Mother Love Bone

album cover

Before and After a Rock Tragedy

This is the tale of yet another rock drug-abuse tragedy, and the astonishing music that came in its aftermath. Mother Love Bone's singer Andrew Wood was one of the most promising figures on the Seattle music scene of the pre-grunge late 1980s. Just after his band finished recording its major-label debut, Apple, Wood checked himself into rehab to battle a recurring heroin problem. Upon his release, he promptly overdosed and died. When Apple appeared shortly thereafter, rock lovers everywhere had the bittersweet experience of encountering a sizable talent never to be heard from again. Wood (1966-1990) sang with the Dionysian determination of T. Rex's Marc Bolan, and imbued his phrases with the mysticism that is one lingering legacy of Led Zeppelin. He got away with songs that had a nonsensical streak—among them, "Stardog Champion," "Captain Hi-Top," and the funky "This Is Shangri-La"—not least because he had a voice made to rattle arenas. It didn't hurt that his band, which included future Pearl Jam founders Stone Gossard on guitar and Jeff Ament on bass, more than equaled his power output.

Stunned by Wood's death, the Seattle music community grieved in public. One ad hoc group, featuring Gossard and Ament backing Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, called itself Temple of the Dog (after a Wood lyric). They began recording Wood's songs, and soon added originals inspired by his sound (the agitated "Pushing Forward Back") or his death ("Say Hello 2 Heaven," "Reach Down"), and invited others to collaborate on what became Temple of the Dog. Among those was Eddie Vedder, whose "Wooden Jesus" is one highlight; this project led directly to the beginning of Pearl Jam. Blessed with some of Cornell's most impassioned singing, Temple of the Dog is a series of severe, beseeching entreaties built on the Mother Love Bone sound, and one of the very few rock-era salutes to not merely celebrate but to extend the spirit of its subject.

Genre: Rock
Released: 1990, Universal
Key Tracks: "This Is Shangri-La," "Bone China"
Next Stop: Temple of the Dog: Temple of the Dog
After That: Pearl Jam: Yield
Book Pages: 526–527

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