Despite being an EP, Alice in Chains’ Jar of Flies, which was released on Jan. 25, 1994, has a unique, compelling story behind it, explored in these facts only superfans would know.
“And yet I fight / And yet I fight / This battle all alone / No one to cry to / No place to call home.”
These are the haunting lyrics crooned by Alice In Chains’ late original frontman, Layne Staley, in the song “Nutshell.” Though 1992’s Dirt catapulted the Seattle band into mass mainstream success, this new set of softer, bluesy-folk tracks on Jar of Flies showed that they could top charts even when they weren’t playing loud and hard.
The release is often regarded as one of the band’s best, especially because of songs like “No Excuses” and “I Stay Away,” in addition to “Nutshell.” The last time Staley would ever sing those words live was during the band’s 1996 performance on MTV’s Unplugged.
To celebrate the anniversary of Jar of Flies, read 10 facts only superfans would know below.
1. The name came from one of Jerry Cantrell’s science experiments.
The album’s title’s origin came from a science experiment Jerry Cantrell conducted in the third grade. “They gave him two jars full of flies,” Staley explained to Hit Parader. “One of the jars they overfed, the other jar they underfed. The one they overfed flourished for a while, then all the flies died from overpopulation. The one they underfed had most of the flies survive all year. I guess there’s a message in there somewhere. Evidently that experiment had a big impact on Jerry. “
2. Photographer Rocky Schenck took the album cover seriously.
Rock Schenck, a photographer who worked with Alice In Chains on several occasions throughout their career, recalled how the idea for the EP’s cover came about in a post on his Instagram.
“It was just me and my assistant, and a child whose name I’ve forgotten. My assistant made multiple trips up the street to gather hundreds of flies with a butterfly net at some horse stables. The flies kept dying, the kid kept complaining, and my assistant kept gathering more flies. The album was nominated for a Grammy for best recording package… and I still have the jars.”
3. They were homeless before they started recording it.
As the members of the band returned home to Seattle from the 1993 Lollapalooza tour, they discovered they’d been evicted for failure to pay rent. Thus, they moved into London Bridge Studios — where the EP would eventually be recorded.
4. But they didn’t actually have songs written when they went into the studio.
The band hired producer Toby Wright to collaborate on the project with them, but it turns out, there hadn’t actually been a project in mind yet. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s hear those songs.’ Jerry smiled and said, ‘Funny thing about those songs… we don’t have any,’” Wright told AV Club. “I laughed and said, ‘So what do you guys wanna do for the next 10 days?’ Cantrell said, ‘Mind if we just jam?’”
5. Once the wheels started turning, it was finished in seven days.
All seven songs were recorded in seven days at London Bridge Studios. According to David De Sola’s book Alice In Chains: The Untold Story, the sessions lasted 14 to 18 hours a day, and each song was complete in one or two takes.
6. It wasn’t their first recorded music with Mike Inez.
Former bassist Mike Starr was fired from the group in 1993, following their run opening for Ozzy Osbourne. Before heading to Europe to tour in support of Dirt, they recruited Osbourne’s bassist, Mike Inez. Jar of Flies isn’t the first release by the band to feature him playing bass, though — the two singles “What the Hell Have I” and “A Little Bitter” were recorded prior to the EP for the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Last Action Hero.
Alice in Chains – ‘A Little Bitter’
7. It was the first Alice in Chains release to top the charts.
Although Facelift had several hits and Dirt attained mass popularity, Jar of Flies was the first Alice in Chains release to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Their third self-titled studio album followed suit a year later.
8. … And it was the first EP to ever go No. 1.
Jar of Flies was the first EP in history to top the Billboard 200, a feat that would not be achieved again until 2004 with Linkin Park and rapper Jay-Z’s collaborative effort, Collision Course.
9. It was the first and only release they self-produced.
Based on the credits for all of Alice In Chains’ discography, Jar of Flies is the only release the band produced entirely on their own.
10. “No Excuses” was their only song with Layne Staley to go No. 1.
As many amazing songs came from Alice in Chains’ catalog during the Staley era, “No Excuses” was the only one to ever top the Mainstream Rock Songs chart.
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