At the time though, all eyes were on Soundgarden. Most believed that they had the best shot at becoming successful. In those days, “making it” for an underground band was to reach the level of a Husker Du or Black Flag. Selling 30,000 copies of your album, touring the country in a van, and getting written up in SPIN magazine was about the extent of the dream.
Obviously, expectations were altered dramatically in the wake of Nevermind. What The Strangest Tribe does best is to break down the crucial period between 1987 and 1990. For Seattle natives, those were the grunge years. As the author correctly notes, the sound had pretty much run its course by ‘91, and would have likely been remembered as an interesting local detour, had it not been for the runaway successes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. We also witness the gradual, and seemingly inevitable introduction of heroin into what had previously been a scene mostly fueled by beer.
As a lifelong Seattle native of a certain age, I was there for it all — and can vouch for the fact the The Strangest Tribe gets it right. The author even discusses details such as small parties in Belltown, the events of which would one day alter music history.
The cooperation Stephen Tow received was invaluable. The hundreds of interviews he conducted and obvious research have paid off substantially. For an “outsider” (he lives in Cheltenham, PA) Tow has done an outstanding job of telling the real Seattle music story. The Strangest Tribe is a great read.