March 6th 2010 was the day Mark Linkous lost the battle he’d been waging for his own mental health. 11 years later to me it seems like we’ve not come as far as we should when talking about this kind of stuff. I don’t mean the salacious details. I mean the struggle.
“I opened my eyes and watched the sunshine, it had been out all night to relax and unwind”
Sunshine is the Sparklehorse ‘hit’, if we can call it that. It’s the single with a video at least. From the bands second album, 1998’s Good Morning Spider. It was between the first and second tours that Mark suffered his terrible injury and lost the use of his legs. By the time Good Morning Spider was released Mark had been through the mill. He’d battled depression with self medication. He’d been pulled back towards song writing and playing by his buddy and old boss David from Cracker and he’d written an album of songs that deal with the life altering injury he’d suffered while on tour for his first album with Radiohead.
“There will come a time gigantic waves will crush the junk that I have saved, when the moon explodes or floats away, I’ll lose the souvenirs I made”
Last time I posted about Sparklehorse I confessed I didn’t know much of of the songbook. I had always wanted to listen to more but never got around to it. I’ve spun a few of the bands records since. Good Morning Spider is a bit of a gem. Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot is too. That album title. Very Swordfishtrombones. It sort of spells out the Tom Waits influence. Much like Heyfoxymorphhandlemamathat’sme from Pearl Jam’s ‘permission to go weird?’ record Vitalogy. The bats in the belfry meets indie rock trope of the 90’s lead to some magnificent music. Much of it about mental health struggles.
“I lay down on the grass and let the insects do their thing she covered me with wings and held my head and said ‘poor thing'”
Nirvana’s Lithium, No Rain by Blind Melon, Jeremy by Pearl Jam, RHCP’s Scar Tissue. Grunge seemed to be about recognizing your pain and dealing with it. Talking about it before it was ‘OK’ to be talking about it. Often without a shirt on, but still…
Sure once the fad had passed, 90’s alternative was boiled down to vowel obsessed baritones and a scene filled with “Singers who were mad at their Dad’s”. Look at what we lost from that era. Chris Cornell, Layne Stayley of Alice In Chains, Doug Hopkins of Gin Blossoms, Richie Manic, Kristin from Hole, William from Ministry, Rob from The Wonder Stuff, Wendy O Williams, Jonathan from the Pumpkins, Lush’s Chris Ackland, Michael Hutchence and of course Kurt to name just a meager few. They’re off the top of my head.
Music, artists, creatives… Man, they suffer. Mentally. So too do bricklayers, nurses, office workers and folks yet to find their thing. The artists get to tell us who and what and how it goes down. We choose the art we need to get through what we’ve got get through. Sometimes I do think it sounds better coming from a Bricklayer though. Not today. I often think of Mark. His cruel struggle and the twists of fate he endured.
Me? I struggle with winter. I get that thing that makes you go dark the longer you don’t see the sun. It’s like my soul is solar powered. I’m English though so there’s a long dank lean 5 months of the year where you have to make a special effort to see the sun and not go to work in darkness, come home in darkness and lose the thread that holds you to the mothership. There are coping mechanisms. Dog walking, talking to your partner about it when its tough, using up annual leave throughout the home straight (February is the hardest month, thank fuck it’s also the shortest) so you get odd days to be in the light (even if it’s raining. Of Course it’s raining it’s fucking England) and for me. Listen to music. Not just happy stuff to lift your mood. Let the dark masters guide you through. They’ve been on ahead of us and left a map. Lean into this.