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Background information
Origin Seattle, Washington USA
Genres Grunge, alternative metal, alternative rock, heavy metal
Years active 1984 - 1997, 2010-present
Labels Sub Pop Records
SST Records
A&M Records
Associated acts Skin Yard, Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Hater, Wellwater Conspiracy, Chris Cornell, Audioslave, Nirvana
Website Soundgarden Homepage
Chris Cornell
Kim Thayil
Matt Cameron
Ben Shepherd
Past members
Hiro Yamamoto
Scott Sundquist
Jason Everman

Soundgarden is an American rock band. They began in Seattle, Washington, in 1984.

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.[1]

In 1997, the band broke up because they could no longer agree on 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.

History[change | change source]

Early years: 1984–1989[change | change source]

Soundgarden was formed in 1984 by Chris Cornell (drums and vocals) and Hiro Yamamoto (bass); they were later joined by Kim Thayil (guitar). Thayil had moved to Seattle from Park Forest, Illinois[2] with Yamamoto and Bruce Pavitt, who would later start Sub Pop Records. The band named themselves after a wind-channeling pipe sculpture, "The Sound Garden," located in Magnuson Park, Seattle.[3]

Cornell originally played drums while singing, but in 1985 the band enlisted Scott Sundquist to allow Cornell to concentrate on vocals.[4] The band's first recordings were three songs that appeared on a compilation for C/Z Records called Deep Six. It also featured songs by fellow grunge pioneers Green River, Skin Yard, Malfunkshun, The U-Men and the Melvins. In 1986, Sundquist left the band and was replaced by Matt Cameron, who was the drummer for Skin Yard.

KCMU-FM DJ Jonathan Poneman was impressed after seeing Soundgarden perform one night, later saying, "I saw this band that was everything rock music should be."[5] Poneman offered to fund a release by the band, so Thayil told him to team up with Bruce Pavitt. Poneman offered to contribute $20,000 in funding for Sub Pop, effectively turning it into a full-fledged record label.[6] The band signed to Sub Pop, releasing the 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 the band was being courted by major labels, in 1988 it signed to the lesser known SST Records to release its debut album, Ultramega OK, for which the band earned a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1990. The band's first music video, "Flower", was directed by Mark Miremont, and aired regularly on MTV's 120 Minutes. Soundgarden supported Ultramega OK with a tour of the United States in the spring of 1989 and a tour of Europe which began in May 1989 and which was the band's first overseas tour.[7]

In 1989, the band released their first album for a major label, Louder Than Love, through A&M Records. Louder Than Love became the band's first album to chart on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 108 on the chart in 1990. Because of some of the song lyrics, most notably on "Hands All Over" and "Big Dumb Sex", the band faced various retail and distribution problems upon the album's release.[8]

A month before touring for Louder Than Love was released, bassist Hiro Yamamoto left to go back to college.[9] He was replaced by former Nirvana bassist Jason Everman. Soundgarden went on a North American tour that startet in December 1989 and ended in March 1990. The band then went on to tour Europe. Bassist Jason Everman was fired immediately after Soundgarden completed its promotional tour for Louder Than Love in mid-1990. Louder Than Love spawned the EP Loudest Love and the video compilation Louder Than Live, both released in 1990.

Badmotorfinger: 1990–1993[change | change source]

Bassist Ben Shepherd joined Soundgarden in 1990. Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger in 1991. Although overshadowed at the time of its release by the sudden popularity of Nirvana's Nevermind, the focus of attention brought by Nevermind to the Seattle scene helped Soundgarden gain attention. The singles "Outshined" and "Rusty Cage" were able to find an audience at alternative radio and MTV. The first single from Badmotorfinger, "Jesus Christ Pose", garnered attention when MTV decided to ban its music video in 1991.[10] 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.[11] Badmotorfinger was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1992.

Following the release of Badmotorfinger, Soundgarden went on a North America tour that started in October 1991 and ended in November 1991.[12] Afterward, the band took a slot opening for Guns N' Roses in North America on the band's Use Your Illusion Tour. Soundgarden was personally selected by Guns N' Roses as its opening band.[13] The band took a slot opening for Skid Row in North America in February 1992 on the band's Slave to the Grind tour,[14] and then headed to Europe for a month-long headlining theater tour.[15] The band returned for a tour of the United States and subsequently rejoined Guns N' Roses in the summer of 1992 in Europe as part of the Use Your Illusion Tour along with fellow opening act Faith No More.[15] The band would go on to play the 1992 Lollapalooza tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, and Ministry, among others. The band later released the video compilation Motorvision, which was filmed at the Paramount Theatre in 1992. The band also made an appearance in the movie Singles 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 and became the band's best-selling album, driven by the 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.[16] The songs on Superunknown captured the creativity and heaviness of the band's earlier works, while showcasing the group's newly evolving style. Lyrically, the album was quite dark and mysterious, as much of it is often interpreted to be dealing with substance abuse, suicide, and depression. The album was also more experimental than previous releases, with some songs incorporating Middle-Eastern or Indian music. 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."[17] The music video for "Black Hole Sun" became a hit on MTV and received the award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. 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.

Soundgarden started the tour in January 1994 in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand,[18] areas where the record came out early,[19] as well as regions where the band had never toured before.[20] This round of touring ended in February 1994, and then in March 1994 the band moved on to Europe.[18] The band began a theater tour of the United States on May 27, 1994,[21][18] with the opening acts Tad and Eleven.[19]

Down on the Upside: 1996–1997[change | change source]

The band's last studio album was Down on the Upside released in 1996. Four singles where released from the album: "Pretty Noose", "Blow Up the Outside World", "Burden in My Hand", and "Ty Cobb". The album was notably less heavy than the group's previous albums, and marked a further departure from the band's grunge roots. Soundgarden explained at the time that it wanted to experiment with other sounds.[22] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly said, "Few bands since Led Zeppelin have so crisply mixed instruments both acoustic and electric."[23] However, tensions within the group startet during the sessions, with Thayil and Cornell reportedly clashing over Cornell's desire to shift away from the heavy guitar riffing that had become the band's trademark.[24] Despite favorable reviews, the album did not match the sales of Superunknown.[25]

The band took a slot on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour with Metallica, who had insisted on Soundgarden's appearance on the tour.[26] After Lollapalooza, the band embarked on a world tour.[27] Tensions continued to increase during the tour in support of the album. 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."[28] At the tour's final stop in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 9, 1997, Shepherd threw his bass into the air in frustration after suffering equipment failure, and subsequently stormed off the stage.[29] The band retreated, with Cornell returning to conclude the show with a solo encore.[30] On April 9, 1997, the band announced its disbanding. Thayil said, "It was pretty obvious from everybody's general attitude over the course of the previous half year that there was some dissatisfaction."[31] Soundgarden's final release, a greatest-hits compilation titled A-Sides, was released the following fall.

Members[change | change source]

Discography[change | change source]

Album US
1988 Ultramega OK
1989 Louder Than Love 108
1991 Badmotorfinger 39 39
1994 Superunknown 1 4
1996 Down on the Upside 1 7
1997 A-Sides 63 90
2010 Telephantasm

References[change | change source]

  1. "Ep. 036 | 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock – Hour 1 | The Greatest | Episode Summary, Highlights, and Recaps". Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  2. DeRogatis, Jim. Milk It!: Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the 90's. Cambridge: Da Capo, 2003. ISBN 0-306-81271-1, pg. 69
  3. "Nirvana and the Story of Grunge". Q. pg. 102. December 2005.
  4. George-Warren, Holly, Patricia Romanowski, and Jon Pareles. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. Rolling Stone Press. 2001. ISBN 0-671-43457-8.
  5. Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. Little Brown and Company, 2001. ISBN 0-316-78753-1, pg. 422
  6. Berkenstadt, Jim, and Charles R. Cross. Classic Rock Albums: Nevermind. Schirmer, 1998. ISBN 0-02-864775-0, pg. 19
  7. "Haughty Culture". Kerrang!. April 8, 1989.
  8. Barber, Patrick. "Soundgarden". Pit. 1990.
  9. Loera, Carlos. "Soundgarden". Loud. 1990.
  10. Gilbert, Jeff. "Primecuts: Kim Thayil". Guitar School. May 1994.
  11. "I Don't Care About Performing for 20,000!". Raw. September 15, 1993.
  12. "Colour Me Badmotorfinger!". Raw. October 30, 1991.
  13. Sherry, James. "Soundgarden". Metal Hammer. December 1991.
  14. Jones, Alison F. "Pounding for Pot: Soundgarden's Matt Cameron". High Times. July 1992.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Neely, Kim. "Soundgarden: The Veteran Band from Seattle Proves There's Life After Nirvana". Rolling Stone. July 9, 1992.
  16. "Changing of the Garden". Entertainment Weekly. March 25, 1994. Retrieved on May 2, 2004.
  17. Consideine, J.D. "Soundgarden: Superunknown". Rolling Stone. July 31, 1997.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Neely, Kim. "Into the Superunknown". Rolling Stone. June 16, 1994. Retrieved on May 3, 2008.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Soundgarden: No Hype Allowed". The Music Paper. July 1994.
  20. Smith, Chris. "Down in a Hole". Raw. August 17, 1994.
  21. "Soundgarden Won't Be Staying Superunknown". USA Today. March 11, 1994.
  22. Turman, Katherine. "Soundgarden: Seattle's Sonic Boom". Hypno. 1996.
  23. Browne, David. "Down on the Upside". Entertainment Weekly. May 24, 1996.
  24. Colopino, John. "Soundgarden Split". Rolling Stone. May 29, 1997.
  25. "Gold and Platinum Database Search". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  26. Bell, Max. "Soundgarden - Like Falling Off a Hog". Blah Blah Blah. June 1996.
  27. Waters, Rodney. "Getting Down with Soundgarden". Hit Parader. October 1996.
  28. "Gardener's Question Time". Kerrang!. March 1, 1997.
  29. "Nirvana and the Story of Grunge", pg. 100.
  30. Berger, John. "'Garden' of supersonic delight". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. February 10, 1997.
  31. Gilbert, Jeff. "Sound of Silence". Guitar World. February 1998.
  32. "Soundgarden Chart History: Albums". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  33. "UK Top 40 Chart Archive, British Singles & Album Charts". Retrieved 2008-02-19.