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My Life with Mark Arm: A Video Collection

Today is Mark Arm’s 52nd birthday.

I’d like to salute the Mudhoney frontman and wish him many happy returns on his special day with a video collection that chronicles how he’s been a part of my life since I was – yikes! – 18 years old.

The year was 1991, and I didn’t know anything about Mudhoney. But that quickly changed when I entered college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At a house party, a fuzzy guitar and a whiny voice blared from the speakers. At first I was annoyed. Then I was in love.

The song was Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and the lesson was that punk obnoxiousness could be funny, thought provoking, downright weird, and, above all, exciting.

Take a look:

What was so cool was that Mark and the boys allowed me to laugh at my childhood cancer. I know that might sound strange, but the guys provided me with necessary and hilarious distance from my past. To (probably mis-) quote Shakespeare, “For this relief, much thanks.”

After I bought and repeatedly blasted Mudhoney’s essential Superfuzz Bigmuff EP (on which “Touch Me I’m Sick” appears) and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge LP (gotta love The Moody Blues reference!), I saw Mark in Sonic Youth’s film 1991: The Year That Punk Broke.

I loved SY, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, and the rest of the bands in the film, but Mark – or, rather, Mark’s nose and its contents – was the scene stealer. Check out this priceless scene with SY’s Lee Ranaldo and Babes in Toyland’s Lori Barbero:

My next goal had to be seeing Mudhoney live. And, to sound like Yoda, accomplish this goal I did. On October 26, 1993, Mark and the rest of the guys played a gig in Milwaukee, which had them on the same bill as Nirvana and Jawbreaker. Because BigmuffFudge, and the guys’ latest LP Piece of Cake were in constant rotation in my CD carousel, I knew the songs. Let’s just say I was ready for the live experience, which didn’t disappoint.

Here’s a clip of Mudhoney doing “When in Rome” (from Piece of Cake) in 1993.

Mark’s voice and Steve’s slide guitar sound pretty rad in tandem, no?

No single song can summarize the next 20 or so years of Mudhoney music for me. All I can say is that Mark and the rest of the guys have made amazing, high-octane music that’s always compelling.

The coolest thing about Mudhoney? The way in which they’ve remained true to their vision in spite of the vicissitudes of the music business. Indeed, how many bands can say that they’ve released two decades worth of albums without a snoozer in the bunch?

This is to say that Mudhoney records are doozers and not snoozers – and that Mark’s singular voice, good humor, and lyrical ability are a major part of their success.

I leave you with a live performance of “Chardonnay” (from last year’s terrific Vanishing Point LP) – a hilarious ditty that only Mark and the rest of Mudhoney could have come up with.