“If I can’t be my own…I’d feel better dead”

I was perusing twitter a few days ago and ran across a retweet that announced that Alice in Chains’ EP “Jar of Flies” was released 22 years ago. TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO.  I was stunned…Am I really that old?  The simple answer is yes, I’m that old.  It had been a long time since i listened to that EP from start to finish so I decided to give it a whirl.  It almost brought tears to my eyes upon listening to it again – I consider “Jar of Flies” to be the greatest EP of all time.

No one saw that EP coming when Alice in Chains released it in 1994 – no one.  AIC was a sludgy grunge-era band from Seattle that had a wicked sound, due to the awesome harmonies from Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley.  JOF proved that they could write some soulful, haunting acoustic tracks as well.  Every song on this EP is great – there isn’t one track that would be considered filler or just a throw away.  The harmonies between Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell are the stuff of legend.  AIC wasn’t like the other Seattle bands – they were a heavier, darker band that was closer to heavy metal than grunge AND they could throw a record like JOF at you and blow you away.  They were also the first band from Seattle to get signed to a major record deal – before Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, et. al.

Most people of my generation know what happened to Layne Staley – it was the all too common tale of drug addiction destroying a talent way too soon.  Almost every song Staley sang on after their first album dealt with addiction either overtly or in some context.  He was quoted once as saying something to the effect that he liked drugs and how they made him feel but then the drugs betrayed him – that statement is very haunting and speaks to the naivety of his rock star attitude.  Very sad…

I recently started reading an unauthorized biography about the band – you can find that book here.  Alice in Chains and JOF had a huge impact on me as a musician in terms of how I write music and what I write. It offers some very interesting anecdotes and history tidbits dating all the way back to the mid 80s in Seattle when AIC was just getting started.

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