally way ahead of its time, no doubt thanks to Curt Kobain’s sensitivity to social justice issues.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love Metallica and GnR, but it was just so cool to see an entirely new type of music take over the airwaves. I was a young adult who was aware of the onset of grunge as it was happening. It was just a cool phenomenon and was probably the first time I’d ever seen a cultural shift like that taking place in real-time.

Today, with the Internet and our 24/7, always-on culture, I’m sure shifts like this happen faster than the speed of light. I do know that trends happen first on Tiktok – and that even grunge has made its way to that platform.

Do you remember noticing a shift in the music of a particular decade or season of your own life, and did it blow you away to witness the change? I’d love to hear your musical tales in the comments below or over on Instagram or Facebook.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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