4. Seattle, Washington, USA

Creative Commons / Seattle Municipal Archives

The ‘Seattle sound’ became a oft-used phrase in the late 1980s and early 1990s after a number of bands from the city’s alternative rock scene crashed onto the world stage, making it the de facto center of the rock universe for a few lively years.

This alternative rock ‘movement’ was eventually given the label grunge, and was initiated in the 1980s by the likes of Green River, Mudhoney, the Melvins and Mother Love Bone, before crashing into the mainstream via Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

But despite the media lumping these latter four flagship bands together, they were significantly different bands who showcased the variety of rock music coming out of Seattle.

Alice In Chains and Soundgarden were the most metal-orientated of the four, whilst Nirvana and Pearl Jam were more influenced by punk and classic rock respectively. Nirvana would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world in terms of critical respect and commercial viability, but their success ultimately helped lead to the demise of their talented but tortured front-man Kurt Cobain in April 1994. AIC’s lead singer Layne Stayley also succumbed to a notoriously strong heroin addiction almost 8 years to the day of Cobain, in April 2002.

The Seattle scene hype led to a forensic focus on the city and its music, with lots of bands being quickly signed in the hope of finding the next Nirvana, and the major motion picture Singles documenting the scene at its height.

Seattle continues to have a thriving rock scene post-Nirvana though, with the Dave Grohl led Foo Fighters and acclaimed folk rock outfit Fleet Foxes just two notable acts to emerge in the years following grunge. Plus the Sub Pop record label which started up in the 1980s in the city continues to be a home to many independent- minded artists.

Finally, as the late Cobain pointed out in an 1993 interview, Seattle was the city that gave the incomparable Jimi Hendrix to the world. What more could you want?

Associated acts: Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Melvins, Screaming Trees, Heart, Mother Love Bone, Green River, Alice In Chains, Tad, The Sonics, Bikini Kill, Foo Fighters, Death Cab For Cutie, Fleet Foxes

Landmarks: The Crocodile, The Showbox, Viretta Park