“My name is The Patient and this is the last story I will ever tell. So I guess I’ll start from The End. And don’t worry, we’ll reach the start soon enough, for you that is; because for me, it’s already too late.”
This is how I would imagine the protagonist of the legendary album The Black Parade by emo rock band My Chemical Romance could be put down into literary text, into a disenchanted tale of natural misfortune. However, Gerard Way, Ray Toro, Frank Iero and Mikey Way had the talent to put it all in a composition of lyrics, music and imagery so tactfully, that tears are one of the sure side effects of any listener.
Heavily traumatized but also inspired by the fall of the Twin Towers (9/11/2001) Gerard Way decided to form a rock band named My Chemical Romance (also referred to as MCR or My Chem) to channel all his creative, emotional frustration. Following their creation in Newark, New Jersey, the band enjoyed a fairly successful career with two well-acclaimed albums since 2001: I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me You Love (2002) and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004). The success of the band’s previous albums was eclipsed by that of their 2006 concept album, The Black Parade.
The album is considered to be a rock opera telling the story of an original character named “The Patient” along the journey of his apparent death, while narrating his experiences in the afterlife and reflecting on his previous life. As The Patient dies from cancer, death comes to him in the form of The Black Parade. This is based on singer Gerard Way's concept of death emerging as a person's dearest memory, in this instance watching a marching band as a child. The release of the concept album prompted the creation of the alter-ego band The Black Parade where the original members of MCR performed almost theatrically, with their inspiration sources flooding through their outfits (similar to the ones worn by The Beatles for St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) as well as mannerisms (inspired by Freddie Mercury and Alice Cooper’s stage presence).
General inspiration for the album can be found in numerous places. Gerard Way himself has admitted the heavy impact of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars in a plethora of interviews. Additional honourable mentions are Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Beatles’ St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Queen’s A Night at the Opera. Credit for the thematic of the music videos accompanying a couple of the album’s included songs is often attributed to The Smashing Pumpkins. In general, the spirit of the band while creating this musical piece can be summarised in the following quote by guitarist Ray Toro:
“Something that 20 or 30 years from now, parents could play for their kids and say, 'This is what I was listening to when I was your age. Check it out, it’s still cool.' We wanted to make a record you could pass down. There’s a lot of music out now that doesn’t feel like that.”
And truly, the legacy of My Chemical Romance and The Black Parade is still evident today, even after exactly 15 years from the album’s release and almost 8 years from the band’s official breakup. Thousands of old fans continue to blast their music in their headphones every so often while many teenagers with emotions too complex to explain (or just a taste for angsty music with amazing guitar solos and vocals) discover MCR and The Black Parade and like that, the family unknowingly grows and continues to pass on the message of the album; It is alright to be angry; It is alright to be hurt; It is alright if you feel that no one believes in you, because you can still believe in you.
The musical and narrative complexity as well as the simplicity with which the emotions and messages are conveyed to the listener got many people through difficult times, including me. From when I was a frustrated lonely middle schooler feeling alienated from a world that did not want me in it, up until today when stress and fear for the uncertain future might conquer my senses every once in a while, I know that I can put on the Black Parade (or any MCR album for that matter) and dance my worries away to the sound of the angriest and saddest story ever sang.
For what it’s worth, The Black Parade will always be the guardian of emo teenagers looking for someone to listen, adults in nostalgia looking back on the old days’ music and the prominent reminder of MCR’s very existence and perseverance in every old and new fan’s heart. So every time you hear that emblematic G note at the beginning of Welcome to the Black Parade you know the story behind the tears of the emo kid now crying in the corner. Good Job, now go tell them “Killjoys make some noise”, see how they react.