You may not know the name Andrew Wood, but you’ve undoubtedly heard the music that was born from his memory. Well-known for his flamboyant antics and charisma, Wood became a fixture of Seattle’s burgeoning alternative scene in the late 80’s with Malfunkshun and, later, Mother Love Bone. By the end of the decade, Mother Love Bone had developed a loyal local following and was set to release their debut studio album, Apple, in March of 1990–the step that would surely be the band’s big break. However, just days before Apple‘s original scheduled release, Andrew Wood was found in a coma, the result of a heroin overdose. He was rushed to the hospital unresponsive, where he died three days later, on this day in 1990.
Mother Love Bone – Apple [Full Album]
Following Andrew Wood’s death, his roommate–Soundgarden‘s Chris Cornell–set out to record a tribute to his fallen musical brother. He recruited his Soundgarden bandmate Matt Cameron and former Mother Love Bone members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, who in turn recruited guitarist Mike McCready, with whom they were preparing to start a new band, tentatively titled Mookie Blaylock.
The outfit adopted the name Temple of the Dog, a nod to the lyrics of Mother Love Bone song “Man of Golden Words.” They recorded a single, self-titled album featuring a pair of songs written by Cornell while he was mourning Wood’s loss (“Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”), a handful of tunes written by Cornell prior to Wood’s death, and some re-worked demos from Gossard, Ament, and Cameron.
At the time of the 15-day-long sessions for Temple of the Dog, Ament, Gossard, and McCready were in the process of finding a vocalist for their new group. A young singer named Eddie Vedder had flown up to Seattle from San Diego to audition and ended up adding some backing vocals to a few tracks. Cornell liked the sound of this shy newcomer’s voice, and his passionate track “Hunger Strike” was eventually recorded as a vocal duet between him and Vedder for the album. “Hunger Strike” would go on to become the album’s biggest hit, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Rock charts and becoming a veritable alt-rock classic.
The album would initially fail to reach the Billboard album charts, and the musicians returned to business as usual. Cornell and Cameron went back into the studio to record their third (and arguably their best) studio album, Badmotorfinger (1991). Gossard, Ament, McCready, Vedder, and drummer Dave Krusen decided to rename their new band “Pearl Jam,” recorded their debut LP, Ten (1991), and went on to become one of the biggest rock acts of their generation. Cameron would also join Pearl Jam following Soundgarden’s breakup in 1998.
The subsequent success of the artists involved sparked more commercial interest in Temple of the Dog, and the album went on to sell more than 1 million copies. While Temple of the Dog was effectively just an early detour in the eventually monumental careers of all the artists involved, it has taken on mythical value as a sort of “origin story,” the project that prepared them to vault into the stratosphere of rock stardom.
And while it is surely tragic that Andrew Wood was not able to rise to popularity with his friends and peers, the emotional collaboration inspired by his passing was responsible for lighting the fuse that ignited some of the biggest acts of the ’90s.
[Originally published 3/19/18]