Man in the Box
|"Man in the Box"|
US commercial cassette single
|Single by Alice in Chains|
|from the album Facelift|
|Released||March 1, 1991|
|Format||CD single, cassette, vinyl|
|Recorded||December 1989 – April 1990 at London Bridge Studio, Seattle & Capitol Recording Studio, Hollywood|
|Songwriter(s)||Lyrics: Layne Staley
Music: Jerry Cantrell
|Alice in Chains singles chronology|
|Facelift track listing|
"Man in the Box" is a single by the American rock band Alice in Chains. It was released as a single in 1991 after being featured on the group's debut full-length album Facelift (1990). The song was included on the compilation albums Nothing Safe: Best of the Box (1999), Music Bank (1999), Greatest Hits (2001), and The Essential Alice in Chains (2006).
Origin and recording
In the liner notes of 1999's Music Bank box set collection, guitarist Jerry Cantrell said of the song, "That whole beat and grind of that is when we started to find ourselves; it helped Alice become what it was." The song makes use of a talk box to create the guitar effect. The original Facelift track listing credited only vocalist Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell with writing the song. All post-Facelift compilations credited the entire band. It is unclear as to why the songwriter credits were changed.
"Man in the Box" is widely recognized for its distinctive "wordless opening melody, where Layne Staley's peculiar, tensed-throat vocals are matched in unison with an effects-laden guitar" followed by "portentous lines like: 'Feed my eyes, can you sew them shut?', 'Jesus Christ, deny your maker' and 'He who tries, will be wasted' with Cantrell's drier, less-urgent voice." along with harmonies provided by both Staley and Cantrell in the lines 'Won't you come and save me'.
In interview with Rolling Stone in 1992, Layne Staley explained the song:
I started writing about censorship. Around the same time, we went out for dinner with some Columbia Records people who were vegetarians. They told me how veal was made from calves raised in these small boxes, and that image stuck in my head. So I went home and wrote about government censorship and eating meat as seen through the eyes of a doomed calf.
Jerry Cantrell said of the song:
It's basically about how government and media control the public's perception of events in the world or whatever, and they build you into a box by feeding it to you in your home. And it's about breaking out of that box and looking outside of that box that has been built for you.
In a recorded interview with MuchMusic USA, Staley stated that the lyrics are about censorship in the mass media, and "I was really really stoned when I wrote it, so it meant something else at the time", he said laughing. He also made it a point to ensure that all fans knew the song was not about veal, Layne Staley loved to eat veal.
Release and reception
"Man in the Box" was released as a single in 1991. "Man in the Box" is widely considered to be one of the band's signature songs, reaching number 18 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart at the time of its release.
In popular culture
- Professional wrestler Tommy Dreamer used the song as his entrance music in Extreme Championship Wrestling from 1995 to 2001, and with his own wrestling promotion, House of Hardcore, since 2012.
- The song appeared as a playable track in the video games Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero Live.
- "Man in the Box" is heard in films such as Lassie (1994), The Perfect Storm (2000) and Funny People (2009).
- The song has been featured in TV shows including Beavis and Butt-Head (1993), Dead at 21 (1994), Cold Case (season 2, episode 13, "Time to Crime" in 2005), and Supernatural (season 12, episode 6, "Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox" in 2016).
The MTV music video for the track was released in 1991 and was directed by Paul Rachman, who later directed the first version of the "Sea of Sorrow" music video for the band and the 2006 feature documentary American Hardcore. The music video was nominated for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. The video is available on the home video releases Live Facelift and Music Bank: The Videos. The video shows the band performing in what is supposedly a barn, where throughout the video, a mysterious man wearing a black hooded cloak is shown roaming around the barn. Then, after the unknown hooded figure is shown, he is shown again looking around inside a stable where many animals live where he suddenly discovers and shines his flashlight on a man (Layne Staley) that he finds sitting in the corner of the barnhouse. At the end of the video, the hooded man finally pulls his hood down off of his head, only to reveal that his eyelids were sewn together with stitches the whole time. This part of the video depicts on the line of the song, "Feed my eyes, now you've sewn them shut". The music video was shot on 16mm film and transferred to tape using a FDL 60 telecine. At the time this was the only device that could sync sound to picture at film rates as low as 6FPS. This is how the surreal motion was obtained. The sepia look was done by Claudius Neal using a daVinci color corrector.
At Alice in Chains' last concert with Staley on July 3, 1996, they closed with "Man in the Box". Live performances of "Man in the Box" can be found on the "Heaven Beside You" and "Get Born Again" singles and the live album Live. A performance of the song is also included on the home video release Live Facelift and is a staple of the band's live show due to the song's popularity.
Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine covered "Man in the Box" in a lounge style on their 2005 album Aperitif for Destruction. Platinum-selling recording artist David Cook covered the song during his 2009 Declaration Tour. Angie Aparo recorded a cover version for his album Weapons of Mass Construction. Apologetix parodied the song as "Man on the Cross" on their 2013 album Hot Potato Soup. Metal artist Chris Senter released a parody titled "Cat in the Box" in March 2015, featuring a music video by animator Joey Siler. Les Claypool's bluegrass project Duo de Twang covered the song on their debut album Four Foot Shack.
- Layne Staley – lead vocals
- Jerry Cantrell – guitar, backing vocals
- Mike Starr – bass
- Sean Kinney – drums
|US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)||18|
|US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)||39|
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