From The Mouths Of Decadents: Temple Of The Dog Turns 30

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Temple Of The Dog – Temple Of The Dog

Released April 16th, 1991 on A&M Records

Produced by Rick Parashar and Temple Of The Dog

Peaked at #5 U.S.

Singles:

“Hunger Strike” (#4 U.S.)

“Say Hello 2 Heaven” (#5 U.S.)

“Pushin’ Forward Back”

On March 19th, 1990 something all too common happened in Seattle: a guy died of a heroin overdose. The guy in this case was Andrew Wood, who had been the frontman for local legends Mother Love Bone. He was only 24 but his band, which he formed with former Green River members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, had been gathering quite a bit of buzz. The day he died was also the day his roommate came home for a short stop off between tours; his band, Soundgarden, was also generating heavy buzz. It was 1990, after all, and Seattle bands were quickly becoming the buzziest things in America. The roommate, Chris Cornell, wrote a pair of songs in tribute to his recently deceased friend while on the subsequent Soundgarden European tour: “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven.” When he got back from Europe he linked up with the remnants of Mother Love Bone and discussed doing some music in tribute to Wood; first a single, but when Cornell thought the idea of a one-off single stupid, an album. Some of it was composed of material that Gossard and Ament had been working on prior to Wood’s death. Some of it, like the songs written by Cornell on the 1990 European tour, was fresh.

Alongside Cornell, Gossard, and Ament came Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. At the time of the jamming and recording of Temple Of The Dog Gossard and Ament were trying to put together a new band that they had tentatively named Mookie Blaylock, after the basketball player. They had scrounged a lead guitarist, Mike McCready, from the ashes of his former band Shadow. They had recorded some demos but were still looking for a singer. Jack Irons, who had played drums for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and would years later play drums with Pearl Jam, passed the demo on to a friend of his in San Diego, a surfer named Eddie Vedder. The band was impressed with the material that Vedder sent back and he flew up to Seattle to meet them. His visit coincided with the recording sessions for Temple Of The Dog, and both he and McCready sat in on them. At first Vedder’s outsider status made him seem suspicious but when Cornell needed a backing vocal line for “Hunger Strike” Vedder filled it in in exactly the way Cornell heard it in his head. It was the first time Vedder appeared on a recording but from then on he would be a fixture in the Seattle scene.

Temple Of The Dog, as a one-and-done album, is a perfect example of a band fulfilling it’s purpose. The band, after finishing the recordings, were of the opinion that Wood would have loved it; as a tribute album, it’s about as spot-on as you can get. The album was slower and more graceful than the hard near-metallic rock that Soundgarden was bashing out at the time, and it was less riffy and 70’s-esque hard rock than Pearl Jam would turn out to be. “Hunger Strike” remains a touchstone of the grunge era, a duet between two of its leading figures that delivers its strikingly political message with thrilling and explosive force. McCready’s balls-out solo on “Reach Down” would be a harbinger of his powerful work on Ten, even though Cornell had to more or less push him into doing it. Ten and Badmotorfinger would be released within a month of each other later on in 1991 and Temple Of The Dog, which had been released mostly only to regional note, would become a hot commodity by 1992: Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, two of the hottest bands on the planet, together. Although Alice In Chains’ debut Face Lift would be released not long after Wood’s death, for all intents and purposes the grunge era begins here.

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