Tag Archives: Mark Lanegan

Fake twitters for everyone!!!

These fake twitter accounts were pretty obviously all made by – or commissioned by – the same entity.

Fake twitter for Mark Lanegan
https://twitter.com/ObviousLanegan
https://twitter.com/MarkLaneganSays

Fake twitter for Tobi Vail (all tweets are from, like, two days before being fired from Kill Rock Stars, after, like, 20 years of employment )
https://twitter.com/TobiVail

Fake twitter for Steve Malkmus
https://twitter.com/StephenMalkmus1

Fake twitters for Krist Novoselic
https://twitter.com/KristNovoselicc
this one has been particularly active – over 55,000 tweets! wow.
https://twitter.com/l0nelytime

Fake Twitter Maker seems to have a pretty good handle on the lexicon.

The Gravedigger’s Song (Mark Lanegan)

Mark Lanegan - Blues Funeral (2012)The Gravedigger’s Song is the opening cut from Mark Lanegan’s 2012 album Blues Funeral. The song, and most songs on that album, incorporates the lyrical iconography common to that particular family of bands: Mudhoney, Nirvana, Hole, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Babes In Toyland, etc.

The video for the song adds more symbols which in turn add context and meaning. The song and video interlink with other songs and videos about the same situation, in particular the videos for Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box and Alice In Chains’ Grind.

Blues Funeral is similar to Hole’s Nobody’s Daughter and Nirvana’s In Utero in that every single song on the entire album touches on the same topic, one way or another. That topic would be secrets kept by a small circle of recording artists and their label – two secrets in particular. Blues Funeral takes a more fatalistic stance than Nobody’s Daughter.

The final song on the album, Burning Jacob’s Ladder, hints at the forces holding the truth at bay. “Rage untethered – The soul a stony desert – I’m afraid I might fade away.” It echos the line from Kurt Cobain’s suicide note which in turn echoed a line from a Neil Young song. The fears are not unfounded, if Chris Newman’s fate is any indication.

The album cover suggests the subject to anyone familiar with the common symbols. Red roses (Seattle) spread over a black background, and in the lower corner is one sprig of white roses (Portland). Blues funeral may be Lanegan’s attempt at drawing closure to the situation.

Prematurely, I hope.

background

The Gravedigger’s song sung to somebody – my best guess is Courtney Love, due to the fact that the subject is addressed directly as “Love.” (“Love, is the medicine good?”) It is about someone who is honest (this is touched on in two ways, first with the allusions to “sharp teeth” – tooth = truth – and also with the line, “honest, it’s true” – though this last one may be a twist (get it?) on Everett True’s name. Courtney Love tries to tell the truth, but she has been painted as a liar. I believe this is one of the things the song is saying about her. In an interview, Lanegan describes it as a “Love song.”

Who is the gravedigger? I think it is Courtney Love, Mark Lanegan, and pretty much anyone who uses this symbolic lexicon. Who is in the grave? Chris Newman (buried alive). And there are others, including Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, who have literally left our world.

The lyrics in the song use the typical symbols (teeth, love, dog, stars, rain, sleep, etc) to muse on the drama, and as with the videos for Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box and Alice In Chains’ Grind, the video uses additional visual iconography to flesh out context. I mentioned before that often, in Nirvana and Hole songs, written lyrics are different from the lyrics which are sung. In this video, there are contradictions as well in that some of the images in the video seem to contradict the lyrics. For example, when Lanegan sings “through my heart flows sleep” the little girl in the video appears to wake up.

Alice In Chains - DirtOn a personal level, this video was hard for me to deal with at first. The image of the wrapped body (presumably Chris’ body circa 1986-today, and as described in Hive Dwellers’ song Pine Shaped Box, and as pictured on the cover of Alice In Chains’ album, Dirt, and etc) was particularly painful. Chris’ life and catalog has been kept as a private secret, wrapped almost like a spider would wrap a fly (reminding me of the allusions to parasites in Nirvana’s lyrics). Later I understood that the video also shows that the story is unresolved. The mummy-wrapped body can still be set free, and helpful spirits wait in the shadows.

the lyrics

THE GRAVEDIGGER’S SONG

With piranha teeth
I’ve been dreaming of you
And the taste of your love, so sweet
Honest, it’s true

Through my heart flows sleep
And the dark, heavy rain
Where the gravedigger’s song is sung
You’ve been torturing me

Tout est noir, mon amour
Tout est blanc
Je t’aime, mon amour
Comme j’aime la nuit

Love, is the medicine good?
Is the crow flying eight miles high
Over wire and wood?

Shovel down six feet
With a head heavy pain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
And it fades just the same

To the stars, my love
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me

Oh love, I’ve been thinking of you
With razor white teeth, so sharp
Honest, it’s true

In my blood flows sleep
And the dark heavy rain
The magnolia blooms so sweet
Only torturing me

To the stars, my love
To the sea
To the wheels, my love
‘Til they roll all over me

imagery in the video

The opening scene shows an old country home. Seven seconds in, the camera flashes to an image of a wooden fence with barbed wire across the top, and a scene showing what looks like high desert. On the fence hangs a white mask. To me, this suggests the image of heads lined up along the fences around Kurtz’ home in the novel Heart of Darkness and/or the movie Apocolypse Now. It also suggests a line from a Dylan song that Lanegan has covered, Man In The Long Black Coat: “when she stopped him to ask if he wanted to dance he had a face like a mask.” And it reenforces something that I sense from the entire album: Lanegan himself is on the fence.

The scenery around the mask suggests the American west, and the costumes and setting of the video appear to be from the Victorian era in America.

At 00:14 there is another shot of the fence, this time with the sun poking its rays through the slats. The sun represents Chris Newman (lexicon), and though the song itself suggests the sun is setting, by the quality of the light, it appears to me that the sun is actually rising in this scene. (I like to think so, anyway.) If so, it is one of a few places where the images shown actually contradict the lyrics.

The camera then suggests walking up stairs (stairs/ladders are a common theme, maybe alluding to the ladder of success, Jacob’s ladder, etc) and into a room with a bed and a cold fireplace. At 00:24, as he sings “Through my heart flows sleep, honest it’s true.” there is a shot through a doorway – maybe two doorways – and a sun-filled window in the very back. Just beneath the window is an empty wheelchair. The wheelchair of course connects with the empty wheelchair in the heart shaped box video which connects to the wheelchair (containing Kurt Cobain) that Everett True pushed out on stage at Reading 1992. The sunny window with the wheelchair beneath illustrates a link between Chris Newman with Kurt Cobain. “Though my heart flows (sleep = deception), honest it’s true.” This is a liar paradox. When these lines appear in the song, the video footage runs backwards.

The image switches suddenly to an image of the bottom of a dress worn by someone who appears to be hanging above the bed, suggesting suicide. It isn’t clear whether she’s hanging or standing, weirdly, on something behind the bed – but the suggestion of suicide is very much there and comes up again later in the video too, except that later the body appears to be floating, or falling very very slowly. The window behind the girl is black, suggesting night.

Then come the lines in french “Tout est noir, mon amour / Tout est blanc” – and the image is another girl, the palms of both hands placed on a portrait hanging on the wall, swinging her head (and hair) around backwards, presumably toward the mummy-wrapped body. In French he sings, “Now it’s black, now it’s white.” Now a spotlight appears to move around the room. Red braids hanging over white curtains. You see the mounted trophy head of a buck (stag).

the fisher king

The Fisher King was charged by God with guarding the Holy Grail, but incurred an incapacitating wound for his sin of pride. A simple-minded Fool asks the King why he suffers, and when the King says he is thirsty, the Fool gives him a cup of water to drink. The king realizes the cup is the Grail and is baffled that the boy found it, as demonstrated in the closing exchange: “I’ve sent my brightest and bravest men to search for this. How did you find it?” The Fool laughed and said “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.” (wikipedia: The Fisher King (movie))

last-days-2005-8The stag’s head is a hunting trophy. It may also suggest the stag’s head given by Perceval to the daughter of the Fisher King. The Fisher King is an archetypal symbol from Arthurian mythology. Charged with guarding the Holy Grail, the Fisher King who has been crippled by a leg injury. He spends his time wandering around the grounds of his castle, fishing in a nearby stream (wikipedia: Fisher King). Meanwhile, the kingdom falls into ruin, and stays in that condition until someone can heal the King. Gus Van Sant’s film Last Days also alludes to the Fisher King myth, showing the rock star spending his last days watching television or swimming in the creek behind his home.

Later in The Gravediggers Song video, you see that there are actually two stag’s heads on the wall, perhaps echoing the two ghostly figures who appear outside the home at the end of the video.

When Lanegan sings “Je t’aime, mon amour / Comme j’aime la nuit” (I love you, my dear / How I love the night) we see a tall, but slightly bent man standing in front of that same sun-drenched window, in place of the empty wheelchair, his head and body covered, ghost-like, with a sheet. I’m troubled by the line, “J’aime la nuit.” But at the same time, I understand it. “Let sleeping dogs lie,” right?

Next we see the three older girls sitting around a dining table, a bouquet of red roses at the center. There is a close-up shot of two women’s faces in profile, a middle-aged woman face to face with a teenager. It could suggest youth and wisdom, or perhaps the passage of time, as looking at one’s younger self in a mirror. (Courtney Love’s video for the song Samantha also suggests a rolling back of time as Courtney, dressed in a wedding dress, looks more and more like her younger self.)

When Lanegan sings “Is the medicine good?” We see a girl dressed in a white dress with black piping, holding an old fashioned sickle, suggesting harvest and/or the “grim reaper.” When Lanegan asks “Is the crow flying eight miles high” the image shown is a dark red pool, probably red wine, suggesting blood. Either one or both of these could be – and probably is – a drug (heroin) reference.

The red wine/blood imagery comes up a lot in these songs and videos. Mark Arm holds out a goblet of red wine in recent Mudhoney photos. The little girl in the Heart Shaped Box video has a drop of blood appear over her heart. Courtney Love has a tattoo circa 2010 that says “Let It Bleed.” Alice in Chains has a song called Bleed The Freak with lyrics that may provide additional insight.

At 1:16 Lanegan sings “shovel down six feet, with a head heavy pain” – and the image shows the hanging/floating/suspended girl again, this time seeming to rise up behind the bed. Next we see an image of the dresses standing before the fireplace, but the bodies inside them have vanished. Now he is singing “The magnolia blooms so sweet, and it fades just the same,” and we see the girl watching the wrapped body again, now with her hair covering her face completely. And now we see the writhing, impotent legs of the mummy-wrapped living body.

Alice In Chains - sunshine the three legged dogLegs (crippled or otherwise) are a symbol that comes up in these songs a lot. Alice In Chains had a three legged dog named Sunshine. Sunshine was featured on the cover of Alice In Chains’ third (self-titled) album.

Legs show up in other ways. In Samantha, Courtney sings “watch her wrap her legs around the world.” In The Priest, They Called Him, the piece Cobain recorded with William Burroughs, the narrator describes a finding a leather suitcase containing a pair of severed human legs, and he describes the process of removing the legs from the suitcase in order to peddle the suitcase for dope money. I believe that “legs” signify mobility, movement, and strength. Broken/crippled/wounded legs are wasteland symbols: an allusion to the wounded king.

In the Gravedigger’s Song video, the mummy’s legs are bound up with the rest of him. He struggles, but he can’t move. The girls watch him, coldly.

I don’t know if it is deliberate, but I keep noticing that I can see the striped mattress beneath the white sheet under the wrapped body. And I notice stripes do show up a lot. For example, Kurt Cobain is wearing a striped t-shirt beneath the silvery overshirt in the Heart Shaped Box video.

Anyway, in the next scene, the body, now wrapped with another sheet, seems to be falling, softly, in the hall, in front of the sunlit window. The empty clothes stand in front of the fire place, the faces and bodies within emerging slowly. The girl facing the wall turns back, her long hair twisting around her face. The hanging girl hangs vertically next to the dark window, and the mummy thrashes on the bed.

Alice In Chains - crucifixion, stake, sun, skullOne thing I have noticed is that in every one of these videos, songs, whatever – there are at least two bodies, and two apparent crimes. In this video, there are three bodies. There is the vertical “hanged girl” body; there is the horizontal, wrapped, slowly falling body; and there is the mummy wrapped body writhing on the bed.

In this video, I believe Kurt Cobain is symbolized by the vertically floating body – the one that alludes to “hanging” – hanging not just in the sense of “suicide,” but also in the sense of “something waiting to be resolved.” The crucifixion. The hanged man.

The horizontal, wrapped, slowly falling body is hard at first to understand, except that later in the video, there are two (male) ghosts standing together. Because of the song’s subject matter, I think of Layne Staley.

The body that’s thrashing, the one wrapped like a mummy on the bed? That’s Chris. He’s still alive, surprisingly. But he’s struggling blindly. He’s not able to be heard, and he’s not able to move.

At 2:22 as Lanegan sings “Oh Love, I’ve been thinking of you” the girls around their table join hands as if at a seance, and the roses come into focus. You see the opening of the petals, and in that “hole” are sharp, white teeth. They look a little like dogs’ teeth. A “flower with teeth” is a line from my song, Bad Pam, but Vagina Dentata is a common symbol associated with dangerous women. In Hole songs, I believe “Rose Red” symbolizes Mark Arm and his Seattle “tribe”.

Next, Lanegan sings “in my blood flows sleep,” and there is a thick, dark, oozing substance on a prone woman’s head. The substance is not oozing out, its oozing in (more reversed camera). And as he sings about the sweet magnolia blooms torturing him again, a woman’s face rises out of the reddish liquid, chin first, as if she’s been hanging upside down.

Now he sings “to the stars my love” and there is a little girl in a black dress is holding a baby doll by the hair. (I think the baby is Kurt and Courtney’s representation of the small clone, and Chris Newman.) Now we see a person sitting in the wheelchair, in the sunlight. He is blurry at first, then he comes into focus. His face is covered by the mask that was sitting on the fence at the beginning of the video. A girl is watching him, sadly, it seems.

3:07 the spotlight swings around and you see two stag’s heads this time, and then, a man in a mask, maybe with a crutch, in and out of the shadow. Then another man in a mask. Two men now. Now we see the girls feet, suspended above the bed now, falling almost imperceptibly slowly.

Alice In Chains sun t-shirtNow the scene is outdoors. Now the two men in the masks are walking around in the dying sunlight. Now one seems to be sitting in the wheelchair, the other standing supportively behind. Now the sun has set, but the sky still shows traces of light. Now the man in the wheelchair is holding a light that looks like the sun flare through the fence at the beginning of the video. He shines it toward the house. It makes me think of a line from Nirvana’s Dumb: “The sun is gone, but I have a light.”

The next scene shows the exterior of the home at night, the windows lit from inside, and the camera moving back down the stairs, and away into the night. The men are still standing there, presumably, in the night, with the light shining toward the house.

Here is what I think about that final scene. The man in the wheelchair, the one with a light, represents Kurt Cobain. The man standing behind him behind him represents Layne Staley. Through their songs, lyrics, videos, they shine a light to help Chris find his way out. But Chris is still wrapped up in that weird room house with the ghostly girls (one of whom wants to help him, another of whom watches to ensure no one helps him) and toothed flowers.

How does he see the light through all of it?

Love and Grace.

Now that he has seen it, how will he get free?