The Electrical Storm: Grunge, My Part In Its Downfall
Everett True is a legend. (Nay, he is The Legend!*) He’s considered by many to be the guy who “discovered” “grunge,”** “made” Nirvana famous***, introduced the two parties of one of rock’s most notorious couples****, and a whole lot of other things to boot. He’s considered by some to be one of the best music journalists ever, while others consider him to be the devil incarnate, a prat, and, well, the uncoolest person in the world. Yours truly—well, let’s just say I’ve never passed on an opportunity to read anything that had his name on it, and we have been honored to have had him grace our humble abode with his thoughts.
When we learned that he would be delving into the deep recesses of his life in music, we were quick to preorder that book, because we knew it would be a sloppy, messy, disgusting, shameful, embarrassing (for author and subjects alike), fun, and wickedly funny read. And guess what? We weren’t wrong.
There’s the story of David Bowie’s fiftieth birthday concert, where he’s given the stink-eye by a host of rock and roll stars, including Robert Smith, who had made comments about doing violent things to True were he to meet him face to face. (The rest of the story: he didn’t.) Then there’s the time he loaned his favorite Daniel Johnston t-shirt to a scruffy rock star; True lost his shirt, but in giving it to his friend, he wound up creating one of Johnston’s most iconic image. Then there was the time that Nick Cave told True not to sign any swear words in his son’s autograph book, to which True simultaneously heeded Cave’s request and mischievously ignored it, too. Then there’s the time Everett….
….do you get the picture?
The Electrical Storm is very much a puzzle. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to its organization, a hodgepodge of incidents and scenes told with no sense of chronology, a random scattering of thoughts with no clear organization, other than possibly the desire to escape the imposed finality of an autobiography. Thus, the reading can feel haphazard, schizophrenic, nonsensical. The amorphous nature of the text is enhanced by the heavy use of blind items. It’s not unwarranted; often, it’s out of respect to the parties involved, while there’s more than a little CYA-ing going on. But don’t let that distract; trying to figure out who he’s talking about can be a lot of fun, and certainly draws the reader in. Who was it that was puking out the window? Who was it that was being petulant? He leaves clues in each story—I’m not revealing my findings, why rob you of the joy of discovery?—though ultimately the names don’t matter.
Besides, it’s not about them!
The Electrical Storm is not the story of a life well-lived…it’s the story of a life, well…lived. It’s not always pleasant; more than once do we find Everett True awakening in a pool of his—or someone’s, history can be mighty vague—vomit and piss. True isn’t afraid to turn the knife on himself, and there are moments of wistful reflection and regrets—the story we featured is one of the book’s more thoughtful—and that’s what makes this such a great read. Yes, there are stories about Nirvana and Courtney Love, but guess what? They’re the least interesting moments of the book. Anyone can read about those stories—I highly recommend True’s superb Nirvana biography—but the best parts are the stories of the no-hopers, the forgotten-about indie-poppers, the moments of youthful dalliances with the goddess of music and the ecstasy she caused a young man to feel.
Moreover, what makes The Electrical Storm such a great read is that it is real. When True writes of being too shy to speak to Iris Dement, someone whom he thinks the world of, you can feel his reasoning. One senses the sadness in the recollection of how his coworkers left a particularly depressing Peanuts strip on his desk as they thought the plot line reminded them of Everett. It’s a humorous little aside, but it’s also painful to read. (How can a guy who helped to promote one of the biggest musical phenomena of the 20th century also be considered to be painfully uncool and unhip? Therein lies the conundrum that is Everett True.)
There’s also another sadness lurking around the bend—the realization that Everett True was and is the last of a dying breed—the gonzo rock star journalist who’s not afraid to insert himself into the story and live to tell the tales. With the onset of the internet, since everybody can now theoretically do what he did, then there’s absolutely no way anyone now can live the authentic life that he did.
*terrible joke, but not making it would have been the greater sin
**he ‘discovered’ it in the same way Columbus ‘discovered’ America. Pretty sure the natives didn’t know they were lost…
***their tunes did a pretty good job of that, too
****good for him! but who cares, really? it doesn’t matter, you know…their destiny was predestined, after all…
Categories: Book Reviews