The First Single. One Step Closer
The song that introduced the world to the band. Released almost 17 years ago. Not exactly the most inspired video but it gets the job done. Weird how completely different everyone in it looks. Remarkably self-assured for a debut single, almost like a song that comes from most bands second or third albums. I still remember this single coming out. Which I think is why his death hit me, and so many others so hard. It was the first band whose debut album I remember coming out. Most of the other bands I got into around the same time (Blink 182, Green Day etc) already had an extended discography to work my way through. This was the first band I saw develop in front of me, I got to watch them grow and evolve, so to see that coming to an end is heartbreaking.
The First Big Single – In The End
Yes, it was “One Step Closer” that kicked the door open, but it was this song which blew the door off the hinges. One of the best nu-metal singles released and a true high point of the genre. Reached number one in four separate singles charts, and listed as number two in Billboards decades-end list in both the rock and the alternative charts. Also, one of the first songs I learnt how to play on the piano.
The “Inexplicably Stuck In My Head” – Easier To Run
No idea why but this song has been the one in my head since I heard the sad news about Chester. I haven’t listened to this album in years, and it’s not one I listened to that much when it came out (it was 2003 so I was obsessed with Good Mourning by Alkaline Trio, a near classic album). It’s time for me to be honest; Linkin Park were never my favourite band, probably not even in my top 50. But they are one of the most important to my life. It was through them that I got into other bands. They were probably the most effective “gateway band” there is. They’re the marijuana to Nine Inch Nails heroin. I hesitated about admitting that as I worried it seemed disrespectful. But some of my favourite music based memories growing up were based on them, talking about their albums, showing people some of their obscure songs (more of which later), reading about bands in music magazines and checking them out if they had “for fans of: Linkin Park” as the description.
The “Okay, I Didn’t Expect That” – Numb/Encore
Obviously. One of those collaborations which is both extremely surprising, yet also makes perfect sense. I am a sucker for collaborations, and this whole EP works wonderfully.
The Pre-Fame Song – My December
This is the song I used to show my pretentious nature growing up. “oh, you like Linkin Park? I bet you haven’t heard this”. I was insufferable (in many ways I still am). An extremely mellow song, much more than you expect from a band like that at the time. A lot of metal bands seem kind of too scared to do mellow songs, they feel it makes them less metal. Faith No More famously used to put ridiculously mellow songs on their albums. Mike Patton said that many times musicians would come up to him and say “I wish we could do that”, and his response was always “Why can’t you?”. So it is surprising that Linkin Park were brave enough to do this so early on, they weren’t worried about appealing to a certain fanbase, they just wanted to do what they wanted to do.
The Hidden Awesome – Morning After
Not a Linkin Park song, but a great example of Chester’s vocal prowess. I hear this song and can imagine driving through a neon-lit city at night. Surprises me that this song isn’t better known, it deserves to be incredibly well known, to be played at rock clubs and at house parties worldwide.
The “Cut An Action Scene To This” Song – Bleed It Out
This song is one of my favourites. Definitely in my top 1000 (may not sound too positive, but at last count, I have 1632 albums, so it has A LOT of competition). God damn is this a great song. The prelude to something amazing happening. Listen to it whilst getting dressed in the morning and you’ll feel like your tooling up for a shoot-out. Some songs just make everything seem more epic when you’re listening to them (most obvious one is The Final Countdown) and can transform even the most mundane activities into something superb.
The “Are You Sure That’s Them?” – The Catalyst
A divisive song off a very divisive album. To say initial reaction to this song was “mixed” is a slight understatement. I think it works though, bands can’t keep doing the same song over and over again (unless they’re AC/DC), a natural evolution of musical styles is always appreciated. Well, I say it’s always appreciated, it’s appreciated when it’s done well. Celine Dion’s AC/DC cover is something that never, eeeeeeeeeever should be done again. But it’s nice when bands do something surprising, The Bouncing Souls cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me) is brilliant to listen to.
The “Listen To At The Gym” Song – Burn It Down
So after listening to “Bleed It Out” to get ready, you still need something to listen to whilst punching random bodyguards in the face. Use this. It sounds exactly like the John Wick films look (and long-time readers will know how much we LOVED that). It was when I listened to this song I figured out what Linkin Park’s genre was; they weren’t nu-metal, or rap, or anything like that; they were “Japanese-Influenced Hack And Slash Video Game Soundtrack”. The music you listen to when you’re cutting through swathes of enemies armed only with a sword.
The “This Is Very Hard To Listen To Now” Part 1 – Numb
This seems to be the song everyone is sharing, with good reason too. This song was when they changed from “teen angst” to “coping with severe depression”. This is where they changed from “standard band”, to “life changing for many people”. That’s another reason his death seems to have hit so hard. So many of us can imagine ourselves killing ourselves, I think most people have at least considered it once in their lives. So to see someone do it hits hard, especially when you see the pain they leave behind.
The “This Is Very Hard To Listen To Now” Part 2 – Heavy
Only heard this song a few weeks ago when someone showed it to me. Listened to it again today and it’s now liable to reduce people to tears. This shows how, no matter how sad his death was, it wasn’t “out of the blue”. He put his soul on the line for the world, he opened his heart up for everyone to listen to. It may not have been enough to save his life, but you can guarantee it saved someone else’s. Somewhere there was someone who listened to this song and felt a connection with it that they’d never felt before, they felt like they weren’t alone for the first time in their life. That, more than anything, should be Chester’s legacy, he helped people through the darkest days of their lives.
The “Tearjerker” – One More Light
I didn’t hear this song until after receiving the news he passed away. This is one of the most heartbreaking songs I’ve heard in years, it would still be so even in different circumstances. The lyrics are too emotive to not get a reaction. Performed perfectly on Jimmy Kimmel as a reaction to Chris Cornell’s suicide, it’s taken on extra significance lately. Originally written about a close friend of the band who passed away from cancer, as the band themselves said:
“when something dramatic and painful like that happens, the most important thing to do is to connect with the people you love and remind them you care about them”
And I think that’s the message to take from this. If you want to see an end to stuff like this, listen to your friends when they tell you they’re having suicidal thoughts, complain heavily when governments shut down access to mental health services, write angry letters to newspapers when they stigmatise those with mental health issues (which stop people suffering asking for help). It’s not enough to post a message on Facebook saying “this is very sad” and leave it at that. Active change requires active effort, listen to your friends, be there when they need you to, and be the change you want to see in this world. And if you feel helpless, there are people out there who can help, and if you want to help, these places always need volunteers:
- Calm (Campaign Against Living Miserably): An award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. Website
- Women’s Aid: The national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Website
- Cruse Bereavement Care: As their logo states: “someone to turn to when someone dies”. Website
- Sane: A UK-wide charity working to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness. Website
- Samaritans: The first people that come to mind when people discuss issues like this. With good reason too. Website
- Mind: Providing information service for all aspects of mental health. Website
- IMAlive: An online messaging version of Samaritans phoneline. Very helpful if you’re in a scenario where you don’t want to be overheard. Website