Say Hello to Heaven…

“I never wanted to write these words down for you” (Chris Cornell, Temple of the Dog)

 

I know.  You’ve been patiently waiting my pontifications on this past week’s tragic loss of one of the best musicians from my (our) time.  Thank you.  I know you understand.

On Wednesday, May 24th, we lost the prophetic Chris Cornell to a sad suicide.  He finished his concert with a raucous version of Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying,” returned to his hotel room, and ended his life by hanging himself in the bathroom.

On Friday evening, my husband and I solemnly inserted my original Temple of the Dog CD into his car CD player…and just listened…in homage, in honor, as a memorial.  I felt a terrible winding in my chest…a noose of sadness, squeezing the air from my already asthmatic lungs.

I’m sure I forgot that Chris wrote Temple of the Dog almost entirely by himself.  He was Andy Wood’s roommate.  He was a rock god; there was, and never will be again, anyone to take his place.  “Say Hello” in particular, brought on such emotion that I had to crack the car window and breathe in the early spring air deeply.

Earlier, I’d been driving by myself and I just opened the communication line between this world and the next thing…and I told Cornell how I felt.  I thanked him for everything.  I told him I’d miss him dreadfully.  I didn’t ask him why.  I understand clinical depression; I don’t understand, thankfully, addiction and alcoholism.  I imagined that great line in “In My Time of Dying” where Plant rasps, “OH MY JESUS!” and talks about Jesus meeting him in the sky to give him wings.  I knew, that while we mourn, Chris is, at last, at peace.

But this world will never be the same without him, his amazing voice, his plethora of talents.

Reach down, Chris.  Reach down and pick the crowd up.

We love you.

Respectfully rocking for you,

Rachael

Wanna Show You Somethin’ Like….joy inside my heart…

…Seems I (went to see) Temple of the Dog!!!”

It isn’t an accident that my blog got my husband for me.  The brilliant but deceased Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone put together a most amazing lyric to a song I once wrote about on my blog, and when my husband thoughtfully responded to it, that’s when I knew I had to meet him.

1) He took the time to read my blog

2) He carefully and eloquently responded to it

3) The song was “Man of Golden Words” by Mother Love Bone.  I got to hear it, in the fifth row, standing next to him, four and a half years after his fated message.  The subject is also lyrics from the song.

It may take me more than one blog to explain Saturday night.  When I was ten years old and Pearl Jam took my breath away, I discovered Mother Love Bone and the tribute act, Temple of the Dog, too.  In a matter of days, I could sing every word, intone every bass line, sway my head to every guitar riff and kick my foot to every bass drum hit.

Was Eddie at the show like I had wished with all my heart?  No.  Did that change the fact that it was absolutely amazing?  No.  Chris Cornell.  That should be all I have to say.  But it was truly Chris Cornell with Pearl Jam (excluding Eddie.)  And, though fans were surprised and probably dissappointed that Vedder didn’t show for this 10-date-only U.S. tour, Chris was more than amazing to us.  He had us back him on “Hunger Strike.”  He played “Man of Golden Words” by himself with an acoustic, then melodically transitioned into a brief mix of “Comfortably Numb.”  He opened the song up with heartfelt words about what Andy meant to him, and how Andy made him a better songwriter, and how he couldn’t even listen to this song for a very long time after his passing.

They played the entirety of the Temple of the Dog album, and a generous number of tracks from Mother Love Bone’s Apple. They covered Green River and Black Sabbath…they did two encores.  They did not play “Captain Hi-Top” and I bring this up because it has become a hilarious favorite of my husband’s because Andy inquires in a raucous call, “Where’s that chicken gumbo, baby?”  I told him he should shout the question to Chris.

I can’t explain how I felt.  I should have been screaming.  I should have wanted to pass out like Beatlemania…and still, two days later, I feel like it was a dream I had, looking through glass.  I remember feeling a bit detached.  My eyes saw them.  They were five rows away from me.  My ears heard them.  My whole body contorted, gyrated, sang, screamed, pumped fists, “interpretive danced” to the lyrics…and yet, it still feels distant, though not in a bad way.

Do I have a balance on my credit card?  DO I EVER!  Did I buy a lot at the merch table?  Well, I bought a tee, a sticker and my very first ever rock n’ roll hoodie.  (I adore it.)  Did I spent a lot on a hotel, gas, food, etc.?  Yeah.  Do I regret any of it?  Hell no.  Though this meant more to me than to my husband, I am glad he was there.  I’m glad because he used the sentiments, “Words and music/my only tools […] let’s fall in love with music/the driving force of our living/the only international language/divine glory/the expression/the knees bow, the tongue confesses…the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings…” to snare me.  He said he agreed, and that we had how we FELT about music in common for sure.

We vary greatly in many ways, but this we will always share.

When I was ten, I said, “Holy shit, if Soundgarden and Pearl Jam ever went on tour, I’d sell my soul to see them.”  That was nearly 25 years ago.  My expenses are justified in that, my soul is in tact.  One of my life’s biggest dreams has come true.  Now, if only I could get to meet Eddie…

Be well and Rock ON!

Rachael

Visceral

Why the word choice?

vis·cer·al
ˈvis(ə)rəl/
adjective
  1. of or relating to the viscera.
    “the visceral nervous system”
    • relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.
      “the voters’ visceral fear of change”
      synonyms: instinctive, instinctual, gut, deep-down, deep-seated, deep-rooted, inward;

      Well, I was recently looking at a picture of Eddie Vedder at the Cubs game.  That word came to mind.  A friend of mine once said to me, “Hey, I like Pearl Jam, but for me it’s not visceral like it is for you and die-hard fans.”

      Love is visceral.  It really cannot be defined, but it can be expressed.  This visceral love of Eddie Vedder has been inside me for over 25 of my almost 35 years of life.  It’s in my blood, my bones, my memoir…it cannot be separated from my chemistry.  Why?

      Well, I said you really can’t define love.  When a young girl falls in love with a rock star, most people think it’s physical attraction.  I won’t lie–yes, at ten, I fell in love with the gyrating, long-haired, fair-eyed rock god on my old Magnovox.  But his poetic grace, his fierce activism (for the right causes), his passionate lyrics, his healing through music…the very power in his voice–his proof in all his causes through action…all attributes that made this man even more attractive to me.

      Can I explain why my chest wants to explode every time I see a picture of him?  No, and I don’t have to.  Am I a cancer patient with the Make-a-Wish foundation?  Thankfully, no, and blessings and peace to all those who suffer.  But does my heart have one lifelong wish?  Yes.  That wish is to meet him.

      What would I do?  Why am I so hell-bent on doing this before either of us leave the earth?  Because I need to thank him.  I need to connect with his energy. I’d like to have him sign my handmade ukulele (thank you, Lindsey, best friend)…I’d like to have him sign my left forearm with a simple “EV” that I would immediately get tattooed in.

      But sometimes gratitude doesn’t get its chance to shine.  So what do you do?   You pay it forward.  I often think about my own activism in social justice, kindness and appreciation to our veterans, and the way I am with people–even difficult people–are a result not only of my own beautiful soul, but also a result of Eddie who raised me.  The “fatherless” son to the “fatherless” daughter.  The world is interesting like that, isn’t it?

      So, I bought Temple of the Dog tickets in July (that yes, I’m still paying off, with interest now, because of some greedy-ass ticket scalpers).  There’s not even a guarantee that he will be there, though I’m baffled as to why not, if there are only ten shows, PERIOD.  Please, universe.  Let him be in Philly for me, even if I don’t get to meet him.

      Thank you for reading.  Thank you for supporting me and my dreams.

      Be well and rock on,

      Rachael

What do Madonna and Eddie Vedder have in common?

I’m sure they have more than I will discuss, actually.  But to me, they have this in common:  they were both my childhood heroes.  To ones that know me, that will not surprise them.  I was fortunate enough to have a mom who supported my inner performer long before I realized that this inner, artistic being was the driving force of me.

If you’ve read a long, or seen me on Facebook, you can probably say you know about why I am “obsessed” with Eddie Vedder, so I’ll start, instead, with Madonna.  The year was 1988.  I just got the patchouli-laden cassette tape, Like a Prayer, and was already wearing the tape threading down to shreds.  At age seven, I’d seen the video.  I was only aware that she was controversial in the media.  I may not have understood the weight of all the inferences in the video–what I cared about more was this was an amazing woman.  She inspired me.  I knew she was taking heat for doing something radical–and I loved it with every fiber in my being.

I created an interpretive dance to the song that I dragged my (Mormon!) friend, Samantha, into.  Mom patiently watched as I leapt from the coffee table, came down to one knee and twirled about our otherwise unused den.  I still listen to this album when I vacuum or clean the house…great calorie burner…

I also remember hearing the track that she shares with Prince.  It’s a slow, almost R&B-like duet.  I didn’t know Prince, I didn’t know of his infamy, but I knew that this was something quite special.  Prince radiated sexuality, and I picked up on that, yes, even at age 7.

Loving Madonna as a young girl shaped my feminism, my advocacy for women’s rights, and my own desire to be a female performer.  She inspired me–she told me through her music–to celebrate being female, to celebrate being artistic, and that if people didn’t like it, well, tough shit, frankly, because I have a right to do this.  I love her to this day.

As a teenager, Erotica, came out.  I didn’t ask for it.  I didn’t buy it until much later in life, but I kept my peripheral vision on it.  It seemed that these bold and erotic expressions were okay.  That it was okay to be bold and female and sexual.  Society doesn’t really teach girls to be aware of themselves, or what’s okay and what’s not.  I knew, at 13, that this exploration of art and music and sexuality was okay–well, at least it was for Madonna.

I could go on and on…

I could also go on and on about Eddie.  But I loved him, surprisingly, for the same reasons, in ways.  For example, there was something about him climbing up on a stool during MTV’s Unplugged and scrawling “PROCHOICE” on his forearm that just ignited me.  A man fighting for women’s rights?  A man who would go to conferences to advocate for women’s rights?!  Wow, amazing.  (and sexy, but remember, I was going to marry him and all…)

Eddie shaped my political beliefs.  He may not have given me this rebellious, strong-willed “freedom for everyone” attitude, but he sure did spread it like wildfire. He was my childhood role model.  I didn’t have any male role models, really.  Yes, my beloved grandpa, but he was 1240 miles away.  So Eddie became the stand-in male role model…he shaped my taste in men, my political views, my musical preferences, my poetry…my world.

So, yes, now you know that Eddie and Madonna have at least this in common:  me.

Keep on rockin’ in the (supposedly) free country,

Rachael

Bated Breath

So it happens.  You max out a credit card to go to a once-in-a-lifetime show.  Your ten-year-old self once vowed that “if this ever happened, I’d sell my soul to go see it,” and now it’s happening.  But it’s bittersweet, because you just found out there is a possibility it won’t be everything you hoped it would be.

When I was ten and fell in love with Pearl Jam, I, of course, discovered Temple of the Dog and Mother Love Bone.  For a 25th anniversary (yes, now I do feel old, thank you) the group, comprised of members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, are hosting a ten-date U.S. tour.  Only I heard, after spending an OBTUSE amount of money for a pair of tickets from a ticket scalper (see my thoughts on that in the previous blog), that Eddie might not be there.

(Record scratches.)  How?  Why?  What the hell?  Eddie was invited into this tribute band to honor the life of former Mother Love Bone frontman, Andrew Wood, who passed from a heroin overdose, after remaining “clean” for sometime.  The members of Mother Love Bone disbanded, and Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament met Mike McCready and discovered Eddie Vedder and wham!  Pearl Jam.  At the time, Matt Cameron was Soundgarden’s drummer, but now makes a perfect puzzle piece place in the group.

I bought said tickets (that I’m now paying interest on) with the full intention of bringing my ukulele to get signed, should that happen.  (Please God and Universe, align just right.)  Now, I hear that he may or may not be at certain shows.  Listen, Eddie, I have never spoken an ill word against you, nor will I ever, but I have to know…please, will you be at the Tower Theatre show on Saturday, November 5th? Please will you sign my ukulele, my arm, my soul?  May I get a picture of you, as chubby as I’ve become, to commemorate my life’s BIGGEST dream coming true?

Did you know that when I was ten I had a stained glass music note inscribed with Andy’s name on it, and another one, a heart with roses, that read: Eddie and Rachael Forever?  Come on, I was ten, cut me a break.  But please be there.  I don’t see how you could NOT be.  You sing on three of the songs, at least!  You are an integral part of that project!  And now there’s talk of a second release?!  Why would you not take part, 25 years later?  Plus, it’s only ten shows.  Ten shows upon which millons of fans were disappointed, because, once again, Ticketmaster sucks, and we waited, with breath bated, only to find out that no, we never had a chance.  Before the page could even open, all tickets were sold out.  We wasted a sick day from work to be horribly dissappointed.  Down-trodden, we turned to eBay and, instead of paying our student loans, we racked up “cashback bonuses” on our credit cards because of the ticket scalpers.

So, please.  Please be there.  Everyone who waited, breath bated, counted on this.  We can’t find a better man.

Respectfully in debt,

Rachael

Day 3: Ten of the Best Alternative Rock Albums of All-Time

Mother Love Bone Apple

This was the first and only full-length album released.  Pearl Jam fans will know it’s bittersweet because Pearl Jam rose up from the tombside soil and bloomed like an Easter lily, though it was due to the too early passing of its singer, Andy Wood.  Yet in it’s 17 tracks, Apple is an amazing “love rock” phenomenon from the 90s.  It starts with a rocking, driving “This is Shangrila” and takes you on an almost manic depressive journey for the rest of the ride.

My eleven-year-old eyes remember seeing, and only once, the “Stardog Champion” video on MTV (when MTV could be called Music Television, and was, amazing.)  https://youtu.be/k7CPIXnaeeQ  At the time I was watching this, Andy had been desceased (though I prefer the word “ascended”) for nearly two years.  The video’s images are striking, but what struck me more as I watched it, was a sense of communal mourning for Andy. I felt connected to his friends and bandmates.

Some soft songs are introspective, giving you a time to breathe between the raucous ones.  My favorite tracks are:  “Gentle Groove” “Man of Golden Words” “Capricorn Sister” “Stargazer” and “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.”  Wood proclaimed that this was “love rock.”  There are tracks that will make you testify along with him to the life-changing power of rock ‘n roll.  The album art will make you smile; the hand-scrawled sentiments may make you tear up.  But if you are a fan of 90s alternative rock, do yourself a favorite and add this to your collection.  I’m just awaiting it’s affordable arrival to vinyl.

Peace and love rock,

Rachael

Another from “One of the Ten Best Alternative Rock Albums of the 90s”, segment deux…ou dix?

Pearl Jam Ten

Oh no.  She’s the biggest Pearl Jam fan on the East Coast.  What can she possibly tell us about Ten, you wonder?  I love that Ten has 11 tracks, and I can’t even tell you if that was intentional.  What I can tell you is the following will not (no matter how brilliant they are) mention ANY of the releases.  This album was the genesis of my all-time favorite band EVER, so yeah, I’m biased.  But excluding the title tracks that grew their fandom, let’s take a look at ones only true fans would know, and ones, if you aren’t yet a fan, you should check out.  “Release.”  Beautiful lyrics, as though you are watching the miracle of a life coming into existence.  “I see the words on a rocking horse of time…I see the birds and the rain…” Low, humming like vocals carry this song along, finishing out the album.  It is a must-listen.  “Why Go” is another, totally different track that will make you want to dust your living room at light speed or jump up and down on your bed and pound on the walls.  I recommend it for a pissed off day or a track on your gym playlist.  “Oceans” only has two verses and was the first Pearl Jam song I ever memorized.  It felt like those eager, early days when I would learn to recite poems in elementary school.  Eddie’s near falsetto lilting vocalizations make you feel like you are a seagull soaring above those oceans to a long-awaited land.  I could go on and on about this one, but if you haven’t been inspired yet, I don’t think I can convince you otherwise.  I’ll keep trying in other posts, though.

Thanks for listening,

Rachael