Got Wood

Clitaclysm are, sadly, fictional, but fans of obscure 80s glam rock will no doubt be able to recognise that they are in no small part inspired by a couple of real life bands, Malfunkshun and Mother Love Bone. Both bands were fronted (and without a doubt, led) by Andrew Wood. Wood called himself L’Andrew The Love Child, and he claimed to have come from “Olympus” with the intention of bringing “Love Rock” to Earth. So you see, Clitaclysm could be said to be a complete rip off, I prefer to see it as an affectionate homage.

Wood’s heroes were Bolan, Bowie, Mercury and, particularly KISS, and while this is not particularly remarkable when it comes to 80s American metal bands, he joyfully embraced the inherent sense of the ridiculous in rock music, which many rockers of that era seemed unaware of. Truthfully, while they had a couple of good riffs, Malfunkshun were fairly jokey, and are more an idea of a band than a real one. The whole enterprise was created around the rock star persona that Wood had created.

It’s Mother Love Bone that were the real deal though. Mixing funk, glam and the nascent sound of grunge (flange?), they also had a clutch of terrific pop songs. Many metal bands were either trying to appear to worship Satan, or to be hard drinkin’ groupie shagging misogynists, but Mother Love Bone stood apart as being full of positivity and humour. Many songs were based around words that Wood just found appealing, like Mindshaker Meltdown and Stardog Champion (one of my favourite lyrics of theirs was “Bloodstains on my gazebo”).

Sadly Andrew Wood died from a heroin overdose, just days before their first album was to be released. He may have been apart from the angst ridden tortured rock stars that were to become the norm, but his death was depressingly cliched. It’s often said that if he’d lived, Mother Love Bone would have been massive. I’m not so sure. While they were head and shoulders above the likes of Poison and Mötley Crüe, a first time listener would doubtless have lumped them in with all the other hair metal bands, all of whom were on the verge of being swept away by grunge.

Ironically, MLB guitarist and bassist Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament went on to hook up with a frontman who was equally charismatic but diametrically opposed to Wood, Eddie Vedder, and  formed Pearl Jam, and they became one of the next era’s biggest bands. As a young fan of Ten back in 1992, I was quite taken aback when I heard Mother Love Bone, with their wide eyed, brash and funny take on cock rock (to quote Capricorn Sister: “Got my mama in the kitchen, She always bitchy, bitchy, bitchin’, So I made my proclamation, To control my masturbation, babe”). However I soon found that there was an edge of melancholy that ran through their music, albeit often under the surface, that got fully expressed in the later band (here they are performing MLB’s Crown of Thorns).

There’s a terrific essay on Andy Wood and Mother Love Bone in Mick Wall’s collection Appetite for Destruction, which I can wholeheartedly recommend, as well as the band’s history in their own words from the video The Love Bone Earth Affair.

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