the male muse… a rarified and mythical creature


We hear about the ‘muse’ often in art.  It’s an ephemeral thing – a idea, a feeling, inspiration, a thought.  And usually, its a gal.  You may know that nearly every song in the 70s was written about Joni Mitchell or Patti Boyd-Harrison-Clapton.   We don’t get to hear about the men. Here is one.

Every song written in the 90s was about 1 guy.  Before I hand it over to you, let’s talk about the song.  Would, from Alice in Chains.  Far Behind from Candlebox, the entire Temple of the Dog album.  This guy started Pearl Jam.  He was never in Pearl Jam…but he birthed it.  How so?  By dying.

Every great Seattle song seems to be about a guy no one knows, and was never famous.  Andrew Wood.  Andrew Wood led ‘Mother Love Bone’, which was Pearl Jam minus Vedder.  He was wildly charismatic, and deeply loved.  You know you mean something when dudes write songs about other dudes.  I can’t think of another male who has had the impact of songs written that Andrew Wood had.  On any idea in classic rock radio, you are far more likely to hear a song about losing Andy Wood than about John Lennon, or Kurt Cobain.

You know Seattle was an epic rock scene of the 90s.  Besides the great bands is another reason the Seattle scene and sound was so magical… partnership.  The bands (Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Mother Love Bone… et al) were all friends.  It wasn’t competition.  Soundgarden did a record with Alice in Chains.  Find the amazing and largely unknown Alice in Chains EP called ‘Sap’.  It’s largely acoustic and stands with anything else Alice in Chains did.  One of the songs is credited to ‘Alice in Mudgarden’.  In one song, you get Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Mudhoney!  and… it’s beautiful.  Let’s give it a listen, eh?

Chris Cornell was everyone, and recording with everyone.  Cornell wrote an entire album about Andy Wood.  They were more than friends or acquaintances…  they were roommates.  This is technically its own band, Temple of the Dog.  Know who is in that band?  It’s Pearl Jam, mostly minus Eddie.  Pearl Jam and Soundgarden even shared the same drummer (Matt Cameron) for decades.

You couldn’t even plot the Seattle crossover scene with a Visio jam… but I bet several have tried.

Wood died from a heroin overdose, and his death damn near broke all of Seattle.  That death also inspired a generation.  I think one of the things that hurt the most for those who knew and loved Andy Wood… its that he never got his big break.  He was on the verge SO hard of greatness.  His band had just finished their debut masterpiece called ‘Apple’, and of course he died right before it came out.  It’s available, and contains the fantastic song you know called ‘Chloe Dancer Crown of Thorns’.  This community of love and partnership and brotherhood was perfectly captured in Cameron Crowe’s ‘Single’ movie… and soundtrack.

*** sidebar – I was at Pearl Jam last night, and they played ‘Crown of Thorns’

While we are here, I want to mention a few tribute songs that I don’t think are well known, but are just beautiful perfection.  Warren Haynes wrote ‘Patchwork Quilt’ about Jerry Garcia.  Paul Simon wrote ‘Late Great Johnny Ace about John Lennon.  I included above not just clips to performances of the songs, but separately the lyrics.  The lyrics stand alone as great art.  You may notice the latter clip is from Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Concert in Central Park’… but was edited out of future releases.  It was on the VHS, but was removed from subsequent recordings and DVDs.  Know why?  Well… watch the video linked above.  A couple of minutes into the song, a fan runs on stage and attacks Paul Simon rambling about John Lennon.  Its an incredible moment captured on film, and its a shame it has been wiped out.  The moment happens at 48:40.

So cheers to those who came before and inspired us.

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