The death of Tony Sly (No Use For A Name) has come at a weird time for me. To speak earnestly, I’ve been struggling a bit with my own mortality over these past few weeks, a symptom of my recent birthday, I think, and the realization that I’m getting older. I don’t think those thoughts made the news of Sly’s death easier or harder to take, it just resonated more that someone I really admired would no longer be making music.
I can’t imagine No Use For A Name without Tony Sly and, without No Use For A Name, I can’t imagine where I’d be in life. Not just in music mind you, but, like, life as a whole. I know it’s a bit cliché to say “music is my life,” putting all your eggs in one basket to define your happiness, but I really can’t imagine a more depressing existence than a life without it. So, perhaps the importance of music in my life would be better described as something that helped my life, which I think is common ground most people can stand on. You see, No Use came in to my life in the most impressionable years of adolescence and they rode in on a tidal wave started by Green Day and flooded my ears with punk rock.
It defined who I am.
My love of the band was almost entirely based on Tony’s vocals. Sure, the fast guitars and that tried-and-true punk drum beat helped, but it was Tony’s melodies and words that roped me in at a time when I felt pretty fucking lost. Ironically, it was the tune “Not Your Savior” that made me first take notice of the band and helped me attach myself with something worth living for.
The song cuts right to the chase in terms of being a teenager: “Do you remember when life was so simple and permanent? Everyone’s changed. Everyone’s cool. Everyone sucks.” Fuck, man, what’s not to like? The lyrics pretty much still hold true today: everyone does suck. But not Tony. He was cool. Tony Sly just knew how to write what I wanted to say, which landed No Use For A Name on many a mixtape carefully orchestrated track by track to help out with whatever life problems I may of had at the time - girls probably (definitely). Either way, it’s safe to say that had Tony not joined the band back in ‘89 that I wouldn’t have attached myself so strongly to the group in ‘99, and why I still value the impact they had on my life today.
My musical tastes matured and mellowed along with Sly as we both grew older. His focus had been on acoustic efforts in recent years, which maintained a lot of the innocence found in No Use but with a new found weight to the songs that only comes with time. If you’re reading this on the Rebel Rebel page then you probably know where my focus has been and, though I can’t honestly say that Tony or No Use For A Name have been on rotation that much in recent years, I can say his music always found its way back in to my headphones from time to time.
And it will continue to do so.
You see, though this news saddened me and caught me off guard at a time where death seems to be on my mind quite a bit, it’s kind of reassured me that I’m doing okay. The world lost a very talented songwriter in Tony Sly, but he’s left behind a positive legacy and, really, that’s all anyone can hope for.
My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends and I’ll end this addition of Headphone Music with my favourite No Use For A Name song, “Dumb Reminders.”