Angry Chair

Album: Dirt (1992)
Charted: 33
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  • The concept of the "angry chair" noted in the song comes from AIC vocalist Layne Staley's childhood. His father would put him in timeout by sitting him in a chair in front of the mirror. The angry chair in the song, though, is clearly metaphorical, and the lyrics are discussing adulthood.

    Corporate prison, we stay, hey
    I'm a dull boy, work all day, oh
    So I'm strung out anyway, hey

    "I'm a dull boy, work all day" is a reference to the "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" proverb. "Corporate prison" might be a reference to the band working for a record label, which was still relatively new at that point. They cut their first EP, We Die Young, only two years earlier in July 1990. This was also around the time that Staley is suspected to have fallen into the early stages of heroin addiction, which adds context to the line, "So I'm strung out anyway." Staley's philosophy was that songs should be autobiographical to resonate emotionally. It's not much of a stretch to tie his words to the life he was living at that time.
  • This is a rare AIC song written entirely by vocalist Layne Staley. Jerry Cantrell was the main songwriter, and most of Staley's credits were as cowriter. Cantrell has stated that he was "proud" of Staley's work on this. This is the also the first song that Staley played guitar on in the recording. He also sometimes played it for live performances.
  • The song hit #27 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and #34 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. It was the only AIC song to peak higher on the Modern Rock chart than on the Mainstream one.
  • In the book Alice In Chains: The Untold Story, engineer Bryan Carlstrom says he layered 16 tracks of vocals for the song, "All different harmonies and multiple layers of harmonies." This was painstaking work with the technology available at the time.
  • In addition to its initial release on Dirt, "Angry Chair" has been included on AIC compilation albums Greatest Hits (2001), Music Bank (1999), Nothing Safe: Best of the Box (1999), and The Essential Alice in Chains (2006).
  • The music for Bloodfalls, the 25th map for the Doom II video game, is a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) version of "Angry Chair."
  • Matt Mahurin directed the video for "Angry Chair." He did some of the biggest videos of the '90s, including "With Or Without You" by U2, "Outshined" by Soundgarden, and "The Unforgiven" by Metallica. He also did the video for "No Excuses" off AIC's 1994 EP Jar of Flies.
  • According to Alice in Chains: The Untold Story, while recording Dirt, Staley had a makeshift wall installed inside the studio so no one could see him sing. In his private spot he built a small shrine with candles, a painting of the Last Supper (the last meal Jesus had before his crucifixion), and most disturbingly, a dead dog in a jar - Layne was literally surrounding himself with death. Staley was knee-deep in heroin troubles at this point, and no one was sure why he created the altar, but it wasn't funny and frightened everyone.
  • On September 30, 2007, AIC performed this song with Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland in Austin, Texas.

Comments: 48

  • James From Nola from New OrleansSo what I’ve learned from this comment section is that heroin junkies are overbearing, obnoxious douchebags, and apparently if I’ve never done heroin I won’t “get” the entire Dirt album. Fair enough. I guess I won’t discuss making any kind of meaningful contribution to society with y’all. I recently started becoming a big fan of AIC (in the 90s I just considered them “radio music”), but as a musician who appreciates their songwriting skills. I think some of the lyrics are really poignant, but I’ll make sure to assume all of them are about heroin, even though I’ll never “get” the lyrics until I become a junkie. I never realized that junkies had such a high and mighty attitude. If the rest of us aren’t allowed to enjoy AIC’s music without thinking of your sorry asses, maybe it’s time to stop romanticizing your lifestyle in pop music. Do the world a favor and follow Layne’s example.
  • Steve Yhelka from New Brighton, Pennsylvania"Angry Chair" was the only Alice in Chains song that was entirely written & composed by Layne Staley. it was the next to the last song on the album "Dirt" (i went thru 3+ cassettes of it AND a couple CDs!) - needless to say, it's my favorite AIC album. i'm an alcoholic (dry for ~13+ years) & a drug addict (i'm on opioid 'replacement' & doing good now). but for a LOOONNNNNG time, i wasn't. this record got me thru a ton of s--t & i always liked it. clever, witty & an awesome example of grrrrunge music from the early 90s, "Dirt" tells a story w/each & every song. it's the perfect masterpiece for all the "stoners, junkys & freaks!". it's title is slang for heroin & the whole album revolves around addiction - i relate to it well & it keeps me happy & content. sometimes i'll play some AICs unplugged on my guitar just to play along, have fun & feel good. "Brother," "Angry Chair," "Nutshell" & "Sludge Factory" are a few of my favorites i enjoy playing. there's also a sweet book entitled "Angry Chair" - it's about Layne's life, from childhood on, & told a lot by his mother - it's an excellent book & helps one venture even further into the sick man's mind... God bless & r.i.p. Layne Staley & Mike Starr.
  • Daniel from Indianapolis, InThe last verse kind of made me think it was about a dog:

    Pink clouds have now turned to gray (dogs are colorblind)
    All that I want is to play (dogs like to play)
  • Mike from N.e. Pennsylvania Man I wish I could directly respond to each of you that cop out behind it's whatever u want, Layne says so. Paul from Methuen Ma, of course Layne said that, what's he gonna do, shut out hf the population that are not dope addicts? Lose sales?! Yeah record execs and publicists would absolutely have his back on that. Layne was the most hardcore, raw ambassador we had on the street to represent the world we came from. You wrote, 'ppl make up the funniest meanings' which is what u did. Good story there on his dad. This period he wrote Dirt was the peak of his habit and you only see that, sorry, FEEL that being one. And I was. I am. I was 16 when this came out and in first year of hard addiction which ended 12 yrs ago. Then began again 7 ago. Do not attempt to tell me what this album is about. You aren't even aware my, our, world is existing out here. But remember, just behind the visible world there's a whole other world in which it all works differently. The underlying world that 'your society' judges and condemns, as they sit on a barstool degrading junkies. P.S. Alcohol is the WORST drug there is but it's govt sanctioned and accepted socially.
    Ok, who else, Tara-Az...umm idk ur naivety is cute. Goombario Fla...not cute. Ignorance isn't always bliss. 'He just wanted to have fun'?
    I'm a dull boy work all day', the shining??? Almost funny if ur cluelessness wasn't insulting. I hope ur a child and I apologize if u are, if not get this album and throw it out ur window asap. Or pick a habit up that u invest in 24/7! I'm a dull boy work all day MEANS being a junkie is the hardest job in the world and we lose EVERYTHING =dull boy, except the will to stay 'fixed' to avoid the sickness and it is a 24 hour a day job. Do not write ur interpretations on here if u have never been a junkie. It's f'n insulting to us that were or are. You want to relate to Layne but you DONT.
    Ok, next, Chris in Ohio Allison Chainz was original name.
    Oh Jessie in Ky, ur opinion on new AIC is right on. LAYNE WAS AIC!!! Dead issue. That's it. This new guy is an insulting cover band to me. You got the balls to express Layne's agony when you can't feel it? Wtf?! That's the reason no passion.
    Ok I can't anymore. Feel free to call me out and I'll come a runnin
  • Mike from N.e. Pennsylvania Yeah, anyone that suggested Angry chair is abt the addiction is correct. In fact, everything on Dirt is, except maybe obv couple like 'rooster'-jerrys dad obv, 'would'-Andrew Wood, but to address angry chair and 'little boy made a mistake, pink cloud has now turned to gray' is exactly abt post detox sobriety and then relapse. Pink cloud is that period newly clean and then relapse. Any othe words needing explanation I can help. I relied on this album 1994-1999 loving that same addiction and kicking cold in 90 day rehab for 6 weeks straight completely cold turk 'dirt' was my detox and saved me from insanity. Which, inadvertently came anyway, but with insight you can't receive otherwise. While I believe interpretation is in each of us, certain songs that doesn't hold true. If you haven't been an addict, for years consecutively and withdrawn hard and cold, relating to dirt will be impossible. Think what you need to in order to force its importance to you, but ur missing a level here that you aren't even aware exists out here.
  • Jessie from Paducah, KyThis song is about drug addiction... But it's about being dope sick, withdraw...that's my opinion, I would of really thought it until I experienced it myself... When your dope sick your constantly on the toilet, the walls are stealing your air, your stomach hurts horribly.... Which it may not be it at all but that's what I feel and relate to when I listen to it.. I wish Layne could of got a grip and made it out of his reclusive state he was truly a work of art... I don't like the new aic, I think the singer doesn't have originality and there's no emotion. I don't think they should of ever got anouther singer Jerry should of jst took the spot he harmonized very we'll with Layne.... My heart goes out to Layne's family.....
  • K from Baltimore, MdThe songs are about things that we were thinking and we wrote 'em down, and when you listen to 'em, whatever you think it's about... THAT'S what it's about!
    Layne Staley
  • Brandon from Ellsworth, Ksheres what i think. the song is about shooting heroin. i was a heroin addict. "stomach hurts and i dont care" most of the time when people get high for the first time it hurts there stomach and they throw up. "candles red i have a pair" lots of junkies will use candles to cook the heroin because it burns slower and isnt gonna mess with your heroin. "so im strung out anyway", well, that ones obvious.
  • Paul from Methuen, MaAnd I have to guess that was a Lemur on Layne's shoulder..not a monkey on his back...
  • Paul from Methuen, MaPeople just make up is comical. First, Layne said most of his song meanings can be whatver or however they relate to the person listening. His REAL father left home very early but he did have a step father....He wasn't heavily addicted to Smaks when this song was he definetly wasn't wasting away when he looked in the mirror at this point, late 91, yet...Layne never recovered form his addiction so he wouldnt know how serene it felt...people did call and try to see Layne. Mike Starr saw him just a couple days before he died, but he didnt let anyone else in or return phone calls...It means whatever you want it to.
  • Tara from Tucson, AzI think the pink cloud turning to grey is about how he just wanted to have he sings in the song...but now that pink fun cloud of opiate bliss is a grey one of doom. "Little boy made a mistake" a reference to himself as a kid in his twenties,(looking back to where it started), using heroin for the first time. The angry chair is maybe where he sits trying to find a vein, becoming frustrated because it's increasingly difficult and painful.
  • Goombario from Jacksonville, FlThe line "I'm a dull boy, work all say" is a reference to the movie "The Shining" in which the Jack Nicholson character was supposedly writing a book, but he was just writing "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over, a key point in the movie which gives you a powerful description of just how crazy he is.
  • Chris from Cincinnati, OhLittle boy made a mistake. All that i want is to play. Get on your knees time to pray boy. I wonder about his childhood and his dad leaving. Alice in Chainz was the original name??? Drag playing speed metal??? Layne loved women. Layne's voice was awesome. The harmonized vocals between him and J. Cantrell may be the best music I have ever heard. I find his death very sad.
  • Jason from Tulsa, OkIt's clearly about heroin addiction. The juxtaposition between the drug and childhood imagery create the impression that while his drug use has ended (for now) the emotional conditions that led to the addiction are still there. He's coming to the realization that recovery will be a very difficult and painful experience if not impossible to bear.

    "Pink cloud turns to gray"
    The "pink cloud" a sort of honeymoon period where detoxed addicts feel euphoric and overconfident about their new sobriety.

    "Serenity is far away"
    Serenity is the ultimate end of recovery in which the addict is truly free from any need, desire or temptation for the drug.
  • Kayla from Oklahoma City, OkMmm, this song's lyrics are a bit too mature for it to be about Layne Staley as a child in time-out. (Wow, in front of a mirror? Why does that strike me as sadistic...?) Well, in any case, it seems much too... adult-oriented? Sounds like insanity or drugs. (I hate to say that, since it is stereotypically what most people think AIC is all about, but...)
  • Matt from Houston, TxI miss music like this. now america is stuck in it's emo pop phase. but this is real talent. from grunge and some metal and classic rock and psychadelica,progressive,some punk and alternative but mostly grunge and it's sub-genres like shoegaze. I heard of a new band called "crooked x" that sounds like metallica and have already toured with KISS and judas priest. they are only 15 years old but still check them out on youtube. maybe they can knock this generation to their senses.
  • John from Manhattan, NyAngry Chair..the subject is about heroin addiction..and yes not all of laynes lyrics and songs were about heroin but almost the entire Dirt album (the album angry chair is on) is about heroin addiction. The line that points this out the most clearly is "So im strung out anyway" thats pretty obvious in its reference to being "strung out on heroin" which is the slang term for being addicted to smack. Take that from a junkie myself, its about heroin end of story.
  • Mary from Corpus Christi, TxSeth: The song is not about how his dad would sit him in a time out. If I remember right his father was not around very much when he was growing up. In possible fact most if not all the raising was done by his mother Nancy Layne McCallum.
  • Matt from North Kingstown, RiI agree with tom harligen that a lot of AIC lyrics are automatically assumed that their about drugs too often, but in this case I think its hard to say that this isn't about Laynes heroin addiction. A lot of the lyrics really point that way in a really dark, depressing way. Layne also did write this song. "Stares at me, yeah, I'm afraid. Changing the shape of its face" is a good mention on how he would sit in this "angry chair", seeing his reflection and how he is getting sicker and skinnier from his drug use and how it is actually frightening.
  • Austin from Smallsville,new England, --Layne wrote this song in rehab
  • Jim from Chicago, Ilyall sound like idiots trying to find the meaning of the song. well there is one but we dont know it they do. they intended for the song to give us a feeling not trying to understand it. just listen and try to feel it instead of understand it. i mean it's just a song

  • Serena from Florence, Italythough not my favorite aic song, i just love it!
    music is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c! double guitar playing, bass lines...
    and i do agree with everybody who said this song is drug related. i'm not a user, never been btw, by my ex was, in his past, and he told me that it was clear for him that ''angry chair'' was about heroin abuse. he told me he could understand...
    btw the way, i don't know if it's just me, but i've found out that layne's lyrics, compared to jerry's ones, are way more difficult to understand. more enigmatic, i'd say. but, of course, that doesn't belittle them...quite the opposite!
  • Dan from Cleveland, OhI read the lyrics are about being in rehab. definately not about acid. and to clarify earlier disagreement, this was one of two songs staley wrote the lyrics AND the music to (hate to feel the other). he wrote a good majority of the lyrics of AIC songs, and Jerry pitched in with lyrics and almost all of the music work.
  • Megan from Almonte, OnI think that the song could be about both being in timeout and heorin addiction. Just think about it, your parents put you in timeout when you do something bad as a way of making sure you don't do it again. And maybe Layne put his drug addiction into having a timeout as a way of saying that he needs to stop being "bad". It makes sence to me but I don't know how you all would think about it.
  • Elie from Antelias, LebanonANGRY CHAIR is about heroin withdrawal Layne said so himself once in an interview i know people that never suffered from heroin addiction would not understand it but obviously i do understand this song.
  • Jeff from Boulder, CoLayne Staley had the most haunting voice I have ever heard. It was like some alien instrument, and it (his voice) WAS the AIC's totally unique sound. Loved them.
  • Dale from Ky, Kyhey dont know if you know this you should if your an alice in chains fan but if you just getting into it they found him in his apartmet dead he was dead for 2 weeks before they found him. dont you think they should of checked on him like any friends or relitives would go there?
  • Tom from Harlingen, Txlets clarify a few things. Sickman and Angry Chair have nothing to do with drugs, Hate to Feel does. also, Layne wrote the lyrics to Man in the Box and Get Born Again on his own, cantrell wrote the music. the main themes in the music of Alice in Chains are depression, insanity, and disdain for God. Understandably, the majority of people out there do not have membership to this club, as a result, when they come across the lyrics of AIC they assume it must be drug related, otherwise it would not make sense. but if youve gone through this, you know exactly what layne is talking about in his music. Layne Staley was a genious, and its a damn shame his lyrics wil never be recognized for what they are, poetry at its finest. another thing, the chair in the video is not made out of needles
  • Spog Zallagi from Blue Hill, MeIt's to bad Layne died. He's one of my favorite grunge rock vocalists (next to Chris Cornell) Great song too. Sounds like an over exaggerated time out session lol
  • John from Hendersonville, NcMy personal favorite Alice in Chains song. Haven't heard the new lead singer yet, but I'm looking forward to the new album.
  • Nick from Cortland, Ohi personally think this song is about doing acid, becuase alot of the lyrics suggest things from an acid trip like first what uis an angry chair? that makes little sense, walls can only steal the air if you are out of it trippin pretty bad thinking the walls are trying to suffocate you, what do i see cross the way once again hallucinating, see myself molded in clay i've heard when you drop acid stuff looks like it was made out of clay ... like your friends or yourself, changing the shape of his face... arnt faces supposed to shift around when you are tripping raeally bad, shadows dancing everywhere... shadows do not dance unless you took some kind of a drug, imk strung out any way basically expalins itself, if you are having a bad trip then serenity is very far away because you are f**ked up and dont like it and want it to end but you know its not going to you have to ride it out, saw my redlection and cried.... arnt you not supposed to look in themirror to see your reflection on acid it supposed to frak you out and give you a bad trip? Lost my mind well acid basically makes you lose your mind so. im not sure sounds like it to me but what evryone else says might be right except fot that heroin theroy is bull that is stupid and completely irrelevant to the song.
  • Kevin from San Francisco, CaI think this song is about constipation. Think about it. "Sitting on an angry chair, angry walls that steal the air, stomach hurts and I dont care...."
  • Meave from Santa Rosa, CaI think this song is about a certain feeling that Layne had. When he was a boy he had a feeling of guilt and shame sitting in the "angry chair," as he watched his reflection, he was to know that he did this to himself. As he became an addict, he had the same feelings, and it was as if he was watching his self-destruction right before his very eyes. I think the monkey on his back has to do with him not wanting to take responsibility for the choices he made in his life.
  • Talha from Lahore, Pakistani definately agree with this greg guy,AIC rocks harder eg. again,them bones,man in the box,They sound more "punk-ier" than nirvana eg.would,get born again,and yet thay have the musicmanship 2 came up mind numbing masterpeices like Nutshell,ALICE IN CHAINS are perfect blend of "dark and cool" - nirvana's just silly cult
  • Josef from Eindhoven, NetherlandsThis song is definately about drugs, in the video he's even got a monkey on his back...
  • Joseph from Canton, Gai agree with greg alice in chains is BY FAR the best band out of seattle. nirvana shouldnt even be said in the same sentence as alice in chains. oh by the way i really like this song.
  • Greg from Gaffney, ScThis song is not about a timeout chair. That my friends would just be lame. This song is about Layne's addiction to heroin. "What do I see across the way/See myself molded in clay" He is literaly saying he can see himself falling apart from his addiction as if he were made from clay. And for the comment that this is one of the few songs that Layne actually wrote, it's simply not true. The song writing was about 50/50 between Layne and Jerry. Layne wrote songs like "Sick Man", "Angry Chair" and "Hate to Feel" about his addiction while Jerry wrote "Rooster" about his dad who served in Vietnam. Jerry also wrote songs like "We Die Young" and "Them Bones." Also Staley and Cantrell wrote songs like "Man In The Box" and "Get Born Again" Together. And one last thing before I shut my everlasting mouth, AIC is the best Seattle band. Nirvana is good, but overrated. Don't get me wrong; I like Nirvana, and they did make a big impact on the face of music as we know it, but I don't think they would be as big as they are if Kurt hadn't painted the walls. AIC's sound and style was better for the perfect blend of Grunge and Metal. AIC also proved they're creative diversity with such releases as Jar Of Flies.
  • Justin from Albany, NyAlthough the shining was a stephen king novel before it was a movie
  • Miki from Vrbas, Gaone of the best grunge songs ever,its my opinion...and alice is second best grunge band,
    after nirvana of course!
  • Ryan from Plano, Tx"I'm a dull boy, work all day" from "Angry Chair" and "Redrum" from "Iron Gland" both seem to be references to the Stanley Kubrick version of the film "The Shining". I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this yet.
  • Seth from Thornhill, CanadaThis is one of the few songs Layne actually writes.
  • Galina from New London, CtThis song reminds me of the timeout chair in first grade...... oh the horror...
  • Bob from Jimbotown, OhLaynes Parents Told Him His Dad was dead, which was a lie, and his dad was on heroin and got layne hooked again after he got off it, im not sure what the song realy means bu i could be about how his family talk trash and sit on an agry chair when he wish's for a playfull happy normal family...
  • Yaiza from Phoenix, AzThen the part feed me your lies, weight my heart down to size. Sorta deals with his weight loss in connection with the liars around him that have caused sadness in his life leading to drug abuse.
  • Yaiza from Phoenix, AzI have an idea of the song that is weird. Because drugs such as heroin makes you constipated I think maybe he thought of the song while on the toilet bowl. He mentions stomach hurts and I don't care. It's sorta "rude" because it deals with sh-t but I just happened to think of it.
  • Jim from Troy, MoIf you have seen the video for this song...Heroin needles are formed into a chair engolfed with flames. I believe Layne made it pretty clear in the video that anger from his past played a big part in fueling his heroin problem.

    If your familiar with any 12 step recovery program, they say resentment and anger are the # 1 thing that will cause a person to use again.

    Layne was cleary troubled by things in his past.
  • Cody from Cicero, Ini like how layne used a bad memory from his childhood in a song, he uses some very kool metaphors and lines in it definitely one of alice in chains's best
  • Rex Jackson from Sleze Lans, MaWhen the science of psychology began the shrinks thought it was a good idea to sit crazy people in the "angry chair" for hours at a time in an attempt to cure didn't work with the crazies...or layne
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