Mother Love Bone- The band that Invented Grunge

An insight into the most influential band that you’ve probably never heard of.

Image Credit: James Bland

Before Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam, there was Mother Love Bone: the band that pioneered a new genre before they met their tragic end.

Forming in 1987, Mother Love Bone were one of the first Seattle-based bands to gather momentum in the alternative metal scene, with elaborate frontman, Andrew Wood, single-handedly bringing a unique, theatrical element to the band.

Typically, the Grunge scene is associated with melancholy, loss and substance abuse. However, this was far from the case for Mother Love Bone. Their camp, high-energy presence was more reminiscent of the infamous glam era than the lacklustre aura of bands such as Nirvana.

Fronted by former Malfunkshun vocalist, Wood’s light-hearted approach to the scene was a refreshing break from the egocentric nature of the music scene. His charismatic stage presence put Seattle on the map for those who were looking for something more than the arrogant, leather-clad rockstars seen all too frequently at the time.

Influenced by vocalists such as Ronnie James Dio, the band captured something new in their music: an uptempo, danceable sound alongside lyrics that tackled deep-rooted personal battles. With their simplified backing melodies, dominated by powerful vocals that expressed personal turmoil, Mother Love Bone paved the way for all the Grunge bands that were to follow, with vocalists such as Chris Cornell and Layne Staley openly incorporating the same themes in their lyrics.

Despite experiencing a considerable deal of recognition with hits such as ‘Stardog Champion’ and ‘This is Shangrila’, the band had unknowingly had reached the pinnacle of their success before the release of their debut album, Apple

Just days before the release of the album, Wood fatally overdosed on heroin, something the frontman had openly struggled with for a number of years beforehand. The remaining members pushed ahead to release the album, but disbanded shortly after, with members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard later going on to form Pearl Jam. 

Although the success of Mother Love Bone was abruptly cut short before they could experience the same fame of other bands in the Grunge scene, the impact they left in forming the genre is unquestionable. 

From the iconic mural in their hometown (as pictured above) to the tribute-album by Grunge supergroup, Temple of the Dog, it is undeniable that Andrew Wood and the rest of Mother Love Bone were the pioneers of the genre and galvanised attention towards Seattle as the 1990s approached.  

Regardless of their lack of recognition nowadays, the memory of the band is permanently engrained in the heart of bands such as Screaming Trees, Mudhoney and Mad Season- as well as the more widely recognised bands from that scene. Founding the genre, Mother Love Bone is an essential, staple part of the Seattle music scene and a must-hear for Grunge fans.

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