Home / Oldies Indie? Seattle Before Grunge? Outstanding Scene!

Oldies Indie? Seattle Before Grunge? Outstanding Scene!

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Seattle and surrounding region (Portland OR, Vancouver B.C.) sure gained notice during the end of the 20th century for its contribution of “grunge” to the pop culture of the planet. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and others made waves on the scene. All these bands are mere by-products of a scene that got the music industry and media to look towards that neck of the woods. From the mid 70s to mid 80s was one amazing music culture that created the wave that “grunge” came along and surfed.

Where do I start? Do I talk about Ten Minute Warning which spawned Duff McKagan’s journey to Gun’ and Roses? How about Green River’s contribution of members of Pearl Jam or the Blackouts’ Bill Rieflin going to work with Ministry? The initial works of Steve Albini? Jonathan Poneman putting out cassette tapes creating some label called Sub Pop? It goes far beyond that. Let me just tell the story of one band to get the ball rolling on the subject.

This band is called X-15. I think of all the great independent bands from Seattle, they were the best. Why did these guys never get signed? A question often heard throughout the old scene. Before I go on, let me credit other outstanding bands like Napalm Beach, DOA, the Moberlys, the Fastbacks, the Blackouts, the Visible Targets, 3 Swimmers, lots of others…

X-15 first came together in 1979 in Bellingham, WA when vocalist Kelly Mitchell, drummer Todd Fuhs and guitarist Eric Alton discovered a magic combination of original music and lyrics powered by top-rated musicianship and poetry. Bringing on bassist Tim Lollar and keyboardist Erik Rohrer, this group named themselves X-15 after the US Airforce experimental rocket plane. They recorded and played, gaining popularity in the Bellingham area, a blue collar and college town of about 50,000 just south of the Canadian border.

In 1980 the band headed south 90 miles to Seattle to join the ever expanding music and arts scene. Their live performances were well executed and word spread about X-15.

The band became a draw in Seattle, landing prime club dates both as headliners and as support for signed touring acts. A trip to a 24 track studio produced a 5 song tape that gained immediate airplay on independent and college radio stations in western Washington. The song Vaporized was selected as opening track on the critically acclaimed Seattle Syndrome album. The local PBS station produced a video of this song. The band opened shows by Jon Cale, Gary Myrick, Romeo Void and many others during this time. A walk on jam by Iggy Pop during a club appearance was very impressive.

1981 brought artistic growth and many changes. Keyboards and bassists were auditioned. The band changed its name to Life In General. They built a recording studio and in 1982 released a 5 song 12″ E.P. that was well received by radio & critics and garnered sales world-wide. Their music was said to to be “so hard yet so soft”

From 1981 to 1985 X-15/Life In General moved to the top of the scene opening for X, Missing Persons, PIL, the Clash, Lene Lovich, Black Flag, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snakefinger and many others in clubs, theaters, arenas, and outdoor festivals. They achieved impressive popularity in Seattle, Portland OR, Vancouver B.C. and all points in between. In 1984 a tour of the west coast included stops in Los Angeles and San Francisco. During this time the Butthole Surfers opened for X-15/LIG at a Seattle club. At their band house they hosted a party with the very first performance by a band featuring young budding friends called “the Shemps” who soon after renamed themselves Soundgarden.

Seattle musicians and the music industry can tip their hats to X-15 and all the other great bands and fans of the scene for opening the door to success of the Puget Sound influence on modern pop culture.

Oh man, I could go on and on. There are many books, websites, CD’s, videos and other archives that can be dug up on the subject. But this is a start. Many of you who are now somewhere on this planet might have been in Seattle during this time. You know what I’m talking about.

OK, go to CDBaby for a taste of X-15. Go to Amazon.com and find the book entitled LOSER by Clark Humphrey. It is a good resource. e-mail me at peaceloveguidance@yahoo.com to answer any questions and get you guided to this fabulous scene that not much of the planet really knows about.


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About peaceloveguidance

  • OK, Ima spaz on the computer. I publish my first article (see ASAP notice on Blogcritics) and do not know how to attach photos, links, etc. Just read the last paragraph and I’ll get you guided.


  • Eric Olsen

    very nice Douglas, thanks! Everyone knows grunge but few know what led to it. Amazon and pics are up

  • HW Saxton

    And not a single mention of Girl Trouble
    even…. hmmmph

  • Eric Olsen

    looks like pics aren’t working – are they blocked from the X-15 site?

  • HW, you know that at 7am writing this article I could easily forget a thousand bands. The Refuzors, Telepaths, Young Fresh Fellows, etc. More articles and stories to come…

    Thumbs up to Girl Trouble.


  • HW Saxton

    Douglas, I was only just kidding ya ras.
    By the by, my friend Art Chantry did a lot of the art layout for “Loser”.

  • HW Saxton

    D’oh!!! I skipped the heading and went right to the article without seeing Mr.
    Chantry’s name. My apologies mon.

  • HW, I noticed the i-rie vibrations in your language, no problem mon. Right after I built and operated the Gorilla Gardens Rock Theater (coming up soon in the story of grunge) I got picked up by the Burning Spear band (1985). They needed some white American punx to manage their way around the country. When business was tough I might be called Doug-clot at times…


  • HW, besides leaving out Girl Trouble, it could be said that Robert Cray, Kenny G., Queensryche, Quarterflash, etc. are all from the same scene. I’ll get to them all one of these daze…

  • HW Saxton

    Douglas, You kicked it w/ Winston Rodney
    nationwide??? Wow! That sounds wild mon.
    The ZigZag bills must’ve been sky high.

    I love reggae,dancehall,rocksteady,soca
    and all that great stuff.One of my most prized records is an original Jamaican
    pressing of Dr Alimantado’s LP “Best Dressed Chicken In Town”. It’s on that cruddy Jamaican vinyl that is already scratchy sounding before it’s ever been

  • HW, yeah, worked heavy on the reggae USA business 85-89. Joel Savage (Blogcritics contributor) suggests I write about those adventures also. True, spliff the size of baseball bats. But, the Seattle herb was very scary to them. Way too strong. But that very herb sure drove the above mentioned ‘pre-grunge’ scene, well throw in some of those heavy drugs also. But northwest herb and hi-test beer was a mainstay…

    soon mon…

  • Most of us in the Northwest do not include Kenny G in the northwest music scene. Sure he grew up here, went to school here, lived here as an adult (not sure, he might still live here). But c’mon, he’s Kenny G. We just don’t talk about him.

    But Hey, Jimi Hendrix grew up in Seattle!

  • Eric Olsen

    hey, don’t forget Ray Charles and Quincy Jones

  • Big Time, hhhmmm… Kenny G. Well, he actually was a scenester. Because what was unique about the scene back then was that if you were doing the original thing (of any form) you were in. I just remember that Kenny’s name appeared in The ROCKET (local music weekly publication) right along with the FARTZ, REFUZORS, etc… Kenny was doing his thing around town, strugglin’ away.

    Think of this. Some of us punx would usually catch Robert Cray when he would gig at the Rainbow (alot of band houses were near there-more on the ‘frat house’ system of the scene in upcoming articles). Like after band practice or someting. He was good. Your art band types would see Kenny at times.

    Anyway, things were much more unified at the time.

    Eric, good point about Quincy and Ray. And Jimi. How about Big Brother and the Holding Company? The music has always been part of the culture here. the Sonics, the Fabulous Wailers, Kingsmen (louie, louie), Paul Revere and the Raiders, Marilee Rush (Angel of the Morning), the mud shark incident (Zeppelin anyone?). The LOSER book has a good history of information. And does the Experience Music Project. I’ve never played with their website, but it is probably good.

    This neck of the woods is loaded with music contribution. I’ll get to more stories about what I was in touch with. Enuf to go on there!


  • HW Saxton

    Can’t forget The Ventures either….

  • Eric Olsen

    and it’s virtually criminal to leave off Bobby Sherman, since Here Come the Brides was set in Seattle, although I have no idea if any of it was actually shot there

  • Yeah, Perry Como singin’ about those ‘bluest skies…’ out here. But what!!?? It is really grey out here!


  • Alright! I noticed Charles Peterson’s book (Touch me I’m sick) on the tote board of related items at Amazon. He documented the scene well.

  • HW, on an unrelated subject (see comment #6)… in reference to the term “ras” (rasclot, etc…). Being engrossed in rasta culture due to experience in the reggae field, when ever I watch the TV show Friends, it took me a while the not picture Ross’s name as Ras. You know the deal man…

    Look out for my next article. It will be the story of Soundgardens first gig (see above). Then I have some adventures of life at DOA’s house in Vancouver. Those guys are ‘out there’ types. But hey, they are all down to earth…


  • I was first introduced to bands like Fastbacks, Green River, 7 Year Bitch, and The Gits through the soundtrack to a very interesting documentary about the exploitation of the Seattle music scene called Hype. It also has a few excellent tracks by Nirvana, Mudhoney, and even Pearl Jam.

    I’ll never forget a few lines from the liner notes introducing the bands on the album:

    Mudhoney – the best band in the world before 1987
    Nirvana – the best band in the world after 1987; we miss you Kurt

    I have a lengthy story that associates with my attendance at the UK Premiere of Hype, but I won’t get into that here.

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash

  • Glen, Gordon!!!! Check this article out referring to a ‘press kit’ style.


  • Ive got four words for ya Doug:

    Sir Mix A Lot.

    (okay maybe that was three and a half words)

    That was my world. I was involved deeply in that whole thing from begining to end.


  • Oh man, I just got an email saying that someone downloaded this CD by buying a tube of Aqua Fresh toothpaste. My attorney is on the case. Is it money or will I get a garage load of toothpaste out of the deal? Well, Aqua Fresh does know their music….

  • Glen, you are right on. The Mix! And he is just a regular cool dude. He has a killer studio not far from here. You know, suburbs and farmland… I have delved further into the local history, I am promoting a show in a couple of weeks with a band who swept the nation in the 60s called The Daily Flash. they worked with some pretty heavy names. They still exist so I thought I would do a show. http://www.thedailyflash.com This neck of the woods has music as much as we have Boeing, Microsoft and the worlds strongest pot. The Sonics need to make better draft choices, but at least something is going on here…Go Seahawks?

  • Updates on photos of the above mentioned scene. You see Charles Peterson’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” on the Amazon tote board. But also Google a guy named Lance Mercer. He has alot of official Pearl Jam stuff. New book out.

    But the killer is this: http://www.bestrockphotos.com Photographer Mike Leach has the real insides on the deal. Not just limited to the ‘proto’ Seattle scene. Majors included.

    Anyway, rock n roll. Oh yeah, I went and set up http://www.myspace.com/x15 That MySpace is working out to be an intersesting tool in the world of networking. It will make for an interesting revolution of the people.


  • Proto-grunge does have up to date statements years after it happened!! Our-punk-pop hit entitled ‘Vaporized’ (written during the Reagen years) ws recently played and used for subject matter on some right-wing radio talk show in Des Moines Iowa. A listener went to his job where he had access to one of those massive computers that can trace down anything. He finds our singer/lyricists HOME PHONE, E-MAIL ADDRESS, SENDS SATELITTE IMAGES OF HIS HOUSE, ETC. calls, makes threats, etc….He called everyone of our female fans who liked the song “drugged up sluts” and made reference to attacking them on MySpace.

    Of course, we find where this computer is and contact his higher ups to make sure he is dealt with for abusing their computer systems. We don’t know the deal yet….

    But, the question is….shouldn’t people that have access to these type of computers at their job have a background check???

    rock on!,

  • WOW! Back to life… Last week (Aug 30, 2008) a few X-15 songs were performed here in Seattle by a band known as ‘Roger Fisher and Friends’. Roger, the founding guitarist of HEART put together an all-star band of Seattlites (Randy Hansen on the other guitar, my goodness!!!). the venue was the Triple Door here in town. A really nice place. Tops in the USA. Check it out if you haave a chance.

    Roger asked Kelly (X-15) to sing a few songs he selected as his favorites. ‘Vaporized’ and ‘Mad Again’ he really likes. WOW! It came off well. No kidding, the audience consensus was that it was quite the highlight of the evening. The performance, sound, etc. was immaculate!

    OK, that is my excuse to hype the music some more. It was cool. Quality art never dies.


  • amaysing

    Here in the Northwest, we have an indy label releasing works of said bands. Check out Idiot Culture for instance… Anyway, Dadastic Records is what should be Googled or Bing’ed or Ask’ed