"You're talking about mental health issues, but you're allowing people three minutes and 30 seconds to deal with it. That's not gonna work. It's gotta be an album." Dave Navarro isn't known for capitulating to the status quo for anything — including our running "Songs for Black Days" series, presented in partnership with Hope for the Day. When asked what music he turns to when he's feeling low, the Jane's Addiction guitarist doesn't zero in on particular playlist-able songs, instead rattling off a list of full albums he's turned to in times of darkness and need.
A passionate advocate for mental health issues, Navarro has dedicated himself to fighting the good fight through such actions as hosting last April's Above Ground benefit concert in Los Angeles to raise awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention. The event was partially inspired by the suicides of musicians Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, the latter of whom Navarro saw perform at the former's funeral. He told Yahoo before the benefit, "I couldn't help but be brought back to the times when I had felt that lonely, that desperate, that suicidal, and I just want to change the playing field and let people know that there are options out there … It's OK to reach out for help."
When turning to music for help, Navarro looks to albums tied deeply into his personal history, focusing on the music that reached him as a child and teen — though a bit of modern doom metal stands tall among the classic-rock–heavy selections. Read on to find out what LPs Navarro reaches for on his black days.
Right now in high rotation, Beethoven's seventh symphony. That's one piece that's so dark, moving, cinematic and beautiful that it almost ... if you're going about your day at your house and that's playing, it makes everything heavy. You can go to the fridge and pick up a bottle of water and it's like, the heaviest thing you've ever done in your life.
I usually go with full albums, so I would say this is one of my records just because of the myriad of emotional frequencies that it taps into. Some of it's really happy, some of it's really dark, some of it's just really straight ahead, and some of it's really drug-induced. It kind of has the ability to encapsulate the human condition, which I think is interesting.
Anything Pink Floyd, but Pink Floyd's Animals is the one the makes me the most melancholy. That is the perfect soundtrack for black days for me. There's bands like Burzum, like, I could put on black metal, but that's not tapping into where I'm at. That's tapping into where someone else is. Animals is one of the albums I discovered when I was a child and it kind of takes me back to that youthful innocence and kind of that wonder of how things are done, and how was music made? How are they doing this? That record really shaped me as an artist in terms of really long songs that are just full of emotion and feeling and lots of air and breathability.
Led Zeppelin—any Led Zeppelin. I think that Physical Graffiti is one of those records that I just can't stop playing. I could never hear that record enough. It's another one of those records that has so many different layers to it for me just in terms of the fascination with the recording process, and the lyrical content –there's a lot of fantastical lyric content. It kind of takes you out of your reality a little bit, but it gives you an opportunity to get lost in a multitude of human feelings. It feel like a range.
So for me, if I listen to Physical Graffiti front to back on my turntable, which requires getting up and turning over to side two and then switching the record to side three and then putting on side four, that's a fucking experience. That's a therapy session. It's an invested amount of time in self-care by doing something enjoyable for yourself, and yet you can identify with it. You may not know what everything means, but you identify. I love that. I love when I don't have any idea what the guy's talking about, but I'm like "YES."
I love Windhand. Half the time I don't know what the fuck's going on, but it penetrates me right into my heart. That's just one of those records where I'm just like, "I don't know where these guys are coming from, but this is the best."
There is no time in my life that I will not play Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. That is a pick me up, and it is a pull me down. Listening to David … Now that he's gone, I'm listening to it again, and you know, I've always known that record since I was a kid, but now that he's gone, I re-listen to what he's saying and what he's doing and what he created.
I had an interview earlier where I was talking about being in arena where I could do theatrical shows and have wardrobes and put some effort into the show because people are paying money to come and see you. He's one of the guys that definitely influenced me. That look! OK, so before that I had KISS, when I was a kid, and they were very theatrical, but there's not a lot of depth happening there. Then we get to David Bowie and you see all the theatrics and the depth? There's a whole other thing happening. He was creating a different persona, much like Paul McCartney did with Sgt. Pepper.
This is probably an obvious, low-hanging fruit one. Most people are probably going to say Revolver if they go Beatles, right? But I would think Sgt. Pepper because they didn't really want to make that record! Paul was like, "Why don't we pretend we're a different band? Let's not be the Beatles, let's be Sgt. Pepper." That concept, to me, and that imagination, and getting those songs out of that thing they were kind of resistant to do to begin with is fucking magic.
That's also one of those things that can make the tears come out of my eyes because if I go back to childhood when I first heard that song, when "Fool on the Hill" was on the radio? I remember that. I remember sitting around my parents' house and that song would come on, and I'd be like 'this is the saddest music I've ever heard' and I'm seven fucking years old. Now I can listen back and hear the depth and the meaning and identify as that fool or one of the lonely people.
Both those records deal with isolation. Both those records deal with abandonment. Both those records deal with loss and feeling like a sideshow freak, like you didn't fit in, and with ego. They deal with rock stardom and falling as a result of that ego, and those are all things I can identify with, ever since I was a kid.
I lost my mom at a very early age, and Tommy lost his dad at a very early age. Pink's mother was smothering, and I've been smothered. If you follow those stories along and you take out the World War II stuff, it's my story. Those records really hit home for me.
Especially in Tommy, you've got the deaf, dumb, blind kid, which is really kind of an analogy for someone who doesn't fit in society, and because he was traumatized, he shut down. He went inward and couldn't see, couldn't speak, couldn't hear — that's what happened to me! My mom was killed and I went inside, and that record came out and I was like, "Fucking thank you, Pete Townsend. I'm not alone." I mean, Tommy ended up becoming an evangelist and has this ego where he's going to show people the way to enlightenment, and they all turn on him because he's a cult leader.
Both of those records I identify with so much because they are such a snapshot into despair, isolation, self-doubt and fear, directly into overblown narcissism and ego within the album. When you think that the guy is recovering through his narcissism, you realized that's his downfall. The deaf, dumb and blind kid was OK. His downfall was the ego. Pink was OK. Life happens. Lots of parents are smothering, lots of parents die, but it wasn't until he got anti-Semitic and racial and became a big rock star and his wife left him and he was tortured and he's had this hang-up about World War II because his father was killed … It's like I'm forever drawn to those albums and I don't know if they make me feel happier or if they just make me feel comfortable that I'm not the only one who feels these feelings and I'm not a freak because these things have been written about in a huge way.
It's a lot like when, and I hate to say this, but I've had breakups before. It's a lot like when the person who's getting broken up with ends up saying, "I don't understand why this is so hard. Why are you leaving me? I'm so broken and I'm so distraught." And you just look at them and go, "That's why every other song on the radio is about heartbreak" because it's the thing that everybody deals with. It's universal. So if you listen to music and you're feeling a certain way, there is something out there that's going to back you up.
So with Pink and Tommy, you're dealing with two characters who think of themselves as the worst pieces of shit in the center of the universe. It's a way of thinking that we are pieces of shit that the universe revolves around, and that's reverse narcissism right there. "It's all about me, but I'm the worst thing." That's where it ties into an interesting thing that a lot of these people — Tommy, Pink, myself included — once they reach that level of fame that they thought was going to fix them or they reached that place where they thought, "Oh, this is what I've been striving for my whole life" or "This is the kind of love I've wanted my whole life," here it is! Then they realize, "This isn't going to fix me. Now I'm fucked." The thing they've been reaching for their whole life isn't the answer.
They leave those questions at the end of the record. You better get fucking happy in the now my friend, because the past is painful and the future is uncertain, so let's live right now.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of resources.