Sing Backwards and Weep: A Memoir
by Mark Lanegan
Dark, gritty, and brutally honest, this is one of the most eye-opening memoirs I’ve read.
Mark Lanegan is digging up some serious skeletons in his new memoir Sing Backwards and Weep. He spews it all, sharing parts of his childhood upbringing, the rise to fame with Screaming Trees, and his descent into drugs and homelessness. The truth is the truth, but I can see some people mentioned in this book becoming irate with the all-out divulging of the past.
In retrospect, this book is Mark’s hard knock life throughout. This doesn’t feel like an autobiography in any sense—it does begin that way, but quickly turns into scenes of Mark’s tumultuous life beginning in childhood with the mental beat-downs from his mother, all the way up to somewhere around the death of Alice in Chain’s vocalist Layne Staley.
High points for me were the stories about Mark’s friendships with Kurt, Layne, and others. There were even a few comical tidbits including one with Chris Cornell that made me smile.
I had a terrible cold one day and Cornell insisted I allow him to lick my bare eyeball to test his invented-on-the-spot theory of virus transmission. I was, of course, delighted to take part in the experiment. Chris never got sick. I can’t recall if this proved or disproved his theory, but it was an effective way of making me laugh.
I was hoping Mark would expand on these relationships surrounding him, but what’s here is a huge helping of what seems like (has to be) the darkest times in Mark’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and loved the writing; I literally dissected this book; there was just so much hope in me for a more in-depth accounting of these relationships. It’s always been hard for me to stay interested in stories where there’s constant animosity between people, in this case: band mates, drug dealers, friends, and family. The physical fighting and the getting back at one another felt like a total drag. For that, maybe this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure kept me hypnotized regardless of what I felt the book lacked.
The book ends after Mark’s rehab and then with Layne’s death in 2002. I sat speechless for some time after because this memoir left me with an empty feeling. It was such an unexpected ending even with already knowing Layne’s outcome, and there isn’t much included on Mark’s collaboration with Queens of the Stone Age. The short epilogue was much appreciated, but what about all the other years? What’s been happening since Layne’s death? How has Mark coped? All I can do now is hope that Mark will write and share another memoir, and if he does, I’ll be first in line to read it.
- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books (April 28, 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0306922800
- ISBN-13: 978-0306922800
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 dripping with drugs. He tracks the tumultuous rise and fall of the Screaming Trees, from a brawling, acid-rock bar band to world-famous festival favorites that scored a hit #5 single on Billboard’s Alternative charts and landed a notorious performance on David Letterman, where Lanegan appeared sporting a fresh black eye from a brawl the night before. This book also dives into Lanegan’s personal struggles with addiction, culminating in homelessness, petty crime, and the tragic deaths of his closest friends. 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 underlining beneath one of the most romanticized decades in rock history-from a survivor who lived to tell the tale.
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.
Thanks for reading my review. Have you read this memoir, or do you have others to recommend? Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments section.