A big part of writing Dreaming Montana was recreating the feel of Seattle during the early ‘90’s. I got myself in the mood by listening to the music of that era. I personally fell in love with Seattle during the same period that Cara does, and this music was the soundtrack of my own life at the time. The obvious heavy hitters of the grunge era were Pearl Jam and Nirvana, but I prefer to focus here on some lesser known but equally fine songs from a few other bands. There was a great deal of cross-pollination among bands in the early ‘90’s, so the songs below feature some of the same musicians playing in different bands; some big, some small, but all great. These songs reflect the mood of Dreaming Montana for me.
Say Hello to Heaven – Temple of the Dog (1991) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTkFzfvkmCE
In this anthem by Chris Cornell, when he sings the opening line, “Please, mother mercy …” you hear the anguish in his voice, full of wistful longing and regret over the death of his friend, singer Andy Wood. There’s a startled recognition that a light has been extinguished. A flame is gone, and Cornell and the band have lost not only their friend but their own innocence. Temple of the Dog was just a one-off, capturing a moment in time and paying tribute to their friend. These guys played their hearts out on this one.
Doll Parts – Hole (1994) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzepWL73NTg
Raw voice, simple catchy guitar riffs, and a feeling of disconnection from the world. That is grunge in a nutshell. When Courtney Love screams, “Someday you will ache like I ache,” you just know you will. There is no escaping the angst in this song.
Fell on Black Days – Soundgarden (1994) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySzrJ4GRF7s
More velvet vocals from Chris Cornell about punishment and remorse over a sudden reversal of fortune. When he insistently rails at us, “How would I know that this could be my fate?” he articulates the gloom and disillusion we all feel when life throws us a curve ball that we have no chance in hell of catching.
Protection – Massive Attack (1994) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Epgo8ixX6Wo
Ok, so this isn’t a Seattle band. These guys are British, but this was the vibe happening on the other side of the Atlantic at the same time as the grunge scene. Timeless dreamy mood music. I love the vulnerability in Tracy Thorn’s vocals. This song is all about isolation and the yearning to give and receive comfort. The steady hypnotic groove is perfect for a rainy Seattle night.
Seasons – The Singles Soundtrack (1992) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_y4dkvM-U8
Haunting guitar and currents of loneliness in this gentle acoustic piece by Chris Cornell. There is a sense of wandering and searching that seems commensurate with Cara’s journey. It’s such a treat to listen to simply his voice and the guitar. I love the ascending energy and tentative sense of hope. I know exactly what Cornell means when he says he is “short on words, but long on things to say.”
The Day Brings – Brad (1997) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g3raY1tYm4
From the rousing piano intro, you know immediately this is a song of hope. A call to live in the present, to focus on the positive in your life, to “see what makes you laugh, see what makes you sing.” Shawn Smith channels the Reverend Al Green in this comforting, inspirational song of redemption. My Nia teacher incorporated this song into one of our dance/movement routines; it always makes me laugh and makes me sing. Thank you, Reverend Shawn, for reminding us to celebrate life every day.
Glory Box – Portishead (1994) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF-GvT8Clnk
More Brits. I can’t decide if this trip-hop classic is sultry or sulky. A slow groove with sensual over tones, you know when singer Beth Gibbons croons, “I just want to be a woman,” that it’s time to light the candles, turn off the lights and lock the door.
Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns – Mother Love Bone (1989) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyBJoFz_QPw
The quiet piano opening immediately grabs me because there is so much emotion there. You can hear the love in Andy Wood’s voice when he sings, “dreams like this must die.” He seems to know it won’t last. Sadly for him and us, it didn’t. Though Wood sings his own epitaph, the song is lifted up when the rest of the band joins in. It’s groovy and heavy and explosive; an emotional roller coaster ride. The final guitar riff is satisfying and predicts the awesome work that Stone Gossard created later in Pearl Jam. Here’s Pearl Jam covering the song more than twenty years later: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsjfqMbzgbA
Not Too Late – Satchel (1996) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eMQ_N1JRVE
From the start, with its punchy intro drum beat, you know this is an exclamation point of a love song. When Shawn Smith sings, “your heart is just as smart as the spring rain,” I adore him. He and the band command that it’s not too late to get back up on your feet and headed in the right direction again, wherever that may be. Soaring and joyous, this is a sexy groove about love and togetherness. The jammin’ guitar solo by John Hoag takes us for a joyride. Listening to this song, you know that, just like a romance novel, all is going to end well.