Hidden 'Gems' On My MP3 Player: #9 - Alice In Chains
What happened to Layne Staley shouldn't be allowed to happen. In a perfect world he'd have been spotted for what he was, a drug abuser, and helped. But at the end of the day what he did he did to himself, and I expect that there was no end of people who wanted to assist him and help rehabilitate him, to no avail. Such a shame. Rarely has a person had such a pure voice and such a talent and rarely has a person abused and ultimately wasted both so tragically.
I first came across Alice In Chains in the mid 1990s, during what I now refer to as my 'Lost Decade', so named because I also wasted so much in such a short time. There were highlights, but along the way there were a lot of lowlights, and the lowlights led me into a deep, dark pit of depression, fueled by a few people who I now believe felt it was in their best interests to keep me down and virtually neutered. Didn't work. As someone told me at the time, you have to hit the bottom of the pit in order to climb back up and hit the top. Hit the top I did but it didn't happen until well into the 2000s.
Amongst the highlights, meeting a lot of people that were stunningly good. Amongst the lowlights, abusing those people and losing a fair few of them along the way. Since then, well hitting the top and finding that some people can forgive bad treatment. That helped me restore my faith both in human nature and also myself - just one person accepting my apologies was enough for me. In the acceptance was both my final salvation and the proof I needed to know that I'm a cleaner, better person than I once was because frankly I was a loser with a capitol 'L'.
But in those dark days I listened to a lot of depressing music and, let's be honest, a lot of it was just crap. I'd fixate on a song that I thought summed me up and I'd phone people at odd hours and play music down the phone, usually in a drunken state, trying to incoherently explain what it meant. I'm sure more than once person fell asleep on me, not that I'd have known because I used to nod off as well. I have to say that I was a fucked up individual and yep, I was wasting what little talent I had, blaming the world for my woes whilst watching it pass me by. My waste was by writing crap articles for a crap magazine, every so often showing little glimpses of what I was capable of. Sad eh? Well don't cry for me Doug and Tina because although I didn';t enjoy wallowing in self-pity I was certainly content to do so.
Back to the music. I had the usual on the CD player - Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, Mother Love Bone, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails - you name it, if someone released one of those, "I hate the world and I wanna die" songs then I was right in there pumping it up loud. But then I'd also listen to a lot of Motown and disco stuff, especially as I'd be out dancing like a drunken Humphrey B Bear every Wednesday evening. Go figure that one out. I liked the happiness that disco and retro music brings, but sadly it seemed to be over far too soon. We only did that for about a year - our own version of the party that would never end. I remember once saying to my pal Michelle how we were always going to be in that moment, in a way I guess I was right. Those moments do exist and somewhere in the void of time I'm there dacing on top of a quad box stripped to the waist to Tainted Love.
As I got clearer I stopped listening to some music and some bands. Then I heard about what happened to Layne Staley and a wave of sorrow flowed over me. I always loved this song because in it Staley showed what made him different to the rest of the pack - you see Staley could actually sing! Whereas people like Kurt Cobain would yell, Staley had genuine range, control and power - and if you think I'm joking then compare this song (mind you find a far better sounding version) to anything that Nirvana ever did. Cobain screamed his vocals from a dark pit, Staley sang his vocals from a place that the bulk of those guys could never reach. I've heard a lot of people cover Would? and I've never heard anyone get anywhere near to what Staley did. He had it all and as a vocalist he was probably the best that his generation offered up, certainly he was the best from that whole 'Grunge' era in my opinion.
I was happy to rediscover this song late last year when I copied it over for fun and then found myself unable to skip past it - each time I heard it I became mesmerised by the song, and by Staley's voice. A voice like that had the world at it's feet, which is why what happened to Layne Staley should never be allowed to happen.