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Sing Backwards and Weep

Narrated by: Mark Lanegan
Length: 11 hrs and 56 mins
5 out of 5 stars (163 ratings)

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Summary

When Mark Lanegan first arrived in Seattle in the mid-1980s, he was just 'an arrogant, self-loathing redneck waster seeking transformation through rock 'n' roll'. Little did he know that within less than a decade, he would rise to fame as the front man of the Screaming Trees, then fall from grace as a low-level crack dealer and a homeless heroin addict, all the while watching some of his closest friends rocket to the forefront of popular music.  

In Sing Backwards and Weep, Lanegan takes listeners 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 favourites that scored a hit number five 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 audiobook 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 romanticised decades in rock history - from a survivor who lived to tell the tale.    

Gritty, gripping and unflinchingly raw, Sing Backwards and Weep is an audiobook 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.

©2020 Mark Lanegan (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"Mark Lanegan - primitive, brutal, and apocalyptic. What's not to love?" (Nick Cave, author of The Sick Bag Song and The Death of Bunny Munro

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Compelling and sad

As a fan of much of Mark's music, including Screaming Trees (Howling Branches!!) I listened to this soon after it came out. I wasn't sure what to expect. First observations - this is really well written, in fact I checked to see if ghost writers involved and apparently not. In addition, Mark's reverence for Blood Meridian makes a lot of sense in how he has set out the words - it has the spareness of Cormac McCarthy. Second observation - Mark voice is perfect for telling his story and he delivers a great performance. Third observation - it becomes quickly apparent that the book's focus is on Mark's increasing descent into addiction and this dominates the narrative. Fourth observation - the insights into aspects of the Seattle music scene and other troubled characters is fascinating and for many the sections covering Mark's friendship with Kurt Cobain will be more revealing than other works devoted to Kurt's life, including his final days. Fifth observation - Mark is brutally honest about his earlier musical output and as a fan of his music this was really interesting and chimed with my view: Trees records up to Sweet Oblivion are not great, Winding Sheet not great, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost stands out and marked an achievement which Mark remains proud of. Final observation - whilst there is a lot of self awareness and critical self analysis I found this jarred with Mark's ongoing grudges based on historic spats and fixation with physical dominance. Whilst I appreciate this may be his outlook its not something I warmed to and for such a personal experience kept pushing me away from his character.

3 people found this helpful

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Brutally honest, painful, utterly compelling!

There aren't many books I've read or listened to that have held my attention so much that I finish them in a week!

But this one from Mark Lanegan is such a book.

Lanegan is an enigmatic character, and I always knew there was something damaged about him, but had never investigated his life enough to know more than love his songs.

But wow! I am so glad I listened to this.

I knew I'd love it as soon as I heard his rough, smoky voice melting into my ears. The story is non stop trauma, suffering, violence, depravity, pain and loss. It's a harrowing read, and for most of the almost 12 hours of listening, my near constant thought has been 'how the **** is he still alive to be telling this tale?/ If the massive amount of drugs he has consumed over his addict years didn't kill him, he surely should have died as a result of the crime and violence he was immersed in.

His frank honesty about what a scumbag he was, and his vulnerability in what he shares about himself makes the book absolutely compelling. It's not for the faint hearted, and definitely not for you if you are sensitive to swearing, but it's such a powerful read because of all that.

I've been mesmerised by it, and am 100% certain that he is going to be at the heart of my Spotify choices for a few weeks, as I explore his lyrics and how they relate to what I know understand about the man.

The last chapter brought tears to my eyes, not the first chapter to do so, but the first one that brought tears of happiness at knowing that he found his way through the chaos he lived in for so long.

If you are interested in him, the music scene he comes from, addiction and the mind of an addict, or have any interest in Adverse Childhood Experiences and what they can do to a person, this is a phenomenal book to get. Lanegan comes across as a deeply unpleasant character by his own brutally frank admission, but you can't help but empathise with him, because you know some of the things that shaped him. I'd highly recommend you get the Audible version of it so you can listen to Mark himself reading it to you. It's magical.

1 person found this helpful

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Hilarious, Harrowing, Heartbreaking

I had already bought my physical copy of this book and was excited to dive in. By chance I had a look on Audible and saw that, not only was it available here, Lanegan had read it himself. I had to spend a credit on that, and burned through it in a couple of days, listening with every spare minute. It was one of the best listening experiences I've ever had. Harrowing, heartbreaking, and hilarious in equal measures. Lanegan is a master storyteller, as well as a genius musician. It must've been incredibly hard for him to write and record this, but he's created yet another piece of dark art. I'm a lifelong fan of his music, but even if I'd never heard of him before, this book still would've been amongst my favourites. Thank you for everything big man!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Enjoyed it

I dont have the patience to read any book ,Mark did a good job narrating this , I did enjoy it and could relate to alot of it. Honest book and an insight into some of my other musical influences, including Greg Sage . Good work Mark , hope he found time for the demo I gave him in Belfast near 20 years ago .

1 person found this helpful

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Schadenfreud central

Some nice stories, from a pretty nasty person, from what I could tell. Lanegan seems to treat life as a zero sum game, using most opportunities to create victims, and every opportunity to feel like one.

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Incredible

I’ve listened to a lot of these rock memoir type books. This is raw and honest. A masterpiece.

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Looking backwards

An unflinching and brutally honest book about about drug addiction, but also a fascinating insight into the world of 80’s and 90’s alternative music scene. It’s uncomfortable at times, but it needs to be. Lanegan pulls no punches in his description of his past, and culminates in an honest evaluation of his character and history. Lanegan has long been one of my favourite musicians, and this book has allowed me to understand his music even more deeply. A must read for any Lanegan or music fan.

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Poor me, f**k you, and don't do drugs.

Not holding back at all, Mark Lanegan lays himself bare. While he largely, to me, comes across as a selfish, violent, self-pitying d***head, this is exactly why it's such a compelling listen (audiobook). His drawl pulls the story along, like his incredible voice pulls his music along. It's, as expected, a story of a very talented but damaged petty criminal living an extreme version of the almost-rockstar cliche, where once he starts asserting his writing talent on Streaming Trees' music, they produce a couple of mostly-good albums. In many cases drugs have contributed to the creation of great, timeless music, but in Lanegan's case, it's more like it's down to luck and the goodwill of others that his music was created at all.
Despite the horror of his life, just his contribution to the outstanding Mad Season record and his relationships with some of the real legends of that music scene makes him worth knowing about.
He's got a point about Liam Gallagher though.

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Lanegan

A brilliantly read, brutally honest story. Love his music (not the drugs) . R. I. P Layne

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Gripping

I came across Mark Lanegan through the Joseph Arthur podcast 'Come to Where I'm From' and found him to be an interesting and charismatic guest which led me to this book.
I found his story and narration gripping from start to finish and as his wish was to create a piece of work in which he could be proud of I can confirm this is most definitely the case.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-05-20

Chilling to the bone but addictive as dope

If there's one certainty in life, it's that only the voice of Mark Lanegan may narrate this dark dopesick memoir. A+++