Not that we usually give a shit what Vince Neil has to say but in a recent interview in Q Magazine the Motley Crue frontman has came out and said some things that have some truth to them. He claims that only bands that were already dropping in popularity were affected by the new sound that was coming out of the northwest. He claims his band supported the rise of grunge in the early ’90s and says that the Seattle music scene didn’t seem to kill MÖTLEY CRÜE the way it affected many of the other so-called hair-metal bands who were mega successful in the ’80s. In the interview he said Motley Crue didn’t fear the rise of grunge in the 1990s – and were in fact early supporters of Nirvana.
“We went on ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ (Back when MTV played music) and we’d had an early pressing of ‘Nevermind’,” Neil told Q magazine. “We were talking about a bunch of upcoming bands and told people to check that album out.” Great, now he’s taking credit for breaking the band, just kidding, sort of.
He continued: “We supported that whole thing.I don’t know why people say grunge killed rock. Only people whose careers were on the way out said that. It didn’t seem to kill us.”
On the other side of the coin, in another recent interview Rob Zombie told England’s TeamRock Radio that the American rock scene never recovered from the the ’90s grunge explosion. Zombie goes on to say, “When the grunge rock thing hit, with NIRVANA and all that, everybody thought it was cool to be anti-rock star. But in a way they sort of anti-rock starred themselves right out the door, because the rap guys came in and they said, ‘Fuck it. We’ll be the rock stars then, if you guys are going to wear flannel shirts and stare at your feet.’ And in the U.S., truthfully, rock music has never recovered from that.”
Zombie continued, “A whole generation of kids thought, ‘Fuck this! Rock music is boring. Let’s go listen to rap music.’ And it’s never recovered.”
So did grunge kill rock or did it only accelerate what was bound to happen anyways? Many have said that the hair metal scene was just a fad and wouldn’t last and if you think about it, although there was some great stuff that came from that era, there was also a bunch of really shitty music being made. For a lot of bands it became about the look and trying to fit in and not about the music, that is not sustainable. Whereas in Seattle , it was more about the music. I’ve had this conversation more than once with ex-Sweetwater guitarist Dudley Taft and he’s told me that he originally went to LA to get in a band there but he saw that it was dying. When he heard Mother Love Bone he almost instantly headed up I-5 to Seattle. He knew that was where the action was happening.
In a recent interview with Myglobalmind webzine, GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall spoke about how his band’s career was affected by the rise of grunge in the early ’90s.
“Really, the grunge movement, even though it affected Eighties rock, I wasn’t really as bummed out as I thought I should have been,” he said. “I was almost relieved to hear something different, because I really felt that at the end of the Eighties, it was starting to get watered down. It was becoming so predictable. Everybody was writing the same songs with the anthems, and to me, it was just really bad.
“You know, what happens is a handful of bands go big and they’re doing something that has substance and it’s pretty cool stuff, but then every major label wants their version of that. So when that starts happening over and over again, it starts to lose its vitality. And I was almost happy. I just thought it’s nice to hear this raw music; it was such a welcome change for me. Alice In Chains , for example, I liked. Usually I’m pretty accepting when I hear music that has melody to it and that has some kind of originality. Their songs were maybe a little darker, about how screwed up the world was and doom and gloom, whereas in our era it was all about celebration and girls… Our attitude was to get away from the problem, theirs was to embrace it. And it still sounded good, and there were a lot of good bands that came out in the Nineties. But it was a dark period for bands of our era because the momentum had shifted towards the newer bands.”
“I was talking with Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions and he said that they basically didn’t play in the Nineties, they had a ten-year break almost, because of all the new music. We still played but we were kind of flying under the radar, because so much attention, so much deserved attention was happening with the new bands. In the Eighties, when we would tour there would just be the two bands, or there might be another opening act, and we’d fill arenas every night. In the Nineties, they had to put like seven bands together on a bill, and all of them had sold millions of records.”
In a recent interview with American Blues Scene Magazine Tom Keifer of Cinderella hints that Seattle music had an impact on his band as well. “I went through a very long deep depression, and you know, there were a lot of other things going on at that time in my life that were piling on, like Cinderella losing their deal with Mercury and the whole music scene was changing around that time, with the Seattle grunge thing coming in. So those two things alone among other things, personal things too that were going on, but it was just a pretty dark time, the 90’s were, for me. But the two things I just mentioned, between losing the voice and the career changes, were very frustrating because when the whole music scene changed and we were let go by our record company and Cinderella started drifting apart. That’s when I wanted to make music more than anything. To kind of get back in there and say ” I’ll show you, and I am still relevant, and fuck you”, and I didn’t have my instrument, I didn’t have my voice. So it was a rough time.”
Cinderella of course was a great band and maybe they were innocent victims but I’d argue that their demise had less to do with grunge and whole lot more to do with music industry bullshit. It was just bad timing. With their talent, they most likely could have withstood the changes if they hadn’t lost their record deal. The last paragraph by Mark Kendall only seems to strengthen what Vince Neil says. As great as the Scorpions were in the 70’s and 80’s, were they going to continue to be relevant? How about bands like Great White and (gulp) Winger, doubtful. And the list goes on and on. If your next album sounds exactly like your last two, that’s gonna be a problem for your career.
So finally, grunge did not kill rock music, it killed shitty hair metal bands that wouldn’t have made it anyways. In fact grunge IS rock music, or WAS depending on how you view that subject as well. Musical tastes change, music evolves, it always has and hopefully always will.