During my childhood years, I can be honest and say music was never a massive part of my life, strange to think now that I have this blog but it’s true…I was never part of a musical family, it was always simply background noise or, if it happened to be playing, it was whatever was on, my first real connection with music in any capacity was Hulk Hogan’s theme music in the then WWF, hearing “Real American” got me excited because it meant Hogan was coming, that’s all it meant at the time, but it’s interesting to think that, as a rock song in many ways, it subconsciously conditioned me to gravitate towards guitar driven music…I went through other things, like, OK it was the 90’s, of course I had the Spice Girls album…who didn’t? I had that South Park album because the “Chocolate Salty Balls” song was funny, my dad ignoring all parental advisory labels and buying it for me…I missed the boat with Take That, BUT…when Robbie Williams went solo, something happened, something reconnected in my brain because of one particular song; “Let Me Entertain You”…laugh all you want but this was maybe the first defining point in my life in terms of being a consumer of music. For a pop song, it was SO rock ‘n’ roll it was unreal, the imagery, the attitude, the style, the sound…at the time, this was something I’d never heard before in my young naivety and it only fueled my curiosity. My ears would take me through artists such as Savage Garden, Republica, Manic Street Preachers, U2…I was discovering more and more guitar driven music, I didn’t have the internet, I didn’t have a local record store, I could only hear what was on the radio, I remember watching things like MTV Select and hoping one of these cool songs would come on, these artists had songs that stood out from the Westlife’s and the Britney Spears’…until one day, it would all change again…and that would come in my first year of Comprehensive school…something that would change my life forever.
During an IT class one particular afternoon, one of the senior teachers was in with us for, whatever reasons, I can’t remember, but I DO remember him asking about us, what we were all into etc…Mr. Thomas his name was…he asked what music we liked; he named Robbie Williams, a few other pop groups, the majority agreed etc…and then something strange happened…he asked the room if anyone liked a group called Linkin Park…absolutely nobody said anything and this…this intrigued me. Who was Linkin Park? Why did nobody say anything? Little did I know I would soon find out for myself…my older cousin was still in school with me at the time and he was good enough to let me walk home with him after school if I didn’t have a lift, looking after me like the good egg he is (Ian you’ve always been a good egg)…he’d make me a cup of tea, we’d talk about wrestling and things, but one time he put on the TV and there was this channel I’d never heard of called Kerrang!...and, low and behold, we catch the beginning of a video and I see words flash up on screen; LINKIN PARK…”Crawling”…I was like THIS IS THEM! THIS IS THAT GROUP! And I watched and listened so excitedly…only one thing crossed my mind for those few minutes…holy shit. This was unlike anything I’d ever heard ANYWHERE…it was incredible, the emotion, the passion, the anger contained within this one song, while being catchy at the same time, it was unreal, it was hypnotic…in front of me was this dude with such an incredible voice…hair all dyed blonde and spiky, he had a lip ring…he was so cool! Over time, whenever I could I would seek out this channel; I would over time discover more videos, songs like “One Step Closer” and “Papercut”…”In The End”…this band could do no wrong! I decided that, I had to have their album and using some pocket money, for the first time I went out and purchased a record of my own, my first album in Woolworths; it was “Hybrid Theory”.
Casting my mind back that far, I don’t know exactly what it was about Linkin Park that made them so special at the time…I didn’t understand music, not instrumentally, I didn’t know what chords were, I didn’t know what chord progression was, or what keys were, and being younger, I wasn’t fully aware of concepts in music, that there could be serious messages in music, but I guess it filtered in emotionally…my parents at the time were coming out of a separation having gone through a divorce and while I’ve never claimed it to damage me in any ways, it naturally did change me, I no longer really had a strong family unit, subconsciously picking sides…back and forth my grandparents’ house where my mother was now living temporarily after the break up, between the odd night at home and occasionally where my dad now lives with my now step-mother…I guess hearing Linkin Park, the noise, the loudness, the emotion that you simply didn’t get from regular music…it struck me as real. I was hearing someone real, someone authentic and when Chester Bennington was singing, it meant something and in ways is resonated through me, it’s like, he felt FOR me…things at a young age I didn’t fully understand…other bands would come, I discovered this scene; I had the baggy jeans, the skateboard, the chains, I started spiking my hair, I had the wrist bands…I lost a lot of weight and I became comfortable within myself, I came out of some self-imposed shell I didn’t even knew I had over me…and I’ve never looked back.
Over the years, Linkin Park have been one of few bands I can say I’ve been loyal to; I’ve bought everything, listened to everything…bands come and go, your tastes evolve, they change with new sounds, you learn more about the world, your output changes, but when a band touches you in such a way, you don’t forget that…be it their underrated follow up, “Meteora”, or even remix albums like “Re-Animation”…all the way through to present day…sure, the last album was challenging…I will hold my hands up and say I wasn’t a fan, I’m sorry to say I slated it on this very blog upon its release…I wasn’t trying to jump on any bandwagons, the album garnered a lot of negative feedback, Chester himself was taking swipes at fans and if only I’d known that deep down he was struggling, it was affecting him in ways we couldn’t begin to imagine, then I wouldn’t have been so eager to pen my views in the character that I’ve become in these pages…Chester was a human being struggling with a depression and facing harsh criticisms, new material was getting booed on stage…he was just an artist looking to create…the trouble is, one of the things he did create was a monster; us. As Linkin Park fans, we were too quick to put down their artistic expression, the bands evolution, too many of us were too focused on nostalgia and disappointment this time around to see what was going on…Chester was already struggling with the passing of his close friend and inspiration Chris Cornell…many of us certainly didn’t help him. Yesterday, his demons caught up with him and sadly, he couldn’t fight them off any longer…Chester hung himself, leaving behind his wife and children and the world was certainly not prepared for it. I was lucky enough to see the band just once…they headlined Download festival here in the UK back in 2014, playing the very album that started it all in its entirety and it truly was a magical moment, sadly one I’ll have to cherish forever, as the only time I’ll have seen them play live. Recently, I’ve come to accept that for several months now, I’ve been quietly battling depression myself, being prescribed Citalopram to keep me level headed…It’s almost pathetic to think that, I was too scared of what other people would think of me; afraid of those judgments or put downs to speak up, I bottled a lot and in turn, over years I guess I’ve had an on-going issue with alcohol, something I’ve been in denial of…but…I plucked up the courage to go and speak to someone and I’m glad I did. I just wish Chester had done the same. At just 41 years of age, Chester was far, far too young to leave everything behind…he was in one of the biggest bands in the world, he had loving friends, a loving family, but behind closed doors it proves depression doesn’t care and sadly, the world has lost someone truly remarkable as a result. I may not have known Chester personally, but part of me feels like I’ve grown up with both him and Linkin Park over these past 17 years…they truly are a part of me and I honestly feel like a part of me has died alongside his tragic passing…the world of music will never be the same again, but for all they’ve given us they already made the world a better place bit by bit…I’d like to offer my deepest heartfelt condolences to Chester’s family, close friends…the rest of the guys in the band, and every single other fan around the world, whether you’ve been there since day one, or you discovered them recently through “One More Light”…we’re all in this together. Chester…I’d like to simply say thank you; from the bottom of my heart. I definitely wouldn’t be me without you…I love you, and I’ll miss you…RIP <3