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World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story - Gillian G. Gaar (BMG)

5 December 2018

The rise of Sub Pop Records from a small fanzine called Subterranean Pop by Bruce Pavitt to a world-wide success is a story of good timing – and great ears. Pavitt, along with Jonathan Poneman began Sub Pop as a cassette add-on to the zine, choosing bands and songs that they liked, with no idea that anyone outside of the Pacific northwest would be interested. Seattle had, in Pavitt’s estimation, a vibrant music scene – and with bands such as Mudhoney, Soundgarden, TAD, The Melvins, The Screaming Trees and The Fastbacks, among others, he was correct. Sub Pop’s first LP release, Sub Pop 100 was a compilation of tracks from Sonic Youth, The Wipers, Scratch Acid and more. But it was the formation of the Sub Pop Singles Club in 1988 that led, in time, to Sub Pop becoming the stuff of legend.

Legendary because the first release in the club was a cover of an obscure Shocking Blue song “Lovebuzz” by an Washington band called Nirvana. Nirvana’s first album, Bleach exploded in the indie scene, led to the rise of “grunge” and the establishment of Seattle as a happening music town, and to Nirvana being signed to DCG Records and releasing Nevermind, and we all know the story from there. Sub Pop got 2% of Nirvana’s royalties as part of the deal, keeping the label afloat for years.

World Domination charts the rise, the fall and revival of the label, from its consistently great releases to its iconic logo and marketing messages – “Going out of business since 1988!” – and documents the vital indie label continued success for over 30 years. Modern music wouldn’t be the same without it, and Gillian Gaar, who’s previous books include She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and was the editor of Seattle’s The Rocket, gives us a frank but fond look at what good ears, and a never say die attitude can get you.