Today I have an exciting extract for you from Sing Backwards and Weep, a memoir by Mark Lanegan, who is often regarded as one of the most influential musicians of our time!
From the back of the van to the front of the bar, from the hotel room to the emergency room, onstage, backstage, and everywhere in between, Sing Backwards and Weep reveals the abrasive reality beneath one of the most romanticized decades in rock history-from a survivor who lived to tell the tale.
When Mark Lanegan first arrived in Seattle in the mid-1980s, he was just “an arrogant, self-loathing redneck waster seeking transformation through rock ‘n’ roll.” Within less than a decade, he would rise to fame as the front man of the Screaming Trees, then fall from grace as a low-level crack dealer and a homeless heroin addict, all the while watching some of his closest friends rocket to the pinnacle of popular music.
In Sing Backwards and Weep, Lanegan takes readers back to the sinister, needle-ridden streets of Seattle, to an alternative music scene that was simultaneously bursting with creativity and saturated with drugs. He tracks the tumultuous rise and fall of the Screaming Trees, from a brawling, acid-rock bar band to world-famous festival favourites with an enduring legacy that still resonates. Lanegan’s personal struggles with addiction, culminating in homelessness, petty crime, and the tragic deaths of his closest friends, is documented with a painful honesty and pathos.
Gritty, gripping, and unflinchingly raw, Sing Backwards and Weep is a book about more than just an extraordinary singer who watched his dreams catch fire and incinerate the ground beneath his feet. Instead, it’s about a man who learned how to drag himself from the wreckage, dust off the ashes, and keep living and creating.
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 cor- ner 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.
About Mark Lanegan
Mark Lanegan released his first solo album, The Winding Sheet, in 1990. His most recent album is Straight Songs of Sorrow. His singular body of work encompasses dozens of albums both solo and collaborative. He lives in Los Angeles.
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