It's a sad day in the world of rock today. As I'm sure you have heard, Chris Cornell took his own life last night after a Soundgarden show in Detroit. Cornell was a sufferer of depression throughout much of his life according to reports. Obviously, that's a hard disease to conquer. I think I speak for everyone involved with A Band of Gamers when I offer my condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Chris Cornell. I know I'm hurting today - I read about his death early this morning and was stunned - I had no idea what to think. Way too young at 52 to be gone.
I was introduced to Soundgarden in early 1990 by a friend in college named Rene (last name is lost to the mists of time. If you are somehow reading this now Rene, I apologize). He loaned me 4 discs that day: Bad Brains Quickness, Lenny Kravitz Let Love Rule, Faith No More The Real Thing, and Soundgarden Louder Than Love. All four quickly went into my rotation, but the one that stuck with me right away was Louder Than Love. It was my first exposure to what would become to be known as grunge: a loud mix of Black Sabbath and Black Flag and Led Zeppelin. My young 21 year old mind was blown. I knew I had to hear more of this band. I searched out the two previous albums and an obsession was born. Nobody had the pipes that Cornell had at that time. He would lose some of the wailing qualities of his voice with subsequent releases, but it was no less powerful.
Badmotorfinger came out in '91 ahead of a certain Nirvana album and it just rocked. They played the second Lollapalooza which I was able to see in Chicago. That year they did a cover of the Body Count song "Cop Killer", which was enjoying a little notoriety then. Little did I know that they were saving their masterpiece for their next album, Superunknown. That album came out the same day as nine inch nails The Downward Spiral and I remember making the trek to the local record store (The Exclusive Co.) and purchasing both. (Someday I'll have to do an article on the music from 1994 - what a year!) In between, Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron joined forces with members of Pearl Jam and cut the tribute album to Andrew Wood Temple of the Dog. As you all know, that yielded the hit song "Hunger Strike".
I was lucky enough to see Soundgarden for a second time in '94 - on a bill that included Eleven, TAD, and Jeff Buckley. Two years later they had released Down on the Upside and after another trek on Lollapalooza, they broke up. A sad day but it seemed as if they had really just run out of steam by that point. Chris Cornell released the vastly underrated solo album Euphoria Morning and in the early 2000's hooked up with 3/4 of Rage Against The Machine to form Audioslave. They made for a potent combination: a powerful singer mixed with a very powerful band. They burned bright but faded fast, yielding only 3 albums that started strong but by the third you could see that they were running out of ideas.
In 2010, they announced that they were reforming and working on a new album King Animal, which really stood up alongside their other albums as a new classic. And then they began to tour again. I was unable to see them on this tour unfortunately. They had been touring sporadically throughout the last few years and last year even managed to revive Temple of the Dog for a short tour.
I kept up with this band throughout all of this - sometimes my interest peaked and sometimes it ebbed, but they were always there in the back of my mind. After today, that is no longer the case. In the last 18 months we have lost a large amount of musicians including some really big names. While those losses hurt (Bowie, Prince) this one was different for me. He was a voice that really helped to shape my views of the world and that voice has now been silenced. While there will be no more new music (not including the inevitable releases capitalizing on his death), we still have the classics to tide us over. So whatever you do, be sure to take some time to listen to Chris Cornell and remember him for what he was - an amazing talent.
Current Listening: Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog
(If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or thoughts of suicide, please please please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255)
Don't worry - I'll be back soon with my recommended records - it will be business as usual in a few days...