Wednesday, March 18, 2009

3.19 'Come Bite The Apple' a.k.a. Spring is near.

Ever have “seasonal” music?

I’m I guess talking the Metal/Rock equivalent of putting on Christmas music during December or Irish jig music around St. Patrick's Day. I’m definitely that way. I tend to listen to some music at the same time/season each year.

Thankfully here in Chicago we have several different seasons and these seasons and their changes relate to me musically. We all know that Winter has always been a great time for Extreme Metal. Black Metal and it’s imagery of the Norwegian bands doing their thing was practically made for Chicago Winters. Cold, dark, unforgiving and brutal… like I said perfect!

There’s also something to be said for the Fall and Halloween [a.k.a. the Skeletal Season] time of the year, so much great music can take me places in my mind and the weather can be a part of the experience.

Summer has always been dominated by "party" bands, good time stuff. Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, certain Maiden, Sabbath always and upbeat Scorpions etc.

Spring has never been a favorite season, around here. It’s usually kind of damp and grey looking, trees are still bare and it has a sort of post apocalyptic feel. Not exactly bad, not exactly good, just there. However when the weather finally breaks there's an unexplainable vibe of harmony and hope.

Everyone is coming out of their shells (homes) and letting the Sun work it's magic on your senses. For those unfamiliar with the first sun after extended periods of cold hell, I think it's impossible to fully explain.

So when these magical days appear, the first of a new year I always reach for...

Now today [March 19th 2009] also happens to mark the 19th year since Mother Love Bone Vocalist Andrew Wood left Earth for Olympus [Heaven]. As with most stuff I write about, I’m not here to sell it to you, It's just stuff I get off on.

Mother Love Bone's 'Apple’ is one of those records.

One of those records I’ll always list in my Top 10. One of those albums that will always be a ‘desert island’ disc, one that I wouldn’t mind having a song or two played at my funeral, it’s one of those records for me.

I can’t remember though, how I “met” this album. I know it was 1990 and I was at a weird musical place in life. The 80's Thrash/Death Metal I’d come up with was undergoing a mutation, it was becoming full blown Death Metal.

At first, other than a small handful of releases [Morbid Angel/Entombed/Deicide/Napalm etc.] this style of music just seemed “dumb”. It wasn't the originators of the scene, but the 2nd and 3rd rate clones that over saturated the style really quick.

Cannibal Corpse and the like, it was just a mumbled mess and it wasn’t until the bands of that era started coming out with more structured musical pieces I fully absorbed them. But until then it left a gap and it was then this album came into my life.

I remember reading about the death of Andrew Wood in RIP Magazine. Their take on it was how the guy was essentially weeks away from the biggest moment of his young life [release of his major label debut] and in my opinion, fucked it all up by dying.

Wood was a heroin user and rehab facility two-timer, his band (of course future members of Pearl Jam) had pretty much got him into rehab as they were finally ready to release and tour their album. Their dream, their quest for the unknown.

They couldn’t have an out of control addict fronting the band who were, by all accounts, poised to break the “big time”. But above all they cared about their friend. The heart and soul of Mother Love Bone.

That scene was ready to explode and there was no one like Andrew, he would’ve been huge. Where most Seattle frontmen were ultra serious, you had guys like Mudhoney's Mark Arm and Andrew Wood. Guys not afraid to have a good time and everyone was always welcome to the party.

Wood by the age of 18 was already a veteran of Washington's burgeoning Rock scene. His pre-MLB band Malfunkshun had been writing songs, playing gigs, recording demos for years. On top of that Andrew's persona had the makings of an arena rock headliner, yet he was only in the clubs. Outrageous and unpredictable with both his visual and musical expression, it's very much a "what would have been" tale.

Malfunkshun's "Welcome To Olympus" CD, released 1995

Trouble was, after he’d completed another rehab stint where he remained clean for a few months. As he awaited the release of ‘Apple’, one night he succumbed to his urges and overdosed. A few days of being on life support it was over and that was that.

Even though I'm sure 'Apple' sold little upon it's release in 1990 amazingly Andrew still 'changed' the face of popular music. Obviously had he lived there would've been no Pearl Jam and they sure made an impact, huh? The Temple of the Dog album, a tribute to Wood was also many an introduction for future grungers the world over.

The 'Apple' LP and 1989 released EP 'Shine' were combined for a self-titled release in 1992 during the peak of Grunge Fuckin' Mania.

I've been trying to describe this record to people for years. All I can say is it's about as close to perfection as it can get. Classic Rock (re: late 70's Aerosmith) with catchy, hooky and amazing songs and lyrics. Rock solid beat and vocals delivered with the flair of a David Lee Roth fucks Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant vibe.

So many great songs, so many greats moods, so many incredible vibes. Really a timeless album. I'm sure that wasn't the intention when it was recorded and with the way everything happened I'm not even sure the Pearl Jam guys could recognize the brilliance of this little record.

Next week Pearl Jam's 1991 debut 'Ten' sees a deluxe re-issue. Funny how things work. I could go on for weeks here. A few years ago a movie on the short life of Wood was filmed and premiered at several film festivals. It's been a long time since I heard a word about the film, but let's hope it comes out before I die.

For those keeping track, March 19th, 2009 is also the 27th year since Randy Rhoads died.