01. Say Hello 2 Heaven / Temple Of The Dog (Temple Of The Dog April 1991)

02. Hunger Strike / Temple Of The Dog (Temple Of The Dog April 1991)

03. Rusty Cage / Soundgarden (Badmotorfinger October 1991)

04. Outshined / Soundgarden (Badmotorfinger October 1991)

05. Jesus Christ Pose / Soundgarden (Badmotorfinger October 1991)

06. Seasons / Chris Cornell (Singles Soundtrack June 1992)

07. Birth Ritual / Soundgarden (Singles Soundtrack June 1992)

08. My Wave / Soundgarden (Superunknown March 1994)

09. Fell On Black Days / Soundgarden (Superunknown March 1994)

10. Black Hole Sun / Soundgarden (Superunknown March 1994)

11. Spoonman / Soundgarden (Superunknown March 1994)

12. The Day I Tried To Live / Soundgarden (Superunknown March 1994)

13. Pretty Noose / Soundgarden (Down On The Upside May 1996)

14. Burden In My Hand / Soundgarden (Down On The Upside May 1996)

15. Can’t Change Me / Chris Cornell (Euphoria Morning September 1999)

16. Cochise / Audioslave (Audioslave November 2002)

17. Like A Stone / Audioslave (Audioslave November 2002)

18. I Am The Highway / Audioslave (Audioslave November 2002)

19. You Know My Name / Chris Cornell (Carry On May 2007)

20. By Crooked Steps / Soundgarden (King Animal November 2012)

 

   I grew up with grunge coming out of my bedroom speakers. As much as Britpop would come to define my teenage years, Nirvana, Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins was where my love of music really began. In my young boy’s world, where music offered one of the few means of escape, I can still remember the first time I heard Chris Cornell’s voice. Back when MTV actually played music, Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ was like nothing I’d ever heard. Saving my miniscule one album per month pocket money, I bought the cassette of Superunknown soon after and I was off. From that day on I was a fan.

   It’s weird when a major figure from your youth departs for good. Somehow you think their always going to be around, as if they are immortal and not just flesh and blood like the rest of us. When news of the singer’s suicide began to filter through in the early hours of May 18th following a Soundgarden show in Detroit, my first reaction was disbelief. When it emerged that he’d been suffering with anxiety and had hung himself that disbelief turned to shock. For a dude who had been a full blown addict at 13 and had continued to flirt with the dark side for most of his adult life, it appeared as if he’d finally managed to banish his demons. Quite what made them resurface with such devastating effect we’ll never know, but I guess it was always written in the stars that Chris Cornell was unlikely to reach old age. In many ways he was lucky to get to middle age.        

   Born and raised in Seattle, he was one of the chief architects of grunge, forming Soundgarden alongside guitarist Kim Thyail and bassist Hiro Yamamoto in 1984. The multi-faceted alternative rock trailblazers crafted their sound as the bastard love child of The Beatles and Black Sabbath and in the process created an evocative harmony between light and shade. Soundgarden were famously the first grunge band to sign to a major label (A&M in 1988), paving the way for the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains to break out of the Seattle bubble and take over the world, albeit briefly. My own favourite was Temple Of The Dog, a side project Cornell conceived as a tribute to his friend Andrew Wood, lead singer of Mother Love Bone who died in 1990. Songs like ‘Hunger Strike’ and ‘Say Hello 2 Heaven’ sound as poignant today as they did over 25 years ago.  

   Despite its initial success, grunge as a genre became an ever-increasing parody of itself, quickly descending into a breeding ground for pseudo posturing and diminishing creative (if not commercial) returns. Soundgarden, perhaps wisely, chose to bow out in 1997 just as the cream was beginning to curdle, and Cornell re-invented himself as a solo artist, releasing his debut solo album, Euphoria Morning, in 1999 which allowed him to use his impressive vocal range beyond its usual heavy roar.

   Since then, there have been numerous other musical projects including the more straight forward rock of Audioslave, the super-group formed with the instrumental triad that made up three quarters of Rage Against the Machine, and in 2010 Soundgarden announced their reformation, releasing a new album, King Animal, two years later. But through-out these various projects and collaborations, Cornell returned time and time again to his solo projects, exploring new territories and genres with each successive release.

   Like all exceptional artists, Chris Cornell was a master of transformation. From wailing over twisted distorted riffs to crooning mournful sorrow-fuelled ballads, he could turn his voice to practically any style of music and pull it off with aplomb. You could recognise Chris Cornell every time you heard him. Like Lennon, Jagger, Strummer or Cobain, he possessed a voice that could drive bands and generations; a voice that will stay with me forever. Say hello 2 heaven, Chris.

 

Dan Green. 21st May 2017.