Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 26
The world lost a good one today. Taylor Hawkins was one of the most likable people in rock and roll. He is primarily known for being the drummer for the Foo Fighters. Less known is his side band, the Coattail Riders. Here is my favorite song from Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders debut album. Running In Place is a difficult song to describe. Basically, it’s a complex pop song. There are a few twists and turns in its breezy six minutes. It also happens to be one of my 500 favorite songs (https://brettcalleroartist.com/2019/09/11/my-500-favorite-songs-at-50/). Give it a listen.
My favorite vocalist, Mark Lanegan, passed away last week.
I learned the news soon after it hit social media. Several friends texted to tell me as well. That alone speaks volumes about how much of a fan I was of Mark Lanegan’s songs.
People have been writing about Mark Lanegan for years. I’ve read many eloquent articles about his amazing voice, frequent collaborations, and personal struggles. There’s not much I can add in that regard. I can only offer personal anecdotes and my list of essential Mark Lanegan songs. My relevant experience is that of an attentive listener. My ears have heard a lot of Mark Lanegan in the last 35 years. Screaming Trees are still one of my favorite bands and I was buying and listening to Lanegan’s solo albums right from the start. If I had to guess, I’d say that I have listened to Mark Lanegan as often as any single artist.
Unfortunately, I only saw Mark Lanegan in concert as a solo artist once. It was in May of 2019, at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville. After the show he signed merchandise. I waited in line to get the poster I bought signed by Mark and Justin Hampton, the poster’s illustrator. I shook his hand and told him I’d been wanting to see him in concert for 30 years. He asked me “what took so long?” and I gave a very brief answer in which he replied “glad you could make it.” I was glad I could make it too.
At that moment I couldn’t tell him the full answer to his question, but I can here. The biggest reason it took so long to see him was lack of access. For years, he didn’t tour often, most likely due to his other habits. In addition, my ex-wife and I had tickets to see the Mark Lanegan Band. The concert was cancelled and refunded but never rescheduled. I tried to see him perform, I really did.
Beyond that, I have experienced two other minor brushes with Mark Lanegan. The first was when he was with Screaming Trees. They were the opening act at a big outdoor venue located in the Chicago suburbs. Had to hear them from the parking lot because we were stuck in a major bottleneck of traffic entering the venue. That really pissed me off at the time and burned in my memory bank for years. The second brush with Lanegan was when he and Dave Grohl toured as a members of Queens Of The Stone Age. I saw that tour, which was amazing. At those gigs, Lanegan would quietly slide out of the darkness when it was his time to sing, then slip back into the shadows when he was done. Considering he’s my favorite singer, that’s not a lot of live experiences. That’s why when he toured in 2019, I was determined to make it happen. That year, his only gig in Atlanta was at a large music festival. Therefore, I drove four hours from Atlanta to Nashville to see him and his band play a full set at the Mercy Lounge. It was a much better setting and a much better experience.
I once read that Mark Lanegan was a high school quarterback who lost interest in sports while gaining interest in the arts. Not sure if this is even true, or where I read it, so many years ago. I do recall finding it very satisfying, and that’s why it stuck in my mind all these years.
It’s no secret that Mark Lanegan struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism throughout his life. However, he sustained sobriety for over a decade up until his death. Not surprisingly, his creative output increased quite a bit in the last ten years, having released half of his solo albums in that time.
All told, Mark Lanegan left us with a prolific body of work. As a solo artist, he recorded 12 solo albums, and two EPs. Before that, he was the singer of Screaming Trees. They recorded eight studio albums, three compilation albums, and five EPs.
Mark Lanegan collaborated with numerous artists. Many of these were with artists I already knew and liked, such as: Josh Homme, Greg Dulli, Chris Goss, PJ Harvey and more. The list is long and goes far beyond the numerous collaborative gems I’ve cataloged below. Many of his collaborators were unfamiliar to me. Duke Garwood is a great example of this. Their second album together, With Animals, is pretty fantastic all the way through.
I’ve processed, reprocessed, analyzed, and re-analyzed the countless hours of time spent listening to the songs of Mark Lanegan. If you’re looking to begin a collection of his music, start with his Whiskey For The Holy Ghost and Bubblegum. Get those along with Screaming Trees’ Sweet Oblivion and Buzz Factory, and go from there.
Compiling and writing this post over the last week has been a labor of love. He was my favorite. Without further introduction, I present to you my list of 60 essential Mark Lanegan songs. Hopefully, it’ll enhance or expand your collection and appreciation of this great artist.
60. Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do – The Bootleggers featuring Mark Lanegan (Lawless – Soundtrack, 2012) This is a great sounding Captain Beefheart cover. Vocally, Mark Lanegan is a perfect match for Don Van Vliet. Therefore, I was quite happy to hear he covered one of his songs, sure ’nuff. This song can be found on the Lawless movie soundtrack. The movie soundtrack is quite interesting. Nick Cave plays on every song under the name the Bootleggers. Guest vocalists include Mark Lanegan and Emmylou Harris. Nick Cave also wrote the screenplay. I’m thinking I need to check out this movie.
59. High Noon Amsterdam – Masters Of Reality (Deep In The Hole, 2001) As you can tell by a lot of these entries, Mark Lanegan frequently collaborated with other artists. Here is one with Chris Goss, the man behind the criminally underrated band, Masters Of Reality. Goss sings the first and last verse. Lanegan takes on the rest. It rocks. The song has a relentless hook and groove. Post-grunge fuzz rock at its best. Makes me wish Mark Lanegan recorded with Masters of Reality more. Hell, I wish Masters of Reality recorded more.
58. Ten Feet Tall – Mark Lanegan (The Winding Sheet, 1990) This lesser known song from Lanegan’s fantastic solo debut has one of those melodies that sticks in your head. It was only much later I learned to appreciate how the title of the song misleads. Lyrics of vulnerability sung with such powerful confidence.
57. Harvest Home – Mark Lanegan Band (Phantom Radio, 2014) Uptempo rocker that leads off the Phantom Radio album. The killer rhythm track features Jack Irons on drums and Alain Johannes on everything else. Those are some serious musicians.
56. Carry Home – Mark Lanegan (I’ll Take Care Of You, 1999) The lead track on Mark Lanegan’s first album of cover versions. Originally recorded by the Gun Club in 1982, Mark Lanegan truly makes Carry On his own. I find it far superior to the original.
55. Death Rides A White Horse – Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood (Black Pudding, 2013) A powerful song from the first of two albums Mark Lanegan made with blues based multi-instrumentalist, Duke Garwood. Lanegan considered he and Garwood to be kindred spirits. It shows in the strength of their collaborations.
54. This Game Of Love – Mark Lanegan & Shelley Brien (Straight Songs Of Sorrow, 2020) This modestly sweet duet with his wife, Shelley Brien, is unsophisticated and instantly relatable. It rings of truth. This track appears on his final album, Straight Songs Of Sorrow.
53. Invisible Lantern – Screaming Trees (Invisible Lantern, 1988) The stand-out track from Screaming Trees third album is the title track. This barnburner of a Trees song is peak grunge psychedelia. Something they did better than anyone else at that time.
52. The Man In The Long Black Coat – Mark Lanegan (I’m Not There – Soundtrack, 2007) Mysterious cover version of a mysterious Bob Dylan song. What’s not to like about that. This song is part of the sprawling two-disc collection of Bob Dylan covers that form the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There.
51. Axis – Mark Morton featuring Mark Lanegan (Anesthetic, 2019) Mark Morton is the lead guitarist for the heavy metal band Lamb of God. Mark Lanegan makes a guest vocal appearance on his solo album. I enjoy this song far, far, far more than anything recorded by Lamb of God. Once again proving a great singer makes all the difference in the world.
50. Revival – Soulsavers featuring Mark Lanegan (It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land, 2007) The Soulsavers are a British production team that have Mark Lanegan sing lead vocals from time to time. This dramatic song is the highlight of the group.
49. Paperback Bible – Screaming Trees (Ocean Of Confusion, 2005) One of the best examples of the Screaming Trees performing at full force. Rough, tough and full of hooks. This track is one of two previously unreleased tracks included in their Epic records “best of” compilation, Ocean Of Confusion. This song was originally intended to be on the never released follow up to Dust.
48. Ugly Sunday – Mark Lanegan (The Winding Sheet, 1990) One of the most memorable tracks from his solo debut. The slow pace of heavy steps. A great example of the haunting, stripped down sound that largely defined much of Lanegan’s solo work for the rest of the decade and beyond.
47. Locomotive – Mad Season (Above: Deluxe Edition, 2013) Mad Season was a supergroup of sorts. The band featured Layne Staley of Alice In Chains, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, John Baker Saunders of the Walkabouts, and Barrett Martin from Lanegan’s band, Screaming Trees. As the story goes, they formed in rehab. Mark Lanegan contributes guest vocals and lyrics on a few songs. This gritty rocker was recorded in 1995 but remained unreleased until the deluxe issue of the album dropped in 2013.
46. Feel Like Going Home – The Walkabouts (Satisfied Mind, 1993) One of his first collaborations outside Screaming Trees. The Walkabouts with Lanegan on vocals take this Charlie Rich song to the next level.
45. I’m Not The Loving Kind – Mark Lanegan (Imitations, 2013) Another cover song. Lanegan made some great ones. This John Cale song from 1975 seems like it was custom made for him. This is my favorite song from his second collection of covers, Imitations.
44. Flashback – The Twilight Singers featuring Mark Lanegan (A Stitch In Time EP, 2006) Three cover songs in a row. Mark Lanegan collaborated with Greg Dulli quite often over the years. Here is one of the great songs he recorded with Dulli’s band the Twilight Singers. I love this song. So much passion. I never heard the original until a few days ago, when I began compiling my list. It’s by a band from New Zealand named Fat Freddy’s Drop, and it’s good too.
43. In The Fade – Queens Of The Stone Age (Rated R, 2000) Another fantastic collaboration. Queens of the Stone Age has been one of my favorite bands since their inception in 1998. Therefore I was ecstatic when Lanegan started hooking up with them live and in the studio. This song is the first of multiple vocal appearances for QOTSA. In fact, Lanegan was briefly a full-time member of the band. Mark Lanegan and Josh Homme go way back. Homme was a touring guitarist in Screaming Trees from 1996 to 1998. This was Lanegan returning the favor.
42. My Shadow Life – Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood (With Animals, 2018) Mark Lanegan’s second album with Duke Garwood, With Animals, is a very good album. A solid collection of songs that sound best late at night in a dimly lit room. This one is a favorite.
41. Dying Days – Screaming Trees (Dust, 1996) Great song from Screaming Trees last album before quietly breaking up. Lanegan sings his ass off as usual. The lyrics deal with the death within the Seattle music community. Pearl Jam guitarist (and Mad Season collaborator), Mike McCready plays the solo on this track.
40. Lexington Slow Down – Mark Lanegan Band (Here Comes That Weird Chill EP, 2003) This is the first song on the list from the fucking amazing Here Come That Weird Chill EP. With eight tracks, it’s practically a full album. It’s pretty incredible from end to end. All the usual suspects play on this EP. However, this song features only two things, a piano, and that incredible voice.
39. Bleeding Muddy Water – Mark Lanegan Band (Blues Funeral, 2012) A slow-burning track from the Blues Funeral album, which is probably his most popular solo release. Believe it or not, this one sounded even better live than in the studio.
38. Stockholm City Blues – Mark Lanegan (Straight Songs Of Sorrow, 2020) This cinematic song is my favorite from what ended up being Lanegan’s swan song. The strings add so much to the sound. Beautifully understated and introspective.
37. Beehive – Mark Lanegan Band (Gargoyle, 2017) This song sounds like a catchy upbeat pop song more than any other on this list. It’s my favorite from the underrated Gargoyle album.
36. Skeletal History – Mark Lanegan Band (Here Comes That Weird Chill EP, 2003) Another amazing track from Here Comes That Weird Chill, Mark Lanegan gets Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri to help create the gritty and gruesome sound to match the force of his jagged-edged voice. If a chainsaw were a song, this would be it.
35. Deus Ibi Est – Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell (Ballad Of The Broken Seas, 2006) The first track from the first of three albums Mark Lanegan recorded with Isobel Campbell of the Scottish indie pop band, Belle & Sebastian. Their voices work well together. Campbell wrote the music and lyrics before sending the song to Lanegan.
34. Alice Said – Screaming Trees (Uncle Anesthesia, 1991) Listen to the purity of the psychedelic power groove. This is the song from Uncle Anesthesia that foreshadowed what was coming up on the next album, Sweet Oblivion. I love the drum roll that opens this song.
33. I See Stars – Screaming Trees (Clairvoyance, 1986) My favorite song from Screaming Trees first album, which is a very solid debut. Mark Lanegan was only 21 at the time of its release. As you can hear, the strong melodies were with them right from the beginning.
32. Dead On You – Mark Lanegan (Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, 1994) Dark and desolate song that sticks in your head long after you’re done listening to it. The first song on the list from the fantastic Whiskey For the Holy Ghost album. One of his very best. Probably my second favorite full-length album of his after Bubblegum.
31. Wheels – Mark Lanegan (Scraps At Midnight, 1998) I remember hearing Wheels for the first time. I liked the song straight away, but It was uniquely memorable because it was highly anticipated. His first two albums were on heavy rotation at my place for a long time. Album three came after four years of waiting. Wheels was the advance track for Scraps at Midnight. Think I first heard it on a Sub Pop compilation or something like that. Fantastic song, it did not disappoint.
30. Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees (Sweet Oblivion, 1992) The song that put Screaming Trees on the map. AKA, the song everyone knows. You might think it would be higher on my list. It would, if this was just a Screaming Trees list. Shit, this is just the first of four songs from Sweet Oblivion, their best album, and an all-time classic. The popularity of this song was also propelled by its inclusion on the soundtrack for the movie Singles. It’s one of the best songs on a soundtrack filled with good songs.
29. God Is On The Radio – Queens Of The Stone Age (Songs For The Deaf, 2002) The second song on my list with Queens of the Stone Age, and the first from their album Songs for the Deaf. On that album, Lanegan sings lead on and contributes lyrics to a few songs. This song is like a cool night in the desert. In other words, that classic QOTSA slow burning groove.
28. Too Far Away – Screaming Trees (Buzz Factory, 1989) I’ve loved the Screaming Trees for decades. I’ve listened to Buzz Factory a long, long time. I’ve bought it three times too. My lost and found copies of Buzz Factory is a story unto itself. It’s my second favorite Screaming Trees album, and the best from their early years on an independent label. This song has been a favorite since the first time I heard it.
27. I’ll Take Care Of You – Mark Lanegan (I’ll Take Care Of You, 1999) The title track from his first full album of cover songs. His version of this Brook Benton soul song is supremely satisfying and easy to listen to in the best kind of way. That’s all you need to know.
26. Long Gone Day – Mad Season (Above, 1995) Mad Season made just one album, but what an album it was. Mark Lanegan contributed lyrics and vocals to this beautiful song. Layne Staley said he was on a spiritual mission with this collection of songs. It’s still a joy to hear Lanegan and Layne Staley trade taking the lead on each verse on this duet. Musically the song features some brilliantly diverse experimentation.
25. House A Home – Mark Lanegan (Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, 1994) Another fantastic song from Whiskey From The Holy Ghost. The lyrics of this song have crossed my mind a million times for multiple reasons. The beautiful violin in this song stays with me as well.
24. Come To Me – Mark Lanegan Band & PJ Harvey (Bubblegum, 2004) Another duet. This one with the spectacular PJ Harvey. This intimate ballad is one of many truly great songs on the Bubblegum album. The apex of his solo career as far as I am concerned.
23. Seven Stories Underground – The Gutter Twins (Saturnalia, 2008) The Gutter Twins is a musical association between Mark Lanegan and his frequent collaborator, Greg Dulli. This time they decided to make an entire album together. This is my favorite track from that album. Lanegan’s understated vocal delivery here is perfect for the mood.
22. Feast To Famine – Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood (With Animals, 2018) I’ll repeat myself here because it’s necessary. Just like the previous song, Lanegan’s understated vocal delivery here is perfect for the mood. This one gripped me the instant I heard it.
21. Methamphetamine Blues – Mark Lanegan Band (Here Comes That Weird Chill EP, 2003 & Bubblegum, 2004) The relentless pounding sound of a steel hammer works as a metronome throughout the entire song. This song is intense and abrasive to its core. As it should be…as it needs to be. Rolling just to keep on rolling. Rolling just to keep on rolling.
20. Phantasmagoria Blues – Mark Lanegan Band (Blues Funeral, 2012) I was somewhat surprised to learn this is my highest ranked song from the last decade. In my opinion, this one is an underrated masterpiece. Over time, this has become my go-to song from the Blues Funeral album. It just gets better and better with age.
19. Gospel Plow – Screaming Trees (Dust, 1996) Gospel Plow is a traditional African American Spiritual that has been recorded and rearranged many times over the years. Bob Dylan covered it on his very first album. Screaming Trees took their turn in 1996 and gave us the absolute definitive rock version of this historic hymn.
18. Live With Me – The Twilight Singers featuring Mark Lanegan (A Stitch In Time EP, 2006) I was familiar with this song by Massive Attack when I first heard the Twilight Singers version. It was already a great song with haunting lyrics and soulful vocals. Mark Lanegan’s voice takes it to an even greater place.
17. Flower Web – Screaming Trees (Buzz Factory, 1989) My favorite song from the excellent Buzz Factory album. Definitely one of the songs on this list I sing along to often. Neo-psychedelia at its finest.
16. Because Of This – Mark Lanegan (Scraps At Midnight, 1998) At a little over eight minutes, this is Mark Lanegan’s longest song. That said, it never seemed too long to me. In fact, I feel it’s one of those long songs with a groove that could just drift on forever. Just press play and sit back.
15. Message To Mine – Mark Lanegan Band (Here Comes That Weird Chill EP, 2003) Another bold track from the Here Come That Weird Chill EP. Super gritty lyrics and super gritty vocals. Josh Homme on guitar too.
14. Song For The Dead – Queens Of The Stone Age (Songs For The Deaf, 2002) The second Mark Lanegan song on my list from the Queens of the Stone Age album, Songs for the Deaf. This is a monster of a song. A truly ferocious heavy metal classic. Dave Grohl plays the hell out of the drums on this one as well.
13. Make My Mind – Screaming Trees (Dust, 1996) A beautiful song of love and appreciation. My favorite from the Dust album. Another one with a melody you can hum all day long. A quintessential Screaming Trees song. It has everything.
12. Winter Song – Screaming Trees (Sweet Oblivion, 1992) Another song from the Sweet Oblivion album, another song with a melody you can hum all day. Easy going, mid-tempo. The entire Sweet Oblivion album is an essential Mark Lanegan song. Do yourself a favor, get that album if you do not already have it. It is peak Trees and one of the best albums ever.
11. Mockingbirds – Mark Lanegan (The Winding Sheet, 1990) The beginning. The first song from Mark Lanegan’s first solo album. He starts things off right, with one of his best. This song is too short, I wish it was a couple of minutes longer. I love the guitar tone on this song too. Provided by frequent Lanegan collaborator, Mike Johnson, who once was bass player for Dinosaur Jr. Mike Johnson played guitar, bass, and other instruments on Lanegan’s first five albums.
10. You Won’t Let Me Down Again – Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell (Hawk, 2010) Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell continue to merge their distinct but complementary styles. On this track Campbell, who wrote the lyrics, lets Lanegan sing all the lead vocals. It’s a great song, the best from their three albums together. For some reason, it brings me visions of early 20th century Americana.
9. Sleep With Me – Mark Lanegan Band (Here Comes That Weird Chill EP, 2003) More trademark Mark Lanegan intensity. Passion, desire, and a little bit of desperation, ooze from every word and every note. There’s also an excellent instrumental version of this song on the EP. They are sequenced back-to-back, which makes me wish they were merged into one track. Then it would be one song with a long, dramatic musical coda.
8. Hotel – Mark Lanegan (Scraps At Midnight, 1998) Powerfully bleak. One of the best examples of Lanegan’s version of American roots music set to lyrics that explore themes of trouble. Over the years, this song has slowly grown into being one of my favorites. Maybe I just needed to live a longer life first before I could understand it’s greatness. That happens often with music. Some songs are for mature ears only.
7. One Hundred Days – Mark Lanegan Band (Bubblegum, 2004) This minimalistic song is still powerful enough to take your breath away. It is also very introspective. Sending me on my way, wandering down the paths within my mind. The distinctive background vocals on this song are by Chris Goss, from Masters of Reality. This song was another highlight from the concert I saw in 2019.
6. Caught Between – Screaming Trees (Uncle Anesthesia, 1991) An epic Screaming Trees anthem. Lanegan’s booming voice rides over massive waves of fuzzed out guitar. It’s a shame these guys grew to hate each other. I’m not sure what Barrett Martin is doing these days, but I do know Gary Lee Conner and Van Conner are still angry about everything.
5. Strange Religion – Mark Lanegan Band (Bubblegum, 2004) Lots of special memories attached to this song. It’s always been a significant song to me. It was my first song. Meaning it was the first song my (former) wife and I danced to at our wedding reception. We even quoted the lyrics in our wedding invitation. The marriage didn’t last, which is alright, but the beauty of the song remains eternal. Years later, in 2017, Anthony Bourdain used this song to close out the Seattle episode of his show Parts Unknown. In the episode he dines with Lanegan. The song plays during the last few minutes of the episode while Bourdain rolls and smokes a joint. More significance right there.
4. Dollar Bill – Screaming Trees (Sweet Oblivion, 1992) Here is more from the seminal Sweet Oblivion. This song was the second single from that album. Since the band just (sort of) broke commercially, this song announced to the world that Mark Lanegan is a vocal force to be reckoned with. Pure power.
3. One Way Street – Mark Lanegan (Field Songs, 2001) A brilliant song. My favorite from the Field Songs album, by a long shot. I read that it’s one of Lanegan’s favorites as well, which makes me happy. This song has been a constant in his setlists since the day it came out.
2. Shadow Of The Season – Screaming Trees (Sweet Oblivion, 1992) The lead off track from Sweet Oblivion is a juggernaut of a song. The biggest sound Screaming Trees ever made. Lanegan sings his ass off as always, but the full force of the band is felt all the way through in every note, every second of the way.
1. Carnival – Mark Lanegan (Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, 1994) Here we are. I’ve finally reached the conclusion of my list. It was difficult choosing which song would be on the top. The pick is in. This song really is a tour de force. It’s not just his amazing vocals, it’s the violin too, played by Dave Kreuger. It plays off his voice so well here. A passionate, powerful song. Instantly memorable since the day I first heard it in 1994.
Now for the homework assignment. Find these essential songs and listen to them, and listen to them again, and again, and again.