I woke up late this morning, pretty exhausted by the previous few days, and flicked through my usual internet sites – board games, F1, bank accounts – and then, reluctantly as ever, arrived at the BBC to see what the world had been up to while I slept. And there it was – Chris Cornell is dead at the age of 52.
I first encountered Soundgarden when I was still at college. The front cover of Kerrang! featured a picture of this unlikely group with the headline Are these men the future of metal? or something similar. That was good enough for me, so I hightailed it along to HMV and bought Badmotorfinger, got back and stuck it on.
Immediately – and I mean immediately – I was struck by it. A riff made up of a major second repeated at octaves. Hang on, this isn’t a chord, this isn’t even a proper melody. What is this? Minimalist metal? And then the time signatures, and then that gravelly soulful voice.
I was hooked, of course, and stayed with Soundgarden through the visionary Superunknown (featuring a song with a spoon solo, of all things) and the more sprawling Down On The Upside. After a long hiatus, back they came a couple of years back with the superb King Animal, which I wrote about here and which proved that they had lost none of their energy or talent.
Cornell also fronted the seismic Audioslave and wrote and sang the best Bond theme. I never met him, never quite got round to seeing Soundgarden perform, but many times I was envious – the voice, the talent, the success, the full head of hair. Today, though, as the sad circumstances of his death slowly filter through, I’d rather be me and instead watch performances like this and remember him firing on all cylinders, as he apparently did at the Soundgarden gig only last night.