Soundgarden – live at I-Beam, San Francisco – February 12, 1989 – Band soundboard –
Soundgarden this weekend, recorded live at the I-Beam in San Francisco on February 12, 1989.
One of the seminal bands of the early Grunge movement, Soundgarden was one of the first of a wave of bands to be signed by the then-fledgling label Sub-Pop Records in Seattle. Although it took a while for the band to break ground as a commercial success, their sound and their style and Chris Cornell’s songwriting paved the way for a genre to be born.
Soundgarden’s origins began with a band called the Shemps, which performed around Seattle in the early 1980s, and featured bassist Hiro Yamamoto and drummer and singer Chris Cornell. Following Yamamoto’s departure, the band recruited guitarist Kim Thayil as its new bassist. Thayil moved to Seattle from Park Forest, Illinois, with Yamamoto and Bruce Pavitt, who would later start the independent record label Sub Pop. Cornell and Yamamoto stayed in contact, and after the Shemps broke up Cornell and Yamamoto started jamming together, and were eventually joined by Thayil.
Soundgarden formed in 1984 and included Cornell (drums and vocals), Yamamoto (bass), and Thayil (guitar). The band named themselves after a wind-channeling pipe sculpture titled A Sound Garden, on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration property at 7600 Sand Point Way, next to Magnuson Park in Seattle. Cornell originally played drums while singing, but in 1985 the band enlisted Scott Sundquist to allow Cornell to concentrate on vocals. The band traveled around playing various concerts with this lineup for about a year. Their first recordings were three songs that appeared on the 1986 compilation album for C/Z Records called Deep Six—”Heretic”, “Tears to Forget” and “All Your Lies”. It also featured songs by fellow grunge pioneers Green River, Skin Yard, Malfunkshun, the U-Men, and the Melvins. In 1986, Cornell’s then-girlfriend and future wife, Susan Silver started managing Soundgarden. In the same year, Sundquist left the band to spend time with his family and was replaced by Skin Yard’s drummer, Matt Cameron.
A Soundgarden performance one night impressed KCMU DJ Jonathan Poneman who later said: “I saw this band that was everything rock music should be.” Poneman offered to fund a release by the band, so Thayil suggested he team up with Bruce Pavitt. Poneman offered to contribute $20,000 in funding for Sub Pop, effectively turning it into a full-fledged record label. Soundgarden signed to Sub Pop, and the label released “Hunted Down” in 1987 as the band’s first single. The B-side of “Hunted Down”, “Nothing to Say”, appeared on the KCMU compilation tape Bands That Will Make Money, which was distributed to record companies, many of whom showed interest in Soundgarden. Through Sub Pop, the band released the Screaming Life EP in 1987, and the Fopp EP in 1988, and a combination of the two, Screaming Life/Fopp, in 1990.
Though major labels were courting the band, in 1988 they signed to the independent label SST Records for their debut album, Ultramega OK, released on October 31, 1988. Cornell said the band “made a huge mistake with Ultramega OK” because they used a producer suggested by SST who “didn’t know what was happening in Seattle”. According to Steve Huey of AllMusic, Soundgarden demonstrates, a “Stooges/MC5-meets-Zeppelin/Sabbath sound” on the album. Mark Miremont directed the band’s first music video for “Flower”, which aired regularly on MTV’s 120 Minutes. Soundgarden promoted Ultramega OK on a tour in the United States in the spring of 1989, and a tour in Europe, which began in May 1989—the band’s first overseas tour.
This concert comes from that Spring 1989 tour – and it blisters with energy and conviction. This concert gives you some idea what Jonathan Poneman heard that night. The rest is history.
Crank it up and enjoy. Believe it or not, it’s a full crowd at the I-Beam, but the mix is strictly on the band, so it sounds like no one is there. You can make up for it by yelling at the speakers if you want.