Mother Love Bone, Addiction, and Artists

In researching the song to represent the “Singles” Soundtrack this week, I came across this eerie video, most notably between the 1:00-2:15 marks. Originally, I wanted to be all funny ‘n’ stuff and put up a “Hey everyone, remember this band!?!?” comment, but seeing this video got me more thoughtful than a simple “Monday Song” post should.

Back-story: Mother Love Bone was a Seattle band in existence between ‘87-‘89. Their lead singer, Andrew Wood, was a unique talent and an inspiration to many, but died of a heroin overdose days before the scheduled release of their debut album. The album was well known in the underground grunge community, and two of the members, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, went on to form Pearl Jam, but the band performing here broke up after Wood’s passing.

This clip provides a rare look into a music scene that was just about to blow up and a band that was one of the most talented, at a time when video cameras weighed about 20 pounds and there were no websites to put concert footage for all to see. An up and coming band and scene, at a time when few had reason or strength to hold a camcorder for the length of a concert means this is some rare footage. Doing some quick youtube-Wikipedia-setlist.fm cross checking, I found out this footage was from September 3, 1989, six and a half months before the death of the lead singer. All logic would assume that he was having major issues with his heroin addiction at the exact moment this concert.
The sight of this guy, at the piano, obviously owning the crowd, playing this great song,* his whole career in front of him, and I all I can think is, “Was he high on stage?” We know he was addicted to drugs. We know he died shortly after this concert. He was either under the influence or needing to feed his habit, neither option is really conducive to the layperson performing, yet he was making it happen. How was he able to move a mass of people the way he did even while his inner demons were getting the best of him? How much of his talent is being suppressed by his substance use? How did he hit notes perfectly in sync with people who are presumably not in the same mental state as him?

It boils down to one ultimate question: Are artists who battle addiction helped or hindered in the moment while under the influence? I have definitely pondered this question before, being a long-time Grateful Dead fan. Were Jerry’s fine moments towards the end when he was high or clear headed? I’m sure there are interviews with family, friends, and band members that hold the answers, but I don’t think I want to know. Seeing as many of our most beloved artists were conquered by their bouts with addiction or mental illness, it is worth thinking about. It is hard not to get into “what if’s…?” when thinking about some of our favorites (Jerry, Van Gogh, Len Bias) . It is equally hard not to get sad at the lost potential these people represent. Ultimately, we have to be thankful for the joy they bring into the world, try to accept their faults (because no one’s perfect), and ask ourselves, “Who around us is being held back by their own inner demons?”

Watching the above clip, knowing what happens to Andy Wood, I see grainy, bootlegged footage of a man who is slowly dying on stage while showing the world his artistic gifts that will never fully be realized. That, to me, provokes a strange and creepy feeling.

On a lighter note, don’t forget to click through the link on the left when shopping at Amazon.com, and check out the Firecat Central photo gallery at http://firecatcentral.blogspot.com/ to purchase prints of any photos featured here.

Thanks for reading, everyone!!!

*Studio version of Chloe Dancer / Crown of Thorns:

Great Ted Talk on cultivating creativity in a healthy manner. Watch it!! NOW!!

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE DADS OUT THERE!!

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