Monday, August 29, 2016

Temple Of The Dog

Temple of the Dog was started by Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell, who had been a roommate of Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone. Wood died on March 19, 1990 of a heroin overdose, the day Cornell got back from a tour. As he went on to tour Europe a few days later, he started writing songs in tribute to his late friend. The result was two songs, "Reach Down" and "Say Hello 2 Heaven," which he recorded as soon as he got back from touring.

The recorded material was slow and melodic, musically different from the aggressive rock music of Soundgarden. Cornell approached Wood's former bandmates, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament—who were still figuring out how to continue without Mother Love Bone—with the intention of releasing the songs as a single. Ament described the collaboration as "a really good thing at the time" for Gossard and him that put them into a "band situation where we could play and make music." The band's lineup was completed by the addition of Soundgarden (and later Pearl Jam) drummer Matt Cameron and future Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready. They named themselves Temple of the Dog, a reference to a line in the lyrics of the Mother Love Bone song "Man of Golden Words."

The band started rehearsing "Reach Down," "Say Hello 2 Heaven," and other songs that Cornell had written on tour prior to Wood's death, as well as re-working some existing material from demos written by Gossard, Ament, and Cameron. One such demo became a song for two bands, recorded as "Footsteps" by Pearl Jam and "Times of Trouble" by Temple of the Dog. The idea of doing covers of Wood's solo material also came up but was abandoned quickly, as they realized it would make people (including Wood's close friends and relatives) think the band was "exploiting his material."

The release of a single was soon deemed a "stupid idea" by Cornell and dropped in favor of an EP or album. The album was recorded in only 15 days, produced by the band themselves. Gossard described the recording process as a "non-pressure-filled" situation, as there were no expectations or pressure coming from the record company. Eddie Vedder, who had flown from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington to audition to be the singer of Mookie Blaylock (which eventually became Pearl Jam), ended up providing backing vocals. "Hunger Strike" (About this sound sample (help·info)) became a duet between Cornell and Vedder. Cornell was having trouble with the vocals at practice, when Vedder stepped in. Cornell later said, "He sang half of that song not even knowing that I'd wanted the part to be there and he sang it exactly the way I was thinking about doing it, just instinctively."

Temple of the Dog was released on April 16, 1991, through A&M Records and initially sold 70,000 copies in the United States. Ament recalled that they requested a Pearl Jam sticker on the cover—as they had just picked their new name—because "it'll be a good thing for us," but they were refused. The album received favorable reviews but failed to chart. Critic Steve Huey of AllMusic later rated the album with four-and-a-half stars out of five, stating that the "record sounds like a bridge between Mother Love Bone's theatrical '70s-rock updates and Pearl Jam's hard-rocking seriousness." David Fricke of Rolling Stone also wrote in retrospect that the album "deserves immortality." The band members were pleased with the material, as it achieved its purpose; Cornell believed that "Andy really would have liked" the songs, and Gossard also asserted that he thought Wood would be "blown away by the whole thing." Soon after the album's release, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam embarked on recording their next albums, and the Temple of the Dog project was brought to a close.

After 25 years, the Temple doors will open once again this November when the band reunites for its first ever tour to mark the historic anniversary. “We wanted to do the one thing we never got to do… play shows and see what it feels like to be the band that we walked away from 25 years ago,” said Cornell. “This is something no one has ever seen. We wanted to stop and recognize that we did this and pay homage.”

The songs on the 1991 Temple of the Dog album are both of Andrew Wood, and of Chris Cornell, and of the rest of the band. The album’s lasting impact and the robust individual musical journeys that followed are the result of fully embracing the spirit of collaboration both in music and in life – that is the Temple of the Dog lesson. And as with everything in Seattle, these words, this music, and the loss, belonged to everyone. They still do.  And always will.

What does tomorrow bring?

Tune in to find out...