photo & text by nacrowe
its quite staggering that amongst the pantheon of CELEBRATED singers that came out of the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement of the 1990s (including LAYNE STALEY, CHRIS CORNELL, MARK LANEGAN, KURT COBAIN, TAD DOYLE, MARK ARM and even adopted transplants DAVE GROHL and EDDIE VEDDER), arguably the most INFLUENTIAL within the scene is the relatively unknown late MOTHER LOVE BONE / MALFUNKSHUN singer ANDREW WOOD. its pretty evident when listening to tracks like "STARDOG CHAMPION," "STARGAZER" and "CROWN OF THORNS" off MOTHER LOVE BONE's debut APPLE (MERCURY, 1990), that WOOD is explicitly channeling some serious 1970s GLAM ROCK and CLASSIC ROCK arena heavyweights from AEROSMITH's STEVEN TYLER and QUEEN's FREDDIE MERCURY to even LED ZEPPELIN's ROBERT PLANT. there is a certain PERFORMATIVE CHARISMA to his PERSONA that seemingly anticipates a large crowd response.
and there is the kick, since WOOD's unexpected passing at 24 from a heroin overdose before APPLE's release made such a permanent impossibility. for someone with such unbridled OPTIMISM and PASSION for every aspect of his craft (SONGWRITING, RECORDING and PERFORMING), to the point that it rubbed off on others in the scene (including his roommate CHRIS CORNELL of SOUNDGARDEN), his demise was acutely felt and long-lasting. arguably more so than the more FAMOUS later deaths of COBAIN, STALEY, CORNELL and LANEGAN. i know that CORNELL was to prone to say in interviews that the scene lost its innocence in 1990 when WOOD died.
and that is not to say that people copied the sound of MOTHER LOVE BONE or the singing PERSONA of WOOD, far from it. one of the cool things about the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of that period was how UNIQUE all the bands were, in terms of both SOUND and PRESENTATION. most of the more well-known bands from that movement, like ALICE IN CHAINS, MELVINS, SOUNDGARDEN, TAD, NIRVANA and SCREAMING TREES, drew inspiration from some variation of PUNK ROCK, INDIE ROCK and METAL sources. what connected them to him was his MAGNETIC PERSONALITY, STAGE PRESENCE and ENTHUSIASM for music. famous tributes to WOOD include the ALICE IN CHAINS song "WOULD?" as well as TEMPLE OF THE DOG's "REACH DOWN" and "SAY HELLO 2 HEAVEN." the latter of which served as a popular introduction to the scene for EDDIE VEDDER, as he had recently joined core surviving members of MOTHER LOVE BONE in the recently formed PEARL JAM. TEMPLE OF THE DOG was a joint creative effort with members of SOUNDGARDEN and MOTHER LOVE BONE / PEARL JAM that sought to begin to heal the gaping wound that was WOOD's passing, both for his former bandmates and the scene as a whole.
my history with MOTHER LOVE BONE, like many my age, is one of rediscovery after years of listening to PEARL JAM. i was happy to discover that listening to MOTHER LOVE BONE, like listening to GREEN RIVER before them, is a SINGULAR experience with little stylistic overlap with PEARL JAM. that undoubtedly has to do with the fact that WOOD and VEDDER (and MARK ARM before both) are very different frontmen with DIVERGENT interests. VEDDER, like COBAIN, was the reluctant voice of a generation who was more inspired by the likes of STREETWISE songwriters and lyricists such as JOHN FOGERTY, JOE STRUMMER, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, HENRY ROLLINS and NEIL YOUNG rather than the more performative and lyrically FANTASTICAL STEVEN TYLER, FREDDIE MERCURY and ROBERT PLANT. and the songs confirm such an interest in both their scope, tone and focus. for me i cant mentally divorce WOOD from VEDDER, they are just married entities to me at this point. arguably opposite sides of the same coin. different expressions that showcase the POWERFUL and TRANSFORMATIVE potential of music to elevate oneself and those around you through song.
APPLE is required listening for anyone interested in COMPELLING, REVOLUTIONARY ROCK AND ROLL, regardless of your interest in the oft-cited and hyped SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement of the early 1990s.