On August 21, 1990, Alice in Chains unleashed their debut album, Facelift. The album defined a genre and introduced songs like “Man in the Box” and “Sea of Sorrow” into mainstream culture. As the album celebrates 30 years, rediscover the music of your past below with seven facts about it.

1. The band’s start was a literal bust. Alice in Chains met Seattle concert promoter Randy Hauser at one of their concerts. He was impressed and offered to pay for their demo recordings. The day before the band was set to enter the studio, the police shut it down in what became the largest marijuana raid in the state’s history. They eventually recorded the demo, which found its way to Soundgarden’s managers. They were signed to Columbia Records shortly after.

2. Drummer Sean Kinney performed the entire album with a broken hand. He was quoted in Greg Prato’s book, Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, saying,

“I almost didn’t play on the record – they started rehearsing with the drummer from Mother Love Bone, Greg Gilmore. I was sitting there playing with one hand, guiding him through it. [Producer] Dave Jerden came in and they started to try to do it. He was like, ‘Screw it – pull the plug. This is not going to be the same.’ Luckily, we took a tiny bit of time off. I had that cast on for a while, and was like, ‘I can’t miss this.’ I cut my cast off in the studio and kept a bucket of ice by the drum set. Kept my hand iced down and played with a broken hand. I tried not to do that again – your first big break, and you f*** it up.”

3. Bon Jovi helped inspire “Man in the Box”. The famous voice box in Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” is the reason guitarist Jerry Cantrell used a voice box in Alice in Chains’ song. Producer Dave Jerden encourage the addition, sensing it would help make the song a hit.

4.  “Sea of Sorrow” is a pioneer of alt rock. The song reached #27 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Music journalist “Hollywood” Steve Huey of AllMusic called Facelift “one of the most important records in establishing an audience for grunge and alternative rock among hard rock and heavy metal listeners.”

5. It’s one of the Prince of Darkness’ favourite albums. Ozzy Osbourne includes Facelift in his top ten albums of all time. Calling it an “amazing debut”, Osbourne told Rolling Stone, “‘Man in the Box’ is a classic. Layne Staley was a lovely guy. It’s such a shame that he couldn’t overcome his demons.” Soundgarden lead guitarist Kim Thayil also lists Facelift  as one of his favourite grunge albums.

6. It was the first successful grunge album. It was the first album of its kind to break the Billboard Top 50, peaking at #42. It was also the first to be certified gold. To date, it has sold over 2 million copies.

7. It was a winning debut.  “Man in the Box” received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1992, but lost to Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. It also picked up a nomination for Best Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.

Ready to rediscover the music of your past? Do just that below.


Filed under: Alice in Chains, Facelift