I didn’t know what to do with Soundgarden at first. Of the Big 4 Grunge Bands from Seattle I was squarely in the Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains side of things. It’s not that I disliked Soundgarden by any means, but something held me back from truly embracing them as one of “My Bands”.

Weirdly it might have been Chris Cornell’s voice which gave me the most pause. It’s an extremely strange thing to admit considering he might have one of the best pure Rock voices from anyone of his era (or any era really). But there it was. While my other friends raved about Badmotorfinger, I went on listening to other things.

But apparently Chris Cornell and Soundgraden weren’t going to let me off the hook so easily. He first got me with the Singles Movie Soundtrack. Seasons, his solo contribution made me refocus a bit more on his vocal talent. And it hammered me as one of the real standout tracks from the album. Just this little beauty of a piece…

Next it was the Temple of the Dog record… through my love of Pearl Jam, he’d found another way to worm into my head with Hunger Strike. After I listened to the full piece, it was inevitable. Somewhere in there I added Badmotorfinger into the rotation in my car. It was this perfect level of heavy and rock, and whatever idiocy I’d had with Cornell’s voice was long since forgotten.

And then Superunknown came out… I heard Fell on Black Days, and it was completely over from there. How we managed to snag tickets to see them at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, I’ll never know for sure, but I am grateful for it. This band should have been selling out the arenas at that point. Yet, there we were in a pretty cozy venue where we could absorb ever ounce of energy from the band.

Down on the Upside… I’m going to say something odd, but I may actually like that album better than the others. I’m not saying it is a better record than Superunknown (or Badmotorfinger), but I find myself coming back to it again and again over the years. It may be that Black Hole Sun was overplayed on the radio where it went from this amazing track to something I didn’t really need to hear again. Down on the Upside never got the love of their previous albums, so maybe that was what I was embracing as well. With any band, I think we all want to be able to find the thing that we like that no one else does (or we like it more than they do). Regardless, in some ways I feel like this is the version of Soundgarden I always needed them to be. No matter what, I can pop that one in and never seem to get tired of it.

Then they broke up… just as it felt I had fully embraced them. Trying to cast my mind back to that time to remember how I felt about that… I think I was more annoyed than anything else. At the same time, I understood I’d only broken the surface with them, so even if there was nothing new to come, I still had older stuff to listen and learn. And when Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam, that seemed like, well, if they were finally going to stop being the modern day Spinal Tap when it came to drummers, then at least some good came from it.

But again, Cornell wasn’t through with me. He decided merging with members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave might just get my attention. The part of me who held out hope for a Soundgarden reunion was sated by this new band…

And then they broke up.

And got back together.

And broke up.

Maybe it didn’t happen quite that way, but it felt that way. Audioslave feels like a band that I really liked, but somehow managed to never actually get to see in person.

Then Cornell went on to do solo stuff, and I’d check in on him periodically. His version of One is so crazy that I’m not sure how you can sing the lyrics to Metallica’s version while playing the guitar for U2’s version. That’s a huge step up from patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.

Either way, that should have been it. Instead, Soundgarden miraclously reformed, put out a new record, and toured.

It was weird again. I think it caught me completely off-guard. Mentally I was in a good place with Soundgarden’s legacy, but maybe that was because I had come to them a little later than everyone else. For some reason I didn’t immediately go out and get King Animal. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe I was worried about them trying to ape their own sound. Maybe I was thinking I was good with where they left off. It seems like long breaks from reforming bands don’t always go the way you might like.

And then they announced a tour and the Atlanta date was going to be at the Fox Theater again.  I wrote a little about the experience here.

Little did I know that only a few weeks later, Chris Cornell would be dead.


The first time I dealt with a band I liked having an unexpected death, it was Nirvana. Later on Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots and Linkin Park were added to that (sadly) growing list. Sometimes the reaction was pure surprise. Other’s were less surprise and more a general sadness for what seemed like was inevitable due to their issues with drug abuse. I don’t mean to say it in such a matter of fact way… it is all very sad, but I never know how to react to those moments.

With Chris Cornell, more than anything, I think about what the world lost. The art that he was still making. Whether it was with a band or on his own. The power of his voice in both music and in life. He was a part of the soundtrack of my own life. Milestones which pile up over the years as I listened to his words over hundreds and thousands of listens. It’s the amazing power of music that is able to move us in ways we might never thought possible. Chris Cornell did that with everything I heard. And seven years after his death, I still wonder about a world with him still in it.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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