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Entertainment Weekly

Music

From the archives: Chris Cornell goes behind the scenes of Soundgarden's Superunknown

Cindy Ord/Getty Image

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In June 2014, Chris Cornell took EW behind the scenes of Soundgarden’s Superunknown to celebrate the 1994 rock opus’ 20-year anniversary. Here, EW is republishing the piece in honor of Cornell, who died Wednesday at age 52. Read on for the spoon-smacking, limo-wrecking secrets behind the now-classic album.

“Spoonman”

“Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam was doing some graphic design for the film Singles and he designed a fictitious record package, so he made up some titles and ‘Spoonman’ was one of them. There was this local Seattle guy, Artis the Spoonman — his business card was these little disposable wooden spoons you get with ice cream — but the song was an ode to an imaginary person in my head, because I didn’t know him yet. When the song became a reality, we got Artis to actually play spoons on the song.”

“Black Hole Sun”

“I had misheard a news anchor; I thought he said ‘black hole sun.’ He didn’t, but it created this image in my brain and I thought it would be an amazing song title. I didn’t think of it tempo-wise or lyrically as a hit.”

“Fell On Black Days”

“I had the title and the idea I wanted to write about probably three years before that song was finally written. I was waiting around for the right music, and there are at least two other versions of ‘Fell on Black Days,’ one of which is on the rerelease — the music is completely different, and even some of the lyrics are different. It sort of wrote itself in the end.”

“My Wave”

“There was a band called the Surf Punks, and they had this really simple line they would repeat over and over again: ‘My beach! Off my beach!’ So the line ‘Keep it off my wave’ was just to reduce the attitude of a surfer to that simplicity. It’s a real live-and-let-live sort of attitude: ‘Do whatever you want, just don’t bother me with it.’ ”

“Let Me Drown”

“Every time we make an album, I’ll be thinking about live shows. So throughout the process of writing, I’ll pause and think to myself, ‘What kind of a song would make our show better?’ That’s where ‘Let Me Drown’ came from. We needed an upper-midtempo, riff-based rock song, because that would be fun. It’s as simple as that.”

“The Day I Tried to Live”

“I think everyone goes through this, where you wake up in the morning, don’t know how you are going to get through the day, and you kind of just talk yourself into it. ‘Fell on Black Days’ is maybe a sister song to it — the feeling of waking up and realizing you’re not happy with your life.”

“Limo Wreck”

“Some songs on Superunknown defined Soundgarden as a band. If you listen to ‘Limo Wreck,’ it’s actually a complicated series of rhythms and melodies that go into these interesting places, and none of it is particularly based in any sort of rock tradition that I was aware of. We didn’t play it much live previously, but in rehearsing it now, I think it’s one of the more unusual songs I’ve heard in modern rock, really. It’s an accomplishment.”

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