05
Apr
12

Golden Fruit Forgotten

4136597496_5abe2fb47dBack in high-school we had this badass English teacher who was like a walking encyclopaedia of life-changing quotes.

She used to print them out and tack them to the walls in her classroom. I’ve forgotten most of them over time and the ones I remember I only half remember.

One of them was about golden fruit, it was a metaphor for greatness. It went something like “Heavy hang the boughs that bear golden fruit.”

I thought of it today because I got to thinking about Layne Stayley, a man who you’ve probably never heard of, but who was one of the greatest vocalists who ever lived.

 

 

Like a lot of artists that were part of the grunge scene in the early 90s, Layne got strung out on heroine and on April 5th 2002, the exact same day that Kurt Cobain had eaten a shotgun eight years earlier, Layne overdosed in his flat where he’d been living as a recluse for a number of years.

That was exactly 10 years ago today.

He was the singer and frontman of grunge / metal band Alice In Chains, who recorded the last great album of the grunge era, the self-titled album they released in 1995.

 

 

I don’t know why, but one of the lines he wrote was floating in my head yesterday so I started digging up some old articles about him and what I found was pretty heart-wrenching.

His dad was a junkie who left him, his mom and his sisters when Layne was eight. It was a heavy blow growing up without his father and at one point he even got a phone call telling him his father had died, which was a lie to protect Layne from his old man.

Layne said he felt like he always had the talent and creativity to be a rock star and was motivated by the thought that if he became a celebrity his dad might return.

 

 

Sure enough, once Alice In Chains started gaining momentum when Layne was in his early 20s, his dad saw a picture of Layne in a magazine and suddenly wanted to be a part of his son’s life again.

Sadly, it wasn’t quite the reunion Layne had imagined growing up. I found this on the MTV site, it’s part of the last interview that Layne ever gave:

 

"He said he’d been clean of drugs for six years," Staley related. "So, why in the hell didn’t he come back before? I was very cautious at first. Then the relationship changed. My father started using drugs again. We did drugs together and I found myself in a miserable situation. He started visiting me all day to get high and do drugs with me. He came up to me just to get some shit, and that’s all. I was trying to kick this habit out of my life and here comes this man asking for money to buy some smack."

Layne’s father finally kicked his heroine habit, but Layne’s dependence on the drug only worsened over time.

Alice in Chains only ever recorded three studio albums, three EPs and one live album. Layne’s heroine use got so bad that they band didn’t finish touring to support their second album and didn’t tour following the release of their last album at all.

By 1996 the band was dead in the water. In the same year, Layne’s ex-fiancé Demri Lara Parrott died from complications caused by drug use, which sent Layne sliding deeper and deeper into drug use and depression.

 

 

Layne did vocals for another two Alice In Chains songs for their boxset, which was released in 1998, but from 1999 until his death in 2002, he lived as a total recluse.

Drummer Sean Kinney was interviewed about Layne’s final years:

 

"I kept trying to make contact…Three times a week, like clockwork, I’d call him, but he’d never answer. Every time I was in the area, I was up in front of his place yelling for him…Even if you could get in his building, he wasn’t going to open the door. You’d phone and he wouldn’t answer. You couldn’t just kick the door in and grab him, though there were so many times I thought about doing that. But if someone won’t help themselves, what, really, can anyone else do?"

More tragic than that was bassist Mike Starr’s last recollection of Layne when he saw him on April 4th 2002. Starr tried to get Layne to call 911 and get himself checked into hospital because his drug use had gotten so bad that he was completely emaciated, had lost a number of teeth and was wracked by pain and nausea.

Layne threatened to end their friendship if Starr called 911. The two fought and Starr stormed out of Layne’s apartment. Starr later said that Layne called out, “Not like this, don’t leave like this” to Starr as he left Layne’s condo.

 

 

On April 19th 2002, his accountants phoned his mother and told her that no money had been drawn from Layne’s bank account in two weeks.

The police kicked in the door to his home and found his remains lit by the flickering light from the television he died watching when he overdosed on a lethal combination of cocaine and heroine.

His mother was there when they found him. She asked the police if she could move some things off the couch so she could speak with her son one last time.

After an autopsy was performed it was revealed that Layne had died on the 5th of April, making Starr the last person to ever see him alive.

Starr blamed himself for his bandmate and close friend’s death for most of the remainder of his life, which ended tragically last year in March after he OD’ed on methadone and prescription medication.

Alice In Chains reformed in 2009 with a new vocalist and bassist to release Black Gives Way To Blue, but it just felt like a cardboard cut-out of a band that, for all the incredible music they recorded, has largely been forgotten.

 

 

Growing up, I promised myself I’d never become one of those sad, sorry fuckers who clings onto the “good old days” and reminisces endlessly about how much better things used to be, but when I think about the great musicians and bands that were around in the early nineties, it’s hard not to.

So many great minds, weighed down by the burden of the golden fruit they bore.

Great men, the ones that become legends of their time, endure untold suffering to bring some kind of truth, some kind of light into this world that is just as quickly extinguished and forgotten.

Let us not forget our brother Layne Stayley who lived his life with heaven beside him and hell within.

 

 

-ST


4 Responses to “Golden Fruit Forgotten”


  1. April 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    That gave me the coldest winter chill. I remember jamming ‘Creep’ and ‘Heaven Beside You’ back in high school man. Good times. R.I.P Staley & Cobain.

  2. 2 dp
    April 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Hell within… Good post man. He was a big part of our lives. Always will be…

  3. 3 Demri
    July 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Just beautiful.. I need to find my dirt cd and say a prayer for Layne.

  4. 4 Glenn
    June 28, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for this article!
    I used to listen to Alice In Chains all the time, and loved the sound and the vocals of Layne.
    Mad Seasons with Layne is also great, a great singer that went to early.
    He is and will always be one of my favorite artists!
    R.I.P Layne Staley and Mike Starr


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