Following the success of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell redefined his vision, launching Temple of The Dog in 1990. Crafted as a tribute to his late friend Andrew Wood, the group featured Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready and Matt Cameron, with Eddie Vedder providing occasional guest vocals. Here, the Pearl Jam frontman performs ‘Hunger Strike, from Temple of The Dog’s self-titled album.
Temple of The Dog’s only album was released in April 1991 via A&M Records. The album remained the focus of die-hard Soundgarden fans until 1990, when Vedder, Ament, Gossard and McCready achieved chart success with Pearl Jam. After Soundgarden’s initial 1997 breakup, Cameron joined Vedder and the gang as well, making that incarnation of Pearl Jam identical to that of Temple of The Dog, save for Chris Cornell, who was working on solo material by that point.
Like so many of the songs on Temple of The Dog, ‘Hunger Strike’ tells the story of Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose in March 1990. Following the overdose, he was kept on life support for three days, giving Cornell and his bandmates time to say their goodbyes. The last song recorded for the album, ‘Hunger Strike’ was written after Cornell realised the band had just nine tracks in total. The frontman’s compulsive aversion to odd numbers was enough to convince him to write this unflinching attack on the rich and the decedent.
Describing the song in Pearl Jam Twenty, Cornell said: “I was wanting to express the gratitude for my life but also disdain for people where that’s not enough, where they want more. There’s no way to really have a whole lot more than you need usually without taking from somebody else that can’t really afford to give it to you. It’s sort of about taking advantage of a person or people who really don’t have anything.”
‘Hunger Strike was recorded on October 8th, 1990, the same day Eddie Vedder flew in from San Diego to meet his future Pearl Jam bandmates. Having been selected on the basis of a tape he’d sent over with his vocals layered over Temple of The Dog’s tracks, he was shy, keeping to himself. All that timidness washed away the moment Vedder stepped up to the microphone, singing the low parts Cornell had been struggling with in the chorus. At that moment, everything came together. In this 2014 footage, Vedder and Cornell’s joy is palpable, as though they’re singing ‘Hunger Strike for the very first time.