Anyone who knows me, knows how strong my passion for music is. As one of my mentors and good friends, Mitch Melnick of TSN 690, does so splendidly, I too do my best to incorporate that passion into my work as a radio host anytime I host a show. That is why we have this page “Puck Rocks” here at Murphy’s Hockey Law.
So after waking up to the news that Chris Cornell, a musician who helped shape my musical palate, had passed away at age 52 Wednesday night, I would be remiss not to write on the tragic news today. First and foremost, I extend my deepest condolences to the Cornell family, his friends and fellow band members from Soundgarden, Temple Of The Dog, Audioslave, as well as any other musicians he knew and collaborated with, and there were plenty.
There were plenty because Cornell had the best voice of the early nineties grunge movement and of the best in rock music until he passed away in Detroit Wednesday night. Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Nirvana all changed the music landscape and for those in their high school and college days at the time, likely had a lasting influence on their CD then iPod and now smartphone music libraries.
I know grunge has a mixed legacy, but if you were 18 in 1992, and the right kind of kid, it changed your life. It was more than music.
— Chris Jones (@EnswellJones) May 18, 2017
Personally, Cornell’s voice to this day, sends chills through me and brings back so many memories from my high school and college years. From Soundgarden to Temple Of The Dog to Audioslave later in my middle age years, he has been a constant in musical soul and that’s likely why, spent the first half hour of my day Thursday, laying in bed, tears flowing and to be quite honest, feeling old. It probably didn’t help that this was the first Cornell song I heard when I turned on my Soundgarden Pandora channel.
Much like most of you who are 38-47 years old, we’ve seen way too many musicians who likely played a role forming our musical selves, pass on in the last two years. The likes of David Bowie, George Michael, Phife Dawg (Tribe Called Quest) and Prince, all left us. We’re at that age now, where not only are people dear to us on a personal level unfortunately dying, but also musicians, actors, actresses and other figures that are part of our collective memories.
Thursday’s news on Cornell was just another example of that. But what moments like this do, is they trigger our memories and bring us to certain chapters in our lives. For me, Cornell, Soundgarden and Temple of The Dog helped script the first chapter to my still and likely ever evolving musical story.
I was 17. It was a beautiful Saturday; August 8, 1992 to be exact. I woke up at my friend Aaron Kayce’s Mom’s house in Hingham, MA. Aaron, a bunch of his high school friends and I were preparing to go to my first outdoor concert without parental supervision and I was driving the crew in my Mom’s old red Volvo station wagon. Mom had already read me the riot act of rules and curfew was set for 1 AM. Yeah, like that was going to happen!
We packed the car with “sodas”, picked up the lads and headed down 95 to the Great Woods Amphitheater in Mansfield, MA. (Note: It has since changed names at least three times and is currently known as the Xfinity Center).
By the way, if you’re in the Bay Area and love music, Aaron runs a great music venue, Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA. Drop by, tell him I sent you, and mention this story!
I remember all of us trying to Outshine Cornell and Eddie Vedder as they belted out “Hunger Strike” on the radio. We of course failed miserably!
We arrived early; got a prime tailgating spot, set up shop and the festivities commenced. I was the designated driver that night so, I was drinking gatorade. Obviously I was happy for safety reasons, I was sober but also, so I could remember one of still, the top 5 concerts I’ve ever been to. Oh by the way, it was Lollapalooza 1992. Yes! That Lollapalooza! This was the setlist for the main stage:
Alice In Chains, Ice Cube, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Ministry, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Think about that!
At the time I really didn’t and had no idea of the music history that I was seeing in one show and venue. I also had no idea what I would see and be part of as the show went on. Pearl Jam and Soundgarden absolutely rocked and after they finished with some great duets by Vedder and Cornell, I know I was thinking the rest of the show might be anti-climactic. But more on that in a bit.
Cornell’s voice, despite me sitting way in the back of the lawn against the fence, engulfed me. Despite all the people around me, I was simply lost in the music and only the thunderous applause when he finished brought me back to my surroundings. That was my first impression and it will last a lifetime as I’m sure it will for many who were there that day.
So after Vedder, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Cornell were done, and we awaited Ministry to take the stage, I went for a Pepsi and a dog, trying to fathom the musical brilliance I had just witnessed. But as I trekked over to the concession stand at the top corner of the lawn seating, a ruckus ensued right where I had been watching Soundgarden and Pearl Jam from. Fans who couldn’t get tickets had rushed the wooden fences in the center and were pouring onto the lawn in almost stampeded fashion.
Security scrambled to stop them but they had no chance and just grabbed whomever they could. Of course when Ministry came on, they welcomed the new visitors and within minutes the fence was completely gone. If memory serves me correct, security made Ministry end their set early as they attempted to bring peace to what was now complete chaos!
If memory serves me correct, the Chili’s who were the final act of the night, took the stage just over an hour later. But right before they did, and just as all seemed calm, fans decided to use the wood from the fence and form three separate bonfires on the lawn. Think Lord Of The Flies! That caused another half hour delay but it was well worth the wait because when the Chili’s finally took the stage they did so with helmets that were shooting flames! I remember lead singer Anthony Kiedis telling the crowd:
“What’s up Boston? We wanted to make sure we fit in!”
I scoured youtube to find a clip of the actual show but no luck. Here’s the Chili’s doing the same thing in 1994 at The Reading Festival:
While that is obviously a lasting and hilarious memory from that amazing show almost 25 years ago, Cornell’s voice and stage presence is what I remember most. His voice is also part of another great hockey memory as well. Almost 19 years after Lollapalooza ’92, I was lucky enough to be a Boston Bruins beat reporter for ESPNBoston.com and cover the team’s run to the Stanley Cup. The amazing production crew for TD Garden decided to use “Cochise” by Cornell and Audioslave as the intro song for the team when they took the ice for every playoff game at TD Garden that year and man, it worked like a charm! That building absolutely rocked when the song kicked in, the lights went on and the team skated out and circled their zone!
So not only is Cornell part of my music soul be he also holds a spot in my career as a hockey scribe. His music transcended into so many areas of my life and memories. He helped start my musical story; he’s been in many different chapters of my life since and I’m sure that while he’s gone, there will still be more. Heaven just added one heck of a frontman to that band up there!
By the way, the aforementioned Melnick, opened his show “Melnick In The Afternoon” Thursday with this:
Well done Mitch. I’ll now close this debut column of “Puck Rocks” and tribute to Christopher John Boyle (Cornell) with this. It’s not quite Great Woods (yes I’ll always call it that!) but it gets the message across as to why I spent the first half hour of my day Thursday in tears but also the rest of it in smiles remembering a show and a voice that helped shape my musical soul! RIP Chris.