Insert CD into player
The scratchy turntable intro with its accompanying guitar riff hooks you before the rhythm section kicks in suddenly and blows out your tiny CD player’s 20 Watt speakers. Mike Shinoda provides an introductory lesson to rap before Chester Bennington comes crashing in at the chorus. You’re now officially working on your mother’s last nerve as you rapscreamysing along to Papercut (and then the rest of the album, before hitting play again and repeating your terrible tone-deaf performance ad nauseam).
I first encountered Linkin Park on the day I bought Hybrid Theory. It was actually a birthday present for my brother but I pulled a big sister veto and the CD lived in my player until the day I officially had to hand it over. Although I am mildly ashamed that he asked me at the time whether this was the album I had been playing “secretly” in my room (sorry bro), I was completely hooked on their music and they have been one of my favourite bands ever since.
I was privileged enough to see them live twice (coincidentally on the same day exactly 2 years apart – 10 November 2010 in London and again on 10 November 2012 in Johannesburg).
Anyone who was lucky enough to attend the concert in Jo’burg cannot forget the crackling energy of that evening. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was at that show and cannot remember the raw emotion of the seamlessly sewn together medley of Leave out all the Rest, Shadow of the Day and Iridescent – a trio of ballads that was accompanied by 63,000-odd voices in singing in unison, lighters and cell phones swaying together in the dark (some fan footage of the full song here, and a shorter version here). There was hardly a dry eye in the house at the end of the song and even a visibly moved Chester stated:
“You guys are so far away! I have to say that was one of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever seen from up on stage, what’s just happened out here tonight. It’s such an honour and a privilege to be here with you guys and to see a crowd just be so energetic and just with us in every single song, every word… It’s the greatest honour you can give us, so thank you very much”.
A year ago today it was announced that Chester had tragically passed away. Never one to invest much interest in the personal lives of celebrities, I initially thought it was “fake news”. I was absolutely dumbfounded when it was confirmed to be true.
Throughout his career, no matter which project he was singing for, whether screaming or using his beautifully melodic singing voice, his lyrics were usually angst ridden, often reflecting the trauma of his youth and his struggle to come to terms with it. He was undoubtedly tormented and a retrospective listen to any of his recordings leaves you with more than just a tinge of heart-crushing sadness.
All this depressing stuff aside, it’s probably best that we try to remember the good bits. In the chorus of the Minute to Midnight’s single Leave out All the Rest, he implores:
“When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done, help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty, keep me in your memory, leave out all the rest, leave out all the rest.”
That 6 minute long medley at the Johannesburg concert is, without a doubt, that reason for me. Long may the magic of that moment live in my memory.
In memory of the “voice of a generation” I’ll be spending the day working my way through his substantial discography. It’s the best way I could think of to salute one of my favourite artists without making things weird and stalkerish.
Here’s the list (excluding Linkin Park albums) if you’d like to add them to your own little personal ceremony of remembrance.
Grey Daze (Albums: Wake Me & No Sun Today)
Just 17 at the time, he first sang in Sean Dowdell and His Friends – a band which changed its name to Grey Daze in the early-90’s. Both albums they recorded are relatively under-produced and the grungy alt-rock offering is not everyone’s cup of tea. They are still pretty decent albums if you’re listening to them in context and it’s interesting to hear where everything started. Bennington’s voice is already unmistakable.
Dead by Sunrise (Album: Out of Ashes)
While perhaps never destined to pack the polished punch of his main project, Out of Ashes is, to me at least, his best recording away from LP. A brooding alternative rock album peppered with electronic programming, it’s filled to the brim with catchy hooks and melodies. For those who have never heard it, it’s best described as elecro-heavy Minutes to Midnight-era Linkin Park without the hip-hop and it is definitely worth several listens.
Stone Temple Pilots (Album: High Rise)
A staple of the grunge and alternative rock scenes all through the 90’s, Chester joined a reformed STP for a short stint between 2013 and 2015. Apparently fulfilling a lifelong dream to sing for STP, the Bennington-lead quartet released a 5-track EP. While perhaps not their best release, the short-lived collaboration with Chester certainly added something special to the outing.
MALL (Music from the motion picture)
Although not credited to the band itself (2 official members were not involved in the recording), the music to Mr Hahn’s remake of the film “Mall” is the closest you’ll get to a movie soundtrack by Linkin Park. The only Chester-driven song on the album is the explosive opening track, White Noise, which could have easily found a place next to Victimised on Living Things or Keys to the Kingdom off of The Hunting Party. With its eerie quasi-funfair-themed melody and distorted Bennington screams which pulsate along to an aggressive guitar riff and slamming drums, it’s a pity that this song never found its way into their live set.
I wish all eardrums of the world good luck. To Chester!
Are you a Linkin Park fan? Did you have a similar experience at one of their concerts (or, for that matter, any other music experience)? Did you enjoy any of Chester’s other work? I’d love to hear from you!