Two bands associated with the Seattle sound of the early 1990s. Two deaths… on the same day, eight years apart. One, completely unexpected. The other, expected much sooner. Yesterday, April 5, 2014, marked the 20th anniversary of the suicide of NIRVANA frontman KURT COBAIN, and the 12th anniversary of the overdose that killed ALICE IN CHAINS frontman LAYNE STALEY.
I remember the death of Kurt Cobain as if it just happened. I’d been outside mowing the lawn, when my Dad called me inside for a phone call. On the line was my friend Lloyd, a classmate of mine from Davenport North, where we were both seniors. He was undoubtedly the biggest NIRVANA fan I’d ever known, and when I picked up, he told me that “Kurt’s been killed.” I flipped on MTV to find Kurt Loder reporting, and from my corded landline, I spoke with Lloyd as he speculated that Cobain had been murdered. Conspiracy theorists aside, we’d soon find out that was not the case, and the day would become sort of the Kennedy assassination “Where were you?” of my generation.
Having seen NIRVANA perform at the Palmer Auditorium in Davenport, Iowa not even a full six months prior, the mood was surreal, as I (like many others) immediately gathered with friends to spin some music and reflect.
April 5, 2002 was a different kind of scenario. For the most part, it was a normal, uneventful day. No one knew that anything had happened to Layne Staley until April 20th, when the news hit that he’d been found dead in his apartment. At the time, I was working for the Sam Goody division of the now-defunct Musicland Group, and instruction went out to stores to pull together and prominently feature anything featuring Staley (I recall the same instruction when JOHNNY CASH died)… from ALICE IN CHAINS and MAD SEASON to the soundtrack to THE FACULTY. Thing is, no one I spoke to at the time was surprised at all when it came to Staley, and most figured his lifestyle would’ve taken him sooner.
As a parent, it’s strange to think that both NIRVANA and ALICE IN CHAINS are now considered by some to be “classic rock,” and for me, NIRVANA will always remain the more enduring band, even though ALICE IN CHAINS has been reactivated, and continues to make some great music with a new lineup. In exposing my children to these bands, NIRVANA has already been played on numerous occasions, though I don’t think I’ve played my little ones anything from the Staley AIC catalog just yet.
If anything, it’s interesting to see Kurt celebrated by new generations much like Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison before him… but at the same time, I’ve never seen anyone rockin’ a Layne Staley shirt at Hot Topic. The difference between burning out and fading away, indeed.
Stock up on NIRVANA and ALICE IN CHAINS via (my affiliate) Amazon.
There’s even lullaby versions for baby!