If someone mentions the words "Seattle", "Alternative" and "Late eighties, to early nineties" what immediately springs to mind? I would hope the majority of readers would immediately answer either "Grunge" or "Seattle Sound". At this period, some amazing alternative bands were released upon the world, I’m sure I don’t need to introduce you to the likes of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Nirvana etc. But I wonder, how many people know from which band Pearl Jam was born? The answer is Mother Love Bone.
Mother Love Bone
formed in 1988 from the ashes of Green River
, with the Stone Gossard
, Jeff Ament
and Bruce Fairweather
joining forces with Andrew Wood
) and Greg Gilmore
). Initially a covers band (Lords of The Wasteland
), they changed their name to Mother Love Bone
and quickly rose to prominence in the Seattle area.
In less than a year (early ’88 – late ’88) they took on a relentless schedule of writing, recording and performing that saw them become lauded as one of the most promising new bands on the burgeoning underground alternative scene in the north west of America. With their eclectic mix of the musical styles of the late ‘70’s and the early-mid ‘80’s (listening to them, you can’t help but hear mixtures of Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, NWOBHM, Glam metal and AC/DC) and Andrew Woods exuberant performance, shrieking vocals and non-conformist clothing, Mother Love Bone represented something new, fresh and exciting, resulting in their signing by PolyGram subsidiary Mercury Records in November ’88. With their personally created Stardog Records imprint, MLB quickly produced their debut EP "Shine", encompassing the tracks "Thru Fadeaway", "Mindshaker Meltdown", "Half A-s Monkey Boy", "Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thornes" and "Capricorn Sister" (with hidden track "Zanzibar" at the end). The EP release (the first release by a Seattle alternative band on a major label) served to further increase the hype around the band, being well received and selling well on release in March ’89.
Following the EP release, MLB continued touring extensively, building on the hype around them and preparing to record their debut album. In late ’89, they entered the studio (this time in San Fransisco, rather than Seattle) to record their debut album "Apple". During this time, Andrew Wood checked into rehab to combat his on-going heroin addiction (an addiction he had struggled with since his time in "Malfunkshun" as an attempt to deal with the fame that resulted from being a "rock star"). Despite Wood’s stint in rehab, the album was finished fairly quickly, well in time for the slated March 1990 release. With the album finished, and Wood out of rehab, the band continued to perform in and around Seattle, bolstered by the pride of what they had achieved thus far. The anticipation of the album by fans and press alike served to increase the hype around the band to a fever-pitch, and the band were slated to be the first Seattle band to make it big.
Andrew Wood continued to struggle with his addiction, and on March 16th, 1990, he was found by his girlfriend in a comatose state, due to a heroin overdose. After being taken to Harborview Hospital, doctors stated that despite being responsive, he had suffered from a haemorrhage aneurysm, and was effectively brain-dead. His friends and family made their last visits and said their last goodbyes and three days after being admitted to the hospital, Wood’s life support was switched off. Fifteen minutes later, the first rising star of Seattle was dead.
After just two years, the first big band of the Seattle alternative scene had burnt out. The remaining band members disbanded and went on to other bands and projects (most notably, Pearl Jam). Without Wood, MLB could never be the same again. Heroin had claimed its first (but unfortunately, not its last) high profile victim of the Seattle alternative scene, and it would never be quite the same again.
Who is to say what might have happened had Andrew Wood have lived? Would MLB have gone on to bigger and better things? Would Pearl Jam have even ever existed? We will, of course, never know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that what we have left of MLB (and thus of Wood) is an amazing mix of musical styles, that should be listened to by all fans of grunge and alternative music, and recognized for what it is. It is a heart-breaking shame that this wonderful band is overlooked by so many people. Wood’s girlfriend alleges that she has a multitude of un-released material recorded by Wood throughout his career, right into the weeks before his untimely death. Whilst there is a passing interest in this, I for one hope that she keeps it as her own special keepsake, for her memories and consumption alone.
The information in this article has been compiled from various sources, listed below.
Glampunk.org, Angelfire.com, fullinbloommusic.com, Wikipedia.org.