Look, I know what you're thinking:
Soundgarden? I thought this here blog was all about metal, is this a joke?
Hold on, hold on. Let me explain. Like my other "metal archeology" posts, the point of this piece (calling it a "piece" and not a "post" makes me feel like a journalist) is not the actual item pictured above. Oh no. The point of it are the stories about the time and place of when this item came into my life. Again, I'm merely sharing the memories that having found this item brought back. I found this CD at my brother's apartment, and was instantly taken back to another time and place. So, let's all gather around on the magic, story-time rug as I tell another one of my long-winded tales. One of you can sit on my lap (ideally a thin female, and not a fat beardo)...it's story time with uncle Lucho!
Pictured here is Hellen Rabinowitz, showing kids at Bay Shore Elementary in Hialeah Florida my Nuclear Death "Carrion For Worm" poster. Hellen has been instrumental in taking our Metal Archeology Series Story Time Program (MASSTP™ for short) to schools across the country. The program is designed to bring a real sense of metal history to kids who would otherwise not have access to such information. Thank you Hellen!
The year was 1991, and my brother and I lived in sunny Miami Florida. Death metal was blowing up, and we were close to ground-zero. Extreme metal was in the air, you could smell it...and because we were in Florida, it smelled a bit like old retired people, and salt water. It was a grand time to be involved in metal. Within a matter of about a year, my taste in metal had quickly escalated from Slayer to Napalm Death. Metallica had died, musically speaking, and I had to look for another musical home (so to speak) to live in. Imagine coming home from school as a kid, and seeing your house burn down. What are you gonna do? You just turn around and look for some other place to live, I guess. That's how I felt back then when I saw the world premiere of the Enter Sandman video, and in retrospect I feel like a huge douchebag for having put that much thought into Metallica's musical output. I mean, the members of the band sure didn't put that much thought or effort into it...so why did I? I'm not sure...but I was a kid, and music meant the world to me. Kirk had grown a mustache, Jason had shaved the sides of his hair, and James had somehow become a midwestern redneck. I was confused, and chose to look elsewhere for musical entertainment.
These Peel Sessions records all had the same cover. As a result, I was fooled so many times at record stores, I thought I'd found a nice clean copy of the Napalm Death record...only to find it was June Tabor or some other stupid record.
I first heard Napalm Death's Peel Sessions tape in 1989, when I dubbed it from my friends copy. At first, I didn't know what to make of it and seldom listened to it. As the bands I once regarded as being important in my life began to wither away, I turned to that Napalm Death tape for all life's answers. Sadly, all the answers I got from that tape were short, badly produced, and contained lyrical content with the kind of depth you'd expect from a sixth grade writing assignment. Nevertheless, it was a direction...a path. You see, In 1991 Nirvana became the most important thing to lots of people in this country. Since I went to a school that was about 99% latino and black, there were very few white kids around. As a result, most of the student population around me didn't know anything about Nirvana, and were actually more excited about Ice Cube's "Death Certificate" and "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted", as well as the first Cypress Hill album (which in retrospect are all good albums, even if Cypress Hill turned out to be douches in the long run, and Ice Cube turned out to have a softer side.) Still, grunge was somewhat in the air, even in Southwest Miami. Along with grunge, a subtle scent of Metallica could be detected in the air. In case you're wondering, a "subtle scent of Metallica" smells like, allow me to explain. The scent that was detectable had a hint of the greasy smell that naturally comes from Kirk's slightly hairy upper lip. Along with that smell, simply add the stench that comes from Lars' huge, untrimmed pubic bush (see below). That's the smell I'm talking about.
Please note Kirk's maniacal smile and his hand, which magically seems to have disappeared into a strategic place inside his robe. If you are ready to dry-heave, you may look at the not-work-safe version of this picture here.
I think it was around that point in my life, more than likely as a result of Metallica becoming so popular, that I started to have a general kneejerk reaction against ANYTHING that was well known by the masses. Like a jilted lover, Metallica had left me...and I took it out on everyone and everything around me. I had been a bit more understanding of pop culture and music before, but it all stopped around that year. If it was on the radio, it was bad. If it was on TV, it was bad. This kind of childish outlook on the world lasted for about two years, until I began to enjoy other forms of music and I finally began to let things go. Like a bad cold, however, this view of the world kept coming back from time to time throughout my twenties in different iterations. Seeing the world in such a black and white manner is attractive, as it lays things out rather nicely. How sad. It's perhaps for this reason that I find it so amusing to see metal fans and punk rockers in their thirties or forties still hold on to that belief system. Popular is bad, unknown is good. TV is always bad, by the way...but movies are good. Go figure. Hmm. But I'm getting off topic once again. Way off topic.
Why are they wearing sunglasses? If you were one of the people responsible for their awful body of work, wouldn't you also try to hide your identity? This is the group of guys who brought you "The Unforgiven", parts 1, 2 and 3. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I like And Justice For All...but the best Metallica songs are the ones they cover. At best, I think they make a pretty good Misfits cover band.
It was during that time that the infamous Metallica/Guns N Roses/Soundgarden tour came to the Orange Bowl. That poor stadium, I'm sure the Orange Bowl never saw sucking that bad until the 2007 Dolphins season. Even then, I doubt that a 1-15 record could compare to "November Rain" AND "The Unforgiven" being played in one venue, all in one night. Ouch. So, although we thought Metallica pretty much sucked by then (and had always hated Guns N Roses, since we weren't posers), we went to our local Sears, which was located by the Dadeland mall. There, we attempted to buy tickets for the show, since Sears was a Ticketmaster outlet. We wanted to get tickets for my brother and his girlfriend (who owned a cool Testament tshirt), our friend Aaron and me. Quick side story about Aaron, a guy who deserves an entire post on this blog. Aaron was a huge Danzig fan. Oddly enough, Danzig is huge himself these days.
Aaron was from the Dominican Republic (or was it Puerto Rico?), and was black. He apparently didn't know he was black, and commonly made racist remarks. My brother would often say "hey, that's not cool to say...and you're black by the way!" He would get extremely angry when my brother told him he was black, which he most certainly was. There would be absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind, believe me. Anyway, Aaron was way into Wolverine, and comic books in general. It didn't dawn on me until recently that the character Wolverine is supposed to be very short...and that lots of stupid short guys love him for that reason. Did you know that there are actually some Wolverine fans who are angry that the character is being played by Hugh Jackman who is " too tall"? Even as a short man myself, I get severe douche-chills just thinking about anyone giving a rats ass about this...but many do. So, short dudes like Glenn Danzig and Aaron are big fans of Wolverine because he was short and powerful or something. I hate comic books, so my knowledge about the subject ends there. Aaron had stupid Wolverine sideburns, wore a huge Danzig pendant, and loved the tiny man from New Jersey (no, I'm not talking about fellow MI staffer Mr. Gene Hoglan's Balls.) Perhaps the greatest story about Aaron is that he once came into a class he had with my brother in High School and loudly yelled out the following to my brother, as he entered the room:
"Good news! My mom is letting me relax my hair!"
This of course, was as a result of him not being able to have flowing locks, like his hero Glenn Danzig. Now I must ask you...how on earth do you not realize that you are black when you have to relax your hair in order to have a Danzig-like mane? I know many people identify with their nationality, rather than race (as a Latino I'm well awere of this) but this kid was a trip. I hereby urge my brother to write about our dear friend Aaron.
Where was I? Oh yes...so we went to Sears to buy tickets for the Metallica show. By the time we got to the counter, the guy said there was one ticket left. Just one. We didn't get it, and were bummed, while at the same time knowing that we all kinda' hated Metallica by that point. Still, I had never seen Metallica...and thought I should see them once. It's like going to see the grandmother you never knew about in the old folks home. It's a bit of a bummer, you know? We left Sears a bit down, and probably headed over to Y&T records, to drown our miseries away through metal consumerism. I'm sure I bought a Broken Hope cassette, and all was forgotten.
My favorite part about this album is the song "Swamped in Gore", particularly the part that goes "Gore, Gore, Gore, Gore". It's like they took lyric writing lessons from The Exploited or something.
As the months passed, we forgot about the show. More and more posers were listening to Metallica by then, and we figured that not going to the show was the more metal thing to do anyway. Around that time, Headbanger's Ball began to play the video for the Soundgarden song "Jesus Christ Pose", and I was mildly entertained by it. It was no Obituary, but it was certainly better than the Firehouse videos they were playing well into 1992. Shortly before the Metallica/Guns N Roses concert happened, we found out that Soundgarden (the opening band) would be doing an in-store appearance at Y&T Records on the day of the show, and we decided to go. They weren't a favorite band of ours, we actually didn't even own one of their records...but we went anyway. We went to that store about once a week anyway, so it gave us an excuse to go again. On the day of their signing, my brother, his friend Eric and I went. Eric was a very fat guy, who proudly rocked an awful teenage mustache, and had hygiene habits that were questionable at best. My brother was good friend's with him, and he once gave him a handwritten transcription of the full lyrics to Gwar's "Slaughterama" (including all the talking parts). It was like three pages long. He's another character that deserves an entire post. His mustache was thin, thus Kirk-like and gross, and yet his saliva was as thick as Elmer's glue on a cold day. Eric's brother was friends with Malevolent Creation, and had lots of VHS tapes of entire episodes of Headbanger's Ball dating back to when Adam Curry hosted the show. His brother, I should also mention, had this awful pair of sweatpants that was covered in skeletons having sex in different positions. Talk about depressing. By the way, I tried to find a picture of such sweat pants, but was unable to find any. I mean, what should I look for on Google "extremely depressing, awful sweatpants"? I don't even know where to begin.
But back to the story, I apologize for continuously getting sidetracked. I remember waiting in line at the signing, and realizing I had nothing to get signed. The line was short, maybe ten to twenty people or so. Luckily, the label was giving away free promo CDs, so we each took one and got the one you see above signed. Since we were the last people there to get something signed, the guys in the band stood up, and started looking around the record store along with us once they signed our stuff. I remember looking at the death metal vinyl, standing side by side with Chris Cornell. As we were standing there flipping through Revenant records, a store employee told the guys in Soundgarden that they could each pick a shirt from the wall, as a thank you from the store. Still standing next to me, Chris Cornell looked at the wall-o-shirts, trying to make up his mind. He turned to me and asked:
"What do you think, Black Sabbath or Slayer?"
I told him to go with Slayer, and he did. It was a horrible shirt, which had all-over print...that awful trend of oversized screening from the early 90s that thankfully never really took off. It was like an alternate t-shirt format, much like VHS and Beta or Blueray and HD-DVD. The format failed, because Blue Grape Merchandise didn't really get behind it. They were heavily investing in hockey jerseys at the time. At least that's how I remember things. Perhaps Guav can give us more info, since he's our industry insider. Back to the actual shirt though, I always wondered if Chris Cornell wore the shirt that night at the show, in front of a packed stadium. Maybe he did. I remember seeing him about a year later on MTV, wearing what I believed to be this very shirt under a jacket. I would be lying to you if I didn't admit that back then it made my day.
A few years go by, and Soundgarden become huge. I was at the end of my High School education, and I suddenly found the extra copy of the promo CD that my brother and I had. We had each gotten one that day, but only got one signed. Without even thinking about it, I took a Sharpie marker, and copied the signatures from the one we got signed, to the unsigned one. My forging abilities were not great, but good enough. I even took care and used a red Sharpie to duplicate Chris Cornell's signature, (since he signed the real one in red) as though it mattered. I took the CD to school, and told the kids at my lunch table the very story you just read. Upon finishing the story, I brought out the CD, and asked who wanted to buy it. Some kid I barely knew, who was way into Infectious Grooves, bought it from me. I think he paid me about twenty dollars. I hope he enjoyed the hell out of his fake Soundgarden signatures. I know I enjoyed his twenty bucks.