28 Years Ago: Temple Of The Dog Released Its Only Album Ever

April 16, 2019

A combined chimera of Pearl Jam and SoundgardenTemple of the Dog became the grunge supergroup of the '90s that was never intended to be massive success.

April 16th, 1991 marks the day Temple of the Dog released their self-titled album, though the true origins of the band lies on March 19th, 1990, the day Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone died from a heroin overdose. Inspired to pay tribute to wood, members of the grunge era came together to honor their late friend and his music.

Upon hearing the news, Chris Cornell immediately began writing the lyrics to "Reach Down" and "Say Hello 2 Heaven" in memory of Wood. “I figured it would be this great thing, because I would be away from home and I wouldn’t have to look at places where I saw him or see things that would remind me of him and I thought it would be really great but it was awful because I couldn’t talk to anybody," said Cornell. "So I started writing songs. That was the only thing I could really think of to do. The songs I wrote weren’t really stylistically like something my band Soundgarden would be used to playing or be natural for us to do, but it was material that Andy really would have liked, so I didn’t really want to just throw it out the window or put it away in a box.”

Cornell then got in touch with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Mother Love Bone (at the time) and asked if they would be interested in this side-project of his. “I was getting to be friends with these guys before he died, actually, and it just seemed like maybe it was a good idea,” said Cornell. “So anyway, these guys had material that they had worked on before and since he died. It sort of at first was this requiem thing but it ended up just sort of being, ‘Let’s make a record,’ this cool collaboration and that’s what it sort of turned out to be, really.”

Ament added, “It was a really good thing at the time for us too, because Stone and I were still trying to figure out what the hell we were doing. It kind of put us in a band situation where we could play and make music, and I think in some ways it was so much fun that we didn’t want to stop.”

Meanwhile, after ditching their original name "Mookie Blaylock", the structure of Pearl Jam was starting to take form, working on their immortal Ten album, and even flying out Eddie Vedder for his audition.

Cornell, Ament and Gossard proceeded to recruit the talents of Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, with some vocal assistance from Vedder on some songs like "Pushin Forward Back," "Your Savior," "Foul Walled World," and "Hunger Strike."

Cornell said of Vedder's role on "Hunger Strike," “[Eddie] was at one of our rehearsals for Temple of the Dog because he had flown up here. It was the week he was trying out for [Pearl Jam] I guess, and he told me afterwards that he really liked that song and the thing about that song among a couple of others that were stylistically the vocals really weren’t anything that I had done before, on a record anyway. It wasn’t really the way I was used to singing, and I thought his voice suited that song really well and I thought it would be a great duet … He sang half that song not even knowing that I’d wanted that part to be there and he sang it exactly the way I was thinking about doing it, just instinctively.”

“When I asked him, it seemed like he was flattered,” said Cornell. “It wasn’t anything any of us had planned. He was just there and he’s a great guy and an amazing singer. I was like this is a fun project, so why not have him involved as well?”

It would appear that the positive energy running through the band at the time stayed with them for the remainder of producing the record. “The whole situation was just so non-pressure filled. Nobody expected this to be anything, so when we just went in and did it, the record company wasn’t around. We basically paid for it ourselves to start out with.” Fifteen days later, they had a record.

But at first, Temple of the Dog was met with little hype from fans. Especially since the release of powerhouse albums like Soundgarden's Superunknown and Pearl Jam's Ten officially putting both bands on the map for good. That was until "Hunger Strike" shot up the charts and landed a spot as a single on the Top 5 rock chart. “I remember thinking that this was a really beautiful song when I heard it,” said Mike McCready to Guitar School. “Chris Cornell showed me the riff. I had a ’62 reissue Strat and I wanted to use the fourth-position tone setting — between the bridge and middle pickups — for the beginning of the song because I like that softer sound. Then I kicked it to the front pickup for the heavier part of the song. This is one of many amazing songs written by Chris.”

From there, album sales skyrocketed, aiding them to peak at the number 5 spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart and eventally earning platinum status.