Sunday, March 7th, 2010
R.I.P. Mark Linkous
Sparklehorse covers Rod Stewart and Guided By Voices
Frank YangWhen I was out last night drinking myself into a mild state of oblivion, I thought it was for a friend’s bachelor party but in fact, I was saluting the memory of one of my favourite musicians – I just didn’t know it at the time. It was pleasant to wake up this morning without a hangover. It was far less pleasant to have the first thing I saw when going online that Sparklehorse mastermind Mark Linkous had committed suicide.
Since 1995’s debut Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot – which I think I first heard on the radio of all places – Linkous’ cracked and mysterious brew of Appalachian loneliness with occasional bursts of rock heroics has held a special place in my heart. One that was Sparklehorse’s alone, because few were able to tap into that place of beautiful sadness which Linkous seemed to have a direct line to, let alone refine it into glittering, dusty gems of song as he was able to. Sparklehorse records always seemed to be transmissions from another world, with themes of spirits, the afterlife recurring throughout. Linkous frequently wrote from a place of sadness, but always yearned for a happiness that was as simple as it seemed elusive. I hope he’s found some of the peace he was looking for in the next world; this one is that much sadder and far less beautiful without him in it.
I expect there’ll be no shortage of tributes to the man and his music over the next few days, and on the covers front, his take on Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” will be ubiquitous for a while. So while it’s a brilliant re-interpretation and does stand as as good a tribute to the man as anything (besides his own work), I’ve dug through my own archives to find something a little less somber – a couple of live renderings that you probably wouldn’t associate with an act as downcast as Sparklehorse. The first is a doomed version of the Rod Stewart classic recorded for XFM back in 1998, which starts out well but quickly goes off the rails and which they eventually put out of its misery by segueing into The Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up”. The second comes from the 2001 Werchter Festival in Belgium and is an appropriately white noise-y take on one of Guided By Voices’ finest.
Goodbye Mark, I’m so sad you had to go but am thankful for the music you left behind and that I was able to finally see you live three years ago.