The other day I was listening to Launchcast at work and the song "Nutshell" by Alice in Chains came on and I just stopped working for a little bit to listen to Layne Staley sing. He was an absolutely phenomenal singer with probably one of the worst drug habits I've ever heard of. And now he's gone. You already knew it was going to happen and I was just sad when it finally did.
I was lucky enough to catch Alice in Chains live under the moon at Lollapalooza 1993. It was an awesome set and it seemed that Layne was in good shape at that time. He was funny when he said, "you people up front.........you suck. The people in the back are cool." There was the most insane mosh pit out on the lawn that I've ever witnessed live in person....and believe me, I kept my distance and just watched. The moshers kept churning in a circle, faster and faster, and every once in a while you'd see a body thrown up to the sky from the middle and land back in the middle of it. Somewhere out there now, all these years later, are grown middle-aged men who attended that concert that still need ibuprofen and percosets for aching bones. It was a jamming night.
But anyway, back to Layne Staley. I'm not going to go over the facts of his life...there's plenty of websites out there. One fact that many people do not know is that he had a longtime girlfriend that died of some kind of drug-use related illness sometime around 1994. Supposedly he was totally devastated. After that he got together with Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees, and Baker (now deceased) of the Walkabouts and made a CD under the group name "Mad Season".......which IMHO is in the top 10 of rock and roll CDs of the 1990's.
Do yourself a favor - go buy it. Now.
When you listen to the Mad Season songs in the context of Layne losing his life partner, its almost unbearable. Beautiful, sad, pitiful.
Layne at the MTV Unplugged performance
Alice in Chains did an MTV Unplugged performance in 1996....and to my knowledge that's the last time they ever played. I don't actually own that DVD but I've seen it a bunch of times. They start a song and Layne is way out of key....and he just says "SHIT!" in frustration and the band stops. You can hear Jerry Cantrell saying "Its okay, man." and the audience is cheering Layne on.
And after that, I think Layne just gave up. No more music. He locked himself in his house and did drugs till he died. I don't think he even tried to give up drugs. He chased away everyone who ever cared about him. He wasn't discovered dead until two weeks after he passed away. And there's really nothing else you can do but shake your head and wonder why.
And poor Jerry Cantrell can't seem to get a project going to save his life. A couple of solo albums that didn't really go anywhere, a couple of half-assed attempts to get bands together.....I don't really know what's up with that, because the talent is certainly there. Maybe its the curse of Layne....I sure can't see Jerry Cantrell without thinking of Layne.