I hate this year’s ballot of nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Out of the 16 artists on the list, I would have voted for 15 in any year. Throw out the Dave Matthews Band, whose nomination I still cannot explain (though, I should be predicting their impending induction since the Hall seems to suck at times), the others should all be inducted. Why couldn’t the stupid Hall voters just go away and have the greatest induction ceremony ever and put everybody in except DMB. Oh, hell, even I’m not that cruel, just induct ’em all! Come on! How is anyone supposed to leave out the Doobies, T. Rex, Biggie, the Priest or Whitney, let alone MC5, Chaka Khan and Rundgren? Seriously people! At least they had the decency to nominate excellent but long shot artists like John Prine, Los Lobos and Bad Brains in the recent past. My long shot, DMB, has one of the most rabid fan bases this side of The Dead and Phish, so they really aren’t a long shot at all. They are just an a front to my sense of fairness.
With all my bitching and whining out of the way, my sixth inductee is Soundgarden. Back in the late-Eighties, I used to hear many of those great Seattle bands on 97-X like Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, Nirvana and Soundgarden. And I remember thinking that these guys were all a breath of fresh air. They combines aggressive playing with a subtle dexterity that the alternative bands of the Eighties were lacking. You could hear the musicians’ love of all things punk, Zeppelin and Sabbath in their music. And, at the time, Soundgarden stood head and shoulders above them all, becoming one of the first from Seattle to sign with a major label.
They broke big in 1991 with the release of their third album, Badmotorfinger. But, it was not until 1994 when the band hit the big time upon the release of the sublime Superunknown. And, although they hit number one with their next release, Down on the Upside, in 1996, Soundgarden’s days were numbered. They would remain dormant until 2012 when the band regrouped to prove they still had fire in the belly by releasing the excellent King Animal. Unfortunately, they would only release one more album in 2014, Echoes of Miles. They band effectively came to an end when word broke in the Spring of 2017 that lead singer Chris Cornell had taken his own life.
Musically, Soundgarden had been blessed to combine the advanced skills of guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd with one of the finest rock vocalists of any era, Cornell. In the early days of the band’s rise, they were often described as being the Led Zeppelin of the Gen X era. I never bought into that hype, although both bands had the ability to rock out and to turn things down acoustically without ever losing their muscularity. Yet, Soundgarden remained defiantly rooted in the punk esthetic as their musicality lead them to greater heights in the rock world. They may have helped end the whole hair metal era, but they became the one grunge band that metalheads could attached themselves to.
With Pearl Jam and Nirvana inducted, Soundgarden should rightfully become the third of grunge’s Big Four to be inducted (Alice in Chains should become the fourth and final of the grunge bands to be honored). This honor is long overdue for the band and should signal the go-ahead for both alternative and metal bands to follow in the near future. With that said, here are 25 reasons why Soundgarden should be inducted in 2020.
25. “Gun” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
24. “Storm” (Echoes of Miles, 2014)
23. “Bleed Together” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
22. “Get on the Snake” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
21. “Nothing to Say” (Screaming Life/Fopp, 1990)
20. “Ty Cobb” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
19. “Been Away Too Long” (King Animal, 2012)
18. “Room A Thousand Yard Wide” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
17. “All Your Lies” (Ultramega OK, 1988)
16. “My Wave” (Superunknown, 1994)
15. “Head Down” (Superunknown, 1994)
14. “Hands All Over” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
13. “Birth Ritual” (Singles OST, 1992)
12. “Flower” (Ultramega OK, 1988)
11. “Loud Love” (Louder Than Love, 1989)
10. “Rusty Cage” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
9. “Pretty Noose” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
8. “Fell on Black Days” (Superunknown, 1994)
7. “Outshined” (Badmotorfinger, 1991)
6. “Blow Up the Outside World” (Down on the Upside, 1996)
5. “Spoonman” (Superunknown, 1994). You know how great a song has to been when your fourth grade son loved it? Now, he is in his thirties with a 15-month old daughter who loves this song. As far as I’m concerned, case closed.
4. “Burden in My Head” (Down on the Upside, 1996). People, positive attitudes will never cover a chemical imbalance in your brain, especially if you’re an empathetic person.
3. “Jesus Christ Pose” (Badmotorfinger, 1991). Of course the public thought this was an anti-Christianity song since those people NEVER read the lyrics. This was a song decrying the lead singer pose during a concert.
2. “Black Hole Sun” (Superunknown, 1994). This psychedelic blow-out was everything that Sixties and Seventies rock wishes it could have been.
1. “The Day I Tried to Live” (Superunknown, 1994). This is one of the few songs that has ever truly given insight into the psyche of a depressed person, of how you go from one emotional extreme to another. I was worried about Cornell, although I thought he came through the darkness as I had. Unfortunately, I was wrong about him.