For my second post of the day I’m delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for fascinating memoir Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan. Thank you to Bei Guo and White Rabbit Books for giving me the opportunity to share an extract from this fantastic book with you today.
About the book:
Kurt Cobain’s best friend and former Queens of the Stone Age member unveils the gritty underbelly of the Seattle music scene in the most honest and unflinching grunge memoir to date
When the rock maverick and grunge pioneer Mark Lanegan first arrived in Seattle in the mid-1980s, he was just another nihilistic waster seeking catharsis from rock ‘n’ roll. Yet little did he know that less than a decade later he would rise to fame as the apocalyptic frontman of one of the most trailblazing grunge bands of all time and soon fall from grace as a low-level crack dealer and a homeless heroin addict while watching some of his closest friends rocket to the forefront of popular music. Nearly three decades later, Lanegan is ready to revisit his gritty past in a gripping memoir Sing Backwards and Weep published in April 2020 by Orion’s new music imprint White Rabbit.
A sinister chronicle of the most tumultuous times of his life, from the formative years of his neoteric rock band Screaming Trees to his brutally honest accounts on the hardships of his life, Lanegan’s memoir is an unembellished tale of one of the most romanticised decades in rock history. From addiction to touring, petty crime, homelessness and the tragic deaths of his closest friends including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley, Lanegan masterfully interweaves these stories into a coarse fabric of his life that is bursting with creativity yet dripping with drugs. With a voice that’s as “scratchy as a three-day beard yet as supple and pliable as moccasin leather” as once described by Pitchfork, Lanegan’s hoarse penmanship is much like his musicianship with its desolate yet highly nuanced and poetic narrative. From the back of the van to the front of the bar, from hotel room to emergency room, onstage, backstage and everywhere in between, Lanegan’s words flow eloquently from once city to another, from one year to another and one tragedy to another.
Between the chaotic years of touring and addiction, music remains the paradoxical anchor of hope glimmering on the bottom of the barrel, offering solace yet simultaneously pulling Lanegan further into the darkness. Sing Backwards and Weep tracks his artistic journey through a series of stories about his fellow musicians like Cobain whose impact on Lanegan’s music remains infinite. Their artistic camaraderie plays a central part in Lanegan’s life story, all the way from their first meeting to long phone calls on music and girls, jam sessions filled with brotherly love and eventually the bitter end with Lanegan being the last person Cobain spoke to before his death. Lanegan’s memoir offers a unique chance to be immersed in the sonic wonderland of influences behind his hauntingly raw signature sound by revisiting his first encounters with cult musicians and friends like Nick Drake and Nick Cave as well as dipping into his personal playlists of the time that included the likes of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young.
Sing Backwards and Weep tracks the volatile rise and fall of Screaming Trees in an unsparing manner while diving deep into Lanegan’s personal struggles. Unflinchingly raw and powerful to the bone, Sing Backwards and Weep is not your usual celebrity memoir with a pseudo-inspirational tag line, it goes beyond that by telling a story of a man watching his dreams catch fire yet finding a way to drag himself out of the wreckage as one of the most extraordinary musicians of our time.
About the author:
Mark Lanegan (b. 1964) is an American alternative rock musician and singer-songwriter who is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of our time. He is the founding member of influential psychedelic grunge band Screaming Trees and was a full-time member of Queens of The Stone Age between 2000-2014 when he also penned the theme song for Anthony Bourdain’s award-winning TV show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown with QOTSA front man Josh Homme. He has collaborated with a long list of industry heavy weights over the years, including Massive Attack, Moby, Warpaint, UNKLE, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Eagles of Death Metal amongst others. Lanegan lives in Los Angeles.
Extract from Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan:
At first his warning didn’t register, my mind fixated on the pinprick ending of the morning’s routine, the relief from what at this point was only a dull, aching pain.
“Police,” the African cab driver whispered again in a thick accent while motioning with a roll of the eyes and quick hunch of his shoulders to look in the rearview mirror where, sure enough, the three young guys following in the van behind looked like undercover cops, eager to beat someone’s ass. Maybe mine.
My six-foot-four cross-dressing drug buddy St. Louis Simon and I had just scored a bag of dope and a bag of coke, both of which I had thrown somewhat carelessly in my unbuttoned shirt pocket. I had a sack of new rigs stuffed in the front pocket of my tight pants as I hadn’t expected to encounter the authorities today. Now I felt totally exposed.
Another ten blocks across Seattle’s Capitol Hill and it was obvious we were indeed being followed. As the car pulled up just down the street from my building I hopped out and started walking up the sidewalk, try- ing my best to act naturally. Simon got out the other side and, wearing a trailer-park-style denim skirt and wedge shoes that made him even taller, started to cut across the gravel lot between buildings where out the corner of my eye I saw two guys tackle him to the ground . . . not good. I was almost to the corner when a short, young cop in jeans and muscle shirt suddenly jumped around in front of me, held a badge in my face, and said, “Hold on a second, buddy! Where ya off to so fast, buddy?”
Hands raised automatically, I did my best full-of-shit, bewildered, what’s-this-all-about look.
“I’m just going home.” I pointed dumbly to my apartment building.
“What’s this?” he asked, reaching out to squeeze the drugs through the thin cloth of my shirt.
“What the fuck, man? I live here! What do you want?” I yelled while pulling away from him with phony indignation. In my head, I quickly calculated how sick I’d be in jail before making bail since I hadn’t done a shot yet that morning. Down the street, I could see both Simon and the cab driver sitting curbside in handcuffs, feet in the gutter, the entire backseat pulled out of the cab.
“Okay, man, let’s see some ID.”
In my mind, I saw my passport upstairs on the coffee table covered
in crack pipes and the huge pile of used syringes next to it. That wasn’t going to be an option.
“I don’t have it on me. My name is Mark Lanegan.”
The cop narrowed his eyes, took a hard look at me, then said, “Didn’t
you used to be a singer?”
After walking me back down the street to the surveillance van, he took a small black-and-white photo off the dashboard: a guy they wanted for auto theft and who looked something like me. He had me sign it with a ballpoint pen, then let us be on our way.
End of Extract
I don’t know about you, but that has definitely whet my appetite for more!
Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan is available to purchase now: Amazon UK
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