The first time I listened to Mother Love Bone’s Apple, I was fifty percent sure I was coming down with a fever. Hot blood washed through my body like the hydrogen fumes on the surface of the sun, while waves of chills flooded my nervous system when I heard the guitar and bass lines — wah-wah infused eloquence with undertones of not a walking, but rather a marching, parading bass — by itself so familiar but in context part of something I’d never heard before, an energy that made me want to laugh and cry and scream and pound my fist in the air with this new and charismatic voice that had reached deep into me, grabbed my soul, and pulled it up to dance . It was like listening to something that could have been, or maybe is, somewhere in a parallel universe where things turned out differently and the future was more forgiving.
Mother Love Bone was at the forefront of the early Seattle scene in the late 80s, featuring future Pearl Jam members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament as well as magnetically energetic frontman Andrew Wood. In 1988, after Wood left his band Malfunkshun and Gossard and Ament left their band Green River, the three joined forces with guitar player Bruce Fairweather and Greg Gilmore. A new sound was born by pulling influences from metal, punk, and glam rock, causing Mother Love Bone to burst onto the early Seattle scene projecting unparalleled power and energy, produced by Andrew Wood’s flamboyant, theatrical charisma, Stone Gossard’s charging yet tasteful guitar licks, and overall captivating song writing and composition. It’s no wonder that the band was propelled forward as one of the frontrunners of the early grunge movement.
By the end of 1988, Mother Love Bone was signed to PolyGram and was recording. They released their EP Shine in 1989. Their first album, Apple, was set to be released in 1990. Just days before then, Andrew Wood was found in comatose state by his girlfriend and passed away after two days on life support — yet another tragic blow to the music world as a result of a heroin overdose.
Thus, the praise following the release of Apple was muddled with a sense of loss, an emptiness that came from knowing that what the world had just gained had simultaneously been lost. Musical contributions made in Andrew Wood’s memory include Alice in Chains’ debut album Facelift, their song “Would?”, and the Temple of the Dog project (taken from the lyrics of Mother Love Bone’s “Man of Golden Words”), headed by Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and enlisting Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, and other future members of Pearl Jam Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder. It’s believed that if it wasn’t for Wood’s death, Mother Love Bone would have been one of the biggest bands of the nineties (and Eddie Vedder would have just been another local surfer in Encinitas). It’s amazing to think that the decision of a single person can rob the world of an endless number of songs, of so many more words and so much more art. Looking towards the future, there’s infinite potential for so much to happen— so it hurts even more when it can’t.
Thinking about the impermanent, fluid, dynamic, infinite nature of the universe is so overwhelming that it’s easy to drift away into the region of what could have been. I keep coming back to the seemingly impossible multiverse theory of quantum physics, in which another universe exists for every possible possibility, and we just happen to live in this one — a universe where we lost Mother Love Bone, but gained Pearl Jam, where Alexander Fleming accidentally contaminated a petri dish, but discovered penicillin and saved billions of lives, where 41 years ago on April 23, Saigon fell to a communist dictatorship and thousands of Vietnamese fled their homeland, but a second generation was born elsewhere, including half-Vietnamese children like myself who otherwise would never have existed.
The fact that all of us and everything that makes the world as we know it exists because of a delicate butterfly effect is almost scary, but it’s beautiful too. All that is now was built off of trillions of chance happenings that have accumulated over time that fit together so perfectly that it’s hard not to wonder if it really is all just chance.
For me, pondering existence is a combination of thinking about what could have been while really appreciating what we have now. While what Mother Love Bone could have been will always be an ongoing question, the one album they left behind remains as concrete proof of their potential. Andrew Wood’s death doesn’t make me love Pearl Jam any less because I’ll always appreciate good music simply for being good music. It’s all just a reminder of what makes the world so wonderful: things come and then go and then new things come in ways that you would never expect. You can try to anticipate what will come next, but there will always be something that surprises you.
With the world constantly changing and morphing into different things at an endless rate, probably the best that we mere mortals can do is to make sure that we keep all of our senses awake so that we can really live during those moments that blow our minds; so that no matter what happens in the future, we’ll always have those insanely impossible, chilling, feverish, extraordinary memories to keep in our back pockets as evidence of being completely in tune and in touch with universe and time, evidence that everyone and everything matters.
Thank you, Andrew, for making music that made everything feel impossibly beautiful, tangible, and important.