On March 6, 2010 Mark Linkous – the artist better known as Sparklehorse – shot himself in the heart outside his friend’s Knoxville, Tennessee home. Mark was – and remains – a beloved figured in contemporary indie rock: the main force behind cult classic Good Morning Spider and milestone It’s a Wonderful Life; a producer for Daniel Johnston; and an all-star collaborator (Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, The Flaming Lips, Danger Mouse, many more). News of the 47-years-young suicide sent shockwaves through the music media and community, especially since it came just one week after the announcement of a long-awaited official release of his last project, Dark Night of the Soul (with Danger Mouse, David Lynch, The Flaming Lips, Julian Casablancas, Gruff Rhys, Jason Lytle, James Mercer and others).
“He was as open, sincere and unaffected a person as I’ve ever encountered. He was completely unguarded and enthusiastic about the things he loved, and he gave the musicians he worked with freedom to be creative and excel. Prior to seeing him at work I’d never given his music much thought, but during those sessions he impressed me tremendously and I was really looking forward to seeing him again and finishing the record.”
– Steve Albini
At the time of Mark’s death The Flaming Lips hadn’t played “Waitin’ For a Superman” since New Year’s Eve 2007. In fact, they hadn’t played any songs from The Soft Bulletin live yet in 2010, and songs from that masterpiece were few and far between for most of that year. But in honor and remembrance of Mark, they resurrected “Superman” for their next couple of shows, preluded by touching banter from Wayne on their pal’s passing.
The Lips had a special relationship with Mark. His latter work was recorded with their producer, Dave Fridmann, at his Tarbox Studios – the same place every Lips album of the past 15 years was created. Sparklehorse and the Lips twice collaborated: first for the 2004 Daniel Johnston Discovered Covered tribute album they took on “Go” together; then for Sparklehorse’s aforementioned Dark Night of the Soul they wrote and recorded the much loved “Revenge.”
The Lips started working on a new, apparently original song in tribute to Mark almost two years after his passing this January. Although there haven’t been any updates on that recording lately, in late March Coyne teamed up with his friend Graham Colton – an Oklahoman singer-songwriter best known for “Best Days” of American Idol fame – to record yet another Sparklehorse tribute, a cover of “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.”
The 2006 original “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” (above) was the opening track of the final Sparklehorse album released in his lifetime, Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain. It should be familiar to Flaming Lips fanatics: Steven Drozd drums on it – in all its White Album-esque glory. The new version by Graham and Wayne was recorded at Oklahoma’s Blackwatch Studios with assistance from Jarod Evans. A bitter-sweat beauty, see a snippet of its recording follow by the finished track in the video at the top of this page.
Colton – pictured above with “Lindsay Blow-han” at Wayne’s last birthday dinner – has been helping the Lips record recently and has worked on new music with Wayne – such as the song from this past February about a suicidal kid that loved peanut-butter, and a M. Ward-esque track in March…
Here’s some more twitter updates from the past few years concerning Coyne and Colton: