When life hands you lemons—you form a punk band. Everclear’s peroxide blond singer-songwriter Art Alexakis has bashed out a peaks-and-valleys career in rock by channeling a dismal upbringing—including an absentee father, a brother’s death by drug overdose and his girlfriend’s suicide—into wrenching rock songs like “Father of Mine” and “Heroin Girl.” Alexakis formed Everclear soon after moving to Portland in 1991 with a pregnant girlfriend in tow, and the band would log three platinum-selling albums between 1995 and 2000. Everclear’s star power has cooled since its salad days, but Alexakis remains a visible figure around town: He campaigned vigorously in Portland for John Edwards and went to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate in 2004, perhaps signaling that the angry young man has found a more purposeful outlet for his rage.
The Limelight: Everclear tops Pearl Jam and Green Day as Billboard ‘s Modern Rock Artist of the Year in 1998.
The Lowlight: Alexakis files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2005.
Before they were new-wave chart-toppers on MTV in the early ’80s, guitarist Marv Ross and his sax-playing wife, Rindy, worked the I-5 circuit in a swing and country band, playing five nights a week, sometimes five sets a night. The workload, says Ross, left him “fried,” so he borrowed $4,000 from his dad, bought an eight-track recorder and got serious about songwriting—a wise move, it turns out. A few months after its release in 1981, Quarterflash’s self-titled debut album on Geffen Records went platinum, and from 1980 to 1985, the band recorded seven songs that cracked the top 100. Between gigs by their current outfit, the Trail Band, Marv and Rindy reconvene Quarterflash about three times a year, most recently in June at Jacksonville’s Britt Festival. (They opened for Toto.)
The Limelight: On February 13, 1982, Quarterflash’s breakout single “Harden My Heart” rests at No. 3 on the Billboard charts, one notch above Journey’s “Open Arms.”
The Lowlight: Sandwiched between sets by Motörhead and the Scorpions, the band dodges batteries thrown from an unappreciative crowd at a 1983 heavy metal fest in Chicago.
“Portland was the best place to be in the ’80s,” recalls Wipers bandleader Greg Sage. “It was considered a loggers’ town, overlooked by the rest of the world, but that’s why so many unique bands came out of here.” That feeling of isolation ripples through Sage’s music, and today he is still considered a patron saint of the lonely and disenfranchised—in fact, the Wipers received more votes in our informal poll than any other band. Despite Sage’s legacy of alienation, his most revered song is the 10-minute anthem “Youth of America,” a song of punk solidarity from 1981. Nearly a decade after the band’s first recordings, grunge notables such as Mudhoney, the Melvins and, most notably, Nirvana praised the Wipers as having been a huge influence. Kurt Cobain even asked Sage and his group to go on tour with Nirvana, but it never came to pass.
The Limelight: Nirvana records the Wipers’ “Return of the Rat” for the tribute album 14 Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers in 1993.
The Lowlight: The Wipers’ 1999 comeback album, Power in One , goes largely unnoticed, revealing that angst is a dish best served by the young.