BBP!’s Album of the Week: “Apple,” Mother Love Bone (1990)

Ex parte: Andy Wood, “Apple,” the death of my marriage, my brain, and the Seattle scene

Musicianship, heart. If you haven’t heard Mother Love Bone’s Apple, throw your ’90s tapes away.

Imagine a world without Starbucks, without Amazon Prime. Though Microsoft has taken a backseat to iMac, Seattle in its totality, would be nothing without the exploitation of grunge. And grunge may not have actually existed if it wasn’t for Mother Love Bone lead singer Andy Wood.

Andy and grunge are synonymous.

Four cities (Portland, Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle) and two bridging sounds (punk, metal); there are actually only TWO major components that brought the burgeoning scene of the Pacific Northwest in the early ’90s to the masses—Sub-Pop founder Bruce Pavitt and Andy’s untimely death.

Prior to forming Mother Love Bone with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, Andy’s band, Malfunkshun, is linked to the first grunge compilation, the coveted Deep Six EP alongside Melvins, U-Men, and Green River. Malfunkshun only ever toured as far as Olympia, where it’s rumored that Andy serenaded Kurt Cobain, who was drunk and passed out on a folding chair…oh yeah, Andy was also the roommate and close friend of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.

I’m a stereotypical grungy. I’ve spent all my adult life bouncing back and forth between Portland and Seattle, and never once considered listening to Mother Love Bone. Music brought me back from a severe traumatic brain injury sustained in 2018, so it was difficult to gravitate towards new sounds and albums. Things that didn’t already have a foundation in my mind refused to resonate.

All grunge records exhausted into a cesspool of three-chord cacophony, and once my brain had become be more receptive to new information, I found myself at High Voltage records in Tacoma, torn over a reprint of God’s Balls by Tad, when a UK pressing of Mother Love Bone’s Apple LP caught my eye. Despite the high price point, though it wasn’t 180 gram, I figured, what the hell.

Upon arriving home, I ripped through the cellophane and Mother Love Bone’s Apple, just as my emotions ripped through me. I’d been distraught since July 2021, when my spouse confoundingly ghosted me, and I posted up in Olympia. “Stargazer” became the track of every perilously lonely night I’d spend inside my floor-to-ceiling windowed 400-square foot abode overlooking Capitol Lake. For every awful venture out I made in attempt to be social with the waning, drunken grungies, there would be a jukebox drop of the signature track where I’d slowly and lowly fall apart, then disassemble completely behind my iced nightcap, only to crawl back home and drop the needle on the track over and over again until I’d pass out.

It’d been quite some time since I could commensurate with a song, let alone an entire album. For that I say without understatement, Apple is a masterpiece, because what sets Mother Love Bone aside from all the other artists of the that era, is its leaning towards the sound of the Sunset Strip, nearly akin to Guns N’ Roses (which leads me to wonder if there was a link between Andy and bassist Duff McKagan, also a Seattle native). There’s a mysticism to Andy’s lyrics, how depressing they actually are versus the surge of immaculate guitar leads. There’s hints of Kiss, Funkadelic, and every song is structured so beautifully, and each track is so demanding of attention that any single one of them could be considered for a title track.

“My skin, it is weathered. And I’m nervous. My future was in my hands. ‘Till I washed it all away.”

Yeah, me too, Andy, me too.

It goes without saying that I became obsessed. In some ways, Apple helped me overcome the hurdle. Heal a little more. Thank yous, even small semblances of one, was brought on by a stargazer lily found on the ground next to my car one morning. A sign to drive and offer the flower to the leader of the song’s namesake; the crooning and lyrics penned for Andy’s leading lady, his surviving fiancée, Xana LaFuente. Andy’s place of rest, Bremerton, WA, an hour jaunt from me, by way of the 101. [Layne Staley’s former fiancée, Demri Parrott, also resides at the same cemetery.] He was laid to rest March 19, 1990, after a heroin overdose landed Andy on life support, to which he was removed from once Chris Cornell, who was on tour in New York at the time, was able to fly back to say goodbye to his dear friend.

Shortly after, Cornell formed Temple of the Dog, a namesake derived from the track, “Man of Golden Words.” The classic track “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and namely, “Hunger Strike” brought Andy’s reckoning to the dawn of Pearl Jam, as Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament into the same riffs with the newly indoctrinated Eddie Vedder at its helm.

Was Andy Wood, in fact, the last real rock star? A known performer, a talented songwriter. In all its showmanship and celebrity rock star value—did Mother Love Bone, while its genesis paved many successes in its wake (namely Pearl Jam), centralize the death of the last great performers as we know it?

Apple has the answer. Grunge is dead.

Guest writer Melissa Meszaros is the owner and publicity director of Don’t Hide PR.

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