Live Through This
September 4, 2019 5:49 AM   Subscribe

 
She wrote 'Celebrity Skin', in case anyone doubted her rock and roll credentials. I always liked her, she was/is tough, funny, confrontational. Not sure she was the right person in Kurt's life at the time.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:02 AM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


This is a really interesting article, thank you for posting it (and k8t for bringing it to attention).

Every paragraph was good, but this snippet stood out to me and fit with my memories of how things were portrayed at the time:

While female celebrities like Love are criticized for their rebellion, male celebrities, like Cobain for example, are celebrated and mythologized for it. Cobain and Love both struggled with addiction, but it is Love who is repeatedly vilified for her drug use. “She was vilified for being a mess, for being a drug addict, for not being a great parent — in other words, all of the things we expect in a male rock star,” said Bust magazine in a piece in the magazine’s 20th anniversary issue, which featured Love on the cover.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:11 AM on September 4, 2019 [30 favorites]


Such a great article.
posted by kanata at 6:17 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, I’ve had some personal experience of Ms. Love and how she treats the people around her (like dirt). And she herself is, or at least was, prone to actively performing, promoting and perpetuating conduct that we would today recognize as abusive and furthermore problematic around consent and harassment. Some of that may have be en related to ongoing issues around depression, addiction and recovery etc., which were spilling into public view regularly at that time, but...yeah.

The knee-jerk reactions to her and to Hole, and her role in Cobain’s death are surely in large part misogyny, and Hole was and is an important band that broke ground in the artistic ways TFA talks about.

I’m still not sure she deserves more cake, which is to say, attention or admiration on a personal rather than artistic level.

in other words, all of the things we expect in a male rock star

Specifically, the things we no longer accept.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:26 AM on September 4, 2019 [47 favorites]


Shirley Manson has a new podcast called 'The Jump' where she discusses a particular song that changed the lives of each of her interview subjects. The recent Courtney Love episode is interesting in no small part because the two were pop music contemporaries. It's a short listen.
posted by jordantwodelta at 6:29 AM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


She wrote 'Celebrity Skin', in case anyone doubted her rock and roll credentials

Wasn't this album co-written by Billy Corgan?
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:41 AM on September 4, 2019


She was the primary songwriter in Hole. It was her band more than anyone else’s.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:50 AM on September 4, 2019


"Wasn't this album co-written by Billy Corgan?"

Yes, he has songwriting credits on 5 of the 12 tracks, including 'Celebrity Skin' and 'Malibu,' two of the singles.
posted by jordantwodelta at 6:54 AM on September 4, 2019


in other words, all of the things we expect in a male rock star

Specifically, the things we no longer accept.


Because when women start doing it, and we start having to ask whether it should be acceptable for boys but not girls, we finally understand that it's not acceptable? Wonder why that is?
posted by crush at 6:55 AM on September 4, 2019 [23 favorites]


So, I’ve had some personal experience of Ms. Love and how she treats the people around her (like dirt). And she herself is, or at least was, prone to actively performing, promoting and perpetuating conduct that we would today recognize as abusive and furthermore problematic around consent and harassment. Some of that may have be en related to ongoing issues around depression, addiction and recovery etc., which were spilling into public view regularly at that time, but...yeah.

This! This. I remember in the nineties some really fatphobic and TBH pretty misogynist stuff that she said in small press interviews, and when she was famous-but-not-designer-clothes-famous, I used to hear some chatter from people in that general circle that was not too nice. Back in the day, when Hole was famous and 7 Year Bitch was famous and Babes in Toyland was locally famous and Bikini Kill was a big deal, etc, people who were big fans of feminist punk were not necessarily big fans of CL.

Of course, she should be held to exactly the same standards as famous men - if their bad behavior is ignored or minimized, hers should be too - but to me that doesn't translate into active celebration, particularly because many, many of her musical peers with more feminist/radical approaches are totally overlooked or forgotten.

~~
I think there's two kinds of evaluation that get conflated - what you might call a "credit in the straight world" approach and a scene approach. In terms of credit in the straight world, I think it's important to compare a person to everyone - Courtney Love's accomplishments and her treatment in the press should be compared to non-punk/non-grunge women musicians and to popular male musicians, which is basically what this article does. When we think about her that way, it's obvious that she was not taken seriously as a musician, was held to grossly unfair standards and was treated cruelly by her own musical community* when her partner committed suicide.

But if you're really interested in music by women, or in music in the nineties, or in feminist music, I think it's also important to situate her among other feminist/punk musicians of the nineties/early 2000s and to situate her in the general milieu. There was just so, so much feminist music at that time that was more radical and more complex and is now...totally out of print.

*Like, what really makes me sympathize with her is the way she could not win in either the punk scene (too famous - I mean, she was kind of awful, but there were other awful people including other awful women) or the popular-grunge-mainstream scene ("just" Kurt Curbain's girlfriend/too weird/holding him back). Part of that was the time - people would build quite substantial indie careers and there was a lot of perfectly justified ambivalence about looking for major label/mainstream fame** - but it seemed particularly horrible that when something so awful happened to her, she had neither indie community nor solid mainstream success.

**Not least because major labels famously screwed over a number of intelligent and talented people from this general milieu

~~
This also makes me think about the way that our understanding of popular left-ish (feminist, anti-racist, socialist, etc) culture is totally contoured by the fact that the most centrist is what becomes successful and survives long after the fact. Like, if you look closely at early punk rock, there's tons and tons of far left/communist/radical music - some really good, some with not much to recommend it besides the politics - but what becomes iconic is The Clash, and not even Sandinista but London Calling. London Calling is a great album, it really is, but it is not the limit horizon of socialists in punk.

So anyway, because a lot of us learn the past by the most accessible of what survives, we lose sight of the complexity and the political struggles that happened on the ground in the moment, and we attribute to any given period political positions that didn't really reflect what was happening.
posted by Frowner at 6:55 AM on September 4, 2019 [68 favorites]


One last piece of Courtney Love pop cultureness. If you're interested in a thoroughly excellent stealth biopic of Love's early years, by all means check out Her Smell, directed by Alex Ross Perry and starring Elizabeth Moss.
posted by jordantwodelta at 7:01 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


On that note, I remember reading a whole fanzine dedicated to this really elaborate conspiracy theory that she had murdered Kurt Cobain. It was like one of those murderinos podcasts in its "let's look at forensics and make a really detailed material case" , and this was not a weird opinion to hold or just someone's random zine that only circulated in their home town, and while I doubt that anyone over about twenty-five really cared about this, plenty of people who were old enough to know better (by which I mean older than about fifteen) certainly did.

This despite the fact that no one really had any good, compelling reason to believe that Kurt Cobain hadn't killed himself - the "ambiguities" were transparently all made up.

For years afterward, her problems would be used to say "see, this is why he killed himself" instead of "here is a woman who has been horribly traumatized and is hurting very badly in the public eye, perhaps we should ease up on the judgement a tiny bit; also she has a kid".

Another purely misogynist feature of this was that plenty of people would levy these wild accusations against her while still thinking that Nirvana was this huge fake sell-out band.
posted by Frowner at 7:02 AM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Billy Corgan contributed some music to 5 of the songs. No lyrics.
posted by Automocar at 7:03 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Interesting that there's no mention of Love's 2005 warning about Harvey Weinstein, nor the retaliation she received for saying it.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:17 AM on September 4, 2019 [39 favorites]


I know shes a terrible, messed up person but I love her so much. She put herself out there in so many ways that made her seem so ... accessible. Here she is, emailing her fans on an early 90s message board. Oh, I can listen to threatening messages she left on someone's answering machine? Okay! Experience her experiencing primal grief during lollapoloza? Check. Watch her for 24 hours straight on 24 hours of love on MTV2? and so on...
posted by armacy at 7:20 AM on September 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


I have also heard stories from people who've interacted with her and she sounds awful.
I haven't heard any new stories like that for something like a quarter of a century though.
Also, Live Through This sounds fresh as paint. Nevermind sounds tired and old and has that horrible, slick, glistening early nineties production that sounds like a xenomorph slobbered all over the CD
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:21 AM on September 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


In a world were THE most famous rock stars of the past are marrying children, past and present pop stars sing songs about fucking children, and many are completely abusive spouses, absent fathers and generally terrible men. We don't just give that crap a pass it's an intrinsic part of the mystique. R. Kelly had been selling out stadiums for years after tapes of him sexually assaulting kids were released on the internet.

When women contribute to writing men's songs we ignore it (TOOOOOOOO MANY examples to even list). When men contribute even a little to a woman's work we jump in (see this thread sadly) to shout SHE GOT HELP FROM A DUDE!! to de-legitimize her.

Country Love may not have spent all of her drugged up reckless life being particularly nice or kind or politic but the fact that we even care the slightest bit about that is gendered. Because being BAD isn't a thing we hold a against male superstars it's a thing they name their album.
posted by French Fry at 7:24 AM on September 4, 2019 [66 favorites]


Country Love may not have spent all of her drugged up reckless life being particularly nice or kind or politic but the fact that we even care the slightest bit about that is gendered. Because being BAD isn't a thing we hold a against male superstars it's a thing they name their album.

Yes and no - Courtney Love wasn't always "a pop star" and the mass culture tropes of the present don't map neatly onto the indie/quasi-indie music scene of the early-mid-nineties. It was a pretty small milieu and you were pretty likely to actually know someone who was friends with even Very Famous People In The Scene or to actually meet them. Like, today I would not expect to attend a Taylor Swift concert and end up talking to her former housemate, for instance, but that was the kind of thing that happened a lot at small shows in a small scene that was linked substantially by fanzines and very small press (Maximum Rock and Roll, Ben Is Dead, later Punk Planet, Bunnyhop, etc etc).
posted by Frowner at 7:37 AM on September 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


I completely get that Love has gotten a lot of stupid grief from conspiracy theorists, and she also deserves credit for raising the alarm about Harvey Weinstein over a decade before #MeToo. But the article tries way too hard to sell her as a heroine-martyr, largely on the supposition that all of her male peers, if not all male celebrities, get a pass for the exact same kind of behavior. That's how we get a howler like this: "Robert Downey Jr. was in and out of jail and on and off drugs for much of the mid to late ’90s, but we rarely, if ever, talk about his past." [needle scratch, young Tom Hanks yelling, "Whaaaaaaaaat?"] If Love is no worse in her personal life than her male peers, there's also no particular reason to think that she's better, as a celebrity who has had the kind of access to luxuries and second chances that the rest of us can scarcely dream of. (That's apart from her contributions to music, which assessment I'll leave to people who are more into it.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:52 AM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Some people stupidly hate Love because of Cobain murder conspiracy theories. I use Kurt Cobain's death to teach my medical students about pharmacology/toxicology. (I hate to say it, but most of them were born after Cobain died.)

The two slides.

Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the music group Nirvana, died on April 8, 1994. He had a high dose of heroin in his blood and a shotgun wound to his head. His death was ruled a suicide. The author of "Who Killed Kurt Cobain?" said it could only be murder. Cobain's blood contained 1.52 ug/mL heroin/morphine. The LD50 is 0.5 ug/mL.
The author states "This level [1.52 ug/mL] is widely known to represent three times the lethal dose of heroin. . ." and "a blood morphine level of 0.5ug/mL is . . . the established maximum lethal dose, even for severe addicts." They argue that the high dose of heroin would have been nearly instantly fatal or incapacitating and would not have permitted Cobain time to employ a shotgun to kill himself.
What’s wrong with this argument?

Three times the LD50 is not 3x lethal dose.
Maximum lethal dose? Doesn’t exist. Double the "maximum lethal dose" and you still have a lethal dose.
Nothing in the LD50 says it is for severe addicts.
Nothing makes the dose instantly fatal.
Why might Kurt Cobain been less susceptible to the effects? (Tolerance)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:55 AM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


I’m torn. I don’t think she gets enough credit for her songwriting prowess, but she’s pretty clearly not a great person privately (her tumultuous relationship with Frances Bean) or publicly (her comments about black people and rock music were both effed up and counterfactual). It’s bizarre to gloss over it because she’s a woman, in part because some of her antics involve violence towards other women.
posted by Selena777 at 8:04 AM on September 4, 2019 [15 favorites]


Kim Gordon was pretty negative about her in Girl in a Band but I couldn't sort out the genuine bad behavior from Gordon's perhaps understandable overinvestment in Cobain.

(As a side note, I've really enjoyed the last few years' run of memoirs by women in 70s/80s/90s rock, even if I wasn't a fan of their actual work. I guess the success of Patti Smith's memoir paved the way for that.)
posted by praemunire at 8:08 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Because being BAD isn't a thing we hold a against male superstars it's a thing they name their album.

This is maybe half as clever as it sounds given BAD was released by a pederast defended now by only the most amoral apologists.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:10 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also, one of the best-known vids in fandom, the kind that got a little traction outside fannish circles because it had relevance beyond the show, was to a Hole song--Women's Work (Supernatural) (to "Violet").
posted by praemunire at 8:11 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


It’s not just 25 years ago.

And despite her comments on Weinstein, it would appear Martin Singer remains her go-to hatchet man.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:17 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I have died on this hill many times. I hate that she's always talked about as something that happened to Kurt. (Even in this very thread) and not a full human being that Kurt chose to be in a relationship with. Like he had no choice about having this loud, unruly "crazy" woman just thrust upon him.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:20 AM on September 4, 2019 [22 favorites]


> On that note, I remember reading a whole fanzine dedicated to this really elaborate conspiracy theory that she had murdered Kurt Cobain.

I blame her for El Duce's death, but then again, this isn't a world El Duce could have survived in much longer anyway.
posted by davelog at 8:31 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


defended now by only the most amoral apologists.

I think you are VASTLY underestimating the number of ardent MJ fans to this day. Many many many studies have shown his popularity over the last 2 years to be as high as ever. And not just old fan apologists, 66% of millienials describe themselves as fans. He is hugely popular on streaming services, his video on youtube continue to get massive new view counts.

So maybe all those folks are amoral apologists but they are also the popular zeitgeist. I wish very much that wasn't the case but that's how things are.

Courtney Love was pretty shitty sometimes, and was dragged for it, crucified for it. But my point was simply men who've done FAR worse things have and continue to be viewed far better.
posted by French Fry at 8:33 AM on September 4, 2019 [20 favorites]


The first thing I think about is how the sexism around Courtney Love helped me be more aware of some of the reflexive misogyny of my peers. I spent a lot of my adolescence on the defensive, because being a feminist at that time meant constantly insisting that I Think Men Are Fine, Actually, And We Should Be Fair to Them. Also I grew up in a very conservative place, so the "sexism" that was more acceptable to condemn was rooted in sex. So...music videos that objectify women would be better to condemn, but because they were "disrespectful" to women. That is not quite the same thing as sexist, but has the benefit of sounding like it. It means that you'd never really need to complain about people being sexist about Courtney Love -- because if she wanted to be taken seriously, she should behave better -- but you shouldn't have sex. Or something. Look, most of what people said when I was a teenager took a detour and landed on purity rings. It was a weird time.

By the time I was growing up, the "Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain" thing had died down a little. But "Hole sucks" had not. If I did not agree that Hole was terrible, then didn't I know that Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan were responsible for all her good music? But what good music, I asked, because didn't you just say that Hole sucks? I never went out of my way to have conversations about music, but I had that exchange dozens of times through middle school and high school. It was always a great reminder that the person I was speaking to might be kind of an idiot, and an early lesson that a lot of guys think the best way to start a conversation is to neg you.

Live Through This and Celebrity Skin meant a lot to me when I was a teenager. I almost never listen to those albums now, but when I do, it's because I've been through a serious shock. (I listened to a lot of Hole after the 2016 election, hah.) I'm not going to argue that I think Courtney Love is a good person, or that she deserves a pass for treating people poorly, but I've always thought both albums were great representations of being on the knife's edge of being able to cope in society. Live Through This, which is ragged and unacceptable and strangely triumphant, is on one side of the spectrum. Celebrity Skin, which is presentable and pretty and subdued (with a lot going on underneath), is on the other side. Even though Courtney Love's upbringing was very different to mine, these albums were absolutely integral to developing my understanding of how people reject or accept different facets of femininity. And I think Courtney Love was aware of that (see some of her engagement with her Hole fansite), even though I don't think she always had the maturity or discipline to communicate successfully beyond her music.

(Maybe I envy the people who started to like Courtney Love after thinking about it, instead of helplessly admiring her from the start, because y'all probably don't have as much adolescent bullshit to wade through when you think about her.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


For examples yougov's approval ratings data from this last year show Courtney Love's public approval rating at 26% with a 28% disapproval rating. Micheal Jackson in the same time span is 61% with a 19% disapproval rating. It's fucked up and monstrous and not the was I think it should be.

But I feel pretty confident about my earlier statement that her bad behavior is judged differently than male artists.

But it is "nice" that the gen X dudes have shown up here to pretty much make the article's point for it.
posted by French Fry at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


also Billy Corgan is now a full-on infowars dude, so who really sucks from the 90s
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:12 AM on September 4, 2019 [37 favorites]


I don’t really think I should have to recount my personally creepy experiences with Love, as a minor, to avoid being treated like some shitty man of a generation I don’t even belong to, so I won’t. Think what you will. Praise her if you like. Enjoy the thread.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:15 AM on September 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


"Violet" is one of the best songs of the 1990s, hands down.

Courtney Love was a larger-than-life character (briefly) partnered with another larger-than-life character, whose tragic, senseless death turned him from pretty talented young dude in popular rock band to martyr/metaphor/myth, and made her into an acceptable scapegoat for everyone with a hankering to go after women in rock including other women in rock.

Was she easier to go after? Sure. She was an asshole, and as the article points out never really part of the radical, feminist punk rock thing of the same era (she was hanging out with Alex Cox and John Doe and Debbie Harry at parties in the late 80s), nor part of the more arty, Hollywood/NY establishment (if I recall correctly, she auditioned for Nancy Spungeon and did not get the part--not a metaphor). She wanted to be famous at a time when it was absolutely taboo to even seem like you wanted it. She fell apart noisily and publicly. Every time she did so she became more famous, although never, seemingly, for the reasons she wanted.

I stopped hating her around the time Cobain killed himself because I saw how easy it was for every else to hate her. And even now. I mean, "not nice" and "bad mom" still feels so goddamn gendered. Like, are we really going to go all the pop/rock stars--men included-- of the 1990s and determine how we should value their output because of their politeness or parenting skills? Also, people judge her for her addiction in a way that it seems like they never judged any of the rest of them, which also feels gendered and kind of fucked up. That she still manages to enrage people to the level of, say, an R. Kelly, just feels surreal to me.
posted by thivaia at 9:24 AM on September 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


Also, like, I've spent some time in the scene, or just adjacent to and there were a lot--A LOT--of assholes making music in the 1990s.
posted by thivaia at 9:27 AM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


For examples yougov's approval ratings data from this last year show Courtney Love's public approval rating at 26% with a 28% disapproval rating. Micheal Jackson in the same time span is 61% with a 19% disapproval rating. It's fucked up and monstrous and not the was I think it should be.

You're not wrong, but I think this conversation is underestimating the impact that death can have on one's reputation. Compare Courtney Love with Scott Weiland or Perry Farrell and-- aside from misogyny ( which is a big aside)-- she's at about the correct level of fame for someone who had most of her hits in the 1990s. The best and worst thing that Courtney Love's got going for her is that she is alive. If she were Janice Joplin or even Amy Winehouse, her reputation as martyr for the arts would have been cemented by now.

As for Michael Jackson, I'd be curious about what his public popularity would have been in May of 2009. For pretty much the last decade of his life he was a walking punchline for jokes about skin bleaching, plastic surgery, somehow having white children and/or being a weird creep in a giant house. The difference between Michael Jackson's reputation and R. Kelly's is that Michael Jackson died before someone made the public case for his guilt.

Once more for emphasis: I think the article is completely correct about the extreme misogyny Courtney Love faced her career. I just think comparisons between her and dead bad men aren't quite apples to apples.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 9:30 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


As for Michael Jackson, I'd be curious about what his public popularity would have been in May of 2009. For pretty much the last decade of his life he was a walking punchline for jokes about skin bleaching, plastic surgery, somehomw having white children and/or being a weird creep in a giant house.

A lot of black people have always been deeply invested in Jackson. Unless you grew up in a black neighborhood, I don't think you can appreciate just how ubiquitous Thriller was (and, while I was not a huge fan at the time on account of being a contrary kid, it has surely held up in a way most ubiquitous pop smashes of their era have not), and that was after an already impressive run with the Jackson Five and as a solo artist. Remember, it was basically his popularity that forced MTV to start playing black artists. And a lot of black people feel--correctly--that no black celebrity gets a fair shake in the media, or in life, and this leads them to question the legitimacy of any attack on him. While many of them surely struggle with the same patriarchal BS as his defenders of other races, any account of Jackson's defenders that omits that is vitally incomplete. I just saw one of my old upstairs neighbors posting on this topic the other day, and I didn't have the heart to argue with her.
posted by praemunire at 9:43 AM on September 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


A long time ago I got tickets to see Marilyn Manson together 'cause I was itching to go to a concert and all my friends talked about Manson like he was gonna be the guy to save rock from the '90s. He was on a joint tour with Hole.

Courtney Love and Hole knocked it out of the park. They were fucking great. Fun as hell, great music, great attitude, everything I love about rock. Then Manson came out and yeah I like a couple of his songs but god what an overproduced bore. I couldn't see the point to his whole deal. It didn't have a real message beyond attempted shock, and it sure wasn't fun.

And yet people have always told me I should dislike Courtney Love for some reason.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:44 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


The first major public accusations against MJ were in 1993. In 1996 (?) he released His-Story which was I think at the time the best selling album ever. More allegations rolled on and went to various levels of civil suits into the late 2000s . His death certainly reinvigorated his popularity but his sales never really plummeted during those 25 years of being widely thought to be a child predator. So martyrdom is certainly a part of it, we love the dead in America, I agree that if Courtney Love had died young and troubled the narrative about her would be much more rosy. However I think the larger part is just giving these dudes a pass. And we still do RE: R. Kelly and Chris Brown etc.

Hell the bassist from the Rolling Stones married a 13yo in 1983 and continued to tour with the band for another seven years. He was still playing with them occasionally up until 2012.

I know I like to remember these scandals as more consequential and career damaging but history and the present doesn't seem to often bear that out.
posted by French Fry at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


[One deleted; enough on how people feel about Michael Jackson specifically - Seems like Love has enough acrimony floating around without adding a lengthy side argument about MJ. ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:47 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I understand misogyny plays a huge role here, really I do.

but...

I've circled the PNW music scene my entire adult life, I know story after story after story of Kurt being awesome to people. I know story after story after story of Courtney being awful and treating people like dirt on her shoe.

Perhaps THAT also has something to do in how they are remembered differently.

*for the record I love Hole, defend them and her often and feel she is a stunningly underrated talent.
posted by Twinge at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with her being an outrageous, loud drug addict. I have a problem with her punching other women in the face and abusing her bandmates. I'd have this problem with a male rock star too. I wish we could separate Love's actual terrible behavior from her behavior that is frowned upon by society, but she's damn smart and has managed to make them the same thing whenever someone calls her out on the former. So yay I guess.
posted by queensissy at 9:54 AM on September 4, 2019 [15 favorites]


Justice for Kat Bjelland.
posted by Ruki at 10:42 AM on September 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Live Through This is still one of the top 3 punk albums of the 1990s.

Not Riot Grrrl. Not grunge. Punk.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:08 AM on September 4, 2019


(As a side note, I've really enjoyed the last few years' run of memoirs by women in 70s/80s/90s rock, even if I wasn't a fan of their actual work. I guess the success of Patti Smith's memoir paved the way for that.)

praemunire, would you mind recommending some titles?
posted by Sangermaine at 11:11 AM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


However, pegging Courtney as the gluttonous girl on the delicious brink of her own self-destruction is a mistake. And more and more, I am dissatisfied with the prospect of Courtney's legacy being linked to a girl rather than a woman. I am even dissatisfied with the idea that her legacy will be linked to a human at all. Courtney Love, you see, is a witch.
An excerpt of the chapter about Courtney Love from the book All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey. If anybody has it and can send me the last page from that chapter, I would be eternally grateful. I gave the book away and got rid of the phone that had my screenshot of that page. It was incredible.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:47 AM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't care how big an asshole she is, if you think there aren't worse monsters in your record collection, you're kidding yourself.

The public hate of her is misogyny plain and simple.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:17 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Not to step on Praemunire's toes but I'd really like to recommend Patty Schemel's memoir Hit So Hard if you are looking for a good Hole memoir. Patty was their drummer from '92 to '98 and lived with Courtney and Kurt for a while. There is also a documentary of the same title that was available on Youtube last I checked.

Patty, who ended up on the streets at the lowest point of her addiction, always has really smart and interesting things to say about Courtney. It's a great and sometimes tough read.

And although not completely related to Courtney both of Viv Albertine's recent memoirs of her life before, during and after The Slits are remarkably good in their exploration of life as a female musician during the punk era in the UK.
posted by rdnnyc at 1:00 PM on September 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


Sangermaine, I didn't like M Train so much, but Smith's Just Kids is beautiful and sad, even though it takes a while for the music career to get going. As mentioned, Gordon's Girl in a Band. Carrie Brownstein's Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. And I haven't read Albertine's Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. yet but it sounds pretty wild.
posted by praemunire at 1:01 PM on September 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Jinx, rdnnyc!
posted by praemunire at 1:02 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't care how big an asshole she is, if you think there aren't worse monsters in your record collection, you're kidding yourself.

Worth noting: the reverent comments on here re: Iggy Pop, who slept with a THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL.

I mean, I can very easily believe Love was extraordinarily unpleasant to those in her vicinity. But that's not what she was ever pilloried for publicly, at least, as opposed to being some kind of crazy damaged bitch who somehow just happened to Cobain.
posted by praemunire at 1:10 PM on September 4, 2019 [15 favorites]


" who slept with a THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL"

Raped. There's no such thing as "underage women", there's no "child prostitutes", there's no "sleeping with" a 13 year old.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:26 PM on September 4, 2019 [18 favorites]


(I think using "rape" in writing as a shorthand for "statutory rape" is risky. Hence my choice.)
posted by praemunire at 2:30 PM on September 4, 2019


A 13-year-old girl cannot give consent. Hence, rape.
posted by cooker girl at 3:00 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Live Through This is still one of the top 3 punk albums of the 1990s.

Not Riot Grrrl. Not grunge. Punk.


I wouldn't call Live Through This a Riot Grrrl album, or Hole a Riot Grrrl band. Although a contemporary review calls it a 'Riot Grrrl sell-out manifesto,' the reviewer misses the fact that Courtney Love was never a big Riot Grrrl fan (the post article talks about this, but here's another source).

Hole's Yoko Ono song, '20 Years in the Dakota,' contains the lyrics:
“Riot grrrls, think you can stop me/
You’re forever in her debt/
Well, I know you haven’t saved me/
And you haven’t saved her yet”
(In the first Bikini Kill zine, Tobi Vail wrote: "It all comes down to Yoko Ono. You see, part of the revolution (GIRL STYLE NOW) is about rescuing our true heroines from obscurity, or in Yoko’s case, from disgrace. So, part of what your boyfriend teaches you is that Yoko broke up The Beatles… but besides being the victim of the girlfriend-is-distraction thing, Yoko was so fucking ahead of her time. I mean, in a lot of ways she is the first girl punk singer ever.")

And, just as someone whose social circle in the early '90s included a lot of Riot Grrrl and RG-adjacent folks, my experience was that they did not like Courtney Love. She wanted to be famous, and she didn't mind using a man, or a big record company, to help her reach that goal. That's... not Riot Grrrl.

(The authenticity-obsessed alternative-rock dudes didn't have much use for her either. Some of that was sexism, but some of it was, again, that she so clearly and obviously wanted to be famous. The first Hole album sounded like this (Courtney would later call it 'unlistenable'), while the second one looked like this (and was released on David Geffen's DGC after Nirvana signed to the label).
posted by box at 3:09 PM on September 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's okay to say rape when it was rape! The More You Know! 》》☆
posted by agregoli at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Thanks for the suggestions, praemunire (and rdnnyc)!
posted by Sangermaine at 3:36 PM on September 4, 2019


'Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl' by Carrie Brownstein is the best memoir of the Riot/punk era, because she is a talented prose writer who can articulate some of her imperfect family dynamics in a thoughtful manner. Which is a theme that runs through the family stories of many rebel artists.
posted by ovvl at 5:16 PM on September 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


One thing I liked about CL was how she promoted some other awesome acts. For example The Distillers, who probably have all kinds of moral blemishes but for my money, there’s no better raw punk of the era. Brody howls like a wolf (who’s sick of your shit) and I love it. If you’re not familiar, try the best punk rock song about women’s suffrage ever recorded.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:08 PM on September 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Compare Courtney Love with Scott Weiland or Perry Farrell and-- aside from misogyny ( which is a big aside)-- she's at about the correct level of fame for someone who had most of her hits in the 1990s
Counterpoint: I know who Courtney Love is but had to google both those other names because I had never heard of them.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 3:57 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Counterpoint: I know who Courtney Love is but had to google both those other names because I had never heard of them.

And I think that this illustrates that there are a lot of different "we" statements in this conversation which should probably be untangled, and it should maybe be noted who "we're" speaking for when we speak.

"We as a society", meaning the average mainstream cultural discourse that most people are familiar with, have no trouble putting down women artists for being "difficult" while accepting that male artists are just going to be rapists, that's cool.

"We as people who were super into Le Grunge Rock in the nineties but not particularly interested in punk or women musicians or riot grrl" probably are about equally familiar with Courtney Love and Scott Weiland, maybe more familiar with the latter due to generalized misogyny.

"We as people who are interested in women musicians in general, or alternative women musicians in general, specifically for feminist reasons" probably aren't cool with Michael Jackson while holding Courtney Love to a very high standard of behavior

"We as people who were in some way associated with riot grrrl or nineties indie scenes in the US" are going to think of Courtney Love more as a...civilian....than a celebrity and are going to have some feelings about her as a person.

I think it's easy to talk as though all those groups are the same and that therefore "we" are out there praising Iggy Pop while also complaining about Courtney Love - it's not that plenty of people like that don't exist, or that our general discourse about music isn't contoured by misogyny, but I'd argue that there's a fairly substantial difference between someone who blithely assumes that it doesn't matter about Iggy Pop but that of course Courtney killed Kurt and someone who tries to be fair and consistent in their evaluation of musicians, even if there's no fairness and consistency under white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, etc.

~~
On that note: When I discover that music, movies or books that I love are created by people who did unacceptable things but that the unacceptable things somehow don't kill the work for me*, I try to avoid purchasing anything else by these people or otherwise funneling them money and I try to avoid recommending them except in very specific "if you are trying to understand the history of this genre you need to be passingly familiar with this important figure" ways. I guess I have a sort of "let this fandom die with me" feeling about a lot of stuff now, where it's difficult to completely purge work that was deeply meaningful to me from my consciousness but at least no one else need encounter it.

*Like, all Woody Allen movies died for me forever a few years ago. I just have no interest in seeing them anymore, even the earlier ones that I really liked. But even though China Mieville is apparently an awful person, some of his books were such a big deal for me that they don't feel dead and repulsive in the same way. And then sometimes there are situations like with Joanna Russ, where she thoughtlessly wrote a section of The Two of Them that reads as pretty Islamophobic but later apologized and gave a fairly plausible account that suggested it was stupidity and not malice - it nags at me every time I think of her, but it doesn't kill her work for me. Or Morrissey's solo work has died for me, even though I actually got into his early albums before the Smiths, but somehow quite a lot of the Smiths still works.
posted by Frowner at 6:44 AM on September 5, 2019 [9 favorites]


I generally divorce the art made by a person from the person they are because fame definitely amplifies the record of the terrible things people do.

For example, were Sara Shannon of Velocity Girl, Harriet Wheeler from the Sundays, or Rebecca from the Spinanes, all contemporaries of Courtney Love and whose music I personally like better - genuinely better people than Courtney Love? I suppose I could figure it out with lots of Googling and private investigating or whatever, but it seems unfair to judge Courtney Love more harshly just because I know about her personal indiscretions.

My friend Mike is a decent person but his music is terrible, far worse than any Hole b-sides.

It would be different if I personally knew her or her family. But I don't so she gets a pass for her indiscretions and I judge only her art.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2019


also Billy Corgan is now a full-on infowars dude, so who really sucks from the 90s

How terrible am I for wanting to trade Billy for someone (anyone?) else in the "27 Club," maybe even Kurt. Twenty-seven would have put Billy right after Siamese Dream.

I lived a lot of this through the unexamined mind & eyes of a straight, Midwestern, white teenage male, with all of the predictable conclusions. It's nice to reprocess some of the people and events of that time now as an adult with a somewhat examined mind. Was everyone an idiot when they were young?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:23 AM on September 5, 2019


someone (anyone?) else in the "27 Club"

I've never been a Corgan fan, but I'd probably prefer the 52-year-old Corgan to a 70-something Jim Morrison.
posted by box at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2019


Speaking of misogynistic bias against Courtney Love, I feel more people should know that she was the subject of possibly the most literally jaw-dropping joke in the history of British tv comedy panel games, here you go, it’s a short clip (NB at the time she was supposedly dating or at least hanging around Noel Fielding, hence the jaw drop, but I like to think he would have responded that way even if they hadn’t been best mates).
posted by bitteschoen at 12:20 PM on September 5, 2019


I don’t particularly care for CL myself, for reasons that have nothing to do with Nirvana or misogyny, but she’s such a good example of how women in the public eye cannot contain multitudes. It’s not allowed. It’s Madonna or Whore and nothing in between. The “cult of Cobain” bros are toxic and gross. (The biggest Cobain bro I know, a high school ex, is a full-blown Trump supporting right wing idiot.) Their noxious misogyny clouds the narrative, so on one hand, you can’t talk about CL’s legitimate faults without that storm cloud of misogyny over your head, and on the other, you can’t talk about CL’s legitimate flaws because people overcorrect. Whore. Madonna. CL, like all women, contains multitudes but her multitudes have been, partly by her choice, partly not, laid bare for the public to witness. She doesn’t fit neatly into the expected archetypes. She’s both/neither. And there are few things more the public hates more than a woman they just can’t pin down. (See: Clinton, Hillary Rodham)

So while I don’t like her (based on her treatment of women when I was 15, tbh. She was a Mean Girl), I do admire her for her refusal to wear the labels we’ve trying to put on her for the past 30 years. And she is definitely interesting! Can you imagine if we let women be interesting in public? Men get to be so interesting that it’s boring. Morally ambiguous men in the public eye are a dime a dozen and men with the same kind of ambition as CL are praised for it. Ambitious women are ruuuuuuthless and bad.

tl;dr More archetype-busting women, less bros
posted by Ruki at 3:07 PM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]


"Violet" is one of the best songs of the 1990s, hands down.

So I had spotify just running on algorithm a couple of weeks ago and "Violet" came on and I was fucking riveted. Immediately listened to all of Live Through This. If I were coming to this music as an alien, with no idea who CL was... this is really compelling music. Vivid.

I dunno. She might be an asshole, but I'm pretty sure she's gotten a raw deal, artistic-assessment wise. She's a brilliant musician.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:16 AM on September 6, 2019


Oh. Also. I saw Hole open for NIN in summer 1994. I'm just realizing now that this was literally months after Kurt's death. Weird lineup. Hole opening, Marilyn Manson, then NIN. Before the show, I thought I was going to see NIN. After the show, I realized I was going to see Hole. They fucking destroyed.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:26 AM on September 6, 2019


> Rebecca from the Spinanes, all contemporaries of Courtney Love and whose music I personally like better - genuinely better people than Courtney Love

Yes
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:40 AM on September 8, 2019


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