I still listen to Alice in Chains just to hear Layne Staley’s voice (Part 1 of 2)
A quick recap on who Layne Staley was. He was the original lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and co-composer of Alice in Chains when he was still alive. He sang the best known songs of the band when they came to prominence beginning in 1990.
Layne Staley is highly regarded as one of the greatest vocalists to have ever lived. His traits and attributes as a singer have become the stuff of folklore because they are extremely rare if not one of a kind. The way he sang, the way performed, and even his fashion sense continue to be emulated by so many years after he passed away; they all pale in comparison to him.
It was because of Layne Staley that Alice in Chains became a household name, a legendary band and one of the most influential bands to have come around. This was the band that kicked-started The Grunge Movement of the early 90’s. Alice in Chains effectively put Seattle on the map when it came to record producers and A&R executives looking for new bands to sign up to their respective major record labels.
To this day, Alice in Chains is still performing but with a different lead vocalist in William DuVall. In essence, Layne Staley is still very much “alive” with the band because they always perform the songs he had composed and sang.
I do not know of any other artist alive today that can perform with as much soul, passion, and powerful vocals as Layne Staley had in the classic MTV Unplugged Alice in Chains in 1996 despite the fact that at the time him he was already very ill and physically weak due to his prolonged drug addiction.
When you watch MTV Unplugged Alice in Chains, you will see right there that Layne Staley was already neck deep into his deadly addiction to heroin. It showed in his bloodshot eyes, pale complexion, and emaciated figure. His being attired in black from the neck down could not hide the overwhelming physical pain he must have been experiencing at that point. Yet, he valiantly pulled through the entire set performing Alice in Chains hits and new material at the time coming from their third studio-release, self-titled Alice in Chains. This would sadly would be the last album the rest of Alice in Chains would be able to put out with the founder of this band and its lead vocalist, Layne Staley.
Anybody who knows about IV drugs or any other drug administered through the veins is aware that one of the main reasons why Layne Staley was covered up was because of the track marks, puncture wounds, and sores that were all over his already thin and very frail body.
Although the MTV Unplugged performance of Alice in Chains was masterfully edited so as not to show what cannot be shown on national television, it was also management’s decision to do that in order to conceal how dangerously sick Layne Staley was at that point.
As I watch closely this said performance, there were bits and moments wherein I saw through the fingerless gloves of Layne Staley while he was holding the microphone. I could see how sore, swollen, and red his fingers were due to the veins in his hands being “tapped out” already.
“Tapped out” means the veins in his arms had collapsed already due to his repeated intake of heroin in the same areas of his arms. It was sad. It was alarming. It made you want to cry. He was physically deteriorating before everyone’s eyes.
Yet, with all the darkness that surrounded Layne Staley’s final years, he managed to overcome all obstacles that night
during his performance. It was as if he was performing from within, pulling in strength from the depths of his soul to finish the entire set and to give his utmost best for the lucky audience who were present and the viewers at home as it was being televised in MTV. For me, the MTV Unplugged performance of Alice in Chains was beautiful yet haunting. It was all because of one man, one amazing artist, one music legend, Layne Staley.
Layne Staley had said it a few times as he entered what would be his final years that he did not want anyone, especially his fans and followers, to ever go down the self-destructive path he was in. Don’t get it wrong. Layne Staley did not want to end up addicted to heroin. Who in his right mind would want to! People should understand that Layne Staley did everything he could humanly possible to become sober.
But when you have “so-called friends” handing you drugs freely on a daily basis and even delivering them to where you live, how can anyone get well? These were not true friends of Layne Staley but jealous individuals who were making sure that he would never become clean and sober again and wanted him gone as soon as possible. This disturbing fact regarding some of the people who were around Layne Staley was revealed recently.
Despite being around a bad crowd and shady individuals who did not want him to live a clean and sober life, Layne Staley kept trying to defeat his drug addiction. Proof of that is it has been documented and reported that he checked himself in a drug rehab facility a total of thirteen times during different phases of his professional career as an artist. His mom, Nancy McCallum, has revealed that vital piece of information–of his son’s valiant attempts to be able to live a drug-free life. Of course, Layne Staley’s mom so wished he could have been more careful with who he associated himself because the music industry is not always comprised of the most moral upright people. Drugs are easily within reach for artists. Nancy McCallum expressed that sentiment in a rare interview conducted with her a few years ago.
She was supportive of her son Layne Staley pursuing a career in music but she could not imagine the problems and troubles that came along with the worldwide fame her son would find when he formed Alice in Chains.
That is why parents keep an eye on your kids, who they hang out with, and who others surround them. Not everyone are real friends and after your children’s best interests. Some are “snakes” and once envy hits them hard, they will do everything within their power to derail the dreams and aspirations your children would want to attain within their lifetime.
Now, back to Layne Staley. He was the embodiment of a complete package of an artist. He was good looking, amazingly gifted as a singer, and he was young. Just those three things alone, as we all know in this day and age, are reasons enough for some evil people to plot your downfall.
(End of Part 1)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.