Writing Exercise: Discovering Chris Cornell

This post is approximately 500 words. Occasionally, I write about artists who inspire me. I should probably do that more.

chris-cornell-3Today is a day much like one twenty-five years ago. I’m in blue jeans and flannel, and outside it feels like Autumn is being carried away by the harbinger winds of Winter. I’m listening to Soundgarden’s magnificent Badmotorfinger, though unlike today, in 1992 it was my first play-through, I was sitting in my freshman dorm room, and Chris Cornell was still alive.

I was fortunate to have a roommate who brought a large CD collection to college, and I recall pawing through discs to satisfy my ravenous appetite for music. I discovered three albums that I distinctly remember to this day: Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits (74-78), Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and Badmotorfinger.

 

Even today, the first track – Rusty Cage – still electrifies me, and the monaural guitars that go ear to ear deliver one of my favorite openings to any song. The over-popular Outshined comes next, giving Badmotorfinger a solid one-two punch that is a stronger start than most albums have, rock or otherwise. With songs like Jesus Christ Pose, Room A Thousand Years Wide, and Drawing Flies, the album is powerful throughout, filled with emotion and defiance. I rarely listen to full albums after the first play or two, though Badmotorfinger is an exception, as are other seminal works like Nirvana’s Nevermind, Back in Black by AC/DC, and the eponymous debut of Van Halen.

In many ways, Chris Cornell’s range, power, and emotion remind me of Freddie Mercury. However, there is a raw quality to Cornell’s voice that cuts deeper, conveying an interminable sadness that his lyrics make no attempt to hide. Meeting him in 1999 confirmed this feeling. He was aloof, like an introvert, his melancholy draped around him like a cloak. Is it any wonder that the album he was promoting was entitled Euphoria Mourning? (Note: this was his desired title, though it was first released as Euphoria Morning)

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Despite his somewhat maudlin demeanor, in song Chris Cornell was the personification of that need to jump onto a table, tear your shirt open, and scream your soul into the heavens. His singing transformed us into empaths, carrying us on a roller coaster of emotion with as many lows as highs. As such, I’m not sure I can casually listen to Soundgarden, for their music is sympathetically cathartic – much like scream therapy or crying unabashedly into the indifferent darkness. This isn’t a criticism, and despite this, Badmotorfinger remains in regular rotation for me twenty-five years later.

Today, the day after his death – and forevermore – another layer of gloom weighs upon Badmotorfinger, like the gray rain that drives you beneath the blankets of your bed, though it is equally welcome nonetheless. Sometimes you just need an outlet for the pain.

Say hello 2 Andrew, Chris.

–Mike

PS: Interested in other posts about music? Check out The Prince Influence 2 Me.

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© Michael Wallevand, May 2017

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