Soundgarden were only two months away from releasing Superunknown which would launch them from the realm of cult indie band into the big bright lights of mainstream success. It debuted at #1 in the US and went on to sell 10 million records worldwide. The sort of success unheard of since the days of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Soundgarden had formed ten years earlier in 1984 and by 1989 had released two albums putting them years ahead of the rest of the Seattle pack. By the time Nirvana blew the lid off the thing Soundgarden were just about to release album #3. They were the unheralded trailblazers of the ‘Seattle Scene’.
While touring in support of Louder Than Love in March of 1990 Chris Cornell’s roommate Andy Wood of Mother Love Bone died of a heroin overdose. Upon returning to Seattle Cornell along with Andy’s former bandmates Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament joined forces with Soundgarden’s drummer Matt Cameron and guitarist Mike McCready to record Temple Of The Dog as a tribute to Woods’ life. Doing guest vocals on the album was unknown singer Eddie Vedder. The Temple Of The Dog album was released in April of 1991 and by August Stone Gossard, Matt Cameron, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder had recorded and released Ten Pearl Jam’s debut album. Soundgarden replaced Matt Cameron on drums and continued on their own path while Pearl Jam would go on to dominate world charts for years to come.
Andy Wood’s death had unwittingly created a monster along with the help of Cornell and Seattle bands were finally achieving the success that Woods’ had always dreamed of having himself. His untimely death would not be the last that Seattle would see though. Shortly after I saw Soundgarden in Australia Kurt Cobain would become the Pacific Northwest city’s highest profile causality yet. His suicide in April of 1994 would make headlines around the world like no other rock death in many, many years.
Eight years later Layne Staley of Alice in Chains would join Woods’ in heroin oblivion and now Chris Cornell has followed Cobain to the dark lonely place he went to all those years ago.
Cornell once said: “There’s something about losing friends, particularly young people, where it’s not something that you get over. I don’t believe there’s a healing process.”
Perhaps the death of Andy Woods never left him. Living with someone in those early formative years would have made them very close. The fact that Cornell went to such a great effort to organise, write and record the Temple Of The Dog album suggests that the two meant an awful lot to each other.
Chris’ death certainly flies in the face of something else the man once said: “I’ve had a long career and I want to continue to have a long career. The way to do that is not to go away.”
Not go away indeed. Something changed or something became too much to deal with. The fact that he was on anxiety medication at the time of his death would suggest that all was not well. Whatever the reason he left us for I will always remember standing in front of them in a sunny field just outside Surfer’s Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast in January 1994 just watching and knowing that I was getting to see a band on the brink of doing what they’d always dreamed of doing.
I am not your rolling wheels
I am a highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky
From ‘I Am The Highway’ (Audioslave)
Chris Cornell July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017