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“The Glamour & The Squalor”: The Story of Seattle’s Legendary DJ Marco Collins

Marco Collins took this photo of Dave Grohl and Pat Smear, of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana, playing on a dumpster in an alley behind the now defunct Seattle club, Weathered Wall, in 1995.

Anyone who listened to Seattle rock radio between 1991 to 1997 knows the name Marco Collins.

“When you thought of The End, you thought of Marco,” said music biographer Charles Cross. “You didn’t think of Marco Collins, you just thought of one word.”

This was the DJ who broke bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Weezer and the Presidents of the United States on 107.7 The End.

“He was the on/off switch for your potential career,” said Presidents lead singer, Chris Ballew.

Now, more than two decades after grunge emerged, a documentary is being made about Marco’s life. It’s called The Glamour and the Squalor and the above quotes, from Ballew and Cross, come from that film.

“It goes down that VH1 Behind the Music sort of road. There’s rehab, the’s loss of money, there’s rock bottom. All kinds of very gritty things in the movie.”

It also chronicles Marco’s involvement in Referendum 74, trying to make gay marriage legal in Washington state after many years of being closeted.

“I’ve just never been a very out gay man. Back in the days when I was on the radio my audience was a very young audience and I didn’t think it appropriate, at that time, for me to come out. I wish I had now because I’m getting emails, from kids who had grown up at that same time listening to me, that were like, ‘God, I wish I would have known. I would have felt way more comfortable with my own sexuality.'”

A few people did know he was gay, including the members of Nirvana.

“They just took me in. I honestly feel that all of a sudden I became friends with all of these people, and I was accepted, because I was a misfit just like they were. I just remember thinking, wow, I wouldn’t have been embraced by this community if they didn’t know I was gay. Especially Nirvana. The moment Kurt found out I wasn’t just another DJ in the scene, I was a part of the crew. That changed everything.”

He wasn’t just another DJ because he was doing something no one else was: ignoring what the big record labels were sending and playing what he loved.

“We didn’t follow national charts. We played what we thought we should play for Seattle. What ended up happening is the station went #1 in the market. It was the first time an alternative station ever in the history of the country had gone #1. So, all of a sudden, all those other radio stations in the country are looking at us to see what we we’re playing. So if I added a song called “Loser” by Beck, KROQ in LA would be like, ‘What the hell is this?’ and then other stations start grabbing on to the song, trying to find it. And then things would take off from that point.”

Beck isn’t local but he probably owes his fame to Marco Collins.

“Beck had only released 500 12-inches of a song called “Loser” on a little record label called Bong Load Records. And we got a hold of that vinyl and started playing it on The End. The song blew up for us, became a #1 single.”

Marco joins legendary Seattle DJ Pat O’Day as the only two Seattle representatives in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s DJ exhibit.

“There is a thread that the two of us connect on and it’s the ability to hear bands early on in their careers and play them. If I wake up singing it two days later, then it’s a hit.”

Even though his band breaking powers aren’t as strong, he still knows a hit when he hears it.

“Oh, there’s a band called Motopony here in Seattle that I think are great. I think they’re underrated. The singer of that band just writes hits.”

The Glamour and the Squalor is almost finished and mostly funded, but there is a Kickstarter campaign that ends this Friday to help fund the end of the filming process. Click here for a link.

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