Andrew Wood, the tragic pioneer of grunge died at 24
Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood was beloved of Seattle’s alternative rock scene – then died of an overdose aged 24 just before the release of his band’s debut album.
Seattle’s 1990s grunge scene is a small slice of music history that we’re probably all aware of, no matter how old we are. So many young talents emerged during this time that it is difficult to keep track of all the artists who made their debut. However, one such young man stands out in the sea of pop culture: Andrew Wood.
However, wood is not a household name today. Unfortunately, he died of a heroin overdose on March 19, 1990, at the age of 24. The tragic event happened days before the scheduled release of his debut album, Applerecorded with his band Mother Love Bone.
The decade was barely three months old and had already suffered one of its most heartbreaking losses – one that would impact the rest of the decade. If the 90s had a pre-show that provided the missing link between glam and grunge, Wood was the headliner.
The untimely loss of Andrew Wood caused so much grief that his friends had to channel it into writing songs, dedicating albums and forming entire bands from Wood’s ashes. And when your friends include talents like Chris Cornell, (Soundgarden), Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains), as well as Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone), the grieving process has produced some of the most music memorable to go out. of the grunge era.
Andrew Wood was born for the stage
While it’s true that Andrew Wood’s influence is felt all over the music industry, many don’t know much outside of his name — or that of the band Mother Love Bone. But in addition to being a singer, he also played piano, bass and guitar.
He started his first band in 1980 at age 14 with his older brother Kevin. With the addition of drummer Regan Hagar, they called themselves Malfunkshun, releasing demos and touring where they grew up in Baimbridge, Washington.
Wood’s muses were glamorous 70s entertainers like KISS, Elton John, David Bowie and Queen. He brought these influences with him by inventing his own brand of post-punk glam rock injected with oddly introspective lyrics and a worldly sensibility.
He also picked up from his idols the idea of constantly challenging traditional masculinity in the manner of Bowie or Freddie Mercury. The flamboyant performer often appeared on stage in dresses or clownish makeup. He wasn’t afraid to be himself – whatever he was that day – and he would do it 100%.
Andrew Wood sang each of his unknown songs like an anthem and gave every little club show a performance worthy of Madison Square Garden. He took his job seriously – but not life. He loved to have fun and was always looking to make people smile, according to friends like Chris Cornell.
Producer Chris Hanzsek remember the intensity of his friend. “Andrew struck me as someone looking for something rare; he was a real treasure hunter. When we were recording…and getting ready for the vocals, I noticed he brought three pairs of fancy sunglasses and some costumes as well. I said to him, “We only record voices, there’s no audience here,” and he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I need to get into character! It was like watching a method actor”.
From Malfunkshun to Mother Love Bone
Malfunkshun’s mighty trio wowed Washington audiences with their high-energy shows and unique sound. They were also known for their unexpected antics, like Andrew Wood strolling through the audience with his bass or interrupting live broadcasts so he could eat a bowl of cereal.
“They were one of the craziest bands I’ve ever seen and there was something really mysterious going on, I would say it was almost voodoo,” remember Hanzsek – who gave Malfunkshun their big break by putting them on a 1986 compilation album of local bands.
While Malfunkshun enjoyed modest success locally, their glam rock vibe and psychedelic, often improvised guitar solos weren’t quite what labels like Sub Pop were looking for. Grunge was about to break into the mainstream, however.
Wood was no different from many artists of the time in that he was high on drugs, entering rehab in 1985. As Malfunkshun continued to release demos and play clubs, they were finally disbanded in 1988.
However, there was a long waiting list of artists eager to collaborate with Andrew Wood. Soon he was playing with two members of the grunge band Green River – Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament.
Original songs began to flow, and when Green River disbanded later in 1988, Mother Love Bone was born. The group signed a deal with the PolyGram label and, through their subsidiary, Stardog, released their 1989 EP. Shine.
Andrew Wood’s death on the verge of fame
Mother Love Bone toured while working on her debut album, Apple. When they got off the road, Wood again entered rehab, determined to get completely clean again for the album release. He remained there for the remainder of 1989, and in 1990 the band played local gigs while waiting Applethe exit.
Despite Wood’s best efforts to stay clean and sober, on the night of March 16, 1990, he walked around Seattle feeling like he needed heroin. He did – and took too much for someone who had lost his tolerance. His girlfriend found him unconscious on his bed and called 911.
Wood was in a coma for three days. On Monday, March 19, his family, friends and bandmates came to say goodbye. They lit candles, played her favorite Queen album, A night at the operathen took him off life support.
Mother Love Bone also died that day. Unfortunately, Andrew Wood passed away a few days before the release of Applealthough it was released later that year in July.
The legacy of the grunge pioneer
The New York Times called Apple “one of the first great hard-rock records of the 90s”, and Rolling Stone hailed it as “nothing less than a masterpiece”.
Andrew would not have the opportunity to read the reviews that would cement his place in history as one of the founding fathers of Seattle grunge.
Chris Cornell, who died by suicide aged 52, recalled his former roommate’s songwriting prowess: “Andy was so free he didn’t really alter his lyrics. He was so prolific and the time it took me to write two songs, he would have written ten and they’re all hits.”
Cornell assembled the band Temple of the Dog from the remnants of Mother Love Bone as an outlet for his songs written in tribute to Wood. Their single “Hunger Strike” was guest vocalist Eddie Vedder’s first featured vocals ever recorded on an album.
Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell dedicated the band’s 1990 album, face lift, in Bois. Additionally, the band’s song “Would?” from the soundtrack to the 1992 film Simple is also an ode to the late musician.
Tributes to this enigmatic leader who died too soon are numerous and influential in their own right. However, who knows what other influence Andrew Wood might have had on modern music had he lived in the 1990s – and beyond.
Next, check out all the artists who belong to the tragic club of 27. So check out these photos that capture the essence of grunge for Gen X.