Sonic Boom

Sonic Boom

Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock from “Louie Louie” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

by Pete Blecha

Backbeat Books

Although not really recognized as such until the heyday of Sub Pop, the Pacific Northwest was always a musical hotbed. Overshadowed by California to the South, the region produced or nurtured a number of diverse musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Loretta Lynn, and the Sonics.

Pete Blecha lays out a fascinating, highly readable account of the Northwest’s popular musical history in Sonic Boom: The History of Northwest Rock from “Louie Louie” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” making a convincing case that the song “Louie Louie” is a fundamental building block of the area’s music. As Blecha states, “What the kids of the Northwest reacted to best was a song that rocked hard and had no time for rhythmic subtlety.” Sloppy, raucous and simple, the song would influence countless area artists, and the sometimes complicated history of the song makes for some of the most interesting sections of the book.

The repression against rock and roll is also very interesting. For such a laid-back region, the amount of hurdles aspiring rockers had to overcome was fairly daunting — teen dance ordinances, anti-flyering laws, to say nothing of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI investigating the phantom dirty words in “Louie Louie.”

Blecha writes with a local historian’s love of his subject, and Sonic Boom traces the Northwest’s music scene from Ray Charles’ heavy influence on the region in the late ’40s to right after Sub Pop hit. While the teen dance battles and the region’s love of simplified, heavy, horn-driven R&B make for the most interesting aspects of the book, Blecha has written a definitive musical history of the region.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Jeremiah Lockwood
    Jeremiah Lockwood

    A Great Miracle: Jeremiah Lockwood’s Guitar Soli Chanukah Album (Reboot). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Metallica: The $24.95 Book
    Metallica: The $24.95 Book

    From an underground band that pioneered the thrash metal sound, to arguably the biggest rock act in the new millennium, Metallica has had a long and tumultuous history. Ben Apatoff scours a myriad of sources to catalog this history in his new book.

  • Araceli Lemos
    Araceli Lemos

    Shortly after AFI Fest 2021 wrapped, Generoso spoke at length with director, Araceli Lemos about her award-winning and potent feature debut, Holy Emy. Lemos’s film uses elements of body horror in her story about the exoticization of two Filipina sisters living in Greece and how that exploitation creates a distance between them.

  • Southern Accents 55
    Southern Accents 55

    A woofin’ good time with cuts from Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Delta Moon and more from KMRD 96.9, Madrid, New Mexico!

  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    Absurdism with a healthy dose of air conditioning.

  • Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist
    Mixtape 172 :: My Old Bassist

    Like pre-teens throwing every liquid into the kitchen blender and daring each other to drink the results, Woody and Jeremy fuse all manner of sounds legitimate and profane into some murky concoction that tastes surprisingly good.

  • Demons/Demons 2
    Demons/Demons 2

    Synapse Films reissues Lamberto Bava’s epic ’80s gore-filled movies Demons and Demons 2 in beautiful new editions.

  • Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson
    Sylvie Courvoisier and Mary Halvorson

    Searching for the Disappearing Hour (Pyroclastic Records). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Payal Kapadia
    Payal Kapadia

    Earlier this year, director Payal Kapadia was awarded the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) for best documentary at the 74th Cannes Film Festival for her debut feature, A Night of Knowing Nothing. Lily and Generoso interviewed Kapadia about her poignant film, which employs a hybrid-fiction technique to provide a personal view of the student protests that engulfed Indian colleges and universities during the previous decade.

  • Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
    Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella

    A classic children’s tale re-imagined by America’s greatest composers.

From the Archives