Skip

Forever in debt to your priceless advice
April 5, 2004 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Ten years gone. The unifinished story of Kurt Cobain. Hard to believe that it's been ten years since the unwelcome news was broadcast. As a Cobain contemporary/gen X'er/Seattle musican in the 90s, my own heart is still broken.
posted by psmealey (131 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Not that this story should have anything whatsoever to do with me. Just wanted to reflect on this once-in-a-lifetime songwriter whose work spoke so directly to so many of us.
posted by psmealey at 9:07 AM on April 5, 2004


There is another part to the story that is being missed. If you look at Cobain in the last year of his life, then man is obviously in agony. He complained of severe stomach pain, and from the look of him, it was a painful as a major ulcer.
Now, the assumption by most people is that it was because he was a junkie, and experiencing withdrawls. But I suspect this was not the case. I think it was something above and beyond his addiction.

But when someone shoots themselves in the head, the assumption is that it was mental illness. Perhaps they didn't look for an underlying physical cause. Ulcers are not the only agonizing upper GI problem, there are half a dozen things that literally could have made his life not worth living.
posted by kablam at 9:16 AM on April 5, 2004


Kurt who?
posted by GernBlandston at 9:16 AM on April 5, 2004


Jonathan Ames, James Frey, and others react at The Black Table.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:20 AM on April 5, 2004


fixed IshmaelGraves' link, above
posted by lotsofno at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2004


whats amazing is that in the last 10 years nobody has even come close to the greatness or influence of cobain/nirvana.

radiohead hasnt hit that superhuge level.

the white stripes are respected (and should be), but the kids are just as happy about the new jet record.

if anything, in the wake of kurt's death the pendulum has swung back to the boyband/britney/xtina pop crap that teen spirit made so much fun of.

and nobody cares.

long live ryan seacrest!
posted by tsarfan at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2004


I just finished posting a bit of my own self-indulgent memory of 10 years ago. He shot himself just a few blocks north of where I lived at the time.
posted by kokogiak at 9:56 AM on April 5, 2004


Anyone a bit bored of and bemused by the glorification of Kurt Cobain ................

People talk a lot about how he spoke to them.

What did he say exactly??

I am not being provocative I am curious to know what people got from him and his music
posted by kenaman at 10:01 AM on April 5, 2004


Everyone speaks of Nirvana like they were fucking Joy Division miserable. Nevermind is the single most life-affirming record I've ever heard. I was a hip-hop/dance music phillistine when it came out, I'd never bought a 'heavy' album before, and it blew me away, opened my mind and led me onto a million other bands I'd never have heard otherwise.
posted by boneybaloney at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2004


kablam, with his resources (i.e. money) he could have sought medical treatment, and damn fine medical treatment at that. Quite literally, the best money could buy.

he was a drug addled narcissist

he shot himself in the head

that's the whole story
posted by Ynoxas at 10:12 AM on April 5, 2004


It makes me feel old, and it makes me depressed for I feel he wasn't done with his art, and still had a trillion things to say... And his fans worldwide still ha d a trillion things to do with his words.
I can't believe it's been 10 years already.
posted by Sijeka at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2004


Hell, it's been 18 years since Cliff Burton died and you could make the case that his band had just as large an effect on just as many people.

I liked Nirvana, too, but this death cult stuff is creepy and depressing.
posted by jonmc at 10:20 AM on April 5, 2004


Ynoxas, He did seek medical treatment. It didn't fucking help. Even a million bucks sometimes can't buy any answers, let alone a little fucking relief.
posted by scody at 10:22 AM on April 5, 2004


I didn't particulary get into their music, but I did dig on the flannel-jeans-converse allstar ensemble. As did every other college freshman at the time.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2004


i still remember where i was when i first heard 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' on the FM band.

what was groundbreaking for me, however, wasn't that this was some sort of new sound or amazing band - i'd been listening to Nirvana and Mudhoney and Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone and many others for a while before that moment.

what was groundbreaking for me was hearing it on the radio. previously, living in florida, i had to order those artists from the SubPop catalog inserted into every CD case. i realized that a crest had broken and the inevitable flood would soon commence. it was a good time for rock n' roll. energy and hopes were high, and i was excited.
posted by NationalKato at 10:33 AM on April 5, 2004


Can someone explain what Nirvana did that hadn't already been done? I mean, It's great that you rocked out to the band, and it's sad that the junkie died, but I've yet to see anyone articulate what they did musically that was innovative.

"I'd never bought a 'heavy' album before, and it blew me away, opened my mind and led me onto a million other bands I'd never have heard otherwise."

I suspect this reflects the musical knowledge of a lot of the true believers. If you weren't into The Who, the Stooges, the Dolls, MC5, and you missed the whole punk rock thing from around 1976 through the mid 80's, I'm sure that Nirvana was a breath of fresh air. I think to most old-timers like me, Nirvana looked like a welcome return to basics, but derivative nonetheless.
posted by 2sheets at 10:34 AM on April 5, 2004


Kurt who?

Cobain. His full name in the initial post, Gern; you should pay closer attention.

I'm not sure it's right to equate the current feeling of commemoration with a "death cult", jonmc. I think the reason that so many people are taking the time to remark on the anniversary of Cobain's death is because when it happened, it made an impact. It's one of those "I remember where I was..." events, and, as such, it's tied in to feelings of youthful nostalgia. I know that when the anniversary was mentioned on the radio this morning, I spent a few minutes thinking back to my freshman year of college; I can remember hearing the news much better than I can remember a lot of things from those years...
posted by mr_roboto at 10:35 AM on April 5, 2004


From the article: "... given Kurt’s conflicted feelings about the corporate rock culture MTV represents."

Well, he couldn't have been too "conflicted," given that he signed a contract and had no apparent problem taking the money that his music generated. If he truly was anti-establishment, or decried Corporatization, he would have just played his music in his garage and never sought Fame & Fortune.

Jeebus. A mopey, drug-addled hippie who fronted a grungy, dirty band that produced a few songs - that's all I get out of it. Color me baffled by the popularity of his band, and the unending "Cobain is/was God!" wailing.

Want real music? Then look to the *true* Voice.
posted by davidmsc at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2004


Considering how Courtney Love has turned out, can anyone really fault his decision?
posted by Rob1855 at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2004


Kurt came from a broken home, and had a tough life as a child. Consequently, he had a lot to say through his music about how people treat each other, perceptions on how we go about living our lives in America, and about his own difficult experiences as well as his take on other people's hardships.

His songs spoke to young people in a genre that was most accessible to them. His music and messages weren't for everybody. So, you have those on this thread who seem to be making light of his success and accomplishments. As with many issues I read about on Metafilter, I imagine the truth about Kurt lies somewhere in the middle: He ain't Lennon, but he was a damned talented, significant and tragic artist nonetheless.
posted by mcgraw at 10:40 AM on April 5, 2004


I didn't particulary get into their music but I did dig on the flannel-jeans-converse allstar ensemble

Kind of sums up the MTV generation quite neatly. /snark.

My own sentiment was mostly in remembrance of an artist that had tremendous impact on me personally, as well as that of my friends and bandmates. Whatever the themes, imagery, vocabulary and soundscapes he employed, baloneybaloney is right on, most of the music he wrote is overwhelmingly life affirming and positive (other than the darker moments on In Utero). It juxtaposed themes euphoria and bleakness in a very different way than anything that had been done previously, by an artist that was "one of us": the skinny guy with the greasy hair that you knew from shop class in high school. It's a very difficult thing to express as to why he meant so much to so many of us, but in the end, you either get it or you don't.

That's what meant so much to those of us that were dealing with our own 20-something angst when Nevermind hit, why it spoke to us, and that's what made it so incredibly sad when it was learned that he had killed himself. I don't have any desire to contribute to some death cult, just to remember what was, for only a day.

Btw, the mean-spiritedness of ynoxas's comments notwithstanding, it's hard to think of another artist of that caliber that was not at least a little bit narcissistic or addled.
posted by psmealey at 10:41 AM on April 5, 2004


"...you missed the whole punk rock thing from around 1976 through the mid 80's, I'm sure that Nirvana was a breath of fresh air."

That's just it, and that's what answers the "what Nirvana did that hadn't already been done?" question. At the time alternative music (pick your definition I suppose) was truly alternative, Nevermind shifted popular music. Most people were missing out on Nirvana, Jane's, Ministry, and all the other bands that broke during the early 90's.
posted by Blake at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2004


I think "smells like Teen Spirit" was a great record. For jumping up and down to. But it's not like Cobain "said" anything: " a mosquito, my libido, a mulatto, an albino" is hardly poetry, or philosophy, nor anything other than gibberish over a killer riff.

He was a good guitarist, who wrote energetic music. He killed himself, which is cowardly, especially with a young child. If I were planning any reflection, I'd reflect on how narcisstic and selfish his suicide was.
posted by Pericles at 10:49 AM on April 5, 2004


When I read Heavier Than Heaven, it reminded me a lot of the Peter Guralnick two volume biography of Elvis (which is amazing; beautifully written, meticulously researched, and not at all exploitative). Two insecure, lost, drug-addicted individuals, with virtually no-one looking out for their best interests and too many people interested only in milking them for as much money as possible until the inevitable happened. And by the end, they were both too far gone for anyone who actually tried to get through to them and help. Terribly sad, even if you don't care much for their music.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:51 AM on April 5, 2004


Sorry for the snark, but "unfinished story"? I'd say he made damned sure it was finished.

Yep, great music. Yep, gone too soon. But morbid fascination with Morrison, Cobain, Hendrix... yeesh, it's just creepy. Whether it's accident, murder, suicide, disease... when you focus too much on the death, it really sucks the life out of the work.

Hey, anyone for a Glenn Miller Death Cult startup?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:51 AM on April 5, 2004


He ain't Lennon, but he was a damned talented, significant and tragic artist nonetheless.

I wouldn't deny that. I loved a lot of the music Nirvana (which was more than just Kurt, people forget Dave Grohl was the best hard rock drummer since Lars Ulrich, if not John Bonham) they produced, but I often found Kurt himself to be somewhat whiny and self-righteous (to this day I find the condescension of "In Bloom" difficult to stomach).

Which leads to why I label a lot of this commemoration as a death cult. So much of the remembrance is based around the cult of Cobain's personality and not the music. And the fact that he killed himself is held up as some kind of proof of his depth and authenticity. I mean plenty of shallow, untalented people kill themselves too.

I used Burton as a counter-example because he actually makes a good one. His bands music was equally reflective of his time and subculture (and I speak as someone who's spent plenty of time in both the Metal and "alt.rock" cultures in his day), sold as many records and had just as much of an impact on his fans and modern rock culture. But because he died prosaically, and because there wasn't the relentless media hype surrounding his death, he gets to rest in peace, and his fans and his band have let him have some dignity.
posted by jonmc at 10:54 AM on April 5, 2004


Just got this sent to me: a flyer for Love & Death: The MURDER of Kurt Cobain. I think Frances did it.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:54 AM on April 5, 2004


...I'd reflect on how narcisstic and selfish his suicide was.

I wouldn't deign to defend the indefensible (or feed the trolls), but anyone that can couch suicide in those terms understands nothing about the nature of depression, addiction or suicide. Not to add more wood to the death cult funeral pyre, but anyone with an interest in this subject, should read Styron's Darkness Visible, for a first-person account of what it's like.
posted by psmealey at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2004


some people dont get hendrix or dylan or zeppelin or even ozzy.

i pity those people, but i dont try to explain to them why they should be into those guys, and i dont try to explain to them why they should think kurt was godhead and why nirvana was (and is) IT.

not like you could explain their genius anyway.

what i dont appreciate is when they try to dismiss him because he did drugs or blew his head off. cuz what theyre saying is "im too old to get beyond the hype, i was too out of the scene to catch the wave, and im too much of a dumbass to remember that most great rockers and artists were self-destructive 'narcisists' as well."
posted by tsarfan at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2004


I'm going to go even further than jonmc on the glorification thing, and I'm sure I'm going to get flamed beyond belief for this, but it's just the way I feel.

I fucking hate Nirvana.

I mourn for Cobain and his family. It's terrible that he's dead, and he was, even as a non-fan, a musical and creative genius. The world is poorer without him in it. His suicide was a debatable mixture of pain and cowardice, but no defamation is implied on Kurt Cobain, the person.

That said, Nirvana ruined my world. I worshipped as a child the stuff that Nirvana and it's culture replaced. Nirvana and the subsequent grunge movement came in and killed the 80's rock culture. Not even hindered, I mean flat out destroyed it. With the exception of KISS which is essentially a self-parody of itself, all those groups just became ridiculous to the public eye.

But it was SUPPOSED to be that way. These weren't as much musicians- they were fucking rock stars, for god's sakes. They were loud and stupid and pointless and beautiful and fucking Seattle came in and ruined it because it was just oh-too-cool for that "fake" shit. Suddenly they get to mumble into a microphone and let everyone know "they're hurting inside" and their fake realness is more real because the 80's blatant fakeness was the only criteria to judge it against.

Nirvana didn't open up a new realm of music for me- at least not directly. It created a void where I really didn't listen to much music for years. I didn't follow trends of popular stuff and maybe around high school I started getting into all the classic stuff.

I still think about the late 80's/early 90's era and there's so much on a list higher in my preferences to associate with it than Nirvana. Guns N' Roses and the epic of November Rain. Van Halen using Right Now to make one of the most brilliant videos in history: ditto to the Beastie Boys and Sabotage. Meat Loaf and Anything for Love as if he wrote an entire song with a subconscious message of "baby, I love you, but just to make it perfectly clear, I'm going to say it with a deliciously unnecessary application of kettle drums." I'm older now, with a much better taste in music. But I still have no interest in Nirvana, and still play all those songs when I feel the mood.

That's what you do for good music, you listen to it. Nirvana was this new paradigm of the MTV generation challenging the concept of pop music's vacuousness. Britney sucks? Of course she does, she's on fucking MTV. She's a fucking video star. I was born the same year MTV was. This is our legacy. Children of Viacom: welcome to the MTV generation.

So yeah, a lot of it is admittedly that I've got horrible taste- what you should expect from someone who, essentially, is complaining that Poison didn't last long enough. (Though you gotta admit, C.C. Deville does more for promoting drug-free living by being alive and looking like a 75-year-old on celebrity Jeopardy than Cobain could ever do by killing himself.) And it's an amazing accusation to say that Nirvana, of all things, destroyed music, but in some sense, that's what it did for me.

My lack of interest in their sound aside, Nirvana was a talented band and deserved the praise and acclamation they garnered- but the side effects of Nirvana did so much more than I consider a bad thing. We don't have rock stars anymore. We've got video stars, who care about public perception of their outlandishness rather than actually being outlandish. We don't have the abject ridiculousness that is hair metal anymore. We've got Kid Rock, who's nothing more than an example of what happens when white trash becomes a marketing scheme.

If video killed the radio star, Kurt Cobain killed the rock star, and I'll never forgive him for that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:19 AM on April 5, 2004 [1 favorite]


Count me among those who think this Cobain fixation is way overblown. I'd love to see some brilliant social psychologist present an explanation why this unimpressive person can mean such an enormous deal to .5% of the population while the other 99.5% couldn't care less. (A related research project could be to figure out to what extent people say that Cobain was so important because they think that is what they are supposed to say vs. people who can make the case for Cobain's reverance).

My theory was always that Gen X needed Cobain to kill himself. Gen X is a bunch of needy people. They always hear about mom's and dad's Woodstock, Morrison, Joplin, Hendrix, Lennon, protests, love-ins, etc. Gen X was missing a corresponding experince, and they wanted their own. They wanted to show their "angst" even though they probably could never cognizably explain what was causing their angst.

To those of you who claim that Cobain "spoke" to you, I'd honeslty love to see an analysis of what you learned from Cobain. I have listened, and on the very rare occasion I could figure out what he was mumbling, it was generallly non-sensical. But it would need interesting to see:
"Things I learned from Kurt: 1. Thou shalt not kill; source [link to lyric]"

That would be neat because then maybe those of who didn't "hear" Kurt, could figure out what he was "saying" that was so meaningful.
posted by Seth at 11:24 AM on April 5, 2004


Nirvana was the first band that said and sounded like what I was feeling at 15. They were the first band I felt connected to.

In the Incesticide liner notes Kurt says that he felt that Nirvana was paying tribute to a dead musical form that had brought him so much comfort.

They just happened to say things that a lot of people were feeling at just the right time, to just the right people.

But really, what has any band done that hasn't been done before?
That's a weak and predictable argument.
posted by cinderful at 11:25 AM on April 5, 2004


*shakes head*

You're one of us, XQUZYPHYR? I never would've guessed.

*knocks fist, makes devil horns*

I didn't hate them for "ruining" my world, so much as I kind of resented them and a lot of alt-rockers for making the false claim the the seventies butt-rock and punk-rock that I loved with equal fervor were somehow diametrically opposed to eachother. Hell, Nirvana's own music puts the lie to that claim. Their basic recipie was the rawness of punk rock with the dynamics of a good Black Sabbath album.

The saddest part of Nirvana's legacy to me, is the overempasis on a band/stryles "cred," rather than the music. But that's just me.
posted by jonmc at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2004


When she found out Kurt Cobain had killed himself, my wife's friend screamed "WHY NOT EDDIE VEDDER!"
posted by tholt at 11:28 AM on April 5, 2004


XQUZYPHYR, my taste in music couldn't be further from yours, but thanks for your post, it's rare to read about this particular point of view of that musical era (in all seriousness). Why someone would flame you for this, I dunno. Guess it boils down to taste. And, fwiw, I agree with you that Cobain killed the rock star, and in my mind, that was a good thing.
posted by kokogiak at 11:29 AM on April 5, 2004


Sinatra? Sinatra was a geat singer, but Cobain was a singer/songwriter.
posted by drezdn at 11:31 AM on April 5, 2004



FPP via Gawker

posted by matteo at 11:33 AM on April 5, 2004


Kurt's note inside Incesticide is a good read if you want to get a little closer to Kurt Cobain.

Oh, and Lars Ulrich is, and has always been, a terrible drummer.
posted by mr.marx at 11:34 AM on April 5, 2004


XQUZYPHYR, my taste in music couldn't be further from yours, but thanks for your post, it's rare to read about this particular point of view of that musical era (in all seriousness).

You need to read Fargo Rock City.

And, fwiw, I agree with you that Cobain killed the rock star, and in my mind, that was a good thing.

That may have been what he wanted to do, but here we are getting all fanboy about the anniversary of his death. I'd say he is a rock star, and there's really nothing wrong with that.

Truth be told, there's a lot of misconceptions about Nirvana's acheivement and what it came out of. The traditional "Nirvana killed the hair bands, and out came this wonderful thing called grunge/alternative" is a half-baked theory at best.

First of all, there had been underground rock around for years. Secondly, the hair-metal stuff was basically for the top-forty jock crowd. There had been an underground street metal culture surrounding bands like Raven, Metallica, Slayer etc for years, and the punk scene had been making overtures to that crowd as well and for a while there was a lot of crossover with bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Primus, Ministry, Jane's Addiction who were liked by both audiences.

Nirvana came along in the midst of all that and captured the moment. But the "hair bands" had been beaten insensate by the above acts by the time grunge stuck the knife in. You could make the argument that it's downfall began with Apettite For Destrusction since it was the first album to make explicit the horror and decay behind the Hollywood rock star myth. Ironic, eh?
posted by jonmc at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2004


jonmc - I doubt anything about Nirvana killing the Rock Star should be taken at face value - I doubt it was what they were trying to achieve, and would damn near be impossible for anyone to do intentionally. To me, it's all iconic, a nice cultural shorthand to point to a changing of the guard. Like you say, they really captured the moment - intentionally or (more likely) serendipitously.
posted by kokogiak at 11:49 AM on April 5, 2004


I kind of resented them and a lot of alt-rockers for making the false claim the the seventies butt-rock and punk-rock that I loved with equal fervor were somehow diametrically opposed to each other.

See, I don't think Kurt made that claim. And, as you point out, their music certainly doesn't make that claim.

I think you're confusing the fans' actions with the group's. There are lots of bands who I want to like more, but their hardcore fans turn me off so much that I can no longer disassociate them in my mind. (Which, to be fair, ain't the group's fault.)

I think Nirvana was enormously influential. So much so, that I think they were more influential than they were original.

The first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit", I was, like NationalKato, blown away by hearing this stuff on the radio. But it still sounded, to my ears at least, an awful lot like a Pixies song. (And Cobain acknowledged as much, repeatedly.)

I don't quite understand the mass veneration of Kurt Cobain...but he did speak to a population that hadn't really been spoken to before.

On preview:

. . .here we are getting all fanboy about the anniversary of his death. I'd say he is a rock star, and there's really nothing wrong with that.

Truth be told, there's a lot of misconceptions about Nirvana's acheivement and what it came out of. The traditional "Nirvana killed the hair bands, and out came this wonderful thing called grunge/alternative" is a half-baked theory at best.


I think you're dead-on here. (Jon, you really should write a book about this stuff.)
posted by Vidiot at 11:50 AM on April 5, 2004


They just happened to say things that a lot of people were feeling at just the right time, to just the right people.

posted by cinderful at 1:25 PM CST on April 5


If you could, it would be appreciated if you could enumerate the exact things he said that spoke to people's feelings. It would really help because I honestly have never been able to figure it out. When I listen to his music, it sounds like gobbled mumbling, and when I read the lyrics, they are incoherent. I really would like to hear what the message of Kurt Cobain was.

For instance, I can tell you what I learned from the Bible when it "spoke" to me like this:

1. Charity is the greatest virtue. Source: 1 Corinthians 13

2. Thou shall not kill. Source: 1 Exodus 13

3. Forgiveness is the key to absolution. Source: 6 Matthew 16.

etc...

If someone could do that and explain what they learned from Kurt or what he "said that everyone was feeling," it would at least help this one person better understand his relevance.
posted by Seth at 11:50 AM on April 5, 2004


Just an ironic addendum, Metallica became huge with zero radio airplay, no attention from MTV, and up until Master Of Puppets on an independent label. They were as pure indie as R.E.M. back in the day. They didn't get media exposure until they became too big to ignore.

Nirvana's rise to superstardom had a lot to do with the fact that Geffen recognized the bands talent (and Kurt's pop smarts as a songwriter, the kid could write a hook) and promoted the hell out of them to radio and MTV.

Kid of the opposite of what rock history would have you believe.
posted by jonmc at 11:54 AM on April 5, 2004


on Kurt Cobain killing the rock star:

For f's sake, he killed himself before killing the iconic view the Gen X had of him. We're talking about being in such a state of pain that death feels like a relief, not killing yourself as a political/sociological statement.
posted by Sijeka at 12:00 PM on April 5, 2004


Until now, I didnt realise what a selfish twat he was.

"Frances and courtney, I'll be at your altar. Pleas keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me. "

Barf.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:02 PM on April 5, 2004


I thought that Nirvana were OK when I was introduced to Nevermind whilst staying at someones house where it was played on repeat, every waking hour for three days. It must have been alright, or I would have destroyed the audio.
The subsequent hype was a little confusing as they were just another grunge-core band to me, but at least the band wrote and played their own songs. I thought that they were to prove something of a one trick pony, until I heard the 'Unplugged session' recorded for MTV, which is fantastic.
What is Maralyn Manson, if not a rock-star?

As regards the reports of the death of the underground, I think they may be exagerated.

Hardcore will never die - Chuck D
posted by asok at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2004


Seth:

1. It's okay to be angry about living in a world where you don't feel you belong and it feels like the people who are in charge don't give a shit about anything but themselves and all the people who are preaching to you from whatever book say one thing and do another

2. Someone else feels the same way

But, mainly, for me it was about the anger and it being acceptable to BE angry — growing up in a very repressed family. In a similar way to when I first had sex that I seemed to realized what my HIPS were for — when I discovered rock that spoke to me, I realized why I could SHOUT.
posted by papercake at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2004


Sounds like some folks didn't study their Nirvana texts, and need a refresher on why they were so great.

Ok, class---Here we go. Let's take a wee look at the brilliant song, School, off Nirvana's first album, Bleach.

Lyrics:

Won't you believe it, it's just my luck (3X)

No recess (3X)

You're in high school again (4X)

No recess (7X)


Commentary:

With this ditty, Kurdt extolls the virtues of recess,
and how much it sucks when there is none.

Were you back in high school, again, you would doubtless appreciate this nugget of wisdom. Kurdt does it again, with this simple yet arresting ode to the daily educational interruption known as recess.
posted by mcgraw at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2004


My first exposure to Nirvana was hearing the first ten seconds or so of "Teen Spirit" on WRIF in Detroit, followed by the sound of a needle being pulled off a record, followed by the sound of the record being broken into pieces. Then their most popular DJ growled (words to this effect, this was thirteen years ago, remember); "We don't play ALTERNATIVE at the HOME of rock 'n' roll!!!", and they launched into Ted Nugent or some such other classic rock staple. Of course, at the time I thought this was a bitchin' put-down of all that boring college rock, because my musical tastes were so hidebound that "Achtung Baby" was too out-there for me.

WRIF's one saving grace in this story is that, of all the big classic rock stations in Detroit, they were the only ones to never incorporate "alternative" (not even the classic rock-ready Pearl Jam or Stone Temple Pilots) music into their playlists. So, they kept it real.

This thread makes me, shall we say, feel my age.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:08 PM on April 5, 2004


... and so GenX follows its elders into the land of nostalgia ...
posted by fuzz at 12:10 PM on April 5, 2004


It's frustrating and ironic that even ten years later people still get so caught up and distracted by the image, the flannel, the heroin, the conflict about selling out vs. maintaining indie cred... when above all else the band was about getting the music and getting it heard. They were certainly positioned by DGC as a force for punk-cred and champions of the fight against the bubblegum or wannabe gangster image is everything world that pop music was in 1992 (Vanilla Ice or Paula Abdul, anyone?), and I think Kurt might have been manipulated into furthering that stand, but I do believe that his and Nirvana's main motivation was always just about being heard.

Kurt clearly had complex issues with his celebrity (he hated and loved it, he gave alternatively fictitious and intensely personal histories in his interviews, he bought a Lexus after Nevermind, and then returned it the next day after getting a ribbing from some of his friends), but in the studio, in the rehearsal space, on tour, he was one supremely driven to create and get the music out there.

I wish the legacy was how rich his catalog was in the brief time he was on his planet, than a tiresome rehash of grunge style points, and a bunch of heartless snarking about how selfish suicide is.

On preview: jonmc, I remember the Metallica story a little differently. Metallica was certainly an underground sensation for most of the mid to late 80s (Lightning, Puppets, etc), but really didn't become HUGE until after the "One" videa aired on MTV, and the Black Album was released to tremendous radio airplay.
posted by psmealey at 12:11 PM on April 5, 2004


Exercises in critiquing music based on their lyrics alone really are pointless, in my mind. Some of the most horrific music I know reads very nicely on paper, and some of my favorite songs of all time have got the most idiotic lyrics I've ever read. In fact, some of the best music I know includes vocals that are barely intelligible, or aren't even quite human.
posted by kokogiak at 12:14 PM on April 5, 2004


"We don't play ALTERNATIVE at the HOME of rock 'n' roll!!!", and they launched into Ted Nugent or some such other classic rock staple.

The crucial irony being that the best alternative rock and the best classic rock had more in common with eachother than either side of the equation realized, and that this is a good thing.

On preview, psmealy: all three of Metallica's first albums went gold or platinum before ...And Justice For All was realeased. MTV just made them that much bigger.
posted by jonmc at 12:17 PM on April 5, 2004


I could care less about the man, but I regret his passing immensely, as I cared deeply about the music.

They did some great covers (Man Who Sold the World, Molly's Lips, Turnaround, In the Pines, Love Buzz), some great songs to just rock out to (Teen Spirit, Lounge Act, Lithium, All Apologies), and sometimes just nice music to listen to (Most of Unplugged, Marigold)

Was he Lennon or Harrison? God no. Were they The Who? No. But, fairly or not, they changed music, and they created some of the best of the time by far.

Cobain wasn't God, no, but he was a great musician, and I wish he had been able to continue creating great music.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:18 PM on April 5, 2004


Good point, jonmc. I did not know that. /carson
posted by psmealey at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2004


fuzz: "It'll happen to you!" - Abe Simpson

; )
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:23 PM on April 5, 2004


Sidebar: From Kurt's note included in every copy of Incesticide:

I don't feel the least bit guilty for commercially exploiting a completely exhausted Rock youth Culture because, at this point in rock history, Punk Rock (while still sacred to some) is, to me, dead and gone. We just wanted to pay tribute to something that helped us to feel as though we had crawled out of the dung heap of conformity. To pay tribute like an Elvis or Jimi Hendrix impersonator in the tradition of a bar band. I'll be the first to admit that we're the 90's version of Cheap Trick or the Knack but the last to admit that it hasn't been rewarding.

At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or woman, please do this one favor for us - leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records.

Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song "Polly". I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience. Sorry to be so anally P.C. but that's the way I feel.

posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:29 PM on April 5, 2004


Seth:

I'll try to explain my connection. I was a fan but didn't clearly identify with the music until after Cobain's death. When Unplugged in New York was released, I bought it and listened to it virtually non-stop for four months.

I was drinking heavily, nearly suicidal, and living 4,000 miles from home in Glasgow, Scotland during the darkest, grayest days of the winter. I felt I was at the bottom of a very deep hole, of which I wasn't sure I would escape.

Listening to the tape, I was able to identify and find a kindred soul. If you heard that album, you would understand what I mean. The obvious pain and hurt in Cobain's voice is almost a physical presence. It was the distilled essence of the man to me and at the time, it was someone and something I could identify with, especially knowing he had killed himself a a few months later.

Although most of the songs were covers of the Meat Puppets, Davis Bowie, or the Vasolines, the emotional rawness of his performance gave me hope that I was not alone. That is how he and the music spoke to me.
posted by karmaville at 12:36 PM on April 5, 2004


They didn't get media exposure until they became too big to ignore.

agreed, great band. literally "heavier than heaven" for many many years before they irrevocably jumped the shark.

it's also disheartening the way they confuse the concept of "fan" with the concept of "customer". (you see, Shawn Fanning borrowed me a Metallica t-shirt, once)


oh, and I don't care about the vigils and memorials and stuff, I still love Nirvana, and I'm pretty sure I always will

*blasts "Serve the Servants" on iPod, swoons*
posted by matteo at 12:38 PM on April 5, 2004


I *heart* XQUZYPHYR.

*Goes off to try to find the C.C. Deville Jeopardy episode*
posted by Cyrano at 12:41 PM on April 5, 2004


it's also disheartening the way they confuse the concept of "fan" with the concept of "customer". (you see, Shawn Fanning borrowed me a Metallica t-shirt, once)

I couldn't agree more. It's especially disheartening to me, since it's in such diametric contrast to what they stood for (integrity, individualism) to me and my buddies back in '85.

Plus they're music started to suck. But they were my introduction to idea that the underground still existed and that I hadn't missed all the good music by being born too late.

For a weird intersection of two worlds fire up the p2p of your choice and find Nirvana's cover of Kiss's "Do You Love Me." Kurt was a huge unironic Kiss Army member and sings like a kid at his first gig.
posted by jonmc at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2004


I liked Nirvana when I was a kid. Now I like different things. Music has and will always be about discovering new things for me.
posted by corpse at 1:01 PM on April 5, 2004


"If you could, it would be appreciated if you could enumerate the exact things he said that spoke to people's feelings."

It wasn't things he said per se, it was the way he said/expressed it. He spoke through hormones mostly, and influenced numerous types of people even though many themselves didn't understand why.

Lithium stands out as one of those songs in which he's finding peace of mind, but also fears that it'll be taken away any moment...which anyone could relate to. Many of his songs were just having fun with lyrics and poking fun ("No Recess" as pointed out so eloquently), but some were fairly personal and meaningful at least to himself....apparently the style, which he thought was already overplayed and done, "caught on" to even his own surprise.

Yet his fans made him out to be where he was...not himself alone. He got caught up in the music industry, something he didn't have the right mindset for and took the negative experiences far too personally, and was often too generous despite the narcissim. The short version is the industry ate him up, commercialized it, and turned a passion into a "job"

But also, he does have the guilt in letting it happen if judging his character (it's good to do, even when electing a president :P) ....which I guess is the moral of the story. The music was great, and I wish it never came to an end, despite all the emotion that became of being a fan.
posted by samsara at 1:03 PM on April 5, 2004


Cyrano, if you find that episode, hook me up!
posted by ph00dz at 1:05 PM on April 5, 2004


find Nirvana's cover of Kiss's "Do You Love Me."

/me momentarily pictures Nirvana covering "Do You Love Me" by the Contours...
posted by Vidiot at 1:10 PM on April 5, 2004


For those of you saying that Kurt Cobain was no Lennon - and the Nirvana was no Beatles....may I remind you:


Well, shake it up, baby, now, (shake it up, baby)
Twist and shout. (twist and shout)
C'mon c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, baby, now, (come on baby)
Come on and work it on out. (work it on out)


The first Nirvana song I heard was School. It was on a mix tape that a friend had given me with pumpkins (tristessa), soundgarden (rusty cage), and a few others the names of which escape me now. I played that tape to death - but it wasn't my first "alternative" music. I was already a long time fan of skinny puppy, ministry, coil, and the like. And it wasn't my first "hard rock", having been a long fan of metallica, megadeth, metal church, exodus, etc. But it was something new and different. But somehow...still familiar.

When people say that Nirvana spoke to them - they may not necesarily mean that Nirvana taught them new lessons, but rather that they could relate to the music, perhaps in a way previously unavailable to them. Further, I think that what many people actually mean is that Nirvana spoke *for* them.

When it comes to long term influences Nirvana *is* going to be as big as the Beatles. Not because they were as revolutionary, but rather because of what they represent. Nirvana was the representative, the vanguard if you will, for the seattle grunge scene. They were the big star to which all other grunge stars will be forever compared. Whether we like it or not, the emergence of grunge has had a huge effect on today's music. Huge. Most of that influence, that cred, will be associated with Nirvana, not because *they* were the influence, but because Kurt was the grunge poster boy.
posted by jaded at 1:16 PM on April 5, 2004


I loved Kurt when I was younger--bought all the Nirvana CDs I could get a hold of. I think samsara expressed how I felt about the music, best:

"It wasn't things he said per se, it was the way he said/expressed it."

Kurt's anger wasn't too different from Tupac Shakur's. Kurt reminds me of Tupac's line, "When I speak, I scream." I've heard them compared a lot in biographies. I also usually see them mentioned as the 90s version of Lennon. I don't know... I never really felt Lennon was at their level, when it came to making me "feel" anything.

Oh yeah! Troll city!
posted by lotsofno at 1:20 PM on April 5, 2004


I think Bill Medley wrote that, jaded. :-)
posted by psmealey at 1:21 PM on April 5, 2004


When Nirvana broke I was in college and didn’t really “need” Kurt Cobain to tell me that there were other bands out there besides what I might be hearing on the radio, but for a lot of people (especially kids out in rural areas with no MTV, no college radio, no older siblings home from university with the latest Pixies record) Nirvana was the first indication that there was something else out there. I think that Kurt Cobain’s biggest contribution to music was getting his own band on the radio and then sharing his personal influences and favorite bands and giving the kids for whom Nirvana wasn’t just a catchy-as-hell guitar hook but a fucking revelation a place to go next.

Still, I remember where I was, what I was doing, and my exact reaction to hearing about his death.

And while I never found myself personally immersed in rabid Nirvana fandom, I sure do love In Utero (and, XQUZYPHYR, Def Leppard's Pyromania with equal intensity). I always had a bigger heart-on for Krist Novoselic than Kurt Cobain, though. Kurt had too many issues, and Krist Novoselic is just so.. tall.
posted by jennyb at 1:31 PM on April 5, 2004


If you're looking for a dumb Beatles song, here's a far better choice.
posted by raysmj at 1:32 PM on April 5, 2004


10 years later and his killer is still on the loose.

Well worth the read even if you do believe that he managed to blow his head off and wipe his prints from the gun afterwards.
posted by dotComrade at 1:35 PM on April 5, 2004


Lyrics:

Won't you believe it, it's just my luck (3X)

Uh, sorry...

That should have read:

Won't you believe it, it's just my luck (4X)
posted by mcgraw at 1:40 PM on April 5, 2004


My bad: "Twist and Shout" was written by Bert Russell and PHIL Medley, not Bill Medley of Righteous Brothers fame.

At the time of Tupac's death, I remember reading that his fans took his death just as hard of those of us who were affected by Kurt's. Tupac wasn't on my radar at the time, but in retrospect, that seems about right (though as far as hip hop goes, I still prefer Public Enemy and NWA to 2Pac).
posted by psmealey at 1:41 PM on April 5, 2004


"anyone that can couch suicide in those terms understands nothing about the nature of depression, addiction or suicide"

I thank my lucky stars I don't understand anything of them. I can comprehend suicide if you're terminally ill, and going to be a burden, or suicide if your own death can save the lives of those you love, but "oh I'm so misunderstood, I'm going to kill myself" suicides *are* narcissism. And when you have a young child dependent upon you, it is cowardly - refusing to face up to one's reponsibilities. I say this as someone who has been phoned up at 3 a.m. by a friend (a father) who had taken an overdose, before I'm re-accused of trolling.
posted by Pericles at 1:45 PM on April 5, 2004


I was lucky enough to work in a record store when all this was happening. We got to hear it all, from TAD and Mudhoney to C&C Music Factory and Steelheart. There were a lot of turds in the punch bowl, just like now, but there was also a lot of really exciting music too.

When Nevermind came out, we all thought it was a good record. But so was the Mr. Bungle record, which came out right around the same time. I don't think any of my fellow employees thought Nirvana was gonna "save the world" or "kill cock rock" any more than Mr. Bungle was going to. It was just a good record.

Sometimes a record really connects with people and makes a profound imprint on their lives. As much as I think Staind or Puddle of Mudd sound shitty and derivative (in that order), I'm sure there's someone somewhere who uses that music as a life preserver.

As for the theory that all grunge is shoegazing moping, you haven't heard Mudhoney. Mark Arm's off-key "Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, heeeeyyyy!" off "Who You Drivin' Now" is one of the best lines ever delivered. Never fails to make me smile.
posted by Atom12 at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2004


When people say that Nirvana spoke to them - they may not necesarily mean that Nirvana taught them new lessons, but rather that they could relate to the music, perhaps in a way previously unavailable to them.

I think a lot of the power of alternative music back in the '80's was that it expressed a range of emotions the mainstream of the day simply didn't cover convincingly. It wasn't just about the quality of the songs. Now that mainstream pop has a wider emotional range - and it still does, though I think it's narrowing again - it's taken a lot of pressure out of the underground.)

(Boy, I was going through the whole "Kurt is overhyped/ Nirvana's a cliche/what about the Pixies?" thing back when Kurt shot himself. Y'all aren't hip, y'all are late. Now I like Nirvana again. /troll)
posted by furiousthought at 1:54 PM on April 5, 2004


Okay, Seth, we get it. Your brain is completely broken. I'd even go so far as poisoned.
posted by jon_kill at 1:58 PM on April 5, 2004


When one reaches the point of going actually going through with a suicide attempt, the psychic, emotional or physical pain is so overwhelming, the question of rational choice (refusing to face up to one's responsibilities, etc) ceases to be a factor in the decision.

Not to be harsh, but simplistic judgments and pronouncements of moral superiority like these (he killed himself, therefore he is a coward) are counterproductive in terms of facilitating an understanding of why people take their own lives.
posted by psmealey at 1:58 PM on April 5, 2004


I thank my lucky stars I don't understand anything of them.

And not to derail (nor pile on), but from your comments it's clear that you don't:

"oh I'm so misunderstood, I'm going to kill myself" suicides *are* narcissism.

As psmealey suggested, read Darkness Visible, or The Noonday Demon if you want to learn more. In short, "oh I'm so misunderstood, I'm going to kill myself" suicides don't exist. There's much more going on under the surface than that. In fact, it's folly to attribute most suicides to a simple root "cause"...most suicides are experiencing severe mental illness and are incapable of rational behavior.

On preview, what psmealey said.
posted by Vidiot at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2004


Isn't there another layer to the song about recess, the point being that once you're out of college and in the working world (as Cobain probably was when he wrote the song), life can be very much like high school where for some your 9 to 5 existence is very much like high school were there is a highly structured system of Rules and Order and not so much funning around? The lyrics are:

School
Won't you believe it, it's just my luck
No recess
You're in high school again
No recess

The "again" in the high school line suggests that the place you're in is not high school, but a metaphor for high school. If you were, in fact, someone returning to high school, the line would have been more like, "High school starts again" etc. Plus there's the suggestion that where you are now (the high school doppelganger) is supposed to be a more adult and better-for-you place than where you were before (grade school, where you had recess), and yet it just sucks more, and people pick on you, and you never get to go to prom.

I'm just saying.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:12 PM on April 5, 2004


When I listen to his music, it sounds like gobbled mumbling, and when I read the lyrics, they are incoherent. I really would like to hear what the message of Kurt Cobain was.


For me, it's about two things.

First, returning music to the people. By the end of the eighties, thanks to the work of the 'music industry' the only way people could interface with music was either as background music while driving or some kind of idol worship. Music is copyrighted, centrally distributed, and has particular voices who are allowed to create it. The rock stars, with their images and make-up. And people (like some here, apparently) ate it up. But in the transition to that model, something fundamental was lost. As a great teacher once told me, if you're too cool, you're just cold. And Nirvana, playing on their albums incredibly simple songs that sound fucking great no matter what instrument you play 'em on, with their anti-rock-star image, were a major strike against the industry, and one that we can still feel today. I think they were conscious of what they were doing in this regard; I know I've read some interview where Cobain talks about this explicitly.

Second, the literal message. In the lyrics. There is no message in the lyrics. And that's exactly the way it is intended. Cobain talked about that, too. It doesn't matter what you sing, so long as you sing it with enough feeling, I think he put it. It's about smashing the false idols and throwing out the decievers. There is no message, there never was a message before, and if you believed otherwise, well, David Geffen is the one profitting from it, not you.

I love Nirvana, probably just as much as XQ hates them.

It's exactly about that act of destruction, and the associated act of creation. It's about killing hierarchy and making music locally relevant again. This is the musical equivalent of many of the things I live for. And though I'm sad to see many of the things that have happened in music in the last ten years, I'm glad to know that Cobain &c. made possible many things that wouldn't have been otherwise.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:24 PM on April 5, 2004


That's hilarious... deconstructing "School", I love it!

If memory serves, that song was written (in about 2 minutes at Jack Endino's studio) about the notoriously cliquish and unfriendly to outsiders Seattle rock scene; as opposed to the more open boho scene in Olympia that Nirvana had recently come from.
posted by psmealey at 2:26 PM on April 5, 2004


Well worth the read even if you do believe that he managed to blow his head off and wipe his prints from the gun afterwards.

Or if you believe that a junkie on that much heroin EVER neatly packs up his kit after injection (hint: they aren't capable of doing so).

Or if you believe that Kurt Cobain's handwriting style magically changed for the last two sentences (the suicidal portion, coincidentally) of his 'suicide note.'

I don't have an answer in the form of a 'Courtney did it' or 'the radio execs did it' conspiracy theory - I just know that there's some truck-sized holes to drive through the suicide version of events. It's worth pointing out, though, that the PI Courtney hired to find the killer now thinks she did it.
posted by Ryvar at 2:28 PM on April 5, 2004


For Ryvar and dotComrade: kcwm.com.
posted by psmealey at 2:30 PM on April 5, 2004


and still none of you naysayers have presented us with any bands who have influenced rock in the last 10 years the way kurdt and his band did from 89-94.

unless you're all saying that XQUZYPHYR is right and kurt killed rock.

which is retarded.

axl killed guns. the tibetans killed the beasties. and sobriety killed janes addiction.
posted by tsarfan at 2:32 PM on April 5, 2004


It's pretty widely accepted that "School" was actually inspired by the cliquish Seattle rock scene.
posted by keswick at 2:35 PM on April 5, 2004


tsarfan, you kinda missed my point completely, in that I'm angry because Cobain and Nirvana did just that- stopped rock dead in its tracks. The fact that Nirvana's cultural digestion caused no bands after them to make a genre-shifting impact the way they did is a BAD thing.

Nirvana was the genesis of this generation's "I liked this band the first time when they were called" era. Christ, the joke five years ago was that Vedder would kill himself to keep the feud going.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:49 PM on April 5, 2004


I still prefer Mudhoney.
posted by whuppy at 3:12 PM on April 5, 2004


sobriety killed janes addiction.

And Aerosmith!
posted by jennyb at 3:15 PM on April 5, 2004


And Dennis Hopper!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:56 PM on April 5, 2004


I want to add, about suicides who are parents, they may come to believe that they are such shitty parents that their children are better off without them. So from their very sad twisted point of view, they feel they are doing their children a favor by exiting stage left.
posted by beth at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2004


If memory serves, that song was written . . . about the notoriously cliquish and unfriendly to outsiders Seattle rock scene . . .

It's pretty widely accepted that "School" was actually inspired by the cliquish Seattle rock scene.


Okay,* but all I was trying to say was that the song isn't really just the dopey ode to recess ("yay, recess!") that mcgraw suggests. And under either interpretation, the insane repetition just furthers the song's message.

All that aside, while I very much admire the way he said it, I don't really agree with XQ on the decline of the "abject ridiculousness" of rock stars in the bombastic tradition of Meatloaf -- aren't Mariah Carey and Celine Dion et al really his 90s equivalents, with hair extensions?

*While there may be a correct "what the author was thinking" meaning of songs or other art, once they are released to the general public, they pretty much take on any meaning the public can sensibly fashion out of them, to the delight of many English lit graduate students and their dissertation advisors.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:04 PM on April 5, 2004


Don't dis Meatloaf. Not on my watch.
His name is Robert Paulsen.
posted by keswick at 4:17 PM on April 5, 2004


I come to neither bury Caesar nor to praise him...

jonmc:...But because he died prosaically, and because there wasn't the relentless media hype surrounding his death, he gets to rest in peace, and his fans and his band have let him have some dignity.
I'd hardly call Cliff Burton's death "prosaic". It also didn't destroy the band. I don't think it's a fair comparison. On 9/27/06, if there's a thread like this for him, how many people are going to jump in to say "Cliff sucked & I don't get it", I wonder? It's not the fans that do harm to his (or Kurt's) dignity.
...and mr.marx is right about Lars, too.
I'll stay out of the "suicides are assholes" nonsense. People just have a hard time thinking rationally about such things. Although I'm sure it's usually with good reason, the issue is always met here with froward divisiveness.

..and just for the record, when Bleach came out, I thought it was fuckin' rad.
posted by obloquy at 4:33 PM on April 5, 2004


I was never a big fan of Nirvana. Nor, like tons of other folks, can I relate in any way to what he sang about. He wasn't my cup of tea.

With that said, I can understand most folk sorrow. That's why when I read this post on Metafilter I couldn't help but think of Dave Blood from the Dead Milkmen who took his life recently. He was a friend.
posted by punkrockrat at 5:20 PM on April 5, 2004


Rock Will Blow Itself
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:31 PM on April 5, 2004


Like kokogiak, I also posted my own self-indulgent memory post today. I notice we both mentioned remembering the first time we heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit." There are a lot of songs that I have loved over the years, but there are very few that I can remember in that way. I have three Nirvana memories permanently imprinted: the time I saw them play in a Grange Hall, the first time I heard "Smells Like...", the day I woke up to KNDD telling me that "a body has been found in Kurt Cobain's house," and I knew instantly that he had killed himself.

No, make that four memories -- a few days later, with hundreds of others, I stood at Seattle Center while Courtney's recorded voice read Kurt's suicide note. I have never heard a large group of people so silent before, or since. No sound but muffled sobs.

The posted version of Kurt's note online leaves out Courtney's comments as she read it. I posted what follows on a newsgroup right after the memorial:
(Courtney reading the note)
"'I thank you all from the pit of my burning, nauseous stomach for your letters and concern during the last years. I'm too much of an erratic, moody person that I don't have the passion any more.' And don't believe this next part; it's a fuckin' lie: 'So remember, it's better to burn out than to fade away.' No it's not, Kurt, it's a lie, a fuckin' lie!"
She called Kurt an asshole for doing what he did; she told the crowd "I want you to scream 'ASSHOLE' at Kurt -- tell him he's an asshole... and you love him."
It was shattering. It still hurts me to remember hearing it.
I guess I don't have anything of substance to add here. I just had to say something.
posted by litlnemo at 5:43 PM on April 5, 2004 [1 favorite]


Keswick, somewhere around here I have a clip from the Wall Street Journal discussing some legal issue Meat Loaf was having. They dutifully referred to him throughout the article as "Mr. Loaf". This has always amused me more than it should.
posted by Lazlo at 5:50 PM on April 5, 2004


I say this as someone who has been phoned up at 3 a.m. by a friend (a father) who had taken an overdose, before I'm re-accused of trolling.

Nah, you're not trolling, but you even admit you don't really understand the phenomenon. Trying to understand suicidal depression without having been suicidally depressed is like trying to understand being drunk without ever having taken a drink. There's no way you can just say someone was cowardly or selfish because they killed themselves, although it is a possibility in individual cases.
posted by Hildago at 5:50 PM on April 5, 2004


jaguar and I thought jazzmaster but I'm told mustang.


thanks litlnemo, right.

God Bless That Clown.

posted by petebest at 5:58 PM on April 5, 2004


Jagstang.

(I used to run the second Nirvana website ever, Verse Chorus Verse. I still have the files somewhere. I oughta put it back online.)
posted by keswick at 6:21 PM on April 5, 2004


holy shit, litlnemo! i used to lurk on a.s.g-x back in the day! remember weaver? i wonder whatever happened to him
posted by keswick at 6:24 PM on April 5, 2004


keswick, I still have a t-shirt with weaver's "i'm tired" rant printed on the front.
posted by litlnemo at 6:44 PM on April 5, 2004


You need a reason for me to remember Kurt? He and Nirvana's songs remind me of my energetic without-a-worry blissfull childhood and young-adulthood years. Friends and places gone by. If that's not enough for you, fuck off and go listen to some Poison, asshole.

What if Morrissey would have killed himself? Good god...
posted by afx114 at 6:50 PM on April 5, 2004


Kurt's "Message"? I don't give a shit anymore. But I still just fucking crank Territorial Pissings to 11 and that's all I need to know about Kurt Cobain these days.
posted by Jimbob at 7:33 PM on April 5, 2004


I can't come up with a good reason why I love Nirvana that will please the sourpusses here; hope I get a chance someday to shit on one of their icons.

For me, Nirvana simply represents the only time in my life where the entire world seemed to be sharing my musical taste, and I wallowed in it.

Kurt Cobain was immensely talented, helped some great musicians who inspired him (like the Meat Puppets), and I enjoyed his self-deprecating sensibilities and love/hate relationship with fame.

Nirvana's cover of the old folk tune "In the Pines" kills me, and I don't think I've ever heard another musician channel the Beatles better than Cobain did on "About a Girl."

Besides, I was going to love the band that killed hair metal regardless of what they played.
posted by rcade at 7:41 PM on April 5, 2004


a friend of mine pointed out an odd and sort of sad bit of trivia from rolling stone's top 500 albums feature... it turns out that nevermind sold 7.9 million copies, while green day's dookie hit the 10 million mark.

of course, taking a look at album sales is generally fairly morbidly fascinating. still, i really thought that with the amount i heard and saw 'smells like teen spirit' compared to 'longview' that there'd be no way dookie would have outsold nevermind. i guess this speaks to the fact that influence and commercial success are generally only on casual speaking terms with each other.
posted by dytiq at 8:14 PM on April 5, 2004


You know...if you didn't like Kurt, and you didn't like Nirvana, was there any real reason for you to come piss all over this thread?

Is it too much to ask that the people who were fans could have a moment where they remembered what it was like to be in the middle of the pounding mosh pit, in the darkened basement of underground clubs, banging and slamming against one another with all the fury and anger that we felt as we realized that we were screwed...we were all getting older, the world was getting worse, and conformity was an inevitable disease. We had these last few moments of bruising, bleeding, blinding, cleansing pain before we were subsumed.

That's what Nirvana was to me. It was the broken shard of glass dragged against the jugular of the culture...it was anger, and it was energy. It was beautiful anguish, made all the more poignant by the knowledge that even if Kurt hadn't died, we would have all grown up and moved on anyway. He knew it, we knew it...and this was long before any of their "popular" songs got airplay.

I don't give a rat's ass if you don't like the music. More power to ya. Go back to your band of choice, but there's no reason for you to come shit in our cheerios just because you don't get it. Fuck you and your poseur troll mentality. The music speaks for itself, and if you can't hear what it says, then find something that does.


That said, I think Courtney killed Kurt because he was leaving her. I'm sure that murder is well within the boundaries of that psycho hose-beast.
posted by dejah420 at 8:39 PM on April 5, 2004


Here is an interesting interview with Bev Cobain, Kurt's cousin. She is a registered nurse devoted to youth suicide prevention. Considering his untreated bipolar disorder, family history of suicide, drug addiction, etc., Kurt was pretty much a ticking time bomb.

To those of you who called people who kill themselves narcissists and cowards, I wish you could see how far off base you are. But there have been some good suggestions made (books to read, etc.), so I won't beat a dead horse.
posted by amro at 8:43 PM on April 5, 2004


Oops, link is bad... Here it is again.
posted by amro at 8:45 PM on April 5, 2004


XQUZYPHYR, I just wanna send out a heartfelt thanks for that post. Get me going and I'll go on forever about how Nirvana killed music for me... all these years later, I still don't think it has recovered - even "harder" nu-metal bands today are still all about depression and self-pity and whining. Honestly, I think whining has pretty much been the central theme of "rock" music for the last ten years or so.

I didn't understand it way back then... I heard Nirvana and just didn't *get* it. And this was extremely frustrating to me because I thought I liked rock music, and that was what all the rock music started to sound like. So I stopped buying, and just listened to the old stuff I did like. Yeah, I can't say I really listen to Motley Crue or Poison anymore, but I do listen to G&R and Metallica, and I still can't really find much in the way of mainstream "rock" created after '94 that I can get into. Finding "new" rock music for me now is mostly about finding old hard '70s and '80s bands I never knew about.

Anyway, thanks for saying it. Anytime I've brought it up I just get strange looks, so its nice to know there are other people with the same take.
posted by tirade at 9:01 PM on April 5, 2004


and still none of you naysayers have presented us with any bands who have influenced rock in the last 10 years the way kurdt and his band did from 89-94.

I'm not a naysayer, I actually enjoy Nirvana quite a bit, but I can name plenty: the aforementioned Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Ministry...I'm not arguing the relative merits of these bands, cos that's a matter of taste, but their influence is undeniable.

Besides, I was going to love the band that killed hair metal regardless of what they played.

As, I said earlier in this thread they sure as hell didn't do it alone. And the cultural forces that spawned Nirvana had been bubbling under the music scene for the previous decades in the form of bands like the Replacements, Husker Du, the Melvins, Suicidal tendencies etc. But Nirvana's timing was perfect to be the band that broke it wide open.

I'm not begrudging Nirvana any of their success, Cobain & co. had talent to burn, but nothing happens in a vacuum.

I'd hardly call Cliff Burton's death "prosaic". It also didn't destroy the band. I don't think it's a fair comparison. On 9/27/06, if there's a thread like this for him, how many people are going to jump in to say "Cliff sucked & I don't get it", I wonder? It's not the fans that do harm to his (or Kurt's) dignity.

It didn't destroy the band it's true, but they did their best work when he was there. I'd submit that one reason is that there wasn't relentless media coverage surrounding his death as Metallica (at that time) worked in a genre despised by both the mainstream music public and the critical establishment.

Again, I'm not begrudging anybody's admiration of Kurt Cobain, but I'm just letting you know that for a lot of us who came of age in the mid-80's Metallica did the same thing for us that Nirvana did for you guys. But again, there's no death cult surrounding Cliff and that's probably for the best.

and Lars is a kick ass drummer, listen to "Blackened," you philistine. although he is a choad for the napster thing, and when I met him after a show once he was kind of ornery. Jason Newstead was an incredibly nice guy though.
posted by jonmc at 9:03 PM on April 5, 2004


Mundanity In The Lyrics Of The Beatles (for anyone interested)

Threads like this are why I love MeFi. There are some gems in the blue and white above. Love him or hate him, Kurt brings them out of the meta-woodwork.

Oh, and for you Weaver fans... (thanks for reminding me of this classic rant, usenet, et al.)
posted by shoepal at 9:10 PM on April 5, 2004


here is my depiction of what happened 10 years ago yesterday



i couldn't draw kurt so i used marvin gaye instead
posted by aaaaa at 9:10 PM on April 5, 2004


I was in the 6th grade when Cobain died. I hardly knew shit about music. Nirvana, Soundgarden and Greenday at that time were cool to listen to because they represented something deviant. My best friend listened to Nirvana because her brother in high school did. You were bad/cool to have CDs with a naked a male baby on the cover and everyone wanted Dookie because of the cartoon on the cover with the dookie everywhere. We were 11 and 12 years old. It didnt hit us until it WAS mainstream. plus that is when CD players become common and we were buyin are first ever CDs.
The next summer all the guys at 4-H camp that were "cool" had shirts with a picture of Cobain and his birth and death years.
I heard about the death on MTV and remember thinking that it is shame because that guy is really HOT with greasy blond hair and grungy clothes.
As a 12 year old I saw his death all over pop culture.
a few days ago i started hearing about it being 10 years and i really felt old. it brings me right back to that time in my life. when i was confused as hell. my parents were divorcing and no one paid attention to me. i wanted to be rayanne from "my so called life". my 12 year old close friend had sex for the first time and that was all we talked about at school in my hillbilly elementary school in a class of 20. i hated being preteen more than any stage of my life so far. I pretty much cut myself off from the music that reminds me of this time.
i like the pixies though now, however i had never heard of them 10 years ago.
posted by Recockulous at 9:19 PM on April 5, 2004


When Nevermind came out, we all thought it was a good record. But so was the Mr. Bungle record, which came out right around the same time. I don't think any of my fellow employees thought Nirvana was gonna "save the world" or "kill cock rock" any more than Mr. Bungle was going to. It was just a good record.

but really, this is my huge issue with the record store clerk mindset - what the fuck does that MEAN? what is a good record? oftentimes what makes a good record is that it CHANGES something in you. just acting all detached and saying "good record" is so damning, and it reduces the art of rock and roll to a fucking popularity contest.
posted by oog at 10:41 PM on April 5, 2004


I definitely remember when Kurt committed suicide. I was working at a fast food restaurant at the time (during high school). I worked with a guy who was an absolute Nirvana freak.

A week after Kurt's suicide he didn't show up for work. The night before his shift he had attempted suicide. He sliced his wrists (the right way, wrist to elbow). I think his sister caught him and called an ambulance. He was diagnosed as bipolar and was put on Prozac. After he got out of the hospital he attempted to overdose by swallowing all of his pills. I lost touch after that but I heard from his sister a few years later that he was doing a lot better.

I lost all of my respect for Kurt after he killed himself, not just for being weak and of poor character (you had a kid you fucking asshole!), but mainly for the example that he set. Just give up and off yourself... screw the consequences.
posted by diVersify at 10:51 PM on April 5, 2004


Kurt's note inside Incesticide is a good read if you want to get a little closer to Kurt Cobain.

Well, that makes one thing clear : that his mastery of the English language left a little to be desired.

Nevermind was a great album, though, even for someone who'd been behaving badly to the soundtrack of that kinda music for more than a decade when it came out, but liked crunchy pop and hairmetal and folk and other stuff too. I loved it all, basically, and still do, even if I must draw the line at Britney and her ilk. And the 'weow-how' throat-warblings of all the wanna-be Eddie Vedders. That got old pretty quick...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:52 PM on April 5, 2004


I call that sound "a mouth full of Rs", stavros. It's Kurt's real legacy. Everyone sings like that now. And all their songs are in minor.
posted by interrobang at 12:50 AM on April 6, 2004


(On mainstream radio, anyway.)
posted by interrobang at 12:52 AM on April 6, 2004


It's true, I did kill Kurt Cobain
by Caitlin Moran.
posted by brettski at 1:21 AM on April 6, 2004


The only post-Beatles rock band that ever fucking mattered was The Minutemen. Then d. boon got hit by a drunk driver on Xmas Eve 1985. It still makes me misty to think about it. How much we lost. How much it hurt. I guess younger people feel that way about Cobain.

Fortunately, Watt is still with us, still jamming econo, and has a new record coming out. But he'll agree with me when I say he's still just d. boon's bass player.

Fuck Kurt Cobain and his cathartharock. Fuck looking inward. Look closely at the world, make a fist, try to change it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:22 AM on April 6, 2004


but really, this is my huge issue with the record store clerk mindset - what the fuck does that MEAN? what is a good record? oftentimes what makes a good record is that it CHANGES something in you. just acting all detached and saying "good record" is so damning, and it reduces the art of rock and roll to a fucking popularity contest.


I understand where you're coming from and I hate that too -- the whole "oh, so you're buying that record" attitude. As if the clerk's passing judgement on you. That really chaps my ass and I never got into that when I worked there.

The point I was trying to make was that I got to hear a lot of stuff for free. Stuff you had to dig to hear at the time. Because back then, for every Nirvana there were three or four Fluids -- really good bands that never got a chance. There were also some Candleboxes thrown in. I got to listen to a lot of great music I wouldn't have been exposed to.

"Good" and "bad" are subjective. What I was trying to say was that none of my friends thought it was going to be such a big deal. We liked Nirvana as much as we liked anyone else.

Yeah, it moved me. It affected me. But so did "Nothing's Shocking." So did "Appetite for Destruction" and a shitload of other records. A lot of the posters were waxing more eloquently about what the record meant to them than I could/can. I wasn't trying to come off as cool and detached.
posted by Atom12 at 6:56 AM on April 6, 2004


The only post-Beatles rock band that ever fucking mattered was The Minutemen.

Here here, BitterOldPunk. I'm looking forward to the documentary (if it ever comes out).
posted by cowboy_sally at 6:58 AM on April 6, 2004


I could go on for days about bands I prefer to Nirvana (Hüsker Dü, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr., Gang of Four, Black Flag), as I'm sure most people here could. But what would that have to do this thread?
posted by psmealey at 7:48 AM on April 6, 2004


Nirvana weren't my favorite band either. Not even close. But I remember where I was the first time I heard Teen Spirit. Not only was it significant, it sounded significant. Stuff like that needs to happen to the mainstream every once in a while, just to open a window and let all the stale air out.

Yes, the Minutemen, the Pixies, the Replacements, Husker Du, and a dozen more were at least as good, but Cobain had something to say, and he said it, and his shit sounds good loud, and what else do you want from a band? Jesus.
posted by chicobangs at 7:57 AM on April 6, 2004


Yeah, I came close to burning out in Vegas.

We were in town for a three-show weekend. It seemed our bassist was dogged out with the flu or the clap or something. So he wasn't up for much after the first show, when our manager came in with five or six of the girls from the front row -- all tight shirts and wet panties -- you know the type.

The drummer and I had been popping pills since we got off the bus, so we were ready to kick up some dust. Joints were passed, beer was drunk, the girls started getting ticklish and doing a little lap dance, when our manager tossed out his empty and said "that was our last beer."

So we left him with our bassist, piled in our car, and told our driver to stop at a package store. We sent one of the hot- pants in for a bottle of vodka, which we cracked in the car on the way to dinner.

The girls were crazy at dinner. Food fights across the table, head underneath it. One of them had some blow with her; we huffed that, went back to the hotel, and partied all night.

Come the third night of this sort of debauchery, I was fried. There I was, onstage drinking beer and popping 'ludes to keep my lid on, our drummer was speeding, and I mean speeding, and our bassist, man, someone was hooking him up with a skin full of china for the previous few weeks -- turned out it was our manager -- and what we thought was clap was a major dope nod. It was the best show we ever played.

Man, that was an insane time. How did I keep from burning out? It was easy: I knew that I'd rest when it was over, and at the next week's show, there'd be plenty of booze, drugs, girls, and rock'n'roll to start in on all over again.
posted by dfowler at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2004


I want to be in Dick Fowler's band!
posted by mcgraw at 9:38 AM on April 6, 2004


Fuck Kurt Cobain and his cathartharock. Fuck looking inward. Look closely at the world, make a fist, try to change it.

No offense, bitteroldpunk, but I gotta ask, are you in in it for the music or the politics?

Yes, political rock can be great and important, but politics always changes. Whereas the internal issues are always with us. I like the Minutemen, too, but it has more to do with Watt's bass grooves and Boon's vocals than any issue they chose to attach themselves to. But again that's just me.

And there was plenty of catharsis in the Minutemen, too. Look at "This Ain't No Picnic." No matter how the political world changes there's alwyas gonna be people dragging themselves through crappy workdays and squandered lives, which is what I heard Boon raging against.

I love my records because they relate to my life and feelings, political and personal. And that's what ultimately matters to me.
posted by jonmc at 11:02 AM on April 6, 2004


Nirvana was brand new to me because I had never been exposed to any of the non-mainstream bands. Although I was never a Nirvana fanatic, I felt their music in a way I hadn't felt music before. It wasn't the lyrics, it was the voice and delivery. What teenager can't identify with "I'm fucking miserable and I'm going to scream about it because it hurts so goddamn much?" (Not a quote.)

Listen to his voice, not the lyrics, on the Unplugged album. Listen to the instruments, not the lyrics, on Bleach and Nevermind.
posted by callmejay at 11:24 AM on April 6, 2004


I guess I didn't make my point very well, jonmc. I wasn't really talking about politics per se (though I do sympathize with the Minutemen's anti-Reagan, D.I.Y. collectivist leanings); what I was trying to get at is that the Minutemen got me up off the couch, even if it was just to wash a few dirty dishes, while Nirvana left me brooding for another bong hit and weeping over lost loves.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I liked Nirvana. Saw the show, bought the T-shirt. But because they could effectively wring an emotion out of me as a listener didn't mean that they INSPIRED me as a person the way the Minutemen did.

I shouldn't have coined the misleading neologism "cathartharock" on the fly, and I should have said, "look closely at YOUR world", instead of "THE world".

Now let's hold hands and listen to Black Sabbath together. There. Dontcha feel better now? ;)

I could go on for days about bands I prefer to Nirvana (Hüsker Dü, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr., Gang of Four, Black Flag), as I'm sure most people here could. But what would that have to do this thread?

More than your post does. But I applaud your taste in music.
/snark

posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:15 AM on April 7, 2004


« Older That'll be 40 bucks plus some blow for Stevie   |   Clueless About History Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post