Remembering Layne Staley

REMEMBERING LAYNE STALEY: “SUFFRAGETTE CITY”

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Layne Staley only recorded six studio albums in five years — and yet his inimitable voice influenced an entire generation of singers. To commemorate his death ten years ago, members of the MetalSucks staff will be discussing their favorite Staley performances throughout the day.

I was late to the Alice in Chains party. All I really knew about Layne Staley was that he was the guy constantly on MTV (European MTV still played music videos when I was a kid) singing that warbly “Man and a Box” or whatever. I never even bothered to learn what it was actually called. Though he was pretty easy on the eyes, the song and his vocals never really impressed me. That is… until I heard Alice in Chain’s cover David Bowie’s “Suffragette City.”

I’ve been a huge Bowie fan for years, and I love hearing different artists covering each other. However, I just could not believe this raspy, screechy, grungey guy was the same one I’d grown up with and dismissed. Talk about, “Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” After hearing it on some metal covers CD, I went on to find out what else Staley’s voice could do.

The raw energy that Staley’s voice brought this song just bowled me over. It was loose and dirty and punk — in short, all the things I like.  He brought the same life to all the songs he sang and effortlessly combined genres with his voice, as impossible as that sound. I’ve grown to appreciate “Man in the Box” (and learn it’s actual name) and many other Alice in Chains songs, but this cover is what I always think of when remembering Layne Staley.

-LF

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