According to Chris Cornell, fans should expect a few surprises from his second solo studio LP when it lands in stores in March — like, say, his cover of Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit “Billie Jean.”
“I didn’t plan on it,” he said with a chuckle. “It just sort of happened organically. I changed the music quite a bit, I didn’t touch the lyrics. And it’s not a joke. I took a completely different approach to it, musically. It’s like when Johnny Cash did [the Soundgarden song] ‘Rusty Cage,’ ” on Cash’s 1996 LP Unchained, “and people started calling me and leaving messages saying, ‘I heard the Johnny Cash version and the lyrics are really, really great.’ No one ever told me that before. Ever. Not once. This is kind of like that. It does that to this song, because it’s really an emotional song.
“The lyrical content is kind of panicky, because — well, it’s a pretty bad thing, someone coming and lying to you, saying you’re the father of their kid and you’re not.”
Cornell, who has played the cover during live gigs in Europe, said the track has to be heard to be believed. But in truth, the cover is rather apropos. The lyrics the Audioslave frontman wrote for the 12 cuts on the follow-up to 1999′s Euphoria Morning deal with all kinds of relationships (see “Chris Cornell Working On Solo LP — But Dismisses Rumors Of Audioslave Split” ).
The rocker, who began recording the LP four weeks ago and is just about finished with it, said one song — “She’ll Never Be Your Man” — tells the story of a guy “whose woman leaves him for another woman, which is sort of hard to deal with because men know how to compete with other men for something like a woman and a relationship.”
Not that Cornell’s speaking from experience. “I know a couple of different people who were married and their wives left them for women,” he explained. “It’s like a special kind of weird dis, in a way. It’s never happened to me, but just in thinking about it and hearing stories about it, it’s like, ‘Maybe I was so bad, not only did she dump me, she gave up men entirely?’ ”
There’s also “Arms Around Your Love,” which is about “a guy whose girl leaves him for another guy, but she didn’t really want to — it was just that he was such a loser,” Cornell said. “And now, this guy’s got to deal with seeing her around with someone else. That song should really be called ‘You’re an Idiot.’ Maybe it will be when it ends up on the record.”
The album, which Cornell said has its “gospel and R&B” moments, will also feature the tune “Disappearing Act,” an acoustic version of which appears in the upcoming movie “Bug,” directed by William Friedkin (“The Exorcist”) and starring Ashley Judd. The album cut is going to be a plugged-in rendition, while the film version was recorded in Cornell’s living room.
In fact, Cornell revealed it was writing “Disappearing Act” and “You Know My Name,” the theme from the upcoming James Bond film “Casino Royale,” that inspired him to release a second solo LP. The songs are also part of the reason why Audioslave — who issued their third album, Revelations, two months ago — won’t be touring anytime soon (see “New Audioslave LP: ‘Led Zeppelin Meets Earth, Wind & Fire’ “ ).
“I started working on songs for the James Bond film and that song for ‘Bug,’ and I started writing more and more and more, and decided that I was going to make another record, right away,” he said. “I had a lot of song ideas I wanted to work on, and I kind of want to get back to making my own records and touring for a while. But I mean, we made three records in four and a half years. Three of the four of us have had children since we became a band. We don’t have any touring plans at all.
“I like the idea of making some music,” he continued. “This coming year will be the 20th anniversary of me being a recording artist, so I am looking forward to the idea of putting out another record and going out, doing my own tour and playing everything from my entire history. There’s a lot there. It’s actually staggering when I think about it.”