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Remember When: Chris Cornell collaborated with Flotsam and Jetsam?

Posted by on May 22, 2017

While Soundgarden are one of the cornerstones of grunge, they were a lot more than that label. While there’s a degree of the SST noise rock in their early music, many of the songs are Beatle-esque, and many people, viewed them as a metal band, as  there was plenty of Sabbath worship running throughout their music as well. Perhaps that’s what led to Chris Cornell contributing to “The Message,” a song on Phoenix metal band Flotsam and Jetsam’s fourth album, Cuatro. In 1991, Nirvana released Nevermind and pretty much put an end to hair metal, sending traditional metal back underground.

MCA had signed Flotsam and Jetsam in 1989, releasing When the Storm Comes Down the following year. With Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger a huge success and Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” Chris Cornell was a bona-fide rock star, and with metal taking a back burner to this new genre, MCA needed Flotsam’s new album to be a hit. And while the band was great at writing music, left the lyrics to others. Eric Braverman of Heavy Metal Television tells azcentral.com that he wrote the majority of the band’s lyrics for Cuatro:

“This project was the height of their career. More than a million dollars was spent because MCA Records never had, you know, a metal band and they so wanted some kind of Metallica or Megadeth or Pantera that they were ready to pour money into it… These guys played amazingly well. They wrote really cool riffs and they played really tight with their dual guitar harmonies and their singer could kind of do anything. But they didn’t want to write lyrics. It wasn’t something they even thought about. That’s how I got into doing this because they needed someone to finish the songs.”

Singer Eric AK Knutson says that one of the songs the band needed lyrics for became “The Message.” It was originally called “Murder is the Message,” and with Knutson having writers block, Cornell submitted lyrics via management. Guitarist Michael Gilbert adds:

“We never got to meet him. He just sent the lyrics to us. I know he had an idea of the music we were writing for it. I wish I would have had the chance to meet with him though.”

Braverman says he’d spoken to Cornell about it, and he wasn’t particularly comfortable with helping a band that was already relatively successful, and didn’t really want to intrude on the band’s creative process, but he said he’d do it so he did. Ultimately, the  band is glad he did, according to Gilbert: 

“I’m honored that he showed interest in the song and wrote some very powerful lyrics for it,” Gilbert says. “I’m very proud of it and glad we had the opportunity to be a part of Chris’ musical genius. He is one of my favorite singers and performers.”

 
Here are the lyrics:

Wolves devour
The full moon heart
Screams bloodless howls
And starves for the dawn
As teeth and Jaw
Sink in like needles
There’s no love lost
For a helpless pawn

Taking care of business
Selling rock candy and suicide
The message
In the battle of the colors
Eyes for eyes, brothers for brothers

Taking care of business
Selling rock candy and suicide
Buying low and selling high
Business booms when cold lead flies
The message
Delivered every day
The message
Tribal, primal, criminal

Old men backing out of heart attacks
Send the young ones back to do a man’s job
To the fire and water
The best man’s daughter weds the wings of the dragonfly

Taking care of business
Selling rock candy and suicide
Buying low and selling high
Business booms when cold lead flies
The message
Delivered every day
The message
Tribal, primal, criminal

The message
Delivered every day
The message
Tribal, primal, criminal

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Categorised in: Columns, Remember When