In the 1980s, the UW Was a Meeting Point for Bands That Would Become `Grunge' Icons of the '90s.

By Charles R. Cross

Four weeks into the fall semester of 1975, the third floor of the north wing of McCarty Hall virtually shut down one afternoon. That was the day Patti Smith's album Horses came out and, along with about 10 of my friends, I cut class and listened to this tremendous record so many times that the vinyl finally wore out. This was back in the days when wax ruled, and by the sixtieth spin of the day, little bits of vinyl had come off the album and were wound around the stylus. At midnight, the R.A. (the dreaded floor Residence Advisor) finally stopped by to tell us to shut off what was now just distorted noise blasting forth from my tiny Electrophonic stereo.

Though my McCarty Hall antics wasn't the first time loud, obnoxious rock 'n' roll blasted out on the University of Washington campus, by the time the late '80s rolled around a decidedly different music began to spew forth from dorms and frat houses. It had elements of punk and garage rock, just like the New York Dolls records I'd used to torture my floormates with, yet it was different--a slower beat and heavier bass.

This particular version of garage punk was a hometown brew created by bands from the Northwest, some of the musicians even went to the UW. Though locals hated the name--since it only described about one-tenth of the local bands at the time--out-of-town critics dubbed it "grunge." The term stuck, and what was simply a happenstance confluence of many divergent talents became a movement. On local independent labels like Sub Pop and C/Z, it was a sound that first took over the "U" District, the Rainbow Tavern, the HUB Ballroom, and eventually conquered the Wal-Mart.

Mudhoney photo courtesy of Reprise Records.

And it even took over Terry Hall. Imagine the chagrin of the Terry/Lander R.A. who had to go tell the kid down the hall to quiet down, but found the offending dorm rat was Mark Arm, already making a name for himself as a troublemaker. Not only did Arm have the nerve to live in the dorms while he attended the UW (at least for a quarter), he went on to front both Green River and Mudhoney, arguably the two most "grunge" bands to ever come out of the Northwest.

Charles Peterson, '87, who himself gained fame and international prominence as the photographer who documented the "grunge" explosion, met Arm when they both lived in Terry Hall. "Mark was in a band called Mr. Epp at the time," remembers Peterson. "He was totally straight-edge, but he was just as cynical and as smart as ever. I also met Ed Fotheringham (The Thrown-Ups) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden)around the same time." There must have been some great parties in Terry back then.

Launching Ground for Cultural, Musical Revolutions
The KCMU Connections
ASUW Concert Promoters Take on the World
Today: The Changing Dynamic of the Seattle Scene
Best of the Northwest: Cross's Fantasy Band of UW Alumni and Former Students

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