Of all tribute songs written by a non-Beatle for John Lennon after his senseless killing in December 1980, nothing compares for me to Elton John’s Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).
The song likens John to a worthy garden caretaker that some inconsequential person took away, “A gardener like that one no one can replace…It’s funny how an insect can damage so much grain…” The lyrics are Bernie Taupin’s, Elton’s lifetime collaborator, while the beautiful melody is, of course, his own.
From what I remember, Elton rarely played it live since the song’s release in his 1982 album Jump Up! because it was painful for him to be reminded of John Lennon’s death. Elton was a close friend to John; their relationship was secured by their musical collaboration in the mid-1970s. Elton and John appeared together in a concert and Elton is Sean’s godfather.
The official video is accessible in youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AABK5eY1DGc.
A harrowing live version of this song performed at the turn of the century at the Madison Square Garden is in this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa_7cuGMIGg. Elton at the beginning explains why he rarely performed the song live.
The lyrics are here:
What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain
And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace
And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most all the day
Oh and I’ve been calling oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play
And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name
Johnny can’t you come out to play in your empty garden
http://www.myusyk.com came out with Top Ten Saddest Beatles Songs, which is quite a good list. Many may agree, many may not. But at any rate, the main contention would probably be about the ranking. That is what I also feel. But let’s go through the six-minuter youtube to get to the countdown. Here’s the youtube – http://www.myusyk.com/video/1703/top-ten-saddest-beatles-songs/
10. No Reply from Beatles for Sale is about a partner not being upfront
9. Norwegian Wood from Rubber Soul deals with a one-night affair that would not work
8. I’m A Loser from Beatles for Sale is putting a different face despite a regrettable loss
7. You’ve Got To Hide Your love Away from Help! is purportedly about gays
6. Yes It Is, b-side but compiled in Past Masters is a relationship in transition past a previous one
5. For No One from Revolver is about falling out of love
4. She’s Leaving Home from Sgt. Pepper deals with a daughter who elopes. Verdict “…Fun is something money can’t buy”
3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps from The Beatles aka White Album seems to be the singer silently weeping for everybody for not knowing how to unfold love, perversion, control. (probably!)
2. Eleanor Rigby from Revolver is a very lonely picture cast in a painting. Wow what a great poetry!
1. Yesterday from Help! is longing for a past that is forever gone
My own verdict? I don’t know the basis for the Top Ten whether or not it was the lyrics, song structure, melody, or intent of the writer, or all of the above. But I agree with the Top Two.
Now if you talk about the saddest song of The Beatles, for me it should be Eleanor Rigby. On the other hand, if you talk about the saddest Beatles love song, then it should be Yesterday. There is always something in The Beatles lyrics that hits you hard.
The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Rolling Stonenamed as the best album of all time, turns 50 on June 1st. In honor of the anniversary, and coinciding with a new deluxe reissue of Sgt. Pepper, we present a series of in-depth pieces – one for each of the album’s tracks, excluding the brief “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” reprise on Side Two – that explore the background of this revolutionary and beloved record. Today’s installment looks back on the night John Lennon accidentally dosed himself with acid before a recording session for “Getting Better.”
It could be argued that “Getting Better” is the most perfect of all latter-day John Lennon and Paul McCartney collaborations. Sure, “A Day in the Life” gets the prestige, but the fourth track on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band beautifully illustrates their very different characters. While the song was being recorded that spring, an odd incident would further fuse their souls on a psychedelic level.
McCartney devised the title while walking his sheepdog Martha through London’s Regent’s Park in early 1967. He was joined by journalist Hunter Davies, then shadowing the Beatles while working on their official biography. “It was the first spring-like morning of that year, and as we got to the top of the hill, the sun came up,” Davies relayed to Steve Turner in his book, A Hard Day’s Write. “[Paul] turned to me and said, ‘It’s getting better,’ meaning that spring was here. Then, he started laughing and I asked him what he was laughing about.” McCartney recounted a story about Jimmie Nichol, a drummer who played with the band for 10 concert dates on their 1964 world tour while Ringo Starr recovered from tonsillitis and pharyngitis. When asked how he was adapting to the insanity of Beatlemania, the good-natured Nichol would reply, “It’s getting better!” The phrase, and all its earnestness, became something of an in-joke among the band.
When McCartney suggested they write a song around the optimistic line, Lennon’s contributions brought the hopeful lyrics crashing back to Earth. “I was sitting there doing, ‘Getting better all the time,’ and John just said in his laconic way, ‘It couldn’t get no worse,'” McCartney told friend Barry Miles in the biography, Many Years From Now. “I thought, ‘Oh, brilliant! This is exactly why I love writing with John.” Lennon also took the opportunity to add a disturbing confessional to the final verse. “All that, ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved,’ was me,” he told Playboy in 1980. “I used to be cruel to my woman, and psychically, any woman. I was a hitter! I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and hit women.”
The Beatles worked out the song’s instrumental track during two sessions at EMI’s Abbey Road studios before arriving – sans Ringo Starr – on the evening of March 21st, 1967, to record the backing harmonies. To prepare himself for yet another marathon all-night session, Lennon reached into his silver art-nouveau pillbox and pulled out what he thought was an amphetamine. Unfortunately, he accidentally picked the wrong tablet, dosing himself with LSD. “It’ll certainly keep him awake for a while!” Harrison wryly noted on a 1992 episode of ITV’s The South Bank Show.
“I thought I was taking some uppers and I was not in the state of handling it,” Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970. “I said, ‘What is it, I feel ill?’ I thought I felt ill and I thought I was going cracked … then it dawned on me that I must have taken some acid.” He informed producer George Martin that he was unwell. Never guessing that Lennon’s troubles were pharmaceutical in origin, the older gentleman responded with old-fashioned common sense. “‘Come on, John,’ I said, ‘What you need is a good breath of fresh air!'”
With unnatural intensity, Lennon began to climb the staircase from the studio floor to meet Martin in the control room above. “It seemed to take John a long time to get up the stairs; he was moving as if he were in slow motion,” recalled engineer Geoff Emerick in his book, Here There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. “When he finally walked through the doorway into the control room, I noticed that he had a strange, glazed look on his face. He appeared to be searching for something, but didn’t seem to know what it was. Suddenly he threw his head back and began staring intently at the ceiling, awestruck. With some degree of difficulty, he finally got a few not especially profound words out: ‘Wow, look at that.’ Our necks cranked upward, but all we saw was … a ceiling.”
Martin led his befuddled charge up through a series of passageways to the platform on top of EMI’s studios for what would become the second-most famous rooftop incident in the Beatles saga. Martin, naïve to the world of drugs, was still unclear what was the matter, though he did notice Lennon “swaying gently against my arm and resonating like a human tuning fork” – a condition that isn’t usually cured by fresh air. “If I’d known it was LSD, the roof would have been the last place I would have taken him!” he laughed in the Beatles Anthology documentary. “But of course I couldn’t take him out the front because there were 500 screaming kids who’d have torn him apart. So the only place I could take him to get fresh air was the roof. It was a wonderful starry night, and John went to the edge, which was a parapet about eighteen inches high, and looked up at the stars and said, ‘Aren’t they fantastic?’ Of course to him I suppose they would have been especially fantastic. At the time they just looked like ordinary stars to me.”
Several minutes later Martin returned to the studio to continue work, leaving Lennon to his own devices on the roof. McCartney and Harrison, well aware of what their bandmate had done, carried on for a short time before they grasped the full impact of the situation: Lennon was tripping alone on an unguarded roof! Instantly they sprinted up the stairs to rescue him. “They knew all too well that the rooftop had only a narrow parapet and that, in his lysergically altered state, John could easily step over the edge and plummet thirty feet to the pavement below,” Emerick writes. Thankfully, Lennon was found intact, quietly contemplating the universe on his own.
Safely back in the studio, Lennon realized he was in no state to record. “I said, ‘Well, I can’t go on. You’ll have to do it and I’ll just stay and watch,'” he later told Rolling Stone. “I got very nervous just watching them all, and I kept saying, ‘Is this all right?’ They had all been very kind and they said, ‘Yes, it’s all right.'” The session recommenced briefly, but soon it was deemed useless without a capable Lennon and the group decided to break early for the night.
But there was a problem. Lennon’s driver wasn’t due to return to Abbey Road for several hours, and his wife Cynthia was fast asleep. To keep watch over his vulnerable friend, McCartney decided to take him back to his own home on Cavendish Avenue, a short walk from the studio. “Paul’s thoughtfulness in going home with John was typical of one of the best sides of his character,” Martin reflected in his memoir, All You Need Is Ears.
“I thought, maybe this is the moment where I should take a trip with him.” –Paul McCartney
The good deed caused something of a dilemma for McCartney, who was perhaps the least enthusiastic acid taker of the band. “I was really frightened of that kind of stuff,” he said in The Beatles Anthology. “It’s what you’re taught when you’re young: Watch out for those devil drugs. When acid came around, we’d heard you’re never the same. It alters your life and you’re never the same again. I think John was rather excited by that prospect, [but] I was rather frightened by that prospect. Like, ‘Just what I need, some funny little thing where I can never get back home again.’ Might not be the greatest move. So I was seen to stall a little bit within the group.”
McCartney’s abstinence caused a rift, and for a time the previously impenetrable foursome found themselves on vastly different wavelengths. “Within a band, it’s more than peer pressure, it’s fear pressure,” he related to Miles. “More than just your mates it’s, ‘Hey, man, this whole band’s had acid, why are you holding out? What’s the reason, what is it about you?'” He eventually experimented with the drug with his friend, Guinness heir and socialite Tara Browne, in December 1965 (some sources say 1966), and his reaction was mixed. Though allowing that it was “amazing” and “a deeply emotional experience,” in the same breath he admits he was “never that in love” with the substance. “For a guy who wasn’t that keen on getting that weird, there was a disturbing element to it.”
As he and Lennon made the quick trip to his Regency townhouse in the early hours of March 22nd, McCartney made a snap decision. “I thought, maybe this is the moment where I should take a trip with him,” he recalled. “It’s been coming for a long time. It’s often the best way, without thinking about it too much, just slip into it. John’s on it already, so I’ll sort of catch up. It was my first trip with John, or any of the guys. We stayed up all night, sat around and hallucinated a lot. Me and John, we’d known each other for a long time. Along with George and Ringo, we were best mates. And we looked into each other’s eyes, the eye contact thing we used to do, which is fairly mind-boggling. You dissolve into each other. … And it was amazing. You’re looking into each other’s eyes and you would want to look away but you wouldn’t, and you could see yourself in the other person. It was a very freaky experience and I was totally blown away. John had been sitting around very enigmatically and I had a big vision of him as king, the absolutely Emperor of Eternity. It was a good trip.”
John Lennon describes the first time he took LSD. LSD opened the door to the Beatles’ masterpiece ‘Revolver’ – but also opened wounds that never healed. Watch here.
In 2014, Soundgarden issued a 20th anniversary edition of their landmark Superunknown album. To mark the occasion, frontman Chris Cornell sat for two extensive, revealing interviews with Rolling Stone to reflect on how the record was made, his mixed feelings on grunge and where his head was at when the band was at its biggest.
Portions of the interviews previously appeared in Rolling Stone magazine and others online. What’s below is a supersized director’s cut of everything the late frontman had to say about a crucial time in his life.
Do you look back on the era surrounding Superunknown fondly?
I never look back, ever. I’m always looking ahead, working on the next thing. This is the first time I’ve [worked on a reissue], and it’s most interesting because when Soundgarden made Superunknown, we had been a band for a long time – like, over eight years. Superunknown was one of the most dramatic shifts in what we were doing musically. I don’t think I realized it at the time.
What did that period feel like to you then? At the time, at least for me personally, it was a time filled with a tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure to prove who we were. We wanted to show that we stood alone and outside of what was becoming a convenient geographic group that we were inside. I never felt bad about being lumped in with other Seattle bands. I thought it was great. But I also felt like all of us were going to have to prove that we could also exist with autonomy, and we deserved to be playing on an international stage, and we deserved to have videos on TV and songs on the radio, and it wasn’t just a fad like the “British invasion” or a “New York noise scene.”
Superunknown was that for me. It was showing what we were not just a flavor of the month. We had the responsibility to seize the moment, and I think we really did.
How was it following up your third record, 1991’sBadmotorfinger, which was also your breakthrough?
Somewhat stressful but also exciting. We were doing a follow-up to a huge record and a ginormous year for our town and all of our friends’ bands, and it was really surreal for us. It was like, “Wow, all of our dreams are coming true in ways we maybe would have never expected.” We were just an indie band, and that’s what we thought we’d always be. So there was pressure. The music came one song at a time. We were not a band that would sit down and discuss a direction of an album before we started writing. We just focused on song after song, and, as we would arrange them and learn more, the album slowly took shape. Superunknown, maybe more than most albums, didn’t reveal itself to be what it was until the very end – literally until we were three quarters of the way through mixing it.
A song like “Black Hole Sun” was more mainstream or traditional than those on Badmotorfinger. Was that a concern?
I don’t know if I thought about it in that context. I had done songs for Temple of the Dog, which for me were my hobby songs – ones I had written without having a destination for them. They were in more of a straightforward blues-rock style, with traditional arrangements and obvious choruses. I had introduced that a little bit on Badmotorfinger with something like “Outshined” – it clearly has a chorus and instrumental breakdown. I think the structure happened by accident.
I think one of the bigger focuses, to me, was that I wanted to embrace the fact that all four of us would contribute music. What that meant was a little bit like the White Album, where if somebody like Matt [Cameron, drums] brings a song he demoed on guitar, why not have him play guitar? I don’t know even if that happened, but that’s what I was thinking. So it was, “Let’s try to steer more into the initial inspirations and make the song a priority.”
Can you give me an example of what you’re talking about? As an example, I think of “Half” as one that embraced that the most, because I’m not even on it. I remember having a brief conversation with Ben about me really thinking he should sing it, because his singing on the demo was so amazing to me. The whole mood of the song was never going to be as good if he didn’t do it, and his response was, “If I sing it, and you don’t, then this is a Soundgarden song on our album that you’re not even on.” My response was, “That’s what I’m talking about. This is about the album. This is about the songs. This about the song’s best foot forward, and that should always be the most important thing.” I thought it would help us expand and push the boundaries of what Soundgarden was at the time and do it in a way we’d never done before. I think it works well on the next album, Down on the Upside, as well as King Animal; they had “anything goes” approaches.
What was your headspace at the time of Superunknown? A lot of the lyrics are dark.
I don’t know if I would say I was in a particularly dark or moody headspace more than other times. I feel the lyrics have to be born from the music. Or if I had a lyrical idea, separate from Soundgarden music, I knew if it would work with the band because it tended to reflect what the music was and what the feeling of the music was – which was usually somewhat dark and somber or moody, or over-the-top, visceral, aggressive angry.
So it wasn’t an especially dark time?
No, not that I remember. No more than usual. I think that I always struggled with depression and isolation, so those could come out. I think that the mood of Seattle to me, and the way that I always interpreted that mood was something that was always a little bit introspective and dark. And I wouldn’t say “depressing,” but introspective in a way that could be moodier and darker.
This reissue includes several versions of “Fell on Black Days,” which is pretty dark. What inspired it? Well, I had this idea, and I had it for a long time. I’d noticed already in my life where there would be periods where I would feel suddenly, “Things aren’t going so well, and I don’t feel that great about my life.” Not based on any particular thing. I’d sort of noticed that people have this tendency to look up one day and realize that things have changed. There wasn’t a catastrophe. There wasn’t a relationship split up. Nobody got in a car wreck. Nobody’s parents died or anything. The outlook had changed, while everything appears circumstantially the same. That was the song I wanted to write about.
No matter how happy you are, you can wake up one day without any specific thing occurring to bring you into a darker place, and you’ll just be in a darker place anyway. To me, that was always a terrifying thought, because that’s something that – as far as I know – we don’t necessarily have control over. So that was the song I wanted to write. It just took a while.
The box set contains several early demo versions of songs. What struck you about them when you heard them again?
That during the demo process, I have no objectivity at all. I don’t know if something is good or bad or what it is. So it was interesting hearing how similar they were to the final versions or how they’re different – like on “Black Hole Sun,” there was one particular thing I did on the demo that I just simply forgot to do on the album version.
What was that?
There’s a Leslie cabinet [a guitar amp with a spinning speaker] I was using – a specific one – and I used it on the demo and album version, and it had a two-speed control. On the verses, it’s this very fast spinning speaker and it gives it that sound for the melody, and as the chorus hit, I would click it and the speaker would slowly slow down, so the arpeggio part of the chorus would have this sweep that’s changing speeds and slowing down throughout it, giving it this really drunken, cough-syrupy feeling that I really like. I forgot to do it.
Thinking about it later, I thought, “Wow, that really made it more psychedelic.” But then of course I thought that could have been the one element that might have changed the appeal in terms of radio programmers wanting to play it, and they all did.
Did “Black Hole Sun” feel special when you were demoing it?
No, I felt like it was a success unto myself, being a fan of music and always wanting to write a song that would make you feel like that. I wasn’t sure if it was right for Soundgarden. I’m not sure if any of us were. Everyone responded really positively to the song, but I don’t know that any of us were a hundred percent confident it should be on a Soundgarden record until we recorded it.
I don’t think any of us – including [co-producer] Michael Beinhorn or [assistant engineer] Adam Kasper – thought it would be a single. If you read the lyrics to the verses, it’s sort of surreal, esoteric word painting. It was written very quickly. It was stream of consciousness. I wasn’t trying to say anything specific; I was really writing to the feel of the music and accepting whatever came out. I don’t know what it’s about, so how is it that this large pop audience is going to listen to it and immediately connect to it? It’s still a mystery to me, kind of.
I’m sure you were happy it was a hit.
I was glad. Considering all the different songs we had, I really liked the fact that this song, stylistically, sat outside of any genre, and it wasn’t really comparable to anything anyone else was doing at the time or before or since. It seems to stand on its own. And it very much did seem to lend itself to Soundgarden. But I don’t think for one second I have the ability to sit down and write a hit song.
The song you workshopped the most was “Like Suicide.” In the liner notes, you say it kind of became a metaphor for how you were feeling at the time about late Mother Love Bone frontman Andy Wood.
Yeah, the lyrics were actually this simple moment that happened to me. I don’t know that I ever directly related it to Andy, though there are a lot of songs that people probably don’t know where there were references to him or how I was feeling about what happened with him. I just think that that was something that happened to me that was a traumatic thing and that I had a difficult time resolving it. I still never really have. I still live with it, and that’s one of the moments where maybe in some ways it could have shown up, but I’m not really sure specifically where.
You said the lyrics were literal? Yeah, the narrative is not a metaphor. It’s a big moment that happened while I was recording the song. I had all the music and was recording a demo arrangement in my basement. And when I came upstairs, I heard a thud against the window, and it was a female robin that had fallen into the window and broke her neck, and was just laying there. I didn’t know what to do. So I ended up smashing her with a brick, putting her out of her misery. I didn’t want to sit there and watch her suffer. Then when I went back down to finish recording, I decided that would be the lyrics to the song. As much as it sounds like I’m singing about a person and the metaphor is sort of the bird in flight and then [it] dies … it was literal [laughs].
There’s a story about “Spoonman” that Jeff Ament wrote those words as one of a few fake titles on a cassette for Singles and you decided to write a song with that title. What was his reaction to you presenting the song to him?
By the time it came out, he’d already known I’d created songs out of his five titles. My first recollection of his opinion about that came from Cameron Crowe, who gave me a play-by-play of how he responded to the songs. It was just extremely flattering and warm, and I felt very supported by him. I wanted to reciprocate that; I felt like these titles were brilliant. They inspired me. I never would have written that song or the other four songs that were part of that if the titles weren’t compelling.
Many times since then, I’ve looked back on that moment and thought, “Maybe I should write down 10 titles and write songs to the titles and make an album.” It’s never that easy. So there was something in there. I never had a conversation about it with Jeff; I did make sure that he was thanked on the album when it came out, though.
When is the last time you saw Artis the Spoonman, who inspired the song?
During the first national Audioslave tour. We played an arena in Everett, Washington, and I invited him out. I don’t remember if he played or not. Every memory of Artis is a fond one. I have never been in a room with him when he wasn’t the center of attention. He’s a force of nature, and I’ve seen him in a lot of different situations. I’ve seen him perform in front of seven people in a room and 10,000 people. I’ve seen him in a hospital bed right after he had a heart attack and listened to his stories. He was always an amazing person to be around.
He also changed my life in that the only thing I do outside of Soundgarden is this one-man acoustic show that I tour with. He was a big inspiration for me that anyone can do that. I remember sitting in a room, probably with eight or 10 people, and he walked in with his leather satchel he always carries with him and took out spoons. Everyone’s jaw dropped. I thought, “It’s amazing this guy performs at festivals, fairs and street corners.” This guy can walk into a room and get a reaction. Suddenly, I felt embarrassed and smaller, ’cause I felt like I call myself a singer, a songwriter, a musician, and I’ve sold millions of records and toured the world, but I can’t do what he can. I can’t just walk into a room and pick up an instrument and perform and entertain everyone and their jaws drop. So that stuck in the back of my mind, and at some point I started to pursue that. He was the main inspiration for that.
You recently played Superunknown in its entirety with Soundgarden. Did you gain any new insights on the songs?
“Limo Wreck” is one we haven’t played since getting back together in 2010. It was one of those where if it were someone else’s songs, I would have thought, “God, why didn’t I write that?” or “How brilliant is that?” And it’s complicated. There’s a lot going on, and it’s in a strange tuning and there are a lot of things musically that don’t make sense; those things are fascinating to me. I was listening with fresh ears, so I was maybe not quite as cynical.
As for doing the album in context, I’d forgotten some of the songs that were on there. I’d forgotten “Fresh Tendrils” and “Let Me Drown,” which I’d viewed as an older song, came from there. Then the songs we played a lot, like “My Wave,” in the context of the album in order [were] interesting. I had a really welcome feeling that it belongs on the album; it rescues it from too much of other moods. Usually when we play it live, it’s bunched into a bunch of midtempo rockers, and it isn’t as important there.
Between Badmotorfinger and Superunknown, you cut your hair. Was that a symbolic gesture?
When I did it, I was writing songs, isolated and never left the house, as far as I remember. A blurb in the entertainment section of, I believe, Time magazine mentioned I had cut my hair. And it was a really strange thing. It would have been different had we been pop stars, but we weren’t. We didn’t even have an enormous hit. So it seemed on the one hand to show that there was something culturally valued in what Seattle musicians and bands were doing, but it seems backhanded and ridiculous that they would choose to focus something as silly as a haircut.
If you understand there’s a cultural value, why not figure out what that is? I remember seeing an interview with Mike Nesmith of the Monkees when I was probably six, and they asked him a question: “Do you think that all young people should have long hair?” And his answer was, “I think they should have their hair any way they want.” Fast forward to 1992, I was thinking news media didn’t grow at all. From ’67 to ’92, nothing’s changed. Nobody’s gotten smarter. It’s strange and funny.
People made a big deal out of Metallica cutting their hair.
Yeah, I blazed the trail for Metallica when I cut my hair [laughs]. But then they set the bar higher by smoking cigars.
Speaking of the media, what do you think about “grunge” now?
I can’t look at it as anything but positive. My view of rock history now includes grunge as a major genre shift in the history of rock, the same as you would look at punk rock or the British Invasion. And we’re clearly pioneers of that genre and are recognized as being that. When the story is told – which it will get told over and over and over and over – we will be there as opposed to maybe not being there. And that comparison could be like Jane’s Addiction or Smashing Pumpkins, for example, that won’t necessarily get mentioned when some new rock fan is researching these dramatic, pivotal moments. So for that reason I feel like whatever we had to put up with over the years: the Seattle questions and the Seattle-sound questions and the Seattle-scene questions, it’s worth it. Every time I do a Spanish interview, we still get, “Tell me about grunge.”
About a month after Superunknown came out, Kurt Cobain died. How did it color that time for you?
I wasn’t one of his close friends. Kim [Thayil, guitar] knew him better and Ben was very close with them and with him. He had toured with them early on; there was a time when he was going to be a fourth member of Nirvana, but he didn’t do it because he wasn’t really necessarily invited to write songs.
It was something in a way similar to losing Andy, or losing friends that died after that. It’s not so much the person and the relationship with them, but the creative inspiration that person has and I would get from that person. My perception of the world of music at large artistically shrank, because suddenly this brilliant guy was gone. I’m not even talking about what he meant culturally; I’m talking about his creativity. It was super inspiring from the very first demo I ever heard. It broadened my mental picture of what the world was creatively, and suddenly a big chunk of it fell off.
And that’s how you felt about Andy?
Yeah. The tragedy was much more than the fact that I would never see him again – it was that I would never hear him again. There’s this projection I had with Andy, Kurt, Jeff Buckley and other friends of mine that died of looking into the future at all these amazing things they’re going to do. I’ll never be able to predict what that is. All this music that will come out that will challenge me and inspire me – that sort of romantic, dramatic version of the perspective. When that goes away, for me in particular, it was a really hard thing. And it continues to be a hard thing.
There’s a large part of Soundgarden history, to me, that’s wrapped up in that conflict of losing these incredible creative lenses of what I imagine is this incredible, infinite world of the power of creativity. These were people, and people you could share experiences with while you’re learning what your power of that creativity is.
So part of my memory of every record, and certainly Superunknown, there’s an eeriness in there, a kind of unresolvable sadness or indescribable longing that I’ve never really tried to isolate and define and fully understand. But it’s always there. It’s like a haunted thing.
Then there were these miraculous moments existing around a similar time, one of which is Eddie [Vedder] showing up and starting a new band with your friends that just lost this amazing person and having that creative output and outpouring be so phenomenal. The degree to which it changed the face of rock music in the world is this pretty incredible thing. There were these huge, amazing ups, but also these difficult conflicts I’ve never been able to resolve.
Chris Cornell’s wife Vicky issued a statement speculating whether his suicide was the result of too much anxiety medication.
Carlos Zacarias, six hours ago: “Your last hours before leaving. RIP Chris Cornell. Grunge is not dead, now it’s immortal.”
youtube: Published on May 18, 2017
At no point during Wednesday night’s Soundgarden concert could anyone at Detroit’s Fox Theatre have guessed that lead singer Chris Cornell would be dead just a few hours later.
Cornell, 52, was in fine form and spirits as the Seattle quartet tore through the two-hour show. Though there’s now a macabre irony in the frontman’s choice to slip a bit of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying” into the closing “Slaves & Bulldozers,” Cornell was nothing less than ebullient through the night, in good voice — hitting all the expected screams — and fist-bumping with fans in the pit in front of the stage.
He was also clearly pleased to be in Detroit. After tweeting “Finally back in Detroit Rock City” with a picture of the venue earlier in the day, Cornell’s praise for the local fans was frequent and thick. “Detroit Rock City! It’s great to be back here, honestly,” Cornell said after the group started the show with “Ugly Truth.” “I have bragged about Detroit crowds for 30 years… There’s no other crowd that never, ever disappoints.” During the encore, Cornell added that, “Detroit, you guys…show up! I feel sorry for the next place we play… but we don’t have the same expectations.”
Veteran music photographer Ken Settle, who was on assignment at Wednesday’s show, notes that, “I shot Chris with Soundgarden back in the early ’90s, and sometimes he could seem fairly sullen onstage. But last night, during what I shot, he seemed very upbeat, engaging the audience much more than I remember in the past.”
Megadeth pays tribute to Chris Cornell performing Outshined in Tokyo.
Published on May 18, 2017
MEGADETH leader Dave Mustaine has paid tribute to Chris Cornell, saying that the world has “lost one of the most beautiful voices in rock.”
Cornell performed a concert with SOUNDGARDEN at the Fox Theatre on Wednesday night (May 17) and was found dead in his Detroit hotel room at midnight.
Police in Detroit told Billboard that they are investigating Cornell’s death as a possible suicide.
During MEGADETH’s May 18 concert in Tokyo, Japan, Mustaine addressed Cornell’s passing, telling the crowd (see video below): “Chris Cornell died today. Very sad. Very sad. Chris Cornell from SOUNDGARDEN — he died. Very sad. When I found out, I was so, so sad. Chris Cornell, a friend of mine, a friend of all of us from SOUNDGARDEN, died today and we have lost one of the most beautiful voices in rock and in history. And I don’t even know what to say other than we’re gonna dedicate this next song to you, our friends in Tokyo, ’cause we’re here with you and we love you so much and we wanna celebrate Chris’s life today.”
He continued: “Now, I don’t sing like Chris, I could never sing like Chris, but we’re gonna sing a song right now. And if you know the words, sing with me. If you don’t know the words, then just make noise.
“I love you, Chris. I’ll see you one day up in heaven.”
MEGADETH then proceeded to perform a cover of SOUNDGARDEN’s “Outshined”, with Mustaine handling only lead vocals while accompanied by his bandmates.
Can’t help but share these. I spent the day looking for these types of video. Unfortunately the office blocks youtube so I had to use my cellphone, but with not much success. So I felt the urge to go home right after lunch break instead because I cannot work while mourning. It’s worth the cut in pay to find this one.
Nah Webber, four hours ago in youtube, “In psychology you are taught to look for signs… I have seen Chris Cornell many times… This was not the same Chris… He did look or act like the man I have seen before… He is lacking the energy… If he did commit suicide… I was wondering if he already knew he was going to commit suicide at this point, or whatever would lead to his suicide was weighing him down at this point… But something was clearly going on inside of him during this performance… Every artist has an off moment… So would need to see the last several shows to know for sure… This is so very sad… They band and people who tour with him… I am sure had no way of knowing…. But for any of us if we see a friend all of a sudden start acting differently like their passion or hope is gone… We need to intervene or get someone professional to intervene just to be safe… Sometimes we can stop suicide, but not always… Sad when suicide wins… Chris’ heart was just not in this performance… Not saying he is bad… Just wishing someone could have noticed, and could have stopped him from suicide which is never the answer… So very sad… From all the past concerts where I have seen Chris… He just seems lost on the stage… Like going through the motions… but his mind is clearly somewhere else… Just watch him during Out Shined solo… Something is clearly on his mind… We will miss you Chris… Prayers for his family, friends, band mates, and his fans everywhere… Glad his last performance was captured…”
Here’s another oone longer by 13 minutes.
youtube: We tragically lost Chris Cornell on Wednesday night (5/17). He had just played a show with Soundgarden at Detroit’s Fox Theatre. The Detroit Free Press’ Ashley Zlatopolsky, who was at the show, said Cornell seemed off the whole night: At the time, I chalked it up to being late in the tour, thinking that his voice might be shot. Maybe he was exhausted. After all, Cornell, who is known for his four-octave vocal range and having one of the most versatile voices in rock ’n’ roll, spends the majority of his time screaming into the mic — naturally, that will take a toll. … But then things took a dark turn before the song began. “You can burn crosses on your lawn, I don’t give a (profanity). You can burn your house down,” he said. “Who cares? I don’t. As long as you don’t catch someone else’s house on fire.” … But Cornell spoke fondly of Detroit, over and over. It was the one element of the show he seemed truly excited about. He talked about Detroit Rock City, how the audience was unparalleled. How the band loved playing here. He acknowledged the crowd up in the balcony, asking them to stand. He also asked the crowd in front of the stage to cheer for those people. One line, which at the time seemed innocuous, sticks: “I feel bad for the next city,” Cornell said over the mic. The quote came just after mentioning that nothing could ever top Detroit. Now, it has a much deeper, heartbreaking meaning.
Soundgarden’s show finished with “Slaves & Bulldozers” including a refrain from from Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying.” Video from the show, and the setlist, are below.
Tributes have been flooding in on social media from Cornell’s contemporaries and and fellow artists.
Soundgarden Live at The Fox Theatre, Detroit 5/17/2017
SETLIST: Ugly Truth Hunted Down Non-State Actor Searching With My Good Eye Closed Spoonman Outshined Kickstand Black Hole Sun By Crooked Steps The Day I Tried to Live My Wave Been Away Too Long Fell on Black Days Mailman A Thousand Days Before Burden in My Hand Blow Up the Outside World Jesus Christ Pose
Encore: Rusty Cage Slaves & Bulldozers (with “In My Time of Dying” refrain)