2016 is a year of big anniversaries for fans of the Seattle music scene. We already celebrated the 25th anniversary of Nevermind and Ten from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, respectively. Those two albums are widely known as the beginning of the Seattle invasion that made grunge a household name.
The band, Temple of the Dog, also debuted around this time. Although it didn’t receive a ton of respect at first, the self-titled album went on to become a classic, while providing a snapshot of where the scene would go. In addition to featuring incredible tracks, the history behind Temple of the Dog is a must read for music fans. In this feature, I'll discuss how the band came to be, along with my favorite songs on the album.
In 1990, Andrew Wood, the lead singer of Seattle band Mother Love Bone, passed away right as his band’s debut album released. To help with the mourning process, a group of Wood’s bandmates and friends met to record a tribute.
The band consisted of future Pearl Jam members, Wood’s bandmates (Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament), his roommate Chris Cornell, and fellow Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. This new Seattle super group added Mike McCready, who was brought on to play guitar in a new project that would soon become Pearl Jam. Lastly, Eddie Vedder, who just joined Mookie Blaylock (Pearl Jam’s original name), came in to add some background vocals and guest star one song.
This went down as one of the most important albums to come out of Seattle. Additionally, both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam rose to superstardom. In fact, it wasn’t until the Seattle scene blew up that this album received the attention it deserves. Below are some of the highlights.
The album opens with a heartbreaking tribute to Wood, as Cornell puts his all into Say Hello to Heaven. Cornell’s lyrics are as powerful as his vocals, and they tell the sad story of his best friend. Mike McCready’s amazing guitar solo adds extra punch to this ballad. It’s a classic track, and hearing it 25 years later still brings tears to my eyes, as I fondly remember loved ones that I lost.
Technically, Hunger Strike introduced Eddie Vedder to the world. In town to audition for the new project that became Pearl Jam, Eddie was asked to sing on this song because Cornell had trouble with the vocals. Vedder killed it, and a legend was born. Once the Seattle scene exploded, this song was released as a single off the now re-released Temple of the Dog album to capitalize on the success of these bands. Hunger Strike became a huge hit, and was all over the radio and MTV at the time.
Call Me a Dog is another great ballad that showcases Cornell’s amazing voice. I’ve seen him perform this song on his solo acoustic tours, and his vocals still sound incredible. He possesses one of the best and most unique voices in rock, hands down. The emotions put into this song musically and lyrically are a home run.
The music to Times of Trouble is the same as Pearl Jam B Side Footsteps. In fact, Gossard and Ament sent this to Vedder to write lyrics for his upcoming audition. For Temple of the Dog's Times of Trouble, Cornell provides the lyrics. Listen to the two songs and see how the same music laid down with two sets of lyrics and vocals from different writers makes each one unique.
Wooden Jesus became a staple on Cornell’s solo acoustic gigs. Matt Cameron’s drum beats add a little something extra, and it’s the highlight of the song, in my opinion. The second half is superb, as Cornell goes off and the band jams behind him.
All Night Thing is a ballad that seems to be about a one-night stand. Different, but it works. Whereas Cornell uses his voice for heavy rock with Soundgarden and Audioslave, on this album he goes softer and it works extremely well. He performs this on solo shows, and I can see some of these songs being the catalyst for those performances, due to the tenderness in his powerful voice. A great closer to this amazing album.
This album is such a huge part of Seattle music history that it is a must listen. Even if you don’t own a record player, I highly recommend listening to Temple of the Dog on Apple Music, since it also includes demos, alternate mixes and outtakes.
The band recently reunited for the anniversary, and will hit the road for their first tour. If you live in one of the cities and are lucky enough to score tickets, be a part of history. I’ll be at MSG in November.