The lyrical straightforwardness of Layne Stayley’s — or should I say Mad Season’s song (all songs are credited to Barrett Martin, Mike McCready, John Baker Saunders, and Layne Staley) Track №7 in their ‘Above’ album (1995) has a psychologically chilling affect. I suddenly felt aware of all my failures — all my apprehensions about the world — all of my fears clawed at base of my throat and the anger followed closely. The beat kept above everything else.
#LayneStayley was the singer of the popular #Seattle #Grunge 4 man band Alice in Chains.
Layne Stayley has always been my favorite singer. I’ve sang grunge songs my whole life. I may have wondered; heard Maynard scream and compared sometimes — but then I heard Stayley sing again, and I was convinced again every time — He was the best to me. Other’s also agree — If you don’t know who #LayneStayley is- welcome to
Rock Singing at God Level.
Don’t believe me? Go listen to a vocal coach talk about it. Yeah, that guys pretty annoying I know, but he seems like a pretty good vocal coach. Also, see what #JerryCantrell says about Stayley’s singing. Then, read through as you listen :
| I Don’t Know Anything / Artist- Mad Season / Licensed to YouTube by SME |
I don’t know anything- I don’t know who I am.
I don’t know anything- I don’t know who to be.
Why we have to live in so much hate everyday? Oh yeah
Why the fighting and the coming down, am I sane?
I don’t know, yeah
I don’t know anything- I don’t know who to be.
I don’t know anything- I don’t know who I am
Why we have to live in so much hate everyday? Oh yeah
Why the fighting and the coming down, am I sane?
I don’t know
When the teacher put the ruler down on my hand, I laughed
Cross my heart and hide reliever in trails of blood, I love
There you have it. No bullshit. If you’ve heard Dirt and Facelift, these lyrics are a throwback to Stayley’s original drawl-creeping over the melodic singing, which he didn’t really do a lot of in Above. But back then, there was a sense of sarcasm in there somewhere, a tiny glint of hope that was fading fast. His sense of timing, his expression of cool nonchalance sang in perfect harmony each time with a rage just beneath the surface that would possibly never show — all of it combines to create an almost haunting effect with a completely unique vocal-sound that’s harmonised, yet somehow still sounds like disembodied voices in parts speaking, convincing, scheming and screaming in a way that leaves me somehow feeling like it’s worth going on each day just to try and see if i could do the same with my own miseries.
Fast forward and I don’t know about the band in 1995 but Stayley was already picturing himself dead and gone, and would barely emerge from his apartment even after all the success and money Mad Season’s #Supergroup Status brought. Compare the singing on the record (it was also probably backed by the other singer from Screaming Trees) and you can see he’s just not that into it.
Frankly, this song makes me think of sitting on an ‘Angry Chair’ so long you can’t remember to get up anymore and all the anger just boils and you seethe, until it’s replaced by a sense of peace knowing that at least, you wont have to go on hating like this for that much longer. You can hear him singing about this in ‘River of Deceit’. Layne Stayley was always brutally honest about his own reality in interviews and shows, and most of all, he was brutally honest as a lyricist, never allowing himself to wallow in self-pity as long as any other person. Just like he keeps telling himself in ‘Wake Up’ — “Slow suicide’s no way to go-oh”. But then Layne’s dad came around his place because he had nowhere to go and there are reports of them shooting up together and he was happy, but he was really sad. You know how it is, this life. In January 1999 after the death of bassist John Baker Saunders from an overdose of heroin, the band would never play together again.
So what do these lyrics mean? Obviously, there are hundreds of threads opened about this song on www.songmeanings.com (obvious to me) because, although the meaning of the words is literal, it speaks about a single person feeling a certain way and simply talking about it openly — simultaneously, it encompasses the feelings of every single person who is wronged, every injustice in the world, every tyrannical leadership like #Myanmar — mass murdering their own citizens. Since the beginnings of the supposed ‘war on terror’ everywhere reeks of the fighting and the killing and the coming down -permeating our lungs already filled to the brim with hate for an overindulgent society bent on it’s own destruction.
To me, that’s truly genius lyric-writing. To the point. Truth spoken out straight from the heart, that speaks to everyone, everywhere in the world. Perhaps except the Machine Gun Kelly fans who are applying hair-gel at home right now to achieve the perfect ‘messy’ look for their next #instagram #selfie because their brains are already hardwired into the fastest evolving slow dopamine-drip of more and more Love button-taps on a screen.
If you don’t get the difference between being honest about your work and musicians who endlessly glorify themselves while trying to seem honest, check out Stayley’s rare interview here.
He talks about the Mad Season project, why he was so nervous there at first, and since their personal lives were hounded continuously by the press and dissected from every possible angle when Alice in Chains hit super-stardom, how he learned to ignore that and keep on working. But again — you can hear the defeated attitude in his voice, the feelings he felt after years of repetitive questions screaming “Are you fucked up Layne, are you dying of Aids?” After the now-infamous piece of #RollingStone magazine (Complete Money-Grubbing Piece of Shit / Trash Magazine from then till now) was published Layne saw it at a newsstand while he was shopping with his girlfriend and he nearly collapsed on the street, not knowing how the cover (which features Stayley’s face beside a Shitty Title which would nowadays be called Clickbait — and no, I dont wanna link it), it’s not a big surprise to me that he didn’t venture outside too much from then on, preferring the quiet of his own apartment and losing himself in video games, heroin, crack, speed, meth, morphine and a multitude of pills while trying to write his book. And then the love of his life, Demri Parott died from a drug overdose. Quoting the only single article that I liked about Layne Stayley musical legacy (thanks www.musicoholics.com) That’s when Staley was placed on a 24-hour suicide watch. According Mike Lanegan (from Screaming Trees), Staley took her death “extremely badly” and fell into a deep depression. “He never recovered from Demri’s death. After that, I don’t think he wanted to go on,” Lanegan said in a 2002 interview. Basically, Layne chose to close his doors to the world forever.
To Layne Stayley, drug use was just a part of his everyday life for a long time. That’s not what he was all about though. He talks about their songwriting process in the interview and mentions his intentions behind the lyrics he writes at 10.33 —
“We’ve taken some painful feelings and pulled them out of people, and made it easy — and made it sound beautiful to make it easier for that person to deal with those memories; or those feelings.”
“I think it’s about an observation that the world is full of hatred, and there’s no way to fit in without losing your true self. Think about who Layne was, other than the drug addiction. He was a guy who liked to have fun, and a guy who spoke from his heart. He’s asking, “Is there a good reason for all the hatred that I’m not aware of?”
To me, this seems like the most plausible meaning of the song, and it aligns with interpretations of his other song that deal with similar subject matter. My favourite lines in the songs are the last two ones of the second verse :
“When the teacher put the ruler down on my hand, I laughed.
Cross my heart and hide reliever in trails of blood, I love.”
It’s obvious what Stayley’s attitude towards authority-figures was. It’s not so obvious that he hides the ‘reliever’ in trails of blood left from shooting his veins raw every day to try to forget the hate, the agony, the torture — and to return every day upon awakening, to that state of mental oblivion; drug-fuelled parties and nights full of restless despair punctuated by strangers in an unknown place — once again, but over time, at least, numbed out.
Since 1999, we as a society have grown increasingly dependent on using psychoactive substances for entertainment, opiates for pain relief, weed to lighten the buzz and alcohol to keep the good times flowing along. The hundreds of thousands of deaths due to overdose and drug abuse are still attributed to ‘Bad Kids’ from ‘the Poorer Neighbourhoods’ shooting each other every time they have an argument about drugs or money for more drugs. Or it’s now attributed to either the crazy junior- high student who shoots up his entire school, but at the same time, every single millionaire-rapper is smoking blunts, sippin’ lean carrying cases of cash everywhere in their very real, very raw music video footage. Even back in 1999 , Stayley says :
“[Drugs] worked for me for years,” Staley told Rolling Stone that year, “and now they’re turning against me — and now I’m walking through hell.”
That’s not glorification. That’s not pro drug-use. That’s a straight up warning to each and every #AIC fan. He kept it real. He knew he was lost — he had tried to find a reason, find a passion, find love — the world of ‘music industry business practices’ took all those things and twisted them in all the wrong ways, creating an icon people loved for entirely the wrong toxic reasons.
When are we going to stop taking celebrities' personal lives as our daily entertainment source? Why are we so fascinated to watch extremely talented, very young musicians waste away while we post and repost shit that no one ever fucking needs to know about someone else? It’s sickening, and I have the disease too. I’ve been fascinated with Grunge Rock since 4th grade, and I’ve come to realize that kids gravitate to the sound because its so Real — its so emotional — and it relieves them from their monotonous lives for a while. So they take on the image, with which comes the drugs. Happened in the 70’s to #Hendrix — happened to #LilPeep in 2017. We just love it as an audience — the shock, the awe, the head shaking, the comments, the posts, the outpouring of the emotions, the graffiti upon graffiti drawn all around the world for a person who probably needed someone to call them as a friend, not an icon/musician/trend-setter.
We’re all too human, and Stayley’s junkie persona has long been the topic of major discussion all over the world. #blabbermouth magazine’s Mr. #Rubio even created a completely fictional last interview piece with the vocalist, even creating a book about it which made tons of money after his death, obviously. So fuck you, Blabbermouth. And fuck you too, Adriana Rubio.
“Layne Staley: Angry Chair is a fictional biography by Adriana Rubio who claims they witnessed last days. AIC fans pretty much know this story for years, but new fans sadly do not. Staley’s friends and family have publicly expressed their frustration over the book, claiming that it is full of lies and that Rubio never interviewed Staley. The book itself is a complete joke. And till today, the vultures keep circling.
However, in 2020, more and more people every day hear Layne Stayley and recognise him for his sheer vocal abilities and singing talent — and we don’t give a fuck about tabloid headlines, but hey, I’m sure fangirls are always on TMZ’s street corner, harassing #JustinBieber or #KanyeWest or whoever’s image they’re using to earn today’s dollar.
If we stop it — if we respect the people who give such a big part of their own lives in the form of artistic expression — maybe we could one day make real social change happen and not get fucked up because we took too many acid tabs on the way there making up shitty catchphrases like “Turn on, tune in, drop out” putting the Love the youth of America felt for their own countrymen and the drug-fiending dirty illiterate opinionated assholes always robbing and looting, living like gypsies, under the same fucking label of ‘Hip’ or ‘Hippie’ culture, till the smart ones realized they wanted nothing to do with a criminal and evolved from their Hip assistant-selves into record-execs and corporate salesmen, undermining musicians or convincing them to go on country-wide tours which often proved more than the musician’s health and minds could take.
With #Instagram, we are now more connected to the ones we admire or look up to — however, most people still don’t realize that idolization is just copying — if you like somebody’s art, appreciate it, but don’t try and copy it. Creatively using what comes to your own mind to express an idea is considered art and sometimes, to dive to the darkest depths of our own minds is a very necessary process (#CarlJung) for someone who has experienced truly hateful, evil things in their lives, in order to come out experienced and truly transformed as a person at the end of it. Every creative person feels both the light and the dark pulling them, and morality is often the least important decision-making factor.
Don’t stick a pin in such people with a permanent label and keep them stuck there — it’s great you liked that vibes, the sound and all, but please support your favourite artists to change everyday, grow everyday, experience more and evolve. Don’t heart #Troll comments. Don’t keep asking for song after song. Be authentic. Ask real questions. Make lasting changes. #CancelCulture and #Twitter together have now completely fucked up the way celebrities experience fame — and it’s the first time it’s happening. Kid’s who make music are barely making it to 21. Let’s take a step back — lets re-evaluate the value of art, music and performances. Let’s support musicians in a way that makes them less of a zoo animal or 24/7 display and more as an interesting human being with talents. Yes, I know. Fuck me. And fuck advice. I get it. I’m here to remind myself of these thoughts tomorrow by publishing this piece. I don’t really know why you’re here, but I hope you listen to more Layne Stayley songs because of me.
Rest in peace, Layne Stayley. It did rain the day you died.
Thanks also to Youtube’s Rock N’ Roll True Stories Channel — You Fuckin Rock dude. Keep up the great work! I love watching your #youtube content.
This article was originally published on www.rlzwan.com and reposted here.
Some notable vocal performances in Stayley’s AIC days are:
This one’s for one of my old friends who loves AIC as much as I do
My personal favourite AIC song this month (it changes often):
If you want to learn to play the song on guitar, here’s the tabs: