Rusty Cage

Album: Badmotorfinger (1991)
Charted: 41

Songfacts®:

  • This Chris Cornell-penned song was released as the third single from Soundgarden's third studio album, Badmotorfinger. The song peaked at #41 in the UK and also gained considerable airtime on American alternative rock radio stations.
  • Time spent in a claustrophobic tour bus provided inspiration for this song. Speaking with Spin, Chris Cornell said that he came up with the idea for this song while the band was on tour in Europe. "I have a vivid memory of staring out the window, looking at the countryside, and feeling pent-up," he explained. "I never wrote any of the words down, but I somehow remembered them. When we finished the tour and Soundgarden returned home to Seattle, I picked up a guitar and tried to come up with music that I felt matched the essence of that song. I wanted to create this hillbilly Black Sabbath crossover that I'd never heard before. I thought that would be cool and possible. I thought, 'If anyone can do it, Soundgarden can do it.' I was listening to a lot of Tom Waits at the time, and I wondered how Soundgarden could approach similar imagery and I wondered what the music would sound like. 'Rusty Cage' is what I came up with."
  • Guitarist Kim Thayil said in Guitar School, May 1994: "The tuning on that song was pretty nutty. It's recorded with a wah wah in the low position used as a filter. That was the first time we did anything like that. It was Chris's idea; he wanted to get that weird tone that you can't really dial in on an amp. But if you use the wah wah as a filter, it gets an incredibly weird sound. And if you listen to that riff, especially if you've heard the original demos of it, it almost sounds backward."
  • The song was covered by Johnny Cash on his 1996 album, Unchained, which won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album. Asked by The Irish Times why he thought Cash covered the song, bassist Ben Shepherd replied: "Probably because they're bad-ass, truthful, lyrics. Chris is a great writer and Johnny could probably relate to that. Johnny always talked about, if you read his books, how a singer has to sound like they're telling the truth. It's all about the truth. If you mean it then it sounds right. If you don't mean it it's a schlock thing (and) you tell it a mile away."

Comments: 2

  • Rocky from Fort Smith, Ar20 Feb 2014: I'm a longtime fan of Soundgarden (from the early 90s) & their music. I heard "Rusty Cage" on our alternative rock radio station here & it brought back good memories. Oh yeah, I had the "Badmotorfinger" CD back in '91 in their early days. Good times; good music.
  • Elmer H from Westville, OkYeah I remember "Rusty Cage" from the "Badmotorfinger" album/CD of '91. I loved the whole CD because of the power & talent conveyed by Soundgarden. Loved Chris Cornell's voice. Man, what a voice! Here it is 2013 and I still love their music even though they split for a while. Tonight I just heard that they're starting a tour in 2014, after they reunited. Great! I still have my "Badmotorfinger" CD & it brings back good memories of 1991 and the several years before I started college. Rock on, Soundgarden!!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mac Powell of Third DaySongwriter Interviews

The Third Day frontman talks about some of the classic songs he wrote with the band, and what changed for his solo country album.

Michael W. SmithSongwriter Interviews

Smith breaks down some of his worship tracks as well as his mainstream hits, including "I Will Be Here For You" and "A Place In This World."

KissFact or Fiction

Kiss is the subject of many outlandish rumors - some of which happen to be true. See if you can spot the fakes.

Dexys (Kevin Rowland and Jim Paterson)Songwriter Interviews

"Come On Eileen" was a colossal '80s hit, but the band - far more appreciated in their native UK than stateside - released just three albums before their split. Now, Dexys is back.

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TVSong Writing

Shows like Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the way songs were heard on TV, and produced some hits in the process.

Amanda PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Call us crazy, but we like it when an artist comes around who doesn't mesh with the status quo.