Cochise, by Audioslave

63-cochise

Track 2 only represented

Released October 14, 2002

Overall length 16 min, 12 sec

Audioslave took their time getting their debut album ready, not letting the leaked Civilian Demos get in the way of their release schedule. The promotional cycle for Audioslave continued with the release of lead single “Cochise,” (which also served as the album’s opening track), following a Letterman performance recorded several weeks prior (but not broadcast until the album’s release). Thus, Cochise served as the first taste of Audioslave as the band intended.

“Cochise” is named after a Chiricahua Apache chief, who became well known for leading an uprising in 1861 that fought aggressively against settlers attempting to steal the tribe’s land for themselves. Cochise and his groups of fighters mainly held their own against the settlers, many of whom were also trying to handle the tensions that would eventually lead to the Civil War. Cochise had been accused of kidnapping one of the settler’s young sons, a crime that had actually been perpetrated by another Apache group unrelated to Cochise’s branch. Cochise was invited into the American settlement and ambushed with an arrest attempt, but managed to escape, though many of his family members were captured in retaliation. The conflicts continued for nearly 11 years, rendering the entire area of the conflicts uninhabitable, until a truce was finally arranged. Cochise died in 1874, completely free, one of the last chiefs of the era to do so.

“Cochise” never directly references its namesake; instead, the song’s themes of self-sacrifice to avenge and save others are inspired by the story of Cochise. The song is also known for its iconic opening riff, which Morello discovered when he was writing for Rage Against the Machine, writing on top of his guitar when it was plugged into an effect pedal, creating a distinctive chopper-like sound. The song was also well known for its music video, which featured extensive amounts of fireworks that worried local residents near where the video was filmed, as they thought they were being attacked.

The single’s b-sides feature a live performance of “Exploder” from the group’s episode of Late Show with David Letterman as well as a “real” b-side in “We Got the Whip,” previously seen on the Civilian Demo, and one of the very, very few b-sides Audioslave released in their career. The song touches on themes of slavery, with the subject praising his audience for their audacity and unwillingness to give up, but notes in the chorus that “we got the whip / we got a better bomb,” indicating ultimate superiority. For a band that tried its best not to write politically-motivated songs early in its tenure, to avoid comparisons to Rage Against the Machine, the song’s presence on Cochise sure seems like it was intentionally done to condemn American treatment of Native Americans, which was probably what Tom Morello intended when he drew an explicit line to Cochise in an interview around the time the album was released.

“We Got the Whip” doesn’t really fit on the album, but its inclusion on Cochise turned the single into a statement of its own, and a powerful introduction to the band known as Audioslave.

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