Nirvana or Pearl Jam?
As the grunge movement gained momentum in the late 80s, little did the world outside of Seattle know what would be hitting them square in the nads in the coming years. It would be an unabashed embrace of American rock and roll-loud, raucous, and completely balls to the wall. Of the countless bands that rose to prominence under the grunge flag that quickly found a home atop many a flagpole during this time period, two always seemed to be the centre of attention for the ‘sides’ that seemed to form out of nowhere:
Nirvana and Peral Jam.
Even though both of these groups found massive success in the early 90s, and both came out of the clubs of Seattle, during their initial foray into the big leagues it was hard to find a true fan of both bands. It always seemed you loved one, hated the other. Thought Kurt Cobain was King Slacker who wrote awesome songs even though you could never quite tell what the hell he was singing? Then Eddie Vedder was a whiny surfer from San Diego with a mother complex. Vedder was your introspective lyrical hero? Then Cobain was a one hit wonder who no doubt would fade into oblivion sooner rather than later.
Of course, we all know how the stories of both Nirvana and Pearl Jam have unfolded over the years. And even though one of the biggest knocks against Pearl Jam was that they were ‘corporate’ rock since their label, Epic, was a subsidiary of Sony BMG, they’ve done a pretty good job of playing the game by their own rules, thank you very much. Refusing to release singles, not filming videos, avoiding awards shows, brawling with Ticketmaster-all the things a record label loves. While I haven’t always been onboard the Pearl Jam train (they lost me for a bit in the late 90s), I do give them credit for what appears to be a career that, once it comes to a close, they’ll be able to look back on and not feel like they made a living short changing anyone. Which, I suspect, might be a little more difficult down the road for many of today’s current batch of pop stars.
From their debut album 10, here’s Alive.
Time for another new feature at That’s Funky Awesome. The heading of said feature, ‘Then and Now’ basically sums up the idea behind it fairly clearly, but in case a little further explanation is needed…
A band or artist is selected, then their career is run under the That’s Funky Awesome microscope for your enjoyment. It will feature clips from their humble beginnings, all the way through to their not so humble present day status as superstars-or washed-up has beens (depending on who we’re talking about, of course). So, here we go.
To get the ball rolling on Then and Now I’ve decided to have a looksy at the career of Aimee Mann, the Berklee attending, bass playing, former ‘Til Tuesday frontwoman. Mann has had an interesting time in the music business. Well, interesting for us to look at in hindsight, that is. Chances are it was quite hellish for her having to deal with when it was happening, but I digress.
Mann first caught a taste of success with ‘Til Tuesday, which was formed way back in 1982 in Boston. As singer and bass player for the group, Mann received most of the attention directed towards the band, especially since her shocking blonde haircut and braided rat tail quickly became the group’s calling card as far as image went. Although ‘Til Tuesday released three albums during their relatively short initial run (the original band was basically done with by 1989), it was the first single off their first album that garnered most of the attention steered towards the group. That single, Voices Carry, was also the title of their 1985 debut album, and to this day is the track that will forever keep the ‘Til Tuesday name from floating away to the cosmos. Their follow up, 1986’s Welcome Home, barely cracked the top 50 on the Billboard charts, and 1988’s Everything’s Different Now never even made it into the Top 100. For most bands, this would be the final nail in the coffin, and to some extent that was what the future was shaping up to be for Aimee Mann and ‘Til Tuesday. However, Mann continued to tour under the ‘Til Tuesday banner with session players in tow after the band’s label, Epic, refused to let her out of a contract with them in order to pursue a solo career. Unfortunately for Mann, this trouble with record labels would be an ongoing nuisance for several more years.
Voices Carry, live 1985
This is where the saying ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire’ comes into play for Mann. After finally leaving Epic, Mann was able to release her first solo album on her new label, Geffen, 1993’s Whatever. While not a hit, it did receive some good reviews from the critics, and lead to 1995’s I’m With Stupid. Again, Mann had the critics on her side, but the album failed to make any sort of grounds in the sales department, a fact that her label, Geffen, made clear they were not impressed with. When Mann delivered her next effort, Bachelor No. 2, Geffen refused the album and sent Mann back to the studio with an order to start writing hits. So began another label battle, although while locking horns with Geffen Mann did manage to wrangle a little side project, recording the soundtrack for the film Magnolia, which landed her song Save Me nominations for both a Grammy and an Oscar. In 1999 Mann formed her own label, SuperEgo, negotiated her release from Geffen, and finally made Bachelor No.2 (which now included songs written for Magnolia) available to the public. Mann, although perhaps still not a household name, has flourished since leaving the world of big labels. Her last five albums have all been self-released, and without the pressure of Big Brother watching over her she does a brisk business selling her material directly to her fans, as well as taking on the odd acting gig just to keep things interesting (anyone remember her in The Big Lebowski?). Her last album, 2008’s Fucking Smilers, is worth a listen if only for having the best title EVER.
Invisible Ink live, from Lost in Space