Originally posted by RageRockrrI was finishing up high school and going to college in 1991-1992, when Nirvana hit it big. Believe me, in both New Jersey and then Florida, I heard them quite a bit.
I think my problem is with calling Nirvana or Kurt Cobain a "legend." Had it simply been left at Nirvana and Cobain being a great band/musician whose respective ends came way too soon, I'd agree completely. But to call them legendary when they only had two major studio albums released seems a bit too much for me. It'd be like me declaring Mutha's Day Out to be a legendary band - even though they only put out one album. I think legends are around for a longer time and explore different musical directions compared to what Nirvana's two studio albums did.
(Also, it could be that my ex was a huge Nirvana fan. But I digress... )
Many of those who we call legends had quite short careers. Hendrix had only a couple of albums. Janis Joplin's career was quite short. The aforementioned Sex Pistols. Buddy Holly lasted only a couple of years. We define legend oftentimes not just based on the quality of their work, but on the impact they made on the world around them. And while yes, those who were lucky enough to have discovered all the better and more obscure bands than Nirvana can quibble about them being derivative and anything else, for a generation of young people who didn't know what else was out there, they were the sound of change coming through the doors of the mainstream.
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They had 5 major releases if you want to get technical about it. Nevermind and In Utero were the studio ones. Unplugged and Live From the Banks of the Wishkah (sp?) were live albums. Insesticide was rarities, b-sides, and a few new tracks, most notably "Aneurysm". Bleach was released in 1989 (?) on Sub Pop, a Seattle indie label that also put out some early Soundgarden.
Okay, so perhaps I put my foot in my mouth with the longevity argument... which doesn't always apply, I'll concede. But, with all due respect, I think the further comments and examples only help to prove my point.
Hendrix revolutionized the electric guitar. Rock wouldn't see a change in guitar that significant until Van Halen's major label debut. Buddy Holly was one of the first white singers to bring rock 'n' roll to the masses in the 50s. Janis Joplin was one of the biggest white female blues singer-songwriters of all time, let alone the 60s. And the Sex Pistols were one of the godfather bands of punk, if not THE godfather band of punk.
But with respect to Nirvana, they weren't even the first to the grunge scene on the major label level. "Facelift" by Alice in Chains had come out earlier, and Soundgarden already had an album or two out by the time Nevermind was released on a major label. And that's ignoring that some consider that Neil Young pioneered grunge way back way.
Also, if we're talking about grunge, we're talking about a popular music genre that, depending on certain standards, only lasted about six or seven years. Where do I get that figure from? Well, I use a starting point of 1990, when Alice in Chains released "Facelift" and Soundgarden had "Louder than Love" out on A&M. Then, I go to 1996, when Nirvana was long gone, Pearl Jam had started to fizzle out with "No Code," Soundgarden put out its last studio album with "Down on the Upside," and Alice in Chains' "Unplugged" album came out that year (Their last studio album came out the year before.). Soundgarden broke up after that, Alice in Chains was in limbo until Staley's death earlier this year, and Pearl Jam has lost a lot of its popularity that it had from its first two albums - and have possibly evolved to a sound other than "grunge." You could also argue that the latter point also holds true for Foo Fighters.
I didn't include live albums or B-sides, because (in general) the majority of albums like those include little, if any, new material. Also, I'm trying to keep releases to major labels, though I suppose you can make an argument to include the bigger independent labels like Rykodisc and even Sub Pop.
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Soundgarden and Alice In Chains may have come first, but they had little impact before Nirvana (and very arguably, Pearl Jam). Nirvana is legendary because they made bad rock look like the joke that it is (I'm thinking Nelson, Extreme, G n' R when they started to take themselves way too seriously, Skid Row, etc., etc.). Alice in Chains had at that point put out a few videos and singles, but nothing that rocked the boat too much (it was good though). Soundgarden was on a label, but still pretty obscure until Badmotorfinger.
Ok, first off, the Sucks Pistols weren't the godfathers of Punk Rock. Maybe they were the co-fathers of Punk along with the Ramones, but the whole Punk lineage is really screwy. Some people would point to the Who, the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges as the "godfathers" of Punk because they kind of started to open the door for nasty, dirty rock music that REALLY made old people's heads hurt. The Ramones first album was 1974 and the Pistols was 1976 if I'm not mistaken. Considering that Malcolm Mclaren put them together in the fashion of the Backstreet Boys and NKOTB, I find it hard to give them a great deal of credit as being roots in the Punk tree outside of the fact that they did indeed become a lot more famous in the mainstream than the Ramones.
Second, Buddy Holly did little more than what Pat Boone was doing, which was putting a white face on black music so white kids could listen to it without being beaten by their parents. But he was still pretty talented and did it without doing straight covers like Boone, so Holly did a lot for the advancement of rock music. Janis Joplin was an ugly white woman singing the blues (i.e. putting a white face on black music...) and she did a lot for the advancement of women in rock music. Jimi Hendrix revolutionized rock music in general through the electric guitar and finally put a black face on black music in the mainstream, advancing rock in a number of directions. Also, these people are long gone and still have a lot of influence on rock (and even country) music, which makes them legendary. It'll be a while before we can see what influence Nirvana has on music so the whole argument is moot.
Third: to use "grunge" as a musical genre is really pointless and way too arbitrary because you can just call PJ, Soundgarden and AIC RAWK BANDS; same goes for Foo Fighters. Nirvana was punk with pop sensibilities, but most "punk rockers" don't like to call Nirvana a punk band because "punk rockers" are facist dicks with ignorant worldviews and being on MTV doesn't jibe with their ideals. It's easier to just say "Seattle bands" even though they were really from Olympia and Aberdeen and California but just happened to play in Seattle a lot and the media needs short, catchy headlines. Eventually people picked up on all of these clues and the term "grunge" as a genre lost its value (as did "Alternative," for the most part). Considering that the bands you mentioned never really considered themselves "grunge" bands (the term was media created when Nirvana became THE BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD and the Seattle Sound exploded) the genre never really existed.
Here's some other interesting info that isn't relevant to anything: Soundgarden had a few EP and singles on Sub-Pop Records, the Seattle-based indie label that was the early home Nirvana and Green River (the precursor band to Pearl Jam) and an album on SST Records (indie lable owned by Black Flag guitarist/founder Greg Ginn) before signing with A&M Records and had been around as a full fledged band since 1984. Alice In Chains began as a hair metal band (I kid you not) and was most likely signed by Columbia Records during the hair metal explosion and held over because they "felt the wind change" as tarnish put it. Nirvana fully formed and became a full fledged playing band in 1988, released an album on Sub Pop in 1989 and signed to Geffen in 1990 or 1991 (can't remember for certain). So Nirvana progressed at about the same rate as Soundgarden and AIC as far as releasing albums goes, but both bands were older than Nirvana and got a head start. The advantage that Soundgarden and AIC had was that they did sound closer to radio-friendly than Nirvana did, so major labels were probably more eager to sign them (that last statement is mere speculation, though).