Monday, April 09, 2007

It's 1987 all over again

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that 1987—20 years ago—turned out to be a pretty seminal year in terms of the Seattle scene. On that year, Soundgarden released Screaming Life, Green River released Dry as a Bone, the Screaming Trees released Even If and Especially When, and the Melvins released Gluey Porch Treatments; this is not to mention important or well-regarded records by the Fastbacks, the Young Fresh Fellows, and the Accused. Bundle of Hiss holed up at Audio Designs studio to record unreleased (but significant) demos, and Kurt Cobain, Chris Noveselic, and drummer Aaron Burckhard made their live debut at a house party in Raymond, Washington.

This, combined with periodic perusal of Clark Humphrey’s blog and the publication of Humphrey’s book Vanishing Seattle (which I have yet to read) prompted me to take a stroll down memory lane. Thus, for the next few days, were going to write about some of the people, places, and media we remember fondly—or not so fondly—from 1987. We also will post a .zip file containing songs from the aforementioned records. So without further adieu.

Places People Went

Beth’s Café. An online review described meals at Beth’s as being a teenage hipster rite of passage, and who am I to argue? Beth’s opened in 1954 and serves timeless greasy spoon classics, with portions that seem reasonable only after a night of hardcore drinking. (Beth’s is also open 24 hours.) Will a six-egg omelette fail to fill your stomach? Then opt for Beth’s famed 12-egg omelette, complete with hash browns. During my teenage years, it was a common haunt for teens who snuck out of their parents’ houses and who needed a place to eat and smoke clove cigarettes.

The Last Exit. The Last Exit (also called The Last Exit on Brooklyn, in reference to the Hubert Selby novel) was a U-district institution for more than 20 years and a not-so-revered coffee shop for another ten. The original location, on the 3900 block of Brooklyn, opened in 1967 and was a huge, lively room with dozens and dozens of tables; the place would overflow in the evenings with students, chess players, bad writers, radical political zealots, and other bohemian types. Sometime in the early 90s, after owner Irv Cisky died, the Last Exit moved to a nondescript, smaller building on the 5200 block of the Ave, and it shut its doors a few years later. The history of the place is well accounted here.

Chubby & Tubby. Although I risk crossing-over too much with Vanishing Seattle, I’ll add another voice to the chorus mourning the passing of general store Chubby & Tubby. It reminds me of how organic the grunge “look” was: the “look” had nothing to do with Urban Outfitter boardrooms or young designers in Manhattan; on the contrary, locals (both young and old) wore flannel shirts because they didn’t cost much and kept a person warm in those damp, dim Seattle winters. And where better to buy flannels than at Chubby & Tubby, where one could also find Converse Chuck Taylors for less than $20, Christmas trees for $5, and all the hunting knives, fishing tackle, rubbers (meaning the boots), sleeping bags, and Carhartt coats you need for your weekend in the woods. Chubby & Tubby’s two locations sold everything cheap, and every aisle was overstuffed with merchandise. It was uncool, unironic, and located in unfashionable neighborhoods, and it’s a damn shame that it’s gone.

Venues. Several of the important venues from that period vanished years ago, sometimes before we were old enough to patronize them. The Off Ramp? It’s now El Corazon. The Central? It still exists, but in 1990, the owners converted it into a “saloon,” and you’re more likely to see Tom Petty and Jimi Hendrix cover bands play there than TAD or Girl Trouble. Squid Row? It’s now Kincora. My brother tells me a hair salon occupies the Vogue’s original space. The OK Hotel? It closed in 2001 after an earthquake. The Backstage (which was more of a touring venue)? Closed in 1998. The Hollywood Underground and Ballard Underground are long gone, too. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of many venues from that era that still exist in their same form, other than the smaller theaters (the Moore and Paramount) and the HUB Ballroom at the UW.

So as you mourn the losses of these places, you can play the .zip file of Lamestain's Awesome 1987 Mix Tape, featuring:

Soundgarden “Nothing to Say”
Young Fresh Fellows “Amy Grant”
Melvins "Heater Moves and Eyes"
Green River “Unwind”
Screaming Trees "Transfiguration"
The Accused “Bethany Home (A Place to Die)”
Bundle of Hiss “Rabies”
The Fastbacks “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong”

We'll discuss radio, TV, and print media later in the week.



Yannick said...

Great sutff, I already had 4 songs, but they rock

Anonymous said...

Two worthwhile things about 1987, Big Black at the Showbox and Big Black at the Georgetown Steamplant. And the Western Cafe on Western near Madison and Andy's Diner on Broadway.