In late ’70s New York City, kids forming underground bands often drew from the Ramones and their brethren. Punk rock rejected the sanitized mainstream music of the era, seeking to recapture the excitement of pre-Beatles rock n roll.

Long Island native Slim Jim Phantom took a different path when he formed Stray Cats with Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker in 1979. He had discovered rockabilly, a style of music that predated rock n roll. Rockabilly in 1979 seemed out of place, at least on the surface, but upon further examination, it made just as much sense as punk. “[Rockabilly is] the most American music,” says Phantom, who plays drums. “Gene Vincent wasn’t affected by the British. Eddie Cochran wasn’t affected by the British.”

 

“Anytime you’re playing music for the crowd instead of yourself … you’re fucked.” … Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, in I’m Now.

Who the hell is Mudhoney?

I asked that same question of my students. I teach American history and music at a small college near Philadelphia. Last week, before mentioning Mudhoney, I asked the 18 to 20 year-olds if they had heard of Pearl Jam. Nearly every hand went up. I then inquired about their familiarity with Mudhoney. Blank stares. So, as with my students, I will provide you with a little Grunge 101.

So you’re sitting around with some folks discussing musical tastes. One says he’s into the Who and glammy rock. The other likes psychedelia.  A third mentions his fascination with death metal, but he also appreciates Britney Spears.  That third person doesn’t exist, does he?

He does if he happens to be Mark Brooks.