Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Tales of Brave Mark Lanegan Part 1

 I spent one night not too long ago, scanning various print articles from my chequered past in that eternal, Quixotic quest to drum up some paid scribbling gigs. There, buried amongst features about everything from operatic sopranos to Mexican masked wrestlers, resided an entertainingly silly piece of my misspent youth. And this being a blog, I thought I'd share. This is a bit of a long set-up, but it's kinda in order.

I was 24 years old, toiling away at a couple of telemarketing jobs circa 1992. One of these gigs was for an 'Employment Services' group known as Progressive Media. They specialized in selling Employment Guidebooks for everything from working on fishing boats in Alaska to teaching English as a Second Language in Japan. We received only inbound calls, so frequently I and my fellow bored twenty-somethings--music geeks all--wasted time doing strange things. Like (if you were me, at least) drawing cartoons of famous grunge singers.

The Screaming Trees were one of the finest bands to come out of the era; more a loud, heavy psychedelic band than strict grunge. Their lead singer Mark Lanegan's smoky rasp of a voice gave their brand of rock a sunburnt garage tinge. Lanegan also had a reputation as a guy who wasn't averse to a drink, or two...Or more.

My best buddy at the time was a New York ex-pat named Dan Troy. Dan, like me, was a hardcore music nerd, and he was good buddies with the head of an indie record label. Said label head knew much dirt and many silly stories about a lot of the era's rock luminaries, and he related a pretty funny story about Lanegan to Dan.

The Screaming Trees singer was in a bar, imbibing and watching a Portland Trail Blazers game. He waxed enthusiastic about the playing of Blazers' star Danny Ainge, and a fellow barfly good-naturedly chimed in with a genial reply of, "Yep, Danny Ainge: He's my boy." An inebriated Lanegan reputedly took the innocent remark wrong--VERY wrong--and the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least the stuff of goofy grunge-era comic strips.

Dan Troy's dry sense of humor and lanky, amiable mien made him the perfect Greek chorus for my tangents, so he became my surrogate Crypt Keeper. And I turned Mark Lanegan, serious musician and artist, into a mountain-climbing, emergency-surgery-performing, happy-sack kicking comic figure. I was just being silly, but the few people who saw these got a chortle or two out of them. The first Sub-Pop retail store (not the online one, sadly) allegedly had this first Tale of Brave Mark Lanegan proudly tacked to their wall, and Dan told me at one point that Portland band Pond liked 'em so much that they wanted me to illustrate a T-shirt for them.

(hey, Pond guys, I'm still around and I work cheap).

Looking at these with a jaundiced grown-up's eye, they're incredibly innocent and naive. It was before Kurt Cobain took his own life--and before drugs, bickering, and rock-star excess caused the Seattle Scene to become just another bit of rock history. I saw some great bands, collected some silly stories of my own, and learned a little about the music industry (and myself), too.

This first strip (The Danny Ainge Story) is based on ostensible fact (or at least semi-reliable hearsay). The other three that I'm gonna post are pure fiction. Hope you get a kick out of them. Click the image to see the complexities and subtleties of my finely-honed illustrative skills.

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