When Grunge Ruled the World


We were watching a ‘rockumentary’ on the life and times of Pearl Jam a couple of nights ago, and the following exchange occurred:

Me: ‘Oh, remember the days of headbanging. I miss those days’.

Heath: ‘I miss having hair to headbang with’.

The movie, Pearl Jam Twenty, confirmed something that I have been suspecting for some time now: I’m getting old.

The barely-out-of-their-teens band members, whose pictures used to hang on my walls – they were old too. A lot older than me. Actually, they looked more like my dad’s mates than mine.

Here they are in around 1991.









And here they are, all grown up.








It’s like a little time capsule, right? And the band is pretty much still together. In the time I’ve been through high school, university and a decade-long career, these guys have been writing songs, playing music and touring the world. Awesome, hey?

But I digress. What I felt while watching scenes of massive concerts, epic mosh pits and disaffected youths, was deep, heart-wrenchimg nostalgia. A nostalgia so poignant you almost get a little pain in your heart.

I still remember, for instance, with a surprising vividness, the excitement and anticipation of Pearl Jam’s second album Vs being released (and it didn’t disappoint). In fact, the release of major albums by our favourite bands was what punctuated our heavy-metal and grunge-filled teen years.

Now, I can’t remember the last time I even noticed a new album come out.

Concerts like Pearl Jam at Eastern Creek (muddy), Porno for Pyros at Big Day Out (amazing) or Faith No More at the Hordern Pavilion (can’t believe my parents let me go as a 14 year old)  – I don’t just remember them as events in my mind, I remember how I felt: the exaltation of the mosh; the fear of being crushed; the  elation when your favourite songs came on; the long hot interludes between sets at the Big Day Out.

So when I saw the footage of the long-haired headbangers at the Pearl Jam concerts, dressed in the uniform of band t-shirts, army pants and Doc Martens, I realised how much I loved being a teenager. I thought  I hated it at the time. I was angst-ridden and insecure, like most kids, and I often say I’d never want to be 15 again.

But what other time of your life can you feel things so intensely? When else would you ever make such an emotional investment in bunch of musicians you’ve never met? Would an adult ever get that excited about buying the latest tour T-shirt?

The things that make adolescence so hard – a lack of perspective, a narrowness of vision and a tendency to exaggerate every emotion – are also what make it so fantastic.

If only we’d all known that at the time…

By Belinda Thomson

Like this post? Share it!

    • Kate ORegan
    • March 19th, 2012

    Awesome read!! Pearl Jam defined my teenage years too & I too felt old when watching PJ20, still have the first t shirt I begged for my mum to buy me for my birthday 🙂

    • Thanks! And I can see that other people are better at keeping sentimental stuff than I am.

  1. Brilliant post, Belinda. I was nodding my head as I was reading along. being a teensy bit older than you I was equating those Pearl Jam moments to Midnight Oil at Kingborough Sports Centre and Painters and Dockers at the Tas Uni Bar back in the mid 80’s.

    I love my black concert t-shirts and was horrified recently when Mrs C gave my Midnight Oil 1990 European tour t-shirt to her father to paint in! That shirt takes me back to a sweaty night in London at Wembley Arena bouncing around the sea of fellow Aussies buzzing to Blue Sky Mine. Needless to say I am not allowed outside the house in any of my tour t-shirts.

    Seeing Powderfinger on a balmy spring night at the Myer Music Bowl in late 2010 was a wonderful return to the feelings of my youth and for an hour or two I believed I was 19 again. Ah, the magic of the rock concert.

    • Thanks Ross! I am ashamed to say I don’t have any of my t-shirts left. Although I still have my army pants. And yep, they still fit.

  2. I wish Eddie Vedder was one of my mates, esp. seeing as that’s how it looks to you. I was just listening to his raspy rendition of Better Man on a solo drive home this morning. I get excited about a t shirt with my website name and URL on it, but I guess that’s not the same as a tour t shirt. But it was tax deductible.

    • Well death and taxes are the only certainties we have, so as we get closer to one, the other also becomes more relevant.

  3. Ah, yes, but I have a secret; the really good times start when you turn 50. But no one believes it ’til they get here.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: