As soon as the grunge movement exploded, it seemed like everyone cared about what Kurt Cobain had to say. In those few seconds of screen time that he got during the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Kurt quickly turned into the voice of his generation, getting ready to lead Gen X into the next phase of rock music, with songs that had a lot more attitude behind them.
That’s not to say that every single person got his stamp of approval at first.
When being interviewed for MTV about the new bands that were coming out of Seattle, Kurt had some very unkind words for poor old Pearl Jam: “I’ve always hated their band.”
Speaking in 1992, Kurt. thought that most of what Pearl Jam was doing was the same schtick that he and Nirvana were rebelling against. His thought process was that they had come from the hair metal brand of rock and roll and suddenly decided to go alternative once it was popular, saying:
“Those bands have been in the hairspray/cockrock scene for years and all of a sudden they stop washing their hair and start wearing flannel shirts. It doesn’t make any sense to me. There are bands moving from L.A. and all over to Seattle and then claim they’ve lived there all their life so they can get record deals. It really offends me.”
Cobain doubled down in a 1992 cover story for Rolling Stone. In the feature, the magazine said that “His favorite target is Pearl Jam, also from Seattle, which he [Cobain] accused of “corporate, alternative and cock-rock fusion” in a recent Musician magazine interview.” Cobain’s response? Digging in further:
“Every article I see written about them [Pearl Jam], they mention us, and they’re baiting that fact. I would love to be erased from my association with that band and other corporate bands like the Nymphs and a few other felons. I do feel a duty to warn the kids of false music that’s claiming to be underground or alternative. They’re jumping on the alternative bandwagon.”
Kurt might have actually got it wrong in this scenario though, with most of the guys in Pearl Jam playing in Mother Love Bone years before grunge even broke, with Eddie Vedder only coming to Seattle once the band found him when playing down in San Diego.
Even with the initial rivalry between both bands, Kurt did end up making amends with Vedder for some of the comments he made, saying that he considers Eddie “someone I really like, I mean, we’ve had conversations on the phone and I think he’s a really nice person.”
If there were any doubts about the feud being water under the bridge though, Eddie and Kurt ended up making amends after the fact, slow dancing backstage at the MTV Awards as Eric Clapton sang “Tears in Heaven” onstage.