My First Soundgarden Purchase

Yes, kids, I used the word “purchase,” because that’s how us old Gen-X-ers used to do it. We heard something we liked on the radio/saw something we liked on MTV and then we marched on down to the record shop to pick it up. OK, once in a while we’d get 8 CDs for a penny through Columbia House or BMG, but most of the time the music was acquired at the record store.

In 1991 I was 13. To me, 1991 was always an important year in music because it was the first year I was really an active music fan. I started buying more music that year, paying attention to MTV countdown shows, picking up rock magazines like Rip, Circus, and Hit Parader, and buying black, heavy metal T’s and repping the bands I was into at the time (Metallica, GNR, Ozzy, etc.). It turns out that it was a pretty good year to start paying attention to things because ’91 really was a significant year in the history of pop music. Two of the reasons why were that hip hop went full-on mainstream and grunge exploded. I dabbled in both, enjoying releases from Ice Cube, N.W.A., and Ice-T that year along with Nevermind, Ten, and an album by the name of Badmotorfinger. MTV had “Outshined” in rotation by December of that year and not long after, I was on my way to Rasputin Records in Pleasant Hill, CA to score a copy for myself. “Rusty Cage,” and “Outshined” were my first two Soundgarden favorites, with the mega-smash Superunkown to follow in ’94, which become a massive part of the soundtrack to my junior year in high school. I was also a big fan of Down on the Upside, which was in heavy rotation in my first year at the student-run radio station I worked at in Concord, CA in 1996.

Chris Cornell’s voice was there when I became a music fan. It was there when I was figuring stuff out in high school. It was there when I started working in radio and has remained there throughout my 20+ years of yakking into a mic between records. It was a strong, confident voice that could fill a room without amplification, and it was one of the most recognizable voices in rock music history. It’s too early to try to make sense of what happened or to hypothesize about why he may have done what he did, when he did it. All we can do right now is mourn the loss of a truly great frontman. He will be missed.

More from Jason Thomas
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