View Full Version : "Say goodbye, don't follow"
Layne Staley, dead at 34 (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=529&ncid=529&e=2&u=/ap/20020420/ap_en_mu/obit_staley)
Alice in Chains Singer Found Dead
Sat Apr 20, 7:48 PM ET
By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
SEATTLE - Layne Staley, lead singer and guitarist for the grunge band Alice in Chains, was found dead in his apartment, authorities said Saturday. He was 34.
Tests were required to establish the identity because the body, discovered Friday, had started to decompose. The King County Medical Examiner's office did not release his cause of death.
"It was natural or an overdose — that's the way it was determined by our investigators," said Seattle Police spokesman Duane Fish.
Police did not immediately release details on anything that was found at the scene, and a spokesman did not respond to several messages.
With Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Alice in Chains was one of the most prominent bands of the Seattle grunge scene of the early '90s. The group was known for its dark, menacing sound, which combined grunge and heavy metal, and often wrote about heroin.
"He was a sweet guy, but very troubled," said Charles Cross, a former editor of the defunct Seattle music magazine The Rocket who recently wrote a biography of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. "He lost his girlfriend to drugs a number of years ago. People still had hopes he would turn around. It's a sad tale."
While Alice in Chains didn't garner as much respect as other Seattle grunge groups, the band's influence still reverberates, Cross said.
"Critically, they'll never rate in the same pantheon as Nirvana, but they were a band that inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of other bands," Cross said. He pointed to Creed and Godsmack, a band that shares its name with an Alice in Chains song.
"They had huge commercial aspirations from the beginning. They fulfilled that, and so much of that was Layne's voice," Cross said.
His voice ranged from a low, growly monotone to a pained, piercing wail; many a bar-band singer frayed vocal cords in the early 1990s trying to imitate it. Staley also played some guitar for the group.
Alice in Chains stopped touring in the mid-'90s, when Staley's drug use proved too great an obstacle. He began a number of stints in rehab.
In a 1996 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Staley spoke of how his drug use influenced his lyrics.
"I wrote about drugs, and I didn't think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them," he told the magazine. "Here's how my thinking pattern went: When I tried drugs, they were (expletive) great, and they worked for me for years, and now they're turning against me — and now I'm walking through hell, and this sucks."
The group's first album, "Facelift," was released in 1990. It later released "Dirt" and "Alice in Chains." The group's hits included "Man in the Box," "Them Bones," "Rooster," and "Would?"
The latter song was partly inspired by the 1990 heroin overdose death of Andrew Wood, singer of the seminal grunge group Mother Love Bone.
Staley's body was found just over 8 years after Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Heroin was found in Cobain's bloodstream, and his head had been so mutilated that he could not be immediately identified.
In the 1996 interview, Staley reflected on Cobain's death: "I saw all the suffering that Kurt Cobain went through. I didn't know him real well, but I just saw this real vibrant person turn into a real shy, timid, withdrawn person who could hardly get a 'hello' out. ... At the end of the day or at the end of the party, when everyone goes home, you're stuck with yourself."Say hello to heaven, (http://www.reachdown.com/lyrics.shtml#1) indeed.
All across this city hearts are saddened today.
04-20-02, 08:06 PM
I saw Alice in Chains over 10 years ago, opening for Megadeth. They were just starting out at the time but for an opening act, they put on a hell of a show. I think they were among the 2 or 3 best bands of the 1990's.
It was known that Staley had problems with drugs for some time, and his addiction caused his music to suffer greatly. Hearing that he's dead at 34 is hardly unexpected, but it's still sobering to think that I'll never hear him sing "Would" live again. I know its a tired cliche, but its such a waste when yet another talented person dopes themself out of their talent, and ultimately out of life.
Guitar World 1996 interview with Jerry Cantrell (http://www.guitarworld.com/artistindex/9601.alice.html)
Among the most highly publicized long-term drug sagas has been that of Alice In Chains vocalist Layne Staley, whose on-again/off-again involvement with heroin has sometimes attracted nearly as much attention as the band's music. "Alice In Chains' videos are elegant little travelogues of junkie life," wrote Spin magazine in March of 1995. "Heroin addicts and struggling former addicts hear something in Layne's grade-school junkie poetry, a kind of siren." Plagued by persistent reports that they had been torn apart by drug-related internal stress, haunted by morbid death-pool predictions that consistently pick Staley as Seattle's "most likely to O.D.," stymied by Staley's recent collaboration with Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready in Mad Season and hampered by an apparent inability to make it to prestigious gigs like Woodstock '94 and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame grand opening, Alice In Chains responded with a self-imposed media silence.In addition to the seeming inevitability of Staley's passing, there is a specific sentiment that comes with it. Maybe, finally, Seattle's heroin war can come to a close. A certain sense of amazement at Staley's persistent survival, knowing who now becomes "the next in line", the new "most likely to OD" (I'm not telling) and nobody wants to think about it. The thing is that we have a certain hope after this point because Staley appeared so tortured in a way that some people think of Kurt Cobain.
I have this one line from the Beach Boys' Smile stuck in my head right now, but it would take far too many words to explain.
But we knew it was a matter of time, and now we hope for something better for everyone. Heroin not only destroyed many lives, but today stands reduced, one of its most curious and fascinating attractions--our Seattle music saga--has closed its doors.
I saw AiC open for the Clash of the Titans 1991 tour, with Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer. It was amazingly cool. My first Alice in Chains show, though, was Bumbershoot, Seattle, 1990, when Layne put on a pink stetson and elbow-length gloves, crooning "Queen of the Rodeo" for Landrew Wood of Mother Love Bone, then the most recent of Seattle's high-profile smack casualties.
Alice in Chains rocked.
02-09-04, 07:56 AM
Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I stumbled across this message when I was trying to do an Internet search for the history of the Alice in Chains song, "Don't Follow." My 22-year old son introduced me to this song, as well as several other Alice in Chains songs, but this was the only one I really liked, and wondered what made them write a song that was so beautiful and so different from all the rest? I imagined that maybe it was written at the request of the songwriter's mom who wanted to hear a "pretty song." Okay, so Alice in Chains is not exactly what my generation listened to, but I do love that one song and wondered if you could tell me anything about it?
02-12-04, 08:03 AM
I'm not sure why the requirement for at least 10 words before I can post, but okay...can anyone answer the question I posted above?
I've tried answering it once, but the answer didn't make sense. I'll give it a whirl again; I actually had to spend an afternoon listening to the song over and over again.
Part of the problem is that when I look at the question about so beautiful and different from all the rest, the answer is actually, "Heroin."
But how to explain that is ... a challenge. I hope to have a reasonable answer for you soon. But, strangely, heroin. Heroin is responsible for a lot of beauty around here, and it's something we have some trouble admitting.
When we heard the Ep, Jar of Flies, we knew it was over. A brief moment's hope came with talk of an Lp, but Grind turned out to be a fugue, a requiem, a last message from the other side.
Inasmuch as some who view Cobain's suicide and point to songs like "I Hate Myself and Want to Die," "Heart-Shaped Box," "All Apologies," and even the early classic "Negative Creep," and ask, Did you not know it was coming? so also do AiC fans look to songs like, "Don't Follow," and "I Stay Away," and ask, Who didn't know?
It was an agonizing process for fans, so I can't imagine what it was like for the band. But I remember the first time I saw AiC, Layne dressed up in a pink suede Stetson and arm-length black-velvet gloves in a tribute to the recently-fallen Andrew Wood (Mother Love Bone) and sang "Queen of the Rodeo". We lost Andy to heroin, and suddenly everybody was awake. It hurt badly because even those close to Andy thought he had it beaten. That night Soundgarden played "I Awake (http://web.stargate.net/soundgarden/cgi-bin/lyr.cgi?ly=iawak)" to a packed house, dedicating the song to Andy and also to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Soundgarden would go on to record "Slaves & Bulldozers (http://web.stargate.net/soundgarden/cgi-bin/lyr.cgi?ly=slave)." Temple of the Dog (http://www.reachdown.com/) would come together, and Pearl Jam would rise from the ashes on the wings of Stone and Jeff and their newfound pal Eddie.
AiC's Jar of Flies (Jan., 1994) got strong support on MTV and radio, but went under the radar in terms of "message" until after the death of Kurt Cobain (April, 1994). The vigil in the wake of his suicide had an aspect to it that defied the generation; already awake and aware because of Andy's death and its aftermath, Cobain's troubles played out like a performance art piece. They had witnessed an artistic triumph and its necessary end.
Fatigue left the death of Kristen Pfaff, bassist for Courtney Love's band Hole (June, 1994) a minor blip on the cultural radar. Cynicism had set in.
By the time we got to AiC's last Lp, Grind (Nov., 1995), it was well-acknowledged that Layne Staley was next on the list, and it was a matter of time.
Looking back to Jar of Flies, there seems to be a self-awareness, a lucidity within the storm. It's almost as if Staley is resigned to his fate, as if he surrendered to the inevitable. There are stories that say Grind was a difficult record to finish because of Layne's condition.
"Don't Follow" is, as simply as it seems, Layne Staley in a moment of pseudo-lucidity, accepting his fate, and taking those moments to say the only thing left to say: "Goodbye, I love you, I'm not coming back, please don't follow me along this road."
And still they loved him nonetheless. Layne Staley died alone, but Alice in Chains never broke up.
On the stage of life, it was that moment a director seeks, an actor aspires to, a writer weeps for, in which the beauty of the human endeavor is captured in its deepest tragedy.
I always recommend the movie Hype! (http://imdb.com/title/tt0116589/) whenever discussing things that pertain to the "Seattle music scene." A point long-spoken around here, raised in the film is that the music scene gestated in rainy logging communities where kids had nothing to do but listen to records, get together into bands, and practice. And then they would slog out to each other's shows, new relationships blossomed, and a very incestuous scene. It's a habit of any local music scene. (On a similar and therefore exemplary note, an upcoming film called Seattle Groove (http://www.rareeshowproductions.com/) will attempt to document a jazz/post-jazz mod scene in Seattle in which thirty-five or so musicians play in thirty different performing bands.)
But where "grunge" was just a new combination of power chords and attitude, the bands that lent to the foundations of the idea really were uniquely good musicians. Soundgarden's "Loud Love" featured a guitar lead the likes of which was unheard; listen to any project involving Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament (Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam, &c.)--they're well-above their peers. So instead of getting a Motley Crue, a Ratt, a Poison, and so forth, we ended up with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, The Melvins, Screaming Trees (Ellensburg, WA), Tad (Boise, ID) and others who never made it to the headlines (Fastbacks, Skinyard &c.) It was just our turn again. Jimi Hendrix, Heart ... and then a period where Bryan Adams came from north of us and Quarterflash came from south; the 1980s were a rough time for us musically, and that's where these bands came from.
The musicians are prone to bursts of universally-accessible music, as opposed to a consistent dribble of consumer-approved mush. I mean, we all chuckled when Chris Cornell went post-Beatles, and then when Rage Against the Machine became the New Soundgarden for a short period, but it's all cool. We trust these guys; they changed pop music and made it more palatable.
So I don't think of "Don't Follow" as a lucky strike by any means. (Lucky strike: Think of how many cheesy "metal" ballads there were--Helloween's "Windmill," how many songs by Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Poison? One of my old favorite "lucky strikes" is the pop outfit T'Pau, which struck with a ridiculously-overstated "Heart and Soul," and followed it with a poorly-produced but "traditionally" solid "China in Your Hand.")
No, "Don't Follow" isn't a lucky strike. Staley still had that much beauty in him. I think a sense of peace prevailed over his contribution to that track. In a way, he saw the light at the end of the tunnel that is in a sense very akin to Marvin the Paranoid Android at the end of Adams' So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish--"Oh, well ... that's alright, then."
And he probably would have said that, but "Don't cry for me," was already taken.
Still, even this post brings a tear. It's such a huge thing in a way.
• • • • •
I'm going to stop here. It would take more words to explain than it would to finish, but human factors elsewhere in the house have changed. I've just spent thirty or forty minutes getting yelled at for ... um ... oh, okay, it was ... no, actually I don't know what the freaking problem is. Oh, yeah, she's home. That's right. I don't know, I just went from actually feeling the cathartic beauty you're asking about to being yelled at for being puzzled about why I should teach my daughter how to drink alcohol at a young age. It's just this particular time of the day is generally obliged to my partner making sure there's a reason to be irritated at each other. Seriously, I have no idea what just happened, but it's forty or so minutes later and I'm in such a foul mood I can't even recall what the heck this post is about.
For that, I'm sorry.
02-12-04, 08:00 PM
And you were on such a roll, Tiassa! I'm sorry your computer time went south so quickly - I guess it happens to the best of us now and then, huh? But you did manage to paint a fairly clear picture of what was going on with the band - or at least with Staley - as well as with the Seattle music scene in general. Poor Staley...poor Marvin...
Thank you for your valiant effort to enlighten me. :-)