The Top 10 Songs by Soundgarden

From the first moment I ever heard the voice of Chris Cornell, I was hooked on Soundgarden. His voice was rough-hewn, yet smooth and sweet at the same time, and you knew the minute you heard it exactly who it was, which is what made me a fan-Soundagarden’s unique style. Back in the early ’80s when the band was just beginning, Cornell was a drummer, but wanted more musical control than drummers are usually allowed: “I always figured I would just end up being such a good drummer that the best band in the world would ask me to be in it,” says Cornell. “I guess I lost that attitude pretty quick.” (Unofficial Soundgarden homepage)

Here is a brief history of Soundgarden: the earliest beginnings came from founders Kim Thayil and his roommate Matt Dentino. At that time they were performing in a cover band called “The Shemps.” Chris Cornell answered an ad for a vocalist, placed by Dentino, which marked his role reversal from drummer to singer, at least most of the time. On occasion he would double upon both. Thayil admired Cornell’s voice immediately: “When I met Chris,” says Thayil, “my first impression was that he was some guy who just got out of the navy or something. He had real short hair and was dressed real slick. He had a great voice – even though we were doing shitty material.” (Unofficial Soundgarden homepage) Thayil felt that Dentino’s material was not original, and they spent too much time performing the songs of the Doors, Hendrix, Otis Redding and Buddy Holly.

In 1984, Cornell and Hiro Yamamoto (bass), formed what we now know as Soundgarden, and was joined by Kim Thayil. Scott Sundquist joined the band as drummer to give Chris the liberty to concentrate on doing the main vocals. In 1986, Sundquist was replaced by Matt Cameron, formerly of a the band The Skin Yard. In 1989, after the release of Louder than Love, Yamamoto left the band to go back to college, and was temporarily replaced by Jason Everman, formerly of Nirvana, who was replaced permanently by Ben Sheperd. Alas, on April 9, 1997, Soundgarden permanently disbanded.

To begin with the countdown, I’ll say that most of the songs I like best are from the albums Badmotorfinger, 1991, and the awesome Superunknown, 1994,(my personal favorite), but Down on the Upside had some great songs too. I know many of my friends and others that will disagree with the order in which I have placed these songs, or even the songs I have chosen, however this is MY top 10, going from top to bottom:

Fell on Black Days: This is my least favorite Soundgarden song, however, I remember hearing it relentlessly when it was released. I did like it, but feel it lacked the raw emotion of some of the group’s other hits, and as the beatniks used to say, “It just didn’t grab me.” But, since it was such a big hit, I felt compelled to include it.

Black Hole Sun: I absolutely loved this song the first time I heard it, but it became tiresome to me because it was played so much. It does bring back many fond memories of some good times with friends, so it is still one of my faves. Besides, I love the dark and cryptic intro.

Outshined: A big hit off the Badmotorfinger album, I like the vocals, Kim’s heavy-hitting guitar, and again, it just brings back many fond memories of cook-outs and get-togethers. That might be an odd way to file your favorite songs, but most of the songs I really like I always seem to associate it with what I was doing at the time I would hear them played. Maybe I’m just weird, but I think that is just one of the many appeals to music in our lives.

Pretty Noose: The first release off Down on the Upside. Again, I’d have to say what makes me so fond of this song would have to be Kim’s churning guitar intro and Chris’s cathartic vocals. I played this song so many times, I thought my parents were going to kill me.

Blow Up the Outside World: Another single from Down on the Upside, I feel that the group became progressively more psychedelic with their sound as time passed, and less punk. The depressing lyrics did not hurt the success of this song one bit, and it is one of my favorites overall.

Burden in my Hand: This song is a perfect example of the power and emotion in Chris Cornell’s voice.

Mailman: It might not have been released as a single, but I love this song, and it is a pure tribute to anyone who has ever felt overlooked, jilted, or screwed-over. Great vocals, powerful guitar riffs. Wow!

The Day I tried to Live: A dark song, with lyrics powerful and mesmerizing. This was another song off the fantastic Superunknown, and once again, by the release of this album, their punk influences are down-played, and many feel Superunknown is reminiscent in many ways to “Mid-period Led Zepellin.” I’m not sure about that.

Spoonman
: Although a big hit, I was the only one in my group of friends who liked this song. It is still today, one of my favorites.

The 4th of July: My favorite of all, even though it was never a hit, and never released. I simply loved everything about it, from the hard and powerful guitar intro, the vicious vocals, the lyrics, like I said, everything. It is the epitome of raw emotion, a psychedelic opus!

Well, those are my picks and when you truly love a band or group, the hardest thing to do is pick their 10 best songs. There were only a very few songs Soundgarden released that I didn’t like, so this has proven to be a major task. I am sad the group split, but I am very happy that Chris has formed Audioslave with former Rage Against the Machine Members(another band I like). It’s great to hear that amazing voice again!

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