Soundgarden – “The Day I Tried To Live”
In my mind, Ben Shepherd is on this shortlist of absurdly underrated bassists who were foundationally essential to the sound and success of their respective groups from the 90’s.
Whereas players such as Flea, or perhaps to a lesser extent Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, are commonly recognized for their creative contributions and technical abilities, to the same degree that that players such as Colin Greenwood of Radiohead are properly praised and recognized for the quirky, innovative personality in their playing – there are others who have never been given their proper due.
In my mind, Ben Sheppard – along with Robert Deleo of STP, Tim Comerford of RATM/Audioslave, Justin Chancellor of Tool, Mike Inez of AIC – is on that shortlist of absurdly underrated players (technically and creatively) whose musical contributions consistently, and drastically either raised the bar or set the tone on both individual compositions and the overall sound of their respective groups.
With Shepherd, Chancellor, and Inez you can their fingerprints all over the first records released after their insertion into Soundgarden (Badmoterfinger), Tool (Ænima), and Inez (Jar of Flies).
Each of them have a tonal quality and aesthetic that is highly recognizable and forever changed the sound of those bands for the better. The Tool we know today does not exist without Justin Chancellor. MInezike is accredited for the riff on “No More Tears” during his time as a touring bassist for Ozzy Osbourne. And he brought in “Rotten Apple” and “I Stay Away” for Jar of Flies – and imagine “Nutshell” or “No Excuses” without his basslines.
These bassplayers contributed to those bands as key songwriters, and this of course always been the case with Robert Deleo who is the primary/initial composer for 2/3rdsish of the instrumentals in the Stone Temple Pilots catalogue (btw the back nine of which in the Scott Weiland era is wildly underappreciated). I think what Comerford does may be the easiest to overlook, because of how complimentary it is e.g in the verse sections of “Like a Stone”, and then again he is underappreciated when he’s driving the bus on an underrated tracks from Rengades (“How I Could Just A Kill A Man”) and “No Shelter” (from The Godzilla Soundtrack).
I digress, back to Ben Shepherd:
This song is one on the more explicit examples of what Shepherd brought to the table, but more often than not you can’t fully appreciate what’s he doing without listening to isolated tracks/watching someone breaking his basslines down on YouTube.
“I don’t really remember writing it. I vaguely remember the verse. It was based on a tuning that Ben Shepherd had came up with. Lyrically, it was one of those songs that I thought everyone could connect with. ‘Fell On Black Days’ is maybe a sister song to it. It’s this feeling that could come over anyone, and has probably happened to everyone. ‘Fell On Black Days’ is the feeling of waking up one day and realizing you’re not happy with your life. Nothing happened, there was no emergency, no accident, you don’t know what happened. You were happy, and one day you just aren’t, and you have to try to figure that out.
With ‘The Day I Tried To Live,’ the attitude I was trying to convey was that thing that I think everyone goes through where you wake up in the morning and you just don’t know how you are going to get through the day, and you kind of just talk yourself into it. You may go through different moments of hopelessness and wanting to give up, or wanting to just get back into bed and say f— it, but you convince yourself you’re going to do it again. And maybe this is the last time you’re going to do it, but it’s once more around.”
– Chris Cornell