Very little is blog-worthy these days but this one’s a gotta be said.
Early this morning, shortly before waking up, I had a fabulous dream. Myself, Dave Abbott and Paul Reynen were absolutely burning through some blues jams as part of a warm-up/soundcheck. I have no idea what were playing or where the show was taking place. Doesn’t matter. The feeling was there, the jams were the best ever and smiles all around. In the dream, Paul may or may not have been wearing his Soundgarden t-shirt he wore to several gigs in the last few months of his life. I remember specifically that I was playing in a style reminiscent of Mitch Mitchell just thrashing away through fills and having a grand old time for a bit before settling into the unmistakable deep pocket of a medium tempo, good-feelin’ blues tune in whatever key. Like all good jams, nothing was said, someone had simply played the first note and that was all it took to state to the others what was about to happen.
I then kind of woke up and was feeling pretty good – something that rarely happens in the morning. There I was, laying in bed, woke up before the alarm went off, slowly gathering the thoughts in my mind…. I was sure that it was Friday, traffic would be light, the cafeteria at work would have some excellent chow, seven straight months of rain and cold temps were finally over, and maybe I’d get lucky and the weeds would stop growing like, well, weeds. Yes sir, it was as good a day as I could hope for.
Then Adrienne walks in the bedroom and asks if I am awake. That is never a good thing. She either needs me to button or zip some article of clothing or there is horrific news to be shared. It was the latter. She tells me Chris Cornell has died.
Let that sink in for a beat.
Yet another beat.
Trying to process this information is fucking with me.
So I lay in bed a while longer. Then get up and get ready for work; Adrienne says she’s sorry she had to be the one to tell me. I said it’s ok. It’s not like she killed him and it’s sure as fuck a better way to get awful news than to see some Facebook post from an imbecile who just wants to be first to spread bad news.
Driving to work I realize one of my favorite singers of all time has died. I also realize traffic is the same as usual. And the clincher? Today isn’t Friday – it’s Thursday. I’m sure the cafeteria will be serving Chef’s Surprise.
I have many found memories of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Chris Cornell.
Back in the day, if a song wasn’t on the radio we only heard about it through word of mouth – and none of the kids I was actively hanging around with was into Soundgarden when they first came out and Soundgarden wasn’t radio friendly. My first awareness of the band was in P.E. class in high school; one of the other guys was wearing a shirt that said LOUDER THAN FUCK. I didn’t care for that particular guy so naturally I made no attempt to follow up on his musical tastes.
Fast forward a bit and I am borrowing my brother’s pick up truck to drive to work or school or do some errand. Now, my brother’s truck was basically a rolling boom box. He put every penny of his hard-earned paycheck into speakers, amps, wires, whatever, to make the absolute best sounding stereo on the block. Hell, even before he could really drive he was up to his shoulders in car audio gear.
Anyway, I am driving the truck and the CD in the player is “Badmotorfinger”. I’m cruising around in Cupertino and I remember distinctly being at the intersection of De Anza Blvd. and Bollinger at night and “Rusty Cage” is playing. I am floored. What the fuck is this and where has it been all my life? Thank god I am in the rolling boom box for my first taste because I turn that mother fucker up LOUDER THAN FUCK!
Holy Jesus what just happened? Seriously. This is the best goddamned thing since sliced bread. I drive a bit further and consider listening to that song again, that life-changing piece of audible art one more time when – fuck me – “Outshined” kicks in. You mean this band isn’t a one-hit wonder????!!!!! These mother fuckers deliver the goods on two tracks in a row?!?!?!?! OMG. Thank god for the rolling boom box.
Badmotorfinger had me hooked. Soundgarden is the shit. They entered the coveted space that is the short list of bands that my young brain found acceptable. Right next to the heavies like Rush, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin….. Soundgarden. Go figure.
Roll forward a few years and I am playing more and more cover band gigs. “Fell On Black Days” and “Black Hole Sun” are in the set list. “Spoonman” is another tune I play once in a while. I remember hearing other cover bands do “Outshined” and “Hunger Strike” around this time. Incredible. I’ve always wanted to play more Soundgarden in cover bands but frankly their songs are just too damn difficult for most of the singers I know to cover well. Chris Cornell is a beast of a vocalist.
Shortly after ‘Down On The Upside’ came out, I was driving home from mom’s house in San Jose to my apartment in Sunnyvale when I heard “Rhinosaur” on the radio and made a snap decision to stop at a record store on El Camino and buy the CD. This was a big fucking deal considering I was broke at the time. Stopping on a whim to make an impulse purchase of a CD was a huge deal. But I did it and do not regret making that stop. And years later when a great CD cleanse takes place, this CD makes the cut and is one of the few out of hundreds of CDs I owned that I actually kept a physical copy of for a rainy day. (Don’t fret – all the rest were ripped to iTunes; only a few discs with sentimental value were kept).
Remember music videos? Soundgarden had some great ones. I remember watching VH1 hoping to catch one of their tunes. I could very easily fall down a rabbit hole of good old days memories here…..
Roll forward a few more years, I am living in Wisconsin and fuck me if Audioslave doesn’t come on the scene. This band hit me like a ton of bricks. The songs, the sounds, the production values, the heavy riffs. “Cochise” was a goddamned monster and “Show Me How to Live” is one of my all time favorite tracks period. Seriously. This shit was incredible. The video for “Show Me….” is bad ass. The riff. The vocals. Oh those vocals. Incredible. The drums. The recording production. Top notch. I cannot even express how important this band was to me at that time. I had first heard about the possible melding of Chris Cornell and Rage Against The Machine while doing a cover gig in Palo Alto. I think Keith and Mark had mentioned it. Those details are fuzzy but end result was a super group that tickled me just right.
I was in a cover band in Wisconsin named The Creeps; luckily for me this band played hard rock and metal covers so getting “Cochise” and “Show Me How To Live” on the set list weren’t too difficult to do. The vocals could be extremely challenging but Marty Rock came through delivering a fantastic rendition of Cornell’s performance and any time we played those covers I was grinning on the inside like a kid who just won a lifetime supply of Legos. And Marty did those great Cornell vocals inside bars that were so thick with smoke one could barely breathe much less sing…. I was so stoked to have that song on the band’s play list…. Thanks for doing that one, guys.
“Show Me….” was an anthem I quietly used for myself for a long time. I can still put that track on anytime and get pumped. I can put it on loop and drive from Canada to Mexico. Such a mother fucker of a song. And you know what? It doesn’t necessarily affect anyone else that way. That’s the beauty of music; it is highly personal for all of us for different reasons. I was just thinking I wish I could remember the first time I heard this track but I can’t. No loss. It’s here and it’s part of my story.
Remember when The Simpsons used an Audioslave track during a scene with guest star Matt Dillon? I do. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1112081/?ref_=_6
I fucked up. I never saw Soundgarden, Audioslave, or Chris Cornell live. I have excuses; they all suck, but are valid to me. This is another learning experience I need to take to heart.
How about Audioslave’s “Live in Cuba” video? Fuck me. That shit is awesome. I can remember watching that late at night, cranking it through the speakers connected to my home audio/video system – LOUDER THAN FUCK. Unbelievable.
At some point I was in New Jersey for a business trip and the Audioslave track “Doesn’t Remind Me” was on the radio. I sat in a rental car in a parking lot listening to that track. The weather was ferocious; 95 degrees and matching humidity. Reminded me of another Audioslave track “Jewel Of Summertime”. I didn’t want to be there but the fellows in Audioslave were keeping me company and I felt better.
Roll forward a few more years and Chris Cornell’s solo stuff enters my conciousness. Damn. This guy is so talented. For whatever reason, the song “Can’t Change Me” is in heavy rotation on my iPhone and iPod. I think this is because it’s one of the few tunes I was able to ‘borrow’ from Limewire and was one of a few tunes that I transferred to a new iPhone…. And listened to over and over and over and over. Man, what a voice.
Speaking of iPhones, as soon as the ability to make customized ringtones came about guess what the first ringtone I made was? “Rusty Cage” became the ringtone for my brother, Dan, in homage to his turning me on to what would become one of my favorite bands.
At some point I bought the ‘Songbook’ album as a gift for Adrienne. Chris Cornell and an acoustic guitar. Done and done. Awesome shit. That cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”? Pure gold.
I remember talking about Soundgarden at great length with my friend Paul. He could be critical but honest and he liked Soundgarden -they passed his test of what constitutes as cool and that gives them even greater weight in my mind.
It’s amazing to look back and see what an impression and effect a person I’ve never met has had on me. What I’ve noted above are but a small sampling of the ways that Chris Cornell and I are tied together through the common language of music. My life is better thanks to Chris Cornell and the talented folks he worked with.
I’d like to thank you, Chris Cornell, for showing me how to live louder than fuck.