I originally reviewed Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge as part of Amazon’s Vine Voice Program. Amazon sent me a proof copy of the book to review, so there may be differences between what I read and what was in the final product that was ultimately published.
As the title implies, this is an “oral history” of the Seattle scene, which is primarily comprised of responses from various people in the scene that Mark Yarm interviewed; the oldest interviews conducted by the author took place in 2008. For the “oral history” of the grunge scene, this publication starts out around 1984 or 1985 and goes through 2002. The only text that Yarm himself wrote for this book is contained in the introduction at the beginning of the book and the acknowledgments in the back of the book.
While I understand that the point of Everybody Loves Our Town is to be an “oral history,” there were times in the book that I felt that Yarm could have included brief explanatory material to give the reader a better understanding of what was being talked about, as well as to help tie some of the interview pieces together. This problem became noticeable on the first page of the first chapter. On the first page, the interview subjects keep referring to “it” when they’re talking, and don’t say what “it” is. By the end of page two, the reader finally knows what “it” is; as a reader, I thought it was a little frustrating that I had to wait that long to understand what was being talked about. This was a case where I felt some brief explanatory text at the top of the page from the author would have helped the reader have a reference point for understanding what was being talked about.
As I read Everybody Loves Our Town, I had the sense that the author expected the reader to already have a decent understanding of the entire Seattle scene, going all the way back to 1984. For someone like me, who didn’t get into the music until the early 1990s, I really don’t have much in the way of reference points for almost half of the book.
When it came to Nirvana’s section of the book, I felt there were a couple of glaring omissions. There was never any reference to “Weird Al” Yankovic recording his parody of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”; in my opinion, this would have helped to illustrate just how mainstream Nirvana had become. Also, while Yarm acknowledges that Dave Grohl went on to Foo Fighters after Kurt’s death, there is no mention of the fact that Krist Novoselic had been in a couple of different bands after Nirvana (Sweet 75 and Eyes Adrift). Someone reading this book who didn’t know better would probably assume that Krist had disappeared from music entirely.
This book definitely includes plenty of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” as well as plenty of swearing; however, I would hope that people who pick up this book and decide to read it would realize to expect these aspects. I do give Yarm props for how he handled the various deaths that happened within the scene.
There are also supposed to be rare photos included in Everybody Loves Our Town; however, since I read a proof copy and didn’t get the pictures in my copy, I cannot comment on the quality of the photographs.
When all is said and done, I did enjoy what I read in Everybody Loves Our Town. I especially thought I learned a lot about the genesis and the early years of the Seattle scene that I had not known prior to reading this book. However, I feel that there were some aspects of the book that could have been done a little differently that would have made the work a stronger and even better read.