Remembering Andy (Andrew Wood)

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Mother Love Bone


Mother Love Bone

On March 19, 1990, after three days in a coma, Andrew Wood was removed from life support and died. One of rock and roll’s great movements burgeoned—this was less than a year before it broke. And Mother Love Bone front man Wood, its premier harbinger, was dead as a result of an overdose. One of the most intimate films of its kind ever crafted, Malfunkshun explores rock’s unique enigma through extensive sessions with his friends and family. They seek to understand a man on the brink of superstardom who was at once joyous and troubled. Wood’s death sent shockwaves through the tight-knit Seattle music community, including his band mates and soon-to-be Pearl Jam members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. A showcase of a performer whose life became the inspiration for some of Seattle’s greatest musicians, and whose death ended the era of commercial hard rock while giving birth to the last great rock movement to date, the film interweaves his music, his family, his friends and band mates with rare concert and candid footage and creates a riveting portrait of what it means to be talented, famous, and afraid.

Most Seattle rock bands of the late '80s (Soundgarden, Nirvana, Mudhoney, etc.) were considered a reaction against the then-prevailing glam metal scene that had MTV and radio in the palm of its hand. But there was at least one Emerald City band that could've fit into the mainstream, combining the area's trademark Sabbath-meets-Stooges garage rock with glam's pretty-boy looks and anthemic choruses -- Mother Love Bone. And although the group included five members, the undisputed leader and focal point was flamboyant and charismatic singer Andrew Wood. Born on January 8, 1966, in Columbus, MI, Andrew Patrick Wood was raised in Bainbridge Island, WA, discovering rock music via the likes of such theatrical '70s arena rockers as Elton John, Queen, Aerosmith, and Kiss. At the age of 14, Wood joined his first serious band, Malfunkshun, often performing dolled-up in makeup and outrageous clothes, under the persona Landrew the Love Child. The group lasted for much of the '80s, but never released an album (although a few of their tracks were included on C/Z's Deep Six compilation). By 1988, Wood left Malfunkshun and began jamming with two former members of Green River -- guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament. Originally called Lords of the Wasteland the new outfit would soon be re-christened Mother Love Bone.

Like Malfunkshun, Mother Love Bone would include elements of glam rock, but the stripped-down sound of Gossard and Ament's former band would also be included in the mix. Drummer Greg Gilmore and second guitarist Bruce Fairweather were also welcomed aboard, as Mother Love Bone quickly built up a loyal local following. Polygram signed the band in 1989, issuing the six-track EP Shine later in the year (on the band's own subsidiary label, Stardog), as Mother Love Bone opened up a nationwide tour for British glamsters Dogs d'Amour. By September of 1989, the quintet were hard at work on their full-length debut, but Wood had developed a drug addiction that became obvious to his bandmates, and spent the last months of the year in rehab. With expectations running high for MLB's debut album (to be titled Apple), Wood and the others started 1990 by playing a few shows around Seattle as they waited for the record's projected springtime release date. On March 16th, Wood was found comatose in his apartment by his girlfriend, having taken a lethal overdose of heroin. Wood was placed on life support, but the damage was already done, and he died three days later.

Mother Love Bone broke up shortly after Wood's death, while Apple was finally issued to glowing reviews later in the year. The Seattle rock scene was shaken to its core over the death of such a promising singer, as a longtime friend of Wood's, Chris Cornell, penned a few songs in tribute to his fallen comrade (and one-time roommate). With Gossard and Ament signed on to assist Cornell, the project was dubbed Temple of the Dog, taken from a lyric in the MLB song "Man of Golden Words." A full album was recorded, with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and local guitarist Mike McCready, issued in mid-1991 to little fanfare. As many know, Gossard, Ament, and McCready went on to form the band Pearl Jam (with singer Eddie Vedder and a revolving door of drummers), finding breakthrough success in the summer of 1992.

Shortly thereafter, Temple of the Dog enjoyed a second life and became a hit, while all of Mother Love Bone's recorded output for Polygram was compiled for a double-disc self-titled release the same year. MLB would remain in the spotlight for some time afterward -- their epic ballad "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns" appeared on the soundtrack to the popular motion picture Singles, Alice in Chains wrote a song about Wood and other rockers who died from drugs ("Would?"), and a home video of the band was released as well -- Love Bone Earth Affair. In 1995, Gossard spotlighted Wood's early work with Malfunkshun by issuing the compilation Return to Olympus on his Loosegroove label. ~Greg Prato, All Music Guide

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