Album: Dirt (1992)
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Songfacts®:

  • The title track from Alice in Chains' (AIC) second studio album, Dirt, is about lead singer Layne Staley's fiancé Demri Parrott. Staley never stated this definitively, but his interview with the Canadian metal mag M.E.A.T. (issue 39, December 1992) drops plenty of clues to make it clear.

    The album cover... I like to refer to it as "revenge," Staley begins, laughing hysterically (he's already on drink two - I'm about to get mine). The song "Dirt" was written to a certain person who basically buried my ass, so the woman on the album cover is kinda the portrayal of that person being sucked down into the dirt (laughs), instead of me. The picture is the spitting image of her, and that wasn't even planned. I was pretty angry about it when I first saw it-she's not happy about it, either (laughs). It was real eerie."

    The woman on the album cover is actress/model Mariah O'Brien, who's also on the cover of the Spinal Tap single "Bitch School." She looks very similar to Staley's longtime girlfriend and eventual fiancé Demri Parrott. It's known that Parrott was upset about the situation because Parrott herself was an aspiring model and actress. She was hurt that they chose someone that looked like her rather than having her do it.

    This, combined with other things we know about Dirt, suggests a distinct meaning to this song. Staley and Jerry Cantrell, AIC guitarist/vocalist/songwriter, both said that the second half of the album tells a narrative about a heroin addict's progression from messing with drugs for fun to descending into hell. The first track in that narrative is "Junkhead," and the second is "Dirt."

    This is a sensitive topic, but many believe Parrott introduced Staley to heroin. There's no way to verify that, and many Parrott friends and family believe it was the other way around. We do know that Parrott was also a heroin user - she died in 1996. Staley's struggles with the drug are widely known. He died from it in 2002.

    So, putting the pieces together, "Dirt" appears to be a song about Parrott introducing Staley to heroin. This doesn't mean that Parrott was actually at fault, it's just how Staley perceived it.
  • The song is a brutally honest look at Staley's suicidal thoughts.

    I want to taste dirty, a stinging pistol
    In my mouth, on my tongue
    I want you to scrape me from the walls
    And go crazy like you've made me


    It's Staley saying he wants to blow his head off, told with the raw emotional honesty that AIC committed to early in their formation. They consciously strove for brutal sincerity in their music, which is one of the things that made them one of the grunge era's most enduring acts.

    "Dirt" doesn't specifically mention drugs, but it has been identified as being part of the heroin narrative that is the second side of Dirt, so it's fair to suggest that the craziness described is at least in part the craziness of addiction, which Staley was already deeply embroiled in at that point in his life.

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