Rebel Songs, Volume 1
Few songs capture the juggernaut that Seattle-grunge was in the early 90’s much like Hunger Strike. Fueled by Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the scene exploded nationally, in a way that felt overnight. But of course, it wasn’t.
The Temple of the Dog album was recorded before any of those bands broke big. Chris Cornell pulled the project together as a tribute to Andy Wood, the lead singer of Mother Love Bone who died from a heroin overdose in 1990.
There’s a lot of interesting history on how the project came together, and how Eddie Vedder ended up contributing the second vocal. Eddie’s low baritone against Cornell’s quintessential wail… is rock vocal awesomeness. The lyrics – a theme that both of these artists would return to over and over… not “selling out”.
That message resonated with me (maybe too much?) as I embarked on my own path of trying to launch a rock band in Los Angeles. Substance over style mattered. Singing shit that was emotionally relevant to the songwriter… mattered.
I guess I feel there’s a purity in this track that carries through. No one knew then (even themselves) that a Chris Cornell / Eddie Vedder duo would end up being one of the most influential duets in rock history. In an age where everything you hear on today's radio is so-and-so-artist featuring another artist (and it almost always feels manufactured to get social media shares and more streams), this feels different.
So, how do I cover a famous duet as a solo? Good question.
Chris Cornell and Andy Wood.
Image credit: Stereogum
The history of how this duet came to life is interesting, as Cory noted, and was an unexpected accident. What intrigues me is what the sound and the meaning of this tune has become to the fan base. The project was undoubtedly a therapy session for Cornell after his friend died, really for all of the band. The bulk of the disc backs that up IMO.
It's not a complex song lyrically by any stretch and certainly doesn’t approach many of the Eddie Vedder/PJ penned songs, or Cornell’s brilliant work with Soundgarden and Audioslave - not ironically bands Cory’s going to cover in later works.
As anyone who has followed the Seattle sound knows, that from its inception the music born from the NW and the artists were very socially aware - the antithesis of the 80’s metal era. Cornells lyrics again are simple, but I see this song as an ode to success that he’d already experienced (which in 1990 was microscopic compare to what would come for both singers) and a certain level of guilt. He also has a lot of foreboding lyrics in the songs on this disc that transpired for himself personally and his friends.
I think the most enduring part of this song is that it established the Seattle sound that Pearl Jam , Alice In Chains, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees and most of Sub Pop signed acts perfected. It's hard to believe this was recorded 6 months before PJ even went into the studio to do Ten. Before someone says "what about Nirvana?"... you are right, their role is probably equal if not more pronounced, but their music is a different sound - Grohl is a jackhammer and drove that band musically. We get to dissect their genius down the line!
From Cory - Early days on this one, and first one out of the block. I've covered this song for years on acoustic guitar, so feeling it out on piano has been interesting.
The original track is in the key of G - I approached it here in E to give myself a bit more room to work with vocally - and I actually like how the main riff resonates on the keys in E.
There's no way I'm getting to CC's "going hungry!" in G unless I hit falsetto, and well, yeah, yuck for this song. So starting 3 half steps down hopefully won't make verse 1 too groany, but will still give me some runway later to rise to my high range so the tune gets the climax it wants and deserves.
We shall see.