On April 16, 1991, "Temple Of The Dog" released its first and only self titled album
1991 was a crazy year, one of the greatest years in music. The year in which the alternative conquered mainstream media.
This is the story of one of the magical and masterful albums that came out of the grunge scene in that amazing year.
Stay with us for the third episode of the "Class Of 91" series.
This is the story of a masterpiece album, of the greatest supergroup that came out of Seattle, which at the time of its release did not know at all that they were a "supergroup".
A masterpiece we got from the Seattle scene that wouldn't exist if not for the tragic circumstances that surrounded it.
The story of this album begins with a colorful, talented, and charismatic character named Andrew Wood who was a singer, guitar player, and writer for the bands "Malfunkshun" and "Mother Love Bone". Along with him in the band, "Mother Love Bone" were bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard (who will soon become members of a new band called "Pearl Jam"). The band was formed in 1987 and was one of the first in the grunge scene in Seattle. Everyone at the grunge scene knew who Andrew Wood was. He was unusually charismatic and talented. Chris Cornell said that when "Mother Love Bone" performed in small clubs with only 20 people Andrew would make the audience feel like they were performing in a stadium full of 20,000 people.
Wood died of a drug overdose in March 1990, right after the band finished recording their only album "Apple", which Wood did not get to see released. Chris Cornell, who shared an apartment with Andrew Wood, returned with his band "Soundgarden" from a US tour exactly the day Andrew passed away, but a few days later he went on a tour that was already planned for his band in Europe. Cornell thought it would be a good idea not to be around Seattle, thinking it would be easier for him to deal with the grief, loss, and pain. But Cornell immediately realized he was wrong. He had great difficulty dealing with the situation alone and without his friends from the Seattle scene. As a result, the only thing he thought would help him cope with the situation, was writing songs.
(Photo: Pearl Jam Facebook Page)
Cornell knew that the songs he wrote did not fit the style of "Soundgarden", but he did not want to keep them in a drawer or throw them away without anyone hearing them, so he decided to check with Ament and Gossard who were members of Wood's band if they were interested in creating a song together.
In one interview, Cornell said he was very apprehensive that they would think he was trying to abuse Andrew's death and the band's reputation. But finally, he dared to send them a demo he had recorded with two songs: "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down". Jeff and Stone who at the time just started to form what would become "Pearl Jam" really liked the idea. They invited guitarist Mike McCready - Stone Gossard's friend, the three of them met Cornell and Matt Cameron (Soundgarden drummer) and immediately started working on more songs.
Since no record company or background production company was involved, there were no expectations from their session together. They felt relaxed, and creative and enjoyed every moment!!
Jeff said that they all just wanted to play, nothing more. The connection with Chris and Matt was so natural and fun that in just 15 days they recorded the whole album. Even Eddie Vedder who had just come from San Diego to "audition" for "Pearl Jam" was present at the studio, and "Unknowingly" recorded the first single from the album, "Hunger Strike", and also added background vocals to other songs. In Pearl Jam's "PJ20" movie, Eddie recalls that this was the first time he had heard himself on a real album.
This album is simply a musical miracle that was part of the sound formation process that defines Grunge. A combination of blues, metal, and alternative, with the influences of "Black Sabbath" and "Led Zeppelin". With a lot of emotions poured into the creative process which screams out from every note in every song, this is a masterpiece, an immortal album whose electric guitar ruff sounds will continue to resonate beyond time...
The name of the album was taken from the first sentence of the song "Man Of Golden Words" from "Mother Love Bone".
All songs on the album were written by Chris Cornell except "Pushin Forward Back" co-written with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, and "Times of Trouble" & "Four Walled World" co-written with Stone Gossard.
The quality of writing and performance on the album is amazing, especially because this is a band that played a very short time together and did not have enough time to form. The bands' playing is precise, tight, and full of emotion. But it is not only the music that makes this album so special, It is mostly the singing. Cornell is at his peak, moaning, howling, and screaming his soul out, and it sounds amazing, exciting and ice melting.
Most of the songs on the album are slow, melodic, and full of emotion.
(Photo: Temple Of The Dog Facebook Page)
The album opens with "Say Hello 2 Heaven" which is undoubtedly Cornell's "high peak" throughout his extensive career, vocally and literally. Beyond the fact that Cornell sounds amazing here, this is the highest voice Cornell reached in any of his recordings (listen to the end of the song).
One of the exciting moments in the process of creating this album is attributed to the recording of the song "Hunger Strike". This is the last song written and recorded, just because Cornell did not want an odd number of 9 songs. Eddie Vedder had just landed from San Diego and arrived at the studio. It was the first time he met Chris in the studio and he noticed that Chris was struggling with the singing of the lower parts. He does not remember where he got the courage from, but he just went to the microphone and sang the low singing roles and Cornell later noted that Vedder sounded exactly how he wanted to sound. This song was the first single from the album and also became the most successful and famous song from it.
Another amazing moment in the studio was while recording "Reach Down". This is one of the great moments of Mike McCready who like Vedder was "the new guy". Mike's headphones fell down in the middle of his amazing 4 minutes guitar solo and Cornell recalls Mike continuing the other half of his solo without hearing the rest of the instruments at all. McCready recalls that Cornell deliberately designed the song to be that long. He really wanted to annoy the record company. Cornell played all the instruments In the demo, even the drums. Jeff Ament noted that everyone then loved "Neil Young & Crazy Horse" and this song was an attempt to produce a 10-minute song in that style.
The song "Pushin' Forward Back" was written by Cornell in collaboration with Ament and Gossard. It's one of four songs on the album in which Vedder sings background vocals, and what amazing harmonies he and Cornell have together. This is the first song the band performed live even before the album was released, on November 13, 1990, at the Off Ramp Café in Seattle.
Cornell wrote the song "Call Me A Dog" about his then-girlfriend Susan Silver who also was "Alice In Chains" manager at the time. The song was probably meant to describe the problems they had with their relationship even before they got married.
Interestingly, the song "Times of Trouble" started from the mythological demo recording "Stone Gossard Demos '91". Stone Gossard, who also wrote the music, named the piece "Troubled Times". The demo tape played by Gossard, Jeff, Mike McCready, and Matt Cameron was intended to help the emerging band look for a drummer and a singer. It was sent to drummer Jack Irons who was asked to join the band. He could not, but he thought Eddie Vedder would suit them as a singer so he passed him the tape which included five songs including this song. Eddie recorded his voice on this song which was named "Footsteps". The song will eventually be released as a B-side to Pearl Jam's single "Jeremy". At the same time, Chris Cornell also recorded his vocals on Gossard's instrumental track from the same demo tape, added harmonica and this is what eventually became the song “Times Of Trouble” familiar to us today.
(Photo: Temple Of The Dog Instagram Page)
“Wooden Jesus” is built on the mesmerizing drums and percussion of Matt Cameron. A special and different piece with a country-blues scent that includes Cornell playing on Banjo and a great guitar solo by McCready.
And there's also "Your Savior" with the funky riff, the slow and bluesy "Four Walled World" co-written with Gossard with Ament's Fretless bass, and the amazing ending song "All Night Thing" with Hammond and piano played by Rick Parashar who also co-produced the album along with the rest of the band.
Although the album did not gain success or popularity when it was released, later on, that amazing year of 1991, after "Pearl Jam" and "Soundgarden" released their masterful albums "Ten" and "Badmotorfinger", this album gained much recognition and became a significant and integral part of the Seattle scene soundtrack.