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What the Hell Have I


Dec 15, 2021

What the Hell Have I” is a song by the American rock band Alice in Chains. It was originally featured on the soundtrack to the 1993 John McTiernan film Last Action Hero starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The song was released as a single and peaked at No. 19 on the BillboardMainstream Rock Tracks chart. It was included on the compilation album Nothing Safe: Best of the Box (1999). A remixed version of the song was included on the compilation albums Music Bank (1999) and The Essential Alice in Chains (2006).

1993 single by Alice in Chains

1993 single by Alice in Chains
“What the Hell Have I”
Single by Alice in Chains
from the album Last Action Hero: Music from the Original Motion Picture
Released June 7, 1993[1]
Recorded April 1993
Length 3:58
Label ATCO, Columbia
Songwriter(s) Jerry Cantrell
Producer(s) Andy Wallace, Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains singles chronology
What the Hell Have I
Down in a Hole
Music video
“What the Hell Have I” on YouTube

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The song was originally written for their breakthrough album Dirt, but was shelved at the time and used later for the Last Action Hero soundtrack.[2] Contrary to popular belief, Jerry Cantrell did not use a traditional sitar during the recording session although he did attempt to play one but was unsure how. While experimenting with sounds, he adopted a guitar-sitar into the session to achieve the sound of the opening riff.[2]

In the liner notes of 1999’s Music Bank box set collection, guitarist Jerry Cantrell said of the song:

This and “A Little Bitter” were mixed by Andy Wallace because Toby [Wright] had a previous commitment, and they always bothered me because they were too “tinny” compared to our other stuff. So I was happy to see Toby finish his work off with the remixes [on Music Bank]. That’s not to disrespect Andy, it’s just that he wasn’t there when they were being created. Toby’s like a brother, he knows all our shit, all our personalities and we don’t trust anybody unless we’ve got something on them.[3]

“What the Hell Have I” was released to radio stations on June 7, 1993 in support of Alice in Chains’ appearance on the 1993 Lollapalooza tour.[1] The single peaked at No. 19 on the BillboardMainstream Rock Tracks chart.[4]

Allmusic‘s Jason Birchmeier said that the song is “on a par with those featured on the band’s recent (and magnificent) Dirt album.”[5] Ned Raggett of Allmusic said that the song “isn’t bad at all but on the flipside has little immediate surprise to offer to it.”[6]

The music video for “What the Hell Have I” was released in 1993 and was directed by Rocky Schenck, who had previously directed the “We Die Young” and “Them Bones” music videos for the band, and who would later direct the music video for “Grind“. In the music video, singer Layne Staley‘s face is projected on him with different expressions, while guitarist Jerry Cantrell is seen with the same contact lenses with a smiley face that was worn by Mr. Benedict (played by Charles Dance) in Last Action Hero. The video is available on the home video release Music Bank: The Videos.

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