Growing Up Metal and Grunge

by Daniel Kaufman & Kevin Currie-Knight


EA’s own Kevin Currie-Knight and I discuss our respective essays, Growing up Metal and Growing up Grunge. We talk about the appeal of heavy music and different conceptions of masculinity, the differences between early and late Gen Xers, growing up in the 1970’s and ’80’s, authenticity, and much more.

01:00 On the “Growing Up” Essays by Dan and Kevin. And why music? 09:20 Why “Growing Up Metal”? Life as a kid and teenager in 70’s and 80’s Long Island. Dan’s Bizarre Connection to Public Enemy. Metal and Masculinity. 34:30 Why “Growing Up Grunge?” Grunge and Hair Metal. Grunge and Masculinity. Kevin Sings. Grunge masculinity is a kind of “dirty Alan Alda.” Grunge, Tone and Masculinity. The Paradox of Authenticity. Dan Tries to Imitate Grunge Vocals. 01:05:00 Clique Identification and Defensive Cliques


  1. This is all pretty interesting to me.

    I was a little guy who craved masculine physical athletic competition, but was a sensitive type otherwise (non alpha-introvert). I am 6 years older than Dan, grew up in an inner-city neighborhood. I was often the only white kid on the courts, but would also cross the bridge for sandlot football games with my brothers friends (tough working class Italian & Polish neighborhood).

    I was turned off by rap & most heavy rock (which there was a lot of surrounding me at the time) maybe due to the over the top masculinity? I liked Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, & Motown.

    I was well liked in HS, but not in any cliques, and not successful with girls (probably due to the introversion). A strange mix of well liked, but not popular.

  2. I didn’t listen to the video because I don’t know anything about the music they talk about, being 20 years older than both of you and having left the U.S. in the mid 70’s, but Sethleon 2015’s comment rang a bell.

    I was also very introverted in high school (and still am today) and was completely “out of it”, as far from being popular as was possible, but in retrospect I realized that people liked me and even respected me.

    In fact, those qualities which made me (and others) liked in high school (which has nothing to do with being popular in high school) still govern my life today 60 years later, for example, as a neighbor. I’m helpful, polite, non-invasive, not moralistic, respectful, try to be cheery, don’t bore others with my problems but listen to theirs, if possible try to be humorous. I believe that neighbors like and respect me, although they don’t see me as being charismatic or someone to they want to be around, that is, someone popular.

    I was so far from being popular in high school that I cannot really put myself in the place of someone who was popular there, just as I cannot put in the place of a typical politician: Joe Biden must have been popular in high school. When I look at people like Biden, I feel that I belong to a different species.

      1. Interesting.

        When I was in high school in the early 60’s (basically pre-Beatles), popularity and cliques didn’t have much to do with music as far as I could see and I was so “out of it” that I may have missed some things. For boys popularity had to do with sports, cars, and dancing well (this was before the days of free form dancing). For girls I’d say dancing well and being pretty. Social class played a role too, but once again I was very out of it.

        I was always the last kid picked for all sports teams in gym classes and I failed driver education (really, I did).

        Like Kevin, I was pretty much ignored. No one picked on me, especially because in junior high school or in the first year of high school (I don’t remember exactly) I exploded and really beat the shit out of a kid who bullied me (and probably others) and that was in the school corredor and hence, very public.

        I walked to school with the school beatnik, not because we had anything in common but because we were both completely “out of it” and walked the same route to school at the same time every day, both of us being very punctual.
        But in my senior year with him and another “out of it” kid we formed the school’s leftwing, rebel with a cause, pro-civil rights (I was arrested a demonstration) group, which was really too small and too out of it to be a clique.

        Thanks for stimulating me to reflect upon lost time.

  3. Music as fantasy/escape I think is just one aspect of music’s capacity to give us passion and spirit. I am thinking of the prior video and how an over scientized materialized culture saps the human spirit. Music can fill that void in various ways.

    Fantasy can be an escape from dull over-worked life, but wasn’t the blues born out of forced labor in the fields. The blues looks straight into the pain and celebrates the human spirit to persevere. Joni Mitchell had a way of revealing beauty in psychological pain. A lot of music reflects a rebellion against social and cultural constraints.

    Regardless of genre, music moves me the most when I feel the authentic creative expression which results from an artist’s devotion to their craft. There is only one Joni Mitchell, Mose Allison, Frank Zappa, BB King, Eric Dolphy, etc …….. These artists find freedom in their art and the listener can then absorb the result.

  4. Grunge only lasted about three years – I wonder if you’re not confusing it with thrash and proto-death metal. While grunge bands were first recognized for their aggressiveness, especially Nirvana, in retrospect its biggest impact was the ressurection of – oh, horrors! – the ballad. Ar anyrate, while Cobain’s influences were largely punk, ‘classic rock’ was clearly a point of reference for Pearl Jam – and who could miss the influence of the Beatles on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”? But by the time something punk-like got into the mainstream, and showed up at big festivals and the David Letterman show, grunge was already a thing of the past.

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