“Can I get an encore?
Do you want more? …”
I wish I knew what to write.
I got a text message from a friend about 1:30 Thursday afternoon, telling me that Chester Bennington, the lead singer for one of my favorite bands ever, Linkin Park, had committed suicide.
I looked at the text and thought … well, a lot of things. But when in doubt about news in the entertainment industry, I turn to a media outlet that (pathetically) might be the last accurate bastion of information left in the national media -- TMZ. And the lead story on that god awful site confirmed the text my buddy sent me.
My first impulse was literally to puke. I’ll admit I was enjoying a cerveza on that lovely 99 degree day here in Kansas City. I upchucked what had already gone down. My next impulse was to cry.
Linkin Park -- specifically the “Hybrid Theory” cd -- got me through some dark, dark times in my life. I detailed the lowest of those lows five years ago, in the aftermath of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher doing what he did. (Note: that link is still the most read story ever on this site, and nothing else is within one hundred clicks of it. For a site whose average post registers 35-40 unique clicks, that’s pretty impressive, five years after the fact.)
“Hybrid Theory” kept me (semi) sane as my life fell apart in the winter of 2001 into the spring of 2002. Every song on that cd spoke to me in ways that no counselor, licensed professional, man or woman of faith, or friend or family member could. Sh*t, it spoke to me in ways that weed and booze couldn’t (although I certainly listened to both -- a lot.)
Literally from the first note of the cd, for forty some odd minutes, Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda channeled everything I was feeling, and then some. I felt then -- and in some regards, still do today -- that nobody has ever f*cked up and failed at life more epically than I did in my early to mid 20s * .
And so I can honestly say, I highly doubt I’d be here today -- still f*cking up and failing, albeit at a slightly slower pace! -- without that cd.
(*: to be fair, my mid 30s gave my early 20s one hell of a contest, in the “f*ck up and fail” department. Although it was Brantley Gilbert that got me through my mid to late 30s (sir elton john voice) still standing, not LP ** .)
(**: and yes, the fact someone I know despises the two letters LP together, explains why I shorten Linkin Park to LP a lot, in this post. What can I say, even toddler Stevo was a snotty asshole when he felt like it.)
“Hybrid Theory” opens with “Papercut”, with its’ haunting closing lyric to the chorus of “it’s like the face inside? Is right beneath my skin!” A painful examination of inner torment, of “Jesus, I know I’m not right, but do I actually give enough of a sh*t to want to stop being wrong?”
That question was then built upon with the second track, a song that hits me like few ever have, “One Step Closer”:
“I find the answers? Aren’t so clear.
Wish I could find a way? To disappear!
All these thoughts? They make no sense.
So I’ll find bliss? In ignorance!
Nothing seems to go away --
Over and over again!
(Just like before …)
Everything you say to me?
Takes me one step closer to the edge --
And I’m about to break!
I need a little room to breathe!
‘Cause I’m one step closer to the edge --
And I’m about to break!”
If you’ve never had a moment in your life where those lyrics felt real, felt genuine, felt perfect to describe said moment in your life? Then you’re one of the lucky few, in this life.
After a couple solid yet unspectacular tracks (“With You”, “Points of Authority” -- the latter being far more potent and memorable than the former), comes what for the first 500, 600 times I listened to the cd, the song I never got past, the fifth track -- a song that just nailed what twenty four, twenty five year old Stevo felt:
“There’s something inside me?
That pulls beneath the surface --
This lack of self control?
I fear is never ending --
Controlling. I can’t seem
To find myself again --
My walls are closing in!
(Without a sense of confidence?
I’m convinced, there’s just
Too much pressure to take!)
I’ve felt this way before -- so insecure!
Crawling in my skin!
These wounds? They will not heal!
Fear is how I fall --
Confusing what is real …”
For the longest time, I felt no need to advance beyond “Crawling”. I didn’t think any artist could possibly put more accurately into words, what I was feeling.
How wrong I was.
Because the next track, I would argue, is Linkin Park’s finest hour *** .
A finest hour, we’re coming back to.
(***: yes, “My December”, the bonus track / sneak single off the extended version of “Hybrid Theory”, is probably the best song on the cd, and probably the one I should like the most. It’s not, at least for me.)
There was more success for Linkin Park after “Hybrid Theory” -- “Meteora” is one hell of a cd in its own right. “Numb” deserved every accolade it got -- and it got a lot of them. “Somewhere I Belong” hit many nerves with this dude. “Easier to Run” should have been released as a single. “Faint“ probably shouldn’t have been released as a single. “Breaking The Habit” is awesome. Man, does “Don’t Stay” hit some raw nerves when I think about “The Ex”. And to be fair and honest (one of which I am rarely accused of being), “Figure .09” is my favorite Linkin Park track ever **** .
And the release of “Meteora” gave rise to the Projekt Revolution Tour, that landed in lovely Bonner Springs, Kansas, on Tuesday, August 24, 2004. I remember every damned thing about that day -- recapped if you scroll down far enough in this previous post ***** .
I freely admit I was baked, drunk, and trying to sort through the death of one of my best friends growing up, whose funeral I had just attended, the day that concert went down. I guess that’s in some ways why that concert has the meaning, the significance, the importance that it does to me -- for the second time in nearly as many years, Linkin Park kept me (semi) sane when life made no sense, when I took a look at things and realized either (a) it was all my fault, or (b) there wasn’t a damned thing I could do, to stop what was going on.
(***: there’s a difference between “favorite”, and “most meaningful” to me. “Figure .09” is my favorite. It is not the most meaningful LP track to me. Most meaningful to me, is “Track Six” off “Hybrid Theory” … which we’re getting to, eventually.)
(****: to this day, I thank God that the “let’s shake up the set list” change from many other stops on the tour was to sub in “Figure .09”. I’ve rarely if ever loved a single song performance in my presence more, than “Figure .09” on that ridiculously hot Tuesday evening at whatever the hell it’s called nowadays Sandstone Ampitheater.)
The later stuff, as is predictable, didn’t garner the attention, the love, or the acclaim of the peak stuff. “Minutes to Midnight” is a fantastic cd to listen to. But for me, with the exception of “Hands Held High”, nothing on that cd truly moves me. “Numb / Encore” off the “Collision” cd with Jay-Z is incredible. It’s two peak artists at their, uuh, combined peak. It’s the only song on “Collision” I still listen to. The stuff newer than the late 2000s, I can’t claim to be knowledgable about.
But the stuff from the early and mid 2000s? I owe a debt of gratitude, I wish I could properly express.
I suppose, given Thursday, that it somewhat surprises me more fans and entertainment industry scribes haven’t focused on the LP track that truly describes the tragic event of Thursday -- the eighth track on “Hybrid Theory”, and arguably Linkin Park’s biggest hit, “In The End”:
“It’s so unreal --
Didn’t look out below.
Watch the time
Go right out the window.
(I was) trying to hold on,
But you didn’t even know --
Wasted it all,
Just to watch you go.
I kept everything inside.
And even though I tried, it all fell apart.
What it meant to me?
Will eventually be a memory of a time when
I tried so hard,
And got so far.
But in the end?
It doesn’t even matter!
I had to fall,
To lose it all.
But in the end?
It doesn’t even matter! …”
Because that’s what stings so much about Thursday’s death. In the end? The author who helped pull me out of a dark place, had so little faith in himself and his power to do for himself what he did for at least one person in this life (hey, that’s me!)?
Mr. Bennington decided his life didn’t matter enough, to try to pull himself out.
It took Track Six off “Hybrid Theory” … to convince me, that contrary to what the theme song to “MASH” would say?
Suicide is anything but painless.
Track Six off “Hybrid Theory”.
It’s the most meaningful song LP ever did, at least for me. It’s one of the five or six most influential songs that define my life -- or at least what it was, what it is, and what I desire it to be. The others in some order would be “I Don’t Wanna Be” by Gavin DeGraw, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Sir Elton John, “Crawling In The Dark” by Hoobastank, “Perfect Memory” by Remy Zero, and “Innocent” by Our Lady Peace.
Four of those five others, came out around the same time “Hybrid Theory” was dominating the charts Steph Curry style. And each of them speaks to me in different ways, but always with the same theme: just be damned proud to be you, and screw anyone who thinks otherwise.
And that’s probably why I love “Runaway” so much, why it defines “Hybrid Theory” for me, and why I’ve been listening to it as I attempt to type this post. Because “Runaway” isn’t a “f*ck you!” anthem of defiance. It’s the exact opposite.
It’s a recognition that the biggest problem in your failure of a life?
“Paper bags and angry voices,
Under the sky of dust.
Another wave of tension,
Has more than filled me up.
All my talk of taking action?
Those words were never true.
Now I find myself in question --
(You point the finger again!)
Guilty by association --
(You point the finger again!)
I want to run away! (Never say goodbye!)
I want to know the truth! (Instead of wondering why!)
I want to know the answers! (No more lies!)
I want to shut the door (and open up my mind!) …
Like I noted at the top, I wish I knew how to write this. Because Jesus, has linking all these, uuh, links, hurt like there's no tomorrow.
I wish I knew how to compose how I feel properly. I just don’t. But what I do know, is that I felt the same pain on Thursday, some of you felt a couple months ago when Chris Cornell killed himself. That a lot of you my age felt when Kurt Cobain killed himself, that I so f*cking felt when Brad Nowell overdosed, when Scott Weiland succumbed to his inner demons, when 2Pac was assassinated -- a pain that a lot of our parents felt when John Lennon was murdered on Monday, December 8, 1980.
Thursday, July 20, 2017, is a day that will stick in my head for all of my life.
It’s a day I wish to God Above I could run away from. Perhaps the only day more painful in my life the last five years, was Wednesday, August 15, 2012.
But at least I'm alive, to survive both of those painful days.
And God f*cking damm*t, how I wish neither of those two days, had ever occurred.
How I wish neither had caused the hurt, pain. and indefensible wrong, both caused to so many of us ...