A Book Review Amidst a Trippy Couple of Years

I wanted to review the book I mentioned yesterday, but I also need to write about what has being going on in my life that strangely seemed to appear in this book about someone I’ve never met and knew nothing about. It was like a weird Vulcan mind meld kind of connection.

I started this blog after doing some soul searching. I was on this path of yoga and meditation – self care and self help, I suppose. Searching for some direction in life – looking for those doors to open as I mentioned in my last post.

I had always wanted to be involved in music in some way. When I started down this path on this blog, I had come up with an idea to develop some sort of sanctuary for musicians and artists. It was something between a rehab center and a space for healing and creativity. Even if they didn’t need rehab but thought they were slipping, they could come for a visit.

That’s where my journey began here, and as I read this book, a rehab for musicians is where the author’s story ended. I write this knowing I will sound insane. I have felt rather insane for the past 3.5 years. I feel like I have slipped in and out of people’s experiences, taking on some aspect of the person.

Crazy? Indeed. It is what it is. I’m always looking for answers, trying to understand these connections in my head to what and who I don’t even know most of the time. And the beginning of my strange little trip over the past few years I remember reading, hearing, seeing something that said, “Do you like tall redheads?” Random, right? For some reason it stuck with me.

This book I am reviewing is about (and by) a tall redhead. In all honesty, I knew nothing about this man. I didn’t even know he was tall or redheaded. In all honesty, I probably would not have picked up the book except that he collaborates from time to time with another musician who I have followed and admired since the early the 90s.

The book is Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan. I knew of Lanegan, but he was not someone I followed or read about other that the occasional collaborations with other musicians I liked. I own the Singles soundtrack and the movie, which I find out in this book he wasn’t particularly happy about, and I may own one Screaming Trees album.

Reading this book I sensed an overwhelming connection of sorts to what was written in this book and things I had “experienced” for lack of a better term over the past few years while I assume this book was being written. I will review the book first and then tell you about the strange set of connections.

The book is a good read, especially if you are a fan of 90s bands (the real bands, not the boy bands) and the Seattle scene that exploded and died almost as quickly as it appeared. Well, the music continued, but the coverage of it waned mostly.

I read the book in just over a couple of days, which I have not done in years. Bukowski-esque in tone and delivery. Honest in the levels of “depravity” reached, as Lanegan would call it. Drug addiction, alcohol addiction, any chemical dependency is horrific when it gets to the levels that Lanegan experienced. I applaud the directness in which he wrote of his addiction.

I also appreciated the camaraderie that was apparent among the bands and musicians of that whole scene. They supported one another — even if it wasn’t the healthiest of support systems. The sad thing is that the industry supported the drug use to a large degree. In cases, they even encouraged it.

It was disappointing, too, when a band didn’t bring in the money that was expected, the label’s interest and support failed. That is one of the other connections I felt while reading this book. I had developed the idea over the past few years of restructuring the music business, where the musicians supported one another in a more “co-op” type environment and the label was there to support the artist rather than milk him or her dry.

I digress. So, yes, the book is enjoyable in a depressing, harrowing kind of way. It gives a good view of the Seattle scene and the amount of drugs being taken and the toll that takes on a person. If you enjoy reading stories of someone surviving against insurmountable odds, then you’ll enjoy this book. If you are a music geek, you’ll also enjoy this book.

If I were to rate it, however, I would likely rate it 4 out of 5. I say this only because I felt that there was a little depth lacking on the emotional side of things. He speaks of loving his girlfriend Anna, but nothing he did or said showed that. Perhaps that’s part of the point he was making, but for me I kept looking for something a little bit further below the surface.

He stumbles over and over again with his addiction, but I didn’t feel the complete depth of the reasons behind it. What was he thinking? What was driving him to find this comfort in countless, faceless women and drugs? What were the thoughts he was trying to numb or quiet in his head? I would have liked to read a bit more of that.

I’ve always had a psychological bend in my thinking. When I think back to this “healing place for musicians” that was one of the things I wanted to focus on, not just helping them kick the habit. If you don’t know what’s driving you (beyond the chemical dependency that eventually comes from addiction), you always have the possibility of slipping back into it even after years and years of sobriety. One bad though or episode can send you reeling.

So, I suppose I was looking for a little more of that in the book. It wasn’t necessarily to make the book better. It’s simply from my own hope for people in these situations to truly heal. I also think it helps others connect a little more to the situation when they can see some deeper level of someone’s psyche or see something that maybe they’ve felt themselves. I’m not talking the childhood traumas and memories, but simply the emotions that were a result of those traumas that were making him go so close to the edge.

When a man considers shooting a needle in his dick, he’s feeling something pretty friggin’ deep. I’m just saying.

Still, I would highly recommend the book.

For the weird connections, well, maybe they’re just coincidences. I don’t know. I never know how to read things anymore. Over the past few years, there was a time when I was listening to and singing Johnny Cash songs … a lot. There are scenes in this book about Johnny Cash and how much he admired him.

I had had an overwhelming reaction to the news that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. I had seen a few of his shows. I enjoyed watching them and I found him entertaining. Beyond that, though, I had not further connection. I cried a great deal and felt a great loss when that news broke. So much so that although I said I was leaving my blog behind on June 7, 2018, I came back to write a post about his dying on June 8, 2018.

Turns out that this book was finished because of Bourdain’s death. Bourdain had asked Lanegan to write the forward of one his books, and he had encouraged Lanegan to finish his own book. Sing Backwards is dedicated to “Tony and all my other absent friends.”

I had had a dream about Lanegan sometime in the past couple of years. He simply faded in and out of the picture, not speaking. In an otherwise dark dream, the only color I remember is him wearing a red shirt. I heard his voice in another dream. It wouldn’t have been strange if I was a fan and followed him and read all his interviews and such. I didn’t. I didn’t even know the man had red hair.

I knew nothing about him before reading this book, and yet things I had experienced over the past few years (and honestly I can’t even remember them all now) showed up in one form or another in this book.

I had similar experiences with other people over the same time period. I would have a sudden urge to write a children’s book when someone I followed closely announced his daughter was releasing a children’s book. Within a few days I had switched gears and wanted to work in music again when this same person announced that another relative was releasing a single.

I have had dreams of people that seem so real and thought there was no way that something wasn’t going to happen or that I didn’t experience some sort of astral connection. In fact, a lot of what has been happening to me, all the connections and coincidences over the past several years I thought was something coming to fruition. I don’t know that I was accurate about that, but I have experienced a lot of connections to people I don’t know.

Lanegan and I have some similarities – more so than I would have ever expected. It’s just when he goes in one direction, I go in the other. Our paths have never crossed as far as I know, although there was a guy at a show I saw in Atlanta that stumbled and I was afraid he was going to fall. It was a show of someone I know he is friends with. He’s happily married and I’ve never had a crush on him so it’s not that kind of connection. We have no personal connection of any sort. Yet, after reading this book and remembering everything I had felt, seen or done over the past few years and the connections that kept popping up in this book, I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with the information or what to think about it.

I don’t know if I’m crazy or if I have some ability to connect to people who I don’t even know. It sounds insane, but even if it’s real, what do you do with that?

Regardless, the book is worth a read.

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