The Death Of Andy Wood, The Birth Of Pearl Jam, And How ‘Grunge’ Ate Itself

Features Editor
09.27.16 13 Comments
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Nirvana’s Nevermind, which is now 25 years old, didn’t kick off the “grunge” movement and lead singer Kurt Cobain’s suicide didn’t kill grunge either. Embers burned long after that particular fire went out and there was smoke long before anyone outside of Seattle saw a thing. Like Steve Jobs, the father of the smartphone and the digital music player who didn’t technically invent either of those things, Cobain is viewed as a pioneer instead of as a popularizer. That label-switch shouldn’t take too much away from Cobain (whose off-the-charts talent and rapid success helped create daylight for other Seattle bands to run toward — with good and bad returns), but it should remind people that there was life before “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the Seattle sound.

Also, though it effectively conveys that you’re talking about the cultural moment that occurred in the Seattle indie music scene in the ’80s and early ’90s, grunge is kind of a bullsh*t label that gets applied broadly to any band that came out of the Pacific Northwest with a record deal in the early 1990s. Metal, punk, rock, and alternative bands all seem to get slapped with that label even if Nirvana’s success tilted people’s view toward thinking that grunge was shorthand for, “Sounds like Nirvana.” But of course, so many bands in Seattle didn’t.

While both Mother Love Bone and Nirvana shared a vague geographic connection, and operated in the same space for an ever so brief moment as the Seattle scene swelled and prepared to burst, the two bands were nothing alike. Both Cobain and Mother Love Bone lead singer Andy Wood had an affinity for Kiss while growing up, but it was Wood who stood out from the pack and fully embraced that influence.

Mentioned in the same breath as Freddie Mercury, David Lee Roth, and Gary Numan by peers, Wood was poised to ride the imminent release of Mother Love Bone’s debut LP, Apple, to become the Seattle sound’s first breakout star. He craved that kind of success and it seemed as though it was his destiny, but instead, he tragically passed away on March 19, 1990 following a heroin overdose. Wood was just 24 years old. His death changed everything years before it allegedly got its start.