a promotional film made in 1995 for the first sparklehorse LP, ‘vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot.’
mark linkous was born 9 sept, 1962, in virginia. most of the members of his family were coal miners by trade, and young mark decided to pursue a career in music to avoid a similar fate.
in the 80’s, he played in a group called the dancing hoods. the replacements and the del fuegos were vocal fans of their first album. based originally in new york, the band relocated to LA around the release of their second LP, ‘hallelujah anyway,’ but broke up soon after.
dancing hoods – baby’s got rockets.
from LA, linkous moved back to virginia, where he continued writing songs. one of them, ‘sick of goodbyes,’ cowritten with david lowery, made an appearance on lowery’s group, cracker’s 1993 LP ‘kerosene hat.’
cracker – sick of goodbyes.
sometime in the early 90’s, linkous settled on the band name sparklehorse. in 1995, their first album, ‘vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot,’ was released on capitol records.
in 1996, sparklehorse undertook their first ever tour, a run through the UK opening for radiohead. while in london, linkous overdosed on a combination of alcohol, valium and antidepressants, after which he collapsed with his legs pinned beneath him. he remained in that position for close to 14 hours, before being taken to st. mary’s hospital for treatment. following this, he was wheelchair bound for several months while he underwent various surgeries to restore his ability to walk, which he did eventually regain, though his legs never recovered their full strength.
in 1998, sparklehorse released ‘good morning spider.’ where ‘vivadixie…’ is a mostly subdued affair, this album’s much more all over the map, charging furiously out the gate with uptempo rocker ‘pig,’ before moving through a vast palette of tonal colors and moods. ‘sick of goodbyes’ gets the full on sparklehorse treatment on this record. a cover of daniel johnston’s ‘hey joe’ makes an appearance as well. some of the lyrics address his overdose and other songs seem to hint at a disillusionment with the music industry/fame machine (‘i wanna be stupid and shout “motherfucker” now, i wanna be a tough-skinned bitch, but i don’t know how’ from ‘pig’).
2001 saw the release of ‘it’s a wonderful life,’ which featured guest appearances from vic chestnutt, tom waits (on the gloriously weird ‘dog door’), nina persson of swedish lounge-poppers the cardigans, PJ harvey and dave fridmann, noted producer of such groups as mercury rev, the flaming lips and sleater-kinney, among others. this album is a little quieter than ‘good morning spider,’ closer in tempo and feel to ‘vivadixie…’ but with far more instruments in use, including the chamberlin, an early electronic keyboard instrument similar to a mellotron.
here is the full album.
during this time, mark also busied himself with producing records for artists like daniel johnston and nina persson, and in 2004 coordinated the compiliation ‘the late great daniel johnston: discovered covered,’ which featured tom waits, TV on the radio, beck and mercury rev, as well as a collboration between sparklehorse and the flaming lips on johnston’s song ‘go’.
sparklehorse & flaming lips – go.
daniel johnston – go.
beck – true love will find you in the end.
daniel johnston – true love will find you in the end.
in 2006, sparklehorse released ‘dreamt for light years in the belly of a mountain,’ recorded in north carolina, where he had relocated his studio. several of the songs on this album date back to ‘it’s a wonderful life,’ and four of them had actually been released in different forms previously (‘shade and honey,’ which was featured in the 2002 film ‘laurel canyon;’ ‘ghost in the sky,’ which was first released on a split with the shins and mates of state; ‘morning hollow,’ which was a bonus track on ‘wonderful life;’ and the title track from the album, originally called ‘maxine,’ appeared on both the vinyl release of ‘wonderful life’ and the ‘gold day’ EP). despite this, it’s a great album, overflowing with crooked pop songs, weird old keyboards and lots of atmosphere, thanks to guest producer dangermouse. steven drozd from flaming lips makes a couple appearances on drums too.
i first became aware of sparklehorse in the summer of 2002. it was one of those moments of immediate recognition with a piece of art. the surreal lyrics, the non-standard instrumentation, the way he made something new and beautiful out of old chord progressions and barely functioning old keyboards: all combined to produce something beautiful and otherworldly. the first sparklehorse song i heard was ‘piano fire,’ the third track off ‘it’s a wonderful life.’ to this day, it’s still one of my favorite sparklehorse songs. to that end, here are several versions of the song…
i believe this is the video by filmmaker rodney ascher. the mix of the song used is different from the album version.
here’s the album version.
here is a particularly distorted but otherwise pretty faithful live take.
and now, we return to our previously scheduled programming.
in the last years of his life, mark kept busy. he made a collaborative album with dangermouse and david lynch called ‘dark night of the soul,’ that features guest appearances from the flaming lips, gruff rhys of super furry animals, julian casablancas from the strokes, frank black, iggy pop, suzanne vega and vic chsetnutt, among others. musically, it’s a great album, though perhaps too scattered and diverse of one. the good songs on it are exceptional, at least, though there are some that just don’t work (like the iggy pop collab, which sounds fantastic on paper but doesn’t work out so great).
just war (w/ gruff rhys).
the man who played god (w/ suzanne vega).
revenge (w/ the flaming lips).
he moved again, from north carolina to knoxville, tennessee, where he began again working on new music in a new studio he was building.
on 6 march, 2010, mark linkous killed himself outside the knoxville home where he was staying with friends. he shot himself in the heart with a rifle he owned. i cried when i heard about it and had to leave work early.
according to his manager, at the time of his death, most of the work for a new sparklehorse album had been completed, though these songs have yet to see release in any official way.
sparklehorse.com, the official sparklehorse homepage.
the dark night of the soul homepage.
belly of a mountain, a short film composed of interviews with linkous and live footage. there’s a second part that links from this first part.
mark linkous is sparklehorse, a 50 minute documentary filmed for dutch tv station VPRO. it’s in five or six parts, just follow the links.
p.s. Hey. ** Dominick, Hi!!! It’s true. In fact I think that must be the kind of love Whitney Houston used to sing about? Although your love of yesterday obviously beats it. The commenter/ progenitor of that love deserves a special commendation by one of the biggest literary prizes. Love like MonsterHunter knocking on your door at 3:30 am with a trembling lower lip and tears in his eyes, G. ** Misanthrope, Well, actually, it seems to be the reopening that’s driving them bonkers. Which makes sense too, no? Slamming crystal might make you work even harder, it’s true, but you might need to disable your porn apps. I can’t believe Aol still exists. I totally forget until the rare person has an email address there. I remember when it was pretty much the whole internet. I try to be super cautious on FB with my comments, which is easy to do since I leave a comment there once every two months if even that, and it’s usually just a heart emoji. ** Bill, I tried to guess what the keyboard player’s band would sound like, and I couldn’t quite nail anything. All I came up with was, not good but so what. I think our start up would get a lot of fringe support but would be ultimately unsuccessful in its noble mission. I haven’t seen the Lunch doc, and I too am wary, although Beth B directing it will probably get me to click Play eventually. ** jamie, Hi, Jamie! Awww, nice. Sleepyhead. Thank you for attending to the post’s wares so thoughtfully. I’m good. I have an annoying pain my mouth or tooth or something that I’m waiting to die away, please. Yeah, off to the States next Tuesday. It’s very rare for me to put the blog on hold, but with my inability to travel for such a long time, and, hence, having done the blog non-stop all that time without a break, I think a short refresher-style rest on my end is needed. And absence + the heart = … etc. I’m pretty excited to go when I’m not stressing about what the customs/border stuff is going to be like under the circumstances. But the trip starts with three days of full-on amusement park raiding in Orlando, and that’s exciting, for sure. I would definitely like to have the ‘Pepsi Cola Addict’ link, if you don’t mind. Thanks, buddy! I like the beatific, so I welcome your suggestion with open arms. You need some beatific on your end? Thinking you’ll say yes, take those vibes. Love, me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Indeed, sir. I guess France crashed out of the Euros, *sad face*. I guess England is still in there somewhere, *happy face?* ** James, That must such a terrible burden for you, man, Hugs. ** jj, Hi. Huh. Well, I like his books, I don’t know him personally at all, but if those postings are real then, yeah, he does seem to be quite an asshole. ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, BC getting off is certainly an ugly turn of events. Wtf?! ** Brian, Hey, Brian. I guess there’s a large contingent of people who are afraid of other people’s freedom of thought in every generation, but the scaredy-cat censorious types do seem to be in a very noisy, obnoxious phase these days. All I remember of ‘RiaGE’ is that last shot. And, yeah, the horse ride a little. I thought ‘The Wild Boys’ was a laborious act of blatant Guy Maddin mimickry, but a lot of people dug it, and it’s hardly the enemy. ‘Hellraiser’ is pretty silly, yeah. And fun, yeah. ‘Fireworks’ would seem to have been a good choice. And it’s so short that it’s hard to imagine anyone finding fault with it, so … good one. The theater work was quite interesting. We’re super early on, but there’s a very promising basis for something already, and that’s all you need at this stage. Did the rain save you? Man oh man. Have a great whatever you are allowed. ** Okay. Today you get another old, restored post, a lovely guest-edited one by the recently quiet d.l. rewritedept about the much missed songster Mark Linkous. I hope you enjoy. See you tomorrow.