Everyone’s got building block bands from when they were younger. Usually, who we love early on isn’t necessarily still a favorite upon reaching adulthood, as tastes evolve and become more refined with time. But those early favorites can—and often are—a gateway into a whole new world of music, helping to discover more and more about what you like, what you want to hear, and who you are each step of the way.
One of my key building block bands was Audioslave, the mid-2000s supergroup fronted by Chris Cornell, with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello on lead guitar. Cornell, who passed away last night at the age of 52, was as key a figure in my development as a die-hard music fan as any—and between Soundgarden, Audioslave, and his solo work, I would have to imagine that he served in this role for myriad music fans throughout the country. It would be an embarrassment to tell you the types of music that I primarily listened to, really, before I got into Audioslave, but I will reveal that my pre-Cornell days included the purchase of a CD copy of Sean Paul’s Dutty Rock.
At maybe 12 years old, I remember finding myself awake early on a Sunday morning, and for some reason watching a Vh1 Music Video countdown (back when music videos were still at least occasionally on TV). It was here that I first came across the video for Audioslave’s “Like A Stone,” a song that initially I wasn’t particularly fond of, but that grew on me intently. Like most things a 12-year-old does, I wasn’t fully thinking it through, and upon a revisit really liked it. I sought it out, and got into more of Audioslave’s music. This band was very solid. A few years ago, when the band’s second album came out, “Be Yourself” and “Doesn’t Remind Me” became my anthems. When everyone else in my middle school was listening to Chris Brown and Black Eyed Peas, I felt cool for listening to Audioslave.
Eventually, I was led further into the archives, finding not only Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden, but also the Pearl Jam/Cornell hybrid Temple of the Dog. It was formative experience for me, in realizing that singers can not only have success by themselves, as a solo artist, but also in jumping from band to band. I knew, at that time, of people like Mick Jagger and Sting—they had either solo success, or success with a single band, but never success with multiple bands.
Building on that theme of *music that falls by the wayside once your taste becomes more refined*, early in my high school run I went to [again, please bear with me here] Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution tour. It wasn’t that I was a huge fan of the rap-metal staple of the early-2000s (although, tbh, I kinda was), but their main support was Chris Cornell. This was my chance to see one of the closest things in my mind to a rock legend. Audioslave songs and Soundgarden songs at one show? So in. This man’s voice was one that defined rock for me at this age. Cornell, Vedder, Cobain. That was it. And his live performance lived up to my expectations—nothing flashy, but ever-solid. The songs sounded how they sound on the record. No effects.
Years later, here we are. For me to say that I’ve maintained that same fandom of Audioslave would be a lie; as with anyone, my taste shifts as I’ve grown older. But upon learning the news that I learned waking up this morning, I had no choice but to revisit the tunes of my formative days. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but these songs still hold up. They may have even be ahead of their time. We’ll never get an Audioslave reunion, like part of me always had hoped for in the back of my mind, but that’s no worry, because the master recordings—and my memories of arriving here—will last forever.