The Big Boom Theory

A new book unearths the roots of Northwest rock.

By Steve Wiecking March 18, 2009 Published in the April 2009 issue of Seattle Met

The Sonics, pictured on their 1966 album cover, inspired budding rock historian Peter Blecha.

Peter Blecha lives for Northwest music. He wrote for Seattle’s music paper The Rocket beginning in 1983; played DJ for KCMU in the early ’90s; and held a senior curator position at Experience Music Project until 2001. And, he says, “I served hard time in almost every used record shop up through 1992.”

His new book, Sonic Boom, receives an EMP celebration this month. The book reclaims our region’s dominance in rock annals and cements Blecha’s reputation as its foremost historian.

Born in Seattle, he moved to Olympia as a child. “Down the street from my house was a garage band,” he remembers. “I was probably about eight or nine years old and became infatuated. And when another garage band, the Sonics, hit it big, I connected the dots of the music. The band I was listening to, the Bootmen, was on the same label, and they used to let me and my buddies listen to them practice.”

Blecha never forgot the excitement generated by the Sonics and other Northwest groups that by the mid 1960s had redrawn the national music map. “I was absolutely convinced that it was possible to come to Seattle and get on the radio when I came to UW in 1974 to study liberal arts,” he recalls. “But the entire scene had disappeared by then. The labels were gone, the studios were gone, and the radio stations that had once supported all the good local records were gone.”

He began tracking down audio engineers, disc jockeys, and of course musicians—interviews with whom developed over the decades into Sonic Boom and helped clarify Blecha’s mission. “I’m hoping people get a better understanding of what it takes for a music scene to be viable and healthy,” he says. “History shows us that the strongest regional scene of the 1960s devolved and crumbled. What looks to be vibrant and strong still depends on the energy and good will of a community.”

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