RIP Chris Cornell

Moments like these really drive home the fact that the music of your youth isn't just in the past. It's dead. Sure, some of the big acts from back in the day are still touring and recording. But the music industry has long since moved on from the days when record companies were tripping over themselves to sign earnest Seattle garage bands.

We laughed at the industry's brazen trend-chasing at the time. At least we got some good music out of it. If you'd told us that in 20 years it would be wall-to-wall Auto-Tuned Disney alumni, we might have saved the cynical laughter for when it was truly merited.

I never got the chance to see Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, or Audioslave perform. My favorite Chris Cornell song wasn't recorded with any of those bands, anyway.

Rest in peace, Chris Cornell: another casualty of an age that's making war on art.


  1. I saw Soundgarden at Lollapalooza in Knoxville, TN in 1996. Metallica headlined, which is why I went. Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine were the two bands immediately preceding on the main stage, although I can't remember now which order they went in. I think it was Soundgarden, Rage, Metallica.

    All three acts were phenomenal, as was the event as a whole. The concert ended late - very late - and I made the five hour drive home only to get right back in a car with my parents and drive down to Birmingham to watch an Olympic soccer game they'd gotten tickets to.

    You can do that kind of thing when you're 18. ;)

    1. Quite a lineup. You've got way more energy than me. Not sure I could've managed that even at 18.

  2. Music started to worsen in the 90s as the music industry sabotaged itself (so to speak) as sales declined and it was blamed on "taping." Bono correctly called out the real reason: crap music. Grunge was a fad, but it did succeed in blowing pretentiousness out of the water... until the champions of grunge also became pretentious.

    It's a strange thing when someone like Tom Petty, in "The Last DJ," nails the situation that mass marketing has caused to music. You have ageist radio and marketing people blocking good music from older acts (why hasn't Pet Shop Boys' fantastic album, "Super," been played all over the place since its release 13 months ago?) in the name of shielding inferior acts from competition on the airwaves. Lame.

    RIP, Chris Cornell. I put together a Google Play playlist today in your honor. I'm finding it weird how many albums you and Scott Weiland guested on -- separate but together, just like your grunge days' classification and radio play.

    1. I finished chronologically arranging it. Here's a link for those interested. (Of course, it is limited to what Google Play actually has in its library.)

    2. Thanks for arranging the playlist.

      I can't find anything to disagree with in your comment. It was like somebody in the recording industry threw a switch ca. 1997 that stopped the flow of good music.

      Interesting that you mention Petty's "Last DJ" and Bono's remark about the state of the industry. I was just rewatching the live version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" from Rattle and Hum the other night. I realized that U2 hasn't done anything artistically relevant in over fifteen years. After Pop they decided to be what they thought everyone wanted U2 to be.

      Which brings me to the part of the problem your comment missed. Yes, it's a shame that solid older acts are getting memory holed. However, to borrow a phrase from Vox, at some point you lose your fastball. U2 is a perfect example.

      Yes, the acts that are being promoted over superior veteran bands suck. Where are the good alternatives? Why can't post-90s bands seem to produce halfway decent music, and if they can, why aren't we hearing it?

      These questions probably have the same answer.

    3. 1997 is the year record companies went all in with the boy band craze and manufactured Rap Metal that were corporate packaged, and the radio stations followed with their payola shit that the boomers were supposedly so dead set against.

      1997 was the last year someone like Brian Setzer, from the rockabilly band Stray Cats, could hit it big with his wing band and hit the charts, just as a scrappy ska punk band from Boston could get some radio play. If any of them had hit a few years early, they would still be superstars and selling to larger crowds, but the industry refused to promote them and shuffled them off to obscurity.

      I can name a varied span of bands and artists from between the 70s and mid-90s that were afforded success based on their talent.

      I couldn't name a single band or artist since then that wasn't allowed one hit then buried under the stack of payola-sponsored shit to make way for the record companies' manufactured pop idols with professionally written slag. Every single rock band signed to a major has been screwed hard since 1997.

      Chris Cornell was one of the last rock stars that were allowed to be rock stars, and got there on his own talent.

      It's a shame he took his own life twenty years to near the day the recording industry did much the same, but I can't say I'm surprised. The only grunge superstar who hasn't killed himself at this point is Eddie Vedder, and he almost did many times. There's something about that inescapable nihilism and hedonism that rock stars really can't get beyond.

      They don't all find Jesus, unfortunately.

    4. Bravo! You win the plush stuffed elephant.

      There used to be an established rock band career path maintained by the record, radio, and event promotion companies. In the 50s through the 90s, if you had a modicum of talent, paid your dues, and busted your ass playing every gig you could get, you had a shot at the next level.

      The tiers of rock and roll success used to be (with some juxtaposition): playing local bars and clubs, playing county and state fairs, playing the b-stage at big music festivals, opening for a major act, touring colleges, touring arenas, and finally touring stadiums.

      Most acts didn't get past the state and local level. Only a handful ever got to the point of selling out stadiums. Even the bands that made it to the top usually went back down to the college arena and state fair level. Only Michael Jackson, Madonna, Metallica, and U2 achieved the pinnacle of popularity and stayed there.

      Those are the last megastars. The structure of the industry has gone so far in the direction you talked about that no one will ever get the level of support needed to grow that kind of massive fan base again.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. That's one of the things that was really hammered home today by those saying Cornell was their hero. Few realize that there's nobody out there now that were at his level, and that it is completely by design.

      What music needs is another pub rock movement like the UK had before punk exploded.

      Pub rock was a movement characterized by small bands playing old blues, rockabilly, and pop, when rock music was crawling up its own rear. It was actually much like the Pulp Revolution in its deliberate regressive mentality and lead to every popular band from the UK (including the Sex Pistols and U2) to even exist.

      Not sure how likely it is to happen now, though. The music industry and scene is filled with non-conformist conformists who wear pink leather jackets to support government law. The indie scene is already co-opted.

      But hey, if anyone wants to fork the music industry, I'm there.

  3. You're welcome!

    I reluctantly agree with your U2 assessment. I have enjoyed their music post-Pop, but Pop was unfairly maligned, in my opinion. So, the critics caused U2 to re-examine themselves for the second time (the first being after 1988's Rattle and Hum).

    2009's No Line on the Horizon was more experimental, but it was critically dismissed and did not perform commercially (probably because the wrong lead single was chosen: it should have been "Magnificent" not "Get on Your Boots."). That 2009 album should have done better and was a nice left turn for the band, away from the U2-as-what-people-want-U2-to-be stuff from the albums All That You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

    Anyway, enough of that tangent (I realize U2 is one of my favorite bands and it gets easy talking about them).

    I think the record companies are reticent to put money into A&R and/or scouting the way that they did before. How else to explain YouTube folks getting record deals instead of garage or club artists? It's about saving money on the front end as they're losing money to the digital age. It's been recouped by convincing younger listeners that digital music is better than LPs, CDs, or cassettes, but that's my theory. Of course, ratings bonanzas like The Voice and American Idol help them find talent while raking in advertisement money from TV.

    My good alternatives are found on indie labels, although most are older bands. The 77s, The Choir, The Lost Dogs, Michael Roe, Kerosene Halo, The Swirling Eddies, Daniel Amos, Terry Scott Taylor, and Steve Taylor are all intertwined and most of the bands have common members, but are my go-to "not mainstream" bands. Problem is, they're too religious (Christian) for the mainstream and not safe enough for the Christian labels because they dare ask questions rather than just write platitudes as lyrics. So, most of them release new records via crowdfunding now.

    The pioneers of this era in music are virtually DOA -- or maybe we have lost creativity because artists are too busy "trying to say something."

    1. The Christian industry needs more bands like Deluxtone Rockets. Bands that can have fun, touch on deeper issues, and celebrate all that makes rock music so good. It's a shame they've never put out a third album.

    2. You never have to apologize about discussing U2 on my blog.

      See this post I wrote about the very subject you brought up:

  4. I gave up on pop music a long time ago.

    If you want to see how bad it has gotten, listen to Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" from the 80s (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04yCea2HOhY) and compare it with any wubwub bwngh pop music out today.

    You can even do the same for rap and hip hop. There was Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and the old guys, and now you have mindless gangsta crap with about as much lyrical depth as they have unoriginal sounds.

    You have to dig to find good music this day. As someone suggested on my blog, boomer nostalgia aside, XM stations like Little Steven's Underground Garage specialize on new musical acts in old forgotten styles.

    My problem is that I spent a lot of my time digging for obscure bands just to get something good to listen to that I'm a bit burned out looking for them.

    But they're out there.

    1. Don't want to sound like a broken record, but Vox (who does know whereof he speaks) recently put forward a theory explaining why rap has devolved to an artistic dead end.

      The reason, according to him, is that rap was never a genre of music in the first place. It is instead a musical styling capable of being transplanted into pretty much any genre.

      So trying to advance "rap music" is like trying to maintain a thriving "electric guitar music" or "falsetto solo genre" scene. There's no intrinsic content.

    2. There is something to that. Hip hop was originally just dance music with spoken word lyrics.

      For instance, "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith was already technically a rap song. Run DMC just nailed the point home with their cover of it. The reason the old groups were so good is because they were technically rock groups (Run DMC, the Beastie Boys), or playing funk already.

      There isn't really anything "rap" does that can't be done in any genre of music.

    3. Brian de and friends,

      You want manufactured music? Try K pip where you literally have boot camps. The scenes remind me of Broadway in the 29a and the Zeigfield follies.
      As for population music, I stopped listening to it many years ago. Even when I was in university music was never a big part of my life. I enjoyed. I enjoyed U2 and think their Joshua tree album ( which I have as a vinyl) to be one of their best album. The other one is the one with castle in the back of album.

      Right now i'm listening to Catalan music and the groups from the Valencia region str just phenomenal. The range of styles and influences are amazing. The other Catalan groups from Catalunya are just as diverse. It helps that they give away some of their albums. As buying a CD is a bit of a hassle. I dislike Spotify if I paid for it I get to keep it


    4. "The other one is the one with castle in the back of album."

      The Unforgettable Fire

    5. Brian

      Thanks!I had a total blank butremember itvwas in purpulple with the castle. I have that one in vinyl as well. I bought back in old days:) i wonder if i can buy them as mp3/flac/aac?(not itunes)

      I don't think i've heard soundgarden (or maybe I have without realizing it)

      Question: is the music industry still the same sleazy business or has it cleaned up even a little bit?

  5. Someone posted this in response to the news. Love this song (by The 77s), but boy does it hit hard in light of Chris Cornell's death (like when I heard it soon after Kurt Cobain died).