|Origin||Seattle, Washington USA|
|Genres||Grunge, alternative metal, alternative rock, heavy metal|
|Years active||1984 - 1997, 2010-2017|
|Labels||Sub Pop Records
|Associated acts||Skin Yard, Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Hater, Wellwater Conspiracy, Chris Cornell, Audioslave, Nirvana|
Soundgarden helped create the sound of grunge music. This is a genre of alternative rock that first became popular in Seattle. They were first signed to a local record label Sub Pop. Later, they were the first grunge band to sign to a major label, A&M Records, in 1988.
Soundgarden became well-known with the 1994 album Superunknown. It debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. Two singles won Grammy Awards; "Black Hole Sun" and "Spoonman". VH1 has ranked Soundgarden at number 14 in their special 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.
In 1997, the band broke up because they could no longer agree on the sound of their musical future. The members worked on other projects for more than ten years. Soundgarden got back together in 2010. Two years later, they released their sixth studio album, King Animal.
On May 17, 2017, frontman Chris Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room, the night after a concert at the city's Fox Theatre. Police are treating it as suspected suicide. Soundgarden will almost certainly not continue.
Early band history[change | change source]
Soundgarden began in 1984. They first had three members: singer and drummer Chris Cornell, lead guitarist Kim Thayil, and bassist Hiro Yamamoto. The band named themselves after a wind-channeling pipe sculpture, "A Sound Garden". The art work is in Magnuson Park, in Seattle.
At first, Cornell played drums while singing, but in 1985 the band hired Scott Sundquist so that Cornell could just sing. The band's first recordings were three songs on a compilation album for C/Z Records named Deep Six. Also appearing on the album were early grunge artists Green River, Skin Yard, Malfunkshun, The U-Men and the Melvins. In 1986, Sundquist left the band. He was replaced by Matt Cameron, who had been the drummer for Skin Yard.
A Seattle radio staion DJ, Jonathan Poneman, liked Soundgarden after seeing them perform. He later said, "I saw this band that was everything rock music should be". Poneman offered to pay for a record to be made by the band. Teaming up with Bruce Pavitt, Poneman also contributed $20,000 to the financially struggling Sub Pop. This helped turn Sup Pop into a popular, successful record label that attracted more success with grunge bands. Sub Pop then released Soundgarden's Screaming Life EP in 1987, and the Fopp EP in 1988. A combination of the two was issued as Screaming Life/Fopp in 1990.
Though major labels were asking Soundgarden to sign with them, in 1988 the band chose a small independent label, SST Records. SST released their debut album, Ultramega OK. The album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1990.
The band's first music video, "Flower", became popular; airing regularly on MTV's 120 Minutes. In 1989, Soundgarden promoted Ultramega OK with a tour of the United States and then went to Europe. This was their first overseas tour.
Major labels[change | change source]
In 1989, Soundgarden released their first album for a major label, A&M Records. Louder Than Love became the band's first to chart on the Billboard 200. It reached number 108 on the chart in 1990. The band supported the album with tours of North America and Europe.
A month before touring for Louder Than Love began, bassist Hiro Yamamoto left to go back to college. Yamamoto was unhappy because he felt he was not important enough to the band. Former Nirvana bassist Jason Everman took his place for the tour. Everman was fired immediately after Soundgarden got back from Europe in mid-1990. An EP Loudest Love and the video compilation Louder Than Live, were both released in 1990. The video shows five live tracks made during the Louder Than Love tour.
Badmotorfinger: 1990–1993[change | change source]
Bassist Ben Shepherd joined Soundgarden in 1990. Their next album, Badmotorfinger was released in 1991. It had some success, reaching number 39 on the album charts. But it got less attention because of the surprise success of Nirvana's Nevermind, released the same month as Badmotorfinger. Two singles got popular airplay on alternative radio stations and MTV.
The first single from Badmotorfinger, "Jesus Christ Pose", got negative attention when MTV banned its music video in 1991. Many listeners were outraged by the song and its video, calling it anti-Christian. The band received death threats while on tour in the United Kingdom in support of the album. Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1992.
After a tour of North America in 1991, the band opened for Guns N' Roses in North America on the band's "Use Your Illusion Tour". After several tours to promote the album, they rejoined Guns N' Roses in the summer of 1992 in Europe as part of the Use Your Illusion Tour with another opening act, Faith No More. The band took part in the 1992 Lollapalooza tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Ministry.
The band later released a video compilation Motorvision. It was made in 1992 at the Paramount Theatre. Also that year, they appeared in the movie Singles. They were show performing "Birth Ritual". The song appeared on the soundtrack, as did a Chris Cornell solo song, "Seasons".
Superunknown: 1994–1995[change | change source]
Soundgarden released Superunknown in 1994. It became the band's best-selling album, partly because of the popular singles "Black Hole Sun", "Spoonman", "My Wave", and "Fell on Black Days". Upon its release in March 1994, Superunknown debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart.
The lyrics of the songs were dark and sad; much of them seem to be talking about substance abuse, suicide, and depression. Reviewer J.D. Considine of Rolling Stone said Superunknown "demonstrates far greater range than many bands manage in an entire career." He also stated, "At its best, Superunknown offers a more harrowing depiction of alienation and despair than anything on In Utero."
The music video for "Black Hole Sun" received the MTV Video Music Award for "Best Rock Video|Best Metal/Hard Rock Video" award in 1994. Soundgarden won two Grammy Awards in 1995; "Black Hole Sun" received the award for Best Hard Rock Performance and "Spoonman" received the award for Best Metal Performance.
Down on the Upside: 1996–1997[change | change source]
After a worldwide tour to promote Superunknown, the band members began working on what would become their last studio album for more than 15 years. It was released in 1996. Four singles were released from the album: "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World", "Burden in My Hand", and "Ty Cobb".
The music was less heavy metal and grunge sounding than the group's previous albums. The band members said that they wanted to experiment with other sounds. In a review, David Browne of Entertainment Weekly said, "Few bands since Led Zeppelin have so crisply mixed instruments both acoustic and electric." However, the writing and recording of the album was stressful for the group. Thayil and Cornell seemed to not agree on a change from the heavy guitar riffs that had become the band's trademark. The album got favorable reviews, but did not sell as well as Superunknown.
The band played on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour with Metallica, who had asked for them to appear. After Lollapalooza, the band left for a world tour. Tensions continued to increase during the tour. When asked if the band hated touring, Cornell said, "We really enjoy it to a point and then it gets tedious, because it becomes repetitious. You feel like fans have paid their money and they expect you to come out and play them your songs like the first time you ever played them. That's the point where we hate touring." At the tour's final stop in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 9, 1997, Shepherd threw his bass guitar into the air in frustration after his equipment failed. He then stormed off the stage. The band then also left the stage, but Cornell returned to play a solo as an encore.
Breakup and reunion[change | change source]
On April 9, 1997, the band announced they were breaking up. Thayil said, "It was pretty obvious from everybody's general attitude over the course of the previous half year that there was some dissatisfaction." A best-of album named A-Sides, was released in November 1997 through A&M Records.
After almost 13 years, on January 1, 2010, Chris Cornell wrote on his Twitter, "The 12-year break is over and school is back in session. Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!" The message linked to a website for fans to enter their e-mail addresses to get updates on the reunion.
Members[change | change source]
- Chris Cornell - vocals, rhythm guitar (1984 – 1997)
- Kim Thayil - lead guitar (1994 - 1997)
- Ben Shepherd - bass (1990 – 1997)
- Matt Cameron - drums (1986 - 1997)
Discography[change | change source]
|1989||Louder Than Love||108||—|
|1996||Down on the Upside||1||7|
References[change | change source]
- "Ep. 036 | 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock – Hour 1 | The Greatest | Episode Summary, Highlights, and Recaps". VH1.com. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
- DeRogatis, Jim 2003. Milk It!: collected musings on the alternative music explosion of the 90's. Cambridge: Da Capo, p69. ISBN 0-306-81271-1
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- Berkenstadt, Jim, and Charles R. Cross. Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind. Schirmer, 1998. ISBN 0-02-864775-0, pg. 19
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- "Nirvana and the Story of Grunge", pg. 100.
- Berger, John. "'Garden' of supersonic delight". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. February 10, 1997.
- Gilbert, Jeff. "Sound of Silence". Guitar World. February 1998.
- Kaufman, Gil (January 4, 2010). "Soundgarden's Chris Cornell announces reunion". MTV News. MTV Networks. Retrieved January 10, 2010.
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