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.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the iconic SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK band PEARL JAM!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
FILM REVIEW | PJ20
photo manipulations by nacrowe
edited and directed by famed director CAMERON CROWE from a career's worth of footage culled from the archives of countless videographers and filmmakers, PJ20 (VINYL FIILMS, 2011) is the story of PEARL JAM a in essence a celebration of their then 20-year career.
in essence the story of PEARL JAM is the story of the independent music scene in SEATTLE, which grew from a small, intimate community of like-minded supportive musicians to absolute world dominance and probably the last major ROCK AND ROLL scene ever as well as the last cultural movement of the pre-internet age.
commentary from the likes of CHRIS CORNELL really brings into perspective the uncompetitive nature of the scene, as he gained much from sharing a place with ANDY WOOD, lead singer of MOTHER LOVE BONE. his death from a heroin overdose was a turning point in the scene as he was a vibrant source of energy and projected his enthusiasm for music and art on all those that came in his path. years later speaking about his passing still evokes sorrow and empathy from his former bandmates and friends.
it was his passing and the sudden demise of MOTHER LOVE BONE that marked the beginning of PEARL JAM as its members STONE GOSSARD and JEFF AMENT, also formerly of GREEN RIVER, created a demo that ultimately landed in the hands of EDDIE VEDDER.
much of this film gets into the challenge of maintaining an identity when the world around you changes their perception of you, as happened with VEDDER when PEARL JAM, along with other members of the SEATTLE scene (NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, etc) became famous. dealing with stalkers as well as "punk rock guilt" for having success definitely affected the band up until they toured with NEIL YOUNG around the time of VITALOGY (EPIC, 1994).
in what i consider the most poignant part of the film, there is a taped message from YOUNG stating that when he read KURT COBAIN in a magazine state that he was having difficulty maintaining his authenticity and "keeping it real" in this circus-like environment, he wanted to tell COBAIN that he owed nothing to anybody and should cancel shows. after touring with YOUNG, PEARL JAM were affected by his mentorship and especially his opinions on fame. essentially YOUNG stays true to his muse and enjoys the ride, which sometimes finds him playing arenas and sometimes mid-sized or small theaters. but his integrity is intact.
there is also mention of the influence of COBAIN on PEARL JAM, which was essentially consider your choices (political, business, artistic) and own them. they took such in earnest moving forward after his passing and you can definitely see this influence in their stance against TICKETMASTER as well as VEDDER stating during the telecast that the GRAMMY his band just won had no meaning. they definitely kept it real. it also helped them in the wake of the ROSKILDE disaster, when they learned to say no. i can't imagine how heartbreaking that tragedy was for them, just horrific to think about.
like any retelling of an event or scene pre-internet and pre-SOCIAL MEDIA, many of these concepts related to "punk rock guilt" seem both antiquated and highly relevant in our digital age. antiquated because there is no more record industry, no more corporate ogre to sell out to anymore. yet absolutely relevant because the eye of digital media never sleeps and has probably only become more intense to musicians and pop stars in the age of TMZ and the modern security state. i would not wish to be famous these days, as the invasion of privacy quotient has gone up exponentially. fans are ever more obsessed and everyone is a self-appointed expert and has a blog(!) spouting their opinion into the ether.
PJ20 came out in 2011 but was filmed up until the touring behind the 2009 release of the BACKSPACER (MONKEYWRENCH, 2009) LP, which included jabs in concert at the outgoing BUSH ADMINISTRATION. i can't wait to see if they make PJ30 and what that portends about our current fall from grace. if anything, the past 10 years of AMERICAN history has dwarfed the corruption and lawlessness of the previous 200. interested in seeing how their past informs their longstanding advocacy of ENVIRONMENTAL concerns and REPRODUCTIVE rights, especially now in our collective doomed era of TRUMP.
can't wait for that sequel.