Green River were arguably the first Seattle grunge band, forming around the same time as the rest of Seattle's first wave (the Melvins, Soundgarden, and Malfunkshun) and codifying the primary elements of the sound. In 1985, they became the first grunge band to release a record, kickstarting the Seattle music scene and later helping to establish the Sub Pop label. Green River are even more famous for the bands that sprang from their breakup: Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone, the latter of which also contained the roots of Pearl Jam. Green River's lineage is generally better celebrated than their actual music, which helped lay out the blueprint for grunge. Green River specialized in a dirty, sludgy, gleefully ugly hybrid of punk, heavy metal, and bluesy hard rock, drawing from bands like the Stooges and Aerosmith in addition to the hardcore outfits where many of the members first cut their teeth. The band's hard rock leanings are most audible on the 1985 EP Come On Down, while their 1988 album Rehab Doll evened out the punk/metal proportions and most closely resembled the prototypical grunge sound that would explode in the '90s.
Green River formed in Seattle in 1984, taking their name from "the Green River Killer," a notorious serial killer who did his grim business in the Pacific Northwest from 1982 to 1998. Lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Arm and guitarist Steve Turner had previously played together in the local punk bands Mr. Epp and the Calculations and the Limp Richerds, while drummer Alex Vincent (aka Alex Shumway) came from Spluii Numa and bassist Jeff Ament from Deranged Diction. Late in the year, second guitarist Stone Gossard -- Turner's onetime bandmate in the Ducky Boys -- came onboard, allowing Arm to concentrate exclusively on singing. Green River started playing local clubs, and in 1985 they recorded two tracks for the compilation album Deep Six, the inaugural release on local indie C/Z Records; it also featured early tracks by Soundgarden, the Melvins, Malfunkshun, and Skin Yard, and is widely regarded as one of the first important salvos in the Seattle grunge scene. Later in 1985, Green River went to New York to record their debut EP, Come On Down, for the Homestead label.
Following the release of Come On Down, Steve Turner left the band (reportedly over his distaste for its metal influences) and was replaced by Bruce Fairweather, who had played with Ament in Deranged Diction. In the summer of 1986, the group recorded another EP, Dry as a Bone, in Seattle with producer Jack Endino; it was issued by Bruce Pavitt's fledgling Sub Pop label in July 1987. Green River subsequently began work on an eight-song mini-album for Sub Pop, which was released in early 1988 under the title Rehab Doll. By the time it appeared, though, intra-band tensions were tearing Green River apart. The central issue was commercialism: Gossard and Ament wanted to pursue a major-label deal, while Arm preferred to remain independent and record for Sub Pop. The final straw reportedly stemmed from a gig in Los Angeles; Arm wanted to give his friends backstage passes, but found that Ament had reserved them all for A&R reps who never showed up. Not long after Rehab Doll appeared, Green River officially disbanded.
Arm reunited with Turner to form the punkier Mudhoney, while Gossard, Ament, and Fairweather joined up with ex-Malfunkshun singer Andrew Wood in the glammier Mother Love Bone. Following Wood's death from a heroin overdose, Gossard and Ament moved on to found the hugely successful Pearl Jam with vocalist Eddie Vedder. Fairweather, meanwhile, moved on to Love Battery. In late 1993, during a Pearl Jam encore in Las Vegas, Arm and Turner joined Gossard and Ament on-stage for a brief Green River reunion. In July 2008, Green River got back together to play two shows that coincided with Sub Pop's 20th Anniversary celebration. Two more Green River gigs took place in November 2008 (one found them opening for the Supersuckers, who were also celebrating their 20th Anniversary), and in May 2009, they once again reunited to help celebrate another Northwest band's anniversary, this time the 25th birthday of the Melvins. In 2019, Sub Pop released remastered and expanded editions of Dry as a Bone and Rehab Doll. ~ Steve Huey