Mother Love Bone was an American rock band that formed in Seattle, Washington in 1988. The band was active from 1988 to 1990. Frontman Andrew Wood’s personality and compositions helped to catapult the group to the top of the burgeoning late 1980s/early 1990s Seattle music scene. Tragically, Wood died only days before the release of the band’s debut album, Apple, thus ending the group’s hopes of success. Although Mother Love Bone is to this day remembered by many as a very talented band in its own right, its legacy, for some, is overshadowed by Wood’s death and the bands that its former members would later form.
Mother Love Bone was established in 1988 by ex-Green River members Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Bruce Fairweather, ex-Malfunkshun frontman Andrew Wood and ex-Ten Minute Warning and Skin Yard drummer Greg Gilmore. Initially the group was formed in 1987 out of covers outfit Lords of the Wasteland which featured Wood, Gossard, Ament and Malfunkshun drummer Regan Hagar. By early 1988 the band had added Fairweather, replaced Hagar with drummer Greg Gilmore and changed its name to Mother Love Bone. This new lineup quickly set about recording and playing area shows and by late 1988 had become one of Seattle’s more promising bands.
In early 1989 the band signed to PolyGram subsidiary Mercury Records. As part of its contract PolyGram also created the Stardog Records imprint exclusively for the band. In March of that year the group issued its debut EP, Shine, becoming the first of the new crop of Seattle bands to have a release on a major label. The record sold well and rapidly increased the hype surrounding the band.
In late 1989 the group returned to the studio (this time in Apple. Despite some initial difficulties, the record was on-time for its projected March 1990 release. By this point interest in the band had hit a fever pitch and it seemed destined that the band were going to make it big. Only days before the release of Apple, however, frontman Andrew Wood, who had a long history with drug problems, overdosed on heroin. After spending a few days in the hospital in a coma, Wood died, effectively bringing the group to an end. The album would see release later that year in July.
In the months following Wood’s death, Gossard and Ament would be approached by Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell (who was Andrew Wood’s roommate), and asked if they would be interested in recording a single containing two songs he had written in tribute to Andrew Wood. The project turned into an entire album and the group took the name Temple of the Dog, a reference to a line in the lyrics of a song penned by Wood. After Temple of the Dog, Gossard and Ament founded Pearl Jam along with Mike McCready of Shadow, Eddie Vedder of Bad Radio, and Dave Krusen. Pearl Jam rocketed to fame with its debut album Ten and is still active today. Pearl Jam has released eight albums in total and continues to tour.
Fairweather initially remained inactive but later surfaced in the Seattle based psychedelic rock band Love Battery, replacing Tommy Simpson on bass in 1992. He played on two of the band’s albums and many of its tours before leaving that band as well and dropping off the radar. In 2006, he resurfaced in The Press Corps, with Garret Shavlik (The Fluid) and Dan Peters (Mudhoney).
Gilmore’s profile also dropped significantly following Mother Love Bone’s demise although he did participate in the reunion of his former band Ten Minute Warning in 1998, and was credited with providing ‘inspiration’ for the song “Never the Machine Forever” (credited as being written by Kim Thayil) on Soundgarden’s final studio album, 1996’s Down on the Upside. The song initially came out of a jamming session Thayil had with Gilmore.
Ira Robbins of Entertainment Weekly said, “Mother Love Bone—the band’s total output—suggests a young, hungry Aerosmith hooked on Led Zeppelin.”
The song “Would” by Alice in Chains was written about Andrew Wood.
“Stardog Champion” is the second song on Mother Love Bone’s self-titled album.
Stardog Champion – Wood
San Francisco, where the flowers bloom in spring
I said, fade to winter – and see what disease brings
Augustino, with his eyes once a shining sea
I said he’s half a shadow – God don’t let that be me
I’m a Stardog Champion
West Virginia, that’s where my father lies
He was a wartime hero, the kind that money buys
It’s a diamond bracelet, for my mommy’s memory
That’s all she wrote boy – that’s all she wrote for me
I’m a Stardog Champion
I’m a Stardog
And the children
They used to sing of love
From the Lord above
I said the children they used to sing out loud
Sing it loud
- Audio from the 1998 album, Mother Love Bone: