“It was strange to pick up a tape and find titles like Sex Type Thing”: the time the mum of a 90s grunge fan made him go on Oprah to clean up his look

Pam holding a Michael Bolton album
(Image credit: YouTube)

By 1993, grunge had become big business. To the dismay of the rock genre’s biggest stars, grunge apparel could be found in the aisles at Wal-Mart and on the rails in Gap (although not in Chelmsford, Essex, where it was actually really, really hard to find a corduroy shirt). Seeing their scene be co-opted by the mainstream might have been very distressing to Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain but not as distressing, it seems, as it was to American mum Pam. Poor old Pam was so dismayed by her 18-year-old son Nick’s grunge-y style that she took to contacting The Oprah Winfrey Show in a bid to clean him up so she could send him off to college looking like the respectable young lad that she wanted him to be.

Quoted on Oprah’s website about the episode, Pam despairs about Nick’s new look and attitude. "A total change from the look of high school," Pam says. "Just to being sloppy and scruffy, not caring about shaving or his hair or anything.” In a clip from the show, Pam walks viewers around her house and talks through her concerns. We briefly see Nick’s bedroom, which is actually quite tidy by teenage standards; the bed is unmade but maybe Pam did that because she was upset at how tidy it was when the camera crew arrived. We then see Nick, who is obviously such a new convert to grunge that he thinks it’s OK to wear sandals with jeans - you’d be laughed out of Seattle Nick, get a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars on man! It’s also worth saying that Nick, “18”, looks about 30, but maybe that’s just an olden days thing. The further back you go, the more everyone looks older at the same age. 18-year-olds in 1973 looked 50.

Anyway, back to Pam: now she’s voicing her discontent at Nick listening to songs with titles such as Dead & Bloated and Sex Type Thing. Oops, Nick has been leaving his copy of Stone Temple Pilots’ debut lying around the house! The video ends on a melancholy note, as poor Nick munches his way through a bag of crisps obviously wondering why the hell his mum is making him go on the Oprah Winfrey Show when he could have just had a shower and a shave.

Unfortunately, the result, which the Oprah site says sees Nick “transformed back to the clean-shaven, khaki-wearing young men his mother remembered”, isn’t available to view in the UK but we imagine it makes the 18-year-old who looks 30 now look 40. You can see Pam wearily outline her worry about grunge-y Nick, though, and that’s the best bit:


♬ original sound - Grunge Bible
Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.