Inducted into the lifelong Soundgarden fan club from their write up in the March ’90 issue of Go: The Rider’s Manual. pic.twitter.com/wU6I02GJfu
— Brian Tunney (@briantunney) May 18, 2017
I hated “Black Hole Sun” for over twenty years now. I hated it so much that I never ever bothered to turn the radio off or tune to a different channel whenever I had heard it play, which has to be hundreds of times in my life by now.
I know that makes no sense. I know none of this makes sense, but for a time before Soundgarden broke into the mainstream, they were my band, and to a certain degree, my 20-year-old self took “Black Hole Sun” as a betrayal against my allegiance with Soundgarden.
I hated that they were no longer mine, using “Black Hole Sun” as a sort of sacrifice to the masses, an unwritten contract that specified a move out of depressed kid’s bedrooms and onto the radio.
More specifically, I hated what that song symbolized in my relationship to Soundgarden. We weren’t one-on-one friends anymore; we were acquaintances among millions of acquaintances. And the reason I always let that song play was because I liked the way we used to be before Soundgarden got more friends (listeners). I liked the reminder of how things once were between me and the band.
I know, it’s stupid and selfish.
Chris Cornell died last week at the age of 52. He took his own life. I first heard Soundgarden when I was 15 years old, and now, some 28 years later, Cornell was gone on his own accord. I didn’t know him personally but I also did, and it kinda shook me up for a few days.
The day it happened, I ended up on the Seattle station, KEXP, who played a full-day tribute to Cornell’s life and music, in Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and on his own. We had no answers for Cornell’s death, but we had his music, of which there is a huge assortment. I just kinda soaked it up and concentrated on the riffs and his lyrics and felt what he gave to the world as much as I possibly could. He gave a lot.
My one brush with Soundgarden happened sometime in 2006. I was in a grocery store in Seattle and saw Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil in the cereal aisle. He had one of those one-person baskets and was shopping like a normal person and no one in the grocery store seemed to care that he had sold over 10 million records. This had nothing to do with Chris Cornell’s death, but it made me appreciate that Seattle didn’t really raise its successful artists up to be gods. The city still let them do the everyday things that people have to do, like buy cereal.
I pretended like I wasn’t a fan. But I can’t pretend anymore. Chris Cornell and his band’s music were a huge part of my 20s and 30s and now 40s. It seeped into so many parts of my life that I had never thought to take a second look at, and it was played so often as a background soundtrack that it became a part of me.
I wanted to hate the music, I wanted to hate the band, but the truth is, they’re a part of me that helped to raise me up into an adult, and although we weren’t the secret friends we once were in my teens, I had to take a good long look at “Black Hole Sun” and come to terms with its presence in my life.
It’s always going to be there, and that’s what I get to take away from my relationship with Chris Cornell and Soundgarden.
You don’t get that too often in life.