Are the 90s a cursed decade for rock?

Music 19/05/2017

Chris Cornell's untimely death in a Detroit hotel room arguably leaves only two of the big six bands of the grunge era left standing.

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Smashing Pumpkins maestro Billy Corgan are still kicking along, churning out albums to smaller, but still-loyal fanbases.

Others, such as Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, Layne Staley and now Cornell, have left for the great gig in the sky - or the lake of fire, where bad folks go when they die, as sung by Kurt Cobain and the Meat Puppets.

The alternative rock boom wasn't that long ago - when you consider the Rolling Stones, most of Led Zeppelin and half the Beatles are still touring and recording today, despite starting their careers three decades earlier (touch wood).

So were the 1990s a cursed decade? Here's evidence to suggest that maybe they were - as good as the music was.

Andrew Wood

Before grunge broke through with Nirvana's Nevermind, it already had its first drug-related death. Andrew Wood was the frontman for Mother Love Bone, which would later form the backbone of the mega-selling Pearl Jam.

Wood died of a heroin overdose in March 1990 - a year-and-a-half before Nevermindput alternative rock on the map.



His death would later inspire the formation an entire band - Temple of the Dog - whose hit single 'Hunger Strike' was written by Cornell, and featured Eddie Vedder on vocals.

Kurt Cobain

The story of Kurt Cobain's tragic suicide - the only one on this list, aside from Cornell's - has been told a thousand times. It's the subject of numerous documentaries, conspiracy theories and inspired songs by bands as big as R.E.M.

Cobain had a well-documented history of drug use, and it's believed this - combined with a chronic stomach ailment and depression - led to that fatal decision in early May.

Kristen Pfaff

A month after her husband shot himself, Courtney Love's bandmate in Hole died of acute opiate intoxication - ie, a heroin overdose.

It's not believed she used the drug before moving to Seattle in 1993 to join the band, at the urging of her father.

She'd entered rehab just months before, and taken a break from the band. After Cobain's death, she quit altogether, went home to collect her belongings - and was never seen alive again.

Richey Edwards

Manic Street Preachers were an oddity in their native UK, taking cues from American hard and alternative rock rather than the Beatles and the Kinks, as their British contemporaries were doing.

In 1995 the band were about to leave for the US to tour The Holy Bible. The critically acclaimed album was full of dark and sinister lyrics by guitarist Richey Edwards about anorexia - which he suffered - drug abuse and the Holocaust.

The tour never happened though, with Edwards going AWOL the night before they were due to fly out on February 1. The band went on to become one of the biggest of the decade, keeping a quarter of their earnings aside should he ever return.

They gave up waiting in 2008, so his family could gain control of his estate. Edwards remains missing to this day.

Shannon Hoon

Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon died of a cocaine overdose in 1995 after years of battling addiction.

The band was touring with a drug counsellor, who was fired just days before they played a bad show, prompting the 'No Rain' singer to go on an all-night binge.

He was found dead on his tour bus.

Bradley Nowell

Sublime were on the fringes of grunge, having a background in ska and punk, but rode the alternative rock boom to fame in the mid-1990s.

Bradley Nowell, the singer and guitarist, died before they broke through to the mainstream.

He passed away of a heroin overdose in May 1996, and the band's self-titled album (originally going to be called Killin' It) came out at the end of July. 'What I Got' and 'Santeria' were massive hits.

Jonathan Melvoin

If there was ever a rock death that may have saved someone else's life in the process, it's that of Jonathan Melvoin.

The former Prince keyboardist was touring with Smashing Pumpkins in 1996 when he overdosed while taking heroin with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.

Chamberlin was fired from the band, which sent the drummerless Pumpkins in a new direction on their 1998 album Adore. Jimmy eventually cleaned up, and rejoined the group for 2000's Machina/The Machines of God.

The band was not invited to Melvoin's funeral.

Layne Staley

Alice in Chains' slow, minor-key take on grunge could be described as heroin in musical form, and that was the drug which took singer Layne Staley's life in 2002.

He hadn't performed live since 1996, having been a virtual recluse since 1999. It's rumoured he nearly joined Audioslave instead of Cornell.

In his later years he was clearly using drugs - on the rare occasion he was seen, friends described his pale, emaciated appearance.

He was found dead at his home after his accountants contacted his former manager to say he hadn't touched his bank account in two weeks.

Scott Weiland

Former hit '90s rockers Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland was also no stranger to drug abuse, having been in and out of rehab.

He claimed in 2015 to have been clean for 13 years, which fans doubted after a video of a particularly bizarre performance with his band the Wildabouts was uploaded to YouTube.

He was found dead on his tour bus on December 3, 2015. His death was ruled an accidental overdose of alcohol, cocaine and MDA.

Weiland's death foreshadowed a harrowing 2016 for music fans, which began with the passing of David Bowie in early January.

Chris Cornell

Which brings us to Chris Cornell, arguably the most gifted singer of the grunge generation.

The 'Blow Up the Outside World' singer had a history of depression and drug use, beginning in his early teens, but reportedly kicked hard drugs in the early 2000s.

When Soundgarden reformed later that decade, Cornell said the biggest change at rehearsals and gigs was they were no longer surrounded by empty bottles of Jack Daniels.

His depression was never far from the surface though, and it seems it finally got him in Detroit, where he was found dead in a hotel room.


If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call 
Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.