When Mother Love Bone Introduced Themselves With ‘Shine’
While most bands set out to change the world (or something to that effect), Mother Love Bone proved they were capable of achieving that ambition when they released their debut EP, Shine, on Mar. 20, 1989.
The group represented a merger of members from three notable Seattle bands: Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Bruce Fairweather of Green River, Greg Gilmore of Ten Minute Warning and Andrew Wood of Malfunkshun. Of the trio, Malfunkshun had been the band to draw the most attention, principally for Wood’s larger-than-life stage presence.
He’d become known for wearing clown makeup and women’s clothing, while delivering powerful vocals with a warmth that encouraged audiences to engage in a party spirit; but his lyrics were remarkably insightful and thought-provoking. Despite that, Malfunkshun had been overlooked by the record labels that showed increasing interest in the Seattle scene – even Sub Pop had passed on them, feeling they weren’t grunge enough.
So when those three bands collapsed as a result of jam sessions that created Mother Love Bone, it was Wood’s chance to literally shine. Released via Polydor, who gave the group its own Stardog vanity label, the five-track EP displayed a wealth of talent. Looking back, it’s the mature, established sound of Gossard and Ament that stands out first – the pair already sounded like Pearl Jam. Immediately after that, though, came the remarkable energy of Wood’s delivery.
Partly Robert Plant, partly Axl Rose, but with a twisted sense of humor that pointed to Mike Patton of Faith No More and a choreographed but seemingly random element like Primus, it was clear that Wood – as he said himself – was a star in waiting.
Mother Love Bone - ‘Thru Fade Away’
“I think a lot of people grouped Mother Love Bone in with the Seattle grunge sound, but I never thought of them as a grunge band,” Wood’s brother Kevin, a member of Malfunshun, told Full In Bloom Music later. “They consciously were trying to get into that genre of… Guns n’ Roses was big at that time, and they were trying to dress like that and they tried to make music like that, but Andy was always original.” He added: “When they started to get more grounded, Andy started to go back to what he did best, which was be original.”
Wood wasn’t just original, he was prolific. So much so that, during the time when he shared a flat with his girlfriend Xana La Fuente and Chris Cornell, the other pair worked day jobs so that Wood could afford to stay home and write songs. “Andy was so freeform, he didn’t really edit his lyrics,” Cornell said later. “He was so prolific and in the time it took me to write two songs, he would have written ten and they were all hits.”
Mother Love Bone - ‘Mindshaker Meltdown’
Shine delivered a wealth of different musical approaches, underpinned by a locked groove and intelligent production values by Mark Dearnley that make it feel timeless.
With light-hearted lyrics such as those on opening track “Thru Fade Away,” then the sensitive reflection in “Chloe Dancer - Crown of Thorns,” to the manic but engaging near-nonsense of hidden closer “Zanzibar” (Wood hinting at his admiration for Freddie Mercury, who was born there), the collection had a lot to offer.
Mother Love Bone - ‘Half Ass Monkey Boy’
Shine received positive reviews upon its release, and within a year the band would put out their debut album, Apple. By that time, tragically, Wood had become a fatality of his drug addiction, meaning that the promises he made with Mother Love Bone’s debut EP were never fulfilled.
“He was at my house one time,” Kevin recalled, “and he pulls out this piece of black tar heroin and says, ‘Look at this, this is for later,” … and I said, ‘Jesus Christ man, you're just about to make it big… you're just about there, don't fucking blow it!’ He said, ‘Everything is fine, I just do it every once in a while.’ Then before I know it, he's back in rehab …when he was in Mother Love Bone, I didn't see him at all. He was pretty much gone all the time.”
Mother Love Bone - ‘Chloe Dancer - Crown of Thorns’
Mother Love Bone - ‘Capricorn Sister’ (Including ‘Zanzibar’)
In 2018 Ament reported: “I think about Andy almost every day, just because he was such a powerful character in my life. He was so motivated to write songs. A lot of the reason I made these solo records, was his ability to write a song every day. I was always so fascinated by the way he could knock things out, and so easily.”