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If you’re a fan of Alice in Chains, you have probably scoured Amazon at regular intervals to find a biography of the band or of the late Layne Staley. The only biography of Staley that had been published so far was notoriously unreliable and poorly written, and the best account of the band’s history was to be found in Mark Arm’s oral history of grunge, ‘Everybody Loves Our Town’. Therefore, David de Sola’s book was a much needed, long overdue account of the rise and fall - and rise again - of this incredible band.
Like most biographies, ‘Alice in Chains: The Untold Story’ is a little chaotic, with jumps in the timeline which fans of the band will occasionally question. I find that a common trait in biographies when so many ‘characters’ are involved. And that’s the other problem: there are a lot of ‘characters’ in this book, and I would have liked to be able to refer to an Appendix at the end to remind myself of who was who. Unfortunately, no such ‘cast list’ is included.
The remaining members of the original Alice in Chains line up are notoriously private, and as a result, they declined to be involved with De Sola’s research. Similarly, Layne Staley’s mother did not respond to the author’s interview requests. Therefore, the book relies on the account of ‘secondary’ sources - friends, staff members and assorted hangers-on. But all considering, De Sola does a very good job of stitching together a coherent account of the events from the sources available, and the ‘story’ flows as well as it can do, albeit with a heavy Layne bias. Modern day Alice in Chains are barely touched on, but I have to admit that I have little interest in their current incarnation. As Susan Silver is quoted to say at one point in the book, ‘Layne *is* Alice in Chains’.
Maybe one day Cantrell, Kinney and Inez will ‘talk’ and allow their version of the events to surface in a new biography; but for the time being, David De Sola’s book is all we have. It’s certainly a great read which all fans of the bands will no doubt devour.
This a pretty thoroughly researched book about Alice in Chains, no doubt. As a fan through 27 years it did reveal a lot of interesting details.
That said there is some things to point out. The book does not include first hand interviews with the bandmembers Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney and Mike Inez. Though several other people and family members have been interviewed and that these accounts altogether makes for a decent historical overview, you are left feeling a little alianated from the direct sources.
Secondly, the book puts a lot of attention on the late Layne Staley, which kind of scews the picture of the band, which were four even parts in a band of brothers.
I also need to warn fragile souls: The accounts of Layne Staleys later life are by all means not pleasant reading. It is truly horrifying to read how Layne Staley got caught in a long downwords spiral caused by drug abuse and it is as sad at it is scary.
That said, it is a good book that also highlights the beauty of the people involved and the extreme power of their music, which is what stands back and what should be remembered.
Although the foreword makes it clear that its impossible to tell the Alice in Chains story without addressing Layne Staley's drug issues, in reality this dominates the book. Its essentially the Lane Staley story, which although vital, it is disappointing that more isn't dedicated to the band as a whole. William DuVall subsequently joining the band and his contribution is confined to a handful of pages, and there's hardly a mention of the remaining band members solo works. It could have been a lot better.