The Music Blog: Like the Mythical Phoenix

Have you ever wondered why some bands are able to continue and some are not when a member dies. It certainly depends on which band member dies but sometimes it seems off. INXS tried to replace Micahel Hutchence. Alice in Chains did replace Layne Staley although many Staley fans refuse to acknowledge the band even though it’s as much Jerry Cantrell’s band as anyone’s. Led Zeppelin knew immediately they would not continue without John Bonham. Mick and Keith have always agreed that if the Stones lost Charlie Watts they could not be a band. You can go back through the history of music and look at it through any window you like but it still isn’t easy to explain.

When Andrew Wood died Mother Love Bone didn’t even contemplate moving forward. They disbanded and went their separate ways. For Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard that meant retreating back to the home of Stone’s parents or maybe it was his grandparents where they disappeared into the basement and contemplated chunking it all. They wondered if they had it in them to give it another try.  Ultimately they started playing music again and recorded a cassette of music that they sent out to their contacts in the music business.  That tape made its way into the hands of Eddie Vedder who liked what he heard and added lyrics and sent it back with a letter. Jeff and Stone responded and Vedder made his way to Seattle from San Francisco. He arrived penniless and without a place to stay. One of the first things these three new musical friends did was help out Chris Cornell on the Temple of the Dog Tribute album to Andrew Wood.  They also participated in the filming of Cameron Crowe’s Seattle film Singles portraying Matt Dillon’s band.

They also went to work adding a drummer and more notably guitarist Mike McCready. The result was an album that I believe is one of the 10 greatest albums ever made. It is so close to perfect and it retains its edge even after all these years.  When the song Evenflow was released it took only one listen for me to know I wanted the album and I bought it as fast as I could. Back then it was not unusual for me to buy ten or even more albums at a time.  I could not stop playing the album. It was so good and it was one of those albums where there just wasn’t a bad song which clearly the label agreed with because there were so many singles.  The album made Temple of the Dog take off and it made the song Crazy Mary which is my favorite Pearl Jam song an underground hit as well.  Pearl Jam could do no wrong. I love the song Alive and I can’t help but smile at the memory of one of my all-time favorite patients, Gianna, sitting in front of a speaker and singing it at the top of her lungs. She was such a free spirit.

I like so many others waited for that follow up album and when it came it completely surprised me. Somehow Pearl Jam completely reinvented themselves and if you expect Vs. to sound like 10 you will be greatly disappointed. I loved it. Pearl Jam kept doing that, creating music that was always theirs, never really bowing to corporate label pressure. They fought a war with Ticketmaster and released multiple live concerts. Most of these were double cds in stripped down packaging, no pictures. I looked for them and I bought a few of them. I think they are wonderful.

That’s the pattern for them too. You never know what direction the music will take from album to album and their efforts have produced a string of hits. Listening to their greatest hits album is absolutely amazing. They are my favorite American rock band.  There are a lot of Mother Love Bone and Andrew Wood fans out there. I wrote before that the two largest groups of pure music fanatics I know are for Andrew Wood and Layne Staley. Most of them hate the band Pearl Jam and treat them as if they owe Andrew or even his family something.  I love Andrew Wood. I love Mother Love Bone but Pearl Jam doesn’t owe him that kind of homage. Andy gave everything he had and that’s all there was all we are ever going to get. I have never heard Pearl Jam, be disparaging. They did not slight him at the Hall of Fame. In fact Stone and Jeff freely gave of their time for the documentary Malfunkshun, and through Stone’s efforts and backing the music of Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun has been remastered and released again. Andy has been gone more years than he was alive and its way past time to move on from that ship. I love music enough that I can love both bands and Ten remains to me one of those amazing very special albums.

They have maintained their Seattle roots. They have continued on, a voice of a generation when so many of their peers have fallen by the wayside. I sometimes think that they carry the mantle of the great American rock band Aerosmith, ready to bring their music to generation after generation. And they began, oh they began like the mythical Phoenix rising from the ashes of Mother Love Bone to be something different and something better.

Mike out

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