Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at 50: When Pink Floyd, David Crosby Visited ‘Lovely Rita’ Sessions

The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which Rolling Stone named as the best album of all time, turns 50 on June 1st. In honor of the anniversary, and coinciding with a new deluxe reissue of Sgt. Pepper, we present a series of in-depth pieces – one for each of the album's tracks, excluding the brief "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" reprise on Side Two – that explore the background of this revolutionary and beloved record. Today's installment looks back at the rock summit meetings that took place during the recording of "Lovely Rita."

By early 1967, Abbey Road was one of the few remaining places on the planet where the Beatles could be guaranteed a modicum of privacy. As such, the studios had taken on an almost sacred significance, and outsiders were viewed with suspicion. It was an unspoken rule that wives and girlfriends were not welcome except on very special occasions, and even manager Brian Epstein entered at his own peril. Once during a studio visit, he dared to suggest that the singing sounded slightly flat. "You look after your percentages, Brian. We'll look after the music," John Lennon shot back. Epstein made himself scarce after that.

The 36-by-21 foot Studio 2 had become the center of the band's world, populated by loyal confidants Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, producer George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick, a handful of technicians and occasionally journalist Hunter Davies, who was then working on the Beatles' biography. Other than that, only old friends and rock elites were granted rare access into this inner sanctum. While recording the orchestral climax for "A Day in the Life" on February 10th, the Beatles threw a small "happening" in the cavernous Studio 1 next door, inviting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Donovan, Marianne Faithfull and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. A few weeks later they would receive several other notable guests as they worked on the track "Lovely Rita."

The song had taken shape in Paul McCartney's imagination during a trip to see his father and brother in Liverpool earlier that year. "I remember one night just going for a walk and working on the words as I walked," he told biographer Barry Miles in the book Many Years from Now. "This was about the time that parking meters were coming in; before that we'd been able to park freely, so people had quite an antagonistic feeling towards these people." Having been fined a number of times himself, his first inclination was to take lyrical revenge by writing an anti-authority satire. "I was thinking vaguely that it should be a hate song: 'You took my car away and I'm so blue today,' and you wouldn't be liking her," he explained in an interview with illustrator Alan Aldridge. "But then I thought it would be better to love her."

Musing on the subject, he recalled reading that female traffic officers had a nickname in the United States: meter maids. "I thought, God, that's so American! Also, to me, 'maid' had sexual connotations, like a French maid or a milkmaid. There's something good about 'maid.' And 'meter' made it a bit more official, like the meter in a cab; the meter is running, meter maid. Hearing that amused me. ... 'Rita' was the only name I could think of that would rhyme with it so I started on that, 'Rita,' 'meter maid,' 'Lovely Rita.' And I just fantasized on the idea."

Decades later, a woman named Meta Davis came forward claiming to be the meter maid in question. In the Sixties she had served as the first female traffic warden in the London neighborhood of St. John's Wood, where McCartney lived. Even stranger, Davis says she once fined the Beatle. "It was in the spring of 1967 that I ticketed Paul's car," Rita told author Steven Turner in his book, A Hard Day's Write. "He was on a meter showing excess, so I gave him a ten-shilling ticket. ... I'd just put it on the windscreen when Paul came along and took it off. He looked at it and read my signature, which was in full, because there was another M. Davies on the same unit. As he was walking away, he turned to me and said, 'Oh, is your name really Meta?' I told him that it was. We chatted for a few minutes and he said, 'That would be a good name for a song. Would you mind if I use it?' And that was that. Off he went. ... Then, a few months later, I heard 'Lovely Rita' on the radio." 

McCartney himself denies that the interaction consciously inspired the song. "It wasn't based on a real person," he told Miles. "I think it was more a question of coincidence. ... I didn't think, 'Wow, that woman gave me a ticket, I'll write a song about her.' Never happened like that." 

After recording the instrumental backing track, the band reconvened the following day to tackle the vocals. As they worked, a pair of pop stars dropped by to join them: Tony Hicks of the Hollies and David Crosby of the Byrds. The Beatles had grown particularly close to Crosby during an extended stay in Los Angeles as part of their 1965 U.S. tour, even dropping acid with him and fellow Byrd Jim McGuinn. The groups would continue to a share a great affinity for one another – particularly George Harrison and McGuinn, who emboldened one another to incorporate Indian modes into Western pop with their jangling Rickenbacker 12-strings.

All of the Beatles valued Crosby's opinion, so when he stopped by Abbey Road they were eager to play him some of their latest work. "I was, as near as I know, the first human being besides them and George Martin and the engineers to hear 'A Day in the Life,'" Crosby recalled in an interview with Filter. "I was high as a kite – so high I was hunting geese with a rake. They sat me down; they had huge speakers, like coffins with wheels, that they rolled up on either side of the stool. By the time it got to the end of that piano chord, man, my brains were on the floor."

Also on hand that night was Leslie Bryce, the staff photographer from The Beatles Book Monthly magazine, who took several photos of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Crosby gathered around a microphone. The accompanying article insinuates that Crosby added backup vocals on "Lovely Rita," but his contribution, if it ever existed (Crosby never says it did), was not used. However, Bryce's camera failed to capture singer Shawn Phillips, who claims that he too was in attendance with Crosby and Hicks. The American folk-rocker was a musical collaborator and close companion to Donovan, a friend of the Beatles. "We'd known each other a year by that point, and Paul invited us to Abbey Road, and we went there," Phillips told Goldmine in 2012. "We went to the studio, and at some point Paul says, 'We need backup vocals on this. This is what I want you to sing.' So David Crosby and I went in there and we sang backup vocals on 'Lovely Rita.'" Aside from his own assertions, Phillips' presence remains unverified.

The Beatles would revisit "Lovely Rita" on March 7th, when they tackled a series of unconventional overdubs. In his 2006 memoir, Geoff Emerick recalls the band "standing around a single microphone humming through a comb and paper, each priceless Beatle comb carefully wrapped with a single layer of the standard issue extra-scratchy EMI toilet paper that we were all constantly complaining about." To achieve a kazoo effect, Mal Evans had been dispatched to the studio bathrooms to collect several rolls, each piece stamped with the words "Property of EMI" to deter theft. The TP was, according to Harrison, "like lino [linoleum]," and their grievances ultimately changed EMI's toilet-paper policy. (A roll of the offending stuff was later sold in 2011 for 1,000 pounds a sheet.)

The song was completed on March 21st, after the group recorded backing vocals for "Getting Better." This same night Lennon accidentally dosed himself with LSD, so his involvement in the session was minimal as the remaining band members struggled to conceive of a way to fill the solo gap in "Lovely Rita." Emerick ultimately had the winning idea. "My suggestion was that they try something on piano. To my surprise, Paul asked, 'Why don't you play it?' In a kneejerk reaction – and to my everlasting regret – I demurred; I was simply too embarrassed to demonstrate my musical skills. Paul shrugged his shoulders and took a stab at it, but he still wasn't a hundred percent certain that it was a good idea, so he had George Martin play something instead." Martin employed a trick he had used on the Rubber Soul track "In My Life," recording a piano part at a slow tape speed. When it was played at the appropriate speed the effect resembled a wild honky-tonk riff.

"They were God-like figures to us." –Nick Mason

Throughout the night the Beatles received several visitors, including their music publisher Dick James, management deputy Peter Brown, and Ivan Vaughan, who had introduced John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the first time back in 1957. But perhaps most notable was Norman Smith, who had worked as the Beatles' engineer until the previous year. He had since moved on to a production role, and was working in nearby Studio 3 recording the debut album for a brand new group: Pink Floyd.

"Very politely, [Smith] asked George Martin if his boys could possibly pop in to see the Beatles at work," Davies wrote in the Beatles' biography. "George smiled, unhelpfully. Norman said perhaps he should ask John personally, as a favor. George Martin said no, that wouldn't work. But if by chance he and his boys popped in about eleven o'clock, he might just be able to see what he could do."

That's exactly what Smith did. Though Pink Floyd had become the official house band of the London Underground scene with appearances at the ultra-hip UFO Club, they were still overawed being in the presence of the Beatles. "They were God-like figures to us," drummer Nick Mason recalled in a 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal. "They all seemed extremely nice, but they were in a strata so far beyond us that they were out of our league." He elaborated on the meeting in his 2004 memoir, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. "We were ushered into Studio 2 where the Fab Four were busy recording 'Lovely Rita.' The music sounded wonderful, and incredibly professional. ... There was little if any banter with the Beatles. We sat humbly and humbled, at the back of the control room while they worked on the mix, and after a suitable (and embarrassing) period of time had elapsed, we were ushered out again."

Roger Waters' memory of the momentary rock summit is somewhat less warm. "I only met John Lennon once, to my huge regret, and that was in the control room at Number 2," he said in an interview with Marc Maron. "He was a bit acerbic. He was quite snotty – so was I!"

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Chris Cornell: Inside Soundgarden, Audioslave Singer’s Final Days

The last time Serj Tankian saw Chris Cornell, everything seemed great. On March 25th, the two friends – Tankian, the singer in the alternative-metal band System of a Down, and Cornell, the founding singer-guitarist of the pioneering Seattle grunge band Soundgarden – were guests at a star-studded 70th-birthday gala thrown by Elton John in L.A. 

"We had this long chat, sitting next to each other," Tankian remembers. He and Cornell talked about composing for movies and the prospect of Cornell doing concerts with an orchestra. Tankian, about to go on the road with System of a Down, asked Cornell if he was tired of touring. "For myself, it's fun but nothing new under the sun," Tankian admits. Cornell "was just the opposite: 'I'm really excited. I'm doing this tour with Soundgarden. I've got these other ideas.' He had plans, man."

Then on April 12th, Tankian and Cornell attended a red-carpet premiere in L.A. for The Promise, a historical drama about the Armenian genocide. Both men had recorded music for the film. "He was doing great, doing press – fighting the good fight" for the project, Tankian says. Cornell was "one of those guys," he adds, who "tried to make everyone in the room feel comfortable with themselves. He was generous that way, with his emotions and time."

Barely a month later, on May 17th, Soundgarden – Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron – played for 5,000 people at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. After the show, shortly past midnight, police officers responded to a call about an apparent suicide at the MGM Grand hotel and casino. They found Cornell in his room, on the bathroom floor, with an exercise band around his neck.

The singer, 52, was pronounced dead at the scene. In a statement issued on the afternoon of May 18th, the Wayne County medical examiner's office confirmed Cornell's death as suicide by hanging. Tankian's response to the news: "Disbelief," he says, speaking just over 24 hours later. "I'm like, 'No fucking way.' "

There were certainly no warning signs on April 19th, when Cornell performed "The Promise," his theme song for the film, on The Tonight Show with Cameron, a string section and record producer Brendan O'Brien on guitar. Cornell and O'Brien had worked together in the -studio since the mid-Nineties, when the latter mixed Soundgarden's 1994 multi-platinum breakthrough, Superunknown. O'Brien produced Cornell's latest solo album, 2015's Higher Truth, and had recently done sessions with Cornell for a potential record of cover versions.

"He didn't seem any different to me," O'Brien says of Cornell's mood at The Tonight Show. "I felt like we had a good time there. He was in good spirits." O'Brien notes that the volume on his guitar was mistakenly cranked up during the taping. "The next day I sent an e-mail: 'You sang great. Sorry about being so loud.' And he was, 'All great. Love you. No worries.' "

Guitarist Tom Morello played with Cornell between 2001 and 2007, when Cornell formed Audioslave with Morello, drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford, the instrumental backbone of Rage Against the Machine. Morello last saw Cornell on January 20th, when Audioslave reunited in L.A. at the Anti-Inaugural Ball, a protest concert held on the night of President Trump's inauguration.

Cornell was "shining" at that gig, Morello insists. "We hung out after the show – just laughed, took pictures. The last thing he said to me was, 'I had such a great time. I would love to do this again. You just let me know.' I was like, 'Yeah, let's figure it out!'

"It's unbelievable," Morello says of Cornell's death. "I don't know what the phases of mourning are, but I'm in the first one. I still expect this to be some kind of mistake" – that Cornell will soon be in touch with a text or phone call "where it's 'I'm cool. I'm so sorry. That was a scare. Everything is going to be all right.' "

At 7:06 P.M. on May 17th, after pulling into Detroit for Soundgarden's show, Cornell fired off a jubilant message on Twitter – "Finally back to Rock City!!!!" – with a photo of the band's name on the Fox Theatre marquee. Four hours later, Cornell finished the encore as he frequently did, closing an epic version of "Slaves & Bulldozers," from Soundgarden's 1991 album, Badmotorfinger, with a bellowing-vocal flourish of Led Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying."

The rest of the 20-song set list ran the full length of Cornell's progressive-metal legacy with Soundgarden, from the angular-hardcore fury of their 1987 debut 45, "Hunted Down," to 2012's King Animal, the band's triumphant studio comeback after more than a decade's hiatus. Soundgarden also played nearly half of Superunknown, their bestselling album and – in the dark, psychedelic adventure and lacerating self-examination of the hits "Fell on Black Days" and "Black Hole Sun" – Cornell's personal quantum leap as a songwriter.

Cellphone footage from Cornell's final concert is troubling but inconclusive. In Detroit, his between-song raps veer from grateful to cryptic, including a bizarre reference to crosses burning on lawns. At times, his singing – at its best a dramatic tension of vintage rock-lord howl, bluesy melodic poise and seething, syrupy menace – sounds too far off the beat, lagging behind the band. And in that encore, Cornell punches the air with triumph – before turning his back to the crowd as he and Thayil face their guitar amps, unleashing a last firestorm of feedback.

After signing some autographs outside the Fox, Cornell went to his hotel room, where he spoke to his wife, Vicky, on the phone. "I noticed he was slurring his words; he was different," she said in a statement issued May 19th. "When he told me he may have taken an extra Ativan or two, I contacted security and asked that they check on him." Soundgarden bodyguard Martin Kirsten kicked in the hotel-room and bedroom doors – both were locked – and found Cornell "with blood running from his mouth and a red exercise band around [his] neck," according to a police report.

Cornell had a prescription for Ativan, an anxiety medication that has been used by recovering addicts. Adverse reactions, especially in higher doses, include drowsiness, mood swings, confusion and thoughts of suicide. In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, Cornell confessed to being "a daily drug user at 13" and quitting at 14. But there were subsequent battles with alcohol and substance abuse, which led Cornell to check himself into rehab in 2002. Tankian attests to Cornell's sobriety in recent weeks: At the Elton John party, Cornell joined in a champagne toast – raising his glass – but did not drink.

The surviving members of Soundgarden declined to speak for this story. A full autopsy and toxicology report had not been released as Rolling Stone went to press. But in the May 19th statement, Vicky Cornell and family attorney Kirk Pasich disputed the verdict of suicide. Chris "may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages," Pasich said. But, Vicky said, "I know that he loved our children" – the couple had a son and a daughter, Christopher and Toni – and "would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life." Chris also had a daughter, Lily, from his previous marriage to former Soundgarden manager Susan Silver. They divorced in 2004.

Until that Wednesday in Detroit, Cornell was "the last guy in the world I thought that would happen to," says guitarist Jerry Cantrell of the Seattle band Alice in Chains, who lost their original singer, Layne Staley, to a drug overdose in 2002. "That's not the way that book was supposed to end. And it was not the way that book was going."

In and beyond Seattle, Cornell was a widely respected native son: an elder statesman and charter survivor of the city's pregrunge underground in the Eighties – he and Thayil started Soundgarden as a trio in 1984 – and its turbulent commercial boom in the wake of Nirvana's 1991 smash, Nevermind. Dave Grohl recalls being struck by the contrast between Soundgarden's roaring futurism and Cornell's thoughtful, soft-spoken manner offstage the first time they met, at a party at Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic's house. "There was a bunch of the Seattle gang there," Grohl says, "and Chris just seemed so quiet and mellow compared to the rest of the maniacs."

But Cornell was frank and fearless in his songwriting, addressing the lessons in loss that repeatedly shook him and his hometown. In March 1990, Andrew Wood, the singer in Mother Love Bone and Cornell's former roommate, died of a heroin overdose. The death would continue to haunt Cornell through the years. He soon wrote a pair of thundering memorials to Wood, "Say Hello 2 Heaven" and "Reach Down," that became the cornerstone songs for 1991's Temple of the Dog, a Top Five collaboration with members of the then-unknown Pearl Jam. 

Wood also figured in "Like Suicide," a Superunknown track that took on more weight and healing with the 1994 suicide of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, a month after that album's release. "The emotional possibilities" on that record "were now emotional realities," Cornell said in 2013, looking back at his own interior war of feelings in songs such as "Let Me Drown" and "Limo Wreck." He described "Like Suicide" as "about all of these beautiful lives around us, twice as bright and half as long, careening into walls." But, Cornell went on, "after the funerals, we feel better about ourselves when we're able to get up the next day."

Cornell was candid, in interviews as well as his lyrics, about the allure of the abyss. Part of it, he once said, came from "growing up in the Northwest. You're always moving between the creepiness of everyday life and this natural beauty that surrounds you all the time." In a striking 1999 exchange with Rolling Stone, Cornell admitted to a habit – "something I've done since I was a kid" – of opening windows and imagining what it would be like to jump. "But I never take it seriously," he added right away.

"I always felt like Chris had a lonely place inside of him that he went to creatively," says filmmaker and veteran Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe, who gave Cornell a cameo as himself in Singles, Crowe's 1992 romantic drama set in the erupting Seattle scene. "Sometimes he laughed at the whole rock-god thing, like [in the Soundgarden song] 'Big Dumb Sex.' He had that thing: 'I know how to mock this.'

"Chris had the right attitude to survive," says friend Cameron Crowe. "I never thought he'd go all the way into the dark place."

"I never thought Chris – given family and a certain sunniness, the humor and soulfulness in the way he talked about his life privately – would go all the way into the dark place," Crowe says. "I thought he would access it, write about it and mock it too well."

Tankian points out that "The Promise," the last song Cornell released before his death, "is about survival – to survive and thrive. . . . I've seen people in a bad place. You wish they would find a way to the light and find peace with themselves." Cornell, Tankian insists, "wasn't that guy. He was gracious, standing in the light."

Until Detroit.

Cornell was born Christopher John Boyle in Seattle on July 20th, 1964, the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Chris dropped out of school at 14, after his parents' divorce (Cornell is Karen's maiden name), and worked in a seafood warehouse and as a cook. Cornell also turned to music for release, starting on drums at 16. His first favorite band was the Beatles; Cornell later described the diversity of texture and attack on Superunknown as Soundgarden's "White Album period."

In the early Eighties, Cornell played in a covers band, the Shemps, that at different times included Thayil and founding Soundgarden bassist Hiro Yamamoto. "When I met Chris," Thayil said in 1992, "my first impression was that he was some guy who had just got out of the Navy or something. He had real short hair and was dressed real slick." Cornell also "had a great voice."

In 1984, the three started Soundgarden, minting a unique heavy metal that combined the hypersurreality of hardcore bands like Minutemen and Meat Puppets with the British post-punk existentialism of Wire and Joy Division. Shepherd, who became Soundgarden's bassist in 1990, was already a fan; he saw the original trio's second gig, opening for Hüsker Dü. "They didn't play the usual punk rock," he said in 2013. "And they weren't butt rock or heavy metal, the way people tried to label them later because they had long hair. To me, the music was black, blue and overcast with lightning." Cameron joined in 1986, after Cornell – who also played guitar and was emerging as the dominant songwriter – became Soundgarden's full-time frontman.

"Soundgarden took the riff rock I love and made it smart," Morello says, recalling that band's profound impact on the early sound and direction of Rage Against the Machine. "Cornell's dark, poetic intellect was not something you found in heavy metal."

Grohl vividly remembers the first time he saw Soundgarden live – before he immigrated to Seattle, at a Baltimore club in 1990. "It was as if all of our punk-rock and classic-rock dreams came true together," Grohl says. "Everybody, whether it was in Washington, D.C., or Washington state, looked up to Soundgarden as this force of nature."

The first band to release a 45 with the iconic Sub Pop Records and the first act from the Seattle underground to snare a major-label deal, Soundgarden were "a beacon to follow," Cantrell says, for the local groups in their wake. "Our town's not that big. Everybody kept an eye on what those guys were doing. And it was inspiring." For a time, Alice in Chains shared management with Soundgarden. "We loaned each other money so our bands could tour," Cantrell explains. "We had the same T-shirt guy. It was all intimate shit."

Cornell, in particular, represented "a strong strain running through our whole town – he was always so honest, from the moment I met him," Cantrell says. "I share a lot of the issues Chris communicated" in his songwriting. "And there's a power in sharing your weakness with the people who need to hear that, so they can consider, 'Fuck, that guy's dealing with it.' You don't feel so alone."

"Great art comes from generosity," Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard said last year, recalling the genesis of Temple of the Dog. Gossard and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, who played in Mother Love Bone, were devastated by Wood's death. Cornell wrote the songs for Temple of the Dog "from as pure a place as you can find," Gossard continued. "And then he reached out, letting us in."

Gossard, Ament and Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready became Cornell's core band in Temple of the Dog with Soundgarden's Cameron. Cornell also took a paternal interest in Pearl Jam's singer, a recent San Diego emigré named Eddie Vedder. "Ed was super-shy back then – we were just getting to know him," McCready said in 2016. At one Temple of the Dog session, Cornell brought in a new song called "Hunger Strike." As he ran down the arrangement, Vedder jumped in, taking the lower melody against Cornell's soaring vocal.

"Suddenly, it was a real song," Cornell later remarked. "Hunger Strike" became Temple of the Dog's breakout single; it was also Vedder's first featured vocal on a record. "Chris' heart was big enough," McCready said, "to let him do it."

Soundgarden broke up in 1997, overwhelmed by internal tensions and private trials; Cameron soon joined Pearl Jam. Cornell later acknowledged that he was drinking heavily "to get through things in my personal life" (his first marriage was dissolving in acrimony) – and "a pioneer," he noted ruefully, in abusing OxyContin.

"It was the most difficult part of my life – I'm lucky I got through it," Cornell conceded in 2009. "I'm not sure if it was the best place for me," he added, referring to rehab. "But it worked."

"I spent the last week and a half in a room with no windows, just doing Soundgarden demos," Cornell told me during an interview for Rolling Stone in August 2015. "We're going to meet in four days and spend a week together. By the end of that week, we'll have a lot of stuff, a lot of ideas to work with."

That month, Cornell was also preparing for the release of his fifth solo album, Higher Truth, and fall concerts – the latest leg of his Songbook Tour, a one-man evening of new material, greatest hits, surprising covers and relaxed storytelling, launched in 2011. "Now, I kind of get Neil Young," he admitted. "He goes on tour with Crazy Horse, then he's out with Booker T. and the MG's. Then he's on tour by himself with seven guitars. It makes sense to me now. He's not trying to find out who he is."

Young is, I suggested, all of those things. "And all of those things," Cornell replied, "are me."

Thayil confirmed to Rolling Stone last year that Soundgarden were still inching their way to a new studio album, their first since King Animal, while touring and pursuing a campaign of deluxe archival projects. Expanded editions of Badmotorfinger and Soundgarden's first full-length album, 1988's Ultramega OK, have come out in recent months. Cornell, on his own, had started recording the covers album with O'Brien. And Paul Buckmaster, who created the string arrangement for "The Promise," says that Cornell was "great in the studio" and "totally fascinated" with the process of recording with an orchestra: "He'd never seen anything like this before." Buckmaster reveals that the 2016 session for the film song went so well that, in recent weeks, "there was even talk of me doing orchestrations" of Soundgarden material for live shows, possibly with the band.

In recent years, Cornell "seemed to be on a mission to work all the time," O'Brien says. "And I mean all the time. He always seemed to be doing something – and a lot of different things. Chris was also a guy," O'Brien adds, "who liked being someone who was on their game. He liked people to see him that way."

There were misfires. Cornell's 2009 album, Scream, made with the hip-hop producer Timbaland, was the singer's first Top 10 solo effort but was savaged in the press – and by some peers. "Seeing Chris do that record felt like a blow to me," says Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. "I thought, 'He's above that, man. He's one of the 10 best vocalists of our time.' " 

Reznor went public, blasting Cornell on Twitter – "which," the former says now, "I immediately regretted." Five years later, as Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were about to start a co-headlining tour, Reznor wrote Cornell an e-mail, apologizing for that outburst. "He was very cool and generous about it – 'It's the past, fuck it. Let's go on.' The Chris I met on that tour was a gentleman that completely had his shit together."

Cornell lived at various times in Los Angeles, Paris and Miami. But he always had time for Seattle. In January 2015, Cornell was part of a small army of local heroes – including Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan and members of Pearl Jam – at the city's Benaroya Hall for a tribute concert to Mad Season, a short-lived mid-Nineties group fronted by Staley and McCready. Cornell personally asked Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney to join the show.

"I wasn't thinking I could be able to handle it," Kinney says, alluding to the continuing hurt of Staley's death. "But Chris really coaxed me to come out. I went as far as rocking the bongo," he notes, laughing. "And it was a beautiful thing. He told me how he had to get into it, how hard it was for him. And I just told him, 'Layne would have loved the shit out of it.'

"I have a lot of experience with what's going on here," Kinney says of Cornell's passing. "Every time they write about your band from now on, it will always be there: 'X died.' I just go to the music and what's left. We're lucky that we have that."

"There's going to be people that are going to mythologize this – 'the grunge curse,' " Tankian says. "I wouldn't do that." Cornell "was 52 years old. He made it through the woods of whatever he was suffering with his life – his youth and later."

"He was open about being vulnerable," Crowe points out, "with a certain amount of pride that he had been able to make it through tough times. I never had a conversation with him where he said, 'I'm lost.' It was always, 'I had a tough period, but I'm having fun now.' "

Cornell "always had it, the same thing as when I saw Layne for the first time – the commitment to take that ride," Cantrell says. "There was something that I recognized and aspired to – to have your own voice and sound. Nobody else sounds like that guy. Nobody will.

"There is a space now and forever empty because of that," Cantrell says of Cornell's death. "It's never going to make sense. It's never going to feel right. And it's always going to hurt."

Additional reporting by Kory Grow and Ashley Zlatopolsky

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Billy Gibbons Remembers ‘Brilliant and Intuitive’ Gregg Allman

ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons remembered Allman Brothers Band legend Gregg Allman and his "sonic legacy" following Allman's death Saturday at the age of 69.

"The sudden passing of Gregg Allman leaves us at a loss yet, at the same time, we stand alongside the millions thankful that Gregg was in our lives," Gibbons wrote in a statement. "Gregg was, of course, a brilliant and intuitive player with a depth of soul reflected in his works in a truly moving manner."

Early in ZZ Top's career, the Texas rockers opened for the Allman Brothers Band, with Gibbons seeing firsthand the "unique brand of rock & roll" that came from "the first great jam band," as Gibbons wrote in his Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists tribute to the Allman Brothers.

At Allman's final performance – an October 29th, 2016 show at the Laid Back Festival in Atlanta – Gibbons joined him onstage for "One Way Out," the last song Allman would ever perform live.

"Brother Gregg was generous with his talent, his spirit and, of course, his great voice," Gibbons continued in his statement Saturday. "We were fortunate enough to have been touched by him and those moments remain treasured encounters. Some truly positive, uplifting experiences. Gregg will be remembered as someone who made a big difference in the lives of many and whose sonic legacy continues that memorable course.”

In that 100 Greatest Artists feature, Gibbons added of Allman, "His singing and keyboard playing had a dark richness, a soulfulness that added one more color to the Allmans' rainbow. The Allman Brothers had respect for the roots of this music. They learned from the blues, and they continued to interpret the form in their own manner. They took something old and made something new."

Gibbons frequently jammed onstage with the Allman Brothers Band, including a 2009 gig that marked their 40th anniversary at New York's Beacon Theatre.

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On the Charts: Linkin Park Get Sixth Number One LP With ‘One More Light’

Linkin Park locked up their sixth Number One album as the band's newest LP One More Light debuted atop the Billboard 200.

One More Light sold 111,000 total copies – of which, 100,000 were traditional copies – to give Linkin Park their first Billboard 200-topper since 2012's Living Things. 2014's The Hunting Party previously peaked at Number Three, ending a streak of four straight Number One studio albums for the band.

With their sixth Number One album, Linkin Park tie Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Metallica and the Eagles with six apiece; only the Beatles (19), the Rolling Stones (nine) Led Zeppelin and U2 (seven) have more, Billboard notes.

On Friday, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington performed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at the private memorial service of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell.

One More Light was the lone new release to crack the Top 10 as the rest of the upper tier was reserved for returning albums, with Kendrick Lamar's Damn. leading the way at Number Two, followed by last week's Number One, Harry Styles' self-titled LP at Number Three.

Drake's More Life jumped three spots to Number Four, with Chris Stapleton's From A Room: Volume 1, Ed Sheeran's Divide, Bruno Mars' 24K Magic and the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 soundtrack occupying Numbers Five through Eight. The Epic AF compilation and Migos' Culture rounded out the Top 10.

Next week's charts should see some more newcomers with Bryson Tiller's True to Self, Lil Yachty's Teenage Emotions and the Beatles' 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, as well as renewed interest in the Allman Brothers Band's catalog following Gregg Allman's death.

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Eddie Vedder Plays First Show Since Chris Cornell’s Death

Eddie Vedder performed a solo concert Saturday night in Amsterdam, the Pearl Jam singer's first gig since the death of his grunge compatriot Chris Cornell.

While Vedder didn't mention Cornell directly by name or perform any songs affiliated with the singer, Cornell's death permeated in the mood throughout the evening according to fan accounts on the official Pearl Jam forum.

At one point during the performance, Vedder noted, "I'm thinking of a lot of people tonight. And some in particular and their families. And I just know that healing takes time, if it ever happens, it takes time, and that means you have to start somewhere so let it be music. Let it be love and togetherness, and let it be Amsterdam."

Due to a strict "performance etiquette policy" that prohibited recording of the concert, no video of Vedder's remarks regarding Cornell's death has surfaced.

Vedder played Pearl Jam's "Long Road" to open the show and altered the lyric "But still/Something’s missing" to "Without you/Something is missing" to reflect on Cornell's death.

Vedder also delivered a cover of Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done," a song that has frequented Vedder's solo setlists, as well as debuted his rendition of Fugazi's "I'm So Tired," the title of which echoes Cornell's last comments to his wife Vicky on the phone before his death.

Vedder will perform two more solo shows at Amsterdam's AFAS Live on May 29th and 30th.

The singer's Pearl Jam band mate Jeff Ament was among the artists who delivered eulogies at Cornell's private memorial service Friday in Los Angeles.

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Allman Brothers’ Chuck Leavell Pens Tribute to Gregg Allman

Keyboardist Chuck Leavell, a member of the Allman Brothers Band in the mid-Seventies, remembered Gregg Allman in a touching tribute following the Southern rock pioneer's death at the age of 69.

"Gregg Allman was not only a friend and brother, but he was a strong inspiration to me very early on in my career," Leavell wrote.

Like in Warren Haynes' tribute, Leavell, an Alabama native, reflected on how the Allman Brothers Band's unique blend of Southern rock inspired him and countless other musicians below the Mason-Dixon line.

"That first record [Allman Brothers Band] was groundbreaking and a new style of music, Southern Rock, was born," he continued. "Little did I think at the time that I would be so fortunate to eventually be a part of it. I was just a fan and admirer of what he, Duane [Allman] and the rest of the band had done. Opening up for the ABB in 1970 and '71 when I was with Alex Taylor and later with Dr. John, I would hang around after our performance and listen to them."

Following Duane Allman's death in 1971 and the release of Eat a Peach, Leavell performed with Gregg Allman on the 1972 solo LP Laid Back. When the Allman Brothers Band reformed for 1973's Brothers & Sisters, Leavell was part of the lineup, with the keyboardist most notably contributing to the Allman favorite "Jessica."

"During that time, Gregg was much like a big brother to me," Leavell wrote. "Gregg was always gracious to me… making sure I was included in everything from photo sessions to various parties and events… and even sometimes asking me to accompany him to events not related to the band’s duties. We finished recording Laid Back, and soon after, Brothers and Sisters… and these are probably the two records that I am most proud to have my name on."

Although Leavell parted ways with Allman Brothers Band before the release of the 1976 live LP Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas, he remained part of the band's orbit, performing alongside Dickey Betts and Gov't Mule. In 2014, Leavell took part in a Gregg Allman tribute concert in Atlanta.

"That was one of the most special and memorable shows I've ever done, and Gregg's participation certainly made it a major event. That just shows the kind of friend Gregg was. He certainly didn't have to do that, and he didn’t take a dime for his participation," Leavell wrote.

"Thank you, Gregg…for your inspiration, for your talent, for your loyal friendship and for the amazing human being you are. I am forever grateful for my relationship with you, for sharing the stage with you so many times, for the honor of recording with you on some records that have stood the test of time. You will always be my hero and I am your biggest fan." 

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Warren Haynes Remembers ‘Dear Friend’ Gregg Allman

Warren Haynes has penned a tribute to his musical hero, friend and band mate Gregg Allman following the Allman Brothers Band leader's death Saturday.

"I am truly honored to have been fortunate enough to have written many songs with him and equally honored to have traveled the world with him while making the best music the world has ever known. I will never, ever take that for granted. And on top of all that, he was my dear friend," Haynes wrote on Facebook.

"My fondest memories will always be of Gregg, myself, and [late Allman Brothers bassist] Allen Woody sharing a tour bus together-listening to great music and laughing our asses off mile after mile. Traveling – like life – is so much better when you’ve got friends to share the experience with. I’ve lost too many lately and this one is gonna be hard to get past. There is some comfort in knowing that millions of people all over the world feel the same way."

In Haynes' tribute, he writes about worshipping the Allman Brothers Band as a musician growing up in the South and how the band blended "soul, blues, rock, country, jazz-all mixed together in a way no one had ever done before."

"Here was this group of Southern hippies with an integrated band coming out of the Deepest South with equally deep music on the heels of some extremely deep changes. We didn’t realize how heavy that was at the time but we sure realized how heavy the music was," Haynes wrote.

"Every guitar player in every Southern town was listening to the Live at Fillmore East record and worshipping at the altar of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. But the icing on the cake was always Gregg’s voice."

Haynes performed with the Dickey Betts Band and co-wrote Allman's 1988 solo song "Before the Bullets Fly" before he ultimately joined the reunited Allman Brothers Band in 1989. Haynes remained a member until 1997, when he left to focus on his and Woody's Gov't Mule; following Woody's death in 2000, he rejoined the Allmans, performing with the group until their final gigs in 2014.

[Allman] wrote these amazing songs that were as natural as his voice was," Haynes continued. "The words and melodies felt so perfectly unpretentious and, when delivered by him, made an emotional connection that only happens when music is genuine and honest. I learned an enormous amount about singing and songwriting from him—most of it before we ever met."

Read Haynes' entire Allman remembrance below:

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Cher Mourns Ex-Husband Gregg Allman: ‘Words Are Impossible’

When news broke that Southern rock pioneer, the great Gregg Allman died, his famous ex-wife Cher tweeted a brief yet sentimental tribute using their old pet names for one another. "Words are impossible, Gui Gui" she wrote in her requisite all-caps lettering. "Forever, Chooch." 

Between 1975 and 1977, Cher and Gregg Allman met, married, divorced, remarried, had a son and made an album together, aptly titled Two the Hard Way. The unlikely pairing of sleek, newly single pop diva and untamed southern rocker perplexed the public. But their partnership coincided during a mutually transitional period as both musicians strove to reinvent themselves in the next decade. 

In 1975, Cher was famously navigating a messy divorce and custody battle from her longtime partner and variety show co-host, Sonny Bono. (She wed Allman days after her divorce from Bono). Meanwhile, the Allman Brothers Band was reckoning with an ongoing DEA investigation and Gregg's escalating drug abuse. In 1976, the band officially broke up. The same year, Gregg and Cher's son, Elijah Blue, was born, and the couple tried to rekindle their relationship.  

While the marriage was fleeting, the initial spark between Allman and Cher was incendiary. "She smelled like I would imagine a mermaid would smell," Allman wrote in his memoir, recalling the first time he met her backstage in Los Angeles. 

The always-glamorous California native also took him out to his first disco. "I don’t know how to dance, but I got drunk enough to where I did. I danced my ass off. This is when disco was just taking off, so we did some dirty dancing. She had one drink, while I had my 21, of course. When we got back to her place, she took me out to her rose garden, and all the roses were just starting to bloom." 



By 1978, Cher and Allman had broken up for the last time as romantic partners and musical collaborators. Despite the emotional turbulence fans saw splashed across tabloid magazine covers, Cher told People, nearly 40 years ago: "Nobody ever made me feel as happy as Gregory did ... he's wonderful. I don’t understand why he can't see it. He's the kindest, most gentle, loving husband and father. But then, he forgets and everything goes to shit." 

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See Guns N’ Roses Cover ‘Black Hole Sun’ for Chris Cornell in Ireland

Guns N' Roses kicked off the latest leg of their Not in This Lifetime Tour Saturday night in Slane, Ireland, where the band performed Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" as a tribute to Chris Cornell.

"This one's to you Chris, Black Hole Sun live from Slane Castle," the band's Twitter wrote moments after the performance of the Superunknown classic.

Guns N' Roses' Duff McKagan, a fellow Seattle native who performed alongside Cornell in the reunited Mad Season, tweeted following Cornell's death, "RIP Chris Cornell. Truly sad for his children and family....and the rest of us. A good man."

Guns N' Roses are the latest artist to tackle "Black Hole Sun" following Cornell's unexpected death on May 18th, with Norah Jones, Heart's Ann Wilson, Ryan Adams, Cody Jinks & Paul Cauthen and more among the artists to perform the Soundgarden single.

Cornell was laid to rest Friday at a private ceremony in Los Angeles that was attended by his band mates and grunge peers, including members of Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Pharrell Williams, Courtney Love, Nile Rodgers, Billy Idol and more.

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Gregg Allman, Southern Rock Pioneer, Dead at 69

Gregg Allman, the singer, musician and songwriter who played an essential role in the invention of Southern rock, has died at the age of 69. Allman's rep confirmed to Rolling Stone that the artist died Saturday afternoon.

Allman "passed away peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia," a statement on the singer's website read Saturday. "Gregg struggled with many health issues over the past several years. During that time, Gregg considered being on the road playing music with his brothers and solo band for his beloved fans, essential medicine for his soul. Playing music lifted him up and kept him going during the toughest of times."

Allman's longtime manager and close friend Michael Lehman added, "I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him."

A cause of death was not immediately revealed, but Allman suffered from chronic liver issues in recent years.

Although Allman claimed the term was redundant, the singer-keyboardist helped create the first great "Southern-rock" group as co-founder of the legendary Allman Brothers Band alongside his older brother, famed guitarist Duane Allman. The Allmans fused country blues with San Francisco-style extended improvisation, with their sound creating a template for countless subsequent jam bands. Gregg Allman was blessed with one of blues-rock's great growling voices and, along with his Hammond B-3 organ playing (beholden to Booker T. Jones), had a deep emotional power. Writing in Rolling Stone, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons said that Allman's singing and keyboard playing displayed "a dark richness, a soulfulness that added one more color to the Allmans' rainbow."

As he recounted in his 2012 memoir My Cross to Bear, Allman also experienced a quintessential, and essentially tragic, rock-star trajectory that included too-sudden fame, admittedly excessive drug use, a high-profile celebrity romance, multiple marriages and a late-life liver transplant.

Gregory LeNoir Allman was born December 8th, 1947, in Nashville, Tennessee, a little more than a year after brother Duane. The boys' father, U.S. Army Captain Willis Turner Allman, was shot to death by a drinking acquaintance shortly after the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1949. As a child, Gregg saved up money from a paper route and bought a guitar that was soon appropriated by his older brother. The siblings attended Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee, before moving to Daytona Beach, Florida. Duane talked his brother into joining a racially integrated band, the House Rockers, shocking their mother. "We had to turn my mother on to the blacks," Gregg told 16-year-old Cameron Crowe in the 1973 Rolling Stone cover story that would inspire Crowe's 2000 film Almost Famous. He added that it "[t]ook a while, but now she’s totally liberated."

After playing in bands like the Untils, the Shufflers, the Escorts and the Y-Teens, the brothers took their band Allman Joys on the road in the summer of 1965 following Gregg's graduation from Seabreeze High School. They often played six sets a night, seven nights a week, and eventually moved to Los Angeles – Gregg having shot himself in the foot to avoid the draft – where they recorded two forgettable albums for Liberty Records as the Hour Glass. While working as a session man in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Gregg was summoned to Jacksonville, Florida, in March 1969. There he joined Duane and the other musicians – Dickey Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), Butch Trucks (drums) and Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson (drums) – comprising the Allman Brothers Band's earliest incarnation.

"It was nice, round, kind of dull-ended instead of sharp," Allman wrote of the Hammond B-3 sound, "and I thought it blended with guitar just perfect." In addition to being the band's main vocalist and composer of signature tunes "Whipping Post" and "Don't Keep Me Wonderin,'" Gregg and his long blond hair also served as its visual focus. The band enjoyed meteoric success with their albums Live at the Fillmore East (1971) and Eat a Peach (1972). Between those albums, tragically, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident, followed a year later by Oakley's eerily similar demise.

Shortly thereafter, Gregg recorded his solo debut, 1973's Laid Back, which offered an economical à la carte selection of blues, R&B and soul songs in contrast with the Allmans' epic all-you-can-eat live shows. Its critical success, combined with Gregg's marriage to pop superstar Cher in 1975 and the group's collective appetites for narcotics, led to the Allman Brothers' breakup after the recording of their disappointing 1975 release Win, Lose or Draw. Additionally, Allman's bandmates shunned him for testifying to a grand jury, in exchange for immunity, regarding his "valet" and drug provider John C. "Scooter" Herring. Audience shouts of "Narc!" plagued him for years afterward.

Allman continued to release solo albums throughout the Seventies and Eighties. These included the live Gregg Allman Tour (1974) and Playin' Up a Storm (1977). Two the Hard Way (1977), a duo album with Cher credited to "Allman and Woman" resembled an Ashford & Simpson-style effort. An admitted hardcore alcoholic throughout the Eighties and most of the Nineties, Allman enjoyed something of a comeback with I'm No Angel (1986) and, three years later, a reformed Allman Brothers Band. His only non-anthology solo release the following decade was Searching For Simplicity (1997).

In 2007, Allman was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which he attributed to a dirty tattoo needle, and he received a liver transplant. He also suffered from an atrial fibrillation and eventually switched to a gluten-free vegan diet.

T-Bone Burnett produced Low Country Blues (2011), a solid set of blues covers. Allman continued touring with the Allman Brothers until the group played its official final show at New York's Beacon Theater on October 28th, 2014. He released Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon GA in 2015, and Don Was-produced Southern Blood, scheduled for a 2017 release.

In 2016, Allman was forced to cancel his summer tour due to unspecified "serious health problems." After briefly returning to the stage – Allman's last concert was at his 2016 Laid Back Festival in Atlanta – and scheduling a winter tour, Allman again canceled the dates, citing a vocal injury. 

"This is the hardest thing I've had to do in a long, long, time," Allman said in a statement after calling off his winter tour. "I've been on the road for 45 years because I live to play music with my friends for my fans. As much as I hate it, it's time for me to take some real time off to heal."

After rescheduling the dates, in March 2017, Allman's rep announced, "It has been determined that Gregg will not be touring in 2017," although no reason was provided for the canceled concerts. The next month, Allman denied rumors that he was in hospice care.

Allman is survived by his wife, Shannon Allman, his children, Devon, Elijah Blue, Delilah Island Kurtom and Layla Brooklyn Allman and three grandchildren.

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