Temple of the Dog: 10 Facts You Might Not Know About the Supergroup’s Single Album
Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose at the age of 24 in 1990. He had been living with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell at the time, who was on tour when he received the news.
Like many of the other hardships Cornell endured throughout his life, he turned the tragedy into music.
Mother Love Bone also consisted of Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, whom Cornell formed friendships with during his time as Wood's roommate. The three musicians, along with guitarist Mike McCready and Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, decided to make an album together in tribute to their late friend.
After the project was complete, Gossard, Ament and McCready would go on to form Mookie Blaylock — which would later become Pearl Jam — completed by singer Eddie Vedder, who also appeared on the TOTD album.
Temple of the Dog, which came out on April 16, 1991, is made up of mostly melodic songs, slower in tempo and more relaxed than the hard rock Soundgarden and Pearl Jam are known for. An album made out of grief is likely to have pain in its lyrics, but glimmers of hope in its music — and this record has exactly that.
Read 10 facts you might not know about the album below.
The name came from a Mother Love Bone song.
“I want to show you something / Like joy inside my heart / Seems I been living in the temple of the dog" are the first few lines of Mother Love Bone's song "Man of Golden Words."
It was recorded in 15 days.
All 10 songs were recorded over a 15-day span between November and December of 1990 at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, Wash.
Some of the material was already written by Cornell.
"Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down" were written by Cornell immediately after Wood's death, while he was on tour with Soundgarden. Other songs such as "Hunger Strike" and "Wooden Jesus" were old ideas he had, as well, but he didn't imagine any of them in Soundgarden's song catalog.
"I started writing songs, that was the only thing I could really think of to do," he told Seattle's 99.9 KISW in 1991. "The songs I wrote weren't really stylistically like something my band Soundgarden would be used to playing or be natural for us to do, but it was material that Andy really would have liked, so I didn't really want to just throw it out the window or put it away in a box."
The project was initially just supposed to be a single.
Cornell also admitted in the aforementioned interview that the original idea he had was to record a one-off single with Gossard and Ament, since they had been in a band with Wood. But it turned into much more.
"It was a really good thing at the time for us, too, because Stone and I were still trying to figure out what the hell we were doing, it kind of put us in a band situation where we could play and make music, and I think in some ways it was so much fun that we didn't want to stop," Ament added.
Vedder wasn't originally part of the project.
Vedder was up from San Diego to audition for what would later become Pearl Jam. He was at one of the Temple of the Dog rehearsals and told Cornell he liked "Hunger Strike." Since Cornell wasn't used to singing the really low, deep parts featured in that song, he felt Vedder's voice was more suited for it, and thus it became a duet. He ended up singing backup vocals on a few other songs, as well.
It didn't garner major success until the following year.
Temple of the Dog was released on April 16, 1991, and initially sold 70,000 copies. By mid-1992, grunge had already exploded — Soundgarden had released Badmotorfinger and Pearl Jam blew up with their debut Ten.
A&M Records were aware that they could benefit from an album made by a supergroup of those two bands, so they reissued the record and promoted "Hunger Strike" as its single, with an edited version of the accompanying video. The album peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 following its second release, and has since been certified platinum.
Visual disagreements for "Hunger Strike."
The video for "Hunger Strike" was filmed at Discovery Park in Seattle. It was directed by Paul Rachman — the same guy behind the video for Alice in Chains' "Man in the Box." According to the director, there was a rift between Soundgarden and Pearl Jam's visual ideas for the video.
"Early on, there was a little bit of disagreement between the Soundgarden camp and the Pearl Jam camp," he told Stereogum. "Basically, the Soundgarden guys didn’t want to be in the video. They didn’t want a video with the band members. They wanted something a little more cinematic, filmic. A little more of a pure tribute to Andrew Wood. Whereas the Pearl Jam guys... they really wanted to be in the video. They needed the exposure."
"So I kinda hung out with the band, and was just throwing out this idea of scouting some great, iconic Seattle locations," Rachman continued. "The idea was to make something very organic. Keep it connected to the city, keep it connected to the place, and in turn, keep it emotionally connected to Andrew Wood in that way."
Fortunately, all the members were fond of his ideas.
Say hello 2... one of Cornell's best vocal performances ever.
The final chorus in the song features Cornell's highest-ever recorded note. Listen to the isolated-vocal version below.
They only toured behind it in 2016.
For the album's 25th anniversary, Temple of the Dog performed a seven-date tour in the major markets of the United States. There are a few videos of the members performing the songs in the early '90s, and Cornell joined Vedder on stage a few times throughout the years for a rendition of "Hunger Strike," but the only official tour was in 2016.
It became biographical for the whole era.
Temple of the Dog was likely a haunting listen from its initial release in 1991. But little did Cornell and company realize that the album would ultimately tell the tragic story of many of their friends from Seattle and from the same era. While "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down" dealt with grief and loss, songs such as "Times of Trouble" chronicled addiction and mental illness — two things many musicians from that era succumbed to.
Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994. Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon died of an overdose in 1997, which also claimed Alice in Chains' Layne Staley in 2002 and Mike Starr in 2011, and Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland in 2015. Finally, most recently, the mastermind behind this very album — Cornell took his life in 2017. Listening to Temple of the Dog has a whole new, deeper and darker meaning now.
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