The first grunge-era band to get signed to a major label was Seattle’s own Soundgarden. They got started officially in 1984, naming themselves after a sound sculpture near Seattle’s Magnuson park. One of six bands to appear on the first grunge compilation, Deep Six, released in 1986, Soundgarden’s original sound was psychedelic garage — very influenced by Led Zeppelin — and Chris Cornell started out singing in a screaming-style voice. By the time their first EP, Screaming Life, came out in 1987 on Sub Pop, Cornell had already made his voice more pop-friendly. What stood out about this band from the start was their ability to write strong hooks and hard-hitting guitar riffs that were balanced by emotional lyrics.
In 1988, Soundgarden signed to big label A&M. On this label they would become world famous, winning Grammys and making platinum albums. The 1994 full-length, Superunknown, is one of the great (some say the greatest) releases of the grunge era. “Black Hole Sun”, “Spoonman” and “Fell on Black Days” are still getting airplay.
In April of 1997, Soundgarden made an announcement that they were calling it quits. But in 2010, the group got back together, playing reunion shows and releasing a greatest hits collection, Telephantasm. Their 2011 live album (their first ever), Live from I-5, dropped in March.
Soundgarden just announced a new tour — no dates in Seattle yet — you can get the latest scoop at the band’s website. Chris Cornell plays an acoustic show on May 1st at the Moore. For more on the history of grunge check out the Experience Music Project’s new museum exhibit “Nirvana”. Tickets and info here.
KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers with assistance from John Felthous, Tiffany Grobelski, Mary Janisch and Executive Producer Kevin Cole. If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.