Liking The Beatles was a common trait among the musicians who made up the Seattle music scene in the early 1990s. Although Kurt Cobain was the most famous Beatlemaniac, elements of The Beatles’ influence can be heard throughout the epic scope of Pearl Jam, the sun-drenched Tiny Music-era Stone Temple Pilots songs, and even the rich harmonies in the works of Alice in Chains.
One band that didn’t seem to have as strong of an immediate connection to The Beatles, however, was Soundgarden. If it’s true that every band is either a Beatles band or a Rolling Stones band, Soundgarden was most assuredly a Stones band: riff-focused, bluesy, and self-contained with a kind of swagger that was rare among the grunge crowd.
But with the release of 1994’s Superunknown, Soundgarden began incorporating a noticeable mix of psychedelic rock into their compositions. This was best heard in songs like ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘4th of July’, and the band seemed liberated by its lack of reliance on detuned riffs and heavy metal cliches. By 1996’s Down on the Upside, Soundgarden was trending into a lighter, more distinctly alternative rock direction, mixing in darkness when it was appropriate, like on the single ‘Blow Up the Outside World’.
According to guitarist Kim Thayil, the song proved to be a throwback to the biggest band of all time. “A nice ironic, final single in a way,” Thayil told Metal Hammer in 1998. “People said there was a Beatles-ish element. I suppose there is a bit of Paul McCartney and a little bit of Lennon in the flavour of the song.”
“Everyone in the band grew up with the Beatles and we had a certain degree of respect and admiration for them that’s not uncommon,” Thayil continued. “I think many people were Beatles fans, especially for that period in time. There’s a number of acoustic guitars on the track as well and then, towards the end of the song, it gets louder and aggressive and goes to these power chords, and is maybe a little reminiscent of AC/DC.”
Thayil was the predominant pusher of Soundgarden’s heavier, but tellingly, the guitarist only has a single songwriting credit on Down on the Upside, the churning ‘Never the Machine Forever’. Lighter instrumentation, including the use of synthesisers, mandolins, and mandolas began to invade the band’s compositions, much to Thayil’s chagrin. Tensions were high, and less than a year after the release of Down on the Upside, Soundgarden officially disbanded.
Check out ‘Blow Up the Outside World’ down below.