Another One Bites The Dust

Don’t demand depression from your favorite artists. — Ed

Heroin is bad for you.

This ought to be a “DOH” but apparently it isn’t in at least among some of those in Layne Staley fan circles. Guess it’s time to add another name to this list.

I am sympathetic to a man dying long before his time. I am sympathetic to the struggles of an addictive personality.

I am not sympathetic towards are those who would try to ignore the final lesson, which is tragic simply because it ignored that self-evident truth.

This was a man who said in one song:

You can’t understand a user’s mind
But try, with your books and degrees
If you let yourself go and opened your mind
I’ll bet you’d be doing like me
And it ain’t so bad

Oh, really? Second thoughts on the matter?

Actually, he did. At least the man was honest enough to say to Rolling Stone later, when the drugs stopped being good, when he stopped being able to perform, while he was losing his ladyfriend to them.

“I wrote about drugs, and I didn’t think I was being unsafe or careless by writing about them,” he told the magazine. “Here’s how my thinking pattern went: When I tried drugs, they were (expletive) great, and they worked for me for years, and now they’re turning against me – and now I’m walking through hell, and this sucks.”

The problem of course is how many people teetering on the brink fell off and may well continue to fall off after hearing songs like that? That can’t be ignored. It’s another legacy of his.

At least he later admitted his error.

Those who mourn his death must ask themselves, “Why did he die? Why did he die forty or fifty years ahead of his time? Why wasn’t he able to make music for the last years in his life?” Not to condemn him as a human being, but rather to condemn that which brought him to this end.

Otherwise, his death was in vain.

His fans might also ask themselves another question. “Did I love the music despite his pain and addiction or because of it?”

I have this suspicion that portraying a sensitive, troubled, pained artist is a sort of litmus test nowadays, the only sign of a “true artist” for some.

This is nonsense. I strongly suspect in many cases, this is just seeking some sort of sensitivity superiority. “I hurt, therefore I am . . . better.”

Sorry, but this looks like much warmed-over if not mouldering James Dean to me.

Sure you can look around at the world and find things you can get depressed about. That’s why they call this place “Earth,” not “Heaven.”

But even if you are truly depressed, it’s hardly the best therapy to listen to someone constantly singing about it and suggesting heroin helps.

What I find disturbing is that it’s now considered in at least some circles to be a lot better to whine about those things than to actually do something, however little, about it.

That’s not good enough? That’s why your name is whatever it is rather than “Superman.” Sorry, this is the world, not your world. Next time, come back as God.

If you came across somebody who just got his leg cut off, and he was just content to just lie there sing about how much his life sucks, would you call an ambulance or would you just get down on the ground and start harmonizing with him? I think some would prefer Door Number Two.

Not so long ago, this sort of thing was called “wallowing in self-pity,” and it was not considered a virtue, much less a lifestyle.

Yes, there is true depression and true pain in this world, and I’m not making fun of that, just the fake stances. If you’re the average young person, you have no reason to be in perpetual pain.

This doesn’t mean I think every song has to be upbeat, but when you essentially demand depression from an artist, when you’ll only pay for pain, that’s good in the long run for neither artist nor audience. It’s just as much an addiction as heroin.

Two experiences I think worth sharing:

A number of years back, I saw Nirvana on Saturday Night Live. I watched Kurt Cobain sing, and for the first ever listening to a musician, I thought to myself, “This guy’s deeply disturbed.” He might have been brilliantly disturbed, but the disturbance outweighed the brilliance.

His end came as no surprise. Not that the alternative is much better, but I hope he wasn’t just acting out a role.

A few years back, I found myself reading some of the comments in the Radiohead newsgroup, and again I thought, “Not in Kurt Cobain’s league, but some of these people seem disturbed, too.” Out of curiosity, I then went over to the Marilyn Manson newsgroup. Surely those folks would be even more disturbed.

Actually, I found quite the opposite. I found the Marilyn Manson fans in that newsgroup pretty normal, more so than some of the Radiohead contributors. They weren’t all trying to act out being oh-so-suffering sensitive artsy types victimized by the world, life, or anything else that came in handy.

So if you really find recorded oral pain to be your pleasure, maybe you need a mental dentist. I suggest Prozac. If you just think that makes you look cool, you need to get another life.

Mr. Staley is cool now. Really cool. But then, so is every other corpse in the morgue.


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