This is pretty great.
The film was shot just a tiny bit before grunge really exploded nationwide. 1991 was kinda ground zero for grunge releases — Nevermind, obviously, but also Mudhoney’s Every Good Boy record, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, the Temple of the Dog one-off, and others. Alice in Chains’ Dirt came out the next year. But, critically, when they were shooting this film, none of those records were out or successful. Pearl Jam wasn’t even Pearl Jam yet; they’d only just brought in Eddie, and were still called “Mookie Blaylock”.
So anyway: Seattle wasn’t SEATTLE yet, and none of those people were particularly famous. Crowe, living in Seattle and married to a local, was falling in love with the growing scene, which is where the film came from. People who became huge months later appear in the film in tiny parts — Jeff Ament is in Matt Dillon’s band, for example. Alice in Chains and Soundgarden are bands playing in bars. And, as you’ll read in the interview, these folks hung around the production, even when they weren’t working — including Cornell.
Anyway. As part of the arc of the film, Dillon’s character Cliff Poncier loses his girl, his band and goes solo, and as was the custom of the time makes a solo tape to hawk while busking. It was just a prop, but Ament actually designed it, right down to (fictional) song titles and whatnot.
And then something interesting happened; Crowe tells it:
It’s kind of amazing. The idea was that Matt Dillon’s character, Cliff Poncier, in the course of the movie, he loses his band, and he loses his girlfriend, and he gains soul. So, there’s a period where he’s on a street corner busking, having lost his band, but beginning his solo career. And there would be, in reality, these guys standing on the corner outside the clubs in Seattle hawking their solo cassettes. So we wanted Cliff Poncier to have his own solo cassette. And Jeff Ament, in classic style, designed this cassette cover and wrote out these fictitious song names for the cassette.
And Chris Cornell was another guy who was close to us when we were making the record, and still is a good friend. I really loved Soundgarden; they were my favorite band. I originally thought Chris could play the lead, but then I think that turned into too big of a commitment for everybody and so he became the guy he is in the movie, but in the course of making the movie he was close to all of us. He was always around.
Anyway, Jeff Ament had designed this solo cassette which we thought was hilarious because it had all of these cool song titles like “Flutter Girl,” and “Spoonman,” and just like a really true-type “I’ve lost my band, and now I’m a soulful guy – these are my songs now” feeling. So we loved that Jeff had played out the fictitious life of Cliff Poncier. And one night, I stayed home, and Nancy, we were then married, she went out to a club, and she came back home, and she said, “Man, I met this guy, and he was selling solo cassettes, and so I got one for you.” And she hands me the Cliff Poncier cassette. And I was like, “That’s funny, haha.” And then she said, “You should listen to it.” So I put on the cassette. And holy shit, this is Chris Cornell, as Cliff Poncier, recording all of these songs, with lyrics, and total creative vision, and he has recorded the entire fake, solo cassette. And it’s fantastic. And “Seasons” comes on. And you just can’t help but go, “Wow.” This is a guy who we’ve only known in Soundgarden. And of course he’s incredibly creative, but who’s heard him like this? And we got to use “Seasons” on the soundtrack, and Chris did some of the score.
How neat is that?