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The Love Child: Celebrating Andrew Wood on His 50th Birthday

“Hey Mr. Lovedog
You will always be
The one back home that could’ve had it all
Hey Mr. Lovedog
You never really knew me
God bless your velvet gifted soul
Makes no sense at all
Now you’re the Holy Roller
With the hub cap diamond star halo
This is goodbye to Captain Hi-top
Hope your Pearl jam
Can keep it strong”

– Mr. Love Dog by Faster Pussycat

Today marks the fiftieth birthday of Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone singer and lyricist, Andrew Patrick Wood. Known by so many names, L’Andrew, The Love Child, the “Man of Golden Words,” the mythology that envelopes his character is larger than life. Born in Columbus, Mississippi on January 8th, 1966, he would find his voice and legacy in the budding music scene in Seattle and the surrounding areas from the early ’80’s until March 19th, 1990. Wood died from complications regarding a hemorrhage aneurysm, after falling into a coma from a heroin overdose on March 16th, 1990. Wood was let off of life support three days later. At the time, Mother Love Bone, his current project that was attracting all kinds of label attention, was to drop their first album, Apple, on Mercury Records. Due to Wood’s passing, the remaining bandmates opted to postpone the album release until four months after his death, on July 19th, 1990. Tragically, it gained extremely positive feedback from major press outlets.

It’s a strange thing that happens with music sometimes. It was only through the death of founding member and guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hillel Slovak, that the band made their connection with guitarist and songwriter John Frusciante that changed the faces of multiple genres with albums like Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication. One in 1988 at the news of Slovak’s death might think the Chili Peppers are just over for sure – because their music was intertwined with the friendship and camaraderie between the band members. But the destiny of art seems to propel vision beyond death – in the wake up of Andrew Wood’s death, both Temple of the Dog and Pearl Jam were founded. Those two groups, but especially the latter, continued to have a masterful impact on music in a way not unlike Andrew Wood’s artistry, especially with the inclusion of his friends Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron, and his bandmates Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament.

Wood’s music was very radically different in terms of instrumentation than some of the other bands in the “Seattle scene” at the time. Compare a song like “This is Shangrila” to Nirvana’s “Negative Creep” or Soundgarden’s “Flower.” But the common line is the burst of integrity these bands possessed. These “grunge” bands started purely out of a love for music they admired and rarely much less, because there was not very much opportunity for Northwest artists at the time to see any real fame or success with music, outside of cover bands who played twangy rock at bars. Jimi Hendrix before grunge was the only exception to the rule, only because he moved to the other side of the world, England, to finally achieve his fortune and legacy as, well, Jimi Hendrix.

Wood entered the music scene officially Easter Sunday 1980, when him and his brother Kevin started their first band, Malfunkshun, with Dave Rees and Dave Hunt. Eventually Regan Hagar, a drummer from a band named Maggot Brains, was eventually recruited as the other members cycled out and Malfunkshun became the legendary backyard power trio of the desolate quasi-suburbs of Bainbridge Island, Washington. Drawing influence primarily from glam rock and KISS, they stood out from many of their contemporaries who drew from punk or Black Sabbath. They managed to find a spot on the C/Z Records compilation, Deep Six, featuring bands like the Melvins, the U-Men and Soundgarden, the other original members of the Seattle music scene of the 1980’s. Sub Pop, who was more focused on more “indie and edgy” music, never approached the band on the grounds of their influences.

Malfunkshun regularly played shows from 1980 through about 1987, though Andrew Wood’s rehab visit in 1985 led to a hiatus for Malfunkshun. While never really breaking up, Wood and Hagar starting jamming with the guitarist and bassist from Green River, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. Though Wood conceded that their respective bands represented a different kind of ethos, Malfunkshun being a “T-Rex” band and Green River being a “Stooges” band, the “melting pot,” as Wood put it, ended up working very well. Disinterest and subsequent inactivity with their former bands, with new projects in the Seattle scene emerging, both led to the permanent freezing of Green River and Malfunkshun. Mother Love Bone was formed from out of the impromptu cover band Lords of the Wasteland consisting of Wood, Hagar, Gossard and Ament. Somewhere between 1987 and 1988, Hagar was replaced by Greg Gilmore, the drummer from Skin Yard, which featured famed Seattle producer Jack Endino on guitar. Green River’s other guitarist, Bruce Fairweather, was also added as an additional guitarist.

Generally speaking, Mother Love Bone became Seattle’s first supergroup. Malfunkshun, Green River and Skin Yard were all very locally established acts with dedicated fanbases. When they hit the scene, whether people were elated, sad at the break ups of former bands, angry or confused – they were garnering some form of attention. Within a year, the band was signed to the Stardog subsidiary of Mercury Records (owned by PolyGram) and put out their first effort, the Shine EP. Record sales shot up and the band went on tour around the United States, covering territory like Texas, California and the furthest reaches of Massachusetts, opening for English rock band Dogs D’Amour at certain dates. In 1989 they also released their first single, a cover of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up,” separate from the 2014 Record Store Day re-release.

At the time, Andrew Wood was dating Xana La Fuente, the muse of such songs like “Stargazer”, off of their debut and final album Apple. No one was truly able to stop Wood from doing what he would do, but Xana tried to steer his creative efforts away from inspirations like drugs and discouraged their use. But Wood, La Fuente and their immediate friends like Demri Parrott, the on and off girlfriend of Layne Staley, all explored and dabbled with hard drugs like heroin at one point or another. Their arguments became slump but the help was always there. Wood allegedly went through rehab again during Mother Love Bone’s inception and was clean off of heroin for some time.

“She’d have to tie me to the ceiling
A bad moon’s a comin’ better say your prayers child
I wanna tell that I love you but does it really matter you?
I just can’t stand to see you dragging down again
Again my baby I’m here, oh yeah, so I’m singing”

– “Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone

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Andy Wood, a My Little Pony figurine and Xana La Fuente circa 1987/1988

One persistent theme of Wood’s life was stardom. He always, always wanted to be a big star. He built his stage personality from his first days in Malfunkshun and continued to build it as he fronted Mother Love Bone through the end of the eighties. To him, it was everything. When digging deep into archives and interviews regarding his character, that seems to be the one universal characteristic of Wood by everyone who knew him. Call it silly, a pipe dream, whatever – but he took whatever he got with it and ran as fast as he could. We was the culmination of all his idols – KISS, Marc Bolan of T-Rex and the hardest of ’70s rock. Hell, he even maintained a “KISS shrine” in his youth. He was about to pave a new road for hard rock, for his beloved term “love rock,” but it wasn’t meant to be.

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Wood spent three days in the hospital and was doing well progressively in the first 24 hours, but his condition got worse with time. Evidently, 10 hours of nurse notes are missing. When the notes resume, he was braindead. Indeed, they are certain speculations on how certain medicines affected his body. Chris Cornell flew in from New York to wish Andy goodbye, with family and Xana at the hospital bed. His funeral was held at the legendary Paramount Theatre in Seattle, of which family, friends and fans sat in. Cornell recalls a story after the funeral:

“Sitting in Kelly Curtis’ living room with about 30 people, all sobbing. We had just come from Andy Wood’s extra weird funeral-wake thing at the Paramount Theatre. It had these new age overtones that didn’t fit Andy’s life at all. There was an amazing film of Andy with Mother Love Bone band mates. All of Andy’s friends and family were there, mixed with a bunch of fans who I didn’t like but knew Andy would have loved. The fans went home. His friends went to Kelly’s.

We were crammed in a smallish living room with people sitting on every available surface. Couch arms, end tables, the floor. I was leaning on the back of one of the couches that face away from the rest of the room and toward the front door. I remember Andy’s girlfriend looking at everyone and saying “This is just like La Bamba” then suddenly I heard slapping footsteps growing louder and louder as they reached the front door and Layne flew in, completely breaking down and crying so deeply that he looked truly frightened and lost. Very child like. He looked up at everyone at once and I had this sudden urge to run over and grab him and give him a big hug and tell him everything was going to be OK. Kelly has always had a way of making everyone feel like everything will turn out great. That the world isn’t ending. That’s why we were at his place. I wanted to be that person for  Layne, maybe just because he needed it so bad. I wasn’t. I didn’t get up in front of the room and offer that and I still regret it. No one else did either. I don’t know why.”

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While on tour in Europe with his band Soundgarden, Cornell, depressed over Wood’s death, wrote the songs that would become “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down.” Not Soundgarden-esque material, he presented it to Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament and they expressed interest in recording the songs as a tribute to Andy. Initially planned as a single and b-side, the jam sessions brought forth a full album worth of material. Mike McCready, a childhood friend of Gossard was brought into the sessions and Eddie Vedder, who had just moved from San Diego, California, sat in on the sessions and eventually found his way as backing vocals. Matt Cameron sat in for drums and Temple of the Dog was born, the namesake from a lyric of Mother Love Bone’s song “Man of Golden Words.” From the sessions, Pearl Jam began their career with each other as they auditioned Vedder around the time of Temple of the Dog’s recording. Alice in Chain’s famous single “Would?”, was also given to his legacy, as the band was friends with Wood and played several shows with Mother Love Bone. Alice in Chain’s debut album Facelift was also dedicated to Andrew Wood and Jerry’s Cantrell’s mother. Ironically, both Vedder and Wood are Capricorns. Wood’s Moon is in Leo and Vedder’s is in Virgo, in exact astrological succession. Neat huh?

Candlebox’s “Far Behind” was also penned in Wood’s memory

Wood’s music and artistry is forever connected to so many memories for me. I’m incredibly grateful for the time he spent here down from Olympus. My friend actually was almost named Chloe by her father, after “Chloe Dancer.” Love rock will always have a special place in my life. Somewhere from Mount Olympus, Andy Wood is looking down and the legacy and music he spawned from beyond the grave. He wrote, “Dreams like this must die,” but they would not.

PS: Slipknot’s Corey Taylor recently covered “Chloe Dancer” in concert recently and made a medley of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” Completely unexpected…but lovely.

 

 

Alice In Chains’ Layne Staley & Mike Starr Honored By Seattle Rockers

Layne Staley- Mike Starr Seattle Tribute Weekend Recap
Written by Cindy Slade
Edited and review co-written by Brett Buchanan

This past weekend marked the 14th annual birthday celebration for late Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley. After the passing of Alice In Chains original bassist Mike Starr in 2011, the annual August tributes incorporated the celebration of his life as well.

Layne Staley’s 48th birthday would have been this past Saturday, August 22nd, and that date is also why the annual tributes are around this date annually.

As someone who has attended these tributes off and on over the years (regularly since 2013), this year was a combination of spectacular, and absolutely magical.

On Friday August 21st, the celebration started off at the Central Saloon in Seattle for an acoustic night for fans 21 and older. The coordinator of this weekend’s events JT Phillips (who also plays guitar in Alice In Chains tribute band Jar of Flies and Soundgarden/Temple of the Dog tribute band Outshined) told me that they wanted to do an acoustic night to replicate MTV’s “Unplugged” show, which Alice In Chains performed on in 1996. They were able to achieve this by bringing in “flameless” candles with dim lighting. Jar of Flies’ “Unplugged” replication was on the money at least setlist wise, as they played just about every song from that show, except two I’m told, and they also played them in the same order as well. Outshined also performed, as did “Poottana…Play for Money,” a Nirvana tribute band all the way over from Milan, Italy. This is Poottana’s second time coming over to perform for the annual tribute weekend. Their last visit was in 2013.

One thing I didn’t know is that both Jar of Flies and Outshined are really considered one big band. That’s because both Jar of Flies and Outshined have the same members, except for the singers. Rane Stone is the lead singer of Jar of Flies, and Kevin Hoffman is the lead singer of Outshined. JT told me that it’s like one big brotherhood, and judging from the show they clearly love what they do.

The very next night, Saturday August 22nd, was the all-ages show at The Crocodile, which just so happens to be co-owned by Alice In Chains drummer Sean Kinney.  It was evident that the show was sold out.  The maximum capacity of 525 people had been reached, but with the energy it felt like well over 1000.  Italians rockers Poottana…Play for Money opened the show.  The band consists of the following wonderfully talented musicians; Pino Foderaro-guitarist, Andrea Paglione (lead vocals/guitar), Claudio Ciaccia (drums), and Steve Stewie Armeli (bassist).  They go by Shame the Band when they perform original material.

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From the very moment Poottana…Play for Money went on, the crowd was on fire, they were like kids at their first concert. Jar of Flies and Outshined guitarist Shannon Sharp was definitely touched by the performance, saying he closed his eyes and for a second thought it was Kurt Cobain out there singing. Poottana..Play for Money ended their set with Nirvana’s seminal hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

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The Outshined portion of the big “brotherhood” band performed next. A soulful Kevin Hoffman sang Mother Love Bone’s “Stardog Champion” in memory of the late Andrew Wood to end their set on an emotional high note.

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Jar of Flies headlined the show, led by the charismatic Rane Stone.  Their set was filled with special guests who honored Layne Staley and Mike Starr.  Mad Season’s “I Don’t Know Anything” was a definite standout. Jason Kertson sang “Down in a Hole”, “What the Hell Have I?” and “Again”.  On “Again” Jason sang with JoF bassist Lee Bruso, which was brilliant and closely replicated the recorded version, due to Layne Staley’s use of stacking his vocals through innovative production techniques when he was recording that song for the Tripod album.

Powertrain & Pretso Ballet bassist Bobby Ferkovich and drummer Martin Lyson stepped in for “What The Hell Have I?” and “Again.”  The next special guest was Randy Vanadisson, performing an original song with JT Phillips, written for Layne, titled “Body and Soul.” The final guest was Stacey Meyer who sang “Junkhead.” Stacey is also the vocalist for Seattle band Furniture Girls.  Jar of Flies closed the show with a rousing rendition of “Would”.

I had a chance to talk to the band members and about why it’s important for them to continue to perform at these shows. Here is Alternative Nation’s interview with Jar of Flies vocalist Rane Stone.

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Alternative Nation: Rane, why do you continue to do the Layne Staley and Mike Starr tributes year after year?

Rane Stone: Interesting question, we could go on and on about Layne and Mike and the fans and the families, music, how it meant so much and all…but in reality, we never knew Layne or Mike. So, us being philosophical about reasons and feelings, and emotions and such about why we do it in order to, most likely, manipulate people into thinking that we do it for some higher purpose of “channeling Layne” or recreating some moment of walking in the flesh of spirits and such; well that’s just a bunch of fakery. We do it for the legacy and heritage of the Seattle music scene. Our main reason is the preservation of a period of time for the historical, musical heritage and legacy of what meant SO very much to so many over the world.

AN: When did you join Jar of Flies?

RS: I joined in 2005, been doing it about 10 years. It has been a blast and I’m so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to be just a small part of it. IT IS AWESOME!

AN: Why is it important for Jar of Flies to replicate the original sound of Alice in Chains?

RS: Well obviously they were the Led Zeppelin of a generation. So you don’t go Led Zeppelin’s back yard and start playing a hack version of their songs, and since we’re in the backyard of AIC, with all their friends and families usually in attendance, we better not do a hack job of that either. Tell the stories the way the stories were told; no more, no less. Give homage, give respect, show some class and do it in a way that their friends and family can be proud of the performance. If it isn’t on par, or at least in the ballpark of the original, then don’t touch it, don’t do it and just move on. If we can’t do it right, we simply just will not do it at all.

AN: How are you able to engage the crowd so easily?

RS: Am I? I don’t notice. I’m just being myself. I do make efforts to remove as much as myself from the performance as possible, because it is about the material of the music and has absolutely nothing to do with me. I get to just enjoy the ride. Maybe that is why…People see that we as a band are having fun, and in that, everyone else is able to see and know that they can have fun as well. It’s a celebration! So, let’s have some fun together remembering the times we all heard those songs for the very first time! Let’s be kids again in high school/college for a couple of hours. Let’s rock out together!

AN: I noticed you guys played some songs you don’t normally play, was there a specific reason for that?

RS: I think that has to do with just wanting to keep each performance fresh. Change it up. Do songs that people may have never heard live before. Do acoustic versions of songs that have never been done before. We have done the entire Dirt, Jar of Flies and Facelift Albums before, and some songs work well live and others don’t. We have yet to do the entire SAP and Alice in Chains (Tripod) albums yet…..and yet to do Mad Season Above in it’s entirety. But…I’m sure we will….soon.

AN: For someone that has been attending your shows regularly over the years, I noticed this year in particular was nothing short of electrifying, did you feel that too? And if you did, why do you think that is?

RS: Well, let’s put it this way, we knew this weekend was going to be magical. We didn’t know why or how, we just knew it. And it was. The entire weekend was absolutely magical and we are so happy that people from all over the country and all over the world were able to be a part of this celebration of life and music and memory. We feel so tremendously blessed to be just a small part of some aspect that does its best to provide a time and a place for the friends, families and fans that adored this music and these lives so very dearly and so very much. We feel honored to have been a part of it and it is an absolute privilege for us to be able to do this for so many people that love and adore Alice in Chains and Seattle music in general. We feel very full, thankful and grateful.

AN: What does it feel like to have a sold out show?

RS: AMAZBALLS dripping with AWESOMESAUCE!! When it came down that by 8:30pm, 15 minutes before the show….IT WAS SOLD OUT!?!? On Layne’s B-Day Party Celebration!?!? I just chuckled to myself and said “Thank you Layne, Thank You Mike, Thank You Andrew, Thank You Kurt. Let’s go have some fun, guys! You guys Rock.”

AND THEY DID ROCK….the entire night.  Portions of the proceeds from the weekend’s events goes to the Layne Staley Memorial Fund through Therapeutic Health Services in Seattle; if you’d like to donate, click here.

I briefly spoke with Pino Foderaro, the guitarist for Poottana..Play for Money.  He told me (on behalf of himself and the band) that it was the Seattle music that brought them here. He said the main reason they came back is because they felt loved by so many people. In Italy, they also do their own annual tributes for Layne and Mike in April. They also donate a portion of the proceeds from their events to the Layne Staley Memorial Fund through Therapeutic Health Services also.

I would like to take the opportunity to introduce the band members by name and how long they’ve been playing with Jar of Flies and Outshined.

Jar of Flies and Outshined are:

Rane Stone- Vocalist for Jar of Flies, since 2005
Kevin Hoffman-Vocalist for Outshined, since 2012
JT Phillips- Guitarist for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2006
Shannon Sharp- Guitarist for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2006
Daryl Williams-Drums for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2005
Lee Bruso- Bassist for Jar of Flies/Outshined, since 2013

You can find Jar of Flies and https://www.facebook.com/outshinedtribute?fref=ts” title=”Outshined” target=”_blank”>Outshined on Facebook to check out where they are performing next, you’ll definitely want to see them.

Thanks to all of the band members for allowing Alternative Nation into their world for one night. Special thanks to JT Phillips for making all the arrangements.