Kurt Cobain and Layne Stayley, RIP April 5
“I wish I woulda met you,
but now it’s a little late.” Filter: “Hey Man Nice Shot”, Short Bus, EMI 1995
That song wasn’t actually written about Kurt Cobain, but I’ve always associated it to him. For 13 years now, April 5 has been a day of mild sadness for me. In the early 90’s Nevermind kind of changed the public perception of popular music, and for a central albertan kid like me it was my first taste of a sound that wasn’t exactly new in parts of the world.
I’ve written before in here about how I was bored with music and it’s brutal sameness around that time. And it wasn’t just that it was all the same…it was all the same and really kinda of poorly written and performed. Nirvana truly was instrumental in me re-discovering the joy of my lifelong passion, and I was never even a die hard fan. I purchased nevermind. I went back and purchased Bleach, didn’t dig it so much. I purchased Incesticide, liked it alot. When InUtero came out I bought that too.
And then the news came out of Seattle that Kurt Cobain had died. I’ve written this before, but it was the first and one of very few times that someone’s death stopped me in my tracks. Kurt Cobain was different than other celebrities for me…I could relate to his angst and frustration. He was an ordinary dude in an extraordinary setting. He didn’t have big teased up hair and a 2000 dollar leather wardrobe like other musicians of the time, and he didn’t pull any airs of elitism like alot of other celebrities. He was…just a dude.
I’ve read alot of things since his death about him and his abilities. Kurt Cobain loved punk music, but played guitar like a metal guy. There are some that say this is what ultimately killed him…the fact that he was more like what he professed to hate than what he loved. I don’t know if that’s true or not; I never heard him play outside the boundaries of Nirvana and the life it gave itself. Some say he was a much better technical musician than he wanted to allow himself to be. This went against his punk aesthetic of playing by pure emotion and ignoring the math behind music. It’s an interesting thought that someone could learn something and be better at it than they wanted to be.
Of course, that’s all hearsay. Maybe he was just a punk player and killed himself for (as some say) stomach pains or (as others say) heroin induced depression. Perhaps he was even (as a few say) murdered by his wife. Although I really doubt that one. Whatever the case, the world lost a bright spot that day. I was deeply moved and saddened by it. Now, as I am on the cusp of an exciting new phase of my life and going through some massive changes, I don’t feel that sadness anymore. But I still took pause today to reflect on those times and have a little moment of silence. Incesticide is on my CD player right now.
The other great musical loss on April 5 was Layne Staley, singer for Alice in Chains and Mad Season. In the post nirvana music industry clusterfuck of every wannabe in old jeans and a plaid flannel shirt getting signed, Alice in Chains was really a shining light for doing it right and for the right reasons. Sure, there was soundgarden and Pearl Jam too, but of the bunch Alice in Chains was my personal favorite. To this day whenever Rooster or Man in the Box comes on the radio I get a bit excited.
I always thought that Layne Staley never really got his due. Alice in Chains today is looked on as a great bit of that era, and Jerry Cantrell and the band are legitimate stars now. But I think alot of that kind of came after Staley died. Eight years after Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley died of a heroin overdose in his apartment, and his body wasn’t discovered for several days. I don’t remember there being much fanfare about his death or anything… when Cobain died, his band was at the peak of their popularity. When Staley died no one had heard much from the band in a couple of years. So he died in relative obscurity.
So…yeah. April 5th…always a somewhat melancholy day for me. Two of the big influences of a certain time of my life both dead. RIP Kurt and Layne…