Mark Linkous R.I.P.

I was lucky enough to see Sparkle­horse dur­ing that fate­ful CMJ fes­ti­val that got past­ed togeth­er in the wake of Sep­tem­ber 11th. He per­formed in front of a gigan­tic Amer­i­can flag the own­ers of the Bow­ery Ball­room hung at the back of the stage. He seemed real­ly uncom­fort­able with that. I’m sure at least some por­tion of the audi­ence did, too. I know I did.

I’m sor­ry to say I don’t remem­ber much of the set. It was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly long. He opened with ‘Home­com­ing Queen,’ but for­got the words. The audi­ence jogged his mem­o­ry by chim­ing in. He played the hits pas­sion­ate­ly. I’m remind­ed that he cov­ered GBV’s ‘Smoth­ered in Hugs,’ which you can lis­ten to over at Chrome­waves. It was amazing.

I have to admit that I expect­ed some of the guests from ‘It’s a Won­der­ful Life’ to join him onstage. I don’t know what I was think­ing. I had only been in NYC for a year and I tru­ly believed that that sort of thing might hap­pen. He did­n’t tour much. He was in New York. What else was Nina Pers­son doing that night?

I did­n’t think much of ‘It’s a Won­der­ful Life’ at the time. I had fall­en in love with Vivadix­iesub­marine­trans­mis­sion­plot and Good Morn­ing, Spi­der over a few trou­bling sum­mers, work­ing jobs I hat­ed while sav­ing mon­ey for school in the fall. Those songs were anthems to my ears, the per­fect sound­track to any­one who’s shuf­fling along in the twi­light of job­less­ness and underemployment.

I’m not sure why I nev­er real­ly got his next album, It’s a Won­der­ful Life. The guy made a liv­ing off of wild­ly uneven albums, but some­thing about this one did­n’t quite con­nect. I loved songs like ‘Piano Fire’ and ‘King of Nails,’ but some of the cameos just did­n’t work for me. I shelved it.

I haven’t lis­tened to Sparkle­horse much since. I went back to those records after news broke of Link­ous’ death and found them to have the same amaz­ing qual­i­ties they did when I first lis­tened to them almost a decade ago. I can still pic­ture myself mak­ing a 120 mile roundtrip com­mute in my decrepit Dodge Shad­ow, blast­ing Good Morn­ing, Spi­der at top vol­ume and it still makes me shiver.

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