Remembering Andrew Wood 25 Years Later
By Rod Moody
Wow, Andy Wood’s been gone for 25 years. That’s just crazy. Makes me feel pretty old….well, I guess I am, but I’m not thrilled about being reminded of it. I’m also not a big fan of looking back, especially on the bad times, but I guess I should say something about Mr. Andrew Wood, aka L’Andrew, The Love Child, the flamboyant, hilarious rock star who fronted Mother Love Bone and Malfunkshun.
I didn’t know him well, but I knew him. We’d often see each other at small punk rock shows at the Metropolis in the early ‘80s. He was a Bainbridge Island boy singing in Malfunkshun with his brother Kevin, and I was a West Seattle boy singing for Missoula transplants Deranged Diction. We’d watch each other do our thing, chat a bit, then he’d catch the last ferry back to the Island and I’d get the last bus across the bridge. We played at least a few shows together, but the only memorable one was when L.A. hardcore legends the Circle Jerks were going to play at the Metropolis with Husker Du and Malfunkshun as support. The Jerks wanted an advance of their guarantee sent to them in L.A.; the promoter sent the money and the band never showed. Deranged Diction was asked at the last minute to open, and of course we did, but Malfunkshun and the Huskers saved the night.
Malfunkshun never failed to entertain. While his brother Kevin laid down the heavy riffs and shredded amazing over-the-top guitar solos, L’Andrew, his face covered in white makeup, dressed in capes and furs and acted like a bonafide rock star while sharing bills with the crusty leather-clad hardcore bands of the day. He ate cereal onstage and shared it with the crowd. He played a totally uncool headless Steinberger stick bass. His stage patter was the funniest in town. And the dude could really sing! We worshipped Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, etc, while L’Andrew’s idols were Elton John and Queen. He won over EVERYBODY! He was a nice guy too, very kind, a bit of a wise-ass, but in a good way. We never had any long deep discussions or anything.
Malfunkshun disappeared for a while, as did most of the old hardcore bands of the Metropolis days. I chalked it up to the lack of spaces available to play or maybe interpersonal tensions, but as I later found out, Andy was getting into drugs and went into rehab. They soon re-emerged and began playing the new circuit, which basically consisted of three clubs, The Vogue, Gorilla Gardens and the Central Tavern. After my own band, Deranged Diction, broke up, I became a fan of our bassist Jeff Ament’s new band, Green River. When they disbanded, Jeff and his bandmates, Stone Gossard and Bruce Fairweather (also a ex-member of the Diction) recruited Andy to front their new band, Lords Of The Wasteland. They only played a few shows under that name, and I caught two of them. They played only classic rock covers, like Elton’s “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and the James Gang’s “Funk 49.” Andy had ditched the face makeup but retained all the other traits that made him so charming in Malfunkshun.
Everyone knows why Green River broke up - one half wanted stardom, the others didn’t care. But no one “in the scene” expected what was to come next - the emergence of Mother Love Bone. They had embraced - with arms wide open (so to speak) - the other side. Fully-formed mid-tempo, commercial, groove-oriented glam rock….and to be honest, most of my crowd did NOT dig it. I saw the first few shows and noticed that Andy hadn’t changed much…he just found a vehicle for his dream scenario, where he could be an ACTUAL rock star. Though I still appreciated Andy’s talents and enjoyed his antics, the music and songs didn’t move or excite me. I preferred the Mudhoney approach. The metal kids, formerly on “the other side,” began to take notice, word spread, and before we all knew it, things shifted. MLB found their audience, found their major label, and were poised to hit the big time.
On March 20, 1990, I arrived at Reciprocal recording studios to record a new album with my band Swallow, our second for the Sub Pop label. Everyone there looked glum, and producer Jack Endino appeared a bit pale. I was then told that Andy overdosed the day before and was gone. While I’ve never used heroin myself, I was basically living in a “shooting gallery” at the time, in an environment where it was all around me. Andy and many others in our rapidly-expanding scene would stop by to fix or score, then take off again. It was not a pretty scene. That was a very difficult record to make, but my band did it….and we all survived. Sadly, many around us did not. Today is the 26th anniversary of the release of Mother Love Bone’s debut EP, Shine. Give it a spin for Andy.