Songs from Alice in Chains that are a must-hear

Songs from Alice in Chains that are a must-hear (and why you should listen to them)

/ 02:25 PM June 09, 2024

Songs from Alice in Chains that are a must-hear (and why you should listen to them)

Alice in Chains. Image from Columbia

Before becoming one of the “Big Four” bands (Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) that played a significant role in the Grunge Movement, the renowned group Alice in Chains initially consisted of a group of four young individuals (the late Layne Staley, the late Mike Starr, Jerry Cantrell, and Sean Kinney) aspiring to establish their reputation in their local community. They were unaware of the significant role they would soon play in influencing the rock music scene of their time and beyond. Even now, one can discern echoes of Alice in Chains’ musical influence in many of today’s heavier modern rock bands.

I believe that the band Alice in Chains was truly unique, particularly due to the exceptional vocal talents of their late frontman Layne Staley, a sentiment shared by many others. He was a singer who inherently possessed the ability to showcase both strong intensity and delicate emotion in his vocal performances. Moreover, his voice exhibited a profound sense of depth that, when combined with these unique qualities, captivated a diverse audience from various musical backgrounds, fostering strong loyalty towards the band, particularly due to the contributions of the late Layne Staley.


When considering Alice in Chains, my mind’s eye conjures the late Layne Staley. He stood out from the rest in his unique way. He emanated an aura of greatness. Moreover, he possessed a distinctive singing style that would later be emulated by numerous frontmen following the band’s rise to prominence in the early 1990s.


Musical groups such as Creed, Nickelback, Puddle Of Mudd, Fuel, Matchbox 20, Godsmack, Taproot, Breaking Benjamin, Adema, and numerous others have acknowledged Layne Staley as a significant influence on their music, leading to the formation of their respective bands. Certainly, he had been an inspiration to all of them.

It was a difficult task to compose a list of the top three songs by the renowned band Alice in Chains. There are numerous exceptional songs available for selection, including both popular hits by the band and certified rock classics.

Of the three LPs and three EPs they released during the years that Layne Staley was still their lead vocalist… Every one of those records had songs that helped define their era and could only qualify as “uniquely Alice in Chains” in every conceivable way to their discerning ear.

This is a subsection that has been established within my column to educate music enthusiasts about the historical significance of bands like Alice in Chains and highlight the reasons for celebrating and remembering their contributions.


1. “Would?” was one of the earliest and biggest hits from Alice in Chains, catapulting them to worldwide fame and helping their second album ‘Dirt’ achieve global commercial success.


This song was about the passing of Andrew Wood, who was good friends with the members of Alice in Chains. Andrew Wood was the lead singer of Mother Love Bone, another Seattle-based band that achieved mainstream popularity.

However, with the sudden passing of Andrew Wood due to a heroin overdose right after Mother Love Bone released their major label debut, and given that the Seattle music community is a tight-knit group of musicians with almost all prominent bands knowing each other, this tragic event led Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell to compose the lyrics for “Would?” with frontman Layne Staley singing it. Thus, “would?” was born. The name of the song was taken from Andrew Wood’s last name, and is spelled “Wood.”

I still listen to the classic Alice in Chains track from my old CD copy of their second album ‘Dirt,’ and I often watch the music video online. Listen to the lyrics… You will glean from this song that Layne Staley knew what he was singing about; he could very well relate to what caused Andrew Wood to die because Andrew Wood, during that period, was in the beginning stages of serious substance abuse that would plague him until his death.

Such lines like, “Into the blood again / Same old trip it was back then / So I made a big mistake / Try to see it once my way”. These revealing and poignant lyrics show Layne Staley admitting that trying drugs was the wrong decision, as he found himself unable to escape their grasp.

It is also rather haunting because around ten years later, after this song was released, Layne Staley died of a drug overdose, thus suffering the same fate as his friend Andrew Wood. Listening to “Would?” ever since Layne died, it now sounds eerily prophetic and can be viewed as a warning to the people around Layne Staley at the time to keep an eye on his well-being before it is too late.

“In my perspective, ‘No Excuses’ stands out as one of the prime demonstrations of the exceptional vocal harmonies demonstrated by Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell.” Their collaboration was undoubtedly one of the strongest of the 1990s, possibly representing the pinnacle of a two-vocal band from that time.

One could argue that Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley were akin to the Paul McCartney and John Lennon of their era in terms of how their voices harmonized with each other. Their collective singing produced a flawless sound.

Allow me to share this fact with those who may not be aware. Jerry Cantrell has expressed in several interviews conducted since 2006 that Layne Staley provided him with the confidence to assume a more significant singing role within the band.

Jerry Cantrell eventually began sharing vocal duties with Layne Staley instead of simply playing in the background, as a demonstration of Layne’s strong support for his best friend. They referred to each other as “Best Bud.”


2. “No Excuses” is among the most emotionally resonant and melodious tracks ever released by Alice In Chains. This track was extracted from their ‘Jar of Flies’ EP, which was released in 1994 to significant commercial success and critical acclaim.

This EP was the first and remains the only in music history to have reached the Number 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart. To this day, no other band or artist has achieved this accomplishment. The track “No Excuses” played a significant role in the success of the “Jar of Flies” EP, which ultimately led to its record-breaking, chart-topping status.

If you are unfamiliar with Alice in Chains’ music and wish to explore their earlier material featuring Layne Staley as the lead vocalist, this track serves as a suitable introduction to the band’s formative years. I strongly recommend that children listen to “No Excuses.”


3. “Get Born Again” was one of the last two songs recorded by Alice in Chains with Layne Staley in the twilight of his music career. This song exhibited somber tones. It is exceedingly dark.

Whenever I listen to this song, it creates the sensation of being engulfed by a dense black haze. I am experiencing a sense of melancholy due to the widely reported challenges Layne Staley faced during the recording of his vocals for “Get Born Again.” ”

In 1998, he had reached a low point both physically and in terms of health. He weighed approximately eighty pounds, exhibited a sickly pallor, and most significantly, had already lost all of his teeth as a consequence of long-standing intermittent heroin addiction. The aforementioned troubling fact is particularly disheartening to me as it has had an impact on Layne Staley’s articulation of certain words, resulting in a noticeable lisp in some of the lyrics he performs.

It seemed that one of the most exceptional vocalists of all time was being deprived of the ease with which he formerly sang with great intensity, as demonstrated in the period from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

In my opinion, “Get Born Again” exemplifies a resilient human spirit as Layne Staley completes the recording of his vocals despite his declining physical health, in separate sessions. His vocal recordings for the song “Get Born Again” were completed gradually. Importantly, the recording sessions for this song took place concurrently with his birthday.

Familiarity with the background stories, interviews, and testimonials from good-natured individuals present during the recording process with Layne Staley, who assisted him in the studio, would enhance one’s appreciation of this hauntingly beautiful but powerful track.

Layne Staley had to draw upon profound inner resources to accomplish this task, which significantly depleted his energy due to his existing illnesses caused by his serious addiction. Based on the sole two publicly released photographs of him during this period… It was evident that he appeared fragile and debilitated.

When one listens to “Get Born Again,” it retains its exceptional quality, remaining engaging and deserving in comparison to the band’s earliest and most popular hits. It is not unexpected that Layne Staley was, and remains, the core and essence of Alice in Chains.

Layne Staley can be considered for embodying the essence of Alice in Chains.

To this day, the voice of Layne Staley remains incomparable to all modern-day rock singers, frontmen, and vocalists in bands. He had everything going for him, and if he had not succumbed to a serious drug addiction, Alice in Chains could have been one of the greatest rock bands alive today. They would have been in the same league as Foo Fighters, Metallica, and other long-running bands with a long list of albums that are chart-toppers, commercial hits, and filled with popular and memorable songs. The point is, what happened to Layne Staley should serve as a reminder to everyone to stay away from drugs, period. Don’t even try it. The music industry has lost so many great, iconic, and legendary singers, frontmen, and vocalists because of it.

Enjoy the music, but stay away from the vices.

Long live Layne Staley!

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The original line-up of Alice in Chains was comprised of the late Layne Staley (Vocalist), the late Mike Starr (Bassist), Jerry Cantrell (Guitarist), and Sean Kinney (Drummer).

TAGS: Alice in Chains, Layne Staley

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