Thursday, March 13, 2014

Music: Alive in the Superunknown

Music: Alive in the Superunknown
“First it steals your mind and then it steals your soul.” Lyrics from Chris Cornell on Soundgarden’s title track Superunknown, a record that celebrated its 20th anniversary March 8th, 2014. I was listening to the record with my wife and girls yesterday and this lyric specifically stuck with me.

I can distinctly recall when Superunknown hit record stores in March of 1994. It was one of the first compact discs I ever purchased…number 9 actually. I walked with determination and purpose through Summit Place Mall in Pontiac, Michigan heading directly for Harmony House. (For those of you too young to remember Music stores, they were an amazing and missed part of our culture…the predecessor to iTunes with its listening stations, which allowed you to put on a pair of used smelly headphones and immerse yourself in the latest releases before deciding what you wanted to purchase. Just imagine the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack and Jack Black, but cleaner and less funny.) “Spoonman” had been playing on the radio for weeks leading to Superunknown’s release, and I was so excited to buy the album I didn’t even care about the price…nearly $20. (That’s right! I purchased it in Compact Disc, which at the time was starting to dominate the market place, and yes it was available in cassette tape and vinyl). I can see the store in my mind. Walls lined with musical genres, new releases positioned right at the front door. (Nine Inch Nails just so happened to release its monster album, The Downward Spiral, that same day.) The store was packed with people just like me. I maneuvered through the crowd and saw it, deep black with a tortured looking face on the cover. In small white lettering it read: SOUNDGARDEN. I flipped over the disc, which was held in an absurdly large plastic security case, and looked over the track listing…15 songs, WOW! This record would go on to produce hits for the band; ‘My Wave’, ‘Fell on Black Days’, ‘The Day I Tried To Live’, ‘Black Hole-Sun’ & ‘Spoonman’.

I was venturing into the Superunknown world of music at the most influential point in my life. I had just turned 17 years old, was approaching high school graduation, and looking back at it now…defining my musical tastes for the next twenty years! 1994 became a year that I still hold as one of the most important musical points in my entire life. I understand everyone’s musical taste is different, and that is what makes music so amazing…it’s being alive in the Superunknown of whatever you choose. For me, 1994 saw the before mentioned NIN and Soundgarden records as well as breakout albums from Green Day, Live, Our Lady Peace, Weezer, Oasis, Dave MatthewsBand & the Offspring

The Superunknown to me is everyday life, what will happen today? Tomorrow? Twenty years from now? It is the Superunknown question of life. Even the seemingly mighty music industry found itself entangled in this question in the early part of the new millennium when digital copies of music began to flood the internet allowing users to download songs for free! The industry changed drastically and my beloved music stores that where such an important part of my life have all but disappeared. Every store I shopped in for the past twenty years sadly closed, but music has endured. It now lives on in the digital age sounding far better than ever. I can now listen to and purchase hundreds of songs at the touch of a button on any compatible digital device I choose, and Soundgarden’s Superunknown record is one of them…even though I still have the original compact disc.

“First it steals your mind and then it steals your soul,” is a lyric that resonates even more today in my life than back in 1994. I am now married, with two daughters, and music is an everyday connection that I have with them. We listen to music as a family almost every day. Each song has a memory, an emotion to it that allows me and my family to embrace. This summer we will attend our first concert together; we are going to see Fall Out Boy and Paramore, two bands that have become mainstays in our house and probably my daughters’ lives forever. I hope that twenty years from now they will hear a song from one of those bands and smile when they remember dancing and singing with their parents…even after we are long gone.

From the mind of a man that spent his entire life in the musical world of the Superunknown, Chris Cornell sang, “First it steals your mind and then it steals your soul.” Music is Alive in the Superunknown!

Congratulations to Soundgarden and the 20th anniversary of Superunknown…an album that I will cherish for the rest of my life!


Copyright 2014: Christopher M. Purrett