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The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge Paperback – Bargain Price, September 20, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570617430
  • ASIN: B008SLW1ZU
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,799,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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. Tow has done an outstanding job of telling the real Seattle music story. The Strangest Tribe is a great read."


--Greg Barbrick, Blogcritics.org


"There is an avalanche of information in Stephen Tow's meticulously-researched Strangest Tribe. It almost feels as if the author were there. Hell, I WAS there and I didn't know half of this stuff. You'll find out how a bunch of punk rock geeks somehow turned sleepy Seattle and its basement-beer-bred music scene into a worldwide phenomenon. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll eventually fall over, as we all did at the time. A ton of seriously killer music came out of the fuzz and fuck-all attitudes, and eventually money changed hands. But it was funny too. Still is."
—Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, R.E.M.)

More About the Author

I am a history geek. I've taught American history as an adjunct professor at Delaware Valley College, near Philadelphia, since 1999. As part of that, I've focused a great deal on popular music and its place within the American narrative. In addition to US history survey courses and classes on the Vietnam War, I've created classes on rock n roll and alternative rock history.

I've approached the Seattle thing both as a historian and a fan. I wish I could say I got that first U-Men EP back in 1984, but that would be a lie. Instead, I found out that Seattle had a music scene at the same time most of America did...when Nirvana exploded in 1992.

The whole early '90s Seattle thing was kind of like my '60s. My older sister grew up in that decade and remembers getting Sergeant Pepper's right when it came out, sitting down and listening to it with her friend and getting her mind blown. I never had that. The Beatles broke up when I was seven. So, Seattle felt like the '60s to me, since I was still in my twenties when Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit.

So, I embarked on the typical progression...Nirvana and Pearl Jam to Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, to Mudhoney, to Skin Yard, saw hype!, etc. As I ventured onward, I noticed a number of things that didn't fit within the comfortable Seattle narrative:

- grunge had nothing to do with Soundgarden (the major label version), Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains -most of Seattle music had little to do with grunge -Nirvana had nothing to do with creating grunge and, most importantly... -Seattle people are the funniest individuals on the planet

So, I thought I'd write about it. I had yet to read anything that fully captured this incredibly vibrant, yet small, music scene. I began in earnest in the spring of 2006. Since then, I've interviewed about 120 people, been to Seattle several times for research (well, some "book" research, some "seeing bands and drinking beer with people" research), and have fallen in love with the city and its music community.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
This book has a lot of them, and though there's a mountain of information, it isn't overwhelming.
DaveO
The Strangest Tribe is a must read for anybody that's looking for an accurate, in-depth look at the Seattle music scene during the 1980's and 90's.
KCsAvatar
There are so many stories and quotes that are funny, that it makes this quite informative book very entertaining.
Blue Phantom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James P Glover on June 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I really have to say I was excited about reading this book, but I felt like it was a huge let down. I understand the author trying to describe how the Seattle sound was made, but I feel like he went overboard explaining insignificant bands that don't matter during this time. He also left out many influences (drugs, boredom, the weather, etc...) yet he talks about his own theories that he believes influenced these bands. This books isn't totally bad, but for an avid grunge fan like myself, I would recommend Greg Prato's book. This book focused way too much on the punk and post punk which I know influenced many Seattle bands, but that wasn't the sole factor. Drugs were barely touched here, they talked about how Andy Wood died of a drug overdose, but they were only talked about in three pages or so. He writes about what he wants to write about, for instance he states people didn't like Mother Love Bone and they had bands who were even anti-MLB, but he doesn't even go into Temple of the Dog very much. He disses Alice in Chains by saying they had nothing to do with the Seattle sound and were strictly a metal band because he seems to not like the metal influence on Grunge which really pissed me off because to me, grunge is half and half (amongst some other things.) The one thing I did like about the book was at the end when the author gives you a list of Seattle records to listen to.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tom Dyer on December 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is something pretty weird about being in history books when you are still alive. It is nice to have people notice that you did something, but you always have the feeling you are probably supposed to be dead already. Nonetheless, what we have here is a Seattle music history with very few dead people, mostly just living folks that probably did not expect to be geezers.

Stephen Tow has taken a look at the Seattle rock scene circa 1976 to 1993, basically from the beginnings of the punk rock scene until Nirvana blows up. Certainly this ground has been trod before, in Clark Humphrey's "Loser" and Peter Blecha's more recent "Sonic Boom", but not in such narrow focus. To make it a spot more intriguing, Tow does not have a horse in this race. He is a historian from Philadelphia who thought there was a story here to tell and went digging. Perhaps in part due to his horselesssnes, I think he gets it right. Some might quibble over details, but it gives someone who was outside what was a fairly insular scene a reasonably decent feel of what the time was like. It rings of truth. And he can write. Tow does a nice job of pulling a pile of disparate characters together in a somewhat brief, but highly readable yarn. A fine read for a rainy NW afternoon.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Blue Phantom on October 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In The Strangest Tribe, Stephen Tow takes us on a journey through a spontaneous music grassroots movement. For those of us who are not from the Seattle area, the book paints a clear picture of the city and the surrounding areas. This book could easily have been murky in the telling, but Tow makes it an important point to not fall into that trap. There are so many stories and quotes that are funny, that it makes this quite informative book very entertaining. Kudos to Mr.Tow for his exhaustive research which has reaped many dividends. I highly recommend The Strangest Tribe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Agate on July 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I felt the need to add a positive review here, especially considering the one-star review that claims Tow interviewed "the usual suspects," "added nothing new, etc." As someone who has read all the other books mentioned, I'm going to have to disagree here.

The interviews focus on the scene before it became national. So yes, although you do hear from some of the "usual suspects," you are getting deeper into the backstory of the scene that closely preceded the Grunge late 80s/early 90s. I learned more about the bands that are constantly referenced as influences. I also learned about bands that I never even heard of. Tow was able to put his history and research skills to the test to create a mini "textbook" that I would be thrilled to read both in and out of the classroom.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By KCsAvatar on October 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
The Strangest Tribe is a must read for anybody that's looking for an accurate, in-depth look at the Seattle music scene during the 1980's and 90's. As somebody who has been playing music in Seattle for a million years, I can say that Stephen Tow did an excellent job of figuring out what happened here before Grunge hit the national market. And it's fun to read. If you are into rock history, I'd recommend adding this book to your collection.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DaveO on February 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Details. This book has a lot of them, and though there's a mountain of information, it isn't overwhelming. It's scholarly but entertaining, interesting and funny; it's researched to no end but quite relatable for both musicians and music fans. Reading this story the way Mr. Tow writes about it, I almost feel like I was there drinking a beer with Leighton Beezer from the Thrown Ups as Nirvana exploded. And that's to Tow's credit. There's a ton of detail, but it never loses focus, never gets bogged down. He has an instinct for that which really matters to the story and writes it in a memorable way, almost nostalgic. A good read.
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